***Hávamál 103-110 ***


“Gunnlödh’s love”



***Hávamál 103 ***


A translation as literal as possible


A man glad at home

and with a cheerful guest,

shall be wise ‘aroundvictory,

remindful and talkative,

if he will be well-knowing.

Often he shall speak well;

he is called huge-simpleton

he who little can speak,

this one is non-wise by his nature.


Prose explanation


A host can be completely happy at his place and merry with his guests, he must however remain wise and not believe that he always will win. It must speak and retain what is said to him if he wants to learn something from and on his guests. It is said that who is not able to carry on a dialogue is a huge simpleton because this exposes his lack of wisdom.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Heima glađr gumi                                     At home glad a man

ok viđ gesti reifr,                            and with a guest cheerful,

sviđr skal um sig vera,                   wise shall around victory be

minnigr ok málugr,                       remindful and talkative,

ef hann vill margfróđr vera.          if he will well-knowing be.

Oft skal góđs geta;                        Often he shall good speak;

fimbulfambi heitir                          huge-simpleton he is called

sá er fátt kann segja,                     he who little can speak,

ţat er ósnotrs ađal.                       this one non-wise by his nature.


Bellows’ translation


103. Though glad at home, | and merry with guests,

A man shall be wary and wise;

The sage and shrewd, | wide wisdom seeking,

Must see that his speech be fair;

[Bellows note 103. “With this stanza the subject changes abruptly, and apparently the virtues of fair speech, mentioned in the last three lines, account for the introduction, from what source cannot be known, of the story of Othin and the mead of song (stanzas 104-110).]

[It is quite true that the topic shifts abruptly: we go from Billingr’s maid shrewdness to Gunlöđ’s betrayal. It seems that Ódhinn won with beautiful words the trust of the two guardians of the mead of poetry: Gunlöđ and her father Suttungr. This justifies the place of s. 103 at the beginning of this account.]


Commentary on the vocabulary


- sviđr or svinnr = wise.

- sig or sigr = victory. In um sig, sig cannot be anything else than sigr accusative form. Line 4 does speak of ‘victory’.

- geta means to get when followed by an accusative case. When its complement is a genitive, it then meansto guess, to speak of’.

Adjective fár does fátt in the neutral. It meanslittleor evennot at all’.


Comment on the meaning


The first half of the stanza underlines the need for an harmonious communication with others in order to get informed about what they know and think.

The second half underlines that who cannot share his words with other humans stays ignorant and he misses the fundamental means to acquire wisdom. Remember stanza 57, saying “mađr… verđr at máli kuđr. I translated it by “a human being becomes known (or wise) when they meet in their speech.” In the context of stanza 57, the translation of kuđr by ‘knownhad been the most probable. In stanza 103, Óđinn says that who is deprived of speech is by nature a ‘non-wise one’, that is, he joins shared speech to wisdom. It follows that, in the context of whole Hávamál, both meanings of kuđr are possible. When the topic is about relations between human beings, then ‘knownand ‘wiseshare many features. That does no mean that all true humans beings are wise, they need to get in contact with one another to reach wisdom. In other words, contact among humans is necessary to widom, it is not sufficient. In this way, 57 and 103 together refine Óđinns’ thought.





7 fimbulfambi: ‘great idiot’. Fimbul- (only in Eddaic poetry and Snorri’s Edda…) is prefixed to nouns as an intensifier …



***Hávamál 104 ***


A translation as literal as possible


He the ancient giant I looked for,

now I came back:

I got little being silent there;

with many words

worded I in my fame

in Suttungr’s halls.


Prose explanation


I took the huge risk to go to an ancient giant’s home, a giant full of power, and I succeeded to escape thanks to my speech. I had much to say to Suttungr in order to succeed obtaining his daughter’s hand, that has been my way to the mead of poetry.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Inn aldna jötun ek sótta,                He the ancient giant I looked for,

nú em ek aftr of kominn:                now am I back ‘ofcome:

fátt gat ek ţegjandi ţar;                little got I being silent there;

mörgum orđum                             with many words

mćlta ek í minn frama                   worded I in my fame

í Suttungs sölum.                           in Suttungr’s halls.


Bellows’ translation


104. I found the old giant, | now back have I fared,

Small gain from silence I got;

Full many a word, | my will to get,

I spoke in Suttung’s hall.

[Bellow’s note 104. “The giant Suttung (“the old giant”) possessed the magic mead, a draught of which conferred the gift of poetry. Othin, desiring to obtain it, changed himself into a snake, bored his way through a mountain into Suttung’s home, made love to the giant’s daughter, Gunnloth, and by her connivance drank up all the mead. Then he flew away in the form of an eagle, leaving Gunnloth to her fate. While with Suttung he assumed the name of Bolverk ("the Evil-Doer")”]

[böl-verk = bale-work, böl-verkr = bale-pain. See Faulke’s translation of Snorri’s Edda for more details.]


Commentary on the vocabulary


Verb sśkja =to seek, to attack, to pursue’. It does sótta in the preterit first person.

Word frami meansfurtherance, fame’.


Comment on the meaning



The first three lines illustrate the thought of stanzas 57 and 103. “He the ancient giant I looked for” implies that Óđinn  confronted danger to go in the residence of a giant while “now I came back” implies that Óđinn  obtained a kind of victory by escaping the danger he exposed himself to. Remember the word sigr, victory, has been a bit difficult to understand in stanza 103, here is this word is explained. Finally, “I got little being silent there” states that thanks to his speech he could reach Suttungr and Gunnlödh, and could use his wisdom to get out of this trap.

The last three lines repeat the three first in a clearer form, and they specify that Óđinn  used his speech “for his fame,” and certainly to leave Suttungr’s lair alive, carrying with him (actually, ‘inside him’) the mead of poetry.





For the story of Óđinn’s theft of the mead of poetry from the giant Suttungr by seducing the giant’s daughter Gunnlöđ, see Snorri’s Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmál ch. 5-6) [It starts at reference [56-7] of Faulkes’ translation of Snorri’s Edda.] and cp. st. 13-14 above. Richert … suggests that 104-10 imply a version where Óđinn arrives in Suttungr’s halls as a seemingly respectable wooer and goes through a marriage ceremony with Gunnlöđ…


***Hávamál 105 ***


A translation as literal as possible


Gunnlöđ gave me

on a golden stool

a draught of the precious bier;

a bad reward

I let her have after,

for her hale mind,

for her the grave mind.


Prose explanation


Gunnlöđ gave me a mouthful of this precious mead. She did this gift in accepting me in her generous heart (the “golden stool”). I badly rewarded her for her generosity. [The myth described by Snorri Sturluson states that she accepted to give a gulp of mead for each love night he would give her. They somehow agreed on three nights. On the morning after these three nights, he was allowed to get these three gulps of mead.] This has been a quite reasonable exchange and her ‘gravemind did not enable her to guess that I could swallow a full container at each gulp.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Gunnlöđ mér of gaf           Gunnlöđ to me gave

gullnum stóli á                   a golden stool on

drykk ins dýra mjađar;      a draught of the precious bier;

ill iđgjöld                           bad reward

lét ek hana eftir hafa          let I to her after have

síns ins heila hugar,           of her the hale mind,

síns ins svára sefa.             of her the grave/heavy mind



Bellows’ translation


106. Gunnloth gave | on a golden stool

A drink of the marvelous mead;

A harsh reward | did I let her have

For her heroic heart,

And her spirit troubled sore.


Commentary on the vocabulary


hugr means ‘spirit, thought, heart, wish’.

sefi means ‘spirit, heart, affection, feeling’.

svárr means ‘heavy ‘. In English, a “heavy spirit” indicates a kind of distress. It could mean here as well, ‘serious’. Both meaning are possible, while ‘heavyimplies that line 6 and line 7 do not refer to the same moment in time. See also Evans’ comments.


Comment on the meaning


The explanation in prose gives the meaning of this stanza. It should be noticed that Óđinn , even if svárr is used ironically, speaks of Gunnlöđ with an obvious respect, at least in the first four lines. We know by Snorri that she asked for three nights of love to Bölverk-Óđinn . After these three nights, he got permission to swallow three gulps of the mead of poetry, thus emptying the three barrels containing it. She would obviously not have been misled so heavily if she had accepted to let him drink a gulp each morning. It seems obvious to me that Óđinn  had to use fine words to convince her of such an odd bargain by which she lost any control of the situation after having been satisfied. This is explained at s. 109.





7 síns ins svára sefa ‘her troubled mind’. Svárr (only found in poetry) seems to mean primarily ‘heavy(cp. German schwer) and evidently implies ‘melancholyhere, as in Skírnismál 29. It is true that with this sense the line is strictly illogical, for which reason Finnur Jónsson expelled it; others avoid the illogicality by such renderings as ‘her steadfast love’ … or ‘her strong affection’ … but it is doubtful whether the words can bear this meaning. [The lack of logics introduced by “Gunlöđ’s heavy soul” is true only if we suppose that two adjacent lines obligatory refer to the same period of time. That line 7 and 8 do not refer to the same time makes easier to understand the stanza.]



***Hávamál 106 ***


A translation as literal as possible


Rati’s mouth

let me fetch room

and the stone gnawed,

over and under

I stood (in) the giant’s ways,

thus I risked (my) head till.


Prose explanation


It should be known that, during the summer before the episode with Suttungr, Óđinn  had rented himself as a farmhand to Suttungr’s brother, under the name of Bölverk. The contract stipulated that, if the work were well done, this brother would ask Suttungr to give a mouthful of mead of poetry to Óđinn . But when Suttungr was asked, he obstinately refused. Óđinn  then borrowed from the brother (obviously a giant knowing magic) a magic drill named Rati whose “mouth nibbled the stone” and Óđinn , being transformed in snake, has been able to slip inside Suttungr’s residence.

The drill Rati, as would have done a mouth, dug the stone and made me a place so that I could infiltrate the corridors of the giant’s residence. I went inside in this residence in which I was exposed to a great danger.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rata munn                                     Rati’s mouth

létumk rúms of fá               let me room fetch

ok um grjót gnaga,            and the stone gnawed,

yfir ok undir                       over and under

stóđumk jötna vegir,          stood I giant’s ways,

svá hćtta ek höfđi til.         thus risked I head till.


Bellows’ translation


105. The mouth of Rati | made room for my passage,

And space in the stone he gnawed;

Above and below | the giantspaths lay,

So rashly I risked my head.


(Bellowsnote105). Rati ("the Traveller"): the gimlet with which Othin bored through the mountain to reach Suttung’s home.] [rati = traveler orwandering soul, ghost’ ]


Commentary on the vocabulary


höfudh (neuter) dat. höfdhi = head.


Comment on the meaning


This stanza explains how Óđinn  could penetrate without being noticed in Suttungr’s residence. The detail of what he does immediately after is not known. Two assumptions seem possible. Either Óđinn , again in human form, enters immediately the room where Gunnlödh was in charge of keeping watch on the mead, and he directly negotiates with her. He will mislead her with fine words and false oaths. Or he meets Suttungr and Gunnlödh. Since Óđinn  insists on the danger he was running, it is quite possible that Suttungr submitted him to a kind of questioning. From Scandinavian mythology, we know that the behavior of the giants towards the gods was violently aggressive. Óđinn thus needs to hide to Suttungr that he is one of the Ćsir. In that case, it is possible that he had to swear on his ring that he was not one of the Ćsir. This oath could not be sincere and this explains, according to Bellows (as in stanza 108), the reproach of perjury made to Óđinn  in stanza 110. It is even possible that this episode could contain another perjury. We do not understand why, god or not, Suttungr would trust this stranger who forced his entrance. On another hand, it is completely possible that Óđinn  explained his presence by a beautiful history of desperate love for Gunnlödh and that he thus convinced Suttungr to spare his life provided he marries his daughter. It would then have also made an oath on the ring with Gunnlödh. This second interpretation is not less probable than another one, it however has the advantage of providing a good understanding of the last lines of 110, as we shall see.





1 Rata munn - Snorri relates that Óđinn won access to Suttungr’s dwelling by turning himself into a snake and using the gimlet Rati to bore a passage through the rock.

2 létumk is explained by SG and LP 362 as = lét mér. But it could well be létum with -k (from ek) suffixed. For such forms of the first person sg. see on 108 and 112.



***Hávamál 107 ***


A translation as literal as possible


The well bargained ‘sunset color

I enjoyed well

the wise ones lack of little,

because Óđrerir

now came up

towards the people of sacred earth.


Prose explanation


I benefitted well from the woman, beautiful like the rising of the day with whom I bargained. Now, little misses to Óđinn ’s favoured wise ones by because they can have, through me, access to the magic drink (that brings poetic fury only to those who are already wise ones). I did lift Óđrerir up to the inhabitants (the gods) of Miđgarđr (the sacred earth).


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Vel keypts litar                   Well of the ‘bargained with’ ‘sunset color

hefi ek vel notit,                  had I well enjoyed

fás er fróđum vant,            few is to the wise ones lacking,

ţví at Óđrerir                    because ‘thatÓđrerir

er nú upp kominn              is now up come

á alda vés jarđar.              towards the ages (or the people) of sacred earth.


Bellows’ translation


107. The well-earned beauty | well I enjoyed,

Little the wise man lacks;

So Othrörir now | has up been brought

To the midst of the men of earth.

[Bellows note107. Othrörir: here the name of the magic mead itself, whereas in stanza 141 it is the name of the vessel containing it. Othin had no intention of bestowing any of the precious mead upon men, but as he was flying over the earth, hotly pursued by Suttung, he spilled some of it out of his mouth, and in this way mankind also won the gift of poetry. [This prudish interpretation of the myth of the mead of poetry lasted until recently. In fact, Snorri’s text specifies that a very small amount of mead was left “by the behind” and this is called the drink of the buffoons.  Moreover, it is also known that Óđinn  gives a mouthful of thegoodmead to true poets, as opposed to what Bellows seems to suggest.]


Commentary on the vocabulary


- litr = color, color of the dawn. It has been already used in stanza 93, in the nominative plural case, to indicate the beauty of a woman. Here, this word is a singular genitive since Óđinn  well benefitted from this woman. The genitive form is expected as a complement of notit.

- keypts. Kaupa = to buy, to make a deal or a bargain. It does keypts in the last participle genitive (masc. or neuter).

- njóta = to profit, draw benefit. It does notit as a last participle and its complement is in the genitive case.

The adjective fár means ‘little ofwith an associated meaning of ‘not at all’.

The word alda can be the genitive plural of öld = ‘the times, the people’.

The Codex Regius gives jarđar which is the genitive singular of jörđ, the earth. The editors, mainly for reasons of strict application of poetry rules, prefer to read jađar = accusative jađarr = ‘the edge’. As shown by Evans, this emendation causes a string of other problems in order to respect grammar. Since there is not satisfactory emendation, I prefer to suppose that this deviation from poetic rules has been a poetic whim rather than a mistake, and to keep jarđar.


Comment on the meaning


In this stanza that Óđinn  explicitly declares that he misled Gunnlödh in “taking good advantage on her.” Their sexual intercourse will become explicit in stanza 108.

It is interesting to note that only ‘wise oneshave access to poetic fury. More generally, these lines suggest a capital difference between fury and anger. Anger is accompanied by a blindness which is opposite to wisdom. On the contrary, fury sharpens our senses and our intellect, it does not contradict wisdom in anything, or even favors it.




107 [ I give these comments in extenso. Those relative to lines 1 and 6 display the ingeniousness of the experts when they propose to modify the text. In particular, lines 6 comment shows how a reasonable assumption on a poetic form can lead so far amiss that it eventually looks undecipherable.]


1 litar has not been satisfactorily explained. As it stands, it must be gen. sg. of litr ‘colour, hue, complexion, outward appearance’. … think the reference is to Óđinn’s transformation into a snake, but whether litr can be stretched to mean ‘bodily shapeis doubtful; Finnur Jónsson denies it. (This also causes difficulty with keypts, for the change can hardly be called a kaup; BMÖ speculates that kaupa could mean the same as skipta ‘exchange, win in exchange’.) … takes litar as ‘a poetic circumlocution for Gunnlöđand connects keypts with expressions like kaupa sér konu, brúđkaup (for he thinks a wedding took place); he renders litar as skönheten ‘the beauty’, but this too lacks parallels. Bugge 2, 251 interprets as hlítar, which he takes with the second vel (the phrase hlítar vel ‘tolerably welloccurs in prose); he then has to interpret velkeypts as gen. sg. n. used substantivally: ‘the well-purchased’ (i.e. the mead). This is clearly impossible. Others suppose litar somehow conceals a word referring to the mead: some early editors read líđar (but the genitive of líđ ‘aleis in fact líđs), and Konrtib Gislason (in Njásla II 406), followed by Finnur Jónsson, emends to hlutar ‘share, winning’. CPB 22, reading vél-keyptz litar, renders ‘the fraud-bought mead’, without explaining the last word. In all probability the line is corrupt beyond redemption.


[I acknowledge I do not fully understand why the experts discussed so much to include a metaphor already met and treated without problem in 93.]


4 Óđrerir is, in Snorri’s account, one of the three vessels in which the sacred mead is stored by Suttungr, and this is evidently also the sense it has in 140 below. Here it would seem rather to denote the mead itself; probably this was the original sense of the word, and its application to the vesse1 containing it is secondary, for it appears to be compounded from óđr ‘soul; poetryand *hrćrir, agent noun from hrćra ‘to stir up’… Finnur Jónsson prefers to connect the second element with the root seen in rísa, but the sense would be the same: thus, ‘stirrer-up of the soul (or, of poetry)’.

6 The reading of Codex Regius á alda vés jarđar must be corrupt, for an acc. is required after á, and a ljóđaháttr ‘full linemay not end in a trochaic disyllable (see on 31 above) [the first syllable of a disyllable at the end of a ljóđaháttrfull linemust be short – and Evans provides a lot of discussions about this law given by Bugge]. Editors usually emend to jađar ‘rim’. But what is ‘the rim of the sacred place of men’ ? Bugge 1, 56 equates it to Miđgarđrwithout explanation (though in Snorri’s account it is in fact Ásgarđr to which Óđinn brings the mead) and similarly CPB 22 and 466: ‘the skirts of the city of men’, i.e. the edge of the inhabited world. Another interpretation takes alda vé as Valhöll either by postulating that in Óđinn’s mouth ‘mencould allude to his warrior hosts … or by taking alda as from an adjective *aldr ‘ancientotherwise evidenced only in compounds like aldjötunn …; the jađarr of Valhöll is then either the fence around it (Neckel) or the land surrounding it (i.e. Ásgarđr). Finnur Jónsson takes jađarr in its secondary sense ‘protector, princeand reads á alda vé jađars ‘to the sacred place of the lord of men (i.e. Óđinn)’, that is, ‘to Ásgarđr’; this would however really require the word order á vé alda jađars (so SG). As the variety of interpretations suggests, the line is intractable; Bugge’s solution is as plausible as any, but no real decision is possible.

[Evans provides the chain of discussions that caused this Bugge inventedlaw. As you see, the complications that follow are prevented if we naively keep, as I do jarđar.].



***Hávamál 108 ***


A translation as literal as possible


I am in doubt

that I would come back

from the deeds of the giants

if I did not take pleasure with Gunnlödh,

(or if I did not make use of Gunnlödh,)

the good woman,

on whom I put the arm.


Prose explanation


I utterly doubt to have been able to escape the destroying actions of the giants without the love (or help) from Gunnlödh. This good woman,  on whom I put my arm.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Ifi er mér á                                         Doubt is to me on

at ek vćra enn kominn                       that I would yet come (back)

jötna görđum ór,                                of the giants the deeds

ef ek Gunnlađar né nytak,                  if I of Gunnlödh non I took pleasure (or non I used),

innar góđu konu,                                the good woman,

ţeirar er lögđumk arm yfir.                whom I put the arm on.


Bellows’ translation


108. Hardly, methinks, | would I home have come,

And left the giantsland,

Had not Gunnloth helped me, | the maiden good,

Whose arms about me had been.

[Bellowsnote 108. “The frost-giants, Suttung’s kinsmen, appear not to have suspected Othin of being identical with Bolverk, possibly because the oath referred to in stanza 110 to was an oath made by Othin to Suttung that there was no such person as Bolverk among the gods. The giants, of course, fail to get from Othin the information they seek concerning Bolverk, but Othin is keenly conscious of having violated the most sacred of oaths, that sworn on his ring.”] [This note anticipates on s. 109 and 110 and we will come back to it then. It is however interesting to notice that most commentators [me included] believe that the oath is relative to Óđinn  and Gunnlödh’s marriage. Bellows introduces here an interesting interpretation.]


Commentary on the vocabulary


The verb njóta gives nyta in the first person of the subjunctive present and nytak = nyta-ek. It means ‘to take pleasure, to receive a benefit’.

- görđ describes the action of building or doing, hence a ‘deed’.


Comment on the meaning


You see that, as I stated in the comments of stanza 84, Óđinn  is grateful and respectful towards Gunnlödh. When he qualifies her in 107 with svárr, whatever the exact meaning of  this word, this confirms that Gunnlödh cannot illustrate an inconstant and carefree woman.

Whatever the meaning chosen for njóta in lines 4, line 6 explicitly confirms the sexual intercourse of Gunnlödh and Óđinn .



***Hávamál 109 ***


A translation as literal as possible


During the day after

the frost-coated-giants went

to ask of High’s doings

into High’s hall.

They inquired of Bölverk,

if he had come back with the gods

and/or (if) Suttungr would have slaughtered him.


Prose explanation


The day following the official marriage, the frost-coated-giants went in High’s (Óđinn) hall, i. e. the bridal room, to enquire of Bölverk (who they may still believe to be different from Óđinn). When they noticed that he disappeared, they asked whether Bölverk went back to the Ćsir or if Suttungr had sacrificed-killed him.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Ins hindra dags                                         In after a day

gengu hrímţursar                                     went the frost-coated-giants

Háva ráđs at fregna                                  of High doing for ask

Háva höllu í.                                             of High the hall into.

At Bölverki ţeir spurđu,                            At Bölverk to them inquired,

ef hann vćri međ böndum kominn            if he would be with the gods come

eđa hefđi hánum Suttungr of sóit. and/or would have of him Suttungr slaughtered.



Bellows’ translation


109. The day that followed, | the frost-giants came,

Some word of Hor to win,

(And into the hall of Hor;)

Of Bolverk they asked, | were he back midst the gods,

Or had Suttung slain him there?


Commentary on the vocabulary


The verb spyrja gives spurđu in the third plural person of preterit = they ‘sought, asked, got information, enquired of’.

More details on sóit in the vocabulary of s. 144.


Comment on the meaning


This stanza full understanding holds in the interpretation given to hindra dags as you guessed in reading the prose explanation above.

I will need to provide at first a few details about a marriage ceremony, which are gathered from hints in the Eddas and the sagas. Some of these details are significant for understanding this stanza.


Intermezzo: A few words about the marriage ceremony of in pagan times


When celebrating an official marriage, the traditions tells us that bride underwent a rather complex rite of passage before the marriage itself.

Two days before of the marriage, she is taken in hand by women whose role is to officialize the loss of her single person statute. In particular, her clothing was to be different and, at least in the Middle Ages, we know that an ornament called a crown (kransen), specific to a single woman, was removed from her hair.

The day before marriage, she is busy going the the bath-house, what is now called a sauna, and the day is filled in discussions with her bath partners. On the marriage day, she is ‘dressed’, may be not in special clothes, but at least her hair has to fell freely on her shoulders this very day: once married she cannot let her hair fall so. Carrying a special and gaudy marriage crown is attested with the Middle Ages but is not certain in the times known as Vikings.

Marriage day is primarily a gigantic feast. In the evening, the engaged are put at the bed in the presence of six witnesses in charge of testifying the engaged one’s identity and, undoubtedly, also that the marriage had been actually consummated.

This tells us that the forementionned ‘consummation’ cannot happen before three days during which bride and groom are fully occupied and they are either in different locations or in the middle of a crowd.

Finally, the new husband had to offer a ‘morning gift’ (morgingjöf) to his young wife in the morning of this busy night.


If an official marriage, all the events above are necessary. Otherwise, people were said to be ‘married’ when they slept together and had a steady common life.


We meet an allusive testimony of these premarital days in the Eddic poem called For Skírnis (Skírni’s journey) where Skírnir is in charge of asking giantess Geirdr to become Freyr’s wife. After some arguments, she finally agrees and Freyr learns how that he will be able to marry the lady who dazzled him with her shiny arms. The marriage will be carried according to the ancient rules and this enables us to understand Freyr’s complaint in the last stanza of the poem, which otherwise looks pointless.

Lang er nott,

langar ’ro tver,

hve vm ţreyiac ţriár?

opt mer manaţr

minni ţotti,

enn sia half hynótt.

Long is one night,

longer are two,

how I shall wait during three?

Often, for me, one month

(is) less thought

 than such a wedding half-time.

Intermezzo ends


Snorri says that Óđinn  spent three nights with Gunnlödh and that, then, he drank the three mouthfuls. Thus, Snorri strongly suggests a nonformal marriage.

Conversely, the text of Hávamál very clearly suggests an official ceremony, which contradicts Snorri’s interpretation. It follows also that, in the fourth line, Óđinn  hall is nothing but the bridal room where they do not find Ódhinn but a tearful Gunnlödh. Speaking of the bridal room as “Ódhinn hall” may look a little awkward. It is however unthinkable that a delegation of giants might go to Ásgarđr: one only giant in Ásgarđr is already exceptional and suicidal. In this case, we can expect that the giants do not know yet that Bölverk is the same person as Ódhinn.

Thus, hindra dags indicates the day after the wedding though it does not appear elsewhere in the literature, as Evans states it.


Everything goes by threes in this story: three nights, three love-makings, three gulps. This should carry some meaning. Besides, we have to understand why Gunnlödh accepts to give these gulps to Ódhinn.

Now, if we think of the ‘morning gift’ given by the husband to his new wife, we can imagine that Óđinn has been able to convince Gunnlöđ to play it ‘the other way round’. Does not he claim in s. 104 that “with many words” he “worded” his fame? This talking might have been applied to Gunnlöđ as well as to her father. In the case of an official marriage we know that love-making did nor happen before the third night and this suggests that Gunnlöđ has been satisfied three times. Óđinn then nicely convinced her to grant him, for each ‘satisfaction’, one gulp of mead while she was still in a state of confused delight. As you see, the whole love story takes its form if we imagine such a tender wedding night occurring between them. It also explains why Gunnlöđ felt so much cheated when he left her.





1 Ins hindra dags ‘the next day’; only here in literature, but found as hindardags in Norwegian laws…), and also in Swedish laws, where hindradagher regularly has the sense ‘day after a wedding’. Richert… holds that this is the sense in the present passage too.

3-5 … From Snorri’s account we learn that Bölverkr is the name under which Óđinn disguised himself while in quest of the mead. But Snorri has nothing corresponding to the substance of this strophe, and it is unclear whether line 3 means ‘to ask Hávi for adviceor ‘to enquire about Hávi’s situation’. Are we meant to understand that the frost-giants do not realise that Hávi and Bölverkr are identical? [And the bridal room named here an ‘Óđinn’s hall’?]



***Hávamál 110 ***


A translation as literal as possible


Oath on the ring Ódhinn

think I, had granted;

what shall we believe of his sincerities?

Suttungr betrayed

he left after (leaving) the sumbel

and sorrow to Gunnlödh.


Prose explanation


I [‘I’ is either the skald or Ódhinn] think that Ódhinn had made oath on the ring [the poem does not give the content of the oath]. How can he still be believed sincere? After the sumbl (see the vocabulary below), he did not leave anything to Suttungr but deceit, and to Gunnlödh nothing but distress and her tears.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Baugeiđ Óđinn                                          Oath on the ring Ódhinn

hygg ek, at unniđ hafi;                               think I, he granted had;

hvat skal hans tryggđum trúa                    what shall of him sincerities believe?

Suttung svikinn                                          Suttungr the (this) betrayed

hann lét sumbli frá                                    he left sumbl from

ok grćtta Gunnlöđu.                                 and sorrow to Gunnlödh.


Bellows’ translation


110. On his ring swore Othin | the oath, methinks;

Who now his troth shall trust?

Suttung’s betrayal | he sought with drink,

And Gunnloth to grief he left.


Commentary on the vocabulary


- hvat is the nominative of the neuter ‘interrogative who/which’: it means ‘to whom?and ‘to what?

- tryggđ means ‘good faith, trustinessand thus tryggđum means ‘in good faith, in trustiness’.

A sumbl is a festival, often including serious drinking. It can go from a simple drinking bout to a festive religious ceremony. In this context, we can also call sumbl the fact that Ódhinn drank in three mouthfuls the three barrels of mead, a particularly severe drinking bout (see also s. 11 and 13). Obviously, modern experts consider that it is the sumbl which followed the supposed official marriage of Ódhinn and Gunnlödh.

Gunnlödh’s sorrow

Drawing by Ernst Hansen 1941 – Thanks to W. Reaves and his http://germanicmythology.com/works/


Comment on the meaning

This stanza is a comment of Gunnlöđ’s story, as if written by an external observer who sternly criticizes Óđinn. In fact, stanzas 96-110 describe two stories in which Óđinn is discredited. He is ridiculed by Billingr’s daughter and he acknowledges himself that he misled Gunnlöđ. In Snorri’s report, we realize that his fraud consists in passing a contract with her, but a misleading one in the exact meaning of the word ‘gulp’, which is a true mouthful for Gunnlöđ, and an enormous, divine, mouthful for him. The contract is respected to the letter, but there is fraud on the intent. We realize that Óđinn is conscious of having been dishonest. The author of comment 110 does nothing but hammering home Óđinn’s culpability.

As a first problem we have to understand why the poem so directly informs us of this shame. We explain in http://www. nordic-life. org/nmh/OnTheContracts. htm Dumézil’s conclusions relating to the choice of Týr as someone able to convince Fenrir that the Ćsir were not going to use the magic to bindhim’. That Týr did not kept his word explained why Týr had lost his function as aGermanic Varuna’, the one of the law warrant god, in charge of controlling a proper application the laws. As another god of the royal function, Óđinn was thus very appropriate to succeed Týr. Óđinn’s account contained in stanzas 103-110, tells us that he broke his oath with Gunnlöđ and this disqualifies him, as it has been for Týr, to carry the role of divine judge in charge of controlling a proper use of the laws. Breaking his oath is thus not a small anecdotic shame (as it is usually interpreted) but a significant episode. It has been placed here so that Óđinn’s devotees could understand the evolution of their god in their mythology. We then understand why this function could slip to other gods’ hands as reported in the above referrence.

The second problem is to understand why Óđinn accepts performing such a self-criticism. He is obviously ashamed by these two stories, then why telling them?

In order to understand the grotesque side of these stanzas, we have to reconsider Hávamál in its entirety, by taking the point of view of its grotesque aspects and supposing that it is unthinkable that Óđinn might be unwittingly grotesque, especially for a Heathen who worships him as a god!


From this point of view, Hávamál is divided into three parts.

First part.

Stanzas 1-102, often called ‘gnomicones, where Óđinn is lavish of good everyday life advice. You noticed that I often oppose this shortsighted  interpretation, which is unaware of the magic aspect of life.

Stanzas 90-95, that I called “Initiation to love,” starts a change of tone. For example, 90 directly steps into humor by describing the features of a man who succeeds in building a durable love relation with a woman.

Second part.

Stanzas 90-95announce the second part of Hávamál (from this grotesque point of view), i.e. stanzas 96-137 where Óđinn tells of his love misfortunes and provides a series of seemingly ridiculous advice to a buffoon named Loddfáfnir (this name is explained in 111). This part culminates at its center, with stanzas 110, 111 et112. We just saw 110 where Óđinn is said to have broken his word. A (seemingly) pompous stanza 111 follows immediately. It calls to mystical exaltation under the guidance of a wise thulr (a  storyteller). We cannot decide if this thulr is Óđinn or Loddfáfnir. Stanza 111 ends by stating that we  will be now initiated to the major rune mysteries. Follows 112 where what drops from the mouth of the wise thulr is this solemn sentence: “Do not leave during the night outside, except if you leitir út stađar ‘you seek of a place outsidewhose meaning is, as the dictionaries say in their prude Latin: ‘cacare’. The grotesque aspect of this sentence did not escape anyone and it shocked many. This kind behavior might have given to some the wish to tell Óđinn: “Will you please stop clowning! I will suggest to listen to Óđinn when he is clowning rather than becoming irritated. This clowning here only for preventing the too rigid minds to understand the magic of the runes such as Óđinn wishes to teach it.

Third part.

Stanzas 138-165 teach explicit runic knowledge. We cannot understand them without comparing them to stanzas 1-137 nor without having fun with the serious buffooneries of the great god Óđinn. He hides under grotesque the rules on how using the runes.


We now will begin the reading of this second part. I will however give you no more than some tracks to help you to decipher the Word of Hár: Believe what you want!





Baugeiđ - not referred to in Snorri’s account. The swearing of oaths on rings is spoken of quite frequently in ON sources: Landnámabók… states that a ring was to lie on the altar of every ‘chief temple’, to be worn by the gođi at assemblies where he presided; every man who had legal duties to discharge at the assembly skyldi ádr eiđ vinna at ţeim baugi, and cp.similar allusions in Eyrbyggja saga ch. 4 and Viga-Glums saga ch. 25... Atlakviđa 30 speaks of oaths sworn at hringi Ullar and the Anglo- Saxon Chronicle s.a. 876 describes how the Danish host in England swore oaths to King Alfred on ţćim halgan beage. …[ ( “on the sacred ring”) It looks here as if they became sworn to King Alfred. They actually swore to “speedily leave his kingdom,” they were not “sworn to him.”]