Völuspá - The prediction of the prophetess

Old Norse and English versions with commentary

It is also supplemented, after the poem, by historical indications on Verden massacre, by citations of Gautrek’s saga and finally by a touristic post scriptummore interesting than expected

This translation is now completed. Nevertheless if you are mostly interested in the meaning of örlög, go to

"On Örlög". If you are interested in the ‘world’ after Raganrök go go to  s. 59.

French version


Here is an nth translation of the Edda poem Völuspá. It is different from the other translations by two aspects.

1. I provide a litteral translation that reveals my grammatical and vocbulary choices. It may look somewhat obscure but it is followed by a translation in a less acrobatic English that should clarify the intended meaning. From time to time two irreducible versions are possible and I will give them.

2. These various possible versions are nevertheless presented from a Heathen-centric (I invented this word) point of view, i.e. the point of view of a committed Heathen. This vocabulary is inspired by English-speaking scholars who start now speaking of a Christo-centric vision to point at a pseudo atheist or objective attitude that in depth relies on concepts firmly defined within the framework of Christendom. The most famous Christo-centric scholar was Ursula Dronke († 2012) who has been able to hold this position merged into a phenomenal knowledge of the Old Norse language. Her translation of Völuspá (1997), so much it abounds in scholarship, has been near me during the present transaltion in spite of its christocentricity. By the way, she has just provided me the occasion of a voluntary christocentrism: the date of her death is indicated by († 2012). This supposes that she obviously is buried as a good Christian woman – which is true in her case, but this small sign of cross can be also used for any atheist.

My presentation of Hávamál http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/IntroNewHavamalEng.htm is done in a similar spirit,but in a less argumentative way since all the attempts to spot Christian influences in Hávamál have been ridiculed by the scholars (see the 2nd interlude associated to s. 21 http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/NewHavamalEng15-35.htm . On the contrary, and relatively recently, Völuspá became for most people a very Christianized piece of lore, yet another incredible miracle.

A few words on ‘Christian influences’


We all know that all Poetic Edda manuscripts have been written in a social context where being a Christian was compulsory. Their writing had to be more or less controlled by some religious authority. Who tries to find ‘Christian influences’ into them wishes to sort the Christian wheat from the Pagan chaff (thus despicable). Colonizers believed to be right in mistreating ancient civilizations on behalf of a supposed intellectual superiority of European thought. Modern commentators of Eddic texts mistreat them by working at destroying these texts genuineness.

For instance, Baldur’s death episode is supposed to have been Chrisitan influenced. It is true that Frigg cries on her dead son. His father does the same. All this has indeed a quite Christian look. The father, however, organizes Baldr’s killer assassination by another of his sons – hence the killer’s brother. This behavior is totally out of present day ethics, not to speak of the Christian one!


In what follows, no Scandinavian name or concept will appear without explanation. Once explained, I will use some of these names as if they were well-known.


When dealing with Eddic poems, we must remember that they are known by a remarkably small number of manuscripts which however present different versions. I will use here as reference Codex Regius, in the version published by Hans Kuhn, Carl Winter, Heidelberg 1962. Kuhn presents a great number of variations which are in the various manuscripts, but I will not give these details. For reasons of the convenience, I will keep the letter ö, used to represent an ‘o tailed’ in Kuhn’s edition.

Once that a manuscript is chosen, the Old Norse language of poetry is hard to understand. For my translation, I used De Vries’ etymological dictionary (noted ‘Devries’), Cleasby-Vigfusson’s Icelandic-English dictionary (noted C.-V.) and very often also, Sveinbjön Egilsson’s Lexicon poëticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis (noted as LexPoet). This last provides the meaning of a greater number of words than C.-V., associated a variety of quotations illustrating the use of the words, mainly in poetry. I also built a reliable, readable and cherchable list of irregular verbs, made available at



Some useful preliminary explanations


A prophetess was called a völva that gives völu in the singular genitive: this is the “völuin völuspá. She practised a kind of shamanism which resembles much that of North American Indians, which became so popular since a few years. This kind of Scandinavian shamanism is called seiðr or seið – often spelled ‘seidr’. In spite of the scarcity of available testimony, we know that a völva practised seið outside, on a kind of wooden platform, surrounded by all her helpers and customers, and she required someone singing a special song. There is also a solitary form of practice, called “útiseta(outside sitted) to which Völuspa seems to refer.

It seems that seidr was practised primarily by women since it is known that the practice of the seidr ‘to perfection’ makes the men impotent where this word can also be understood as ‘homosexual’.

Thus, what had been in the past a highly respected ability, since it was reserved to women or to effeminate men (or, according to my personal interpretation: reserved to the female side of men - and women!), became gradually scorned, and is often used as an insult in texts and runic inscriptions

Note that we will always speak of the mythic Giants and Dwarves in order to single them out of the tall or short individuals. Likewise our gods will never carry a capital letter in order to differentiate them from God.

Óðinn (often written: Odin, or Odhin, or Odhinn) is the main of the Scandinavian gods, the Æsir. There was also another kind of gods, the Vanir who might have been more ancient, but they will be reconcile with the Æsir, after a war evoked below in stanzas 21-26. Lastly, the Giants are also supra human beings who seem to be irreducible enemies to the Æsir. They will cause Ragnarök as described in stanzas 44 to 58

Old Norse civilization was equipped with a spirituality associated to an ancestors’ worship, to which the poems and sagas refer. This worship is also firmly proven by the multitude of offerings found in the howes of the powerful ones and close to the tombs of humble ones, and by the meetings held around these sites during hundreds of years.



Old Norse (ON) from the Codex Regius

Litteral meaning followed by an English translation



Stanza 1


Old Norse




1. Hlióðs bið ec

allar kindir

meiri oc minni,

mögo Heimdalar;


vildo at ec, Valföðr,

vel fyrtelia

forn spiöll fira,

þau er fremst um man.

Literal translation orð eptir orð (word for word)

followed by an English one


(Your) listening beg I

from all the family

high ones and low ones,

children of Heimdalr;


you want that I, Killed-ones’ Father,

well to tell

old knowledge of the people,  

those the ‘most forward’ (that) I remember

Explanations and comments



The first line is a ritual formula used to ask silence at the beginning of the Icelandic general meeting, or before declaming poetry.




Valföðr = Killed-ones’ Father = Óðinn



the ‘most forward’ = the oldest.


English Translation


I beg you to listen ,

you all of the family,

higher and lower ones,

children of Heimdalr;


You want, Valföðr, that

I properly tell

ancient knowledge

remotest that I remember.





Another Eddic poem, Rigsþula, also tells us that all kinds of human ones are Heimdall’s sons.


Stanza 2


Old Norse


2. Ec man iötna

ár um borna,

þá er forðom mic

fœdda höfðo;


nío man ec heima,

nío íviði,

miötvið mœran

fyr mold neðan.

Literal translation


I remember the giants

in old times born,

those who in the past me

nourished to someone adult;


nine remember I countries,

nine Giantesses (or ogresses)

the measure-master famous

toward the ground under.

Explanations and comments







The two words ‘giantessand ‘ogress’ are more or less equivalent in the Norse langage.

Here, the master of measurement can only be Yggdrasill, which is still growing under the ground.



I remember the giants

in old times born,

those who in the past

nourished me to become an adult;


I remember nine countries,

nine Giantesses

and the famous measure-master

still under the ground.



This title has been used in Old English to point at God. Yggdrasill is certainly no proper ‘god’ though this way of speech attributes to it a primary role in Norse mythology.



Stanza 3


Old Norse


3.Ár var alda,

þar er Ymir bygði,

vara sandr né sær

né svalar unnir,


iörð fannz æva

né upphiminn,

gap var ginnunga

enn gras hvergi.

Literal translation


The year was old,

there Ymir had settled,

there were sand nor sea

nor fresh waves,


ground was never

nor sky above,

abyss was gigantic

and grass none.

Explanations and comments


This is a way to say “in olden days.”


Ymir is the name of the primary Giant who has been the first living being in the universe, (and thus before the gods).

“the ground could not be found


“ nothing existed but a huge pit




In these old times

when Ymir had settled there

there were neither sand nor sea

nor chilly waves;


Ground did not exist

nor sky above,

only one immense pit

and no grass at all.



Stanza 4


Old Norse


4. Áðr Burs synir

biöðum um ypþo,

þeir er miðgarð

mœran scópo;


sól scein sunnan

á salar steina,

þá var grund gróin

grœnom lauki.


Literal translation


At first sons of Burr

grounds over up-lifted/exalted,

there is miðgarðr,

magnificently shaped by magic means;


sun shone from the South

on a hall of stone,

then were ground grown

greens leeks.


Explanations and comments


ypþo = yppðu is the preterit plural of verb yppa, to raise, exalt.

Burr is Óðinn’s father. Snorra Edda reports that Auðumla, the primitive cow, after having licked the ice surrounding Giant Ymir, licked also Burr out of the ice, the first god, .


Miðgarðr is the residence of human beings, our world.





At first Burr’s sons ,

raised and exalted the grounds,

where Miðgarðr stands,

magnificently magic-shaped;


The sun was shining from the South

on a hall of stone,

then were growing on the ground

green leeks.


Verb skapa does skópu in the preterit plural (spelled scópo here). It can simply mean ‘to make’ but its proper meaning is ‘to shape’, and it can also mean ‘to use magic for shaping’ which suits well the present context.


The "greens leeks" of the text point at the very first grass.

Thus, in Scandinavian mythology, the leek carries a mystical importance that is difficult to render within the modern world.



About Ursula Dronke’s ‘christocentricity’


Because being incredibly knowledgeable, and the associated respect, this scholar had a large influence within the academic community of the specialists in old Scandinavian culture. This enabled her to push forward a Christian understanding of the Old Norse texts. The first two lines above: Burr’s sons raised the grounds” (she does not translate ‘exalted’) obviously evoke a planet Earth coming out of waters. We know that many primitive myths, all over the world, evoke such an Anadyomene Earth. She pretends being unaware of it and modestly confesses that she knows one only allusion to such a phenomenon, and it lies in Genesis 1 - 9! She finally concludes, p. 116:I do not suggest that he (the poet) copied Genesis, only that the resemblance illuminates the Norse text.”

Thus Genesis illuminates Völuspá? Why not the reverse since this illumination is disconnected from temporal dependence - without accounting for the other myths of an Earth raising from the waters?

This is only one particularly skillful example of her, but she peppers her comments with remarks on possible bonds between Völuspá and Christian beliefs. This influenced the erudite community which, in turn influenced the people who changed it into assertions such as: Völuspá is Christianity riddenwhich is absurd for anyone who reads it without prejudices. It could be said that it is Heathen riddenand we will indeed find that some of its topics are shared with those of Christendom, a point on which everyone agrees.

Stanza 5


Old Norse


5. Sól varp sunnan

sinni mána

hendi inni hœgri

um himiniöður;


sól þat né vissi

hvar hón sali átti,

stiörnor þat ne visso

hvar þær staði átto,

máni þat né vissi

hvat hann megins átti.

Literal translation


(she) Sun threw from the South

(to) her moon

a hand (for) a comfortable home

around the edge of the sky;


sun did not know

which her residence had,

the stars did not know

which housing they had,

(he) moon did not know

which he power had.

Explanations and comments


Sun is a feminine word in Old Norse and shethrows’ her hand to sinni (dative feminine) her moon

She obviously acts to help moon so that one can understand that sun ‘gave moon a hand’.

Eddic poetry does not hesitate to play with the word ordering in order to comply to poetic composition rules, such as Snorri granted them to us. Here, we could translate “sinni mána by “her moon which would not have much meaning, this is why we associate “sinni with “hendi in next line which gives “her hand.”




The sun, from the South,

stretched her hand

to the moon (to get) a comfortable home

all around the sky;


sun did not know

which residence she had,

the stars did not know

which housing they had,

moon did not know

which power he had.




I preserved the sequence of “átti, átto and of “þat born vissi, þat born visso of the original though it may can appear a little heavy for us. The reason for that is there exists a style of scaldic poetry dedicated to magic verses, and this style is called Galdralag, “poetic incantation.” It relies on words repetition, as here.



Stanza 6


Old Norse


6. Þá gengo regin öll

á röcstóla,

ginnheilög goð,

oc um þat gættuz:


nótt oc niðium

nöfn um gáfo,

morgin héto

oc miðian dag,

undorn og aptan,

árom at telia.

Literal translation


Then went powers all

on judgement seats

supreme divinities gods,

and from that obtained:


to night and her offspring

names allotted,

the morning named

and the median (of) day

hours of the day and the evening

with the years to be counted.

Explanations and comments


The word ‘rökwill be met again in stanzas 9, 23 and 25, always with the significance of a place where a wise decision is done.

regin is a plural word meaning “the powers,” with the original meaning of “the advisers.”


The feminine word nótt does also nótt in the dative singular. It is thus ‘to the nightthat the gods gave her name. We have no clear information relative to Night’s offspring. It might be a poetical way of speech to evoke all the ‘nightly beings’.




Then all the powers went

sitting on their judgement seats

supreme divinities gods,

and from that they obtained:


to night and her offspring

they allotted their names,

named the morning

and the median of the day

the hours of the day and the evening

and how to count the years.





The redundancy of the vocabulary designating the primitive gods and their sacred feature shows well that the poet who wrote Völuspá made a point of stressing the gods’ importance at the beginning times. The end poem the tell their ending times, with no hint that they might have demeaned themselves.


Stanza 7

Old Norse


7. Hittuz æsir

á Iðavelli,

þeir er hörg oc


há timbroðo;



afla lögðo,

auð smíðoðo,

tangir scópo,

oc tól gorðo.

literal translation AND English


Met the Æsir

on Iðavöllr, ‘Fulfillments Plain’,

there are their sanctuary and homes

high ‘timbered’ ones;


forging hearths laid,

richness forged

blacksmith clenches shaped,

and tools made.

Explanations and comments

The word ‘indicates a work, an achievement. It does its plural genitive in ‘a’: iða. This describes gods’ housing as a place where they perform serious work.

Dronke did another choice by reading iða-völlr, iða = eddy. In this case, eddy has to be understood as a modifier of völlr, she accordingly translates by “eddying plain.” This describes god’s housing as a moving unsafe place.


"hörg oc hof is better understood by considering archaeological discoveries. It was noted that certain particularly majestic buildings (hof) were also places of worship (hörgr), either inside them, or in the near vicinity.


Stanza 8



Old Norse


8. Teflðo í túni,

teitir vóro,

var þeim vættergis

vant ór gulli,


unz þriár qvómo

þursa meyiar

ámátcar miöc

ór iötunheimom.

literal translation


Plaid tafl in the hedged meadow,

merry they were,

were they nothing

in want from gold.


until three came ,

of giants’ maidens,

detestable and over powerful,

from giant-homes.

Comments and explanations


Tafl is a game similar to checkers. To learn the rules of this game, consult


http://www.irminsul.org/arc/002sg.html or

http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/games.shtml .


It is usually understood that these three giant girls, “þursa meyiar ”, coming from giants’ country, “iötunheimr, ” are the three Norns.




They plaid tafl in the hedged meadow,

merry they were,

in noway they were

in want from gold.


until three came,

from giant-dwellings.

giant born maidens,

quite detestable and over-powerful ones.



The end of the stanza seems to say that the Gods were merry until (!) Norns arrival.






A short vocabulary note about ámátcar (hateful and over powerful)


It is necessary to go through LexPoet in order to understand the kind of play word associated to ámátcar. This dictionary presents two similar words, amátligr (= monstrous, hateful) and ámáttigr (= over-powerful – á’ - can be an intensifier). You see that átcar lacks the ‘a’ beginning amátligr and ‘tt’ in ámáttigr. The translators often select ‘over-powerful’ but the context of merry …until casts a negative aspect upon these three women, hence my translation.


Stanza 9

Old Norse


9. Þá gengo regin öll

á röcstóla,

ginnheilog goð,

oc um þat gættuz,


hverr scyldi dverga

dróttin scepia

ór Brimis blóði

oc ór Bláins leggiom.

literal translation


Then went divinities all

on judgement-stools,

sacred saint gods,

and from this got,


that shall dwarves

a (noble) household to (magically) shape

from Brimir blood

and from Bláinn legs

Comments and explanations


In “ginnheilog what exactly ‘ginn’ exactly means is in fact unknown. This word applies only to the Gods



Brimir and Bláinn are two other names given to the primitive Giant, Ymir, which was killed by the “sons of Burr (thus, in particular by Óðinn), and whose body was used to create the world.




Then all divinities went

on their judgement-stools,

sacred saint gods,

and from this they got



that shall a (noble) household

of dwarves (magically) shape…


that they shall (magically) shape

the (noble) household of Dwarves)

from Brimir blood

and from Bláinn legs.



The Dwarves are thus created from elements that come from Ymir’s body. Ymir is called Brimir (brim = surf, sea) when his body created the seas. We expect that his legs are used to create the earth but name Bláinn is ambiguous. The radical ‘‘blá’ may mean ’blue’ and it again evokes a marine element. It is also often used to mean ‘dark blue, black’ which evokes then a terrestrial element.



Comment: A serious vocabulary problem of and a secondary grammar problem


Vocabulary problem


The verb skepja (written scepia above) is an old form of the verb skapa which means: to work, make, form, assign a destiny, to fix. When a meaning as to makeis not utterly ridiculous, the translators objectively use it since it is the most neutral meaning. In the context of the creation of a newrace of living beings, we cannot not honestly avoid evoking magic. That the Gods created Dwarves by using their magic is exactly what scepia indicates.


Grammar problem


I also want to clarify an interesting grammatical ambiguity that changes this stanza comprehension.

The word for a noble household’, dróttin, is obviously feminine nominative, subject of skepja, it is thus a noble household’ (here the Gods) that will skepja.

The word for Dwarfis a masculine, dvergr, and it does dverga in the plural genitive and accusative. Similarly, the singular and plural preterit subjunctive of skulu are identical. If dverga is a plural accusative, thenthe noble household created the Dwarves.” If it is a plural genitive, we can then read that ‘they’ (the Gods) createda household of Dwarves.”

Both say the same significant thing, namely that the Dwarves were created by the Gods.




Follow the famous and ‘boring’ lists of Dwarves names. Experts have been looking for their meaning by using the Norse words they evoke, and their etymology. I believe firmly that these lists were intended to help memorizing this large number of names, by the music of their words and the measure of poetry. This is why, when I have been able to, I give a name that is phonetically obvious by association to a familiar word even if etymology suggests something else.


Stanza 10

Old Norse


10. Þar Mótsognir

mæztr um orðinn

dverga allra

en Durinn annarr;


þeir manlícon

mörg um gorðo,

dvergar, ór iörðo,

sem Durinn sagði.

literal translation


There Mótsognir

most famous ‘spoken of’

Dwarves all

and Durinn the other one;


they human-shapes

many made,

Dwarves, out of ground,

as Durinn had said.

Comments and explanations


Mótsognir, or Móðsognir = Meeting Sucker (‘sucker’ in the way an ebbing tide ‘suckssand)

Durinn = Drowsing

The context leads us to believe that these shapes will be used to create the Dwarves since the lists that follows in s. 11-13 provides lists of the Dwarves. Inversely, the way of speech “human-shapes” suggests that these shapes might have been also used




There Mótsognir

most famous mentioned

of all Dwarves

and Durinn after him;


Dwarves made many

human shapes,

out of ground,

as Durinn had said.

for creating the two first human beings.


That Ask and Embla are shaped from pieces of wood is suggested by other texts, not by Völuspá.


It is also quite possible that Völuspá simply stresses the similarity between the Dwarves and mankind.


Stanza 11


Old Norse


11. Nýi oc Niði,

Norðri oc Suðri,

Austri oc Vestri,

Alþiófr, Dvalinn,



Bívorr, Bávorr,

Bömburr, Nóri,

Án oc Ánarr,

Ái, Miöðvitnir.



Nýi and Niði,

Norðri and Suðri,

Austr and Vestri,

Alþiófr, Dvalinn,


Bívörr, Bávörr,

Bömburr, Nóri,

Án and Ánarr,

Ái, Miöðvitnir.

Meaning of names


Nýi = New Moon, Niði = No Moon,

Nordri = Northern, Sudri = Southern,

Austri = Eastern, Vestri = Western,

Alþiófr = Allthief, Dvalinn = Plodder,

Bívörr = Shiverly, Bávörr = Tumbler

Bömburr = Druming or Noisy, Nóri = Tiny,

Án = ‘without= Lacking, Ánarr = Lack-producer’,

Ái = Ancestor, Miöðvitnir = Mead-bewitched-wolf



Stanza 12



Old Norse


12. Veigr oc Gandálfr,


Vindálfr, Þráinn,


Þeccr oc Þorinn,



Þrór, Vitr oc Litr,

Nár oc Nýráðr -


nú hefi ec dverga


- Reginn oc Ráðsviðr -

rétt um talða.



12. Veigr and Gandálfr,


Vindálfr, Þráinn,


Þekkr and Þorinn (or Þroinn),


Þrór, Vitr and Litr,

Nár and Nýráðr -


Here are the Dwarves


- Reginn et Ráðsviðr -

properly reckoned.

Meaning of names


Veigr : IF Veggr = Wall, IF veig = Strong drink or ‘Magic Potion’, Gandálfr = Magic-stick Elf,

Vindálfr = Wind Elf, Þráinn = Stubborn or Needy

Þekkr = Pleasing, Þorinn = He-dares,

Þrór =Tough, Healthy , Vitr = Wise, Litr = Hued,

Nár = Corpse, Nýráðr = New adviser,


Obviously, Reginn is here a name meaning ‘the gods’ as word regin. It carries also the meaning of being powerful.

Reginn = Gods or Powers, Ráðsviðr = Advice-Wise .



Stanza 13


Old Norse


13. Fíli, Kíli,

Fundinn, Náli,


Hepti, Víli,

Hanarr, Svíurr,

Frár, Hornbori,


Frægr oc Lóni,

Aurvangr, Iari,


Meaning of names


Fíli = Fat Flesh, Kíli = Inlet, Canal,

Fundinn = Found, Náli = Needle

Hepti =Hefti = Chained, Víli = Miserable,

Hanarr = Skilful, Svíurr = Pain Releaser

Frár = Fast, Hornbori = Pierced Horn,

Frægr = Famous, Lóni = Islet,

Aurvangr = Pebbly Wetland or Wetground Meadow, Iari = Fighter

Eikinskjaldi = Oakenshield.



Stanza 14


Old Norse


14. Mál er dverga

í Dvalins liði

lióna kindom

til Lofars telia,


þeir er sótto

frá salar steini

Aurvanga siöt

til Iörovalla.

litteral translation


Time (or measure) of Dwarves

in Dvalinn’s ‘joint’ (kindred)

of mankind’s (for the) kin

until Lofarr enumerate,


they who looked for

from the hall in stone

of Aurvangar the dwelling

until Iörovellir.

Meaning of names


Dvalinn = Plodder (s. 11)

Les ‘descendants des arbitres’

liónar = arbiters or simply people (de Vries).


Aurvangr = Pebbly Wetlands or

Wetground Meadow (s. 13)

Iörovalla = Fightvalley (cf. Iari, s. 13)



It is time that Dwarves,

Dvalinn’s kindred,

be listed until Lofarr

for mankind’s kin,


they who moved (looked for’)

from the dwellings

of Aurvangar’s stone hall

until Jörovellir.

Comments and explanations


This stanza tells us that all Dwarves’ kindred goes up to Lofarr and that it has to be taught to mankind, and s. 16 will confirm it. The need for mankind’s survival to receive this kind of inheritance, hence to memorize this list of Dwarves, is hinted at in this stanza. S. 16 will explicitly state that mankind’s survival depends on performing this work of memory.


That must thus be very significant in the old Scandinavian tradition, but we lost why this is so important for us.




Note on the Dwarves’ move


The choice of names Aurvangar and Jörovellir can help us guessing why they moved. Aurvangar has two possible meanings: Pebbly Wetlands or Wetground Meadow and, for Jörovellir I only proposed Fightvalley. The text describes Aurvangar as “the residences of the stony rooms” i.e. a rock environment which suits well ‘Pebbly Wetlands’. The Dwarves leave this place to join Fightvalley. In the context of a near Ragnarök, this point at them as fighter joining combat, certainly on the Gods’ side, as the myth of their creation suggests it.

Dronke gives two different names and an almost opposite conclusion to ours “.… the dwarf material preserved in Völuspá are allusions to… their migration from rocky regions to fertile plains, so it would seem; 14)” p. 122. She translate Aurvangr “Loam Lee” and reads Jörovellir as Jörðvellir ‘Earth Plains’ since Jörð means Earth. This explains her conclusion. Gaining better ground is certainly a good motive for people moves but I find it somewhat trifling in the context of Völuspá.



Stanza 15


Old Norse


15. Þar var Draupnir

oc Dólgþrasir,

Hár, Haugspori,



Hlévangr, Glói,


Scirvir, Virvir,



Scáfiðr, Ái,



There were Draupnir

and Dólgþrasir,

Hár, Haugspori,



Hlévangr, Glói,


Skirvir, Virvir,



Skáfiðr, Ái,

Meaning of names


Draupnir = Dripping (from drjúpa, pret. draup)

Dólgþrasir = Monster Fighter,

Hár = High, Haugspori : If : Haug-spori = Burial-mound-spur else: Haugs-por(r)i = Burial-mound-one-eyed-person

Hlévangr =-Garden Shelter, Glói = Shiny

Skirvir = Skirpir = from skyrpa, Spitting ? Virvir,Virfir, Virfill = Penis ? [Dronke gives ‘Groiner’… a modest way of saying penis.]

Skáfiðr = Skáviðr = Twisted-tree, Ái = Ancestor (as in s. 11)



Stanza 16


Old Norse


16. Álfr oc Yngvi


Fialarr oc Frosti,

Finnr oc Ginnarr;


þat mun uppi,

meðan öld lifir,

langniðia tal

Lofars hafat.

litteral translation


Álfr and Yngvi


Fialarr and Frosti,

Finnr andGinnarr;


this remembered up,

as long as humankind lives

of offsprings list descendants

of Lofarr had.

Meaning of names


Álfr = Elf, Yngvi = King, Eikinskjaldi = Oak-shield,

Fialarr = He-of-the-cliff OR (fjöl) He-of-the-skis, Frosti = Frost, Finnr = Hunter or Saami, Ginnarr = Cheater or Powerful.


Lofarr = Praiser




The record of Lofarr’s offsprings

is rembered at the top (as highly important),

as long as humnakind lives.

Comments and explanations


Lofarr’s progeny will be remembered as long as mankind lives.”

This implies implies that forgetting these names is one of the conditions for mankind extinction.






Fate related stanzas: 17-20 and 31


Stanza 17


The völva’s account stops at stanza 9 and is followed by a string of 9 stanzas giving the list of dwarf names. Thus, this account begins again at s 17: Everything happened as described in s. 1-8, until…



Unz þrír kvámu               1. Until three came

ór því liði                          2. out of their people

öflgir ok ástkir                 3. strong-always and loving-always

æsir at húsi,                     4. æsir to the house (of mankind),

fundu á landi                   5. they found on the ground

lítt megandi                      6. little having might

Ask ok Emblu                  7. Ask(r) and Embla

örlöglausa                        8. örlög-less.


Comment on the vocabulary


v. 2. lið means a host/people. The ‘three’, in the first line left their ‘people’, i.e. the Æsir.

v. 3.afl-gir is an adjective derivation of afl-gi = force-always. The same for ást = a lover.

v. 5. The word land describes the ground as opposite to the sea, “where the sea stops,” wherefrom comes the traditional image of the beach where Ask and Embla were found.

v. 7. The names of the first two human persons are here in the accusative (direct object complement of verb ‘found’). We can read the name of the man as Ask or Askr which are identical in the accusative. Askr means ash-tree but the experts vainly sought a name of tree (or anything else), which could be linked to the name Embla. Some translators claim to have found a solution, which reflects nothing but their personal beliefs. A traditional example is that of a shoot of vine, which is supposed to find its support on the solid ash, image of the fragile woman being carried by her strong man. All this is ridiculous also from the point of view of the name ‘Embla’.


Comment on the meaning of the stanza


Honesty however leads me to point out that line of 17 speaks of an ‘askr’ which is a man and that 19 begins by saying that Yggdrasill is also an ‘askr’, which gives to it/him a kind of status of a pillar. In fact, if we closely examine the structure of the Icelandic married couple, it seems that indeed the man is an (often disputed) pillar in the outer world whereas the woman is the (uncontested) pillar of an inner world represented by the family dwelling.


This stanza gives us also three invaluable indications on what defines a ‘true’ human being.

Firstly, Ask and Embla are found together and we will see that, moreover, all the features given to them by the gods in stanza 18 are given to both, without reference to their genre. This unrelentingly separates us from all the cultures where the gods or God allot qualities to the male, and afterwards to the female. This stanza thus describes, without reference to sex, what Ask and Embla both miss to be true human beings.

Secondly, they are both ‘lítt megandi i.e. ‘having little might’, unable of action. Thus, a fundamental quality of human is to be able to act on the world.

Thirdly, they are both ‘örlöglauss, without destiny. Thus, the second fundamental character defining a human being is to have a destiny. In Anglo-Saxon, the wyrd, fate or destiny, is presented as an unbearable constraint imposed on us (see wyrd), whereas here, constraint or not, it is one of the two paramount characters of human beings. To rebel against our destiny is to some extent to leave our human status. However, the first human  capacity, the one of acting, moderates the fate’s inexorability. Our human destiny is to be wedged between an inexorable outer destiny and our capacity to act and we have to manage it.





Önd þau né átto,              1. Breath they did not own,

óð þau né höfðo,              2. intelligence they did not have

lá né læti                           3. ‘the sea’ [internal waters] does not flow

né lito góða;                     4. nor (shows) a hue good (beautiful);

önd gaf Óðinn,                 5. breath gave Óðinn

óð gaf Hœnir,                   6. intelligence gave Hœnir

lá gaf Lóðurr                    7. ‘sea’ gave Lóðurr

oc lito góða.                     8. and beautiful hue.


This stanza does not explicitly speak of örlög but it shapes the general structure of these stanzas.


Hœnir: the word hœnir comes from an Indo-European root meaning ‘the high one, the inflamed one’ to which also one of Óðinn’s names is related, Hár (the High one). Devries suggest also that it may be related to word hœna (hen). In stanza 63 (below) Hœnir is one of the gods surviving Ragnarök and he seems to collect Óðinn magical inheritance. In addition, he seems to be a silent god of whom we know little.


Lóðurr (and Loki): The word means ‘light’ and etymology connects the name Lóðurr to the one of ‘distributor of fire’ [Note 1]. Theoften met assumption that Lóðurr is another name of Loki runs up against the fact that ‘wicked’ Loki cannot have given ‘the ‘sea’ and beautiful hue’ to humankind. It should however be remembered that, for a long time, Loki is nothing but a god embarrassing to the Æsir by its often ambiguous role with respect to the Giants. Only after Baldr’s murder and his insulting attitude in Lokasenna, he becomes the ‘wicked one’, described by Snorri with such an amount of aggressiveness. In addition to being a Giant-god, he may have been also an ‘evolving god’ though this hypothesis cannot be verified.


[Note 1] Loki is very often associated to fire through a pun on his name and the one of a Giant called Logi. As a matter of fact log is a flame and loga means ‘to burn with a flame’. Logi is certainly a representative of the flames. A paltry pun: Loki/Logi makes them identical. However, the only precise knowledge we have about Logi is an eating competition opposing Loki and Logi, and Logi wins because: “Who eats faster than Loki? – wild-fire,” as goes a riddle. All this hints at Loki having a power different from the one of fire.


Two triples of gods


We just met a triple of gods, Óðinn, Hœnir and Lóðurr. There is another one : Óðinn, Vili and Vé. The last is named in Lokasenna where Loki accuses Frigg to marry Vili and Vé while Óðinn was traveling away.

Vili is undoubtedly related to vil, ‘a wish, a desire’. The word even took the pejorative meaning of ‘satisfaction of our own yearnings’. Vili is certainly very close to Óðinn since skaldic poetry created the kenning ‘Vili’s brother’ to indicate Óðinn.

The wordmeans sanctuary what gives to Vé a status of a god of consecrated places. It is associated the verb vígja, to hallow, and, as such it is linked to Thórr’s hallowing hammer.


It is tempting to draw relations between two of Óðinn’s companions in these two triples, namely between Vili and Hœnir, and between Vé and Lóðurr. However, if these relations exist, the myths describing them have been lost.


Comment on the vocabulary


The verbs eiga and hafa, to own and to have, are here in their preterit subjunctive case.

The verb láta, like English ‘to let’, has several meanings. I use one meaning in line 3. (“to let run/flow”) and I consider that another meaning is implied in line 4. (“to let appear/show”). It is a subjunctive present: the preterit of the two first lines is not kept.

is the sea water near the seashore. I suppose that this word is used to evoke the internal liquids that any living being carries inside itself, as opposed to the land (see s. 17) on which the putative human beings are lying.


Comment on the meaning of the stanza


This comment cannot be done wihtout taking into account other stanzas associated to humankind creation and its fate. You will find this commentary at


This comment cannot be done wihtout taking into account other stanzas associated to humankind creation and its fate. You will find this commentary at "Örlög."



Stanza 19



Ask veit ek standa,           An askr know-I stands,

heitir Yggdrasill,              it is named Yggdrasill,

hár baðmr, ausinn          high tree, sprinkled

hvíta auri;                        with white mud;

þaðan koma döggvar      wherefrom come the dews

þærs í dala falla,              that in the vale,

stendur æ yfir grænn      it stands up always green above

Urðar brunni.                  Urðr’s source.


Comment on the vocabulary


Askr, here in the accusative, ask, means an ash-tree. The saying ‘askr Yggdrasill’ appears several times in Norse literature. This is why almost everyone claims that the tree of the world is an ash-tree… with the modern meaning of the word, Fraxinus excelsior. This is a typical anachronism and I have the feeling that the only goal of the ‘ash-tree-fanatics’ is to introduce yet another contradiction in our mythology: Everyone knows that an “always green ash-tree” does not exist. In skaldic poetry one of the classical techniques is the one of using heiti, i.e. replacing the name of an object by another of close meaning. For example, stating ‘ash-tree’ instead of ‘tree’. There even exist lists of heiti which indicate which replacements were used successfully by the old poets. For example the heiti for a tree (“viðar heiti) contain the word askr. It means that a traditional way to speak uses the word ‘ash’ to speak of a ‘tree’. In this list of heiti, we fin also the words sverða, skipa, hesta (sword, boat, horse) which could express the word tree, according to the context. (Source: Jónsson, Skjaldedigtning B1, downloadable at http://www.septentrionalia.net/etexts/skjald_b1.pdf ) . Here, the word baðmr of the third line us provides a context pointing at a tree.


Yggdrasill breaks up into yggr = fear and drasill (or drösull) = horse (exclusively in poetry).

- On yggr. The word yggr does not appear in Cleasby-Vigfusson that gives onlyt ýgr = wild. It is found in deVries who associates it to uggr = fear. It is also given by Lexicon Poeticum which identifies it with ýgr. The last two dictionaries announce that Yggr is one of the traditional names of Óðinn, which does also C-V but not at the word yggr.

- On drasill. The three dictionaries we use here give the words drasill and drösull with this spelling. The spelling ‘Yggdrasil’ is how translators write it, reduced to its root and avoiding to write the letter marking the nominative, here the second ‘l’.

Baðmr means tree. In the manuscript, it is written batmr.

Ausinn: The verb ausa = to sprinkle, here in the past participle, ausinn.

Döggvar = old nominative and plural genitive of dögg, dew


Comment on the meaning of the stanza


Lines 3-6 describe a way of explaining why the dew can settle on grasses even from an uncloudy sky.

By its roots, Yggdrasill is the support of all the Chtonian forces, which include Niðhöggr. I call it the ‘bottom snake’ because I do not put an accent the ‘i’ (níð, slandering, and niðr, the son or ‘at the bottom’, have very different meanings).

By its trunk, its higher roots and its lower branches, it is the support of the nine inhabited worlds.

By its high branches and its leaves, it is the carrier of all heavenly forces. The atmosphere, with or without clouds, contains some amount of moisture that settles in dew. The allegory contained in lines 3-6 is thus explained. It nevertheless could also bear a more mystical meaning, namely that the trees pour down a life source that flows upon our world.




Stanza 20




Þaðan koma meyjar

margs vitandi

þrjár ór þeim sæ/sal,

er und þolli stendr;

Urð hétu eina,

aðra Verðandi,

- skáru á skíði, -

(örlög seggja, line 12)

Skuld ina þriðju.

Þær lög lögðu,

þær líf kuru

alda börnum,

örlög seggja [or segja?]


1.From there come maids

2.much knowing

3. three out of their sea/hall

4. which below a pine stands;

5. Urðr is called one,

6. the other Verðandi,

7.- they scraped on a wooden tablet -

(12) (“the örlög of humankind” as in 12 with seggja=humankind’s)

8. Skuld the third one.

9. They fixed the laws

10. lives they chose

11. of the children of humanity,

12. örlög of_human_ones (or örlög they said).



Norns’ names


The Norns’s names are given in a special order which is certainly significant since the poem specifies that Urðr “is the one” and Skuld “is the third.”

The word urðr is one of the Norse words meaning ‘fate’, as örlög and sköp among others. It is linked to the verb verða, the plural preterit of which is urðu, thus meaning “they became.” Due to the high frequency of “spinning of the wyrd” on the web, we should be weary of possible Greek influences through the Parcae’s roles. This kind of misunderstanding should be deemed unavoidable since all translators are cultivated persons whose culture has been influenced by the Greek and Latin civilizations – as I am, though a feeble instance. Because of the meaning of urðu, we can suppose that Urðr is somewhat linked to something that happened in the past. Since the Norns do not deal only with individual destinies, we must understand that this ‘past’ actually is the sum of what happened to humankind, including our genetic inheritance, and even more generally the result of the whole evolution of our universe.

Verðandi is also linked to verb verða, now in its present participle tense, thus meaning ‘becoming’. Here, there exists really no link with the Parcae since ‘becoming’ is an action that takes some time to occur and I feel cheated by people who claim she is the Norn of present time. Present time is a nice grammatical category but its semantics are almost empty since it has, so to say, a foot in our past and the other foot in our future. Verðandi is the Norn of what is presently under transformation and I see her as the Norn of evolution and action.

The word skuld means a debt, i.e., a commitment that cannot be avoided. When the saga or poetry characters complain of the unavoidable fate decided by the Norns, they essentially refer to Skuld. This name is also associated to a verb, skulu (shall and they shall). Its preterit is skyldi. It thus seems that Skuld is a sort of mix of a present and a past sense. It very clearly does not refer to any period of time, which confirms my doubts that the Greek categorizations would apply at all to the Norns.


As announced the ordering of the three Norns in s. 20 should be significant and as already stated, I am very weary of an order based on time, namely past, present and future. I want to propose instead an ordering such that each Norn plays a specific role, while each can be active in all three segments of time, but based on logical relationships instead.

The above analysis of name Urðr suggests someone who, as a conscientious doctor provides a complete check-up, or as an auditor provides an audit on the state of affairs. We could thus qualify her as being a controlling authority, who builds up a statement of accounts describing how humankind, and also individuals, have been, and are expected to manage their existence.

The role of Verðandi is easier to grasp, she is the active authority who decides on the way the all actors of our universe have behaved and will behave in view of the account provided by Urðr.

For Skuld also, her name tells of her role: she is who evaluates the debts, and, with Verðandi’s help sees that the debts are repaid. We could thus call her a repaying authority (more dignified than a simple collector).

It is understood that these three activities cooperate among them along the line of time. The order met in s. 20 can be understood as a measure of the amount of direct constraint their decisions wield on people, even though all three are not easy to stand. Controlling asks for no more action than being aware of what has been happening. Acting with efficiency implies a kind of common agreement between the leading authority and the many actors who are involved. When mistakes have been done, the repaying authority is in charge of forcing on the actors what and how they should (skuld) repay, they like it or not.


This analysis has been reflected in our view of örlög, ‘produced’ by the Norns, in a text relative to Örlög in general.


Commentary on the vocabulary and the stanza structure


Dronke chooses to read sær (an accusative singular) which translates as ‘lake’. She argues in favor of this translation using mythological reasons of the magic power of female water beings. Cleasby-Vigfusson, however, insists on the fact that this word is never used for a lake and always for the sea or the ocean. He provides a long list of compound words that illustrates that sær always indicates the ocean or the sea. Dronke’s argument still applies for female marine beings. For example, Anglo-Saxon mythology tells that Beowulf’s only really dangerous adversary has been Grendel’s mother who dwells under the sea. Similarly, Scandinavian mythology says that dead sailors do not join the dwellings of the sea god Ægir, but those of the sea goddess, Rán.

Note also that salr does sal in its accusative singular and stays as a possible candidate, even if its mythological power is lower. A standing hall, besides, is more obvious than a standing lake or sea. We should keep in mind these two meanings.


A þollr is a pine-tree. As already pointed out, skaldic poetry often replaces the more general, as here ‘tree’ by the more particular, as here ‘pine-tree’. Due to the context, this is an obvious allusion to the world tree, Yggdrasill.

In stanza 60, we find again this way of speech where the word used, þinurr, has the same meaning as þollr.


The verb skára, points at the action of mowing, which is not at all adapted to the context. The experts read skara, which means to scrape/poke and skaru gives ‘they scraped’. The ON grammatical use in of the verb skara is similar to that of the English language, someone ‘skarar an inscription (direct object - called here ‘accusative’) on a support (indirect object - called here ‘dative’). You see that in line 7 the verb is followed with a dative and it carries no accusative, it thus does not specify what the Norns skara.

We must also note that line 7 cuts the list of the names of Norns in an almost ‘rude’ way, where from comes the pair of - - added by the editors of the poem. A detailed explanation is provided below.


The preposition á followed by a dative means on/upon. Since most translators do not read line 12 just after line 7, they tend also to forget to translate this slightly useless ‘upon’, in their understanding of these lines. They thus render the unambiguous dative skíði as an accusative: “they scrape wooden tablets.”


Skíð (here in the dative singular) means a piece of wood or a wooden tablet (incidentally: in another context, it also means ‘ski’). To scrape or incise or carve a tablet or a twig are typical ways to express the fact of writing runes.


The verb leggja does lögðu in its preterit plural; it means place/lay/take_care/build/settle.


The verb kjósa does kuru in its preterit plural; it means ‘to choose’.


Lastly, the last line has always given serious trouble to the translators.

This ‘seggja can be read as the verb segja (to say). With this choice, örlög is an accusative related to this verb. It can also be read, as chosen here, as seggja, which makes of it the genitive plural of seggr, a messenger (who indeed says ‘something’) and, in poetry, a human person. The choice between the two understandings is complicated because we know that the Middle Ages copyists themselves hesitated: There are two manuscripts (Codex Regius and Hauksbók) the first of which gives ‘seggja' and the second one ‘at segja’. I think that this dilemma has been definitively solved by Elizabeth Jackson in a downloadable article available at  http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~alvismal/9scaro.pdf .

She proposes an elegant solution as follows: “The present article will argue, first, that the verb for line 12 is provided in line 7…)”. This solution consists in keeping seggja and reading line 12 just after line 7: skáru á skíði/örlög seggja (they scraped on a wooden tablet/the örlög of the humans). Note a significant difference between the two versions. If Norns segja (state) the örlög, any logical person will conclude: “they only state, therefore someone else allots this örlög.” Jackson’s interpretation makes it clear that the Norns are these who allot its örlög to humankind.



Jackson’s argumentation is based on an analysis of the structure of the lists met in both writings, Anglo-Saxon and Norse. Before presenting (in a simplified form!) her argumentation, let us notice that modern writings also show list structures and I just gave you one example of it.

The comments above are a list of eight items each member of which is separated from the other by a blank line. I announced the last item list by beginning it with “Lastly, the last line…” and adding a separating line of ‘*’ before the present paragraph. It thus is apart from the list above, which is completely implicit but can be easily guessed due to the ‘markers’ I used.

Mrs. Jackson does not do anything odder, even if I supose she has been looked upon as one of her kind, than seeking the list markers of a beginning or an ending that provide a specific list structure, according to the topic of the list. I do not know if she refers to Lévi-Strauss’s structuralism but I see in her work as being a bright illustration of the hidden structures defining relationships in between the lines of a stanza in Skaldic poetry.

She reckons in the two lists of s. 20 the structural characters similar to the ones of as in other lists, particularly those of lists describing two joined topics, here a list of Norns names and a list of Norns’ actions. In particular, line 7, seemingly oddly inserted in the list of Norns names is an end_of_list marker used elsewhere in much longer lists. The use of ‘at segja in line 12 does not respect this structure and imposes upon us to feel line 7 as not fully complete.

A small practical conclusion



Stanza 21


Old Norse


Þat man hón fólcvíg

fyrst í heimi,

er Gullveigo

geirom studdo

oc í höll Hárs

hána brendo;


þrysvar brendo,

þrysvar borna,

opt, ósialdan;

þó hón enn lifir.

litteral translation


That remember she a war of peoples

first in the world,

is Gullveig

by spears steadied

and in tea hall of Hár (High, Óðinn)

she was burned;


three times burned 

three times born,

often, non seldom;

nevertheless she still lives.

Comments and explanations


She’ is here the völva who seems to allude to her being Gullveig.


Gullveig means gold power.” She causes the war between Æsir and Vanir. She is of Vanr ‘race’, and she visits the Æsir. They burn her three times, but it is three times born again. The war probably starts because of these ill treatments inflicted to Gullveig


Hár = the high one, Óðinn




She remembers a war of peoples

the first one in the world,

Gullveig is

‘steadied’ (transfixed) by spears

and in High’s hall

she has been burned;


three times burned,

three times born (again),

often, not seldom;

nevertheless she still lives.




Stanza 22


Old Norse


22. Heiði hana héto,

hvars er til húsa kom,

völo velspá,

vitti hon ganda;


seið hon, hvars hon kunni,

seið hon hug leikinn,

æ var hón angan

illrar brúðar.

litteral translation


Heiðr her they called

when toward homes (she) came

völva well--prophecising

wise she about sorcery;


seið she, that she knew,

bewiched she a spirit played with ()  

always was she sweet-smelling

to bad wives.

Comments and explanations


I suppose that the völva still speaks about herself. Combined with s. 21 this would mean that Gullveig and Heiðr are the same person. In regard of Old Norse spirituality, that of an ancestor cult, this statement can be rationalized by saying that they belong to the same family line.

Noun seið means ‘witchcraft’.

siða does seið in the preterit, and leika does leikinn in the past participle.




They called her Heiðr,

when she travelled to a dwelling,

as a völva (she was able to) well prophesize,

she was wise in witchcraft;


Seið, she knew well

she bewitched deluded minds,

her smell always was sweet

to bad wives.

The word heidr has three principal meanings: shining, heather and honor. This name is often the one of a witch or a völva


1. A völva who always prophecies that “all will be well” be really honest.






2. Her magic was intended to delude naive minds.


3. She is a friend to bad wives who deal with magic.


Three sharp remarks (1. 2. 3. above) against witches obviously seem to imply some Christian influence. However, this is not sure because even during Heathen times witches were tolerated but not appreciated.

The last line reflects a social rule that a good busy wife did not dawdle among witches.

This kind of mistrust for witches is illustrated by the Eddic poem Hávamál. I again recall that all the many attempts to ‘prove’ Christian influences on this poem have been mocked by the more objective scholars (see explanations just after s. 21 -- http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/NewHavamalEng15-35.htm Hávamál is thus an example of Eddic poetry hardly influenced by Christendom.




Stanza 23


Old Norse


23. Þá gengo regin öll

á röcstóla,

ginnheilög goð,

oc um þat gættuz,


hvárt scyldo æsir

afráð gialda

eða scyldo goðin öll

gildi eiga.

literal translation


Then went divinities all

on judgement-stools,

sacredsaint gods

and for this they obtained,


if should æsir

a tribute (for harm done) to beg

or else if should gods all

a banquet to have

Comments and explanations


In the 4 last lines, Æsir discuss among them to decide if they will agree to pay tribute for their ruthless behaviour toward Gullveig or if war is not desirable.


The form hvárteða classically means: either… or.





The first for lines are indentical to those of s. 9.

If the æsir should

beg (peace in exchange of) a tribute

or if all gods

should set up a banquet (before going to battle the following day).




Afráð means, as gildi, tribute to paybut it can also mean festival, banquet’.

Here, I understand that this alludes to the merry banquet that takes place before departure for battle.



Stanza 24


Old Norse


24. Fleygði Óðinn

oc í fólc um scaut,


þat var enn fólcvíg

fyrst í heimi;


brotinn var borðveggr

borgar ása,

knátto vanir vígspá

völlo sporna.

Literal translation


Let fly Óðinn

and in the army beyond the area (of the enemy army)

that was a people-war

first in the world ;


broken was the enclosure

of castle of Æsir,

were-able-of Vanir of victory-magic

the field they trod.

Comments and explanations


This gesture announces the beginning of the battle. It is attested by a saga describing a warrior who launches his spear above his enemies first rank, which announces the beginning of the battle. When Óðinn acts in this way, the army flown over by his lance is supposed to perish at once. Here, obviously, that did not happen this way and Vanir won the war, as said the last four lines, and confirmed by Snorri’s Edda.




Óðinn let fly his spear

beyond the army area,

that was a people-war

the first in the world;


broken was the enclosure

of Æsir’s castle,

Vanir were able of victory-magic

and the field they trod.

This stanza provides a summary of the war between the Vanir and the Æsir,. The reader is supposed to know the feature of the following peace: fusion of the two families, hostage exchange etc. See HERE  a version of this myth.


“They trod the field” is a way of saying that, instead of being a pack of corpses, as they ‘should’ have been after Óðinn threw his spear, the Vanir were still living and they were proudly walking upon the field.


Stanza 25


Old Norse


25. Þá gengo regin öll

á röcstóla,

ginnheilog goð,

oc um þat gættuz,


hverir hefði lopt alt

lævi blandit

eða ætt iötuns

Óðs mey gefna.

Literal translation


Then went the gods all

on judgement-stools

‘sacredsaints gods

and from that obtained,


who had air all

with evilness blended

and (to) family Giants

of Óðr the maid offered

Comments and explanations


This stanza refers to the myth of building a wall protecting Ásgarðr. The reader is supposed to know the whole story that you will find find  HERE,




The rest of the myth shows that here also, Freyja is Óðr’s wife.




Then all the gods went

to their judgement-stools,

‘sacredsaints gods,

and from that obtained


who had blended

the whole atmosphere with evilness

and to Giant family

had offered Óðr’s maid.




The last four lines are relative to Ásgarðr’s ambiance when the Æsir realize that the ‘worker’ will fill up his contract terms, and that they will have to deliver to him Freyja, Sun and Moon.





Stanza 26


Old Norse


26. Þórr einn þar vá,

þrunginn móði

hann sialdan sitr

er hann slíct um fregn;


á genguz eiðar,

orð oc sœri,

mál öl meginlig,

er á meðal fóro.

Literal translation


Þórr alone there fought,

full of anger

he seldom sits

when he such be informed.


gone oaths,

words and swearings,

words/measures all powerful

which between (them) travelled.

Comments and explanations


This stanza describes the end of the myth when

Þórr has killed the Giant.



The first half of the stanza alludes to Þórr’s arrival when the Æsir realize that their ‘worker’ actually is a Giant. This why Þórr, who has been away, is ‘informed’ of the situation and he will kill this Giant.




Full of anger, Þórr

alone there fought

he seldom stays sitting

when he is informed of such news.


Full gone were oaths,

words and swearings,

all powerful measures

that they had shared.



The Æsir had a deal with this ‘worker-Giant’ that had been made explicit by a contract. Since he hid that he was a Giant, this contract does not hold anymore and the oaths they shared (upon which they ‘travelled’) are gone away.



A broken oath is nevertheless always a shame and the Æsir have been shamed on this occasion.



Stanza 27



Old Norse


27. Veit hón Heimdalar

hlióð um fólgit

undir heiðvönom

helgom baðmi;


á sér hón ausaz

aurgom forsi

af veði Valföðrs -


vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?

Literal translation


Knows she (that) Heimdall’s

the noise (the noisy horn) entrusted

under ‘needing- serenity’

sacred tree;


on looks she self-gushing

‘in a’ muddy torrent

off guarantee of Killedfather


You know still, and what?


Comments and explanations

The four first lines of 27 describe a myth related to Heimdall and the last four lines refer to various myths relating to Óðinn, together with stanzas 28, 29, 30.

Heimdall’s horn is hidden in the roots of Yggdrasil, near to or under Urðr’s well.


The world tree is in need for serenity because of the multiple constraints and hits it undergoes.







She knows (that) Heimdall’s

noisy horn has been entrusted

to the ‘in lack of serenity’

sacred tree;


she looks on a muddy torrent

that self-gushes

off Óðinn’s pledge


You still want to know, and what ?


Óðinn entrusted an eye to the source of Urðr which is the ‘pledge’ he had to provide in order to be allowed to drink wisdom from this spring.





It is interesting to note that Urðr’s spring, always presented as a pure and clear water, is here qualified as muddy. Our stereotypes may need some revision.




Stanza 28


Old Norse


28. Ein sat hon úti,

þá er inn aldni kom,

Yggiungr ása,oc í augo leit:


'Hvers fregnit mic,

Hví freistið mín?


alt veit ec, Óðinn,

Hvar þú auga falt:

í inom mæra

Mímis brunni.'

Dreccr miöð,”

morgin hverian

af veði Valföðrs –


Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?”

Literal translation


One was sitting she outside,

then him old came,

Dreadful-young of Æsir, and in the eye looked :

“What ask you to me

why do you try me?


All know I, Óðinn,

where thou (your) eye hid

in it the famous

Mímir’s spring.

Drinks mead Mímir,

morning each one

off the pledge of Valföðr -


You know still, and what?

Comments and explanations


A way of practicing seið is called útiseta’, that is: seta úti = to sit down outside;”. The völva certainly says that she was practicing this form of seið when Óðinn arrived. This is a solitary practice, in opposition to the public one carried out on a wooden platform.


The ‘old one’ and the ‘young one’ are two faces of Óðinn.


Dronke acknowledges ignoring what exactly means the suffix jungr’ means exactly. A young one is currently called úngr but júngr is also possible. The völva calls Óðinn Old one’ as everyone else, but she may wish to underline that

Óðinn and all Æsir with him are much younger






She alone was sitting outside,

then came he, the old one,

Æsir’s dreadful young one, and he looked at me in the eyes:

“What do you asked me

why do you try me?


I know all of it, Óðinn,

where thou hid your eye

in this famous

Mímir’s spring.

Mímir drinks mead,

each morning

off Valföðr’s pledge -


You still want to know, and what ?

than she is. This is indeed plausible if she is a Giantess born at the origins of the world.

That would also explain why she allows herself to sometimes to treat Óðinn as a young one.




This ‘you’ is in ON an explicit plural. This suggests that Óðinn is acting as a representative of the other Æsir.



That Mímir drinks a “morning mead” may hint at the fact that a sacred drink flows from Mímir’s spring. Anyhow, this means that, each morning, Mímir holds a ritual consecrating the new day.


The way of speech “Valföðr’s pledge” is explained in s. 27 just above.




Stanza 29


Old Norse


29. Valdi henni Herföðr

hringa oc men,

fécc spjöll spaclig

og spáganda,

sá hon vítt oc um vítt

of verold hveria.

Literal translation


Chose for her Her-föðr (Army-father, Óðinn )

rings and necklaces,

he collected spells wise

and vision-sticks,

saw she far and wide

over world all.



Comments and explanations


The völva tells that Óðinn offered her many precious jewels in order to learn from her to ‘send’ curses and to foresee the future.

And this teaching enriched her (hon), not Óðinn’s, world-view.

It seems that he acknowledges that he also enriched his world-view through a similar process, in Hávamál 141: “I then became fertile / and was full of knowledge / and grew and well throve, / a word, out of my speech, /




Óðinn selected for her

rings and necklaces,

he collected wise spells


and ways for magic seeing,

all over the world

she saw wide and far.

looked for another word, / a word, out of my speech, looked for help / a deed, out of my deeds, / looked for another deed.”

Óðinn and this völva therefore are old acquaintances, another fact that explains her

casualness with Óðinn.


Stanza 30


Old Norse



30. Sá hon valkyrior,

vítt um komnar,

gorvar at ríða

til goðþióðar;



Sculd helt scildi,

enn Scögul önnor,

Gunnr, Hildr, Göndul

oc Geirscögul;



nú ero talðar

nönnor Herians,

gorvar at ríða

grund, valkyrior.

Literal translation – ‘English’


She saw valkyries

from far they came

greedy for riding

towards goth-people (OR god-people) ;


Skuld held a shield,

and Skögul another one,

Gunnr, Hildr, Göndul

and Geirskögul ;


now are counted

the maiden of the War Leader (Óðinn),

greedy for riding

(across) earth, Valkyries.


Commentaries on s. 30


"Goðþióð is usually translated by people of Goths where goð means a goth’. This meaning refers to the usual role of a Valkyrie who selects the heroes who will join Valhöll. In the context of Ragnarök, however, we can understand that the völva speaks of the people of the gods (goð or guð means god '). This version suggests that the Valkyries are eagerto get rid of Óðinn’s supervision, as will happen after Ragnarök. The two meanings are then both possible.


Skuld is also the name of a Norn, and this word means debt’. This role of who demands the debts to be paid can also be the one of a Valkyrie who is not necessarily confused with Norn Skuld

Skögul is undoubtedly related to the verb skaga (Devries) to project, to exceed = ‘who holds up’ (before launching axe or lance).

Gunnr = Battle, Hildr = Combat, Göndul = who handles magic, wizard.” This name evokes the witches who participated to combat, the alrunæ’.

Geirskögul = Who holds up a lance.”


As in the case of Dwarves, the völva simply provides a list of names. The reader is again supposed to understand the hidden meaning of these names.


This ends the description of Óðinn’s majesty by the völva. The following stanzas 31, 32 and 33 deal with the myth of Baldr’s death. They contain the first magic throbbing that will lead the gods towards Ragnarök.


Stanza 31



Ek Baldri,                    I looked at Baldr

blóðgum tívur,                 blood-covered divine being,

Óðins barni,                     Óðinn’s son,

örlög fólgin;                     (I saw) örlög hidden;

stóð of vaxinn                  was standing (fully) grown

völlum hæri                     in the fields taller

mjór ok mjög fagr           slender and very beautiful

mistilteinn.                       mistletoe.


Comment on the vocabulary


The verb sjá, to see, gives in its preterit first person. The name of god Baldr is in the dative case so that we must read verb sá á (to ‘see on’ = to look at). This meaning will expands to the two following lines. On the other hand, örlög in line 4 is in the accusative case, one must thus understand ‘alone and the völva says that she saw his hidden örlög.

The declension of tívi as tívur is somewhat irregular. This word is used in general in the plural and its dative is ‘normally’ tívum. Dronke tries to find an explanation to this variation and she fails being convincing... I’ll certainly not do better than her!

The verb fela, to hide, confuse/entrust, does folginn in its past participle.

The adjective hár, high, does hæri in the comparative. Mistletoe is ‘higher’ that the other trees or plants.

In addition, it seems that the warriors who did not die in combat could nevertheless join Óðinn in Valhöll by being ‘marked’ with “Óðinn’s sign” by a spear, another bloody process related to Óðinn.

Baldr’s örlög is hidden as everyone’s else. It however seems that Frigg and Óðinn were informed of anyone’s örlög, as that is noted several times in Eddic poems. Since this stanza underlines this topic, it must mean that neither Frigg nor Óðinn were able to know their son’s fate. We already spoke of the gods’ panic when they were aware of Baldr’s imminent death. Note 3 of the text on “Örlög” http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/OrlogEng.htm even says that Óðinn believed that the Hamingjur - certainly those of the gods’ clan - had left as long as such a disaster could occur. Baldr is the first to die within the gods’ family and we can easily imagine that his death announces that other Æsir could die as well. Baldr’s death can thus be looked upon as the first signal of Ragnarök’s arrival.

The last four last lines further increase the feeling of ‘end of a world’ for the Æsir. One of the three ‘actors’ in their son’s murder, mistletoe, is proudly standing on the fields, as if pointing out their ultimate mortality, even if a long-term one. It may seem that the universal chaos forces have been defeated by the Æsir, but they strikingly, though poetically, force the Æsir to remember them, through a vigorous mistletoe branch.

We can assume that the name ‘mistletoe’ points at a mythical plant the botanical name of which is unknown, since it cannot “proudly stand in the fields.” Celtic religions gave a mythical status to botanical mistletoe, it quite possible that Norse people chose this name to point at a magical tree.


A short comment: How happens that Mistletoe appears in Völuspá ?


I will later explain how this condescending beautiful Mistletoe finds his place in Völuspá. I nevertheless need to point at an understanding motivated by C. G. Jung comments on an ambiguous mother archetype governing the relation between Frigg and Baldr, available at https://www.academia.edu/35169010/An_unconscious_mother-sons_relation_between_Frigg_and_Baldr .

This text follows Jung in thinking that Mistletoe is a part of Baldr unconscious, his ‘shadow’. It seems here that this shadow is embodied  in a somewhat arrogant beautiful tree. I tested the hypothesis of seeing that tree as a Christ symbol but this leads to so many contradictions that I gave up this track. I rather believe that the mother archetype for Frigg needs much refinement and it may be an image of Loki, if we want to understand these myths. More work on Loki is needed before achieving this goal..


Stanza 32


Old Norse


32. Varð af þeim meiði,

er mær (mjór) sýndiz,

harmflaug hættlig,

Höðr nam scióta.


Baldurs bróðir var

of borinn snemma,

sá nam, Óðins sonr,

einnættr vega.

Literal translation


Was of this stick

that slim self-appeared as

harm-elk dangerous

Höðr learned to fling.


Baldur’s brother was

born soon

this one learned, Óðinn’s son,

(in) one night (to) smite.


Comments and explanations


This stanza appears meaningless if it is not connected to well-known myths.

The four first lines say that mistletoe, slim and very beautiful (s. 31) was in fact afated missile of harm.”

The last four lines directly pass to Höðr’s punishment.


Baldr, Höðr, et Vali are all Óðinn’s sons.




This fateful stick

that looked slim

actually was a harm-missile

that Höðr learned to fling.


Baldur’s brother was

born soon

and, Óðinn’s son, he learned

to smite in a single night.


Höðr is blind and he kills Baldr, being pushed by Loki’s slyness. Vali, who is one night old, will avenge Baldr by killing Höðr (“he learned to smite in a single night”).



Vali is calledBaldr’s brother to underline that he avenges his brother and Óðinn’s son to underline the miraculous speed of his growth and his relationship to Baldr.



Comments on s. 32


The most obvious remark to do about the episode of Baldr’s death is that it is similar to the one of Christ’s death. Here are two beings exceptional by several standards, loved by everyone, beautiful and luminous, endowed with a powerful charisma. And both are killed at the beginning of their life. How to avoid assigning them to the same archetypal type? Nevertheless, a closer analysis of both courses of life leads to the realization that they embody two opposite prototypes.

Christ, even if looked upon as partially divine throughout his life, lives a human life among human ones. Only at his death will he reach a full divine status. His death, moreover, announces an eternal new religious era that will last even after Doomsday.

In fact, Baldr’s life runs the opposite. He is born a god and carries out a life among the gods. He is unaware of any feature human condition - at least no myth describes him mingling with humankind. After his death, and this in spite of the gods’ attempts, he will join the human ones in Hel, and he will thus lose his divine status. Lastly, his death illustrates in a dazzling way that gods can die and it preludes to Ragnarök, thus announcing the end of religious era centered around Óðinn and Freyr.

That Norse have been influenced or not by Christendom is of no import since Christ’s and Baldr’s destinies of are completely opposite, in spite of a surface similarity.


- In the preceding stanza, mistletoe is qualified as mjór, that isslim’, which gives it an attractive feature. This word can take the form mær with the same meaning. Of course, this evokes the other meaning, more usual, of mær: ‘young girl, maiden’. The poet wants to say that mistletoe exerts a form of attraction, similar to the one of a slim young girl. In this case, attraction is morbid and mistletoe is the tool of Baldr’s death. All this has been made possible by the great show of Baldr’s impunity but this show itself is either stupid or morbid.

- The way of speech harm-elk is a way of speaking of a kind of missile since Höðr threw a spear or an arrow at Baldr.

- The only allusion, here, to the fact that Höðr could be influenced is that he learned how to launch.” In particular, Snorri explains why Höðr was pushed by Loki’s trick to Baldr’s kill, therefore Loki is also guilty. Some refuse this version imagined by Snorri”, but the culpability of Loki in this myth is found elsewhere. For a longer discussion, consult my summary of Dumézil’s  Loki  or, still better, read his book.



Stanza 33


Old Norse


33. Þó hann æva hendr

né höfuð kembdi,

áðr á bál um bar


Baldrs andscota;


Enn Frigg um grét

í Fensölum

vá Valhallar



Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?



Though he never hands (washed)

nor head combed

until on a pyre (they ?) carried

Baldr’s ennemy.


But Frigg wept

in Fensalir

the tragedy of Valhöll -


You still want to know, and what ?

Comments and explanations

This ‘He’ is certainly Óðinn who is mourning his son. We suppose that the hands means did not wash his hands.”

Valhöll = Residence of killed ones, where the warriors who died in the combat gather after death. They will fight at Óðinn’s side during Ragnarök and thus will die with him. This explains why Baldr’s death announcing Ragnarök is tragedy for Valhöll.

Höðr is called here “Baldr’s ennemy.”

Frigg is Baldr’s mother, and she cries the death of her son as all mothers do wherever in the world.

Fensalir = Hall of the marshes”, is the name of Frigg’s residence.


I remind you that Dronke sees here a typical” Christian stereotype because Frigg cried her dead and bloodied son. See also right before s. 59. This does explain why she, a Christian, sees it here. It does not mean that this stereotype cannot be shared by other civilizations, even by ‘primitive’ ones.


Stanza 34


Old Norse


34. Þá kná Vála

vígbönd snúa,

heldr vóro harðgerhöpt,

ór þörmom.

Literal translation


However was able Váli

battle-bonds to twist

rather were hard-quite-chains

(done) out of entrails.


Comments and explanations


Here again, we meet an obvious lapse of information, easily filled up with an episode of old Scandinavian mythology:

Loki will be punished of his crime by being bound with his son’s intestines.





Váli was however able

to twist battle-bonds

that were rather quite hard chains

(done) out of entrails.



We learn here that Váli will be the organizer of the torture inflicted to Loki


‘battle bondsseem to be particularly resistant bonds.



Stanza 35


Old Norse


35. Hapt sá hon liggia

undir hvera lundi,

lægiarns líki

Loca áþeccian;

 ***This half stanza when ‘re-ordered’ as in English


Hon sá hapt áþeccian líki Loca lægiarns, liggja undir hvera lundi.



þar sitr Sigyn,

þeygi um sínom

ver velglýiuð –


Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?

Literal translation


A prisoner she saw to lie down

under a boiler-grove

humbled in the like

of Loki non-pleasant.


***[‘re-ordered’ literal translation]


She saw bonded a non-pleasant prisoner similar to Loki humbled, to lie down under a boiler--grove. ***


here sits Sigyn,

in spite of she near her

husband non well-merry -


You know still, and what?

Comments and explanations


hveralundr = the grove of the cauldrons. That must refer to a thicket growing near an ebullient volcanic source.


Preposition undir means ‘underand metaphorically under the power of’.


I do not understand why not-pleasantmust evoke a tricky Loki as traditional translations do. His situation is unpleasant, he is humiliated, bound to live in a kind of outdoor boiling kettle, why adding some more?




An unpleasant prisoner,

she saw lying down

under a ‘boiler—grove’

and shaped as the body

of a humbled Loki.


There, Sigyn sits

in spite of being near her

husband she feels no merriness.


You want to know more, and what?







According to Snorri, a snake spits its venom on Loki’s face. Sigyn, his wife, protects him by collecting venom in a pot before it reaches him. Völuspá does not give these details that became legendary.




Stanza 36


Old Norse



36. Á fellr austan

um eiturdala,

söxom oc sverðom:

Slíðr heitir sú.



A river falls from the East

everywhere in the poisoned dales,

(done) with short sabers and swords:

Frightening it is called.

Comments and explanations


In eitur-dala the word eitr’ (poison) is twice used. It obviously qualifies dalr (= valley) but it is also coupled to á (= river) of the first line forming eitr-á, a poisoned river.

A ‘sax’ is a short heavy sword very much used in the Viking time. Slíðr = Frightening.


Stanza 37


Old Norse


37. Stóð fyr norðan,

á Niðavöllom

salr úr gulli

Sindra ættar;


enn annar stóð

à Ókólni

biórsalr iötuns,

enn sá Brimir heitir.

Literal translation


Stood to the North

on Fields of Waningmoon

a hall made of gold

of Redglowing of kinfolk;


and also stood

on Non-cold

bier-hall of a Jötun

and this one Surf is named.

Comments and explanations


niða-vellir = ‘waning moon –fields’


Sindri = name of a Dwarf, and sindr means ‘red glowing’ as very hot metal in a smithy. His ætt (family) indicates all Dwarves.


The name Brimir means Sea or Surf.






Stood to the North

on Waningmoon Fields,

made of gold, the hall

of Redglowing’s kinfolk;


and also stood

on Non-cold

bier-hall of a Jötun

and this one Surf is named.

Ó-kólnir = Non-cold, from verb kólna = to become cold. The name Ókólnir sounds awkward for a Jötun (= a Giant) since they are often said to live in cold places. This Giant, however, is a very special one. His hall is a brewery and his name, Surf or Sea, suggests some link with the sea god, Ægir. A hint is provided by the prose commentaries at the beginning of Lokasenna : “After getting the large cauldron, Ægir, also named Gymir, prepared bier for the Æsir.” All this tends to suggests that Brimir is also a hallowed bier provider for the Æsir.


All the Dwarves and Jötun Brimir/Ægir/Gymir are among the gods’ allies.


Stanza 38


Old Norse


38. Sal sá hon standa

sólo fiarri

Náströndo á,

norðr horfa dyrr;


féllo eitrdropar

inn um lióra,

sá er undinn salur

orma hryggjom.

Literal translation


A hall I see stand

from sun far-from (deprived of))

Náströnd in/on,

(toward) North are tuned the doors,


fall poison-drops

inside through roof ventilation,

this is twisted hall

of serpents (with) backbones.

Comments and explanations




Ná-strönd = Corpse-shore.




The roof ventilations let out the fires smoke and let light in.

undinn = p.p. vinda = ‘twist, plait (roughly)’




I see a hall standing

far from the sun

in Náströnd,

all its doors face North,


drops of poison fall

inside through roof ventilation,

this hall is roughly plaited

with serpent backbones..



Stanza 39


Old Norse


39. Sá hon þar vaða

þunga strauma

menn meinsvara

oc morðvarga,

oc þannz annars glepr



þar saug Niðhöggr

nái framgengna,

sleit vargr vera -


Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?

Literal translation


Sees she there to wade

(in) heavy streams

people perjurer ones

and criminal-monsters,

and who of others wheedles

ear-secret wives;


There sucked Niðhöggr

‘at’ the corpse of the dead ones

slit a wolf/monster human ones -


You know still, and what?

Comments and explanations



The action probably takes place on Náströnd, Corpse-Shore.


  mein-svari= bad-oath (perjury)

“morðvargr= criminal-wolf, where morð indicates who committed a particularly infamous crime (for example, killing a defenseless enemy), and vargr = wolf or monster.






She sees here wading

in heavy streams

a crowd of perjurers

and criminal monsters,

and who wheedles

entrusted wives;


There Niðhöggr sucked

the dead corpse,

a monstrous wolf

carved human bodies up. -


You want to know more, and what?




The word eyrarúna, meaning wifeis composed of eyra = ear, and rún = rune or secrecy. In this way of speech, a wife’s ear hosts all kind of secrecies. To wheedle such a woman is not only adultery but treason since she may in good faith provide crucial information. This aspect is not rendered in traditional translations, such as “tempting beloved ones.”


Nið-höggr = Nið-högg- ormr = of the bottom-viper. This is the dragon, or the snake that lives in the roots of Yggdrasill of which it prevents the growth.

It is called usually Níð-höggr = hatred-he strikes .'




Stanza 40


Old Norse


40. Austr sat hin aldna

í Iárnviði

oc fœddi þar

Fenris kindir;


verðr af þeim öllom

einna noccorr

tungls tiúgari

í trollz hami.

Literal translation


To the East sits the she old one

in Ironwood

and (she) feeds there

Fenrir’s kindred;


becomes of them all

one main

of the lamp (moon) the pitch-fork

in of a troll shape/skin.


Comments and explanations


This old woman must be the Giantess who begot with Loki: the wolf Fenrir and Hel. Hel is the godess of the place where stay human ones who have not been chosen, neither by Freyja nor by Óðinn.

The opposition between iron and wood exists in Old Norse: jarn = iron, viðr = wood. The translation forest of ironis not faulty, but does not render the oxymoron in a wood of iron’.'

For the Norse, the ‘lamp of the sky’ is not the sun but the moon.

The ‘lamp’ of the sky is the moon.




tranlation note : einna is not a feminine singular accusative, which would eina. Einna the plural génitive of einn used as an intensive: “this ‘one’ overall.”



An old woman sits to the East

and she feeds there

Fenrir’s kindred;


The main of them all

will become,

in the skin of a troll,

the pitch-fork of the moon.


tiúgari = pitchfork, hayfork. This ‘main one’ will catch the moon, as hay with a pitchfork, to remove it from the celestial canopy.

Note that the text does not describe this action as a destruction but as a removal.


This hayfork user is undoubtedly Fenrir which is the most spectacular of Loki’s children. To carry out his deed, he will have to slip into a Giant’s skin in order to magically acquire his strength (and to be able to handle a hayfork).

Translating here hamr by ‘shapeinstead of ‘skinis not false but it underscores the inversed analogy of a human one slipping a wolf skin in order to become a hugely strong werewolf.


Stanza 41


Old Norse


41. Fylliz fiörvi

feigra manna,

rýðr ragna siöt

rauðum dreyra;


svort verða sólscin

of sumor eptir,

veðr öll válynd –


Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?

Literal translation


It fills itself fully with the life

of dying (‘fated-to-death’) human ones,

it reddens of the gods the dwelling

with red blood ;


black becomes sunshine

of summers after

winds all shifty -


You know still, and what?

Comments and explanations


In this comment, the sign (B) indicates that the word just before are those of Boyer’s translation (p. 543 of his ‘Edda poétique’).


This ‘itmust again point at Fenrir.  

The word fjör (singular dative fjörvi) means ‘lifeand not ‘flesh’ (B) or any other physical body part. “To fill oneself up with life” evokes more a magic operation, such as slipping into a Giant’s skin, than jaws slapping.




Fenrir fills itself up with

the dying ones’ life,

the gods’ dwelling reddens

with red blood ;


black becomes sunshine

of the following summers

all shifty become the winds -


You want to know more, and what?

Inversely, the red gore is very material. Fenrir is a being more complex than a famished wolf.


The word sjót or sjöt, does not mean seat’, as a chair (B), but seatas the residence of an abstract entity (e.g. the seat of a company).Here, it points at a dwelling (or a group of human).


The last line does not mean that storms are terrifying(B) but that the winds are unforeseeable


What brings back Ragnarök to a natural disaster can only denature it and evoke well-known phenomena in the present world.


Stanza 42


Old Norse


42. Sat þar á haugi

oc sló hörpo

gýgiar hirðir,

glaðr Eggþér;


gól um hánom

í gálgviði

fagrrauðr hani,

sá er Fialarr heitir.

Literal translation


Sat there on a burial mound

and stroke the harp

of the witches/ogresses shepherd,

the merry Eggþér, Servant of Sword-Edge;


cawed (shouted/-sung) above him

in gallows-wood

beautiful-red rooster

who Fjalarr (Of the Cliff) is named.

Comments and explanations



Eggþér is not sitting on a simple mound but on burial one (haugr). He is no ordinary guard but a shepherd (hirðir).



egg-þér possibly comes from an Anglo-Saxon influence. ON Egg is the edge of a sword but þér in personal pronouns meaning ‘them’.




Note : in the sixth line, Dronke explains the version gáLGviði .

The more classical reading is ‘gaGLviði’ =goose-wood.



Merry Eggþér, Servant of Sword-Edge

shepherd of the witches,

sat there on a burial mound

and stroke the harp;


a beautiful-red rooster

who is named Fjalarr

loudly sung above him

in gallows-wood


The name of Beowulf’s father, Ecg-þeow, means in Old English: ‘edge-sword–servant’.



Fjalarr = ‘him from the cliff’ or ‘him pelt-wrapped’.



On the first three lines of stanza 42


Stanza 41 takes place in the world of the Gods and mankind. Stanza 42 carries us to Giant world. The last happens as well in the poem Skírnis för(Skírnir’s travel) since Skírnir is used as intercessor between Freyr and his beloved, Giantess Gerðr. This poem describes his journey. The prose comment, inserted between s. 10 and s. 11), explains that he at first observes that “fehirðir sat á haugi(a shepherd was sitting on a burial mound). In stanza 42, we see that, in the same way, sat þar á haugi … hirðir.” Besides being as well-known encircled by a fire, Giant world seems characterized by an entrance kept by a shepherd sitting on a burial hillock.


Stanza 43


Old Norse


43. Gól um ásom


sá vecr hölða

at Herjaföðrs;


enn annarr gelr

fyr iörð neðan,

sótrauðr hani,

at sölom Heliar.

Literal translation


Cawed (shouted-sung) around Æsir


such that wakens chiefs

at Armies-father’s (Herjaföðr) place;


but another caws (shouts-sings)

before earth below,

soot-red rooster

in the halls of Hel.

Comments and explanations


Armies should wake up at rooster crowing.





Two diferent roosters wake up the two opposed armies.





Gold-comb loudly

sung over the Æsir

so as it awakes the chiefs

at Armies-father’s place;


but another loudly sings

below under the earth,

a soot-red rooster

in the halls of Hel.










Hel is the residence of those who did not die in combat. Hel is also the name of the Goddess who reigns in Hel




Stanza 44


Old Norse


44. Geyr Garmr miöc

fyr Gnipahelli,

festr mun slitna,

enn freki renna;


fiölð veit hon frœða,

fram sé ec lengra

um ragna röc,

römm, sigtýva.

Literal translation


Barks Garmr much

in front of Gnipahellir,

links become slit/broken

and freki (the wolf) (will) run;


much knows she knowledge,

in front see I far

‘around’ of the gods fate,

robust, winning powers.





Loudly barks Garmr

in front of Gnipahellir,

the links begin to break

and Fenrir wolf will soon run;


she knows much of everything,

I see far what is in stock

of the gods fate,

robust, winning powers.

Comments and explanations


Garmr = Dog, the name of a huge dog, guard of Hel.


Gnipahellir = Open Rock, the opening leading to Hel.


The bonds that are breaking are the magic chains binding Fenrir wolf. Ragna röc begins when Fenrir is released from its chains.


Ragnais the plural genitive of regin: divine powers, Heathen gods.


Völuspá way of speech: ‘ragna rök’, became the modern academic way of pointing at the doom of the gods. The word ‘rök’ means cause, marvelous sign, life, destiny '. The currently accepted translation of ragnarök is something like ‘divine powers’ destiny’.


Snorri had adopted a different spelling, found in his Edda: rökr where the final R is not a mark of nominative as it often is, it belongs to the radical part of this word. For once, it has one meaning only, that of twilight’. Hence Snorri speaks of a the twilight of the divine powers’ and Wagner followed this trend when speaking of the Twilight of the Gods’.



Stanza 45


Old Norse


45. Brœðr muno beriaz

oc at bönum verðaz,

muno systrungar

sifiom spilla;


hart er í heimi,

hórdómr mikill,

sceggöld, scálmöld,

scildir ro klofnir,

vindöld, vargöld,

áðr verold steypiz;


mun engi maðr

öðrom þyrma.

Literal translation


Brothers will strike

and both dead become,

will cousins

family relations spoil;


hard and sad is on earth

adultery much,

times of beard/halberd, times of sword,

shields are cleaved

windy times, monstrous times

until the world crashes down;


will no human being

at another respect.

Comments and explanations



Law did not accept weddings between parents to less the 5th degree. The poem states that marriages will happen between less distant cousins, and that is called here adultery '. In this Heathen world, ‘adultery’ does not mean a doctrinal prohibition but a taboo intended to maintain family coherence (spoiled by the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th degree ‘cousins’ who married).





No one will respect anyone.




Brothers will strike each other

and both will die,

cousins will

spoil family relations;


hard and sad is life on earth

large amount of adultery,

halberd times, sword times,

shields are cleaved

windy times, monstrous times

until the world crashes down;


no human being

will respect another one.



Stanza 46


Old Norse


46. Leica Míms synir,

enn miötuðr kyndiz

at ino gamla



hátt blæss Heimdallr,

horn er á lopti,

mælir Óðinn

við Míms höfuð;

Literal translation


Play/Move about Mímir’s sons,

and measure ruler burns

at him (= when resounds) old

Gjallahorn ;


up blows Heimdallr,

the horn is aloft,

speaks Óðinn

with Mímir’s head ;.

Comments and explanations


Mímir = a wise Giant, guardian of knowledge. His sons: perhaps the Giants who start moving to join the battle.


Miötuðr can take, as in s. 2, a meaning of Anglo-Saxon origin (see s. 2) ‘ruler of the measureor the one the ‘destiny measure’ (if we read uðr = Urðr). In s. 2 it cannot be something else than a heiti for Yggdrasill.


Gjalla-horn = shout/song- horn.

Old or ancient qualifies Gjallarhorn and its sound indicates that destiny will start blazing up, physically and metaphorically wise.








Mímir’s sons move about,

and the measure ruler burns

while old Gjallahorn ;

loudly resounds.


up blows Heimdallr,

the horn is aloft,

Óðinn speaks

with Mímir’s head ;.

Dronke translates miötuðr by fate’s measure . C-V. suggests that the varation from s. 2, miötviðr, to s. 46 miötuðr, is a simple copyist mistake.

Since C V ‘forgetsthe precise meaning of miötviðr: tree of measure,” he tries to allot this name to Heimdallr. It is true that speaking of Gjallahorn looks like alluding to Heimdallr, and the next line cites him. Dronke’s translation shows however that modern interpretations dropped this assumption due to Bergmann, the first translator in French of the Eddas, in the years 1850.


A follow up to this discussion appears in s 57.


Stanza 47


Old Norse


47. Scelfr Yggdrasils

ascr standandi,

ymr iþ aldna tré,

enn iötunn losnar;


hræðaz allir

á helvegom,

áðr Surtar þann

sefi of gleypir.

Literal translation


Shakes of Yggdrasill

ash standing,

moans him old tree,

the Giant gets loose ;


fear all

on hel-ways,

until Surtr that

soothes ‘of’ swallows.

Comments and explanations





This Giant is the wolf Fenrir.


Surtr is fire. It swallows (burns) as long as ‘all that’ (Yggdrasill and/or the way of Hel) will not have fulfilled his hunger (by burning everything).




Yggdrasill ash

shakes, (still) standing,

the old tree moans,

the Giant gets loose;


all are scared

on the ways to Hel,

until Surtr soothes

while swallowing all that.




Stanza 48


Old Norse


48. Hvat er með ásom,

hvat er með álfom?

gnýr allr iötunheimr,

æsir ro á þingi;


stynia dvergar

fyr steindurom,

veggbergs vísir –


Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?

Literal translation


48. What is with Æsir

what is with elves ?

resounds all giant-home,

Æsir are on a thing;


groan Dwarves

before their stone-doors,

at wall-rock they point.


You know still, and what?

Comments and explanations




A thing (þing) is a meeting where the powerful ones decide of political or judicial matters.


Dwarves are visibly afraid and they hide behind their walls.




What about the Æsir

what about the elves ?

all giant-home rings,

Æsir are holding a thing;


Dwarves groan

in front of their doors of stone,

they point at their rocky walls.


You want to know more, and what?


49 = 44.




Stanza 50


Old Norse


50. Hrymr ecr austan,

hefiz lind fyrir,

snýz iörmungandr

í iötunmóði;


ormr knýr unnir,

enn ari hlaccar,

slítr nái neffölr,

Naglfar losnar.

Literal translation


50. Hrym arrives from the East,

he has of shield of lime before,

Jörmungandr twists

in the fury of giants;


the worm (dragon) strikes waves ,

the eagle screems,

tears corpses, beak-pale,

Naglfar is loose.

Comments and explanations


Hrym = old weakened Giant.


Jörmungandr is the serpent-dragon that circles Miðgarðr.

A “Giant fury” points at a behaviour typical of them, that is a blind and erratic anger.


read: “the eagle… beak-pale…” as “the eagle with a pale beak.”


Naglfar = Nail-ship is a gigantic ship made of the dead ones’ nails.




Hrym arrives from the East,

before him he carries a shield of lime,

Jörmungandr twists

in the fury of giants;


the worm (dragon) strikes waves,

pale beak eagle screems,

he tears corpses,

(and) Naglfar is loose.





Stanza 51


Old Norse


51. Kjóll ferr austan,

koma muno Muspellz

um lög lýðir,

enn Loki stýrir;


fara fífls megir

með freca allir,

þeim er bróðir

Býleiptz í for.

Literal translation


A ship fares from East,

come would they Muspell’s

by the sea people

and Loki steers;


fare the madman’s large ones

with greedy one all,

they are brothers

of Býleistr in the travel.

Comments and explanations


Mus-spell may mean: earth-destruction”

We read here : “Muspell’s … people »




Býleistr is known as Loki’s. Here, he seems to be Loki himself..




A ship fares from East,

Muspell’s people

would come by sea,

and Loki steers;


the madman’s giants all fare

with the greedy one,

they are Býleistr’s brothers

in this travel.

Freki is the name of the one of the of Óðinn’s dogs but the word frekiespecially means greedy, gluttonousand can point at various characters according to the context.


We meet here a ‘fool, a madman’ and a ‘greedy one’ who may point at the same character, Loki. My feeling is that the ‘greedy one’ could well be Loki, greedy to revenge from what he suffered from the Æsir. Surtr would then rather be the ‘madman’ here since he is the fire that will eat up everything the Æsir’s world was standing for.

The ‘fífls megir’ are then Fire-Giants who travel with Loki.



Stanza 52


Old Norse


52. Surtr ferr sunnan

með sviga lævi,

scínn af sverði

sól valtíva;


griótbjörg gnata,

enn gífr rata,

troða halir helveg,

enn himinn klofnar.

Literal translation


Surtr fares from the South

with of sticks the bane,

the shine of a sword

sun of Valtýr ;


rocks hit

and monsters travel

walk human ones hel-way

and the sky cleaves.

Comments and explanations


Surtr is the name of the main Giant of fire.


bane of sticks = fire


the shine Valtýr’s sword (is) the sun.


Valtýr = Týr of death = Surtr (plausibly).





Surtr fares from the South

with the bane of sticks (fire),

the shine of a sword

(becomes) Valtýr’s sun;


rocks hit one another

and monsters travel

mankind walks on the way to Hel

and the sky cleaves.












« mankind walks on the way to Hel » = people die by the score.


Stanza 53


Old Norse

53. Þá kømr Hlínar

harmr annarr fram,

er Óðinn ferr

við úlf vega,

enn bani Belia

biartr, at Surti;


þá mun Friggiar

falla angan.

Literal translation


Then comes (towards) Hlín

harm other before,

he Óðinn fares

with the wolf fight,

and the killer of Beli (Freyr)

shiny, at Surtr ;


then the love of Frigg

falls, soft (of a sugary smell).

Comments and explanations


“then another tragedy comes in front of Hlín.” Hlín is another name of Frigg. Her first misfortune is her son’s, Balder, death. The second one is her husband’s, Óðinn, death.


Freyr is the shiny killer of Beli.


angan’ is a noun meaning “sweet smell”: Óðinn is Frigg’s sweetheart.




Then comes facing Hlín

another harm,

Óðinn fares to

fight the wolf,

and shiny Beli’s killer

fares to fight Surtr;


then falls the nice smelling

love of Frigg.

One of the keys to understanding the poem Skírnir’s Journey is that Freyr’s sweetheart, Giantess Gerðr, had her brother killed by Freyr. This key role is explained at http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/SkirnisforTale.ht


Snorri tells us that Beli has been killed with an antler because he had to give his sword to Skírnir. All this interestingly hints at the existence of a lost myth of “Beli’s Death,” though it his hopeless to attempt recreating it and its heroes.




54 = 44




Stanza 55


Old Norse


55. Þá kømr inn micli

mögr Sigföður,

Víðarr, vega

at valdýri;


Lætr hann megi Hveðrungs

mund um standa

hiör til hiarta,

þá er hefnt föður.

Literal translation


Then comes him great

son of Sigfaðir,

Víðarr, to fight

against the vulture.


He lets him (to the) son of Hveðrung

with (his) hand to stand

a sword until heart,

thus he avenges (his) father.

Comments and explanations


Sigfaðir = Óðinn. His son is here Víðarr.


The vulture = the wolf = Fenrir who killed Óðinn as said in s. 53. Now, s. 55 says that Vidarr kills Fenrir.


We read: “He lets … standa” = he sets.

Hveðrungr is a Giant name, here Loki, and Fenrir is his son.




Then arrives the great

son of Sigfaðir,

Víðarr, to fight

against the vulture.


He sets in Hveðrung’s son,

with his hand

a sword until the heart,

thus he avenges his father.




Ragnarök obviously is a cosmic event. Fenrir’s death is nevertheless described by a classical image, the one of sword driven until heart in Fenrir’s chest.



Stanza 55


Old Norse


55’. Gínn lopt yfir

lindi iarðar,

gapa ýgs kiaptar

orms í hæðom;


mun Óðins sonr

eitri mœta

vargs at dauða

Víðars niðja.

Literal translation


Huge mouth up in the air

buckle of earth,

gapes (of) dreadlful jaws

of the worm in the heights.


he will Óðinn’s son (Þórr)

with poison meet

of monster to die

Víðarr’s family (the Æsir).

Comments and explanations


55' : This stanza has been newly discovered , this is why I call it 55'. Dronke did not consider it.





‘Buckle of earth’ gapes,

its mouth up in the air

the worm’s dreadlful jaws

are high up.


He will Óðinn’s son (Þórr) meet

the poison of the monster

when Víðarr’s family (the Æsir)

will die.





Stanza 56


Old Norse


56. Þá kømr inn mœri

mögr Hlöðyniar,

gengr Óðins sonr

við orm úlf vega,


drepr hann af móði

Miðgarðz véor,


Muno halir allir

heimstöð ryðia,


gengr fet nío

Fiörgyniar burr

neppr frá naðri

níðs óqvíðnom.

Literal translation


Then comes him famous

son of Hlódyn (Þórr)

he goes Óðinn’s son

against worm-wolf to fight.


strikes him in rage

Miðgarðr’s defender (Þórr)


- Must mankind all

(their) dwelling empty, -


he (Þórr) goes of feet nine

Fjörgyn’s descendant

weakened from the serpent

of shame non-fearing.

Comments and explanations



Hlóðyn = Stormy = Earth, Þórr’s mother.


worm = dragon, wolf = monster.

It certainly points at Jörmungandr.


Véorr = Þórr (Lex. Poet.). Véor = defender.




Fjörgyn = Earth.




Then comes famous

Hlódyn’s son, Þórr,

who, being Óðinn’s son,

will fight the monstrous dragon.


Þórr, Miðgarðr’s defender,

strikes in a fit of anger


- the whole mankind must

empty their dwelling, -


he (Þórr) goes nine feet

off Fjörgyn’s descendant,

weakened by the serpent

he has no reason for shame.


Þórr dies, poisoned by the dragon venom.


Þórr backs up nine feet away from the serpent. He is weakened by its poison – which starts to kill him. He his not afraid of any kind of shame since he has been killing it. -




Stanza 57


Old Norse


57. Sól tér sortna,

sígr fold í mar,

hverfa af himni

heiðar stjörnor;


geisar eimi

við aldrnara,

leicr hár hiti

við himin siálfan.

Literal translation


Sun shows to blacken

sinks earth in the sea

swirl (or disappear) in the sky

shiny stars.


rage the fumes

along ancient-fosterer

plays high the heat

until sky itself.

Comments and explanation


“Earth sinks in the sea” is obviously a sailor’s metaphor, “the ship is sinking.” Dronke very aptly reminds that this image is very seldom used in mythology documents. You need a sailor people to look at the earth as being a kind of ship sailing through the universe.



aldr = ancient, nári = fosterer, though we could also suppose a link with nara = “going on living  while being near death.”




Sun shows blackening

earth sinks in the sea

swirl in the sky

the shiny stars.


rage the fumes

along Ancient-fosterer

(Yggdrasill burning)

the heat plays high

up to the sky itself.



We do not really know who this “ancient fosterer” though all dictionaries understand it as ‘fire, flames’, which is possible in a context different from Völuspá’s (see comment below). This why I will have to explain below why I translate it as “Yggdrasill burning.”




Comments on 57


Here are translations of the last 4 lines of this stanzas as suggested by the three academic translators.



Dronke s. 54

(who changed stanza ordering)

Fume rages against fire,

fosterer of life,


the heat soars high

against heaven itself.

Orchard s. 57


Flame flickers up

against the world-tree;


fire flies high

against heaven itself.

Boyer s. 57


Rage the fires,

Roar the flames.

(‘Ronflent les flammes’)

An intense heat

Plays until the sky.


You see that Dronke and Orchard translate við invið aldrnara” as ‘against’, its usual meaning.

Dronke provides the other name of ‘fire’, i. e. “fosterer of life” as a qualifier for ‘fire’. In many contexts this would be quite possible (as told in Hávamál s. 68 “fire is the best for men”, upon which her argument stands). Nevertheless, in a context where the god of fire, Surtr, swoops down on our universe in order to burn it, this understanding is at least hazardous and would describe a situation illustrating more the Cathar beliefs than the ones of ancient Scandinavia.

Boyer entirely forgets við and invents a “roar (the flames)” so as avoiding this embarrassing “against” and nevertheless preserving the four lines structure of the last half-stanza.


Of course, the nature of this “ancient fosterer” (or, possibly ‘ancient hard-to-die one’ since stanza 47 says that it is still upright) that is aflame carries a deep meaning. As Orchard, I think that it points at an Yggdrasill’s tree completely disappearing during Ragnarök. The völva obviously is focused on the Gods’ fate and she sends humankind to a mass extinction towards Helheim, as stated by s. 52: “mankind walks on the way to Hel,” with no other detail given.

There fortunately exists another source, one as reliable as Völuspá: Vafþrúðnismál. In its stanza 44, Óðinn asks Vafþrúðnir who of humankind will survive to Ragnarök and he calls them fírar (humankind) et maðr (a human person, here given under the form manna, its plural genitive). It is therefore clear that Óðinn points at humankind and not at any God. Vafþrúðnir answers that two of them will survive, namely Líf (Life) and Lífþrasir (‘Life-greedy’) [note 1] since adjective  þrási  means ‘greedy’. They will hide among the bushes (or wood) of Hoddmímir (hodd = treasure, here Mímir’s wisdom). Their food will “morning dew” and they will there produce the (next) generations.

Using both Vafþrúðnismál and Völuspá we understand that the Æsir will be broken by Nature’s strength but also that the human race will not disappear. At Yggdrasill’s base exists a zone for rescue and wisdom (Mímir’s spring) where life and wisdom (hence, in an ancient Norse context, magic as well) will be preserved after Ragnarök occurred.


[note 1] Readers can be curious to know who is wife an who is husband in this regenerative couple. I cannot say more that an ‘ir’ ending usually denotes a masculine word. As for Lif, it can be linked to the word líf (life – a neuter) or with word lifr (liver, a feminine word). Life would then be the name of the female and Life-greedy the one of the male.


Moreover, Dronke does not accept that Yggdrasill is the aldrnari because s. 46 and 47 tell us that Yggdrasill is aflame and groans and, according to her, that would imply that 46 and 47 already described its destruction. We can reply that, due to Yggdrasill’s high mythical value, it is not surprising that its destruction is three times hinted at.

But this initiates another debate. Ragnarök starts with a the Giants’ attack, and they will destroy the foundation of our universe, Yggdrasill. However, Giants’ residence, Jötunheim, is a part of this universe… what will be of them after Ragnarök? Our poem hardly worries about the Giants’ destiny and the simplest answer is that they also will disappear. It then seems that they have launched a kamikaze attack the Æsir’s world, didn’t they?

Humankind is nevertheless preserved


58 = 44.





After Ragnarök, Gimlé

The last eight stanzas (59-66)



These last eight stanzas raised many problems because many state that a large Christian influence is obvious within them. I give you below initially two recent translations, followed by a literal translation with added notes.


1. Two recent translations by American academics



Ursula Dronke, a relentless promoter of Christianity in her comments though impeccably academic in her translations (Poetic Edda vol. II, Clarendon Press, 1997).

Andy Orchard, the most recent translation of poetic Edda, not expensive and very precise. (The Elder Edda, Penguin Classic, 2011)


In the translations, notation X/Y means: “The Norse word is translated either by X or by Y”






She sees come up

a second time

earth out of the ocean

once again green.

The waterfalls flow,

an eagle flies over,

in the hills

hunting fish.



 She sees rising

a second time

the earth from the ocean,


the cataracts tumble,

an eagle flies above,

hunting fish

along the fell.





Æsir meet

on Eddying plains,

and discourse on the mighty

enmesher of earth,

and call to mind there,

the momentous judgements

and the Gigantine God’s

ancient runes.



The Æsir come together

on Action-field,

and pass judgement on the powerful earth-coil,

and commemorate there

the mighty events,

and the ancient runes

of Potent-god.





Dronke sees a nominative iða = swirl; Orchard sees a genitive of ið, iða. The difference between the two are explained in s. 7.

Iðavöllr is a traditional place of gathering of Æsir, a plain placed at the center of their fortress in Ásgarðr.



There will be once more

the miraculous

golden checkers

be found, in the grass

those that in the old days

they had owned.



Afterwards there will be found, wondrous,

golden gaming-pieces

in the grass,

those which in ancient days

they had owned.





Höðr killed Baldr under the influence Loki.

Hroptr, can be “the Crier", always names Óðinn.


[Note that the völva obviously begins to get tired of Óðinn’ questions.]




Without sowing

cornfields will grow-

all harm will be healed,

Baldr will come.

They inhabit, Höðr and Baldr,

Hroptr’s walls of triumph,

gods of the sanctuary.


Do you still seek to know? And what?



All unsown

the fields will grow,

all harm will be healed,

Baldr will come;

Höd and Baldr will inhabit Hropt's victory-halls,

sanctuaries of the slain-gods:


do you know yet, or what?






Then Hœnir picks out

the twig of augury,

and sons of the two brothers

set up their home

in the wide wind realm.


Do you still seek to know? And what?



Then Hœnir shall choose

the wooden lots,

and the sons of two brothers

build dwellings

in the wide wind-home:


do you know yet, or what?







Hœnir is a name of dubious etymology. In stanza 18, “óð gaf Hœnir” (Hœnir gave intelligence) to the first human beings, Ask and Embla. The substantive óðr, here in the accusative, means ‘intelligence’. Independently, the adjective óðr means furious and is the base of Óðinn’s name, ‘The Furious One’.




A hall she sees standing,

brighter than the sun,

roofed with gold,

on Refuge from the Flames.

There shall the worthy

warrior bands dwell

and all their days of life

enjoy delight.




She sees a hall standing,

more beautiful than the sun,

better than gold,

at Gimlé.

Virtuous folk

shall live there,

and enjoy pleasure

the live-long day.





A tentative etymology for Gimlé is gim-hlé, where gim = jewel/fire; hlé = shelter. Dronke comments on Gimlé possibly being a shelter against the flames of the Christian hell (?).




Not translated


[65.Then there comes the mighty one down from above,

the strong one, who governs everything, to powerfulness.]





Dronke leaves out the stanza known as 65th because she believes it to be a late Christian addition. Orchard puts it in between square brackets to indicate that this stanza is of disputable authenticity.




There comes the shadowy

dragon flying,

glittering serpent, up

from Dark of the Moon Hills.

He carries in his pinions

-he flies over the field-

Malice Striker, corpses.


Now will she sink.



Then there comes there the dark

dragon flying,

the glittering snake up

from Moon-wane-hills,

it bears in its wings

- and flies over the plain;

Dead bodies : Spite-striker.


Now she must sink.






Niðafiöllom: nið = the waning moon, fjall = cliff, mountain. Can thus mean: “the falls or mountain of the waning moon.”

níð-högg = insult-stroke/slaughter. Can thus mean: “insult that strikes/slaughters.”



(almost) Litteral translation



Old Norse

Literal pseudo English




Sér hon upp koma

öðro sinni

iörð ór ægi


falla fossar,

flýgr örn yfir,

sá er á fialli

fisca veiðir.



She goes up

other oneself

earth out of the ocean

very green;

fall waterfalls

flies the eagle above

on/near the cliff

the fish it hunts.






öðro sinni: “another oneself,” we could say ‘regenerated’. In the above translations it is rendered by “a second time.”

iðja - intensive prefix, ‘very’.

foss = modal of fors = waterfall.



Finnaz æsir

á Iðavöllr




og um moldþinur


mátcan, dœma

oc minnaz þar

á megindóma

oc á Fimbultýs

fornar rúnar.


Have just met the æsir

on Iðavöllr

[Dronke: Swirl-Meadow ]

[Orchard: Action-field]

[here, s 7: Fulfillments Plain]

and about ground-pine_tree OR ground-rope

                          [Yggdrasill OR Jörmungandr ]

powerful, judge/chat

and recall

of the great judgments

and on Fimbultýr’s

ancient runes.





Iða = swirl, völlr = field/meadow, dat. sing. and accusative plur: velli. The accusative implies a movement.

mold = earth/soil.

About þinurr: in the traditional translations (as Dronke’s and Orchard’s), the translators read ‘þinull” = a rope bordering a net and this leads to Jörmungandr. The word itself þinurr = a pine-tree, and this leads to Yggdrasill.

The word þinurr is here in the accusative (þinur), this is why one must allot to it the nominative þinurr. I tend to believe that the Heathen times readers were perfectly able to catch the pun implied by the confusion of these two characters of their mythology. This is why I preserve the two meanings in the literal translation.

Fimbul-Týr=Powerful-Týr (here: Týr = a god, in other contexts it can indicate a hero or human or, obviously, the god Týr himself).

rúnar = accusative plural of rún, rune.




Þar muno eptir


gullnar töflor

í grasi finnaz,

þærs í árdaga

áttar höfðo.


There will become later


the golden figures of tafl

in the grass they find,

those which in the old days

of the family they used






For this stanza, the word order is very different from ours. Read: “They find in the grass the marvelous golden figures of the game tafl, the family ones, which they used during ancient times.”

Töfl are the figures of a game called Tafl often translated by ‘chess’. It has been reconstituted in a tactical play of encirclement which looks more as Go game than chess.

hafa = to have/to use/(etc.), here in the plural preterit höfðu.



Muno ósánir

acrar vaxa,

böls mun allz batna,

Baldr mun koma;

búa þeir Höðr oc Baldr

Hroptz sigtóptir,

vel valtívar


vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?


They must not-sown

harvests to grow,

harm will all [all harm will] cure,

Baldr must come;

will live here Höðr and Baldr

of Hroptr victory-walls/sites,

of the great dead heroes.


Do you know more, or what?



Batna = to cure or ‘they cure’, what undergoes the cure is with the genitive like “allz böls .”

Hropts sigtoptir indicates Valhöll.

Valtívar = valley-tívar = death-gods = dead gods. Here, rather dead heroes. Understand: Höðr and Bald will join Valhöll.

ér vituð = you know.




Þá kná Hœnir

hlautvið kiósa,

oc byrir byggja

brœðra tveggja



vindheim víðan. -


Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?


Then Hœnir knows

sacrificial lots to choose (to draw)

and a favorable wind [ to settle,

(those) of the brothers both ]

[ OR:… they settle ]

those of the two brothers… ]

(in) the house of the large wind.


Do you (want to) know more, or what?





The genitive brœðra has no explicit noun to modify. This is why we have here a ‘those of’ to represent what is modified which implicitely is read as ‘children of’ or ‘family of’ or ‘allies of’.




The stanza is ambiguous. We cannot decide if

1. Hœnir knows how to draw the sacrificial lots and how to settle (byggja) a favorable wind. The two brothers’ parents settle (tveggja) in the house of the large wind.

2. Hœnir knows how to draw the sacrificial lots. The two brothers’ parents settle a favorable wind and they inhabit the house of the large wind.


Hlaut-viðr = sacrificial-wood/tree. ‘To choose’ means here to draw lots. The sacrificial lots are carved on a small wooden plank or a rod.

Bróðir (brother) does brœðra in the genitive plural case.


It is not obvious to understand wherefrom Dronke and Orchard’s “sons of two brothers” come except as a rendering of brœðra genitive plural grammatical case. I translated in an ambiguous way: “Those of the two brothers,” without saying who they are.

In this context, the two quoted brothers are certainly Höðr and Baldr appearing in stanza 62.

The drama of the fratricide concocted by Loki and carried out by Höðr is obviously a capital element around which our mythology and the gods’ örlög are hinged. This is not obvious to us because of our different religious and moral values.




Sal sér hon standa,

sólo fegra,

gulli þacþan

á Gimlé;

þar scolo dyggvar

dróttir byggja

oc um aldrdaga

ynðis nióta.


A hall sees she rising,

sun more shining (shinier than the sun)

with gold as a roof

on Gimlé (Protection from fire?);

To this place the faithful ones go

people to settle

and for always

of delight to benefit.





Fegri = comparative of fagr, beautiful.

Dyggvar = plural of dyygr meaning faithful/trusty. C.-V. who also specifies dyggvar dróttir = “worthy, good people”); (Lex. Poet.): aldyygr = fidelissimus, dyggleikr = fidelitas, and nevertheless dyggr = utilis, bonus, probus, præstans; de Vries: dyggr = ‘zuverlässig, brav’ (trustworthy, good). As a summary, we can state that dyggr means either ‘faithful or trustworthy’ (first meaning) or ‘worthy’ (second meaning, chosen by Dronke). It does not mean ‘virtuous’ (as Orchard’s). In the discussion below, my argument will be based on the meaning ‘faithful/trustworthy’. The meaning ‘good’ could be used also but my point which is the Heathens could be faithful to their gods would not apply.





Þá kømr inn ríki

at regindómi,

öflugr, ofan,

sá er öllo ræðr.

Literal translation

Then arrives him powerful

at the gods’ judgment,

magnificent, coming down,

who on all advises.

(reminder : Orchard’s translation)

[Then there comes the mighty one down from above,

the strong one, who governs everything, to powerfulness.]




regindómr: We noticed that Dronke did not translate s. 65 and we now observe that Orchard provides an original translation to regindómr : ‘powerfulness’. The meaning ‘last judgment’ is suggested in Cleasby-Vigfusson’s dictionary at word regin. This illustrates the fact that the 19th century scholars used to include purely Christian concepts to render Heathen ones. Regin means ‘the gods, the powers’. Dómr is the judgment or the destruction. Thus, regindómr is not compatible with Christian “last judgment.”

Boyer follows the tradition and he translates by ‘last judgment’ though he adds a comment: “This is probably a late Christian addition. It may however be about Alfödr.” Note that Alföðr (Óðinn) has just been killed thus it cannot be him.


All this can actually been understood as being purely Heathen. The Heathen oaths were uttered in front of Freyr, Njörðr and “inn almátki áss” (him, all-powerful of the Æsir) and this stanza could speak of his Heathen successor.


Verb ráða gives ræðr in the indicative present, 3rd person.




Þar kømr inn dimmi

dreki fliúgandi,

naðr fránn, neðan

frá Niðafiöllom;

berr sér í fiöðrom -

flýgr völl yfir -

Niðhöggr, nái.


Nú mun hon søcqvaz.


Here comes the dim one

dragon flying,

snake glimmering, up from below

from Waning-Moon Cliff (Niðafjöll);

it carries in its wings, -

it flies the meadow above -,

Insult-Stroke (Níðhöggr), corpses.


Now must she sink.




The four first lines are understood as follows: “Comes the flying dragon, the swarthy one, glimmering snake, it rises from Waning-Moon Cliff.”

The last three ones lines are read as follows: “Insult who Massacres (OR Serpent from below) flies above the plain. It carries corpses in its wings.” See in the comments of s. 19 for an explanation of the two names.

Note that in stanza 65 the “powerful one, who advises on all” goes down from the sky whereas, in 66, Niðhöggr arrives “from below” i.e. it goes up over the surface of the earth.

This is extremely striking when we remember that the eagle perched at the top of Yggdrasill, Hræsvelgr (Corpse-Swallower), and Níðhöggr hate each other. It seems that they made up in Gimlé or, else, that Niðhöggr (whose name no longer fits him) became a new Hræsvelgr since he carries corpses. Note that an extremely pagan character, namely Niðhöggr, joins Gimlé. He has been a chthonian character and he becomes now a celestial one. Once more, a Christian interpretation is possible though not at all compulsory.


This kind of reconciliation between the celestial forces and the chthonian ones must represent a pagan ideal of which we are hardly any more aware.


How to understand the composition of these stanzas?


The least we can say is that these stanzas appear disjointed, full of exaltation and sometimes hardly comprehensible. How to replace them in a Heathen context that provides some coherence, or at least explains the inconsistencies?

Let us start with inconsistencies relative to the spatial arrangement.

In stanza 60, the Æsir meet on Iðavöllr, i.e. in a valley at the center of the fortifications which enclose Miðgarð. As these stanzas describe a post Ragnarök situation, only the still living Æsir are involved. They remember their past and find back a source of their power, the ancient runes. In stanza 61, they find back their tafl game, which implies a capacity handling a warlike strategy. Stanzas 61 and 62 describe, apparently without change of place, several ‘miraculous’ innovations as Höðr and Baldr return. The second part of stanza 62 even specifies that they will live between walls that have belonged to Óðinn, undoubtedly Valhöll. We thus see in 62 an allusion to the fact that, eventually, everyone gathers in Valhöll, the dead warriors ‘pagan paradise’.

In stanza 63, the divine family (or at least “these of two brothers”) is/are established in the “house of the high wind.” We meet here a celestial allusion, which is obvious since Valhöll is always described as being a celestial residence. The kenning vindheim víðan of course may describe many celestial places but the context rather makes us think of Valhöll [and, as an aside, of Iceland one day of fairly strong wind, which is enough to make of it a genuine ‘kingdom of the winds’]. Not before stanza 64, we learn the name of this place, Gimlé, which thus appears to be a continuation or a new version of Valhöll. The condition to be admitted in Gimlé changed: warriors dead in combat are no longer welcome here and they are replaced by the “faithful people.” Each religion has its faithful ones and, be them Christian or Moslem or other, they will all feel concerned by stanza 65.

Here, the context is the one of Germanic Heathens’ faithful ones and, at this point, I’ll need to argue that such person indeed existed. I will thus provide two examples in the two additions below. The first is relative to facts (no theories) about Verden slaughter and second comes from Kormaks Saga.

I will add a humorous ‘tourist addition’ which illustrates well that the names of the places quoted in Völuspá are still used today in Swedish Scania and Denmark.



On Verden slaughter (782)


The Carolingian Chronicles [ref. 1] begin in 741 and as of 744, state: “Again…Pepin invades Saxony… “, i.e. an almost ceaseless war opposed the Franks and the Saxons as of 741. Let us pass over the many horrors managed by the two parts during this war and come to the Charlemagne enacted laws called Capitulatio of partibus Saxoniae [ ref.. 2]. They have been proclaimed on an unspecified date between 775 and 790. These laws describe a state of religious war between the Franks and the Saxons. For example, refusal to accept baptism or going on with pagan practices are punished by death.

In fact, during the Verden slaughter, Charlemagne does nothing but applying these laws. He applies them to 4500 prisoners of war known as the leaders of the revolt and of the return to paganism, which is spectacular, but perfectly in accordance with the law. These laws have indeed been promulgated by Charlemagne himself. He needed such an official backing to support his laws, in particular the one of the clergy, so that they could be accepted by the other Franks.

The Carolingian Chronicles describe many Saxon revolts that disavow the Christian faith and, at the same time, they declare their political independence and at once start warring against the Frankish domination. The war of religion thus doubles a territorial war, as we could expect. But all that could have remained a ‘simple’ territorial war. That it has been a religion war shows how much 8th century Germans still held to their gods.


[ ref. 1] Carolingian Chronicles, translation B W Scholz and B Rogers, Univ. Michigan Press, 1972.

[ ref. 2] Capitulatio of partibus Saxoniae (775-790), ed. Alfred Boretius, MGH Capitularia regum Francorum1 (Hannover 1883), p. 68-69.


Gautreks Saga


This saga is apparently the only one to describe a place called ‘Ætternisstapi’ = Family High Rock. This is a cliff from the top of which commentators claim that useless mouths, in particular old persons, have been thrown down. Obviously, this legend cannot be corroborated by archaeological discoveries, it is then mistrusted. In fact, Gautreks Saga does not describe what experts claim: it shows several cases where members of a family commit suicide from the top of this family rock.

The story is about a family the head of which is an old stubborn and full of pride character. In this story, people live afar in the middle of a forest, but do not know famine, each one seems to be in good health. Comes a king who lost his way and he frightens everyone by his warrior figure. This king humiliates several times the family head who, the following day when the king is gone away, decides to commit suicide. I suppose that he considered that he could not survive such a dishonor. He announces in this way his decision:

en ek ætla mér ok konu minni ok þræli til Valhallar. Má ek eigi þrælnum will betra launa sinn trúleika in hann fari með mér.

but I have the intention me and my wife and the þræll (of going) to Valhöll. I cannot better reward the þræll for his fidelity, than to have him traveling with me.


The word þræll indicates a ‘slave’ with the Scandinavian way, i.e. very integrated into the family life. To “take him along to Valhöll” it is not an ironic way to speak of a punishment: The head of the family wants to honor the þræll for his fidelity. The father divides his goods between his children and all the family goes to the Ætternisstapi.

óru þau öll upp á Gillingshamar, ok leiddu börnin föður sinn ok móður ofan to fyrir Ætternisstapa, ok fóru þau glöð ok kát til Óðins.

They went all in top to Gillinghammer, and the children led their father and their mother ‘down ahead’ the Family Rock, and they travelled happy and merry towards Óðinn.


The verb leiða regularly makes leiðu or leiddu in the preterit and means ‘to lead’ and not ‘to help’: the children lead their parents, they do not ‘help’ them, which could imply ‘to give a hand’ to commit suicide. The expression ofan fyrir expresses an action such as ‘swing over in order to fall’ but does not imply any ‘help’. By forcing the meaning of the words, we could nevertheless understand (just as many did) that the children pushed their parents from top of the rock in order to get rid of them. This contradicts the text stating that they left “happy and merry (glöð ok kát).” It is more reasonable to think than the children accompanied their parents at the place where the latter have ‘rocked over’.

There too, some are able to see a “Christian influence” as the martyrs merrily going ahead of their death. However, even if the author of the saga has been somewhat influenced, he describes a supremely un-Christian behavior: a suicide caused by an exacerbated pride.

Here thus is a very clear example of a passionate faith in Óðinn.


The touristic addition


We can find charts on the internet, which indicate in an extremely vague way the existence in Sweden of cities named Gimle, Valhall etc. But they are not precise enough to find our way to go there. Thus let us trust our modern Google-map and here is a route you can check without problem.

Departure from Gimle (Denmark - 40km West of Copenhagen) and join Valhall (Sweden), close to Angelholm by E20.

You will pass near Malmö on arriving in Sweden, and you will be able to take a right turn to Vanstad (City of Vanir, 65 km East of Malmö). It will be necessary for you to come back to Malmö, and take again E20 and to go to Valhall.

From there, take the 506 to join Gimlevägen (Gimle Road), 16km North of Valhall.

If you are really courageous, you can then continue towards North and join Vanhäll, far to the North-West of Stockholm.

More seriously from the tourist point of view, Vanstad is to 30 km west of Kivik, one of the most famous Neolithic sites of Sweden. A bit more to the south, find the site of Simris, rich in petroglyphs.



A trip to Æsir and Vanir, starting from Gimle (Denmark)




Now you have read the literal translation and you can know how much the translators interpreted in the sense of a Christian comprehension. I hope that you will agree with me that, obviously, a Christian influence is possible. I would even say that various influences, including the Christian one, but also continental Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, Latin are very probable: the skalds were knowledgeable people, certainly those who knew the most the cultural currents of their time, in Scandinavia. But Völuspá's Heathen grounds are what stand out of the poem the most, including in the eight last stanzas.

In particular, in a little unexpected way, the literal translation underlines two significant facts of Scandinavian Heathen spirituality. One is the need (we would qualify it nowadays as “nearly morbid”) to ensure the clan cohesion, by regarding fratricide an ultimate offence to the divinities and not as a ‘simple’ crime. The other is the need, less often underlined, to reconcile the celestial and chthonian forces.






Cleasby-Vifusson, « Icelandic-English dictionary », Clarendon 1874 – 2nd edition 1957 (reprint 1962).

De Vries, « Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch » Leiden 1961 (in German).

Svenbjörn Egilsson, « Lexicon Poëticum Antiquæ Linguæ Septentrionalis » (1860) (in Latin).

Snorri Sturluson, « Edda », Translation, A. Faulkes, Everyman 1987 (reprint 1995). Contains Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skaldskaparmal, Hattatal.

Snorri Sturluson, L'Edda, Translation F. X. Dillmann, Gallimard, 1991 Contains Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál Ch 1-7

Nordberg, Andreas,. ‘Continuity, Change and Regional Variation in OldNorse

Religion. In eds C. Raudvere and J. P. Schjødt More than Mythology: Narratives,


Andreas Nordberg, “Ritual Practices and Regional Distribution in Pre-Christian Scandinavian Religions” in “More than Mythology,” Nordic Academic Press, 2012. This paper presents the notion of “Christo-centricity.”



The Poetic Edda, Carolyne Larrington Translation, 1996, Oxford University Press

Norse Poems, W. H. Auden & P. B. Taylor, Faber and Faber, London 1986.

Hans Kuhn, Edda, Codex Regius, Vol. I. Texts; Vol. II. Short dictionnairy, Carl Winter, Heidelberg 1962.

L'Edda poétique, R. Boyer, Fayard, Paris 1992.

Die Edda, F. Genzmer, Eugen Diederichs, München 1992.

The Elder Edda, Andy Orchard, Penguin 2011.

The Poetic Edda Vol. II, Ursula Dronke, Clarendon 1997.