HRAFNAGALDUR ÓĐINS

FORSPJALSLJÓĐ

 

(Galdr of Óðinn's ravens)

 

Today’s translation (Feb. 2015) is still partly the same as the one I presented in 2002. At the time I relied heavily on Eysteinn Björnsson’s, (2002) still available at http://www.hi.is/~eybjorn/ . I am redoing the whole work and the rewritten parts will be marked by a red “corrected version.”

 

Beginning of corrected version

 

This poem led to a mass of arguments and my goal is not taking sides in this dispute, but trying to understand what the unknown author meant, regardless of the period the text has been written. Besides, the first topic has been the one of Annette Lassen’s edition (2011) of Hrafnagaldur Óðinns. She clarified most of the mystery associated to this long-time disputed poem. Her honest scholarly pondering of the various opinions and facts does not lead to an obvious yes/no, but enables us to have a grounded opinion.

 

I give you here two Old Norse (ON) versions of the poem.

- The older one is due to Erasmus Christianus Rask (Edda Sæmundar hinns Fróda, Holmiæ, 1818). My guess is that this version reflects closely the manuscripts that Rask used. He provides a set of changes among the manuscripts that I will add. As far as I understand his explanations, his sources are paper manuscripts (chartaceus) and they are not so ancient: Codex Stockholmensis dated 1684, codex Gudmundi and codex Islandica N. 5.

- The second version is Annette Lassen’s recent one (2011). She provides a scholarly list of her sources. The changes she provides are mostly the same as Rask’s.

When Lassen’s edition provides new meaning for a word, which changes the poem understanding, I write these words in bold in both Rask and Lassen’s editions. When the cutting of the lines varies, I use Rask’s cutting.

 

Annette Lassen’s translation relies on her hypothesis that the poem reflects some kind of plot undertaken by Óðinn and it describes the reaction of the other Æsir to this plot. I will not adopt her point of view, which explains the differences between her translation and mine. I’ll nevertheless largely draw from her knowledgeable comments. In this translation, as I did in the other ones on my site, I’ll use the three main dictionaries of the ON language:

Cleasby-Vigfusson’s (C.V.) Icelandic-English dictionary, 

De Vries (deVries) Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch

Sveinbjörn Egilson’s Lexicon Poëticum antiquæ Linguæ septentrionalis (Lex. Poet.)

 

 

This poem is known for being particularly obscure. How do I hope to do better than my fore comers, most of them vastly more knowledgeable than me in the Old Norse language? I will simply start with non-classical axioms.

1. Firstly, the traditional scholarly attitude which strives for a unique translation of the skaldic poems is not very imaginative. It reminds me of my Latin professors who gave bad marks if we did not interpret the text exactly the way they did. If this were to be true, let then this boring old poetry lie in its noble dust! It so happens that every time I could do a personal translation on top of the existing ones, I was overwhelmed by the multiplicity of the possible meanings of the poem at hand. Whenever I can, and when my version changes the meaning of this poem, I will try to share this multiplicity.

 2. A skaldic poem is supposed to reflect the Middle Age Scandinavian myths as we know them through skaldic and eddic poems, sagas, Snorri Sturluson’s theory of skaldic poetry  and both Snorri’s and Saxo Grammaticus’ historical works. This poem obviously does not fit into this scheme, and so it should not be too closely linked to them. My working hypothesis is that it is a tragic version of the Apples of Youth myth, either an unknown or ‘forged’ one. The starting point (first stanza excepted) is similar to this well-known myth where the Goddess Idun (Iðunn) goes away from Asgard (Ásgarðr). The rest has very little to do with this myth and is rather linked to the Ragnarök myth (I note ö the ‘tailed o’ that does not exist in most fonts).

3. Existing translations are written for modern readers who are mostly acquainted with a Christian and Greco-Latin cultural background. Skaldic poetry has been written for Heathen Norse people familiar with ancient Germanic culture. I will try, as much as I can, take into account this last fact. For instance, alluding to magic is systematically avoided when the text can be translated in a non-magical way and I’ll try to avoid this trap, which does not mean falling in the symmetrical trap of seeing magic everywhere (! and smiley).

4. Finally, skaldic poetry is not usually seen as feminist writing to say the least. However, working under the assumption that this poem is presenting a feminist view will help us to unravel some of its oddities.

 


Erasmus Rask
(1818)



Annette Lassen
(from her facebook image)

HRAFNAGALDUR ÓDINS

FORSPJALLSJÓÞ

 

Rask’s version

(1818)

Hrafna Gal|dur Oþins

For|spialls Liod

 

Lassen’s version’s version (2011)

 

Stanza 1

1 Alföþr orkar,

2 Alfar skilja,

3 vanir vitu,

4 Vísa nornir,

5 elr íviþja,

6 aldir bera,

7 þreyja Þursar,

8 þra [þrá] valkyrjur.

Alfoþr orrkar

alfar skilia

Vanir vitu

visa nornir

elur Iviþia

aldir bera

þreya þussar

þia valkyriur.

Allfather [Óðinn] is able

Elves analyze

Vanir [ancient Gods] know

show the way, the Norns

begets, Íviðja

human ones carry

‘strive for’, Thurses [bad giants],

chastise, the Valkyries.

 

Comments

 

The list structure of this stanza is interesting. Lines 1-3 describe intellectual features while liens 4-8 describe ways of acting. Lines 1-3 have the form ‘subject verb’ where subject is a divine being, lines 4-5 have the form ‘verb subject’, which indicates a change of nature of the list subjects (giants). Line 6 has the form ‘verb subject’ again: It is an “end of list marker.” The end of the list has the form ‘verb subject’ again and it is used as a ‘carryall’ to place beings of mixed nature (the female thurses are giants but can join to Æsir by marriage, the Valkyries are both divine and human). This corresponds to a list structure as shown by Elizabeth Jackson (alvíssimál 9 (1999): 73-88 and 5 (1995): 81-106)… and this does not mean that the poem is ‘authentic’ but that his/her author knew implicit rules of skaldic composition that waited until 1995 to be made explicit.

 

This first verse is overflowing with allusions at once understandable to the reader of the time. I will try to explain those I am able to. To be brief, I have rather abusively simplified the myths.

 

Óðinn is considered as the father of all the gods, called the Æsir, therefore he is «all-father». In the poem Völuspá, a seeress (“völva” genitive völu) tells and foresees “spá” the god’s örlög, that is their past and future. In stanza 17, she says that the first couple of humans, Ask(r) and Embla, before the gods would gave them real life, were lítt megandi and ørlöglausa. These two (absences of) features must be very important in the Nordic culture since lacking them excludes from humankind proper. Ørlöglausa means “destiny-less,” and an ongoing discussion of this concept is found here WYRD&ÖRLÖG   . Lítt megandi means “of little ability" and Óðinn being the epitome of the Nordic man, he has to be able to act. Verb orkka means to work, to perform.

 

The Elves are divinities that are not very well-known, and in fact, they are often seen as Æsir’s servants. Verb skilja means ‘to divide, split (including to divorce), discern, understand’. It is customary to oppose the faculty of analyzing to the one of synthesizing, this is why I translate by ‘to analyze’.

 

The Vanir are seen as gods of the previous generation who have been fighting the Æsir before they made their peace with them. They are actually quite knowledgeable, and they also know about the art of seidhr (seiðr), a shamanic method of their own that lets them know. This war is called “fólkvíg” in Völuspá, i.e., war of the folk. Verb vita = to know, to receive knowledge.

 

The Norns are three giantesses mastering the destiny of the gods and mankind. They are respected by the Gods. They know the past and they forge the future, they show what has to happen. The verb vísa means to show the way.

 

Íviðja is wolf Fenrir’s mother and she begets a large amount of other monsters. Völuspá stanza 40 alludes to her, who “begets Fenris’ kindred … shaped as trolls (fœddi Fenris kindir … í trölls hami).”

 

Human beings bear their destinies, their örlög, this is an essential feature of humanity in Nordic myths. As we pointed out just above, Ask and Embla were without destiny before they received their humanity. In fact, the concept of ørlög has nothing in common with the Greek destiny, except that nobody can avoid it. In the Nordic context, however, ‘bearing’ is to be understood as ‘to bear with pride or even haughtiness’ rather than ‘to bear with relinquishment’. Not only you bear your destiny, but you accept it (instead of uselessly fighting it as in the Greek myths), and you carry it with pride. Verb bera means to bear/bring/carry/drive/discover. More already and more to come on this fascinating topic a  WYRD&ÖRLÖG   .

 

The Thursar are the ice giants. This name is used when referring to their strength, resistance, meanness and their greed. They are often shown as being full of greed, constantly pushing their luck to get more power. They eagerly wait for something to happen. Verb þreyja means to want, wait, strive for’.

 

The Valkyries are Óðinn’s servants because he is the God of Battles and they slaughter the warriors who are going to die in this battle. They play the role of Óðinn’s executioners. In that sense, they chastise who shall die soon. This chastisement is indeed an honor since they bring their victim up to Valhöll. This line also tells us that Germanic good sense does not recommend haste in being such a chosen one.

The verb þrá has a meaning similar to þreyja, but the thursar already show this feature. Lassen’s suggestion to read, instead of Rask’s þrá, þiá = þjá = ‘to compel, chastise’ is thus very welcome. Her translation, however: “valkyries are distressed” introduces an unwelcome past participle that does not translate the active þjá, and that breaks down with the list of active form in the lines before. This is why I prefer to understand that they bring distress rather than receiving it.

 

 

Stanza 02

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Ætlun æsir

illa [alla] gátu,

verpir [verpar] villtu

vættar rúnum;

Óþhræris skyldi

Urþur [Urþar] geyma,

máttk at verja

mestum þorra.

 

Ætlun Æsir

alla gátu,

verpir viltu

vættar rúnum.

Oðhrærer skylde

Urdar gejma,

mattkat veria

mest-um þorra.

 

Guessed the Æsir

of (some) ill purpose,

twisters disturbed

the Wights with runes;

Óðhrærir should

Urðr watch,

powerless was she to protect

from the worse winter.

 

 

The verb ætla means ‘to think/suppose/plan’.

Gáta means ‘assumption/hypothesis’. To suppose an assumption has little meaning per se, we must understand that they guessed to be subjected to a bad judgment. The context thus leads us to translate by ‘purpose’.

The verb verpa means ‘to throw/fence/bend’. The verpir are beings that ‘throw/fence/bend’, understood here as ‘to twist’. Note that ‘to throw away’ or ‘to enclose’ would bring the same general meaning of runes being no longer usable.

The verb villa means bewilder/falsify/forge. Villtu is a non-canonical but possible form of ‘they bewildered/falsified/forged’.

The word þorri does þorra in the dative singular. It indicates the fourth winter month, which extends (approximately) from mid-January to mid-February. Thus, mestr þorri can indicate either the greatest part of the þorri month or a ‘greatest’ þorri, i.e. the worst one. From VafÞrúðnismál s. 44) it is known that Ragnarök will be preceded by a fimbulvetr, a ‘huge winter’. This mestr þorri could thus also be Ragnarök’s proclamation.

Note that Lassen interprets þorri as þori = ‘the greatest part’, which somewhat duplicates ‘mestr’.

Comments

 

Urðr, whose name means ‘destiny’, is one of the three Norns.

The gods (the ‘wights’) feel the situation is serious (the “worse of the winters” is coming) and they react as strongly as they can.

Óðhrærir is the mead of poetry, of which drink the knowledge seekers, it is also known under the name of Ódroerir. After many adventures, Óðinn recovers it. During this process, he risks his life and loses a share of his honor because he has to break an ‘oath done on the ring’, as explained by Hávamál stanza 110 .

The runes, one of the main elements of Scandinavian magic seems to be distorted and/or made unusable by some beings, called here ‘twisters’. It seems that destiny itself, Norn Urðr (= Destiny) is unable by herself to protect the runes and the Spirits.

In her comments, Lassen supposes that the ill purpose instigator is Óðinn himself and she thus dissociates him from the others Æsir who are supposed to attempt thwarting Óðinn’s plot. This is possible, Óðinn being one of the first beings knowledgeable with the runes (Hávamál, stanza 143). But nothing yet points at this hypothesis and we will see if the following confirms it. On the other hand, we can reasonably suspect one of the other beings able handle the runes: giants, elves, dwarves, human ones, or the Norns themselves.

 

 

Stanza 03

 

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

Literal Translation

Hverfur því Hugin [hugr],

himna [hinna] leitar,

grunar guma

grand ef dvelr;

þótti er Þráins

þúnga draumr,

Dáins dulo

draumr þótti.

 

Hverfur þvi hugur,

hinna leytar,

grunar guma

grand, ef dvelur;

þotti er Þrains

þunga drömur,

Daens dulu

drömur þotti.

 

disappears because spirit/Huginn

from them he [Óðhrærir] seeks help,

he [Óðhrærir] suspects of the human ones

destruction, if he [Óðhrærir] tarries;

thought is Þráinn's

with a burden dream,

Dáinn's with dissimulation/conceit

the dream the thought

 

 

 

English Translation

 

 

Since the Spirit/Huginn disappears

he [Óðhrærir] seeks their help,

he suspects destruction

of the human ones , if he tarries;

Þráinn's thought is

a dream with a burden [a somnolence],

With dissimulation/conceit, Dáinn’s

thought [is] a dream.

[Dáinn’s thought is a dream  with dissimulation or conceit]

 

First half vocabulary

 

A few word of explanation:  The four first lines comprehension appeared to me as a kind of grammatical puzzle when taking into account all the possible words meaning. For once, I found it funny to give you the details of the puzzle and why the translation above does solve this puzzle. It is also why I added the false assumptions, which gives an account of the complexity to handle. For example, at my first try, I found that the ‘membrane’ in line 2 could represent the sky but its nominative form did not tally with the general grammatical structure of this half-stanza.

 

Verb hverfa means ‘to turn around/disappear’.

The manuscripts show two versions: Huginn (Óðinn’s raven) or hugr (= thought/spirit). Since Huginn means Thought the difference between the two versions is not confusing. Note its declension case cannot be other than a nominative singular.

The verb leita either is followed by a genitive, or by the adverb at. It means to look for/to seek help/ to prepare to leave.

Hinna or himna can take two meanings. If it is a membrane or a film, then it is in the nominative singular case. If it is the demonstrative pronoun hinn, it is in the plural genitive case. In the above translation, it is complement of verb leitar (`he looks for assistance from them' = he seeks their assistance) and its case is genitive.

The word gumi (man), here guma, can be in several cases, among them the plural genitive. In the above translation, it complements the noun grand (“ruin of the men”) thus genitive.

The verb gruna means ‘to suspect’ and grunar would be then ‘it suspects’. It could also be the singular genitive of grunr = suspicion.

The noun grand, here possibly in the nominative or accusative, singular or plural, means ‘what causes evil/destruction’. In the above translation, it is direct object of grunar and thus in the accusative case.

The verb dvelja means ‘to delay/wait’. It does dvel in the present, and dvelur = dvelr = it delays/waits.

 

 Last half vocabulary

 

þotti means thought/anger.

þungi means burden/drowsiness.

Þráinn is a dwarf. His thought becomes a mere somnolence, in other words, he does not think anymore. The dwarves thus seem already put out of the play by stanza 2 ‘verpir.

Dul, dissimulation/self-conceit, it does dulu with the singular dative.

Dáinn is a dwarf or an elf, of which Hávamál, S. 143, known as that it carved (reist) the runes for the elves.I suppose that he is this elf here, since as the runes are used. Perhaps takes him part in the plot of verpir? Dissimulation or conceit can lead him to betray the Æsir.

Comments on the meaning of stanza 3 

 

 In stanza 2, the idea appears that only Óðhrærir is able to protect the destiny (Urðr) who seems unable to protect the gods’ universe from the “terrible winter” announcing Ragnarök. In addition, Óðinn brought the knowledge of the runes to the human ones, but no myth explains us the why of this generosity. Moreover, he knows the örlög of everything (we know that, among others, by the use of this word in Lokasenna): he also knows of Ragnarök. His plot, if reasonable, is not to suppress Ragnarök but to delay it as much as possible, if possible ad infinitum.

It thus seems that he tried so hard to recover Óðhrærir because he undoubtedly ‘knows’ that the human poets, rune knowledgeable and  inspired by Óðhrærir, will be a deciding factor to delay Ragnarök to happen.

If Óðhrærir takes too much time to provide inspiration to the poets magicians and the magicians poets,  whole humanity will  destroyed be too early, before he can integrate them into his plan.

 

All this may appear a little hazardous, I am conscious of it, but I did not seek anything than to find a meaning for the mystical puzzle contained in stanzas 2 and 3 of this poem. I would be happy to hear better founded assumptions than mine! (my email is given at the head of nordic-life page).

 

 

Stanza 04

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Dugir með dvergum

dvína, heimar

niður að Ginnúngs

niþi sökkva;

oft Alsviþur

ofan fellir [fellr],

opt of-favllnum

aptr safnar.

Dugir meþ dvergum.

Dvina heimar,

niþur at Ginnungs

niþi sökva;

opt Alsviþur

ofann fellir,

opt of follnum

aptur safnar.

The ‘doughtinesses’ with (of) the dwarves

dwindle, the worlds

down to  Ginnung

go down to sink;

often Alsviðr

from up there falls,

often, the victims (fallen)

back collects.

 

 

Meaning

 

“The dwarves’ firmness dwindles and they let the worlds sink to the bottom in Ginnung. The solar wagon, each evening falls with some the worlds and each morning it brings back some of them.”

 

Comments

 

IIn the first line, the fact that dwarves toughness decreases refers to the fact that they are in charge of ‘holding up’ the worlds. Snorri described four of them in this duty, posted at the four cardinal points of Hymir’s skull.

On the ‘hogback’ found in Heysham cemetery, we see four characters who undoubtedly support something, perhaps Jörmungandr (carved on upper face of the engraved block). This carving at least shows that ancient imagery associates four individuals to the function of holding some mythological figure.

The world breaks down in the abyssal zone, and this to be expected is normal since the thought of the dwarves (see s. 3) becomes “a dream with a burden,” and they cannot any more fulfil their function.

 

Ginnung indicates a magic or consecrated place. The original abyss in which our universe was formed is called Ginnunga-gap, i.e. the ‘of magic-abyssal zone’. Considering the trajectory of the worlds in this stanza, it is clear that we find here an allusion to Ginnunga-gap.

 

The name Alsviðr is classically the one of a horse that draws the carriage of the she-Sun. If we read it as ‘alsvitr,’ it means “very knowledgeable’ and can apply to Óðinn, which fits with the fact that Viðrir and Viðurr are two Óðinn’s names. But you see that in the two Norse versions above, it is clearly spelled with a ‘þ’ and not a ‘t’. Moreover, Óðinn does not seem to yet present in the tale, except by his plan to delay Ragnarök. It thus appears reasonable to me to keep here the traditional meaning of the name Alsviðr, and reading it as a heiti for the goddess Sun. We then can understand the ‘oft’ in line 5as ‘each evening’ and the one in line 7 as ‘each morning’. This interpretation agrees well with mythology and good sense. The sun goes down with a load of dead worlds and raises each morning with some re-awakened worlds.

Stanza 05

 

 

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

Literal translation

Stendr æva

strind né ravþull,

lopte meþ lævi

linnir ei straumi;

mærum dylst

í Mímis brunni

vissa vera;

 

vitið enn, eða hvat?

Stendur æva

strind ne röþull,

lopte meþ lævi

linnir ei strömi;

mærum dylst i

Mimis brunne

vissa vera;

 

vitiþ enn eþa hvaþ?

Stand ever

earth nor sun,

(in) atmosphere with bale/imposture

stop never streams;

famous is hidden

in Mímir's well

certitude/wisdom of men;

 

Don’t you know yet, or what?

 

 

English translation

 

 

Earth nor Sun

stand ever quiet

in an ever stormy atmosphere

(polluted) with imposture;

human beings’ wisdom

shelters in famous

Mímir's well.

Do you understand now, or what?

 

 

The poet uses the two adverbs æva and ei that mean ‘ever’.

 

The word lopt or loft means loft, balcony, atmosphere, air. Here, lopte or lopti is in the singular dative, hence “in the atmosphere.”

 

The last line, “vissa vera, with its two ‘obvious’ nominatives singular is a little misleading, too.  I translated vera by the plural genitive of verr = a man.  Another solution is to keep the nominative singular and to see in vera the nominative of vera = shelter. This last line then becomes ‘the safe shelter’, which can be understood as humankind’s (last) safe shelter, attributing the shelter to humankind. It seems to me that sheltering wisdom there accords better to the mythological role of the well of Urðr: The fountain (or well) of Mímir is located at the foot of the world tree, and it contains all wisdom.

Lassen gives the two versions and translates by speaking of (a single) “wise being.”

 

Völuspá asks also several times: vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?” (Do you know enough, or what?. One would say that here the poet wished to parody this expression, while asking now, almost with the same words: “Did you understood yet what will happen?” This ‘parody’ cannot take place by chance, due to the author’s knowledge level. I think he/she winks at us: “Do we agree? You well understood that I present here my own version of Völuspá’s myths? "

 

 

 

Stanza 06

 

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

Literal translation

Dvelr i davlum

dís forvitin,

Yggdrasils frá

aski hnigin;

Alfa ættar

Iþunni héto,

Ívalds ellri

ýngsta barna.

Dvelur í dolum

dys forvitinn,

Yggdrasils fra

aski hniginn;

álfa ættar

Iþunn hetu,

Ívaldz ellri

yngsta barna.

Delays in the dales

the inquisitive Dís

Yggdrasil from

the ash-tree gone down;

of the elves family,

Iðunn was named,

of Ívald the elders

the youngest of the children.

 

 

 

English translation

She delays in the dales

the inquisitive Dís,

from ash-tree Yggdrasil

gone down;

elfish of family,

Iðunn was named,

of Ívald elder children

the youngest one.

 

 

Comments on the vocabulary

 

Ívald is an elf patriarch and elves are often called Ívald’s children. Íðunn is thus the youngest of the ancient elves. Ívaldz and barna are genitives, and Íðunn and yngsta are nominatives, hence the grouping of the words. Ellri is a comparative and does ellri in the plural, nominative or genitive. It could thus integrate both groups. Íðunn cannot be both the elder and the youngest, hence the translation above.

The word dís is often translated as ‘woman’ but Íðunn clearly belongs to the divine beings as do the Dísir.

Forvitinn means ‘curious’ though mostly in a pejorative sense, hence the translation ‘inquisitive’.

 

Comments on the meaning

 

The whole poem hinges around this stanza.

A Dís is a feminine divinity who is similar to a Norn. This is underlined by Germanic poems, called the Mersebourg charms, beginning with “Eiris sazun idisi, sazun hera duoder” (Once the Idisi [Dísir] sat, sat here and there).

She has been living relatively high in up there” in Yggdrasil and she went down to stay in the dale. It is thus reasonable to suppose that she was living in Ásgarðr with the Æsir. She belongs to the Elf family, and the youngest of her generation, which is nevertheless ancient. We can also guess that she went down because of her inquiring mind, but nothing more is said later on this topic.

This prevents to hypothesize that she is one of the three Norns who are of the Giant race and do not live in Ásgarðr.

Her name was Iðunn, at least as long as she has been living with the Gods. Iðunn is Bragi's wife, the poet God, and she is in charge of the keeping the apples that prevent the Gods to age. Some commentators see here the famous myth where Iðunn is abducted by a Giant and her apples stolen. The following will clearly show that this myth is not at all alluded to. It is quite possible, however, that we meet here another version of Iðunn's departure. Instead of being a naïve girl who lets herself carried away by sweet words before being abducted, we see here a woman carried away by her will to increase her knowledge. Here, she takes no magical apples with her, but her needs to reach enlightenment, another kind of power. It is quite possible that we meet here a tragic version of the more traditional comic version, where the Æsir are ridiculed and where Íðunn looks like a foolish girl.

The name of Íðunn is very significant since it will vary in the present poem to indicate a new role. We have an indication on the composition of its name since a poet, Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, voluntarily cut out it in his Haustlöng:

þá vas Íð með jötnum / unnr [or, according to some editors: uðr ] nýkomin sunnan; (then was Íð with the giants unnr coming from the south).

It is traditional to understand Íð-unn as ‘for_always-young’. Íð means achievement or it is an intensifier. This interpretation is traditional and sticks very well to the myth. The meaning of ‘young’ for unn (= ung) is to some extent confirmed by this stanza.

There are other possibilities since unna means ‘to love’ and unnr means ‘sword’ or ‘wave’. Thus Íðunn can also mean something like the work of waves, love or sword. These meanings, however, do not evoke anyone young.



     

Stanza 07

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Eirþi illa

ofankomo,

hár-baþms [hárþ-baþms] undir

haldin meiþi;

kunni sizt

at kundar Nörva,

vön aþ væri

vistum heima.

 

Eyrde illa

ofann komu,

hardbaþms undir

haldin meiþi;

kunne sist at

kundar Nörva,

vön at væri

vistum heima.

She enjoyed badly  

from up there came,

the high (or rough) tree under

held to the post;

(she) knew very little

of the daughter of Nörr (dwelling),

used to she was

to (true) lodgings at home.

 

 

Comments on the vocabulary

 

Halda followed by a dative means ‘to forcefully maintain, to bind’. Followed by an accusative, it has the reverse meaning: ‘to maintain, keep’. Here, meiðr, a post, is in the dative case.

We can read, as Rask does, hár-baðmr (= high-tree) or, as Lassen, hard-baðmr (= rough-tree), both point at Yggdrasill, the world tree, at the foot of which Íðunn seems to be bound.

The verb kunna, ‘to know or being able of ‘, does kunni in the preterit. C.V. gives the expression “kunna ílla við sík” which means ‘to be unhappy’ in some place. Following this idea leads to conclude that that Íðunn liked neither under the tree, nor at Vörr’s daughter place. Vörr is a giant, the father of Night). But sízt can also be the superlative of síðr and then mean ‘very little’, which I kept in the translation (she had very little knowledge of this place – hence her unease).

Most often, the word kundr means ‘son’ but in the present context, since Nörr is Nótt’s (Night) father, I prefer to translate it by ‘daughter’. This implies that Íðunn is kept in the darkness.

 

The last four lines are a kind of brainteaser relative to dwellings. At first, at + genitive kundar is possible only if ‘at implies ‘at the home of’ as in English [This is obviously Eybjörn’s solution since he translates by “At Nörvi's daughter's.” ]. Then, væri can also indicate a dwelling, but I use it here as verb vera (to be) subjunctive preterit. Lastly, in the last line, the two words vistr and heimr, again, both mean home, dwelling. Heima can be also an adverb meaning ‘at home  and I use this meaning. Lastly, vistr indicates a ‘real’ dwelling, including the food it contains. The adjective vanr (or vön) means ‘used to’.

 

Comments on the meaning

 

Iðunn is clearly in an uncomfortable situation in the four first lines, since she is not free but bound to the world tree. The last four ones lines describe her as being shrouded in darkness, which was not her habit at home.

I am not certain that this last circumstance is necessarily negative. Stanza 6 describes her as an inquisitive lady, i.e. someone greedy for knowledge. Some kind of knowledge, obviously, cannot be acquired but in the light. But we tend to associate darkness to ignorance, which is very typical of our present civilization. Darkness can also bring a lot of knowledge, different from that brought by the light. A truly inquisitive person will wish to acquire knowledge of the two kinds. This assumption is confirmed in the following stanza that claims that she “lék at lævisi (became skillful at calamity)”as we shall see.

 

 

Stanza 08

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Sjá sigtývar

syrgja Navnno

viggjar aþ véom;

vargs-belg seldo,

lét í færaz,

lyndi breytti,

lék aþ lævísi,

litom skipti.

 

Sia sigtivar

syrgia nönnu

viggiar at veom;

vargsbelg seldu,

let ifæraz,

lyndi breytti,

lek at lævisi,

litum skipte.

 

Saw the victorious Gods

the sorrow of Nanna

of the horse at the sanctuaries;

a wolf’s skin was handed (to her),

she let (her) self-go in it,

her mood changed (spoiled)

(she) became doom-skillful,

(her) colors shifted.

 

 

This stanza indicates a capital modification in Íðunn’s behavior that will change her nature. Note that the sigtivar, the victorious gods, see her changing and, to some extent, will describe this change from their point of view. They see her afflicted at the beginning of the stanza and changed into a monster at its end.

 

Comments on the vocabulary

 

Nönnu, here the genitive of Nanna, is, like dís in s. 6, a lauding way to speak of a woman. It is an allusion to Baldr’s wife, Nanna. In the skaldic tradition, Nanna is devoted to Baldr up to sacrifice herself on her husband’s pyre. In another tradition, the one represented by Saxo Grammaticus, she is in love with another king, and she is vainly coveted in by Balderus who accumulates treasons and wars to try to grab her. She is obviously Íðunn here.

A indicates a consecrated place, a temple, a sanctuary.

In poetry, the word veggr, ‘horse’, is a masculine doing veggjar in the singular genitive. Line 3,viggjar at véom” thus means the “sanctuaries of the horse,” an obvious kenning for Yggdrasill since drasill means also a horse and the world tree is a consecrated place.

A vargr is a wolf and, by extension, an outlaw, an ill-doer. The expressionvargr í véum (a wolf in the sanctuary)is evoked here byat véum vargs-” which connects line 3 and 4. Belgr being a skin, Íðunn is covered with a wolf skin and does tend to become a kind ofwolf in the gods’ temple.”

The verb selja, ‘to hand out an object to someone’, is here in the preterit, third plural person, and seldu = ‘they handed (her) out’ (a wolf skin). It is clear that she was not forced, physically nor magically, to don this wolf skin, it was only handed to her.

The verb láta, to let, indicates an action we are free to ‘do’ or not ‘do’. The following verb, indicating what is ‘done’ is færaz in the manuscripts. It is read as a reflexive form (færast or færask) of the subjunctive preterit of fara. This verb has a multitude of meanings based on ‘to go, to travel’. We could thus translate the linelét færaz íbyshe let herself go insidethe wolf skin. It happens that this way of speech is also used for clothing, wherefrom come Lassen’s and Eybjörn’s translations: she clothed/clad herself”. To use the verb fara to get dressed is not innocent: while getting dressed in wolf skin, Íðunn undertakes a long journey towards a found or re-found wilderness, which has been lost while she lived at the Æsir’s.

The verb leika, here in the preterit, lék, means ‘to play, deceive, perform’ or ‘to sway, oscillate as fire or water do’ or even ‘to bewitch’. 

The word lævísi is composed of = ‘artifice, doom’ and of the postfix -vísi introduces the idea of ‘being skillful at’.

The word litr means color/complexion and the verb skipta to separate/divide/change. The expression skipta litum meansto change color.” In a metaphorical use Lex. Poët. states, in its section γ about litr: skipta svá litummodifying a  statute, a nature.” This of course evokes the end of s. 18 Völuspá describing Lóðurr’s role in creating human beings: … gaf Lóðurr / oc lito góða (… gave Lóðurr / and good color).” Thisgood coloris an important feature and when Íðunnchanges color ', she definitively leaves her primary nature, the one of an elf and a goddess.

 

Comments on the meaning

 

The “victorious gods" see, or believe to see, Íðunn afflicted because she went down (not “fell down”!) on the roots of Yggdrasill. Stanza 7 shows that she is indeed upset by her new condition, but the ease with which she endorses her she-wolf condition and transforms her nature shows that, in spite of the gods’ prejudices and their claim to victory, they cannot ignore the depth of the transformation she is undergoing (not “suffering”!).

She starts to practice an art, the one of shape changers, which seems to have been forbidden in Ásgarðr. She actually becomes a new being through thisdisastrouspractice: She becomes a witch, a völva as were called these women able of the best shamanic achievements. The ‘spá-ing’ völva in Völu-spá has been called by Óðinn as an adviser. Here the völva is a former female elf, becoming a new völva. The völuspá – though reluctantly –answers Óðinn's questions, but Nanna is still a living being and Óðinn cannot use his necromantic powers to force her in answering his questions.

 

Not only Íðunn leaves the joys of Ásgarðr and takes pleasure in her new condition, but moreover her independence goes up to refuse answering Óðinn’s questions!  My feeling is that whoever finds scandalous this attitude will not be able to understand the poem. Inversely, approving of Íðunn’s attitude clarifies it a lot. This is why I find it quite possible that this poem has been written by a poetess, and one obviously exasperated by the constant insinuations of skaldic poetry on the superiority of male values of physical resistance, courage in combat etc. This poem insists on the importance of greed for knowledge, quite a sexless one, together with the impudence to show a female hero showing that greed.


Stanza 09


Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Valdi Viþrir

vavrþ Bif-rastar

gjallar-sunnu

gátt at frétta,

heims hvívetna

hvert er vissi ?

Bragi og Loftur

báro kviþu.

Valde Viþrir

vörd Bifrastar

Giallar sunnu

gátt at fretta,

heims hvivetna

hvƒrt er vissi;

Bragi ok Loptur

báru kviþu.

Used Viðrir                            Óðinn used

the ward of Bifröst                 Bifröst’s guardian/wife

Gjöll's sun                              to ask to the

the door-frame to ask             frame of Gjöll's sun (Íðunn)

of the house everywhere         in the whole world

what she knew;                       what she learned;

Bragi and Loptr (Loki)              Bragi carried a poem

bore words or a poem             and Loptr his womb.

or uteruses.

 
 

Comments on the vocabulary

 

The noun gátt indicates the framework of a door against which the door is closed. It follows that, for example, the kenning gátt hrings (the framework of the rings) describes a woman, who ‘frames’ her jewelry. The Gjöllr river runs in front of Hel and, very generally, as Snorri explains in his Skáldskaparmál “the light or the fire of any stretch of water or river indicates gold,” the kenning “gátt gjallar sunnr (the framework of the sun of Gjöllr)” means “the framework of gold” = a woman, here Íðunn. This type of kenning is a little particular, often the woman is simply the ‘gold carrier’. Here, it is specified that she frames, i.e. highlights the jewels she carries. This kenning is thus especially laudatory for women.

The verb valda means ‘to wield, cause’, it is normally followed by a dative. The masculine noun vörðr, guard, does vörði in the dative. Once that the kenning above is accepted, there does not exist anymore available datives for the verb valda, so that we should understand that the poet supposed that it was obvious to see here ‘Bifröst guardian’, Heimdall. But one can also think of a skald’s pun. The noun vörð can also be feminine and means ‘married woman’, and does not change in the dative singular, i.e. this is the grammatically exact meaning. As Íðunn is indeed a married woman and Óðinn obviously will seek to use her, we can understand at the first reading that vörð indicates Íðunn. Since a slightly complex kenning follows, we may hesitate to catch who is this ‘Bifröst married woman’ and be forced to disentangle the kenning to understand what has been expected: that the second line indeed points at Heimdall. We can then understand that the pun speaks of Heimdall as the “woman married to Bifröst” and that throws doubt on Heimdall’s maleness.

The verb bera, to carry, does báru in the preterit plural. 

The noun kviða, epic poem, does kviðu in the accusative singular; kviðr, a word, does kviðu in the accusative plural; kviðr, womb /uterus, does also kviðu in the accusative plural. In this case, the puns are straightforward and throw an even more serious doubt on Bragi’s and Loki’s maleness. The indication ‘carrying an uterus’ is almost gross and makes think of a níðstöng, this way of seriously insulting an adversary. The two translators whom I consult do not give these meanings.

Eybjörn (“they carry testimony”) understands that Bragi undoubtedly will compose a poem to describe Heimdall’s interview with Íðunn. He and Loki thus will carry testimony of this interview. It is of course exact but it also forgets the undeniable possibility of kviðr sexual meaning.

Lassen (“they were filled with apprehension”) may see here the verb kvíða, to feel apprehension, which does kvíðu in the preterit, but only into a (relatively) recent Icelandic and she then does not translate báru. Or, it could be “they carried apprehension" but the noun for apprehension kvíði would give kvíða and not kvíðu in the accusative. In a striking way, this translation that I do not approve, gives nevertheless the same feeling of Bragi and Loki great brittleness.

 

Comments on the meaning

 

At first, here is a recall of well-known facts. Bragi is the god of poetry, and Íðunn’s husband. Loftr or Loptr (= ‘air’, ‘the one of the loft’) indicates Loki. Bifröst is the bridge connecting Ásgarðr to the other worlds. Its guardian is Heimdall. He has a horn, Gjallarhörn, which means the howling horn. Gjöllr can be also the name of a river, or the name of the stone slab to which the Fenrir wolf has been bound.

 

Here is the stanza general meaning. Heimdall must go down to Yggdrasill’s foot to ask questions to the news völva that Íðunn became while learning doom-skillfulness, as said in s. 8. To do good measure, he is joined by Íðunn’s former husband who may convince her to speak, and Loki whose intelligence can always be useful during such a diplomatic mission.

 

During s. 8, Íðunn’s nature changes, her rupture with the beings of Ásgarðr is consumed, but she became a völva, a magician who can prophesy. We can suppose that Óðinn plans to learn through her some details which will enable him to slow down the arrival of Ragnarök. The insulting puns about Óðinn’s envoys can however lead to suppose that their action will turn out to be ridiculous, which we will see in the following stanzas.  Another hypothesis that I find more plausible is that the last line is shortcut to speak of two persons with the same words and different meanings. Bragi a poet and Loki's pregnancy are often recalled. Bragi is carrying a poem by which he will describe the discussion with Íðunn, as suggested by Eysteinn's translation. Loki should carry 'somewhere' a womb since he could give birth. Further than a mere insult, Óðinn may have believed that this female feature might create some mutual understanding between him and Íðunn.

 

Lastly, the kenning describing Íðunn is very laudatory, while the insinuations related to her three visitors are very pejorative. This scorn for anything male evokes some most vituperative present time feminists. It is one of the reasons why I suggest that the poem was composed by a feminist woman.

 

 

Stanza 10

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Galdur gólo,

gavndom riþo,

Rögnir og reginn

at rann heimis;

hlustar Óþinn

Hliþscjálfo í;

leit braut vera

lánga vego.

Galdur golu,

göndum riþu

Rognir ok reiginn

at rann heimis;

hlustar Oþinn

Hlidskialfi i,

let bröt vera

langa vegu.

Galdr they sung, screamed,

magical staffs [or wolves] they rode,

Slanderer and Coward [Loki and Bragi]

at Heimir’s home;

listens Óðinn

Hliðskjálf in [a tower inside Asgard],

(and) judges the unruly way to be

(very) long roads.

 

 

Translation

 

Loki and Bragi

sung the galdr

and rode magic

to go to Heimir’s, in Giantland;

in Hliðskjálf

Óðinn listens

and estimates their route to be [and becomes impatient to see]

too long ways [how slowly they move].

Comments on the vocabulary
 
The verb gala takes the form gólu in the plural preterit. Its primary meaning is ‘to crow’ that led to ‘to sing’. When it is associated a galdr, the context sometimes enables possible to allot to him the meaning of howling (galdr).
Galdr is a magic song-howl, mostly using runes. 
There is a traditional expression similar to the one used here, renna göndum, which means to travel like a witch. Gandr means ‘magic stick, magic, wolf’ and göndum is its plural dative. The well-known witches’s broom must result from this image. This word is used to indicate mythical beings: Jörmungandr, ‘huge magic stick’ (see below a discussion of this word exact meaning in stanza 25) that circles humankind’s world, and Vánargandr, a name given to Fenrir wolf.
Hliðskjálf is a tower placed in Ásgarðr.
Heimir is the name of a giant and we thus learn that, among the ‘lower’ worlds, Íðunn is in the giants’ one. 
 
On Rognir/Rögnir and Reginn.
 
Practically all the translators see Óðinn in Rognir/Rögnir. Rögnir is one of Óðinn’s names, this is why I choose the orthography Rognir, i.e. the one of Lassen in version of the manuscripts. Translators show a tendency to see Óðinn everywhere. Here, it would really be absurd insofar as Óðinn would be at the same time on the way down and observing himself from the tower. If Rognir is not Óðinn we then can seek another meaning different from the traditional one, ‘master’. We notice that the noun róg means quarreler, slanderer, and is a very plausible nickname for Loki, who is quoted in the preceding stanza as undertaking the travel.  Regin is a traditional name for the divine powers. But our attention was activated by the fact that Rognir cannot be Óðinn and, moreover, Reginn (= the ‘something’) is different from Regin. We thus seek another possible interpretation for the name Reginn. We meet the noun regi meaning ‘cowardice’. This is why I chose to translate Reginn by Coward, a name which fits well traditional insults for Bragi.
This poem has a reputation of being obscure and I think that one should not hesitate to see a little unusual allusion, especially when they clarify obscure points.
 
Comments on the meaning
 
Titchenell’s and Thorpe’s translation implies that Heimdall, Bragi and Loki practiced magic to travel, while Eysteinn protests against this interpretation since the practice of the magic is strictly prohibited in Ásgarðr. To imply that a man practices sorcery is a traditional insult, sometimes with the gravelly insinuations relative to the pleasure felt by the man during the act. The text is however ambiguous and we can understand either that Heimdall, Bragi and Loki practiced magic, or that some giants came to carry them down. This last interpretation is possible, the more so as we will find in stanza 17 some confusion between the conveying giants and the conveyed gods. 
That the poetess was not conscious of this ambiguity appears completely impossible, and I see here yet another insult to the gods, mainly Loki and Bragi. In the preceding stanza, the sexual allusion with respect to Loki is simply coarse and goes on here. The one relating to Bragi is also present in the etymology of regi, cowardice. This word comes from two adjectives, ragr and ergi that both designate a man who has been sodomized.
              

 

Stanza 11

 

 

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

Literallyt

Frá enn vitri

Veiga-seljo

Banda-burþa

og brauta-sinna:

hlýrnis, heljar,

heims ef vissi

ártíþ, æfi,

aldurtila.

Frá enn vitri

veiga selio

banda burþa

ok bröta sinna,

Hlyrnis, Heliar,

heimz, ef vissi

artid, æfi,

aldurtila

Asked again to the wise man le sage/a wise woman

of drinks/strength she-provider]

of the gods the birthdays l

and roads theirs

of heaven, of the dead’s dwelling,

of the world, if she knew

time-tide, life-length,

death.

 

Translation

 

He (Heimdall) asked again (and again) to a she wise one (Íðunn)

[or The he wise one (Heimdall) asked to the) ]

Bringer of drink [or of strength] (Íðunn)

(the story of) the gods’ birth and their movement

(asked) about the celestial kingdom, on the dead ones dwelling,

the inhabited world, if she knew

the tide of the times, the length of their cycles,

when they would end.

 

 

Comments on the vocabulary

 

Adjective vitr does vitri in the singular nominative when indefinite and, when definite, in the feminine dative form. Hence the two different translations.  

Noun selja means ‘willow’ or, with another etymology, a dealer. In poetry, these two meanings merge into the one of ‘woman’. It does selju in the dative.

Band, a neutral noun, means ‘the gods’ and does banda in its plural genitive. Burðr, birth, is a masculine and does burða in the plural, genitive and accusative.

Braut, the way, does brauta in the genitive plural. It specifies a hard way running through rocks and forests.

Noun ártíð means ‘a death anniversary’. We can read it as ár-tíð = time-tide, i.e., tide of the times, i.e., time cycles.

Noun æfi has no declension and means ‘lifetime. Here, we understand it more as ‘the end of times’.

 

Comments on the meaning

 

The two interpretations I give are plausible. One uses the traditional stereotype of the Valkyrie serving beer to the Valhöll warriors. The other one shows a wise Íðunn, strength giving, respectfully consulted. My intuition is that the author wanted this ambiguity, perhaps with some irony for those who will choose the first interpretation.

 

 

Stanza 12

 

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

Literally

Né mun mælti,

né mál knátti

Givom [tívom] greiþa,

né glaum hjaldi :

tár af tínduz

tavrgom hjarnar [tjavrnom hjarna],

eljun feldin [faldin/feldinn]

endur-rjóþa

Ne mun mælti,

ne mál knatti

givom greiþa,

ne glöm hialde;

tar af tindust

rgum hiarnar,

eliun feldin

endur rioþa.

Non can express (herself)

non speech was able

for the sorcerers to perform

no joy chattered;

tears flowed again,

from the shields of the brain

energy cloak

again redden.

 

 

Translation

 

She could not express her thoughts

could not utter a word

nor perform for the sorcerers (nor achieve a coherent behavior for the three visitors)

and did not chatter joyfully;

her tears flowed again

in the brain-shields (a kenning for theeyesor the orbits’)

that redden (or are smeared with blood’) again

the life force cloak (a kenning for theeyelids’).

 

 

Comments on the vocabulary

 

Verb kná does knátti in the preterit, it means ‘to be able of’.

The verb greiða has many meanings, among them: ‘to perform, to express’.

The noun gífr is a plural used to speak of wizards in a pejorative way, his dative is gífum. Here, it must designate Loki and Bragi (and perhaps Heimdall) who, in stanza 10, joined her by “singing the galdr and riding magic” as wizards do. Thus, the poem goes on using ways of speech to designate Óðinn’s three envoys to Íðunn.

The form hjaldi can be interpreted as a preterit of verb hjala, to chatter.  

In poetry (Lex. Poët.), the verb tína means legere (to collect), repetere (to return, to bring back). The form tíndust is reflexive.

The feminine noun eljan means ‘energy’. Feldr is a coat. Here, it ends with the article and does feldinn, ‘the coat’, in the nominative and the accusative.

The adverb endr means either ‘in times of yore, before’' or ‘again’. The first meaning would control a verb in a past tense, this is why ‘again’ should be preferred.

The verb rjóða means ‘to redden, to smear with blood’. Its subject can be ‘the brain shields’ and its direct object be the ‘energy coat’. This supposes reverse the order of lines 8 and 9 and ant to add a relative pronoun (‘that’) being the proper grammatical subject. This is quite possible and I confess I could not find in another way of taking into account the grammar for these sentences.

 

Comments on the meaning

 

This stanza says to us that Íðunn has not been able to answer the many questions asked to her at the end of s. 11. The detail saying that she could not put up a good face (line 4) when questioned shows how much she now belongs to a world disconnected from the one of the Æsir.

The last four lines say that Íðunn again cries her eyes out over her condition. We can suppose that it refers to her sadness, as expressed in s. 7. If this is true, it emphasizes her sadness in this stanza.

 

Stanza 13

 

Rask’s version

 

Eins [inn] kemr austan

ôr Élivâgom

þorn af atri [öto/atu]

þurs hrímkalda,

hveim drepur dróttir

dáen [dáenn] allar

mæran of Miþgarþ

meþ [mid] nátt hvör.

 

Lassen’s version

 

Eins kiemur östann

ur Elivagum

þorn af acri

þurs hrimkalda

hveim drepur drött-e<r>

Daen allar

mæran of Miþgard

meþ natt hvƒria.

 

Literally

 

One comes from the East

out of Élivágar (Waves in a Snow Storm)

a thorn from the meadow

Thurs rime-cold,

 with which he strikes households

Dáinn all

glorious  Miðgarðr

with night each.

 

 

 

 

 

Translation

 

One brings from the East

from the land of snow storms, Élivágar,

a thorn grown in the meadow

of the rime-cold Thurs,

with which he strikes all households

Dáinn, each night

strikes a glorious Miðgarðr.

 

 

Comments on the vocabulary

 

The name Élivágar reads Él-vágr = ‘snowstorm-wave’ where Él is in the dative case and vágr a nominative plural. This gives the name ‘Waves in a Snowstorm’.

The word akr means ‘meadow’.

Hrím-kaldr = rime-cold.

Drótt = a household, plural accusative: dróttir.

We saw in s. 03 that Dáinn may represent the whole body of all Dwarves. He can also be an Elf. In the present stanza, the context presents him clearly as a Giant who comes to strike humanity with the spine of sleep. That Dáinn comes from the East, where the Giants live, confirms his Giant nature.

The substantive nótt, night, is used to describe the full cycle of a day. The Norse language says ‘each night’ in place of ‘each day’.

The adverb hvar means ‘where?’ As an indefinite pronoun, it means ‘in each place’. Lassen reads ‘hverja’, the feminine accusative singular of hverr, to accord it with nótt (night) which is feminine.

The adjective mæra, ‘glorious, famous, does mæran in the indefinite singular masculine accusative.

 

Comments on the meaning

 

Stanza 03 says to us that the Dwarves are sleepy but Dáinn’s action is not clearly defined.  We can suppose that his ‘conceit’ comes from his capacity to put humanity to sleep each ‘night’. One should not see in him a kind of “sandman” who each evening puts people to sleep, as it naturally happens. They sleep for a whole ‘night’ cycle, meaning that they always sleep, thus losing their capacity to act.  

 


 

Stanza 14

 

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

Literally

Dofna þá dáþir,

detta hendur,

svífr of svimi

sverþ-ás hvíta :

rennir örvit [órunn]

rýgjar glýju,

sefa sveiflom

sókn gjörvallri.

 

Dofna þa dáþir,

detta hendur,

svifur of svimi

sverþ Ass hvita,

rennir örvit

rygar glygvi,

sefa sveiflum

sokn giörvallri.

 

Die then deeds,

drop down hands,

wobbles up in a swoon

sword of the god white:

(it) runs mindlessness/witlessness,

the gales of the housewife,

in the mind with ‘over-tippings’ (eddy-wise)

assembly whole.

 

 

Translation

Deeds become then numbed,

hands hang down ungrasping,

the white god’s, Heimdall’s sword,

wobbles up in a swoon:

the gale in the mind of the housewife, Íðunn,

runs eddy-wise as if witless

in the whole assembly.

 

Since Lassen’s translation is very different from mine, I’ll give it here, together with Eystein’s which is not as much different.

Lassen: “Then deeds become sluggish, hands fall idle, stupor hovers over the white gods sword (over the head); insensibility flows into the trollwifes wind (into the mind), these things calm in waves the whole parish. »

Eystein: “Actions are numbed, / the arms slump, / a swoon hovers over / the white god's sword; / stupor dispels / the wind of the giantess, / the mind's workings / of all mankind.”

 

Comments on the vocabulary

 

The verb dofna means ‘to die’ for a body member. We say rather, ‘to numb’.

Dáþ = deed, i.e. an action generally looked upon as positive, unless its negative aspect is specified.

The substantive hönd, a hand, does hendr in the plural. This word is connected to the verb henda, to catch, so that it is the hands catching aspect that this word underlines.

The adjective hvítr, white, does hvíta in the other cases that the nominative one when it is associated to a definite use (theopposed to a).

The verb svífa (svífur in the 3rd line) means ‘to wander, swing, (German: schwingen)’. For a sword, it evokes a shaky swing or a sword raised up by a weak hand. It could also be a sexual allusion to a weakness on this respect. Be it sexual or not, Heimdall is ridiculed here: a true warrior would not unsteadily shake his sword whatever the circumstances. Since he needs to convince a woman, Heimdall has no warrior to fight and the sexual meaning seems to me most probable. It is a traditional way of the modern woman to make fun of a man, especially of a macho one. This interpretation reinforces my feeling that the poem was written by an energetic and very educated woman who shared before the hour the current feminist sights.  

The substantive svimr means giddiness, as when close to a fell.

The prefix ör- indicates either a lack of something or the antiquity of what it prefixes. The prefix ór - means ‘out of’. In this case, örvit or órvit both mean ‘to be spiritless, foolish’.

Rygr, a housewife, does rygjar in the singular genitive. Here, Íðunn.

Glyygr = window, glygg = opening and, in poetry, a gale.

The verb sefa = to soothe, soften. Here it would be ‘they soothe’, and this is what reads Lassen. We however ignore who provides these ‘soothings’ and she must thus invent a subject to verb sefa: “these things.” The only assumption remaining is the one of the substantive sefi which means ‘mind, state of mind’ or ‘a relative’. Sefa is the dative of sefi: ‘in the houesewife’s mind whirls a gale.

Seifla is a term of the sport of wrestling when an adversary is tipped over, he kind of whirls around, as a gale whirls on itself.

Sókn = attack or assembly. In the Christian world: a parish. Lassen’s translation by ‘parish’ implies that the action occurs in a Christian world, which is an obvious anachronism.

Gjörvallr = gjörv-allr = clearly-all (completely, absolutely all), here in the singular dative feminine which indicates to us that sókn is also in the dative singular.

 

Comments on the meaning

 

The translation given higher is very clear and indicates that the chaos reigning in Íðunn’s mind extends to “the whole assembly.” The only remaining ambiguity is what this assembly exactly is: the four known protagonists, or the same together with other gods, or humanity?

Each stanza brings its small additional insult addressed to each of Óðinn’s envoys. Here, the white Áss is either unable to hold his sword, or to satisfy a woman sexually. Note that our hypocritical civilization finds obscene the comparison of the sword to a penis (and the one of a sheath with a vagina) are traditional in Norse literature and has to have been understood by any educated reader of the time.

The word order in lines 6 and 7 “the gales of the housewife in the mind” must change in an obvious way to “gales in the housewife’s mind” and this is subject of the verb to run, placed before him in the poem. These variations of order are common in skaldic poetry. Grammar and context generally enable to raise the ambiguities. In this case, for example, the choice of “sefa = they soothe” creates a vacuum because the verb to soothe does not have an obvious subject. Moreover, the context does not encourage to see any ‘soothing’ in the poem.  

 

Stanza 15

 

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

Literally

 

Jamt þótti Jórun

jólnom komin,

sollin sútum,

svars er ei gátu;

sóttu [sókte] því meir

aþ syn [þögu] var fyrir,

mun þó miþur

mælgi dugþi [dygþi].

 

Jamt þotti Iorun

jolnum kominn

sollinn sutum,

svars er ei gátu;

soktu þvi meir

ad syn var fyrir,

mun þo miþur

mælgi dygþi.

 

Equally seemed Jórunn

with the gods ‘come’

swollen with griefs,

of the answer is not the door;

sought because more

to denial was in front of

the time of change already medium

the chattering (they) helped.

 

 

Translation

In italics, reminders of the original text, in bold explanations.

 

Jórunn, she too,

in front of the three visiting gods,

swollen with grief,

did not seem (to be) open (a door) to answers;

because they were hitting (‘in front of) a denial

they (the gods) looked for more, (however)

their chattering moderately (= very little) helped to

(create) an opportunity for changing (the denials).

 

Íðunn and Jórunn

 

We saw in s. 06 that the most probable meaning associated to the name Íðunn is ‘for_always-young’ since her mythological role is working at Æsir’s perpetual youth. This stanza says that her name changes, which corresponds to a change in her nature. To interpret this new name, let us keep the ending - unn read as ung, young person. The root ‘jor does not evoke anything. Jór, though, means in poetry, a steed. We can thus interpret her new name as ‘young person-steed’ that evokes an unruly animal and a very masculine one. This also recalls Hávamál s. 90 that compares also a woman to a steed (there , jór accusative case). It is inconceivable that the author of the poem would be unaware of this stanza, I thus see here an allusion to a woman as unruly as a “young steed without ice-spikes, on the slipping ice, etc.” as described by this stanza. The difference is that Íðunn is clearly far from being merry in this stanza.

http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/NewHavamalEng90-95.htm

 

Comments on the vocabulary

 

Svella past participle, sollin means swollen.

The verb sækja, to seek, takes sometimes the form sóttu in its plural preterit, although this form misses in C-V and, curiously, he provides an example of it in a reflexive form (sóttusk). The substantive sótt means ‘disease, grugebut cannot decline into sóttu. The possibility of a pun is very strong here.

Syn = ‘denial, protest’.

The masculine munr, ‘time of change, the difference’, does mun in the dative and accusative singular.

þó means ‘though’ or ‘yet’.

Dygði could be the dative or the accusative of the feminine word dygð,virtue, probity, strength’. But a verb is ‘lacking’ here and it seems more judicious to me to see here duga, to help, his subjunctive preterit being dygði.

 

 

Comments on the meaning

 

 

The translation given above seems clear. Íðunn demoted from goddess to steed by her new name, refuses, or is unable to answer the mass of questions the gods ask to her in s. 11. They insist with flows of words (their ‘chatterings’) but fail to communicate with Jórunn. Besides, she seems deeply unhappy and the gods, powerless.

 Stanza 1


 

 

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

Literally

 

Fór frumkvavþull

fregnar brauta,

hirþir aþ Herjans

horni Gjallar;

Nálar nefa

nam til fylgis,

greppr Grímis [Grímnis]

 

grund varþveitti.

 

 

For frumqvödull

fregnar bröta,

hirdir at Herians

horni Giallar,

Nalar nefa

nam til fylgiss;

greppur Grimnis

 

grund vardveitti.

 

1. Travelled, the first to summon

2. expert of the roads,

3. shepherd (Heimdall) for Herjan (Óðinn)

4. of Gjallarhorn;

5. of Nál the nephew

6. took as helper

7. the poet of Grímnir (Grímnir is one of Óðinn’s names and his poet is Bragi.)

8. Earth  defended.

 

 

Translation

Lines 5 and 7 become 7 and 8.

 

1. He travelled, the first to summon,

2. expert of the roads,

3. guardian (Heimdall) for Óðinn

4. of Gjallarhorn;

5. he took as helper

6. Nál’s nephew (Loki) [l. 5 et 7 à l. 7 et 8]

7. (and) Óðinn’s poet (Bragi)

8. (who) defended Jörð (a heiti for Íðunn-Jórunn).

 

 

Comments on the vocabulary

 

Frum-kvödull = the first ‘summoner’ (the first to convene).

Fregna = ‘to hear, to be informed’

Fylgi = an assistance, a support, does fylgis in the genitive.

Grund = the ground, the field, but in poetry it indicates the Earth, Jörð, more known under her ‘new age’ name Gaia. Here, it is in the nominative or the accusative.

Varð-veita = ‘guard-to offer’ i.e. ‘to offer to guard, defend’. The verb veita can also mean ‘to trench’. Thus, varðveita a simple field can be understood as ‘to protect with a trench around the field’ or even, ‘to become this trench’ since the trench is the protecting device.

 

Comments on the meaning

 

This stanza recalls what is already known by s. 9 in order to insure that anyone knows who are ‘the gods’ in stanzas 9-16. 

If there is some additional information, it is very discrete. The last line could also be understood as an indication that Bragi becomes an object (a kind of trench) around Íðunn-Jórunn. In fact, we will see thereafter that he is not among these who come back to Ásgarðr. It follows that this assumption is not as absurd as it appears. Bragi changes also his nature and kind of limits what is his ‘field’, Íðunn here. She became similar to the giantess mother of Þórr, Jörð.

 

 

 

 

End of corrected version

(13 years old translation and comments begin here.

Bugge’s version has been everywhere replaced by Lassen’s)

 

 

Stanza 17

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Vingólf tóko

Viþars [Viþris] þegnar,

Fornjóts sefum

fluttir báþir;

iþar ganga,

æsi kveþja

Yggjar þegar

viþ avlteiti.

 

 

Vingolf toko

Viþars þegnar,

Forniotz sefum

fluttir báþir;

jþar ganga

Æsi kveþia

Yggiar þegar

viþ aulteite.

 

Vingólf they caught

of Viðar the warriors,

by Fornjót’s sons

floated both;

Inside they go,

the Æsir address,

of Yggr at once

towards beer joy.

 

They reached Vingólf

the warriors of Viðar,

by Fornjót’s sons

both carried as if by a stream;

Inside they go,

they speak to the Æsir

at once, they join in

the beer feast of Yggr.

 

 

 

 

Vingólf means “pleasant dwelling”, maybe Valhöll, the famous ‘Valhalla’ the dwelling of the warriors dead in combat ?

Heimdall et Bragi are normally the warrior of Viðar (= Óðinn, or his son ). It is a bit hard to look at Loki as being ‘Óðinn’s warrior’. Bragi, however, is not at all a warrior. The poem thus carries here some ambiguity as whom might be going with Heimdall , is it Loki or Bragi ?

Fornjót is a giant’s name. His sons practice the magic by which Óðinn’s two warriors are carried away by a kind of stream. The word forn means ‘ancient, pagan’, and jótr is ‘look, appearance’. Fornjót is thus ‘the one of ancient look’.

Those going inside are ‘obviously’ the Gods, not the giants. Note however that the phrasing is unclear, as if the poet wanted, an in stanza 10, to indicate some confusion between the Giants sorcerers and the Gods.

We have also to notice how trifling the Gods look. They just failed in an important mission, and their first subsequent move is to join a beer feast. The poet is now obviously ironical, but we shall see this irony decrease later.

 

Fleeting irony and respect are typical of this poem, and of many Nordic myths. When Loki attaches his testicles to the beard of a goat, when Óðinn is so afraid that he lets some of the mead of the poetry escape “from the behind,” when powerful Thor is disguised as a bride, to cite a few occurrences, the Gods are ridiculous even though the circumstances are tragic. This feature of the poem should thus not be considered as not understandable.

 

 

 

Stanza 18

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Heilan Hangatý,

heppnaztan ása,

virt avndvegis

valda báþo;

sæla at sumbli

sitja día,

æ med Yggjongi

yndi halda.

 

 

Heilan Hangaty

hepnastann Ása

virt öndveigis,

vallda baþu,

sæla at sumbli

sitia dia,

æ meþ Yggiongi

yndi halda.

 

Good health, Hangatýr,

happiest of the Æsir,

the beer wort from the high seat

to lead they requested ; [they requested (Hangatýr) to lead the beer wort (ceremony) from the high seat]

hapiness at the sumbel

they sit themselves the Gods, [the Gods seat themselves in view of the hapiness of the sumbel (ceremony)]

for ever with the young of Yggr

happiness they hold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hangatýr , means ‘hanged Tyr’, once more Óðinn. This name calls on the suffering he imposed on himself in order to obtain runic magic. There are beer runes, where the word ‘beer’ certainly represents another word for magic. It thus the Gods have their little enjoyment with beer, and look ridiculous in light of the hard times to come, in appearance only. Calling Óðinn Hangatýr, reminds us of the beer runes, and that the Gods might also start a ceremony, where they use their own kind of magic, which depend on the runes.

A sumbel is certainly a ceremony full of joy, but not at all a drinking party. A horn full of beer or mead passes around, and each one drinks a gulp of it. Before drinking, however, a God is called upon, as in a classical (Christian) religious ceremony. The difference is that each one is a priest who drinks a small amount of alcoholic beverage.

Exactly as in a sumbel during which the mood switches from funny jokes to deep religious, the poem switches from mocking to respecting the Gods.

 

 

Stanza 19

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Bekkjar sett

At [er] Bölverks ráþi

sjöt Sæhrímni

saddist rakna;

Skögul aþ skutlum

skaptker Hnikars

mat af miþi

Mímis [Mínnis] hornum.

 

Beckjar sett

at Bölverks raþi,

siot Sæhrimni

saddist rakna;

Skögul at skutlum

skapt ker Hnikars

mat af miþi

minnis hornum.

 

 

 

Bench sitted

following Bölverk’s advice,

the family of Sæhrímnir                     [the family of … Rakni,

sated of Rakni;                                   sated with Sæhrímnir]!

Skögul at the small tables

form the long cask of Hnikar

measured the mead

of Mimir in the horns.

 

 

 

 

 

Bölverk, the evildoer, is yet another of Óðinn’s names. It begins a half-stanza that can again be mocking to the Gods. Sæhrímnir is a wild-pig the flesh that can never be eaten in full, and its family is a family of pigs. Obviously, poetical Old Norse constantly inverses the genitives in this way, and the exact meaning is given by the context. A kind of confusion is nevertheless underlined by the fact that Rakni is not such a famous person. He is a king of the sea, and his name is linked by the etymology to rögn ‘the Gods’.   

Skögul is a Valkyrie described as a ‘shield bearer’ by the Völuspa she is thus a she-warrior whose role is protecting a male warrior. This, together with the next name given to Óðinn, Hnikar, ‘the one who pushes the spear’ changes the mood from joke to war in the second half-stanza.

Mímir’s mead is the drink that brings knowledge.

The noun skaptker is read as skapker, a cask used to serve beer. It is also possible to think of a skapt, ‘stalk, stick’ to bring the feeling of a long cask out of which the mead can be served, hence my translation of skaptker by ‘long cask’.

 

 

 

Stanza 20

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Margs of frágo

máltíþ yfir

Heimdall há goþ,

havrgar Loka,

spár eþa spakmál

sprund ef kendi,

undorn ófravm [ófram/of-röm],

unz nam húma [húm/himia/ hinna].

 

Margs of fragu

maltid yfir

Heimdall ha goþ,

rgar Loka,

spar eþa spakmal

sprund ef kiende,

undorn oframm

 unz nam huma.

 

Much they asked

the banquet along

to Heimdall, the Gods,

to Loki, the sacrificial stones,

foreseeings or clever words

whether the woman made known

meanwhile forwards

until caught twilight.

 

 

 

 

 

In this stanza, Gods and Goddesses ask Loki and Heimdall until the evening in order to know “whether the woman (i.e., Iðunn- … - Jórunn) made known foreseeings or clever words.”

The word hörgr means ‘heap of stones, sacrificial place, stone altar’ and, in this context, it certainly points at the Goddesses. Here there is certainly an allusion to hörr, wax, especially since hör-gefn, the Gefn (one of Freya’s names) of the wax, is a poetical equivalent to ‘woman’.

In the Lokasenna, Loki boasts of having had sex with all the Goddesses. Our poem is either showing a devilish hint to the Lokasenna or at least underlining the fact that Loki was quite in favor among the Goddesses.

Note that Bragi is totally forgotten while, due to his role of official poet, he should be the one to tell the tale. This fact favors the hypothesis that in stanza 17, Viðar’s warriors are Heimdall and Loki.

 

 

Stanza 21

Rask’s version

Lassen’s version

 

Illa léto

orþit hafa

erindisleyso

of lítil-fræga;

vant at væla

verþa myndi,

svô af svanna

svars of-gæti.

 

Illa létu

Ordid hafa

Erindis leysu

Oflítil fræga;

vant at væla

verþa mynde,

svo af svanna

svars ofgæti.

 

Bad, they left

became had

the mission lost

of little glory;

Wont at bemoan

that it would happen

such of a woman

of an answer receive.

 

 

They let known

that it became

of bad litlle glory,

and that they failed their mission.

Hard to ask whiningly

so as to make happen

that could be obtained

an answer from such a woman.

 

 

 

 

Stanza 22

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Ansar Ómi,

allir hlýddo:

Nótt skal nema

nýræþa til;

hugsi til myrgins

hver sem orkar

ráþ til-leggja

rausnar-ásom!”

Ansar Omi,

allir hlyddu:

‘Nott skal nema

nyræþa til,

hugsi til myrgins

hver sem orkar

raþ til leggia

rösnar Asum.’

 

Ómi answers,

all listen :

“Night will learn

to new powers;

Think until morning

who so works

advice to put in place

for the splendor of the Æsir!”.

 

 

 

 

Ómi is yet another of Óðinn’s names: the noisy one.

During the sumbel clearly shown that Heimdall’s mission has been a failure. Óðinn is left with the embittered conclusion, given in a pompous way, that night brings advice.

 

 

23

 

 

Rann með röstum

It flew with eddies

Tired, the full-of-lard-hay (or vagina)

Rindar móður

of Rindr the tired

of Fenrir of the-meadows-

fóðurlarður

hay (or the vagina) of lard

of-Rindr flew

fenris valla;

of Fenrir of the meadows.

with eddies.

gengu frá gildi

The Gods left

 

goðin, kvöddu

the feast, and greeted

Hropt og Frigg,

Hroptr and Frigg,

sem Hrímfaxa fór.

as Hrímfaxi raised.

 

Stanza 23

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Rann meþ ravstum

Rindar móþir

Favþur Jarþar [þrlarðr/ larðar/larður]

fenris valla [valda];

gengo frá gildi

goþin, kvöddo

Hrópt ok Frigg,

sem Hrímfaxa fór.

 

Rann meþ röstum

Rindar moþir,

föþur lardur

 

Fenris valla

gengo fra gilde;

goþinn kvoddu

Hropt ok Frygg,

sem Hrimfaxa for.

 

It flew with eddies                            Tired, the full-of-lard-hay (or vagina)

of Rindr the tired                               of Fenrir of the-meadows- of-Rindr flew with eddies.

hay (or the vagina) of lard

of Fenrir of the meadows.

The Gods left

the feast, and greeted

Hroptr and Frigg,

as Hrímfaxi raised.

 

 

Las, le foin(ou le vagin)-plein-de-lard

de Fenrir des-prairies-

de-Rindr coula

en tourbillonnant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the first half-stanza, the complex kenning can be understood as follows: the tired hay-lard of Fenrir (i.e., the sun since a wolf chases the sun in order to eat it, and hay-lard evokes some juicy food) of the meadows of Rindr (the western meadows) (the sun of the western meadows = the setting down sun) flew with eddies.

Rindr is a Goddess loved by Óðinn. She begot him a son, Váli. She is sometimes linked to the West.

As complex as it is already, this kenning contains even more allusions. Recall that Fenrir is a ‘he’ and that the sun is a ‘she’ in Old Norse. This wolf running after a girl recalls strongly Grimm’s tale “Little Red-Ridinghood” (Rotkäppchen). More than one century earlier, in 1697, Perrault reported a similar tale (Le Petit Chaperon Rouge) where Red-cap is eaten, and he provides a moral into which he underlines already the sexual innuendos of this tale. It happens here that the word fóðr means, besides ‘hay’, ‘sheath, vagina’ in such a way that the ‘she-sun’ is also called here a ‘greasy vagina’. The double meaning of the two kinds of body appetites is thus found here. Note how much ‘greasy hay’ sounds awkward, while the sexual meaning is much easier to understand. In passing, note that least one kenning for the pelvic area is known (Meissner : “Schlecht ist die Kenning hjarta sals höll für Unterleib”).

 

Hroptr, the airy one, is Loki, Frigg Óðinn’s wife, and Hrímfaxi is one of the horses of Night.

The Gods go back home while night sets up, and they say farewell to their hostess, Frigg, and their guest, Loki.

 

The word larðr in fóðurlarður of this stanza needs some more explanation. It exists in none of the Old Norse dictionaries. Cleasby only gives it, with the meaning of ‘lard, fat’ from the French lard. Cleasby comments and cites the poem that we are studying : “This poem however cannot be ancient, for this French word probably came to Iceland through the English trade of the 15th century”.

 

 

Stanza 24

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Dýrum settan

Dellíngs mavgr

jó framkeyrþi

jarkna-steinom [rokna/jokna/jarknast];

mars of Manheim

mavn af glóar,

dró leik Dvalins

drösull í reiþ.

 

 

Dýrum settan

Dellings mavgur

jo framm keyrþi

jarkna steinum;

 

mars of Manheim

mön af gloar,

dro leik Dvalins

dravsull í reiþ.

 

With expensive ones, well put up,

 Delling’s son

the horse forward let go

(with) precious stones;

of the horse over Manheim,

the mane glows

carried along the game of Dvalin

the steed with its waggon

 

 

Delling’s son

let go forward

the horse well put up

with expensive precious stones.

The mane of the horse glows

over Manheim,

the steed with its waggon

carried along the game of Dvalin.

 

 

 

 

Delling is Sun’s father. Manheim is the dwelling of the humans. Dvalin is the name of a dwarf, the first of a long line of dwarves.

The sun is ‘the dwarves’ game’ (actually, we must understand the contrary, that the sun fools the dwarves) because its rays turns them into stone.

 

 

Stanza 25

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Jörmungrundar

í jaþar [jokna/jarknast/ jodyr]

 nyrþra [néþra]

und rót yzto

aþal-þollar

gengo til rekkjo

gýgjur ok þursar,

náir, dvergar

ok dök-álfar.

 

 

Jormungrundar

i *jodyr nyrdra

 

und rót ytstu

adalþollar

gengo til reckio

gygiur ok þursar,

nair, dvergar

ok dockalfar.

 

Of Jörmungrund

by the Northern border,

under the root outlying the furthest

from the main tree,

go lying on their bed

Giantesses and Thurs,

dead ones, dwarves,

and dark Elves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This stanza provides more details on the way the mythic universe is organized. Under the furthest and the most northern root of Yggdrasil lies Hel, the dwelling of those who are not dead in combat. Here, Jotunheim, the Giants’ dwelling is thus placed with Hel, the dwelling of the dwarves and the dark Elves. These last are the Elves who do not live in Ásgarðr since the Elves are usually beings of divine nature who live together with the Æsir in Ásgarðr.

You will find more detailed versions of this universe in Rydberg, as given by Björnsson and Reaves, or to the scholarly version of Jan de Vries (cited below, pp. 372-392, Das Weltbild) that you will find soon on this site.

This stanza rings gloomy and it announces the forthcoming disaster.

Jörmungrund is the earth, and its etymology is very interesting. The word grund means a field, the ground but the meaning of jörmun is more disputed. De Vries links it – in his dictionary – to a primitive form *ermuna meaning ‘powerful, great’. Obviously, Earth is a gigantic field. The very same de Vries, however, in his History of the old Germanic religions (Berlin, 1970 – 1st edition 1957) while describing the God Tyr, associates the two names Tîwaz et Irmin. That is obviously disputable, but we cannot dispute the documentation he gathers on various words such as Irmin, irmingot, eormengrund etc. the various Germanic deities (Hermegiselus, Ermanaricus, etc.) who have a similar name. In other words, Jörmungrund is indeed the ‘gigantic earth’ but is as well a God of the Earth, or the virile form of an earth Goddess.

 

 

Stanza 26

Rask’s version

 

Lassen’s version

 

Riso raknar,

rann álfravþull,

norþr at Niflheim

njóla sótti;

upp rann [nam] árgjöll

Ulfrúnar niþr,

Hornþyt-valdr

Himinbjarga.

 

 

Risu racknar,

rann Alfröþull,

nordur ad Niflheim Niola sokte;

upp nam ar Giöll

Ulfrunar niþur

hornþyt valldur

Himin biarga.

 

 

 

Rose the Gods,

ran the Elf-sun,

North, towards Niflheimr

Night proceeds;

Up takes Árgjöll

of Úlfrún the descendant,

master of the horn’s noise,

in Himinbjörg.

 

 

 

 

 

The master of the horn’s noise,

Úlfrún’s descendant,

raises high Árgjöll,

in Himinbjörg.

 

                                                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

Úlfrún is a giantess, Heimdall’s mother. Árgjöll, is “the one which rings strongly (gjöll) and early (ár)”. Himinbjörg. is Heimdall’s dwelling.

Niflheimr is either the world (our world), or another realm of the dead, different from Niflhell, the underground world of the dead. The etymology of the root nifl- is disputed: it could be dark, or fog, or deep.

In this stanza, the day begins and Heimdall will ring his horn (the poem says that Heimdall raises his horn) in order to announce the Gods’ judgment day, Ragnarök, during which even the structure of the universe will be modified.

Many see here a Christian influence, certainly because of the Christian myth of Doomsday. Ragnarök is indeed a day of doom, but the Gods are judged, not the humans. We already know that the Gods will be doomed, as rendered by the more classical translations of Ragnarök, as “twilight” (Wagner) or the “bitter fate” ( Boyer) of the Gods, or Genzmer’s Schlachtgötter Sturz, “the fight of the God’s collapse.” This myth is thus very different from the Christian one.

 

Conclusion

 

This text is certainly not a ‘forgery’ since it does not hide its age nor its geographical origin. The references to the Völuspa : vitið enn, eða hvað? in stanza 5, would be completely stupid if the author tried to claim a similar antiquity as Völuspa . This poem also constantly uses Swedish words or acceptations of the words, a fact I did not always point out in my comments. A few words are obviously more recent, such as larðr and sveifla, and maybe jamt. It is thus certainly a production of the 15th – 17th century. As long as the author’s genuineness seems to be acceptable, this myth where Iðunn shows no naivety, and is a key to the start of Ragnarök, looks like a rectification to the classical story.

The surface contradictions in this text originate from quite understandable double meanings, and from a wavering from respect to irony relative to the Nordic Gods. One side of this wavering is feminist, this should not have been so much puzzling to the scholars who found this poem incomprehensible.

 

On the one hand, it is impossible to classify this poem among the Scandinavian Middle Age poetry. On the other hand, and as long as no deception is noticeable, it seems to me that it is not less valuable as the earlier productions, as a witness of the Scandinavian myths. My feeling is rather that the author of this poem, observing that an essential face of the myths was on the verge of disappearing in his/her time, wanted to put it in writing before it would become completely forgotten.