Norse Mythology: Vafthrúdnismál in Modern English

Odin_and_VafþrúðnirThe Vafthrúdnismál  is an Eddic poem found in the Codex Regius. The bulk of the poem consists of a dialog between Odin and the wise giant Vafthrudnir. They ask each other a series of questions to determine each other’s wisdom. Odin ends his questioning by asking for the giant’s prophecies of what will occur at Ragnarok.

“Counsel me, Frigg,” said Odin, “for I long to journey to find Vafthrudnir, and to match my wisdom of ancient times with the wise giant.”

“Father of the hosts,” replied Frigg, “I would stay here at home, where the gods live together. Among all the giants, I know of none equal in might to Vafthrudnir.”

“I have traveled far, and have learned a lot,” said Odin, “and have learned much from the gods. I now want to know how Vafthrudnir lives in his lofty hall.”

“Go safely,” said Frigg, “and return safely again, and may the path you travel be safe! Father of men, let your mind be keen when you speak with the giant.”

Odin went forth and found the hall of Vafthrudnir, the father of Im, and entered it.

“Vafthrudnir, hail!” he said. “I’ve come to your hall to see you, and to first ask if you are merely wise, or have complete wisdom.”

“Who is this man that speaks to me, here in my lofty hall?” asked Vafthrudnir. “You will never go forth from this dwelling unless you are wiser than me.”

“They call me Gagnrath, the wise counselor,” said Odin, “and I am thirsty from the hard journey to your hall. I look for welcome and a gentle greeting, giant, for I have traveled a long way.”

“Then why do you stand on the floor while you speak?” asked Vafthrudnir. “Prove your wisdom, and you shall have a seat in my hall. We shall soon know whose knowledge is greater, the guest’s or the gray sage’s.”

“If a poor man reaches the home of the rich, let him speak wisely or be still,” said Odin. “For to one who speaks with the hard of heart, chattering will always go badly.”

“Speak then, Gagnrath,” said Vafthrudnir, “and make your wisdom known from there on the floor. What is the name of the steed that each morning draws the new day for mankind?”

“Skinfaxi of the shining mane is the steed who for draws the glittering day forth,” said Odin. “He seems the best of horses to heroes, and his mane burns brightly.”

“Tell me, Gagnrath, if you wish to show your wisdom,” asked Vafthrudnir, “what is the name of the steed that from the East brings each night for the noble gods?”

“Hrimfaxi of the frosty mane they name the steed that brings night,” said Odin. “Each morning, foam falls from his bit, and forms the dew in the dales.”

If you are truly wise, Gagnrath,” said Vafthrudnir, “you will tell me the name of the river that runs between the realms of the gods and the giants.”

“Ifing is the river that runs between the realms,” said Odin. “For all time, it flows open, and there is never any ice on that river.”

“I will be convinced of your wisdom,” said Vafthrudnir, “if you tell me the name of the field where Surt and the gracious gods shall meet in battle.”

“Vigrith is the field of battle where the final conflict between Surt and the gods shall take place,” said Odin. “It measures a hundred miles in each way direction, and so are its boundaries set.”

“You are truly wise, guest!” said Vafthrudnir. “Come join me on my bench, and let us speak together. Here in the hall, we will wager our heads on our wisdom.”

Odin joined the giant on his enormous bench.

“First answer me, if your wisdom serves, and you know it, Vafthruthnir,” said Odin.
“In earliest times, where did the earth and the sky come from?”

“The earth was fashioned Out of Ymir’s flesh and the mountains were made of his bones,” said Vafthrudnir. “The sky from the frost-cold giant’s skull, and the ocean out of his blood.”

“Then tell me, if you know,” said Odin, “where the moon and the flaming sun that fare over the world of men came from.”

“Mundilferi fathered the moon and the flaming sun,” said Vafthrudnir, “and each day they run the circle of the heavens to tell the time for men.”

“Third tell me, if you are called wise,” said Odin, “where the day and the night with the narrowing moon come from?”

“Night was the child of the giant Nor. She and her husband Delling were mother and father of the day,” said Vafthrudnir. “The full moon and old one were fashioned by the gods to tell time for men.”

“Fourth tell me,” said Odin, “where winter and the warm summer came from.”

“Vindsval the wind chilled was winter’s father, and Svosuth the gentle fathered the summer,” replied Vafthrudni.

“Fifth tell me which giant was first fashioned in ancient times, and was the eldest of Ymir’s children,” said Odin.

“Winters unmeasured before the earth was made, Bergelmir was born,” replied Vafthrudni. “He was the son of Thrudgelmir, and Aurgelmir’s grandson of old.”

“Sixth, where did Ymir–who you call Aurgelmir–come from long ago?” asked Odin.

“Venom dripped down from the frozen waters of the river Elivagar and waxed until the giant was formed,” replied Vafthrudni. “And from him, our giants’ race descended, and this is why we  are so fierce.”

“Seventh,” asked Odin, “tell me how that first grim giant fathered children, without a giantess to bear them?”

“They say that beneath the arms of the ice giant of ice, a boy and girl grew together,” replied Vafthrudni, “and with his feet, the wise one fashioned a son that had six heads.”

“What is the oldest thing that you remember?” asked Odin. “For your wisdom is great, giant!”

“Bergelmir was born winters unmeasured before the earth was made,” said Vafthrudni. “The first thing I remember was being born in a boat of old.”

“Where does the wind that fares over the waves yet itself is never seen come from?” asked Odin.

“The giant Hræsvelg the corpse eater sits at the end of heaven in the form of an eagle,” said Vafthrudni. “And the wind comes forth from his wings to move o’er the world of men.”

“Tell me, if you know, the fate that is fixed for the gods,” said Odin. “Where did Njorth come from before he came to live with the gods. He is rich with temples and shrines, though he was not born of a god.”

“The wise ones create him in the home of the Vanir did, and gave him as a pledge to the gods,” said Vafthrudni. “At the end of the world he shall return once more to the home to the wise Vanir.”

“Who are the men in Odin’s hall who each day go forth to fight?” asked Odin.

“The heroes brought to Odin’s hall by the Valkyries go forth each day to fight,” said Vafthrudni. “They fell each other, then return from the fight healed, and sit down to feast.”

“Tell me of the runes of the gods and the giants’ race,” said Odin, “for you do indeed tell the truth indeed dost thou tell, and your wisdom is deep, giant!”

“Of the runes of the gods and the giants’ race I call indeed tell you the truth,” said Vafthrudni, “For to each of the nine worlds I have won, even to Niflhel beneath, the land where dead men dwell.”

“Will mankind survive when at the end the long winter comes?” asked Odin.

“Lif and Lifthrasir will hide themselves in Mimir’s wood,” said Vafthrudni. “They will survive on morning dews; such food shall men then find.”

“How will the sun return to the smooth back of the sky after Fenrir has snatched it from its place?” asked Odin.

“Sol, the beaming elf, shall bear a bright daughter before Fenrir snatches her from the sky,” said Vafthrudni. “The maiden will tread her mother’s path when the gods have gone to death.”

Which maidens, so wise of mind, will fare forth over the sea?” asked Odin.

“The maidens shall pass over Mogthrasir’s hill, and they will be followed by three throngs,” said Vafthrudni. “They will protect the dwellers on earth, though they are the descendants of the giants.”

“Who will rule the realm of the gods after the fires of Surt have sunk down?” asked Odin.

“Vidar and Vali shall dwell In the land of the gods after the fires of Surt die down,” said Vafthrudni. “His sons Modi and Magni shall have Mjollnir after Thor the hurler falls in battle.”

“What shall be the doom of Odin, when the gods are destroyed?” asked Odin.

“The wolf shall fell the father of men, and his son Vidar will avenge avenge him,” said Vafthrudni. “He shall tear apart its terrible jaws, and so doing, slay the wolf.”

“What did Odin himself whisper in the ear of his son, before Balder was burned in the bale-fire?” Odin asked.

“No man knows what you said in the ear of your son,” said Vafthrudni.
“With fated mouth, I have told you of the fall of the gods, and given you tales of old. Now have I striven with Odin in knowledge, and ever the wiser you are.”

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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