Völuspá - The prediction of the prophetess

Old Norse and English versions with commentaries

It is also supplemented, after the poem, by historical indications on Verden massacre and citations of Gautrek’s saga

and

Refutes 19 argument claiming a Christian influences, all due to academic specialists.

 

Here is an nth translation of Völuspá, a poem of poetic Edda. It is essentially different from the others in that it provides information on the suspicions of Christian influences associated to one or another of its stanzas ... and that it shows that, most often, these so-called suspicions are based on commonalities of words used in very different contexts in Völuspá and in the Christians texts supposed to have been inspiring it.

 

On ‘Christian influences’

 

It is clear that all the manuscripts of the poetic Edda were written in a social context where being Christian was compulsory and paganism banned. Their content has thus been more than less overseen by Church authorities. Looking for ‘Christian influences’ in these texts is to behave as a supposed civilization carrier sifting the good Christian wheat from the pagan chaff. Colonizers mistreated ‘prime’ civilizations in good conscience in the name of the intellectual superiority of European thought. Modern commentators looking for Christian influences in Eddic texts mistreat them by challenging their authenticity. For example, the myth of ‘Baldr’s death’ is classically supposed to have received a Christian influence due to his ‘obvious’ similarity with Christ and Frigg’s cries?  Indeed, Frigg cries for her bloody son. And his father also mourns his son - all this can reflect a Christian behavior. His father, however, has Baldr's assassin killed by another of his sons. Do you see there a negligible gory  heathenish detail to be carefully forgotten ?

More generally, recall the profusion of texts, mostly medieval ones, dealing with the problem of human destiny and the end of the world. This topic of thought  is called an “eschatology.” There are therefore many eschatologies, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist ones etc. each inspired by the worldview of the religion that produced it.

Völuspá describes an ancient Norse eschatology named ‘Ragnarök’, which means ‘the judgment of the powers’, better known thanks to Wagner under the name of ‘twilight of the gods’. But it can be noted immediately that the word ‘eschatology’ has just been improperly  used, since an eschatology deals with the destiny of humankind while Ragnarök deals with the destiny of ‘god-kind’. That is why it is not very logical to speak of a Norse eschatology. Anyhow, the vast majority of readers of ancient Norse texts live in true Christian eschatology and use it to understand a Norse ‘non-eschatology’. It is not surprising that they find there a multitude of what they feel as Christian-likeness they call ‘influence’. Already in Völuspá s. 1 we will meet such a misunderstanding with the word spjall that we translate like everyone else by ‘knowledge’, whereas its real meaning is closer to ‘incantation’ or ‘saying’.

Another famous example of an ill-treated Norse word is the one of ‘siðr’ that we translate as ‘religion’ (alternatively, we could also say that the word ‘religion’ does not exist in Old Norse). In fact, ‘siðr’ refers to a custom or a behavior rather than religion, by which the old religion is called forn siðr and the new one became nýr siðr (Christian ‘religion’). Old custom describes old behaviors rather than faith. This is why the dates of Christianization (when words have taken their Christian meaning) of a country are much later than those of the corresponding conversion (when speaking is still a pagan one). This also explains why it so easy to misunderstand the content of Völuspá.

 

 This poem is the one that raised the largest suspicion concerning ‘Christian influences’. Quite often these accusations are uttered as insults, which does not lead to honest discussion. It turns out that a fairly recent book, The Nordic Apocalypse, edited by Terry Gunnell and Annette Lassen (2013), took stock of these influences. All the articles in this book, except the one of Lassen (who exposes a history of the past scholarly reactions to this poem) and Gunnell (who describes how the poem could be declaimed and 'played'), have explicitly taken a stand in favor of the existence of these influences. We thus have here a sort of academic summary of the positions of these supporters of influences, which enables a calm discussion that has been undertaken in parallel to a personal translation of the poem. To avoid lengthy references repetition, a special form of quotation is used here: Author name (GL 2013, pp. Number of the pages cited). For example, Gunnell's poetic contribution would be presented as: Gunnell (GL 2013, pp. 70-72). In order not to confuse this discussion with those related to the translation itself, they are framed in a visible way below the corresponding stanza, as below a particularly complicated argumentation that will be further detailed:

 

 

Ursula Dronke (1997, pp. 99-104) studied the possibility of Christian influences linked to similarities between Völuspá and the Sibylline Oracles, very popular in the Middle Ages ...

but Karl G. Johansson (GL 2013, pp. 161-184) disputed some of her points and he refined Dronke's analysis using the Tiburtine Oracle ...

but Stephen J. Shoemaker (ref: http in bibliography), reports that many modifications to the known texts of the Oracles of Tibur are in progress.

This ends up having no more interest than a discussions on the gender of angels.

 

A few words on presentation and translation

 

A personal presentation of Hávamál (available on Akademia.edu) 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 several scholars (see the 2nd interlude associated to s. 21). On the contrary, and relatively recently, Völuspá became for most people a very Christianized piece of lore, yet another incredible miracle.

 

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 ‘de Vries’), 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 IRREGULAR VERBS .

 

Some useful preliminary explanations

 

 

A prophetess was called a völva that gives völu in the singular genitive: this is the “völuin völuspá (‘spá of a völva’). 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 seiðr 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 sat) 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 the word god will never carry a capital letter in order to differentiate it 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 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.

 

VÖLUSPÁ

(The Seeress Prophecy)

 

 

Old Norse (ON) from the Codex Regius

Litteral meaning followed by an English translation

Comments

 

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? It normally means ‘most future’,  i. e. here: ‘all of them’

 

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.

 

 

In the first line, the fact of “begging for listening” from her audience instead of imposing silence to them illustrates a typical Norse behavior that - with all due respect to the poet and the völva- indicates a form of modesty often absent among the religion preachers.

Spjall is indeed ‘a knowledge, a saying’ in our civilization, but it also carries the meaning of magical incantation in Old Norse.

It is a little surprising that, in the second part of this stanza, the völva says that Óðinn asked her to tell the old incantations, the ‘old ways of speech’ and that this covers what we call an eschatology. We see that some ways of Norse speaking became foreign to ours.

 

 

 

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.

 

English

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.

 

 

Additional comments

 

In short, in the second stanza, the völva describes what have been the oldest times she had known: Nine distinct worlds inhabited by “Giants and Giantesses” able to raise their children. The gods and the humans did not exist yet and it seems that the völva was herself of Giant ancestry. This explains that Óðinn had to awaken a Giantess to learn about the origins of the Norse worlds. The lines “I remember nine countries and nine giants” underline the fact that the Giants then occupied all existing territories.

We cannot avoid noticing here the huge difference, relative to the organization of the living beings,  between the Christian tradition and the Norse one. In the Norse tradition, the first inhabitants were Giants and, equally important in the poem, Giantesses. This overall equality between males and females opposes the biblical description of the first earth inhabitants. The same occurs for humankind: As we shall see in s. 17 and 18, men and women have been both simultaneously gifted with the same abilities by the Powers, which again opposes the biblical legend of humankind’s creation.

 

The last two lines introduce us to a ‘being’ that is so absent from our consciousness  that we tend to somewhat forget the existence of an ancient tree who gives the good measure to a world-wide orchestra. He/She/It was ‘still under the earth’ as stated by line 8 of this stanza, implying that, during these remote times, the ‘good measure’ was not yet available. This means that these ancient times were times of wild immoderation.

 

 

 

 

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

 

English

 

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

green 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 out also the first god, Burr; out of the ice.

 

Miðgarðr is the residence of human beings, our world.

 

 

English

 

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 “green 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.

 

Earth formation: a process of ‘birth delivery’ or of  ‘things reordering’?

 

Because of her incredible culture, and the respect it inspires, Ursula Dronke had an incredibly strong influence within the scholarly community specialized in ancient Scandinavian culture. She takes this opportunity to support a Christian understanding of the texts. The lines above: “The sons of Burr (Norse gods) have raised the land” obviously evokes a planet Earth emerging from the waters. It should be noted that the same type of description takes place in s. 59 that says: “upp koma ... iörð ór ægi (upward comes ... the land out of the ocean). We thus understand that the Gimle ‘new earth’, following Ragnarok, will also come out of the waters.

 

Ursula Dronke states she has looked for another example of such an emergence of the Earth and modestly confesses that the only allusion to such a phenomenon she could find is in Genesis 1, 9. Indeed, the lines 9 and 10 of Genesis 1 state:

(9) Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.

(10) God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 

It seems quite clear that Genesis does not describe an emergence of Earth out of the waters but a splitting between the waters and the land and the waters are relocated. In fact, ‘God’ piles up the waters in one place and calls 'Earth' what is left, while the sons of Burr have ‘raised’ the earth (the one to be moved) so that it appears in (or out of?) Ginnungagap. On the whole, Earth actually starts to exist in both cases, but it is as a result of two different actions, one being to move away the waters and the other to expose Earth. The image evoked by the Norse myth is that of maternal waters giving birth to the earth. Genesis 1 evokes Earth establishment since ‘God’ separated the waters from earth.

 

 

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) the 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. ”

 

English

 

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’.

 

English

 

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 features shows that the poet who wrote Völuspá made a point of stressing the gods’ importance at the beginning times. The poem tells 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

hof

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.

 

English

 

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 the present 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 ‘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.

 

English

 

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…

(OR

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 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

 

English

 

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.

‘translation’

 

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.

‘translation

 

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,

Eikinscjaldi.

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)

‘arbitrator’s progeny ’: liónar = arbitrator or simply people (de Vries).

 

Aurvangr = Pebbly Wetlands or

Wetground Meadow (s. 13)

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

English

 

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 memorial duty.

 

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 points 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,

‘translation’

 

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

Eikinscialdi,

Fialarr oc Frosti,

Finnr oc Ginnarr;

 

þat mun uppi,

meðan öld lifir,

langniðia tal

Lofars hafat.

litteral translation

 

Álfr and Yngvi

Eikinskjaldi,

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

 

English

 

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.

 

 

A commentary on the four last lines translation

 

Here are three other versions of s. 16 last four lines

Dronke

 

Uplifted in memory

as long as the world lives

will be this list

of Praiser’s lineage.

Orchard

 

there will remain in memory

while the world lasts,

the lineage of Praiser,

properly listed.

Boyer

 

Always  will come back

As long as mankind lives

These generations

Up to Lofarr.

 

These three translations come from the same Old Norse version and probably share the same literal meaning, similar to the one just above given. Note that American people forget to specifically refer to humans (they speak of the ‘world’) so that the burden of maintaining this list is not attributed to humankind. Boyer forgets the memorization, well emphasized by Americans, so that the concomitance of the memory of Lotarr’s line  and humankind survival appears as a mere coincidence, while the poem implies that they are each other related.
 

******************

 

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…

 

17.

Unz þrír kvámu

1. Until three came

ór því liði

2. out of their people (family place)

öflgir ok ástkir

3. strong-always and loving-always

æsir at húsi,

4. æsir to (mankind’s) house,

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 (deprived of örlög).

 

 

Comment on the vocabulary

 

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

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

Line  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.

Line  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 to point out that line of 17 speaks of an ‘askr’ who 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 literature, the wyrd, fate or destiny, is presented as an unbearable constraint imposed on us (see  http://www. nordic-life. org/nmh/WyrdEng. htm , 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.

 

*********************************

 

Stanza 18

 

18.

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.

 

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). De Vries suggests 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 Vé is linked to Thórr’s hallowing hammer.

 

It is tempting to draw relationships 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 these commentaries at  http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/WyrdEng.htm and the 3 files

örlög in Völuspá                     örlög in Hávamál               örlög and sköp in other eddic poetry .

 

 

*********************************

 

 

Stanza 19

 

19.

Ask veit ek standa,

An askr know-I stands,

heitir Yggdrasill,

it is called Yggdrasill,

hár baðmr, ausinn

high tree, sprinkled

hvíta auri;

with white mud;

þaðan koma döggvar

wherefrom come the dews

þærs í dala falla,

that fall 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 Yggdr]asill’ 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, a classical technique 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 successfully used 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 de Vries 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 dew can settle on grass even from an uncloudy sky.

By its roots, Yggdrasill is the support of all the Chtonian forces, including 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

 

 

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 worldweb, 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 the doubts that 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, thus be very weary of an order based on time, namely past, present and future. We propose instead an ordering such that each Norn plays a specific role, while each is active in all three segments of time, but based on logical relationships.

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, with more details in the book Chap I and II of ‘The Magic of Yggdrasill’.

 

Commentary on the vocabulary and the stanza structure

 

Dronke chooses to read sær (an accusative singular) that 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 to 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 it stays 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 of verb skara is similar to the one of 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 action 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 last 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 paper 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 these örlög. ” Jackson’s interpretation makes it clear that the Norns are these who allot humankind’s örlög.

**********

 

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 brillant 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

 

When a site talks about Germanic mythology and asserts or implies that Norns spin örlög or wyrd, know that this site confuses Germanic and Greco-Latin mythologies.

In the crowd of allusions to destiny, a single poem, called Darraðarljóð and contained in Njáll’s saga, describes the Valkyries (then called 'valfreyur'), ​​and speaks of destiny in the form of a braiding. Moreover, in this poem, the braided ‘threads’ are the entrails of the dead warriors, which does not exclude a Latin influence on Darraðarljóð.

 

 

Stanza 21

 

Old Norse

21.

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 the 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

 

English

 

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.

 

English

 

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.

 

Lines 5 and 6 contain a pun that contains repetitions somewhat characteristic of magic incantations.

In line 5, seiðr is a direct object complement of the verb kunna (to know) and thus gives seið.

In line 6, seið is the singular past of verb siða (to magically enchant): ‘she bewitched’.

This repetition is not simple and is extremely prestigious since hard to imagine. It magically emphasizes the völva’s magic.

Note also its ‘non-rhymed’  alliterative wealth:

                               seið hon, hvars hon kunni,

                                                                   -->

                               seið hon           hug leikinn

                                                                                     <--

 

Three criticisms (1., 2. and 3. above) directed against witches may seem an obvious Christian influence. This is possible though not certain because even in pagan times witches were tolerated but not appreciated. The last line reflects the fact that a good wife does not hang out in the company of witches. The distrust of Norse pagans for witches is illustrated by the Eddic poem Hávamál.

We recall again that the numerous attempts to prove the existence of Christian influences on  Hávamál have been politely ridiculed by the experts (see the Second Intermezzo following Hávamál stanza 21 at http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/ALLNewHavamalEng.htm ). Hávamál is therefore an example of an Eddic poem that has undergone negligible Christian influences.

 

 

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 themselves to decide if they will agree to pay tribute for their ruthless behaviour toward Gullveig or if war is more desirable.

 

The form hvárteða classically means: either… or.

 

 

 

English

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.

 

 

English

 

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.

 

English

 

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 (Óðr’s wife), 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.

 

English

 

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 Yggdrasill, near to or under Urðr’s well.

 

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

 

 

 

English

 

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 (you) 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 seiðr 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’. 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

 

 

 

English

 

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 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) world-view, not Óðinn’s.

It seems that he claims 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, /

 

English

 

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 (De Vries) to project, to exceed = ‘who holds up’ (before launching axe or lance).

Gunnr = Battle, Hildr = Combat, Göndul = who handles magic, wizard. ” These names evoke 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

 

31.

Ek Baldri,

I looked at Baldr

blóðgum tívur,

blood-covered divine being,

Óðins barni,

Óðinn’s son,

örlög fólgin;

(his) 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 finding a convincing one… I’ll certainly not do better than her!

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

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

 

Comment on the meaning of the stanza

 

After being run through by Höðr’s arrow, Baldr’s corpse has certainly been covered with blood. If we try to see an allusion here, we can reasonably think of no one else than Óðinn, wounded by a spear while hanging at the world tree. He had also to be blood-covered, as described in Hávamál stanza 138. 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 forsee their son’s fate, which should surprise us. 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 ?

 

We will comment later, and more thoroughly, the presence in this stanza of an aggressively triumphant mistletoe. However, it is also interesting to point out an interpretation inspired by C. G. Jung’s comments on the links between an ambiguous maternal archetype and the Frigg-Baldr couple as reported in https://www.academia.edu/35169010/An_unconscious_mother-sons_relation_between_Frigg_and_Baldr

This text highlights the possibility for mistletoe to be an unconscious part of Baldr's psyche, called his ‘shadow’ by Jung. Here this ‘shadow’ grew up and is visibly embodied in a beautiful tree. We tried to identify this beautiful mistletoe to the person of Christ but it leads to so many contradictions that this track has been stopped. It is perhaps more necessary to considerably refine the maternal archetype and probably to link it to Loki to give meaning to all these myths. This can not be done quickly but it will (hopefully) happen.

 

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.

 

English

 

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 of 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 a religion 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 is slim’, which gives to it an attractive feature. This word can take the form mær with the same meaning, as it does in the poem. 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 killing, 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?

Translation

 

Though he never hands (washed)

nor head combed

until on a pyre (they ? ) carried

Baldr’s ennemy (Höðr);

 

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 a 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.

 

 

Let us recall that Ursula Dronke sees here a “typically Christian” stereotype because Frigg was crying over her dead (and bloodied) son. This explains nothing else then why she, a Christian, recognizes this stereotype here. This does not mean that this stereotype cannot belong to other civilizations, even if they are ‘primitive’.

 

Note also that she notices Frigg’s behavior of but that she seems to forget the one of Óðinn who follows a rigorous mourning so long as Höðr is not killed and carried on a funerary pyre, that is to say a behavior of pagan violence that required by Óðinn’s  revenge. The latter is placed in a situation without real issue. He must avenge Baldr’s death, and he knows that the only possible avenger is another of his sons whose mother must be the goddess Rindr. In short, to avenge the death of his son Baldr killed by his son Höðr, he must beget with Rindr a third son to kill the second one. In the end, he takes on himself this second murder that he will pay with his life at the time of Ragnarök. It was not only because of jealousy that Loki helped Höðr to kill Baldr, but because he knew that he was going to trap Óðinn so that “fell the sweet love of Frigg” as says s. 53.

 

The following stanza goes directly to the punishment inflicted on Loki by the Æsir, leaving aside ‘details’ of great importance. The poet knew that this episode was very famous and we can suppose that he wanted to induce his listeners to fill up the void he creates himself between s. 33 and s. 34.

Óðinn will try to seduce Rindr but she will turn him down. After several unsuccessful other seducing attempts, he will resort to force and therefore his duty to avenge Baldr will lead him to rape her, adding a shameful behavior to the impossible situation in which he is engaged.

The following stanza goes directly to the punishment inflicted on Loki by the Æsir, leaving aside ‘details’ of great importance. The poet knew that this episode was very famous and we can suppose that he wanted to induce his listeners to fill up the void he creates himself between s. 33 and s. 34. In sum, there will be a weregild for the assassination of Baldr: Óðinn himself.

 

It turns out that the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf reports a similar case. Anglo-Saxons were however Christianized long before the Norse and the hero parallel to Óðinn will precisely behave much more Christian-like than Óðinn: will simply wither in his dilemma. This episode is in Beowulf, lines 2435 - 2443. King Hreðel has two sons and, by an unfortunate chance, one of them will miss the target he is aiming at and he kills “broðor oðerne blodigan gare (a brother the other (with) a bloody trait).” Finally, the king recognizes that he can do nothing better than to compose a

Blood sarigne, þonne his sunu hangağ

hrefne to hroðre ...”

song of pain for his hanged son,

for the delight of crows ...

 

Note that the corpse of the dead son is probably hanging from a tree, according to ancient Germanic rites and evokes famous and complex Hávamál s. 138.

Note also that Dronke notices Frigg’s behavior while she seems to forget Óðinn’s who follows a rigorous mourning as long as Höðr is not killed and carried on a funerary burner, that is to say a behavior of pagan violence that requires revenge on the part of Óðinn. The latter is thus placed in a situation without real issue. He must avenge Baldr's death, and he knows that the only possible avenger is another of his sons whose mother must be the goddess Rindr. In short, to avenge the death of his son Baldr killed by his son Höðr, he must beget with Rindr a third son to kill the second.He will finally take on himself this second murder that he will pay with his life at the time of Ragnarök.

It is quite probable that Loki did not help Höðr to kill Baldr out of jealousy, but because he knew that he was going to trap Óðinn so that would “fell the sweet love of Frigg” as says s. 53.

 

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.

 

 

English

 

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.

 

This stanza tells us that Váli is the one who twisted the bonds that hold Loki under the mouth of a serpent that let flow its poisened spit on Loki. From other sources, we also know that Váli, son of Rindr, is also Höðr killer, i.e. Baldr’s avenger. Óðinn has been warned that Baldr’s avenger had to be a son that he had to beget with a woman named Rindr.

 

In GB (2013), Pétur Pétursson and Véstein Ólason use a very difficult to counter argument since it is vague and therefore vaguely true. They claim that “medieval images inspire some of the visions of the poem Völuspá.” In s. 34 above, a prisoner is chained by means of entrails, which is perhaps brutally medieval, but really opposed to any kind of Christian charity.

In the following stanza s 35 an unhappy wife is described watching over her fettered husband. This is then more a universal image than a specifically medieval one.

Such loose discussions could run on and on for each of the poem stanzas, and it seems vaguely dishonest to use these arguments to emphasize dubious specifics of the poem.

 

 

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

 (Dronke)]

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 saw she 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-pleasant” must 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?

 

English

 

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.

Translation

 

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) includes all Dwarves.

 

The name Brimir means Sea or Surf.

 

 

 

English

 

Stood to the North

on Waningmoon Fields,

made of gold, the hall

of Redglowing’s kinfolk;

 

and also stood

on Non-cold

the 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 Jötnar Brimir/Ægir/Gymir are among the gods’ allies.

 

Voir : Opening Doors – Entering Social Understandings of the Viking Age Longhouse Anna S. Beck

En tout, ont été étudiées  270 longères  dans 85 sites (41 sur Sealand, 44 en Scania)”

https://www.academia.edu/8438640/A._S._Beck_2014_Opening_doors_-_Entering_Social_Understanding_of_the_Viking_Age_Long_House._I_M._S._Kristiansen_and_K._Giles_red._Dwellings_Identities_and_Homes._European_Housing_Culture_from_the_Viking_Age_to_the_Renaissance._H%C3%B8jbjerg_Jysk_Ark%C3%A6ologisk_Selskab._127-138

 

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 turned 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)’

 

English

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Véstein Ólason (NordAp, pp. 25-44) claims the  content of this stanza “could easily have been added to the poem in the twelfth or even thirteenth century.” This kind of claim is obviously possible though totally unconvincing for two concording reasons.

1. Archeological results tend to suggest that these halls are remains of an ancient tradition within the Scandinavian world as reported by many archeologists. For instance, Marianne Hem Eriksen (see bibliography) notes increasingly large halls since the fifth century and Anna S. Beck informs her readers that: In all, information of 270 longhouses from 85 sites (41 on Sealand, 44 in Scania) was collected.”

2. The word used here to point at a hall is not höll but salr. In her paper in Viking Worlds (2015) Lydia Carstens argues about a difference of timing in the use of these two words. In order to claim that, for one, salr is much older than höll because the first is used mainly in poetry, while the second appears mostly in prose. For two, she uses a slight difference in their meanings : höll appears to apply only to a kingly hall, while salr cannot. Kings appearing late in Scandinavia, salr is the oldest of the two words.

 

Independently of the salr/höll debate we have also to take into account that this stanza specifies the doors of this salr have been opening to the North. Relying again on archeology, we know that longhouses dated 720-970 generally offer two entrances, one on each side of the longer portion of the house, but they are not ‘facing each other’, as it has been traditional since Bronze age (i. e. from 13th BCE)  until 720 (Eriksen 2019 pp. 44). That the salr in s. 38 opens only to the North underlines its use for welcoming creatures of the North. Since Surtr comes from the South, this feature implies that Yggdrasill is attacked from the two main sides, North and South.

 

 

 

Ref: Marianne Hem Eriksen, ‘Architecture, Society, and Ritual in Viking Age Scandinavia’ Cambridge Univ. Press, 2019.

 

 

Stanza 39

 

 

Old Norse

 

39. Sá hon þar vaða

þunga strauma

menn meinsvara

oc morðvarga,

oc þannz annars glepr

eyrarúno;

 

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.

 

 

 

English

 

She sees here wading

in heavy streams

a crowd of perjurers

and criminal monsters,

and who wheedles

entrusted wives;

 

There Niðhöggr sucked

the dead corpses,

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, as explained in the commentary of stanza 19.

 

 

 

Henning Kure (GB pp. 79-91) compares Revelation 21.8 and Völuspá s. 39. Revelation 21.8 reads:

But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. 

(https://topbible.topchretien.com/apocalypse.21.9/WEB/

 

Both texts point at people who, clearly, misbehaved. The punishment of sins is indeed very typical of a Christian context, although we must not forget that the ancient Nordic civilization had its own definitions of crime. First, let us note that northern criminals “wade through heavy currents,” which is quite different from “having a second death in a lake in flames.” We know several cases where Nordic personalities have waded without including social degradation.  Kure is far from being ignorant that such a wading is evoked in another poem, Reginsmál, s. 4 where Loki asks Andvari the price to be paid by slanderers who have harmed others people. Andvari answers “that they must cross Vaðgelmir ...,” which evokes a punishment. Inversely, Grímnismál s. 21 tells that dead warriors heading for Valhöll must cross a river whose current seems too powerful for the “valglaumi at vaða (valr-glaumr = dead warrior) to wade there.” He describes a group of happy heroes on the road to Valhöll.

From these examples, Kure suggests that since “there is no similarity to the Apocalypse in this case, it could indicate that wading is an original Nordic trait.” As we can see, in Kure's mind, wading confirms a Christian influence when such influence has been observed, while ‘wading’ becomes an original Nordic trait when Christian influence is not possible. This reasoning is summarized as follows: “Belief in Christian influence proves Christian influence,” which is largely true, though weakly convincing.

 

Völuspá speaks of people who actually violated three of the main Nordic rules of honor, namely a “criminal monster” who killed someone and did not claim it (thus preventing his family from starting conciliation negotiations), a “perjured oath” which points at a particular liar which is different from “all the liars” stigmatized in Apocalypse, and a “confidante seducer” who steals from this woman information valuable to her official companion. We have no striking case of the latter crime in which the sexual offense is secondary to the implicit loss of secret information.

 

On the contrary, two famous oath perjurers are well known. Hávamál s 110 declares, as a comment to Gunnlöð’s rejection by Óðinn :

Oath on the ring, Óðinn,

I think, he granted;

what to believe of his sincerities?

 

These lines tell that Óðinn himself has perjured his oath to Gunnlöð - a capital Northern shame. The fact that he has lied to her at the same time is of little importance in this myth.

The other case is that of the oaths between Sigurðr and Brynhildr mentioned in Sigrdrífumál s. 31:

It munuð alla          You will both want

eiða vinna               passing oaths

fullfastliga              the firmest

fá munuð halda.     Little will you hold.

 

We know that Sigurðr will drink a magic potion concocted by Grímhildr that will make him forget his oath, but the fact that he was drugged does not erase the shame of a perjured oath.

 

There could be other similarities between the vocabulary used by Revelation 21.8 and Völuspá s. 39 but, as soon as a more detailed analysis is performed, it shows to what extent their meanings are profoundly different.

 

 

 

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 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 Fenrir wolf and Hel with Loki. 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 of wood of iron’. '

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

English

 

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 ‘him’ 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 such a huge hayfork).

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

 

 

Kees Samplonius (GL p. 127-128) sees here a typically Middle Age image illustrating in  many Christian texts how much a wolf, hence Fenrir, is dangerous.

 

Nicely pagan myth of Týr’s lost of his arm would certainly be an even better illustration.

 

 

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.

 

English

 

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 stroked 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 is a personal pronoun meaning ‘them’.

 

 

 

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

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

English

 

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. 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 as well as being 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

Gullinkambi,

sá vecr hölða

at Herjaföðrs;

 

enn annarr gelr

fyr iörð neðan,

sótrauðr hani,

at sölom Heliar.

Literal translation

 

Cawed (shouted-sung) around Æsir

Gold-comb,

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 different roosters wake up the two opposed armies.

 

 

English

 

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.

 

 **************************

English

 

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, guardian 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

other ones 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.

 

English

 

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.

The word dómr has three possible meanings: the one of ‘(justice) court’, the one of  ‘judgment’ and the one of ‘condition, state (of someone)’.

The word hór points at adulterous person. In the compound word ‘hór-dómr’, it is natural to choose for dómr the meaning: ‘state’, and to create a word for  ‘an adulterous state’, which is the meaning of this word in s. 45. Stanza 60 uses the word megindómr to speak of an ‘immense judgment’ that fits well with s. 60 context.  

 S. 65 uses the word regindómr to qualify Ragnarök and therefore it uses the ‘judgment’ meaning of dómr to speak of regin’s (powers) ‘judgment’.

 

 

 

Christian resonances can obviously be found in this stanza describing the disaster of the destruction of traditional family ties. Besides, when Ólason (GL p.33) states that:  « It is overwhelmingly likely that the elements in Völuspá that offer the clearest parallels to Christian learning are later additions to the poem. The strongest evidence for this is the vocabulary found in some strophes which offer affinities with the vocabulary of Christian homiletic literature, obvious examples being words ending in – dómr… ».

A serious argumentation against this claim would require a thorough study of these ‘homiletic texts’, a large amount of work that Ólason should have done himself instead of alluding to it. On the other hand, we have just met two of the three possible meanings of dómr in Old Norse. Their use is quite canonical and does not evoke anything especially homiletic. In fact, Ólason merely notes that the grammar of the Norse language has not been profoundly modified by Christianization, which is indeed obvious and does not ‘overwhelmingly’ prove anything about possible Christian additions.

 

 

Stanza 46

 

Old Norse

 

46. Leica Míms synir,

enn miötuðr kyndiz

at ino gamla

 Giallarhorni;

 

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 ;

 

the beat 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.

 

Heimdall blows the ‘time’ = the tune, the beat of Ragnarök.

 

 

 

 

 

English

 

Mímir’s sons move about,

and the measure ruler burns

while old Gjallahorn ;

loudly resounds.

 

the beat blows Heimdallr,

the horn is aloft,

Óðinn speaks

with Mímir’s head ;

Dronke translates miötuðr by fate’s measure . C-V. suggests that the variation of  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 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).

 

English

 

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.

 

 

 

Yggdrasill is entirely on fire. It is no longer a sacred tree nor a measure-master but a dying old tree.

 

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.

 

English

 

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.

 

English

 

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 brother. Here, he seems to be Loki himself.  

 

English

 

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 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.

 

 

 

Kees Samplonius (GL 129-131) succeeds in the tour de force of  seeing Loki as an incarnation of Lucifer. A popular etymological link, ‘luc (ifer) -loc (i)’', is not impossible to imagine but the blood brotherhood between Loki and Óðinn, for example, turns to ridicule if applied to the links between Lucifer and either God or Christ. And remember that Loki, in Lokasenna, boasts sexual exploits with the Ásynjur: what are Lucifer's feats in this area?

 

 

 

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).

 

 

English

 

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.

 

 

 

Some commentators rely on the etymology of the word surtr (svart, black) which allows them to evoke the ‘classic’ Christian image of an infernal ‘black fire’ (Kees Samplonius, GL 2013, pp. 122- 126). The first objection to this hypothesis is that it prevents understanding that the “brilliant Valtýr’s sword” belongs to Surtr. Samplonius then explains this by other endless Christian hints! Yet, LexPoet. does not report a compound word on ‘surtr’ where the meaning of black is associated with surtr.

In fact, his argument is based on the name Surtalogi, twice used in Vafþrúðnismál s. 50 and 51: Óðinn asks Vafþrúðnir what will happen when, the Ragnarök completed, the fire of Surtr will be extinguished:

Hverir ráða æsir                      Which Æsir reign

eignum goða,                           on the gods possessions                     

þá er sloknar Surtalogi?          while Surtalogi is quenched?

 

Word surtr is here in the genitive singular (i. e. a complement of logi), and that it can take two forms, either surts, or surtar, but not ‘surta’. On the other hand, the adjective svartr, black, does svarta in the genitive singular masculine (logi is a masculine word). Thus, by replacing the ‘u’ in surtr with ‘va’ in svartr, Vafþrúðnismál Surtalogi becomes Svartalogi. The main advantage of this modification is that it makes the word Svartalogi appears in Vafþrúðnismál and thus introduces the notion of ‘black fire’, a Christian image sometimes used in the Middle Ages to designate the fires of hell. This argument, even if we agree with its grammatical validity, makes it possible to discover a Christian influence on Vafþrúðnismál though not on Völuspá that speaks distinctly of Surtr and not of Svartr, also in Hauksbók s. 44.

 At any rate, the two genitive forms surts and surtar are accepted as surtr genitive singular, and this suggests that the genitive of surtr might have been somewhat variable and that ‘surta’ has only been preserved in Völuspá.

 

 

 

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. It is possible that Beli is the brother of Gerðr of whom Skírnis för says that he had been killed by Freyr.

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

 

English

 

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. htm .

 

Snorri tells us that Beli has been killed with an antler because Freyr 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.

 

 

 

s. 54 = s.  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.

 

English

 

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.

 

It tells the same story as s. 56: Þórr meets again the serpent that rings the earth, also called Miðgarðr serpent and Jörmungandr. Their first fight is famous and told in details in Snorra Edda with no obvious conclusion.

 

English

 

‘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.

Here is their second fight where Þórr will kill Jörmungandr and will die poisened by the serpent, after walking back nine steps as s. 56 will tell us.

 

 

 

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.

 

English

 

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 his foe.  

 

 

 

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 (or ‘feeder’)

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. ”

 

English

 

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. ”


That is why we will have to explain our  translation aqs  it as “Yggdrasill in flames” rather than bringing back this “old feeder” to a being already known as Orchard (Yggdrasill), or as dictionaries do by “fire.” Using this meaning leads Dronke to implicitly explain to the reader the classical meaning of dictionaries, a unique case in skaldic poetry or, as Boyer does, to invent a verb (flames ‘snore’) so that these flames are not isolated in the sentence, as they are - if only there are flames - in the Old Norse text. See also the comment below.

                                      

Yggdrasill is now nothing more than a gigantic torch and the flames running along its trunk rise to the sky. Again to eliminate this ‘cumbersome’ Yggdrasill, the community of translators found nothing better than to see “fire” in this ‘former feeder’ under the pretext that fire is used to cook the food ... which is true but totally out of Ragnarök context.

The example of Dronke’s translation (her s. 54) is typical: “Fumes rage against fire, / fosterer of life, ...” which does of ‘fire’ a ‘fosterer of life’, that is an angelic and ridiculous vision that sees the immense fire that is destroying our universe as a comfy home fire.

 

 

 “The sun shows to blacken” recalls the discussion in s. 52 about ‘black light’. There, however, sun merely disappears which does not seem to evoke classical medieval images.

 

Comments on s. 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, also directly linked with ‘life’ in the Norse language). 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.

 

Humankind is nevertheless preserved

 http://www. nordic-life. org/nmh/LifeandLifegreedy. htm

 

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

 

Authors.

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”

 

Dronke

Orchard

 

56.

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.

 

59.

 She sees rising

a second time

the earth from the ocean,

ever-green;

the cataracts tumble,

an eagle flies above,

hunting fish

along the fell.

 

 

 

57.

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.

 

60.

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.

 

 

Comments

 

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

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

 

58.

There will be once more

the miraculous

golden checkers

be found, in the grass

those that in the old days

they had owned.

 

61.

Afterwards there will be found, wondrous,

golden gaming-pieces

in the grass,

those which in ancient days

they had owned.

 

 

Comments

 

Höðr killed Baldr under Loki’s influence.

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

 

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

 

 

59.

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?

 

62.

All unsown

the fields will grow,

all harm will be healed,

Baldr will come;

Höðr and Baldr will inhabit

Hropt's victory-halls,

sanctuaries of the slain-gods:

 

do you know yet, or what?

 

 

 

 

60.

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?

 

63.

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?