Hrafnagaldur Odins, (Odin’s Raven Magic-Song)

February 22, 2014 update:  I have just published my new page, ‘Who Wrote Hrafnagaldur Odins and Why:’

and have moved the list of sources over there.

Stanza 1:   1. All-father exerts power [Lassen]; 2. Elves understand [Björnsson and Reaves, and Lassen]; 3. Vanir know [all the translators] 4. Norns reveal [Björnsson and Reaves]    5. the Ividia brings forth [Thorpe] 6. men endure [Björnsson and Reaves, Thorpe]   7. Thurses crave [Kodratoff] 8. Valkyries yearn [Björnsson and Reaves]

All-father, Odinn, father of all the Aesir, the principal pantheon of Gods in Norse paganism, to which “the most important Nordic gods” [Simek] belonged.  The other pantheon of Gods was the Vanir.

The Norns in general roughly correspond to the Norse conception of fate in general, particularly the Norn Urðr.  See Karen Bek-Pedersen’s ‘The Norns in Old Norse Mythology,’ published in 2011, for everything you ever wanted to know about the Norns. In her book, she  remarks:  “Here [in the first stanza of Hrafnagaldur] it is said of the nornir that they ‘reveal’ – visa nornir – which is an unusual verb to use with the nornir and may be more reminiscent of of what vǫlur [‘wand-bearer,’ ‘sorcerer’] do in prophesying rituals; it recalls the term  visendakona used about a vǫlva in Eiríks saga rauða 4.  It may, however, also reflect the verb vekia, ‘ awaken,’ employed in Guðrúnarkviða II 38.”  [ibid, p. 72]

Íviðja or Ividia, a giantess/troll-wife.   “The meaning of the name is obscure…” [Simek]  “It may mean ‘she who lives in the wood’.  [Lassen]  I agree with Björnsson and Reaves that the author of Hrafnagaldur Odins was probably referring to “the old crone” in what is Verse 40 in the version of  Völuspá used by James Chisholm:  (p. 7)  and what is verse 32 in Thorpe’s edition: 

Following Chisholm:  “The old one sat in the Iron-woods in the east and raised the brood of Fenrir.”  I don’t agree with B and R’s equation of Ividia with Gullveig in Völuspá.

Thurse.  ‘Thurse’ and ‘troll-wife’ were both pejorative terms for ‘giant,’ even in heathen times, emphasizing the malign properties of “natural spirits” “among the original inhabitants of the world.”  [Simek]

Valkyries.  By the time Hrafnagaldur Odins was written, these had metamorphosed from being “originally probably demons of the dead to whom the warriors slain on the battlefield belonged” [Simek], to being “supernatural female warriors” [Simek] whose function was “interfering in battle, and thus determining the fate of the combatants.”  [Simek]  According to Rudolph Simek, the name “derives from ON valr ‘the corpses lying on the battlefield’ and kjósa ‘to choose,’ thus ‘those who choose the slain.’”  [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 349]  See also Luke John Murphy’s master thesis ‘Herjans dísir: Valkyrjur, Supernatural Femininities, and Elite Warrior Culture in the Late Pre-Christian Iron Age:’$002c_$0027Herjans_D%C3%ADsir$0027$002c_2013.pdf


Stanza 2:  The forebodings the Æsir suspected to be evil; treacherous Vættar had the runes confounded.  [Thorpe] Óðhrærir had to look after Urður (fate); he could not  protect [her] from the greater part [of the plan].  [Lassen]

Vættar.  ‘spirits?’  Simek discusses landvættir, who “…appear to have been thought of as spirits protecting the land…”  [Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 187]

Óðhrærir.  ‘mind-mover’ [Lassen].  ‘the one that stimulates to ecstacy.’ [Simek]  Snorri interpreted Óðhrærir as being the cauldron in which the mead of poetry was stored; [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 250] and as Annette Lassen has established, the author of Hrafnagaldur Odins was heavily influenced by Snorri.  [Lassen, ‘Hrafnagaldr Óðins,’ p. 25 – 26]


Stanza 3:  Hug then goes forth, explores the heavens; the powers fear disaster from delay.  [Thorpe]  Þráinn’s thought is an oppressive dream, Dáinn’s dream was thought enigmatic.  [Björnsson and Reaves]

Hugr is certainly Hugin, ‘thought’, one of Óðinn’s ravens.”  [Yves Kodratoff].  Agreed.

Thrain’ means ‘threatening;’ ‘Dain’ means ‘died.’ [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ pages 328 and 55, respectively]  Dwarves or dark-elves; already by Snorri Sturluson’s time, the distinction was blurred.  


Stanza 4:   Among the dwarfs virtue decays; [Thorpe] Worlds dwindle away, they sink down to the darkness of Ginnungur.  Alsviður (Óðinn?) often fells from above and often gathers up the fallen again.  [Lassen]

dwarves.  “Snorri equates the dwarves with a sub-group of elves, namely the svartálfar…”  [Simek, ibid, p. 68]  “… In fact, the dark elves and the light elves are two aspects of the same concept of demons of death which were closely related, in a similar way to that in which death and fertility cults were closely related.”  [Simek, ibid, p. 56]

“[Dwarves] are associated with the dead, with battle, with wisdom, with craftsmanship, with the supernatural, and even to some extent with the elves.”  [John Lindow, ‘Norse Mythology,’ p. 100]

“…The conception of dwarfs as dwelling in the earth or in rocks or mountains is deeply rooted. Alvíss tells Thor that he lives down under the earth, under a stone. When Odin sent for the fetter Gleipnir, the direction was down. Here, however,

[in ‘Gylfaginning’ chap. 34]

and in Skáldskaparmál as well, in the story of the acquisition of gold from Andvari, Snorri calls the destination Svartálfaheim (world of the blackelves), which suggests that for him the category of elves and dwarfs was somewhat blurred…”  [Lindow, ibid, p. 101]

“… De Vries has shown in a detailed study that Ginnungap is more likely to mean ‘the road filled with magical (and creative) powers’ than ‘the yawning void…’ [Simek, ibid, p. 109]  “Ginnungr or ginnungi in ‘Ginnungagap…’ probably meant originally ‘of the mighty space(s)’ or ‘filled with illusion or magical power’ (cf. ginning; see SnE I 100; LP 182), which is probably how the poet intended it to be taken here…”  [Lassen, ibid, p. 97]

Alsviður, ‘All-wise,’ probably Óðinn  


Stanza 5:  Stand no longer shall earth or sun. The stream of air with corruption laden shall not cease. Hidden is in Mim’s limpid well men’s certain knowledge. Understand ye yet, or what?  [Thorpe]

Mimir’s Well.  “The spring of wisdom mentioned in Völuspá 28 from where Odin gets his advice.  According to Snorri’s version of the passage in Völuspá (Gylfaginning 14), the spring lies under the roots of the world-tree Yggdrasill which stretches out to the hrímþursar [hoar-frost giants]…” [Simek, ibid, p. 216]

‘Well of Souls’ by


Stanza 6:  In the dales dwells the prescient* Dis, from Yggdrasil’s  ash sunk down, of alfen race, Idun by name, the youngest of Ivaldi’s elder children. [Thorpe]

*Thorpe’s translation allows the rationale to be set up for why the gods might want to consult the fallen Idunn on the ominous portents.

Dis.  ‘woman,’ ‘female spirit.’  Idunn is meant here.


Stanza 7:   Ill she endured the fall from above, under the hoar-tree’s trunk confined; disliked staying, at Nörvi’s [kin], [in Jötunheimr] used to better abodes back home.  [Björnsson and Reaves, except for my emendation of ‘daughter’ to fit the actual term used in the Old Icelandic, ‘kundar’]

Norvi.  “Snorri Sturluson, the thirteenth-century Icelandic scholar, states in the first part of his ‘Prose Edda,’ ‘the deception of Gylfi,’ that ‘Norfi or Narfi is the name of a giant who lived in Jotunheim. He had a daughter called Nott [‘night’] who was black and dark…’” [Simek, ibid,p. 238].

Jötunheimr, “the demonic realm of the giants” [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology’, p. 180] was thought to be in the east until at least the 14th century;  later it was conceived to be “further and further to the north…” [ibid]


Stanza 8:   The triumphant gods saw Nanna sorrowing in earth’s deep sanctuaries; a wolf’s skin they gave her,  in which herself she clad, changed her feelings, practiced guile, alter’d her aspect.  [Thorpe]

Nanna.  ‘woman.’  Idunn is meant here.


Stanza 9:  Vidrir selected Bifröst´s guardian, of the Giöll-sun’s keeper to inquire all that she knew of every world; Bragi and Lopt  should witness bear.  [Thorpe]

Viðrir (Vidrir).  “weather god.”   [Simek]  “Odin is naturally not the actual weather god of Norse mythology; he influences it, however, by magic…”  [ibid]

Giöll-sun’s keeper.   a kenning for ‘woman’

Bragi.  ON god of poetry,  husband of the ‘dis’ Idunn, keeper of the apples that rejuvenated the gods.


Stanza 10:  Sorcery they sang, wolves they rode, Rögnir and Reginn, against the world’s house; Óðinn listens in Hliðskjálf; watched the travellers’ distant journey.  [Björnsson and Reaves]

Rögnir and Reginn.   ‘The god and gods.’ 

Hliðskjálf.  “Either the name of Odin’s throne or else of his hall…”  [Simek]


Stanza 11:  The wise one asked the server of mead, scion of gods and his road-companions, if she knew the origin, duration, and end of heaven, of hel, of the world. [Björnsson and Reaves]

server of mead.  kenning for ‘woman’


Stanza 12:  Nor will speak Nor speech could Gefjun perform, nor noisy joyous noises; Tears off appeared, from the round shields of the frozen brain, the (she-)powerful was deprived of redness. [Kodratoff]

Gefjun.  ‘giver.’  here refers to Idunn.

shields of the brain.  kenning for ‘eyes’


Stanza 13:  As from the East, out of Élivágar,  comes a thorn from the field of the rime-cold giant,  with which Dáinn smites all men of glorious Midgard every night.”  [Björnsson and Reaves]

Élivágar.  “stormy-waves.”  primeval rivers in a twilight-zone of time and space

Midgard  Earth,  the world we humans live in.


Stanza 14:  Actions are numbed, the arms slump, a swoon hovers over the white god’s sword; stupor dispels the wind of the giantess, the mind’s workings of all mankind.  [Björnsson and Reaves]

white god.  Heimdall

sword of Heimdall.  a kenning for ‘head’  cf Snorri’s Skaldskaparmal

 wind of the giantess.  kenning for ‘passion’  

spines from the “fever tree”  13 Sept 02 at 10:26 AM EDM; Spines and emerging spring leaves of Acacia xanthophloea, called by early European settlers in Asia “the fever tree” because of its connection in space to malaria outbreaks; picture by Jean Geilland, courtesy, released into public domain – See more at:


Stanza 15:  Just so seemed Jórunn to the gods to be affected, swollen with sorrows,  when they could not get a reply; they sought the more in that they were faced with refusal;  a lot of talking, however, helped much less.”  [Lassen]

Jórunn.  etymology is unclear, although Yves Kodratoff takes a brave run at it.  Given here as yet another epithet for Idunn/Nanna.


Stanza 16:  He travelled, the leader asker of ways, shepherd for Herjan of the Gjallarhorn; [= Gjallarhorn’s keeper for Óðinn]  Of Nál the nephew took as follower the poet of Grímnir the field marked off.  [Kodratoff]

Heimdall is the subject of the first line of the stanza; Nál’s nephew referes to Loki; and ‘the poet of Grimnir’ is the god Bragi


Stanza 17:  Vingolf reached Vidur’s ministers, both borne by Forniots kin. They entered, and the Æsir forthwith saluted, at Ygg’s convivial meeting. [Thorpe]

Vingolf.  One of the halls of the gods. 

Forniot’s kin.  the winds.

Ygg.  ‘the terrible one.’  One of Odin’s names.


Stanza 18:  They wished Hangatýr (Óðinn), the most fortunate of gods, happiness as he ruled over the high seat ale, [they wished] the gods good luck as they sat at the feast, forever to enjoy pleasure with Yggjungur (Óðinn).  [Lassen]


Stanza 19:  Seated on benches at Bölverk’s bidding the tribe of gods were with Sæhrímnir sated; Skögul, at the tables, with horns meted out Mímir’s mead from Hnikar’s vat.  [Björnsson and Reaves]

Bölverk.  ‘worker of evil.’  One of Odin’s names. 

Sæhrímnir.  the boar whose meat forever fed the gods.

Skögul.  a Valkyrie.


Stanza 20:  Of many things inquired, when the meal was over, the high gods of Heimdall, the goddesses of Loki; – whether the maid had uttered divinations or wise words?- From noon until twilight’s advent.   [Thorpe]


Stanza 21:   They said their fruitless errand had turned out badly, too little glorious;  it would be hard to engineer it so that an answer would be got from the lady.”  [Lassen]


Stanza 22:  Omi [‘Resounding one,’ Odin] answered; all listened; “Night is the time for new counsels; till the morrow let reflect  each one competent to give advice helpful to the Æsir.“”  [Lassen]

Stanza 23:  Ran along the eddies of Rindur’s plains the wolf’s tired food supply;   [Björnsson and Reaves]  the deities said farewell to Hroptur (Óðinn) and Frigg, who went with Hrímfaxi (night).  [Lassen]

Rindur’s plains.  the western plains.

the wolf’s tired food supply.  the sun.


Stanza 24:  and Dellingur’s son (Dagur, day) drove forward his steed, adorned with precious jewels; the horse’s mane shines from it across the world of men,  his charger drew Dvalinn’s plaything (the sun) in a chariot.”  [Lassen]


Stanza 25:  Trollwives and giants, corpses, dwarves and dark-elves went to bed further north on the edge of the mighty earth under the outermost root of the foremost tree (Yggdrasill).  [Lassen]


Stanza 26:    Rose the Gods, ran the Elf-sun, North, towards Niflheimr Night proceeds; Up takes Árgjõll of Úlfrún the descendant, master of the horn’s noise, in Himinbjõrg.” [Kodratoff]

The gods rose up, Álfröðull (the sun) rose, Njóla (darkness, i.e. night) went  north to Niflheimur;  early Úlfrún’s son (Heimdallur), ruler of Himinbjörg, began the sound of the horn with Gjöll (Gjallarhorn).  [Lassen]

[Nov. 22/14 note:  I am giving two translations for the last stanza, because Kodratoff’s is the most elegant and readers unfamiliar with the poem can get the sense of it more easily; whereas Lassen’s is more accurate with respect to the tenses.]

Árgjõll.  apparently a variant-name for Heimdall’s horn.

Úlfrún’s descendant.  Heimdall.

Himinbjõrg.  Heimdall’s home in the heavens, near the end of the bridge Bifrost.

‘the Norns weaving’ by Arthur Rackham, public domain, courtesy of; even though the concept of ‘weaving’ belongs to the Greek Fates, rather, I like the drawing and consider it to be a good overlay to the original concept of the Norns.


Introduction:  Hrafnagaldur Odins is considered to be one of the most difficult pieces of Old Icelandic literature. Annette Lassen makes a good case for its having most probably been written in the middle of the seventeenth century; but, Who wrote it, and for what purpose, are still very much open to question. I think all of the translators tried very hard to make sense out of the poem, bringing their considerable knowledge to bear upon the task.

Annette Lassen’s translation and commentary in English, available as a free PDF download online:

Benjamin Thorpe’s version:

Yves Koratoff’s translation and commentary:

The translation and commentary by Björnsson and Reaves, based largely on the theories of Viktor Rydberg:

However, I don’t see in any of the translations a consistent regard for the question: “Does MY translation/interpretation of what is being said make sense in English – in terms of  relating to an overall context for the poem, or not?” (One example of the failure to consider that point, IMO, is Lassen’s interpretation of the first part of v. 2, for instance).

And none of the translators, IMO, seem to have begun with the question: Assuming that the clearly very learned author of Hrafnagaldur Odins wasn’t merely babbling gibberish, What Overall context would give a Consistent meaning to what he says?

I propose to offer such a context in this blog-post.  I suggest that the author of Hrafnagaldur never intended for it to be widely and readily understood, that he intentionally wrote obliquely, elliptically, allusively, because he wanted to covertly pass on some kind of message to posterity.  I suggest that his message would have struck 17th century Christians in Iceland or anywhere else at that time as being both blasphemous and heretical, and possibly meritorious of a trial for witchcraft.

I intend also to offer an interpretation of the poem based on the best of the scholarship, as well as a close look at the historical backdrop and possible original source for the poem.  As of today, August 10, 2013, I have completed a stanza-by-stanza comparative examination of the translations and commentaries.


(Concerning stanza 1 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Throughout Hrafnagaldur Odins, there are intimations of what it’s all about, IMO – beginning in the first verse, where the author, in a completely original thought, correlates the Classes of Northern mythological figures with particularized acts of will:
1. “All-father exerts power” [Lassen];
2. “Elves understand” [Bjornsson and Lassen];
3. “Vanir know” [all the translators]
4. “Norns reveal” [Bjornsson]
5. “the Ividia brings forth” [Thorpe]
6. “men endure” [Bjornsson, Thorpe]
7. “Thurses crave” [Kodratoff]
8. “Valkyries yearn” [Bjornsson]

(I recognize that, to many people, those last two qualities, craving and yearning, will appear to be states and not acts of will; nevertheless, it has been my experience and observation that states of craving and yearning are indeed acts of will – however unconscious they may be and usually are…)

In their commentary on Hrafnagaldur Odins under stanza 1, Björnsson and Reaves accept that “the basic meaning of ‘skilja,'” as in “álfar skilja,” is to “separate (one thing from another)” – which other translators of Hrafnagaldur have interpreted as meaning ‘to understand’ or ‘to discriminate’ (in the sense of distinguishing one thing from another).  B and R, however, take secondary meanings of ‘skilja’, “part, divorce, cut off, sever, split” and from those, leap to the amazing conclusion that the stanza refers to the “elves” – as distinct altogether in that stanza from the dwarves, mind – “severing their friendly relationship with the gods, becoming enemies of all creation.”

This is a huge over-reach in terms of meaning for the word ‘skilja,’ in my opinion, given the overall context of the stanza, which seems to me to be describing, rather, what amounts to essential acts of will that are characteristic of each of the class of beings listed in that stanza.

Furthermore,  Björnsson and Reaves interpret the word “elves” in stanza 1 as referring to the “sons of Ivald.”  The only mythical reference to the “sons of Ivald” isin Snorri Sturluson’s ‘Skaldskaparmal,’ where they are called “dwarves” or “dark-elves,” ‘swart-alf.’  See “43. Af smíðum Ívaldasona ok Sindra dvergs.” here:  where Ivald’s sons are actually called both “dwarves” and “swarthy elves:”  “Why is gold called Sif’s hair? Loke Laufey’s son had once craftily cut all the hair off Sif; but when Thor found it out he seized Loke, and would have broken every bone in him, had he not pledged himself with an oath to get the swarthy elves to make for Sif a hair of gold that should grow like other hair. Then went Loke to the dwarfs that are called Ivald’s sons, and they made the hair and Skidbladner…”  Stanza 1 of Hrafnagaldur clearly distinguishes between a class of beings called ‘elves,’ and the class of beings called ‘dwarves,’ so there is simply no way in a valid Old Norse mythical context for the admittedly in-between class of ‘dark-elves’ to suddenly become the whole of the class of elves including the so-called ‘bright elves.’


(Concerning stanza 2 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
 Annette Lassen’s interpretation of the first part of v. 2 doesn’t make sense, in my opinion:

The stanza should be read in conjunction with st. 1. It is All-father’s plan that the Aesir [gods] discover and want to bring to nothing.” [Lassen, p. 94]

If Lassen’s interpretation is correct – then why would the rest of the poem clearly be about All-father – who is Odin, by all accounts – enlisting the help of that very Aesir, in order to learn the fate of the worlds and the gods?

In my opinion, Lassen’s interpretation doesn’t make any sense in terms of the overall context given for Hrafnagaldur.

On the other hand, Lassen’s translation of the second half of v.2 makes more sense than those of the other three translators: the idea that ‘Odhrærir,’ as the personification of creative inspiration, is set over Fate as a guardian who is only partially effective, makes a lot more sense than the converse, in terms of objective Value, ie. what ‘should be.’ [ See Lassen: pages 82 and 95.]


Annette Lassen states in her notes 2.5 on page 95 that it would actually require more emending of the manuscripts to get the reading that it is Fate who is looking after Óðhrærir.

Lassen makes a good case in her notes for interpreting the last line of stanza 2 as meaning that  Odhrærir was not entirely able to look after Urðr: “2.7: ‘máttkat’ is the 1st pers. sg. of the past tense of the verb mega ‘be able’, with the suffixed pronoun -k (for ek) and suffixed negative -at = mátta-ek-at ‘I could not’ (the form is slightly anomalous; it would normally have been máttigat). The suffixed negative -a, -at or -t, like the suffixed 1st pers. sg. pron. -k, was obsolete by the seventeenth century, and here must be a deliberate archaism by the poet, who has through his ignorance used the 1st pers. form instead of the 3rd pers., which would have been máttit.”  [Lassen, p. 96 in online edition, 97 in paperback edition]

In their commentary to stanza 2 of Hrafnagaldur  Björnsson and Reaves state that the “wights” referred to “are Rögnir and Reginn (see stanza 10) who are causing the devastating winter (Fimbulvetur). The sons of Ívaldi have become enemies of the gods, and thus all of creation.”  I will address that issue in my revised commentary under stanza 10; but, in essence, I agree for the reason they give under stanza 10 that “Rögnir and Reginn” is unlikely to refer to gods; however, I don’t agree with B and R’s conclusion as to the actual identity of the beings so referred to.

Further along in their commentary to stanza 2, Björnsson and Reaves state that:  “2.7… In the poem [Urður] is also referred to as Gjallar sunnu gátt in stanza 9, veiga selja in stanza 11, Gefjun in stanza 12, Jórunn instanza 15, sprund in stanza 20, svanni in stanza 21…”  I don’t accept their reading of the names Gjallar, Gejun, Jórunn and svanni as referring to the Norn Urður.  I accept the reading of the other translators that those names referr instead to the disr ‘Idunn,’ who is the focus of the poem, not Urður.  See Yves Kodratoff’s thoughtful working-out of the names here:  .


(Concerning stanza 3 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
There is an  intimation that this is connected with dreams and prophecy, in all of the translations. Moreover, there is a strong intimation of a connection with seidhr: ‘Thrain’ means ‘threatening;’ ‘Dain’ means ‘died.’ [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ pages 328 and 55, respectively]

The Björnsson and Reaves interpretation of stanza 3 gives the most coherent meaning for the stanza as a whole, in my opinion, and it is in line with those of Kodratoff’s and Thorpe’s.

Lassen’s interpretation of the first two lines in stanza 3, on the other hand, leaves them ‘hanging in the air,’ as it were, with no meaningful connection to the last two lines, even if we accept her idea that ‘Odhrærir’ is a dwarf who’s decided he can’t cut it on his own, with the whole baby-sitting Urður thing:  “Therefore his courage fails, he looks for the others, the people (dwarves?) suspect harm if he delays; Þráinn’s thought is [filled with] a weighty dream, Dáinn’s thought [with] a deceitful dream.”  If that’s the meaning the poet intended, I’d say we should be looking next for what he was smoking.  Odhrærir the dwarf can’t manage Urdhur on his own, so he’s looking for help.  Thrain’s dreaming weighty dreams.  Dain’s fantasizing.  It’s just odd.  The Björnsson and Reaves interpretation, however, gives a consistent and developed thought:  Hugr is Huginn, ‘Thought,’ Odinn’s raven of the same name; he’s seeking out the highest attainable level of thought, ‘the heavens.’  Odinn fears trouble if he delays; (nice hat-tip to the Lay of Griminir, there).  The portents coming to Odinn (from the omniously-named dwarf-sources Thrainn and Dain), are foreboding but unhelpful.

Dain’ appears in the ‘Catalogue of Dwarves’ in ‘Voluspa’ or ‘Voluspo:’ see stanza 11 here:  However, that same list clearly also contains at least two names which would appear to refer to elves, not dwarves, ‘Vindalf,’ and ‘Alf; so it’s not clear from the Catalogue that ‘Dain’ is actually a dwarf.  Moreover, in the ‘runic section’ of ‘Havamol,’ the ‘Sayings of the High One,’ it is said that it was Dainn who “carved runes for the elves.”  See stanza 144 here:

Thrainn (aka Thrain or Þráinn), a name also found in Havamol’s ‘Catalogue of Dwarves,’ was, in addition, the name of a draugur  an ‘undead’ inhabitant of a burial-mound, in The Saga of Saga of Hromund Gripsson. “Thrain, who conquered Gaul and was king there, he who was a great and mighty berserk, and an excellent sorcerer – he entered a barrow with his sword, armour and much wealth.”  [Chapter 3, here:  ]


(Concerning stanza 4 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
I don’t accept B and R’s extrapolation from the Old English meaning of ‘nið’ to translate it as ‘chasm;’  Lassen sticks to the conventional Old Norse meaning and translates it as ‘darkness.’

‘Alsvith,’ ‘The All-Wise,’ [Hollander, ‘Poetic Edda,’ p. 37] is another name found in that ‘runic stanza (144) mentioned above:  “Alsvith for giants [wrought runes]…”

Lassen specualates that ‘All-Wise’ could mean Odin.  I agree.   As Henry Adams Bellows points out in his notes under the stanza, “Alsvith (“the All Wise”) appears nowhere else as a giant’s name.”  The only ‘wise giant’ connected to the passing on of mystical knowledge is Mimir, “probably ‘the rememberer, ‘the wise one’ [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 216].  However, Mimir is consistently an extremely passive figure in the myths, a murdered being who lived on only as a head spouting knowledge in a well.  He got felled; he didn’t ‘fell’ anything.  The same problem applies to B and R’s ingenious suggestion that ‘Alvith’ might apply to the world-tree Yggdrasil:  The only time trees ‘fell’ anything is if they happen to fall on it.  They are passive, whereas the context for ‘Alsvith’ in stanza 4 of Hrafnagaldur is clearly of a very active being, engaging in an oft-repeated behavior.  The context in stanza 4 can only be that of a recurring death and some kind of ‘resurrection’ at the hands of Odin, “of all beings, the wisest” [Vafþrúðnismál, st. 55]  Now, we can start to get a sense for what the 17th century-author of ‘Hrafnagaldur Odins’ is doing, and why, in my opinion:  He is speaking about a very touchy subject:  the theme of a repeated death-and-resurrection cycle brought about by the god of a bygone-era, in the environment of 17th century Christianity – which allowed for one death only and one resurrection only – on the Last Day of Judgment.  The only way to do that without getting put on trial for blasphemy or heresy or even witchcraft, or getting killed, was, obliquely.


(Concerning stanza 5 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Again, there is clearly an intimation that wisdom is to be found in the unconscious, ie, ‘Mimir’s Well’ – a key paradigm of lucid dreaming.

 In my opinion, it is in their commentary to stanza 5 where Björnsson and Reaves really begin to go off the rails.  They say:  “3. lofti með lævi. This must be compared to Völuspá 25: hver hefði loft allt / lævi blandið. The word læ has two basic meanings, both of which apply, “treachery” and “damage, harm”. In the Völuspá passage it is Loki who has created the treacherous/harmful atmosphere. Here the “wights”, Rögnir and Reginn, traitors to the gods, are sending forth “harmful streams of air” from the extreme north, endangering all of creation. But in this case Loki is also the ultimate villain – he has directly caused Ívaldi’s sons to fall out with the gods.”  Here is the version of ‘Voluspa’ they are using:  and, in his notes to his translation of the same passage:  Henry Adams Bellows summarizes the myth referred to, in which, however, Loki may at worst be accused of giving dangerous advice, advice, however, which he himself redeemed in the end; and Freyja, the mysterious  Òð’s wife, never was actually given to a giant, ever.

That same stanza from the Voluspa is quoted together with the story in Gylfaginning XLII  Then said Gangleri: “Who owns that horse Sleipnir, or what is to be said of him?” Hárr answered: “Thou hast no knowledge of Sleipnir’s points, and thou knowest not the circumstances of his begetting; but it will seem to thee worth the telling. It was early in the first days of the gods’ dwelling here, when the gods had established the Midgard and made Valhall; there came at that time a certain wright and offered to build them a citadel in three seasons, so good that it should be staunch and proof against the Hill-Giants and the Rime-Giants, though they should come in over Midgard. But he demanded as wages that he should have possession of Freyja, and would fain have had the sun and the moon. Then the Æsir held parley and took counsel together; and a bargain was made with the wright, that he should have that which he demanded, if he should succeed in completing the citadel in one winter. On the first day of summer, if any part of the citadel were left unfinished, he should lose his reward; and he was to receive help from no man in the work. When they told him these conditions, he asked that they would give him leave to have the help of his stallion, which was called Svadilfari; and Loki advised it, so that the wright’s petition was granted. He set to work the first day of winter to make the citadel, and by night he hauled stones with the stallion’s aid; and it seemed very marvellous to the Æsir what great rocks that horse drew, for the horse did more rough work by half than did the wright. But there were strong witnesses to their bargain, and many oaths, since it seemed unsafe to the giant to be among the Æsir without truce, if Thor should come home. But Thor had then gone away into the eastern region to fight trolls.

“Now when the winter drew nigh unto its end, the building of the citadel was far advanced; and it was so high and strong that it could not be taken. When it lacked three days of summer, the work had almost reached the gate of the stronghold. Then the gods sat down in their judgment seats, and sought means of evasion, and asked one another who had advised giving Freyja into Jötunheim, or so destroying the air and the heaven as to take thence the sun and the moon and give them to the giants. The gods agreed that he must have counselled this who is wont to give evil advice, Loki Laufeyarson, and they declared him deserving of an ill death, if he could not hit upon a way of losing the wright his wages; and they threatened Loki with violence. But when he became frightened, then he swore oaths, that he would so contrive that the wright should lose his wages, cost him what it might.

“That same evening, when the wright drove out after stone with the stallion Svadilfari, a mare bounded forth from a certain wood and whinnied to him. The stallion, perceiving what manner of horse this was, straightway became frantic, and snapped the traces asunder, and leaped over to the mare, and she away to the wood, and the wright after, striving to seize the stallion. These horses ran all night, and the wright stopped there that night; and afterward, at day, the work was not done as it had been before. When the wright saw that the work could not be brought to an end, he fell into giant’s fury. Now that the Æsir saw surely that the hill-giant was come thither, they did not regard their oaths reverently, but called on Thor, who came as quickly. And straightway the hammer Mjöllnir was raised aloft; he paid the wright’s wage, and not with the sun and the moon. Nay, he even denied him dwelling in Jötunheim, and struck but the one first blow, so that his skull was burst into small crumbs, and sent him down below under Niflhel. But Loki had such dealings with Svadilfari, that somewhat later he gave birth to a foal, which was gray and had eight feet; and this horse is the best among gods and men. So is said in Völuspá:  Then all the Powers strode | to the seats of judgment,  The most holy gods | council held together:  Who had the air all | with evil envenomed, Or to the Ettin-race | Ódr’s maid given.  Broken were oaths then, | bond and swearing,  Pledges all sacred | which passed between them;  Thor alone smote there, | swollen with anger:  He seldom sits still | when such he hears of.” 

So, the only ‘evil air envenomed’ by Loki in the myth referred to, was the ‘crime’ of giving highly hazardous advice – advice which, however, turned out for the best thanks in no small part to Loki himself, as we can see from Snorri Sturluson’s telling of the story.  Snorri’s version is the only extant version of the story, and Snorri himself tied his version of events to the Voluspa stanza cited by Björnsson and Reaves in their commentary to stanza 5 of Hrafnagaldur Odins.  Even had Loki not actually redeemed his own dangerous advice in the myth referred to by Snorri, the act of giving it in the first place would nevertheless still not have been an act on the order and scale of sending a deadly three-years-long winter around the world.  The gods freely chose to follow Loki’s advice.  It just wasn’t the same kind of event at all; nor was it on the same scale as that referred to in Hrafnagaldur Odins.

[However, the disr Idunn was given to the giant Þjazi (or Thjazi) by Loki – who was under severe threat of losing his own life, according to Snorri Sturlson’s Skaldskaparmal:  first story.]

Not only is it a bit rich to blame Loki for the predicament of the gods referred to in Voluspa 28, it’s also outstandingly unsupported by any mythical backdrop to say he caused a major falling-out between the gods and Ívaldi’s sons, (the ‘dark-elves’ or dwarves whose sole mythic claim to fame is set out in XXXV here:  )  In fact, it’s clear from the story that any long-standing grudge of “Ívaldi’s sons” would have been, not so much with the gods, as with Loki himself.

Poor, poor misunderstood Loki… :-p  Loki has been brilliantly portrayed in several recent movies, by Tom Hiddleston.  I don’t know who made the excellent drawing of Hiddleston as Loki (above), which my daughter found online for me.

I don’t buy Annette Lassen’s interpretation: “the wise being hides in the well of Mimir,” either, and as she points out in her notes to the stanza, several other interpretations are possible.  Other translators are agreed that the phrase most likely means something along the lines of:  “Hidden in Mimir’s well, (is) men’s certain knowledge,” to quote Benjamin Thorpe.


(Concerning stanza 6 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
I note that Idunn here is called ‘dis’ in all four translations. Simek agrees that Old Norse ‘dis’ can mean either ‘woman,’ or, “a kind of female (fertility?” deity; but he goes on to remark that “The disir are frequently mentioned in Old Norse prose literature, mostly in the meaning of fetch-like women who appear in dreams… Several of the Eddic sources might lead us to conclude that the disir were valkyrie-like guardians of the dead… The disir are explicitly called dead women in ‘Atlamal’ 28 and a secondary belief that the disir were the souls of dead women (cf ‘fylgjur’) also underlies the ‘landdisir’ of Icelandic folklore.’ [Simek, page 61]

From the commentary by Björnsson and Reaves under stanza 6:  “1. Dvelur í dölum. We take dölum as referring to the Úlfdalir (Wolfdales),”  B and R set out their reasons in point 3 of their commentary under stanza 8:  “…Our suggestion is that vigg naumu (the giantess’ horse) is the accepted “kenning” for “wolf”. Vé viggjar naumu (home of the wolf) would thus be practically a synonym for “Wolfdales” (Úlfdalir), cp. stanza 6.”  However, Lassen interprets ‘viggjar’ as “the genitive of ‘horse’ and says in her notes to stanza 8:  that the word “must refer to Yggdrasill, from which Iðunn came down. Yggdrasill is thought to mean ‘Yggr’s (Óðinn’s) horse’, the steed Óðinn was ‘riding’ when he was hanging on the tree.  We were told in st. 7 that Iðunn was under the tree.”  Lassen’s interpretation of the place to which the disr Idunn fell down is less of  a stretch than B and R’s; however, we are still left with the problem of relating that place to a ‘holy place.’  Yggdrasil is the world tree, and the only ‘holy place’ on it is the “holy sanctuary of the Gods.” [See  ‘Tir’ Rune, the story of Tir and Fenrir, on ‘Marnie Tunay’s Rune Page.]  I will take up this issue again in my (revised) commentary under stanza 8 on this page.

Suffice it to say for now, that, though they vary sharply in their interpretations of stanza 6, the translators are pretty much agreed as to the actual written content:  “A curious “dís”  descended or fell down the world-tree Yggdrasill, and now she dwells in “dales.’  Her name was Idunn (Iðunn), and she was the youngest of Ivald’s children.”

Who is ‘Ivald?’  I’ve touched upon this question in my remarks to stanza 1 above.  Furthermore, on page 484 of his ‘Glossary’ to Snorri Sturlson’s ‘Skaldskaparmal:  Anthony Faulkes says:   “Ívaldi m. a dwarf; his sons perhaps means dwarfs in general rather than any particular ones v62/1, 41/34 (Gylf., Grímnismál).

In their commentary to stanza 6, Björnsson and Reaves, on the other hand, state that their interpretation of Ivald’s identity is based on a “penetrating analysis” of the same by Viktory Rydberg.  I’ve already summarized the sparse mythic references to Ivald’s identity in my remarks to stanza 1.

Björnsson and Reaves believe, based in part on Rydberg’s ideas, that a mythical figure named Ívald’,’ or ‘Ívaldi,’ referred to in Snorri Sturluson’s Skaldskaparmal:  [see “{p. 145} XXXV” here: ] who’s referred to solely in the context of being the father of dwarves/or so-called ‘dark-elves’* in the one myth we have about him, is actually the father of a giant, Þjazi (Thjazi):  [see first story here:  ]  who is himself, according to B and R, actually the “prince of elves” Völundur:   B and R further believe that, in Hrafngaldur Odins,  it is this same giant Þjazi who is actually the elf Völundur, who is working with a brother to bring about the end of the world, by calling up the mythical Fimbulwinter that “precedes the end of the world and puts an end to all life on Earth.”

Björnsson and Reaves base their interpretation (and to some degree their translation) of Odinn’s Raven Song on the theory of the 19th century scholar Viktor Rydberg, in brief, that: the ‘Ivald’ referred to in stanza 6 was one and the same as the ‘leader of the alfs’ Volsung, (see Volsungsaga here:  ); and that the ‘Rogner and Regin’ of stanza 10 refer to, not’ the god and the gods’ as it is commonly interpreted, but to “the Ívaldasynir, probably Völundur and Egill” who are, according to Björnsson and Reaves (and Rydberg), magically calling up the ‘dreadful three-years-long winter’ [See Snorri,   ] which presages the coming doom of the old gods.  The Idunn of stanza 6 is presumed by those three to be the same Idunn who is called ‘the keeper of the golden apples that rejuvenate the gods’ in the myth:    .    From 910, Vol III Rydberg’s Teutonic mythology:  “… In Forspjallsljóð (10) we read:  Galdr gólo, gaundom ritho Rögnir ok Regin at ranni heimis – “Rogner and Regin sang magic songs at the end of the earth and constructed magic implements.”  They who do this are artists, smiths.  In strophe 8 they are called viggiar, and viggi is a synonym of smidr.  (Younger Edda, i. 587)  While they do this Idunn is absent from Asgard (Forspjallsljóð str. 6) and a terrible cold threatens to destroy the Earth.  The words in Völuspa, with which the terrible winter of antiquity is characterised, loptr lavi blandinn, are adopted by Forspjallsljóð (str. 6 – loptr med lavi showing the same mythic event is there described.”   [Vol III of Rydberg’s ‘Teutonic Mythology’ is available here on scribd:  ]

I don’t accept Viktor Rydberg’s theory about Ivald being either the ham-strung ‘alf-leader’ Volsung or the architect of Ragnarök, because there is simply no real evidence, in my opinion, to support either of those ideas.  

I think it’s quite likely that Anthony Faulkes is on the mark when he suggests that “sons of Ivald” was a general kenning for ‘dwarf,’ or ‘dark-elf,’ since a number of manuscripts say ‘swart-alf’ in reference to the “sons of Ivald.”  I’m inclined to think that the author of Hrafnagaldur was nailing down the essential nature of the disr Idunn:  she was of “elven kin,” and the reference to Ivald was intended to specifiy Which class of elves whose kin she was:  the ‘dark elves.’

So, who is the Iðunn’ of the poem ‘Hrafnagaldur Odins?’  In his commentary to stanza 6:  Yves Kodratoff says of her:  “She was living ‘up there’ in Yggdrasil and she fell down to stay in the valley. It is thus reasonable to suppose that she was living in Ásgarðr with the Aesir.”  Agreed.  It is also reasonable to think she was the same Idunn who is said by Snorri Sturlson to be the wife of the poet-god Bragi, and the same who had previously been swiped, along with her apples of rejeuvenation, by the giant Thiazi, (Þjazi); although, as Kodratoff points out, the myth of the stolen apples is not the story referred to in stanza 6 of Hrafnagaldur.   There is no reason from the extant mythic references to think, as B and R did, that the giant Thiazi  was the ‘dark-elf’ Volsund from the Völsungasaga: or, that Idunn was the “lover” of either of them.

Björnsson and Reaves base their ideas exclusively on the corresponding theory developed by Viktor Rydberg.

In the first part of William P. Reaves’ extended commentary on Rydberg’s theories concerning Ivald:   the title of the first section of Rydberg’s work cited in it:  “III. THE IVALDI FAMILY [561] 96. SVIPDAG AND GROA” is a little misleading.  The Rydberg section Reaves refers to is actually to be found starting on page 747 of my copy of Volume III of Victor Rydberg’s ‘Germanic Mythology, Gods and Goddesses of the Northland,’ in the “authorised translation from the Swedish” by Rasmus B. Anderson, published in 1906 by the Norrcena Society.  [It’s available as a free download on scribd: ]  The section of Rydberg’s ‘Mythology’ which is the first reference in Reave’s translation of “chapters 110 – 113:”  begins on  page 870 in Vol. III of Rasmus B. Anderson’s translation, (which appears to be the translation Reaves is using, albeit with rather odd numbering).

In the beginning of chapter 110, Rydberg says:  “To these treasures [created by Ivald’s sons] belonged the remarkable ship Skiðblaðnir and the gold-glittering boar Slíðrugtanni… both most probably symbols of vegetation…”  Salads must have been interesting in the Rydberg house.  He goes on to say:  “It would be most surprising, even quite incredible, if, when other artists made useful presents to Frey, the elf-prince Völund and his brothers did not do likewise, inasmuch as he is the chief smith of them all…”  Yeah, well, that’s not what the Snorri Sturlson says in the Prose Edda story Rydberg is discussing:  See XL1V (page 56) here and the complete story here:  XXXV (starting on page 145) here  The only smiths’ names mentioned in the actual story are Brokkr and Sindri, who might very well be “Ivaldi’s sons,” from the context.  There is no mention of the smith Völund, or Wieland, or Weland anywhere in the story, or anywhere in Snorri Sturlson’s Prose Edda, for that matter; and there’s a good reason for that.  The Lay of Völund is part of the so-called ‘Heroic Lays’ in the Poetic Edda, not the ‘Mythological Lays.’  Everything else Rydberg posits is based on his transposition of Volund into the myths of the Gods.   [March 06, 2015:  I stand corrected on the placement of Lay of Völund in the Heroic Lays.  cf, for ex:  Dronke, ‘The Poetic Edda, Vol. I, Heroic Poems, p. xi.  I stand by everything else I sad regarding the invalidity of Rydberg’s case with respect to Ivaldi’s sons.]  Moreover, he often cites Hrafnagaldur Odins as support for his arguments.  However, one cannot use as ‘proof,’ the very thing the soundness of which, one is in the process of attempting to validate.

I would say, therefore, that Rydberg shows poor scholarship and circular reasoning in his theory that:  (i) the elf-smith Völund from the ‘tales of the heroes’ was one of the “sons of Ivald” from the ‘tales of the gods;” (2) the dis Idunn, whom he calls “the dis of vegetation,” from Hrafnagaldur was the swan-maiden wife of Völund – which would make her both sister and wife to him, according to Rydberg’s theory; and three, that Völund was a dark-elf son of Ivald who somehow managed to become the giant Thjazi who had previously stolen Idunn and her apples away from Loki.  See the complete story of Idunn and Thjazi at the beginning of the page here:

I understand why Rydberg calls Idunn the “dis of vegetation,” though.  Yves Kodratoff gives an interesting and thoughtful note on the meaning of Idunn’s name in Hrafnagaldur, under his translation of stanza 6 here:

However, the ‘disr’ are most frequently used in the mythic sources as a synonym for the either the Norns or Valkyries, for ‘Odins disr,’ Odinn’s ladies, in other words, the ‘choosers of the battle-slain,’ (not a role commonly played by vegetation of the non-poisonous variety).    For instance, in the ‘Lay of Grimnir,’ Benjamin Thorpe translates the judgment passed on the doomed King Geirrod as “53. The fallen by the sword Ygg shall now have; thy life is now run out: Wroth with thee are the Disir: Odin thou now shalt see: draw near to me if thou canst.”  whereas Lee Hollanders translate the word ‘Disir’ in the same passage as ‘norns.’  [Hollander, ‘Poetic Edda,’ p. 64]  For more on the Old Norse conceptions of ‘disir,’ see:

Finally, in their commentary to stanza 6 and repeated under stanza 7 of ‘Hrafnagaldur,’ Björnsson and Reaves state that Iðunn is “probably a daughter of Sunna…” ‘Sunna’ is “a goddess who is only mentioned in the Second Merseburg Charm, and should probably only be understood as a literary personification of ‘sun…’ [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 303].  There is no mention of a kid in that Merseburg reference to ‘Sunna:’  It is said in the extant myths that the sun-being ‘Sól’ will have a daughter in the time of Ragnarök, the ‘Twilight of the Gods:’    “47.”A daughter bright  Alfrothul [‘Alf-beam’] bears ere Fenrir snatches her forth; Her mother’s paths  shall the maiden tread When the gods to death have gone.” However, the name of the Sun’s ‘future’ daughter is not given, and even the supposed personification of the sun is contentious:  in other mythic sources the sun is referred to as a ‘fair wheel.’  See ‘LV (page 206) here:

  Loki and the Dwarfs, (including the “sons of Ivald”) by Artist Unknown, courtesy of


(Concerning stanza 7 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Lassen errs, (or her translator, Anthony Faulkes does,) in the first part of v. 7, where she inexplicably identified Nott (the personification of Night) as being Male – in contrast to every other source I checked, (with the sole exception of her English translator, Anthony Faulkes): the other three translations of Hrafnagaldur; Rudolph Simek’s ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 238; and John Lindow, p. 46 in ‘Norse Mythology – a Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs.’

Snorri Sturluson, the thirteenth-century Icelandic scholar, states in the first part of his ‘Prose Edda,’ ‘the deception of Gylfi,’ that ‘Norfi or Narfi is the name of a giant who lived in Jotunheim. He had a daughter called Nott [‘night’] who was black and dark…’” [Simek, ibid,p. 238].

Moreover, Anthony Faulkes, Lassen’s English translator, seems to have been aware that Nott was normally personified as being female in gender. In his ‘Skaldskaparmal glossary, in the Index to Names on page 495, he says: “Njƒrun f. an Ásynja v433/8 (used in kennings for woman, see LP; cf. njƒrn, SnE 1848–87, 490, which appears as an error for Mƒrn in v425/5 t. n.); in kenning for night (i. e. Nótt?), draum-N. v380/6  see his ‘Glossary and Index here:

In Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, ‘Chapter 10’ of ‘Gylfaginning,’ ‘The Beguiling of Gylfi,’ here:  in both the Old Icelandic and in the facing-page English translation, we can clearly see that the relationship of “Nörfi or Narfi” and ” Nótt [Night] is that of father and daughter:  “X. “Nörfi or Narfi is the name of a giant that dwelt in Jötunheim: he had a daughter called Night;”  and the equivalent Icelandic:  “Nörfi eða Narfi hét jötunn, er byggði í Jötunheimum. Hann átti dóttur, er Nótt hét.”

However, the word used in stanza 7 of Hrafngaldur to define ‘Nörvi’s kin’ is not dóttur , but “kunne or kunnu,”  [Lassen], unanimously emended by the translators to ‘kundar.’  As Lassen points out in her note 7.6:  “Kundr, according to Snorri (SnE II 107/18) is a word for ‘relative.‘”  Arthur Brodeur translates it as ‘kith’ in that Snorri reference:  “LXVII… “Kin, Kith, Friend, Kin-Stave” and the equivalent Icelandic section:  “83…. konr, kundr, frændi, kynstafr,”

Now, the meaning of the word used  in Hrafnagaldur for ‘Nörvi’s kin’ really matters, because it establishes where the dis Idunn is to be found.  And a reading of ‘the dwelling of Night,’ which is what all of the translators settled for, is unsatisfactory, because it’s meaningless.  ‘Night’ didn’t have her own dwelling-place; moreover, it’s clear that the Northern heathens thought of Night as being a personification of a period of time, not a place in space.  “Thor spake: 29. “Answer me, Alvis! | thou knowest all, Dwarf, of the doom of men: What call they the night, | the daughter of Nor, In each and every world?”  Alvis spake: 30. “‘Night’ men call it, | ‘Darkness’ gods name it, ‘The Hood’ the holy ones high; The giants ‘The Lightless,’ | the elves ‘Sleep’s joy” The dwarfs ‘The Weaver of Dreams.“‘

Björnsson and Reaves suggest that by ‘Night’s dwelling-place,’ the author could mean ‘Niflhel,’ the darkest region of the underworld.    Kodratoff interprets it as meaning “a world of eternal night,” and considers the whole stanza to be “unimportant.”

I consider the stanza to be critically important in establishing what the author is really talking about, if he’s not just babbling nonsense.  Establishing the place in which most of the action takes place in the poem is vital to establishing whether or not there is a meaningful context to the poem.  Since an interpretation of kundar Nörva as referring to the personified ‘Night’ doesn’t give us what it should, from the context, namely a dwelling-place for Idunn, clearly, we need to take another look at the assumption that the only kin of Nörva  that could possibly be referred to in the stanza, is Night.

On page 338 of his ‘Glossary‘ to Snorri Sturluson’s Skáldskaparmál , ‘The Poesy of Skalds,’ Anthony  Faulkes gives this range of meanings for ‘kundr:  m. son, descendant, kinsman 107/18, v447/4″

Now that we’ve established the possibility kundar Nörva may not refer to ‘Night’ in Hrafnagaldur, we need to take another look at who Nörva might be.

Possibility one: a giant in Jötunheimr, realm of the Rock giants and Frost giants), and the “father of Night:”

Mythic reference 1.  Gylfaginning X:  “X. “Nörfi or Narfi is the name of a giant that dwelt in Jötunheim: he had a daughter called Night…”  “Nörfi eða Narfi hét jötunn, er byggði í Jötunheimum. Hann átti dóttur, er Nótt hét.”

Mythic Reference 2.  Vafthruthnismol, the ‘Ballad of Vafthruthnir:’  “Vafthruthnir spake: 25. “The father of day | is Delling called, And the night was begotten by Nor; Full moon and old | by the gods were fashioned, To tell the time for men.”

Mythic Reference 2b.  In his extraordinary translation of the Poetic Edda, James Allen Chisholm gives the following for the stanza 25 of  Vafthruthnismol:   “Delling he is called who is father of day. Night was born of Norvi. The Regin shaped the new and waning moons for men to tally time.” Chisholm also gives side by side with his translations what would appear from his ‘Bibliography’ to be the old Norse version from the Codex Regius Manuscript.  For stanza 25 it reads:   “Dellingr heitir, hann er Dags faðir, en Nótt var Nörvi borin; ný ok nið skópu nýt regin öldum at ártali.”  which supports his translation, “born of” rather than the conventional “daughter of.”  His book is available as a free download here:

What connects the first possibility to the next one is Snorri’s citing of the alternative ‘Narfi’ for name of the father of night.

Possibility two, the son of Loki Laufeyson:

Starting at XXXIII of Snorri Sturluson’s mythic composition, ‘The Deluding of Gylfi’ (page 41 here:  ):

XXXIII. “Also numbered among the Æsir is he whom some call the mischief-monger of the Æsir, and the first father of falsehoods, and blemish of all gods and men: he is named Loki or Loptr, son of Fárbauti [‘Striker’] the giant; his mother was Laufey or Nál; his brothers are Býleistr and Helblindi. Loki is beautiful and comely to look upon, evil in spirit., very fickle in habit. He surpassed other men in that wisdom which is called ‘sleight,’ and had artifices for all occasions; he would ever bring the Æsir into great hardships, and then get them out with crafty counsel. His wife was called Sigyn, their son Nari or Narfi.

XXXIV. Yet more children had Loki. Angrboda was the name of a certain giantess in Jötunheim, with whom Loki gat three children: one was Fenris-Wolf, the second Jörmungandr–that is the Midgard Serpent,–the third is Hel. But when the gods learned that this kindred was nourished in Jötunheim, and when the gods perceived by prophecy that from this kindred great misfortune should befall them; and since it seemed to all that there was great prospect of ill–(first from the mother’s blood, and yet worse from the father’s)-then Allfather sent gods thither to take the children and bring them to him. When they came to him, straightway he cast the serpent into the deep sea, where he lies about all the land; and this serpent grew so greatly that he lies in the midst of the ocean encompassing all the land, and bites upon his own tail. Hel he cast into Niflheim, and gave to her power over nine worlds, to apportion all abodes among those that were sent to her: that is, men dead of sickness or of old age. She has great possessions there; her walls are exceeding high and her gates great. Her hall is called Sleet-Cold; her dish, Hunger; Famine is her knife; Idler, her thrall; Sloven, her maidservant; Pit of Stumbling, her threshold, by which one enters; Disease, her bed; Gleaming Bale, her bed-hangings. She is half blue-black and half flesh-color (by which she is easily recognized), and very lowering and fierce.”

In the aftermath of Baldr’s death at the instigation of Loki, Snorri says:  “”Now Loki was taken truceless, and was brought with them into a certain cave. Thereupon they took three flat stones, and set them on edge and drilled a hole in each stone. Then were taken Loki’s sons, Vili and Nari or Narfi; the Æsir changed Váli into the form of a wolf, and he tore asunder Narfi his brother. And the Æsir took his entrails and bound Loki with them over the three stones: one stands under his shoulders, the second under his loins, the third under his boughs; and those bonds were turned to iron. Then Skadi took a venomous serpent and fastened it up over him, so that the venom should drip from the serpent into his face. But Sigyn, his wife, stands near him and holds a basin under the venom-drops; and when the basin is full, she goes and pours out the venom, but in the meantime the venom drips into his face. Then he writhes against it with such force that all the earth trembles: ye call that ‘earthquakes.’ There he lies in bonds till the Weird of the Gods.” L, (page 76 – 77) here:

The ‘Vili’ in that translation “Loki’s sons, Vili and…” is a mistake.  The Old Icelandic says “Váli:’

What connects the two possibilities in terms of a spatial context is the realm of Jötunheimr, the realm of the giants.  The father of night was a giant.  Loki’s son is probably a giant; his grandfather Fárbauti was a giant, according to Snorri, and Loki himself was probably a giant, too.

Jötunheimr, “the demonic realm of the giants” [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology’, p. 180] was thought to be in the east until at least the 14th century;  later it was conceived to be “further and further to the north…” [ibid]  According to the Eddic Poem Völuspá, the Seeress who is narrating the poem came from Jötunheimr, and so did the the Norns.  See stanzas 2 and 8 in Yves Kodratoff’s excellent rendering, with explanatory notes, of Völuspá here:  The ‘doom of the gods’ will come from Jötunheimr (ibid, stanza 50]

In his book ‘Teutonic Mythology,’ Kveldulf Gundarsson gives a detailed description with diagrams of how the ‘nine worlds’ fit together as a spatial concept in early Northern heathendom.  [pages 7 – 11)  Gundarsson also gives a thoughtful presentation on the significance of the “world-patterns” to the ‘inner world of humans’ in his earlier book, ‘Teutonic Magic,’ pages 6 – 11.  “The Nine Worlds of the Teutonic cosmos are arranged in two major patterns: the horizontal and the vertical (see figs. I and 2). The two are not complementary: the vertical model represents a refinement of the horizontal, which shows the traditional levels of being – the Overworld, the Earth, and the Underworld passed through in the spiritual journey. The most significant aspect of the horizontal world-pattern is its emphasis on boundaries: the  ocean which separates the world of humans from the worlds surrounding it the second fence protecting Midgardhr (lit. “middle enclosure”) from the foes without and the inner circle of Asgardhr (“enclosure of the gods”). [ibid, p. 6]”

In any case, I feel fairly certain that the dis Idunn has sunk, ‘from the realm of the gods?’ to the realm of the giants, in stanza 7 of Hrafnagaldur.

The World-tree Yggdrasil, adapted from a work of Wilhelm Wägner’s,  by M. W. Macdowall, courtesy of  and further edited by myself; ‘The Norns’ by Frederick Sander; the dwarf Brock by Donn Phillip Crane; ‘Elves’ and ‘Aegir and ‘Ran’ Adapted from the work of Wilhelm Wägner  by M. W. Macdowall; ‘Hel’ by artist unknown;‘ ‘Asgard’ by F. W. Heine; ‘a giant,’ courtesy of ; ‘Odin’ by Otto Spamer, courtesy of


(Concerning stanza 8 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
In her note 8.4, Annette Lassen says:  “According to Hallgrímur Scheving (1837, 13), the poet is trying to depict the gods in a ridiculous light by their treating Iðunn as a witch (‘galdranorn’) in among other things sending her a wolf skin, but also by showing them chanting spells and riding on wolves (st. 10).

However, Björnsson and Reaves state, concerning the word Lassen translates as “victory-gods (or battle-gods)” in stanza 8:  “1. sigtívar. The literal meaning of this epithet is “victorious gods”. It is, however, by no means certain that the Æsir (or Vanir) are meant here. In Fáfnismál 24, Sigurður Fáfnisbani uses the word in a way surely referring to human warriors (i.e. the Niflungar).”  And in fact, of the three translators of that passage in Fáfnismál (The Lay of Fáfnir), Henry Adams Bellows, Lee Hollander and Benjamin Thorpe, only Bellows translates sigtívar as ‘glorious gods.’  Thorpe translates it as ‘glorious heroes,’ and Hollander, merely as ‘men.’

All of the translators accept that, by ‘Nanna,’ in stanza 8, the poet is not referring to the goddess Nanna, who is the murdered god Balder’s wife.  Lassen says in her note 8.3:  “…. In Vƒluspá 30 nanna is used in the plural (‘nǫnnur Herjans’ ‘Óðinn’s ladies’) of valkyries. Finally, in rímur and skaldic kennings nanna means ‘woman’, and that is probably what it means here. It presumably refers to Iðunn.”  Björnsson and Reaves state:  “…The meaning “giantess” is confirmed. However, it is also used in many kennings as an equivalent for “woman”, and occurs in the Nafnaþulur among “kvenna heiti ókennd”….

Yves Kodratoff and Annette Lassen agree that the phrase viggjar að véum means something like ‘the (holy) sanctuary of the horse.’  Benjamin Thorpe translates it as “earth’s deep sanctuaries.”  The argument that Björnsson and Reaves make for translating it as “wolf-dales” seems very strained to me, and I don’t accept it.

All of the translators agree the phrase vargsbelg seldu means our heroine Idunn was given a wolf-skin (by the victorious-whatever of the first line in stanza 8).  Yves Kodratoff interprets it as referring to an act of ‘shape-shifting’ and I agree that’s a distinct possibility, although, not the only one:

In her Journal paper for the University of Illinois, “The Werewolf in Medieval Icelandic Literature,”  Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir, an Associate Professor at the University of Iceland  says:

page 279 – 280:  “In the medieval Icelandic sources, one finds references to men and gods changing their form by putting on the hamr of a certain animal, but the word hamr can mean both a pelt/skin and a shape. The goddess Freyja has a feather hamr and the swan maidens in Völundarkviða take upon themselves the hamr of swans.11 This kind of feather hamr that functions like a vestment is quite common,12 as is the wolf’s hamr, which is found, e.g., in Völsunga saga. The key term in this context is hamr. One finds references to men changing into wolves by taking upon themselves a vargshamr (a wolf’s shape) and becoming vargar (wolves).13 “13. See, for example, Ála flekks saga, ed. Åke Lagerholm, in Drei lygisƒgur (Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1927), p. 99: “legg ek þat á pik, at þú verðir at vargi” (this I cast upon you—you will become a wolf). The sagas generally do not describe how people put on the wolf’s hamr; the terms used are to “turn into” (verða að) or “take on” (bregða á sig) a particular form. It is also common for the hamr to come upon them, or for them (their bodies) to sleep while their soul takes on the likeness (líki) or hamr of the animal. In some sources, which are mentioned later in this section, spells are cast on people, stating that they are to “resemble wolves” (líkjast vörgum). Women change into she-wolves; see Völsunga saga, in Fornaldar sögur Nordrlanda, I, ch. 5, p. 126, and Sigrgarðs saga frækna, in Late Medieval Icelandic Romances, ed. Agnete Loth, Editiones Arnamagnæanæ, B, 24 (Copenhagen, 1965), V, ch. 11, p. 83. The wording in other sources is less clear: people take on vargshamr or vargslíki or simply don wolf pelts (vargsbelgr/úlfahamr).”

page 282:  “People who had power over their souls by being able to shape-shift were called hamrammir or eigi einhamir. Finnur Jónsson, writing about seiðr, argued that most sorcerers and shamans had the ability to change themselves into the shape of any living creature.20

page 285:  “The wolf is Óðinn’s animal and as a scavenger—along with his ravens—the appropriate symbol and agent of the god of war. In this sense, the wolf could also be understood as symbolic of the power that brings victory, according to ancient Norse and Germanic belief.”

page 288:  “Furthermore, Snorri mentions certain giants who are born as wolves, among them Sköll and Hati Hroðvitnisson, who run ahead of and behind the sun, and Mánagarmr (dog of the moon), who swallows the moon at Ragnarök. The same mythological material is preserved in an older, less-detailed form in the Eddic poem Völuspá.43 The motif also appears in Hrafnagaldur Óðins, or “Forspjallsljóð,” which was printed along with other Eddic poems in Sophus Bugge’s edition from 1867…”  43. “Gylfaginning,” p. 49, and “Völuspá,” st. 40 and 41, in Eddadigte, I.

page 295:  “According to certain beliefs concerning shape-shifting, the soul settles into the animal form, that is, the animal’s body, but it maintains its own form unchanged. The man within the animal can therefore be recognized by his eyes, which are a mirror of the soul. This occurs in other Icelandic sagas as well, such as in Hrólfs saga kraka, and can be useful for breaking spells, but elsewhere it is thought to be enough simply to speak the name of the lycanthrope.66

page 298 – 299:  “Jóns saga leikara is a chivalric tale from around 1400, preserved in AM 174 fol. from the seventeenth century. The story includes an evil stepmother who changes the protagonist, the king’s son Sigurðr, into a wolf by striking him with wolfskin gloves. The blow seems to generate the charm, and the transformation into a wolf follows as a direct result: “oc sijndist hann aff þvi vargur vera”73 (and because of this he appeared to be a wolf). This procedure, to hit the victim with a wolfskin glove, already appeared in the man-bear motif in Hrólfs saga kraka and seems to have roots that can be traced to the idea that shape-shifting follows in the wake of being clothed in an animal’s pelt—sufficient here is the touch of a pelt, along with the stepmother’s magic arts.74”  “74. Saga Hrólfs konungs kraka, ch. 25, p. 50, and Jóns saga leikara. See Åke Lagerholm, ed. Drei lygisogur, p. lxiii, and also p. lxv, where Lagerholm points out a parallel in a Norwegian folk song aboutthe boy Lavrans. It should also be mentioned that gloves made of animal skin were used in magic ceremonies, both in seidr and other shamanastic practices; see Hilda R. Ellis Davidson, The Viking Road to Byzantium (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1976), p. 287.

page 301:  “Despite the fact that werewolves in medieval Icelandic literature can be traced back to two different origins, an Irish and a Nordic origin, the motif in the Icelandic tales under discussion has common features. The werewolves are usually men who are put under a spell or deceived by women. Only four women, the mother of King Siggeirr in Völsunga saga, Idunn in Hrafnagaldur Óðins, Hlégerdr in Sigrgards saga frækna, and Helga in Sagan af Þorsteini glott, change into wolves. In the first three cases, the transformation is voluntary, as they all change themselves, and thus this appears to fit with the older, Old Norse/Germanic variant of the werewolf motif.  In stories of Old Norse origin, the werewolf is an evildoer and reflects the Germanic idea of the outlaw as a wolf, or vargr. Váli, Idunn, Sigmundr, and Sinfjötli change their shape as well as their nature and become more cruel after the transformation, while Asper, Gustr, Siggeirr’s mother, and Hlégerdr turn themselves into wolves in order to attack and fight other people.

The rest of stanza 8 as it goes in all of the translations makes it clear that that the dis Idunn, the keeper of key to the rejuvenation of the gods, has undergone a significant transformation in her very nature, one, moreover, that came about as a result of choices she herself made:  She put on the wolf-skin or allowed herself to be clothed in it; she changed her nature or her feelings – all of the translations show an active choice made by Idunn herself on this score; she “practiced” guile, and finally, she altered her very aspect or shape.  This is event is profoundly different in meaning from the theft of Idunn and her ‘apples of rejuvenation’ described in ‘Gylfaginning:’ XLIII       Well, what was Idunn’s original nature?  I would say that she personified religious faith.  It is faith that renews the belief in gods, keeps a religion going.  And in her treatise on ‘were-wolves,’ Professor Guðmundsdóttir makes it clear that ‘changing into a wolf’ in Old Norse literature was also a way of simply saying that someone had become cruel and merciless.

The original of the picture ‘Idunn, Loki, Heimdallr and Bragi,’ was created by Lorenz Frølich, courtesy of, public domain 


(Concerning stanza 9 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Tadao Shimomiya translates both ‘Bilrost’ and ‘Bifrost’ as being ‘the bridge that gives way.’ [Tadao Shimomiya, ‘Alliteration in the Poetic Edda,’ p. 112] According to Simek, “Bifrost either means ‘the swaying road to heaven’ (from ON bifa ‘shake, sway,’) or else, if Bilrost is indeed the more original form, ‘the fleetingly glimpsed rainbow.’ [Rudolph Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 36]. According to Snorri Sturlson, the Gods ride over Bifrost to get to the Well of Fate every day, where they hold court, and for this reason the bridge is also called ‘the bridge of the gods.’ [Prose Edda, Gylfaginning, XV]. In XXVII, Gylfaginning, Snorri states that the god Heimdallr is the warder of the gods, who sits by Bifrost at heaven’s end to guard the bridge from the hill-giants.

In their commentary on stanza 9, Björnsson and Reaves state that Heimdall is a “surprising choice” of messengers in this context.  Heimdall’s is “the gods’ watchman,” Grimismál 13:  He is “great and holy,” with flawless senses and virtually always awake.  Skáldskaparmál VIII:  Even in the ‘scurrilous’ Lokasenna, where Loki trash-talks every one of the other gods, the worst he can think of to say about Heimdall is that as watchman and guardian of the gods, he is doomed to have a perennially wet back.  Lokasenna 48:   In Völuspâ it is said that Heimdall will summon the forces of the world-order to fight evil at the ‘doom of the gods; [47]  He will then be the deadly enemy of Loki. Gylfaginning LI (Chapter 51)  In the mythic sources, the word that most often comes up in connection with Heimdall is ‘holy,’ and I would say that he personified the value of Holiness.

That Bragi went along on the trip further confirms that it is indeed the fallen Idunn Heimdall is going to visit, and not, as Björnsson and Reaves assert, the Norn  Urðr (Wyrd) or the seeress of Völuspâ.  The translators are agreed that ‘Lopt’ or ‘Loftur’ refers to Loki; this is because Loki uses this word to refer to himself in Lokasenna.  It makes sense; Loki had a way of going along on the gods’ journeys, although they were not overly fond of his presence and tried to do away with it every time an opportunity presented itself.  In early heathen times, Loki’s nature was more ambivalent, getting the gods in trouble and out of it; later, his nature darkens and he joins up with the forces of disorder at Ragnarök.  I would say that Loki personified the ubiquitous presence of Hazard.

Lassen’s translation of the last phrase as being “Bragi and Loftur (Loki) were filled with apprehension” is both in sharp contrast to that of the other three translators, who all agree it means that Bragi and Loftur went along with Heimdall on his journey as witnesses.  In my opinion, the latters’ translation makes more sense:  it is Bragi’s wife, after all, that Heimdall is going to see.  Whatever her state, there were proprieties to be followed.

There is no other mythic record of even a god just ‘dropping in’ on someone else’s wife.

‘double rainbow’ by , creative attribution, non-commercial, no derivative, share-alike license


(Concerning stanza 10 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
In my remarks on stanza 2, I said I agreed with Björnsson and Reaves that the “Rögnir and Reginn” of stanza 10 did not refer to Odin, Heimdall, Bragi and Loki.  I agree it doesn’t refer to Odin, even though Rögnir is one of his names, because Odinn doesn’t set out anywhere in the stanza.  The meaning of Rögnir ‘Chief,’ Prince, ‘He that reigns’,  was actually given to Heimdall himself in stanza 15 of the “thoroughly heathen… 10th century” [Hollander, 233] poem Sigrdrífumál, according to Benjamin Thorpe, where he gives the phrase “on the wheel which rolls under  Rögnir’s ear.”  The god whose very identity is tied up with his excellent hearing is Heimdall.  Hollander and Bellows do not translate the same phrase that way, but Hollander states that he was “following [Sophus] Bugge and [Finnur] Jónsson’s emendation.”  [Hollander, ‘Poetic Edda, p. 237]  The epithet ‘He that reigns’ could also apply to Heimdall, in general, who “rules over the holy fanes.”  Grimismál 13:

Reginn, which means ‘giver of advice,’ could apply to Heimdall Thrymskviða 16:  or to Loki  Gylfaginning XLII

Furthermore, it seems clear enough from the context of Hrafnagaldur Odins that the phrase ‘Rögnir and Reginn’ would pretty much have to apply to the same individuals who were going to see Idunn; there is simply no other place in the poem where their journey there is mentioned.  The main objection that Björnsson and Reaves have to identifying Rögnir and Reginn with the gods is the curious means Heimdall, Bragi and Loki would then be said to have taken to get to Idunn:  on ‘gandr,’ meaning ‘wolves’ or ‘staffs,’ screaming spells: “1.-2. Galdur gólu / göndum riðu. Anyone familiar with the conventions will know that these lines could never refer to gods. Wolf-riders are Giants, not Gods. Gods do not chant magical songs while riding on wolves.”  Annette Lassen prefers to translate ‘gandr’ as “magic poles,” saying in her note 10.2 that: “‘gandr’ has sometimes been taken to mean ‘wolf’, but here is more likely to mean something analogous to a witch’s broomstick. Cf. gandreið in Njáls saga ch. 125 and the poem Gandreið by Jón Daðason (1606–1676).”  Lassen had earlier remarked in her note 8.4 that:  “According to Hallgrímur Scheving (1837, 13), the poet is trying to depict the gods in a ridiculous light by their treating Iðunn as a witch (‘galdranorn’) in among other things sending her a wolf skin, but also by showing them chanting spells and riding on wolves (st. 10).”  But, in fact, an interpretation of ‘gandr’ as being ‘wolves’ makes perfect sense, if it is the realm of the giants that the gods are going to visit, incognito, as it were.  Stanza 7 of Thrymskviða  for example, makes it clear that ‘popping in’ for a visit to the “Jötun´s land” was a highly hazardous act; even Loki, the son of a giant himself, only dares it when Freyja lends him the power to boot it on out of there quick as a bird.  “7. “How goes it with the Æsir, How goes it with the Alfar, Why art thou come alone to Jötunheim?”  The gods frequently travelled incognito, and the wolf was the ride of choice in ‘giant-land.’  See for example, XLIX (page 73) here, in the Snorri Sturluson’s account of Baldr’s funeral:  “The Æsir took the body of Baldr and brought it to the sea. Hringhorni is the name of Baldr’s ship: it was greatest of all ships; the gods would have launched it and made Baldr’s pyre thereon, but the ship stirred not forward. Then word was sent to Jötunheim after that giantess who  is called Hyrrokkin. When she had come, riding a wolf and having a viper for bridle, then she leaped off the steed; and Odin called to four berserks to tend the steed; but they were not able to hold it until they had felled it. Then Hyrrokkin went to the prow of the boat and thrust it out at the first push, so that fire burst from the rollers, and all lands trembled. Thor became angry and clutched his hammer, and would straightway have broken her head, had not the gods prayed for peace for her.”  As Kodratoff points out in his comments to stanza 10, “to ride wolves is an ‘ordinary behavior’ of the troll-women, great magic practitioners.”

Moreover, I don’t see how the gods riding on wolves makes them look any more ridiculous than riding in a wagon pulled by cats [Freyja], or riding on a boar [Frey] would do.  More bad-ass than the latter two rides, actually.  [But see Brenda Prehal’s excellent 2011 master’s thesis ‘Freyja’s Cats: Perspectives on Recent Viking Age Finds in !egjandadalur North Iceland:’  as well as Lenka Kovárová’s 2011 master thesis ‘The Swine in Old Nordic Religion and Worldview:’  ]

Yves Kodratoff gives ‘towards the earth’s large house’ as the meaning for að ranni heimis; in her note 10.4, Annette Lassen says:  “….‘Rann(ur) heimis’ (literally the mansion of the world; heimi is a variant form of heimr; see Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússon 1989) in this stanza can be understood as ‘dwelling place of the world’, i.e. the earth, if the gods are here descending to the earth from heaven (cf. SnE I 15/5)…”

Hyrrokkin at Baldurs Funeral by Kate Greenaway and others, courtesy of


(Concerning stanza 11 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
In her notes to v. 11, Lassen says “Hlynir [sic] was the sixth of the nine mythological heavens” and she cites Anthony Faulkes’ ‘Introduction to Skaldskaparmal, Text and Notes,’ [Lassen, 11.5, p. 100].

I can’t read the Old Icelandic:

Click to access Edda-2a.pdf

but Faulkes’ ‘Glossary and Index of Names’ to Skalskaparmal is in English:

Click to access Edda-2b.pdf

In the glossary, Faulkes gives: “hl‡rnir m. ‘double-faced’, ‘twin-faced’, a name for the heavens, containing the two faces of sun and moon 85/17 (see Index)” [Faulkes, Glossary, p. 314]; whereas, in the Index, he gives: Hl‡rnir m. a heaven (the sixth) v516/13 (see Glossary and note to
85/13; Alvíssmál 12, SnE 1848–87, II 486)” [Faulkes, Index, p. 477]

And this idea that there were “nine heavens” has been promulgated online:

I checked Faulkes’ reference to Alvissmal. The word ‘hlyrnir’ is mentioned once in Alivssmal,, in v. 13, following Thorpe, [Poetic Edda, p. 107], and in v. 12, following Lee M. Hollander [Hollander, ‘The Poetic Edda,’ p. 112]. I see no suggestion whatsoever in either of those authors’s translations that ‘hlyrnir’ is the ‘sixth heaven,’ or that there Are nine heavens. Moreover, if there Were nine heavens in the Old Northern cosmology, you’d think that would have been worthy of a note in the following authors’ discussions of the significance of the number nine in Norse Mythology: John Lindow, and Rudolph Simek. What the Germanic peoples Did have, more or less, was the idea that there were nine worlds, including ours and that of Hel, as well as the giant’s world, the gods’ and so forth.

Same deal in Lassen’s and Faulkes’ other cited source, ‘Skaldskaparmal,’ according to English versions I checked. The word ‘’hlyrnir’ appears in Snorri’s Sturluson’s Skalskaparmal exactly once, in verse LXIX:  “These names of the heavens are recorded (but we have not found all these terms in poems; and these skaldic terms, even as others, are not meet for use in skaldic writing, methinks, unless one first find such names in the works of Chief Skalds): Heaven, Hlýrnir, Heidthornir, Storm Mímir, Long-Lying, Light-Farer, Driving, Topmost Sky, Wide-Fathom, Vet-Mímir, Lightning, Destroyer, Wide-Blue. The solar planet is called Sun, Glory, Ever-Glow, All-Bright, Sight, Fair Wheel, Healing Ray, Dvalinn’s Playmate, Elfin-Beam, Doubtful-Beam, Luminary. The lunar planet is called Moon, Waxer, Waner, Year-Teller, Mock-Sun, Fengari (Byzant), Glamour, Haster, Crescent, Glare.”  But these are clearly kennings for the same thing, ‘the heavens,’ in general.

August 29, 2013 update:  I’ve just now caught why Annette Lassen thought there were nine heaves in the Norse mythology.  Her mistake almost certainly stems from a misreading of Chapter 17 of Snorri Sturluson’s Gylfaginning: which actually states at the very end of the chapter that there are three heavens:  “Hárr answered: “It is sad that another heaven is to the southward and upward of this one, and it is called Andlangr;[8] but the third heaven is yet above that, and it is called Vídbláinn,[9] and in that heaven we think this abode is. But we believe that none but Light-Elves inhabit these mansions now.”

September 26, 2014 update:  Well, I stand corrected.  According to Anthony Faulkes, at least one of the so-called ‘Snorra Edda’ manuscripts does indeed list nine heavens.  In his introduction to ‘Edda Snorri Sturluson,’* he states on page xxi that “There are seven manuscripts or manuscript fragments that contain texts of the Prose Edda or parts of it, six of them medieval, one writ-ten about 1600.  None of them is quite complete.  This translation follows mainly the text of the Codex Regius (GkS 2367, 4to), which is not the oldest manuscript, but seems to have fewest [sic] alterations from the original, and is nearest to being complete.  It was written in the first quarter of the four-teenth century.  Where there are gaps in the text of this manuscript, or il-legible passages, or where what can be read is incoherent, the text is sup-plemented from one of the other manuscripts….”  And, very near the end of his translation of Skaldskaparmal is the passage:  “There are nine heavens on high that are listed.  I know the nethermost, it is Vindblain [wind-dark], it is Heidthornir [cloud-brightness] and Hregg-Mimir [storm-Mimir].  The second heaven is Andlang [extended]  – this  you can understand  – the third is Vidblain [wide-dark].  I declare that Vidfedmire [wide-embracer] is the fourth, Hriod [coverer], and Hlynir [twin-lit] I think is the sixth; Gimir [fiery or jewelled], Vet-Mimir [winter-Mimir].  I guess now that eight heav-ens have been enumerated.  Skatyrnir [rich-wetter] stands higher than the clouds, it is beyond all worlds.” [ibid, p. 164]  

Arthur Brodeur’s edition of Skaldskaparmal stops well short of that pas-sage; and, in his introduction to the Prose Edda, Brodeur says he relied on an edition of Snorra Edda that was prepared by Finnur Jónsson.

*translated and edited by Faulkes and re-issued by the University of Birmingham for the ‘Everyman Library’ series in 1995


Lassen makes an important point regarding the second half of v. 11, which states, basically, that Heimdall asks the mystery lady Idunn/Jorunn/Nanna if she happens to know when everything’s going to go to hell in a handbasket. Die, poof, vanish – heaven, hell, and all the rest in between – namely, us. Lassen points out that the Old Icelandic word for ‘death,’ ártíð, means “death day,” and that, “It was the word in Christian times for the anniversary of a person’s death…” [Lassen, 11.7, p. 100].

Lassen goes on to point out that the use of the word, together with that of the word ‘sókn,’ meaning ‘parish,’ in v. 14 is “evidence that the poem does not belong to the thought world of heathendom.” [Lassen, 11.7, p. 100]

Well, I agree with her about the significance of the use of a Christian concept for ártíð; however, the meaning she gives for the word sókn in Old Icelandic is untenable, in my opinion.  The meanings for the same word, given in the Cleasby/Vigfusson Old Icelandic dictionarym are:
SÓKN, f. [sækja: A.S. sôcen; Dan. sogn] :– an attack; í orrostum ok sóknum, Fms. ii. 106, vi. 59; harðr í sóknum, 24; tóksk harðasta sókn, Eg. 125; Guð gaf honum sigr hvar sem hann átti sóknir, Ver. 26, passim. 2. a law term, an action, esp. the prosecution, as opp. to vörn (the defence); sókn skal fara fyrr fram hvers máls enn vörn, Grág. i. 59; dómar skyldu fara út til sóknar, Nj. 87; sækja með lands-laga sókn, to raise a lawful action, Bs. i. 749; biskups sókn (action) um kristnispell, H.E. i. 251; ok á slíka sókn hverr maðr til síns fjár sem goðinn á, Grág. i. 141. II. the assemblage of people at a church, meeting, or the like; nú er sókn mikil í Skálholt um allt Ísland, því skaltú fyrir hugsa þik um sermon á morgin, Bs. i. 809; görðisk þá þegar mikil sókn at Guðmundar-degi, 829; til-sókn, at-sókn, skip-sókn, a ship’s crew; sókn eru sautján, Edda 108. 2. a parish, Dan. sogn, answering to the secular hreppr or sveit; af hverri (jörð) sem í sókninni liggr, Vm. 140, passim in mod. usage; kirkju-sókn; sókna prestr, a parish priest: of a diocese, Dipl. ii. 14; þing-sókn, q.v. III. a drag, grapnel, to drag the bottom of the sea, only in plur.; hvalrinn hljóp á sjó ok sökk, síðan”  It’s clear to me from those meanings in the Dictionary that the ‘parish‘ reference was actually given by Cleasby/Vigfusson to stanza 11 in Hrafnagaldur itself.  (Hrafnagaldur was at that time normally included in the Eddic poems.)  So of course that reference, which is actually an interpretation of stanza 11 by the Dictionary’s authors, cannot be used to validate itself.  There being no other specific citing of ‘parish’ for the word sókn,’ I think it is fair to say that a more reasonable interpretation of sókn would simply be ‘assemblage.’

I think that Björnsson and Reaves give the most elegant translation of stanza 11:  ”  The wise one asked the server of mead, scion of gods and his road-companions, if she knew the origin, duration, and end of heaven, of hel, of the world.”  That is just lovely, and so is their comment:  “hlýrnis, heljar, heims … ártíð, æfi, aldurtila.. Space and Time are perfectly encapsulated in six words. The Heavens, the Underworld, and Miðgarður mid-way between the two, succinctly encompass the material universe. The beginning, life-time, and end, add the temporal dimension.”  Nevertheless, they slipped up when they interpreted the phrase ‘server of mead’ in stanza 11 as applying to one of the Norns, Urður, in my opinion.  They cite a single instance in of the heroic poems. ‘ Guðrúnarkviða,’ in support of their interpretation of what is clearly a stanza in a mythological poem.  Whereas, in fact, it’s much less of a stretch to apply the ‘server of mead’ phrase to the disr Idunn.  The Valkyries who serve mead to fallen warriors in Valhalla are called Odinns disir, Odin’s ladies.  And whatever Idunn was, she was not a Norn. Moreover, a switch to Urdur in stanza 11 would not give us a consistent, coherent story-line.  What’s more, there is no record of the gods running to the Norns for advice, not even in the last days described in Voluspa.  They met for council at the Well of Urdur; it’s never said that they asked Fate for her opinion on anything.  So the switch to Urdur in stanza 11 would not be supported by any mythical context.  What we do have in the extant myths are plenty of instances in which a character in the story is called by first one, then another ‘kenning,’ or name; and in fact the author of Hrafnagaldur does so repeatedly, by all acounts, for the god Odin, throughout the poem.

To sum up, referring to the dis Idunn as a server of mead is completely in line with the extant myths; referring to the Norn Urdur as a server of mead is not.

A valkyrie and a raven having a conversation. Illustration to Hrafnsmál or Haraldskvæði by Þórbjörn hornklofi.  Drawing by Joseph Swain, courtesy of, public domain


(Concerning stanza 12 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
In my opinion, Benjamin Thorpe gives the most sensible translation for stanza 12:  ”

“She spoke not, she could no words to the anxious gods bring forth, nor a sound uttered tears flowed from the head’s orbs [kenning for ‘eyes’]; with pain repressed they flow anew” 


(Concerning stanza 13 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
In verses 13 and 14, we have the strongest intimation that this is all about some variation of seeking prophetic insight through lucid dreaming or trance: All of the translators discussed here are pretty much in agreement as to the content of verse 13. Quoting Björnsson and Reaves: “As from the East, out of Élivágar, comes a thorn from the field of the rime-cold giant, with which Dáinn smites all men of glorious Midgard [Earth, the world we humans live in] every night.”  So here the poem Hrafnagaldur comes back to the name of Dáinn, the ‘dead,’ in connection with what is cited as being a characteristic behavior of his:  the inducing of sleep in humans.

Kodratoff makes a good connection between the verse and the third rune in the Elder futhark, the ‘thurs’ or ‘thorn’ rune named ‘Thurisaz.’
see also my post here:

Lassen’s comments regarding the use of ‘thorn’ in v. 13 are sharp and to the point. She also cites references to a ‘svefn þorn’ ‘sleep-thorn’ in several primary sources; notes the connection with the word ‘thorn’ for giant, and agrees that a metaphor for sleep is meant in v. 13. Moreover, she adds that the father of night, ‘Njörvi,’ might be meant by ‘rime-cold giant,’ and further, that “it might be possible” to amend the phrase ‘every night’ to “every midnight” – well-known as the ‘witching hour’ everywhere…

Popular traditions scattered over Sweden, Denmark, and Germany have to this very day been preserved, on the lips of the common people, of the men sleeping among weapons and treasures in underground chambers or in rocky halls. A Swedish tradition makes them equipped not only with weapons, but also with horses which in their stalls abide the day when their masters are to awake and sally forth. Common to the most of these traditions, both the Northern and the German, is the feature that this is to happen when the greatest distress is at hand, or when the end of the world approaches and the day of judgment comes. With regard to the German sagas on this point I refer to Jakob Grimm’s Mythology.4

1 “the sleeping castle”
2 Völuspá 27 & 28.  [Well, that’s what he said.  I don’t know what edition of Völuspá that  Grimm was using, but see st. 43 here:   ]

3 Sleep-thorns appear in Hrólfs saga kraka ok kappa hans ch. 7 and in Fáfnismál 43.
4 Grimm fully discusses the various legends of heroes sleeping in hills in DM, chapter 32. Several of these tales involve the regeneration of a tree.”

see also:

Kodratoff translates Élivágar as meaning ‘Stormywaves;’ Björnsson and Reaves translate it in their commentary as “the waves of the ice-storm.”

In ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology, Rudolph Simek offers some useful information regarding Élivágar: “The rivers which flow from the spring Hvergelmir [‘bubbling cauldron’] into the primeval chasm Ginnungagap, according to Snorri… The interpretation of Élivágar as eleven rivers is obviously an invention of Snorri’s and probably results from the plural form of the name… However, in Skaldskaparmal 17, no doubt following Hymiskvida 5, Snorri himself says that Élivágar is only one river… Halvorsen has pointed out that in Hymiskvida the name Élivágar probably related to el, ‘bad weather, storm,’ vðgr, ‘sea,’ and can be understood to be a name for the proto-sea surrounding the world…” [Simek, ibid, p. 73]

Hvergelmir is “the name of the spring in Niflheim [‘world of mist,’ ‘the dark world,’], and the source of the Élivágar rivers, according to Gylfaginning 3… [Jan] de Vries is undoubtedly correct when he considers all three differently named springs, [Hvergelmir, Urdabrunnr, the well of Fate, and Mimisbrunnr, the well of Wisdom], as being originally the same mythical spring...” [Simek, ibid, p. 166 – 167]


(Concerning stanza 14 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Annette Lassen  states in her notes to the stanza that the phrase ‘wind of the troll-wife’  [p. 102, note 14.6] is “a kenning for thought,” and, that “both this kenning and ‘Heimdallr’s sword’ as a kenning for head appear in the same passage in Skaldskaparmal [See Snorri Sturlson’s Prose Edda, Skaldskaparmal, VIII, Brodeur, p. 76 -77]

In fact only Thor appears to be mentioned in the Prose Edda in connection with “troll-women,” in IV of Skaldskaparmal [Brodeur, p. 72], and in s. 177 of ‘Thor’s Journey to Geirrod’s.’ [Rasmus B. Anderson, ‘The Prose Edda,’ p. 180], where he is called the ‘slayer/disgracer’ of ‘giants and troll-women.’

Moreover, ‘wind of the troll wife’ appears solely as a kenning for passion, (which seems appropriate),  in LXX of Skaldskaparmal:  “[Passion should be periphrased by calling it Wind of Troll Women; also it is correct to name what one soever is desired, and to name giants, periphrasing giantesses as Woman or Mother or Daughter of the Giants.]  However, directly above his translation of the same, at the end of the previous passage, Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur says: ” 2. This and other pages in brackets are probably spurious.”

What seems clear to me, in stanza 14, is that a really extraordinary event takes place:  Heimdall, the guardian of the gods because of his hyper-alertness, because he needs “less sleep than a bird,”  [Gyfalginning, XXVII], Heimdall is put to sleep.  The tears of Idunn, who, let us remember, “delighted in guile,” [stanza 8], were a trap, designed to fixate the attention of her visitors away from the insidious danger winding itself into their minds….


(Concerning stanza 15 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Just so seemed Jórunn to the gods to be affected, swollen with sorrows, when they could not get a reply; they sought the more in that they were faced with refusal; a lot of talking, however, helped much less.”  [Lassen]  In their commentary to stanza 13, Björnsson and Reaves say that stanzas 13 and 14 appear to be misplaced, a view echoed by Benjamin Thorpe.  However, I am committed to the view that Hrafnagaldur’s author knew what he was doing; and, therefore, I would say that stanzas 14 and 15 describe how the rest of the meeting appears to go, in the perceptions of the visitors who are asleep at the time of it.  The sleep is not a normal but an enchanted one; it affects even Heimdall, the sleepless.  Jórunn-Idunn-Nanna appears to the visitors, while they’re in their state of sleep, to be obstinately refusing to answer their questions.  In that state of sleep, they push and push for an answer, the only result of which seems to be to them that they get farther and farther away from getting one.


(Concerning stanza 16 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
All four translators are pretty much in agreement as to the content of verse 16 – until they get to the last line, where Lassen deviates from the others: “Griminir’s poet looked after the woman.” She offers an interesting explanation for translating ‘grund’ as ‘woman:’ “Grund (f.) ‘ground’ is a half-kenning for ‘woman,’ i.e. it is frequently used as the base word in kennings for woman such as ‘grund bauga,’ ‘grund gulls,’ and here the base word is used without a determinant. Half-kennings are not all that uncommon.” [Lassen, 16.8, p. 103]

Yves Kodratoff points out that:  “Grund means a field, the ground (poetry uses it also for the Earth), and the flat bottom of a pan. The word varðveitti is made of varð veittiVarða is a stone showing a way. The verb veita (with the past formveitti) means to grant, to provide. Thus, varðveitti is something like ‘granting a stone sign’. Within this context, it can mean either that Bragi shows the way to a field (as would be a cairn) or that he limits the field.”  I like his translation of stanza 16 but I don’t agree with his interpretation, namely, that the god Bragi, was turned into stone or made to keep watch in stanza 16.  There is another possible meaning, which I favor.  Bragi was Idunn’s husband.  Bragi’s wife is never coming back to the realm of the gods, and the wife he knew is ‘dead’ to him.  He stays behind to ‘do the right thing’ from a cultural context:  he puts up a memorial stone to his wife.


(Concerning stanza 17 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Rudolph Simek sums up the only mythic references to Vingólf to be found, both, in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda:  “Vingólf: “(perhaps ‘the friendly house.’) The beautiful building in Asgard, according to Snorri (Gylfaginning 13), which served the female gods as a temple. On the other hand, he mentions in Gylfaginning 19 that the warriors slain in battle and brought home by Odin will not only be housed in Valhall, but also in Vingólf…” [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 163]

The translators of Hrafnagaldar all pretty much agree that by ‘Viðar,’ either Odin or one of his sons is meant.  Lassen observes that:  “17.2: Viðarr (or Víðarr) is a son of Óðinn (Vƒluspá 55; prose introduction to Lokasenna; SnE II 19/23–25). He is known as the silent god (SnE I 26/15); he will kill the wolf Fenrir after the latter has killed Óðinn (SnE I 50–52; Vƒluspá 55). Rask was in favour of emending ‘Viþars’ to ‘Viþris’; Scheving proposed ‘Viþurs’ (Viðrir and Viðurr are both names of Óðinn). Bugge thought the poet might have arbitrarily used the name Viðarr for Óðinn.

Kodratoff recognizes the difficulty in translating the next word as ‘warriors’ – yet he does so anyway; Bjornsson’s translation of it as ‘thains’ removes the difficulty of calling either Bragi or Loki ‘warriors.’

Lots of disagreement as to what is meant by “Fornjót’s sons.” Kodratoff interprets it literally, as meaning a giant who has two sons who obligingly pop up out of nowhere to convey Heimdall and Loki, by means of magic, back to the gods’ domain.

Lassen says that “Fornjót’s sons’ is a kenning for winds.” [Lassen, 17.3, p. 103]. She doesn’t cite a source, but John Lindow cites two: “Fornjót is found only twice in older poetry. In Ynglinga tal, stanza 29, Thjódólf of Hvin seems to use the kenning “son of Fornjót” to mean fire, and a poet known only as Svein apparently uses the kenning “ugly sons of Fornjót” for wind (Snorri quotes the line in Skáldskaparmál as an example of this kenning). Fornjót is included among the thulur for giants.” [Lindow, ‘Norse Mythology, a Guide to the Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs,’ p. 119]  Lindow also says that Fornjót is the “progenitor of the elements, according to Norwegian tradition…”  The meaning of the name, however is unclear.

All of the translators notice that the ‘feast of the gods’ to which Heimdall and Loki return appears to have been an oddly jolly affair.  However, the poet’s use of the name ‘Ygg,’ ‘Terrible One,’ for Odin, who presides over that jolly little gathering, calls to my mind the last words of the Grim One to his erstwhile favorite King Geirröth:  “A death-doomed man will soon drink with Ygg…” [Grímnismál]

In her 1967 exegesis on the second part of Snorri Sturluson’s Edda, ‘Skáldskaparmál,’ Margaret Clunies Ross states:  “In his treatment of kenning-types for sea, wind and fire, as in many other parts of the Edda, Snorri bases himself on traditional concepts which he finds in earlier poetic texts, but he expands and systematizes them.  There is a small but telling amount of evidence for the traditional poetic presentation of natural forces hostile to mankind as a group of brothers, called the sons of Fornjótr.  The Norwegian poet  Þjóðólfr of Hvin seems to have been familiar with the idea, for in his Ynglingatal (List of the Ynglingar, c. 900) he refers to fire on one occasion as “the glowing-hot son of Fornjótr” (glóðfjalgr sonr Fornjóts, st. 29. 7, Skald B 1, 12) and, in another context, as “the sea’s kinsman” (sævar niðr, str. 4. 3, Skjald B 1, 7).  In each case the animate image of the ken-ning is enhanced by the verb of the clause of which it forms the subject; in the first inst-ance the fiery son of Fornjótr “loosened the garments” of his royal victim, while in the sec-ond the sea’s kinsman “swallowed” the body of King Visburr.

“Although Snorri cites neither of these kennings as examples in Skáldskaparmál, he uses Ynglingatal as the basis for Ynglinga saga, which forms the first part of his history of the kings of Norway, Heimskringla, and he may have had these paraphrases in mind while drafting his chapters for the elements.  In Skáldskaparmál 36 he supports the wind-ken-ning type “son of Fornjótr” by citing two lines from the Norðrsetudrápa, an otherwise un-known poem that he also uses to illustrate animate sea-kennings.  The pair of lines repre-sent the sons of Fornjótr as causing a snowstorm:                                                                   Tóku fyrst til fjúka                                                                                                                                 Fornjóts synir ljótir. (Skjald B 1, 388)                                                                                        “First the hostile sons of Fornjótr began to blow drifting snow.””                                             [Clunies Ross, p. 129 – 130]


(Concerning stanza 18 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Lassen points out that stanza 18 nails down the date of Hrafngaldur as being16th century or later:  “18.3: The word for wort or mash, the mixture of powdered malt and water before fermentation into beer, in Old Icelandic is virtr (n., dat. sg. virtri, Sigrdrífumál 17). Virt (f., dat. virt, same meaning), used here, is recorded in Orðabók Háskólans in texts, mostly rímur, from the sixteenth century onwards. In this poem the word is used to mean the beer itself (metonymy).”

The epithet Yggjungr “is a name of Óðinn (Vƒluspá 28, but not mentioned in Snorri’s Edda).”  [Lassen, 18.7] Björnsson and Reaves translate it as ‘one who fears or worries,’ and refer to the same stanza from Völuspá.  See the original text with a facing-page translation by an anonymous author here:  which does not, however, follow the Björnsson and Reaves translation of the name Yggjungr. The epithet is not mentioned as being an actual name for Odin in the ‘names of Odin:’  Kodratoff translates ‘Yggjungi’ in stanza 18 as being ‘the young of Ygg,’ based, presumably on the Cleasby/Vigfusson ‘Old Icelandic Dictionary’ meaning of ‘jungr:’ “adj. young ( = ungr); this Germanized form is freq. in some MSS. of the 14th and 15th centuries (see Fb. pref. xxii), as also in ballads (rímur) of that time (Skíða R. 199, Þrymlur 7), but was afterwards disused, and never took root in the spoken language.”

  Asgard’s Gate, Himinbjörg, original picture courtesy of:


(Concerning stanza 19 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Stanza 19 nails down the precise location in Asgard, ‘the realm of the gods,’ in which the reunion between Heimdall and Loki with the rest of the gods takes place.  It is Valhöll or Valhalla, ‘the hall of the battle-slain.’  As Björnsson and Reaves point out, Sæhrímni is the name of the boar who feeds the slain warriors in Valhöll, and Skögul is the name of one of the Valkyries who serve mead to them.


(Concerning stanza 20 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
About the phrase “hörgar Loka,” Lassen says:  “20.4: ‘Hǫrgar’ (m. pl.) means ‘sanctuaries, holy places’, but the context requires a word meaning ‘gods’ (it is difficult to see that hƒrgar were particularly associated with goddesses, cf. LP). Either the word means ‘holy ones’ by metonymy (deities were worshipped in holy places), or the poet was mistaken about its usage.”  However, Björnsson and Reaves, who are very shrewd and perceptive commentators when they’re not tripping on Rydberg, resolve the difficulty with the phrase, pointing out that the poet’s use of a place, ‘temple,’ to denote the beings dwelling within it is entirely consistent with his use in the previous stanza of a place-word, “sjöt (house)” to denote the ‘household’ or ‘family’ of Valhalla.  Kodratoff agrees with the  Björnsson and Reaves interpretation of ‘hörgar Loka’ and so does Thorpe.


(Concerning stanza 21 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
The translations are all very consistent, for once, of stanza 21.  Following Lassen:  “They said their fruitless errand had turned out badly, too little glorious; it would be hard to engineer it so that an answer would be got from the lady.”


(Concerning stanza 22 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Ditto for stanza 22.  Following Thorpe: “Omi [‘Resounding one,’ Odin] answered; all listened;Night is the time for new counsels;  till the morrow let reflect each one competent to give advice helpful to the Æsir.“”  In her introduction to Hrafnagaldur, Lassen points out that the phrase ‘Nótt skal nema nýræða til’ helps greatly to date the earliest period during which the poem could have been written.  [Lassen, p. 18 – 20]  Moreover, it suggests that the author of Hrafnagaldur may have been either  Brynjólfur Sveinsson, (1605–1675) the Lutheran Bishop of the see of Skálholt in Iceland, or perhaps someone very close to him.  The author of Hrafnagaldur, as Lassen establishes in her ‘Introduction,’ was rather more learned in Latin than in Eddic verse. And, as Lassen states on page 20 of her ‘Introduction:’  ” The proverb must, however, have reached Iceland via Erasmus’s Adagia. It is after all not recorded in medieval Icelandic texts; the earliest example is in Hrafnagaldur. It is also found in Latin in the seventeenth century in Brynjólfur Sveinsson’s library, which was unique in Iceland. Brynjólfur had probably brought the book with him from Copenhagen when he returned to Iceland in 1638.

Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson, painting from an 18th century manuscript, courtesy of


(Concerning stanza 23 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
James Chisholm’s translation of the Poetic Edda:  gives the same version of Baldrs Draumr Björnsson and Reaves referred to in their note 2. to stanza 23, which essentially identifies the Rind reference in stanza 23 as being a poetic one for ‘the West.’

As Björnsson and Reaves point out in their note 4 to stanza 23, “‘Fenris’  “fenris… can be used to refer to any wolf, here the wolf chasing the sun.”

From Gylfaginning LI (Chapter 51):  “Then shall happen what seems great tidings: the Wolf shall swallow the sun; and this shall seem to men a great harm. Then the other wolf shall seize the moon, and he also shall work great ruin; the stars shall vanish from the heavens. Then shall come to pass these tidings also: all the earth shall tremble so, and the crags, that trees shall be torn up from the earth, and the crags fall to ruin; and all fetters and bonds shall be broken and rent. Then shall Fenris-Wolf get loose;”

B and R’s translation of the first four lines in stanza 23 makes the most sense, and their emendations strike me as being reasonable: “Ran along the eddies of Rindur’s plains the wolf’s tired food supply;”

In view of the fact that the most likely original collector of the poem, if not indeed the author of it, was “Brynjólfur Sveinsson, who was bishop at Skálholt” [Lassen, p. 21], Yves Kodratoff’s translation of the first four lines in stanza 23 seems to me to be particularly improbable.

However, Lassen’s comment 23.8 gives a sharply divergent view from B and R’s of the point in time at which the stanza ends, ie, not at nightfall, but at daybreak:  “Hrímfaxi is the name of a horse that carries Night across the sky (Vafþrúðnismál 14; SnE I 13/30, II 90/1–2). ‘Fór Hrímfaxa (dat.)’ presumably means ‘went at the same time as the night, i.e. at dawn’. Since the verb ‘fór’ is singular, it must refer only to Frigg, oddly enough; unless Loki is meant.”

13 August 06 at 10:58 EDM; picture by  courtesy of, public domain


(Concerning stanza 24 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Annette Lassen  and Benjamin Thorpe both have very nice translations of stanza 24:   and  respectively.   Following Lassen:  “and Dellingur’s son (Dagur, day) drove forward his steed, adorned with precious jewels; the horse’s mane shines from it across the world of men, his charger drew Dvalinn’s plaything (the sun) in a chariot.”

Yves Kodratoff states in his notes to stanza 24:  that “Dvalin is the name of a dwarf, the first of a long line of dwarves.”  However, the name is certainly not mentioned first in the ‘catalogue of dwarves’ beginning in stanza 11 of Völuspâ:   although he is mentioned in that stanza, as well as, interestingly, being representative of the dwarves in stanza 14 [in Thorpe’s edition]  “Time ´tis of the dwarfs in Dvalin´s band,  to the sons of men,  to Lofar up to reckon, those who came forth from the world´s rock, earth´s foundation,to Iora´s plains.”  Moreover, he also stands as representative of the class of beings known as dwarves in the ‘rune-song’ section of ‘Havamal:’ “145. Odin among the Æsir,  but among the Alfar, Dáin, and Dvalin for the dwarfs, Ásvid for the Jötuns: some I myself graved.  He appears to perform the same function in stanza 13 of Fáfnismál, where he is also listed among the progenitors of Norns:  “Fafnir spake:  13. “Of many births | the Norns must be, Nor one in race they were; Some to gods, others | to elves are kin, And Dvalin’s daughters some.”

‘Dvalinn’s plaything’ is a reference to the myth Alvíssmál:

As Annette Lassen has established in her ‘Introduction,’ p. 25 – 26, the author of Hrafnagaldur was well-versed in Snorri Sturluson’s Edda, and “there are a number of names in Hrafnagaldur that are otherwise only known from Snorri’s Edda or later texts…”  [Lassen, p. 25]  Therefore it is quite likely that Hrafnagaldur shows Snorri’s mind-set concerning dwarves.  “Snorri equates the dwarfs with a sub-group of elves, namely the svartalfar [dark-elves…”   [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 68]

Also relevant here from Rudolph Simek’s extended discussion on dwarfs:  “The original of the concept of dwarfs is to be found in nature spirits or else in demons of death.  Dwarfs’ names such as Nár [ON, ‘corpse’], Dáinn [ON, ‘died], Bláinn* and their underground homes would speak in favour of the second interpretation.  Nature spirits are probably more likely to be elves.”  [ibid, p. 25]   *[meaning uncertain but related to the color ‘blue’]

  ‘Sunrise in Iceland’ by


(Concerning stanza 25 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
Lassen, Thorpe and Kodratoff are pretty much agreed in their interpretations of stanza 25; Lassen gives the most lucid translation:  “Trollwives and giants, corpses, dwarves and dark-elves went to bed further north on the edge of the mighty earth under the outermost root of the foremost tree (Yggdrasill).”

Björnsson and Reaves, on the other hand, are tripping on Rydberg again, thus necessitating an extended discussion on my part, involving actual numbered points:

(i)   In their note 1, B and R say:  “1. Jörmungrundar. Usually translated as “spacious earth; immense surface” and taken to mean the Earth (Miðgarður)….”

That would be because “Jǫrmungrund ‘the mighty earth’” [Lassen, 25.1] is used that way in Griminismal, stanza 20.  Following Chisholm, who gives the Old Norse together with an English translation:  “20. Huginn ok Muninn fljúga hverjan dag Jörmungrund yfir; óumk ek um Hugin at hann aftr né komit, þó sjámk meir um Munin.”  “20. Huginn and Muninn fly over the earth each day. I dread that Huginn may not come back, though I fear more for Muninn.”   [In the Karlevi Runestone inscription, it seems to have a more general meaning of ‘a vast expanse – not necessarily of land’]:

What Jörmungrundar doesn’t have is the meaning that B and R give for it:  “the Underworld.”   [And, strictly speaking, there is no ‘underworld’ in the Old Norse conception of the cosmos.   There is ‘Hel,’ which overlapped with notions of ‘Niflheim’  and ‘Niflhel’ in different Old Norse conceptual layers of the myths; there is ‘Jotunheim,’ ‘giant land,’ land of giants and demons; and there is ‘dark-elf home,’ home of the dark elves or dwarves – all of which could lay some claim to being an ‘underworld’ in the cosmology.]

(ii)   In their note 2, B and R say “We reject Gylfaginning’s interpretation of Bifröst as the rainbow.”  However, I stated previously in stanza 24, Annette Lassen has established to a fair degree of probability that the author of Hrafnagaldur was strongly influenced by Snorri Sturluson’s interpretations of the myths, and hence by Gyfalginning in particular.

(iii)   Again, there is no evidence to back up B and R’s statement in their note 8 to stanza 25 that ‘dark elves’ lived in Niflhel, or that the ‘sons of Ivald’ were “renegade elves,” any more than there is evidence to back up their statement in their note 2 to stanza 8 that the ‘sons of Ivald’ were elves-turned-into giants.

(iv)   B and R say further in their note 8 to stanza 25 that “giants and giantesses live in Niflhel.”  No, they don’t.  It’s not even in the same ‘direction’ in the myths.  Niflhel was in the far north, and Jötunheimr, “’world of the giants’” was “for a region in the east according to Old Norse literature, and not only mythological literature.  In Eddic cosmology it stands for the demonic realm of the giants situated to the east of Midgard and which is separated from the world of man by rivers and the iron forest…”  [Rudolph Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 180]  Moreover, John Lindow remarks that:  “The fact that this term is plural may indicate that there were multiple areas inhabited by giants, as opposed to the single enclosure of the gods (Ásgard). In the world of humans there were multiple places where the trolls might live: mountains, forests, and so forth—any of the unsettled areas surrounding the farmstead.”  [Lindow, ‘Norse Mythology,’ p. 206]

(v)    Also in their note 8 to stanza 25, B and R state that the “Dwarves are Mimir’s sons.”  As Simek points out, “these are mentioned in Voluspa 46 at the beginning of the Ragnarök, but their names are not given and no further information about them is available.”  [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 217]  As with numerous others of their more extraordinary claims, B and R offer nothing to support their statement that the dwarves are Mimir’s sons.  Both the Voluspa and Snorri are agreed that the dwarves were created from a primeval giant – whose name was Not Mimir.  See Stanza 9 here:  and Chapter 14 here:  John Lindow interprets that passage from Voluspa [see stanza 47 here:   ]  as referring to the gods themselves, the Æsir:  “Mím’s sons would presumably be the æsir (from whom Mím was sent in the mythic near past to the vanir, as I have just said)….” [Lindow, ‘Norse Mythology,’ p. 231]  He translates the passage, which is 46 in the manuscript version of Voluspa he was using, as:  “Mím’s sons sport, and the world tree trembles At the old Gjallarhorn. Loudly blows Heimdall, the horn is aloft, Odin is speaking to Mím’s head.” [ibid].  Lindow’s translation and interpretation of Mimir’s sons suggests to me that the author of Hrafnagaldar may well have been playing off of that stanza in his description of the gods’ “merry feast” near the end…

(vi)   Finally, in their note 8 to stanza 25, B and R state:  “According to Rydberg their abodes are situated in the southern slopes of the Niðafjöll, close to Hvergelmir.”  According to everyone else, Rudolph Simek, for instance, “The dwarfs live under mountains and in rocks, as both skaldic kennings from the 11th and 12th centuries and also the sagas from the 13th and 14th centuries repeatedly confirm.”  [Simek, ibid, p. 68]  “The conception of dwarfs as dwelling in the earth or in rocks or mountains is deeply rooted…”  [Lindow, ‘Norse Mythology,’ p. 101]

A semi-quiescent Fimmvörðuháls.  Picture courtesy of


(Concerning stanza 26 of ‘Hrafnagaldur‘):
In her note 26.5, Annette Lassen explains the difficulties of translating ‘argiǫll:’  “A has ‘argiǫll’ as one word (and similarly the other manuscripts), but this is unknown either as a common noun or name. As two words (as suggested by Bugge) it could be ár Gjǫll, ‘river Gjǫll’ (cf. note to 9/3–4 above), but it must surely be something to do with Heimdallr’s horn Gjallarhorn here. It is probably dat. sg. of gjöll f. ‘a kind of trumpet’ (Blöndal, Orðabók Háskólans); perhaps a name for Heimdallr’s horn (Gjallarhorn = the horn Gjǫll…

With the exceptions being: how they looked at the word argiǫll, and B and R’s equation of Heimdall with Gullinkambi,*  the translators are essentially agreed on stanza 25.*  Nevertheless, I personally favor Yves Kodratoff’s translation:  what it lacks in elegance, it makes up in lucidity:  “Rose the Gods, ran the Elf-sun, North, towards Niflheimr Night proceeds; Up takes Árgjõll of Úlfrún the descendant, master of the horn’s noise, in Himinbjõrg.”

*Gullinkambi (ON, ‘golden comb’).  A cock in the Völuspá 43  [See stanza 35 here:  ] which announces the dawning of the  Ragnarök by its crowing…”  [Simek, ibid, p. 122]

“Úlfrún’s descendant” is Heimdall.  From Snorri Sturluson’s Skaldskaparmal:  “VIII. “How should one periphrase Heimdallr? By calling him Son of Nine Mothers, or Watchman of the Gods, as already has been written; or White God, Foe of Loki, Seeker of Freyja’s Necklace. A sword is called Heimdallr’s Head: for it is said that he was pierced by a man’s head. The tale thereof is told in Heimdalar-galdr; and ever since a head is called Heimdallr’s Measure; a sword is called Man’s Measure. Heimdallr is the Possessor of Gulltoppr; he is also Frequenter of Vágasker and Singasteinn, where he contended with Loki for the Necklace Brísinga-men, he is also called Vindlér. Úlfr Uggason composed a long passage in the Húsdrápa on that legend, and there it is written that they were in the form of seals. Heimdallr also is son of Odin.”

Rudolph Simek gives the meaning for Úlfrún:  “ON, ‘wolf-rune,’ ‘wolf-woman’).  One of Heimdall’s nine giant mothers, according to Völuspá hin skamma (Hyndluljóð 37).’   [See stanza 37 and the notes to it here:  ]  ‘Úlfrún is also recorded as an ON female personal name…”  [Simek, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ p. 339]Heimdall as Warner.  Taken from a picture by Dorothy Hardy, courtesy of


This concludes my stanza-by-stanza examination of various translations and interpretations of Hrafnagaldur Odins, ‘Odin’s Raven Magic-Song.’  Still to come, my version of the poem based on the best of the scholarship available to me, and a closer look at the possible source for the poem… Hope to have these both done by September of 2013.

Further readings on Northern mythology:
A very nice and free online connection of Northern mythology materials:

and here’s another treasure trove:

and here’s a neat little piece about lucid dreaming I stumbled upon:

Click to access lucid_dreaming_thesis_by_radiolab-d3336q9.pdf

8 Responses to Hrafnagaldur Odins, (Odin’s Raven Magic-Song)

  1. Pingback: May 2012 updates: Hrafnagaldur Odins and Re-capitulation… | Fakirs Canada

  2. Pingback: August 04, 2012 note re page updates… | Fakirs Canada

  3. Can you send information on the goddess Nauma? [email address edited out by Marnie Tunay]

    • Marnie Tunay says:

      Thank you for your query; it’s an interesting one and useful for me personally to address. First, it’s not at all clear that ‘Nauma’ Was a goddess; she may well have been a giantess. Page 384 of the book ‘Studies in English Language and Literature: Doubt Wisely,’ edited by Toswell and Tyler: probably sums up everthing that is known about this obscure name. Checking it out online also led to my realization that Yves Kodratoff has taken another look at the poem Hrafnagaldur Odins, and revised his original translation, which I will have to read closely: For future reference, the best overall books for quickly looking up a Norse myth reference are: ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology’ by John Simek, which is the most comprehensive, although neither it nor the next two mention ‘Namuma.’ ‘Andy Cassell’s Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend’ is not as comprehensive, but he has endeavored to supply every single Norse reference by name, chapter and verse together with those Norse elements that he does discuss. ‘Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs’ by John Lindow goes into greater detail with a range of concepts and figures from the myths that is more narrow than that of of the preceding two. Lindow tells the stories well.

  4. Very well thought out analysis. Good to see someone take the time to really dig in.

    As i read your commentary, I noticed a few things that i think may have been misunderstood.

    Ivaldi plays no role in the drama. Only his children do. His children are 3 sons who made gifts for the gods according to two sources, and a daughter name Idunn according to Hrafnagaldur Odins 6. They apparently share a father, who is an elf, but different mothers.

    Stanza 6: In the dales dwells the prescient* Dis, from Yggdrasil’s ash sunk down, of alfen race, Idun by name, the youngest of Ivaldi’s elder children. [Thorpe]

    This verse demonstrates that Ivaldi had two sets of children, an elder and a younger set. As you noted, the mythological sources (Grimnismal and Skaldskaparmal) know of Ivaldi’s Sons, the famous artist who fashioned treasures for the gods. Loki provokes a contest with them and a rival group of smiths known as Sindri and Brokk- Eitri. The gods must judge the winner. The sons of Ivaldi lose by default.

    So Idunn, who holds the applies of rejuvenation, is a half-sister to the famous artists known as the Sons of Ivaldi. Here they are called elf-kin. As noted, Ivaldi’s sons are called both dvergar (dwarves) and dark-elves, a word which also appears in Hrafnagaldur Odins 25, the only place in all of eddic poetry. The Eddic poems frequently speak of the Aesir and the Alfar, a formula also preserved in Old English. Aesir and Elves go together.

    Stanza 10: Sorcery they sang, wolves they rode, Rögnir and Reginn, against the world’s house; Óðinn listens in Hliðskjálf; watched the travellers’ distant journey. [Björnsson and Reaves]

    Ben Thorpe states that Rögnir and Reginn= ‘The god and gods.”
    Bjornsson and Reaves do not.

    Look at the verse logically: Rognir and Regin chants sorcery “against” the world’s house, against creation. Those who do this are not friends of the gods. Odin sits on his throne an listens and watches those who do this as they travel far away from the gods. Earlier we were told that “wights” had confounded the runes and caused terrible weather.

    Stanza 2: The forebodings the Æsir suspected to be evil; treacherous Vættar had the runes confounded. [Thorpe] Óðhrærir had to look after Urður (fate); he could not protect [her] from the greater part [of the plan]. [Lassen]

    Note that Rognir and Regin could refer to gods. Rognir is a name of Odin, and of the giant Thjazzi in Haustlong. Regin is the name of a smith and a general term for creating gods, as in Voluspa’s regin oll, all the gods. Riding wolves is a habit of giants, and the word for wolves is gandr, which can also mean a magic object or creature, like a broomstick, a wand, or the Midgard Serpent (Jormungandr). These “regin” are not the friendly type.

    Do we know of any god-like beings who could turn on the gods and distance themselves from them? In story of the contest of the artists, the Sons of Ivaldi, are judged inferior artists. They had once been friends of the gods and freely gave them gifts. Their half sister is Idunn who keeps the gods themselves young. They likely took this as a grave insult (as Loki planned). Unfortunately, Snorri doesnt record andy consequences of this event.

    Stanza 1: 1. All-father exerts power [Lassen]; 2. Elves understand [Björnsson and Reaves, and Lassen]; 3. Vanir know [all the translators] 4. Norns reveal [Björnsson andReaves] 5. the Ividia brings forth [Thorpe] 6. men endure [Björnsson and Reaves,Thorpe] 7. Thurses crave [Kodratoff] 8. Valkyries yearn [Björnsson and Reaves]

    Elves understand doesn’t catch the double-entendre. The word means to “separate”, to “distinguish” one thing from another, and to “divorce” or separate oneself. Have the elves “divorced” themselves from the Aesir in anger over their judgement, as Loki designed?

    In Volundarkvida, we find 3 brother smiths in exile in a far away land. They were driven from their homes in their estimation, and Volund particularly harbors a grudge. He and his brothers are explicitly called elves, and “elf-princes”. Their father is a Finnish king. They are accompanied by swan-maidens who long to go home. Volund the lead artist is determined to exact revenge and so forges a dangerous sword, which is ultimately captured and taken from him. The elf-smiths reside in the “Wolfdales” In an apparernt allusion to that, the HRafnagaldur Odin’s poet says. Idunn resides in “dales” and dons “wolfskin” while in this dark place she doesn’t like.

    Stanza 8: The triumphant gods saw Nanna sorrowing in earth’s deep sanctuaries; a wolf’s skin they gave her, in which herself she clad, changed her feelings, practiced guile, alter’d her aspect. [Thorpe]

    Wolf-dales? Idunn [here called Nanna, the wife of Balder who resides in Hel] changed her feelings toward the gods, she too became their enemies, and withheld her apples from them, so they age and die. The imagery is obvious, Idunn has fallen like an apple from the world-tree and lies down in the coldest parts of Niflhel, along with her brothers who have gone to the dark side and have now become the “dark-elves”. We know of one other time when Idunn was away with her apples from Asgard. Snorri also tells the tale of Thjazi, a giant who once kidnapped Idunn. The eddic poems refer to him as the son of Allvaldi and Olvaldi. Could he be the son of “Ivaldi” too? Why did Odin, Hoenir and Loki to go him in Haustlong? What were they seeking? Notice the magical implements: a hearth that wont cook, a stick which Loki cannot release, and an eagle guise to fly. Volund too takes flight at the end of Volundarkvida in a devise of his own making. In German folklore, his brother Egil the archer helps him gather feathers to construct it. In other Eddic poems, Thjkazi is the bother of Egil and Idi, or Aurnir and Idi. In Haustlong, why does Thjazi single out Loki, torture him, and swear and oath to lure Idunn from Asgard? Could it be because he is the master smith of the Sons of Ivaldi, whom were insulted by their judgment? Loki provoked the contest. By design, one group of artists was sure to leave angry. In Germanic folklore, elves are known for their sharp temper and vengeful spirits.

    >Again, there is no evidence to back up B and R’s statement in their note 8 to stanza 25 that ‘dark elves’ lived in Niflhel, or that the ‘sons of Ivald’ were “renegade elves,” any more than there is evidence to back up their statement in their note 2 to stanza 8 that the ‘sons of Ivald’ were elves-turned-into giants.

    The sons of Ivaldi were not “turned into giants” They are related to giants by blood. Their mother was a giantess, their father was Ivaldi the elf. His daughters were by a sun goddess, thus they are full elves: Idunn and her sisters. When the Sons of Ivaldi turn on the gods in anger (go renegade as it were), they assume their full giant nature. The Hrafnagaldur Odins poet speaks of them in terms of supernatural beings akin to gods, i.e. as “dark” elves. They gave in to the darkside and now can rightly be classified as “dark elves” and “jotuns”, “wolf-riders”, “wights” etc.

    >I would say, therefore, that Rydberg shows poor scholarship and circular reasoning in his theory that: (i) the elf-smith Völund from the ‘tales of the heroes’ was one of the “sons of Ivald” from the ‘tales of the gods;”

    Is Volund a tale of the heroes? Look at where the poem is placed in the Codex Regius. It appears within the mythological poems, before Alvismal and after Harbardsljod. Volund is called an elf-prince throughout the poem. Elves (alfar) are closely associated with the gods in the eddic poems.

    >(2) the dis Idunn, whom he calls “the dis of vegetation,” from Hrafnagaldur was the swan-maiden wife of Völund – which would make her both sister and wife to him, according to Rydberg’s theory; and three, that Völund was a dark-elf son of Ivald who somehow managed to become the giant Thjazi who had previously stolen Idunn and her apples away from Loki.

    As alluded to in verse 6 (the audience was expected to know) they are half siblings Thjazi and Idunn, are both children of Ivaldi, with different mothers. The sons were born to a giantess, a jötun. And the daughters were born to a solar dis, and thus are true elves. And yes, Thazi and Idunn are half siblings and lovers, and likely the parents of Skadi, who later is accepted as an Asynje.Why else would the gods allow her to chose a husband from among them? What makes her special? Odin or Thor put Thjazzi’s eyes in heaven to honor her father. Thjazi is apparentlky more than just some run of the mill jotun whom Thor conquered.

    >In the beginning of chapter 110, Rydberg says: “To these treasures [created by Ivald’s sons] belonged the remarkable ship Skiðblaðnir and the gold-glittering boar Slíðrugtanni… both most probably symbols of vegetation…”

    In Vedic mythology, the elves (Ribhu, akin to elbe, white, alfa, elf) explicitly create flowers and vegetation, they are clearly nature artists. Of their competitor Tvashtar, he forms the unborn in the womb. Compare the Sons of Ivaldi (3 brothers) and Sindri and Brokk (2 brothers). According to Voluspa, Sindri has a hall of gold in the underworld on the Nidi plains, near the “giant’s beer-hall” (Mimir’s fountain). In Fafnismal, norns called Dvalin’s daughters assist women in childbirth. Brokk and Sindri can be traced through the lore as Dainn and Dvalin.

    Ships have long been associated with ritual processions and have been drawn on land as well as sea to increase agricultural prosperity. Tacitus speaks of a goddess he calls Isis of the Seuvi, whose emblem is a light warship. Skidbladnir itself means assembled from small pieces, which Rudolf Simek remarked may refer to s a ship built for the duration of a festival. A Catholic abbot denounces such a ship procession in western Germany and Belgium in 1133, as “up to a thousand people of both sexes came out at night to dance around the ship. The women were clad only in cloaks. They shouted and sang songs well into the night. The ship was created by a guild of weavers and drawn from town to town, carrying as many as four idols. Throughout the Middle Ages, local town ordinances in Germany forbid going about with a plow, a wagon or a ship in costumed procession, making merry, to increase the abundance of the land. The Frau Holle legends of Germany neatly fill the literary gap. She is Odin’s wife and the Earth Mother, also called Mother of the Gods.

    The glittering boar is certainly associated with agriculture and vegetation. Gullinbursti is the symbol of the god Freyr, lord of harvests, the ar-gud. Besides being a prolific breeder, pigs root in the earth with tusks like plows turning up soil. Phallic imagery is also inherent in the image of tusks. Freya herself is called the sow, Syr. Freyja “rides” her lover Ottar (Odr) in the shape of a boar in Hyndluljod. She is said to run hot among the he-goats, like Heidrun, the goat who provides the mead in Valhalla. Freyja also serves mead in Valhalla, from the biggest horn, Thor’s. Warriors wear emblems of boars on their helmets, and carry boar emblems with them into battle according to Tacitus.

    >Salads must have been interesting in the Rydberg house. He goes on to say: “It would be most surprising, even quite incredible, if, when other artists made useful presents to Frey, the elf-prince Völund and his brothers did not do likewise, inasmuch as he is the chief smith of them all…”

    In chapter 113 he provides all of the evidence showing that the Sons of Ivaldi and the elf-prince brothers Volund (Wayland, Velund…well-known in Northern folklore), Egil and Slagfin were the same. Thjazzi the son of Allvaldi and Olvaldi also has 3 brothers, who split their father’s (Ivaldi the elf prince’s) gold. Rydberg lays out all of the evidence, some of which I have mirrored above. In Germanic folklore, Wayland is the son of a giant and a mermaid. So equating Volund the Smith with Thjazzi the giant is not all that far-fetched. The poems love to play on opposites and unexpected twists. Thor dresses as a bride to retrieve his weapon, Skadi comes to avenge her father, Loki must ties his testicles to the *beard* of a (female) nanny goat To make her laugh. Skadi must choose a bridegroom by the beauty of his feet, and here the men are veiled. Common reversals. Here we have an elf-prince being called a jötun. It’s unexpected, but explained in the lore. The designations are not so much blood as allegience. Aesir, Alfar, and Jotun are tribal designations.

    • Marnie Tunay says:

      William Reaves. First, let me say ‘thank you.’ for taking the time to comment in detail, and, that I am honored by your visit. I am examining your comments carefully, and will reply in detail asap. First, I accept that your interpretation of the phrase ‘the youngest of Ivaldi’s elder children’ may well be the correct one. I am going over your comments and reviewing the sources I have at hand now, and will get back to you in the next day or so, I expect.

    • Marnie Tunay says:

      Okay, let’s start with the points of agreement. I agree with you that Wayland, or Volund, is an elf, and your comments have reminded me how old this post Hrafnagaldur Odinns is, and how much in need of being updated. Much later than this post, I did a close study of Volundarkvida, which you can read here: wherein I concluded that Volund was considered to be an elf, at least by that poet. Your comments about Ivaldi and his sons are very interesting and may well be accurate; clearly, I should have done more research into the name ‘Ivaldi;’ I gave up much too quickly. I will have to update these posts asap. At the moment I am struggling to work through what has turned out to be an overwhelming number of critical sources on the issue of the identities of Gullveig and Heidr; I live in hope that if I can get steady access to the family computer that I will have a blog-post done on that in the near future. But I digress. Back to the elves. You say “against the world’s house” in v. 10 and I even quoted your translation, because I thought it the nicest one. And really a lot hinges on the interpretation of the dative form. However, Annette Lassen interprets the dative form as ‘to,’ although in her notes to that stanza, she remarks that in fact “here ‘ran’ is anomalously accusative… though it might be dative of the Modern Icelandic rannur… Alternatively, it may be just a variant of rann himins, referring to the sky as the roof over the world; the gods would then be flying across the sky…” See the whole of her comments on page 100 here: (That by the way is Lassen’s 2011 perspective on the poem, which had changed considerably from her 2006 perspective.) Your comments as regards elves and fertility are interesting and certainly there was a connection between those two concepts and the Vanir. Nevertheless, I don’t agree that being associated with fertility equates with being a symbol of it, and I don’t agree that a ship created by ‘Ivaldi’s sons,’ who are cited in Griminismal as having created the ship Skidbladnir, was likely to have been thought of as being vegetation by the poet of Hrafnagaldur. Moreover, elves in a (presumed role of) being fertility-bringers turning against the gods? I think it’s a stretch. There’s no suggestion in Voluspa of a war between either the elves and the gods or with the vegetation and the gods, and the Hrafnagaldur poet was clearly very well informed on Voluspa. Moreover, there is relatively decent support for interpreting ‘Rognir’ as being the name for Odinn, (see Lassen, ibid), and very little for thinking the poet meant anything else by the name. Furthermore, ‘Ivaldi’s sons’ may well have been a general kenning for ‘elves,’ or even ‘dark-elves,’ without referring to anyone specific, such as Volund. You ask “Do we know of any god-like beings who could turn on the gods and distance themselves from them?” Well, yes, we do, US, for starters. To say nothing of the giants. And it’s the latter two groups that are specifically cited as being the enemies of the gods at Raganarok. Now, others have thought there was some idea at some times and in some places that Volund may have been associated with giants. (See my post on Volundarkvida ibid, and Ellis Davidson’s research). But that doesn’t mean that the poet of Hrafnagaldur thought of him that way, and he does’t mention Volund by name at all. I still think it’s too much of a stretch to say that Rydberg’s theories in connection with Hrafnagaldur are more than speculative, interesting as they are.

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