Modern Scholars
Biographies, Bibliographies, Contacts


From The Saga-Book of the Viking Society, no. 25

Aug 16, 1922- Dec 24th, 1997
Lotte Motz, née Edlis, was born on 16 August 1922 in Vienna, where she also attended school, but at the time of the Nazi takeover she was forced to leave the Gymnasium along with other Jewish students. The death of her father at that time also affected her deeply. Finally, in 1941, with her mother and two younger brothers, Stefan and Herbert, Lotte was able to escape to America. She adapted quickly to her new circumstances and new country, and always considered herself American, even though she was to spend long periods of time away from the United States. While completing High School and attending College at night she worked at various odd jobs. She eventually became a full-time student at Hunter College, City University of New York, where in 1949 she graduated with Honours and a B.A. in German. She also wrote short stories and poetry which appeared in the College’s literary publication.

She then did a year of graduate work at Stanford University and completed her graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, where she obtained a Ph.D. in German and philology in 1955. Her years in Madison were happy, and it was there that she met and married another graduate student in the German Department, Eugene Norwood, though the marriage was short-lived. Several years later she married Hans Motz, an eminent physicist at Oxford University who was also originally
from Vienna. She moved to Oxford in 1969, and while she found the city beautiful, her desire to teach became increasingly frustrated there, and she disliked the role of faculty wife. It was then that her scholarly career began.
In 1971 she returned to America with Anna, her daughter by her second marriage, and obtained an academic position in the German Department at Brooklyn College. Later she taught German at Hunter College. When in 1984 she became ill with a lung condition she had to give up her cherished teaching. This was one of the major disappointments of her life. Lotte returned in the same year to Oxford, where Anna was now a first-year undergraduate, and although she did not teach again she continued with her scholarly activities.

Lotte Motz’s field was Old Norse and Germanic mythology and religion, but in her later years her research increasingly spanned an even vaster field, covering most of Indo-European religion. In her four books and some seventy papers she concentrated more and more on the role of female mythological figures, and nobody has written more fully and inspiringly on Germanic giantesses. Two of her books, namely The Beauty and the Hag (Vienna, 1993) and her most ambitious work, The Faces of the Goddess (Oxford, 1997), were devoted to the female in mythology, in its Germanic context in the former work, and in various archaic cultures in the latter; in both she challenged the notion of a unitary mother-goddess archetype. Her second strong interest was in the relationship between gods—or families of gods—in Germanic religion, and in that of their functions and cults to the strata of society, and she was probably the first scholar in our field to take a serious step beyond the Three-Function theory developed by Georges Dumézil nearly four decades ago. These views were developed in her fourth book, The King, the Champion and the Sorcerer (Vienna, 1996) and in her article ‘The Germanic Thunderweapon’, Saga-Book XXIV:5 (1997), 329–50. Her research in this direction was sadly interrupted by her death, and it is left to others to take up the often provocative thoughts with which she has presented us.
Lotte’s productivity was all the more impressive in that her scholarly career began relatively late in her life. She was a genuine scholar, with a strong desire to find the truth. She was rich in creative insights and was also a gifted writer. An exceedingly kind and generous person, she had a great capacity for friendship and loyalty. She also had a strong sense of justice and the courage to follow her convictions (though this sometimes cost her dearly), and she was liberal and tolerant in her views.
To those who knew her only in the years after her illness, it may come as a surprise to learn that Lotte had a passionate love of nature. In her younger years she had been physically active and strong, especially enjoying skiing, hiking, swimming and even climbing. Her illness was therefore especially difficult for her, but she accepted it with grace and courage, and went on with her life as best she could, maintaining her social life right up to the evening before her death. In the early hours of December 24, 1997, after meeting with many of her friends and family, including her granddaughter Hannah, she died unexpectedly and peacefully in her sleep.
Lotte herself said that she wanted the words of Chaucer describing the Clerk of Oxenford to be on her gravestone:

And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.