FANDOM


170px-Odhin by Johannes Gehrts
This is only section of the the entire Odin Poem:

Odin is spelled Othin imn this old Poem


VAFTHRUTHNISMOL 

The Ballad of Vafthruthnir 



Introductory Note 

The Fafthruthnismol follows the Hovamol in the Codex 

Regius. From stanza 20 on it is also included in the Arna- 

magnaan Codex, the first part evidently having appeared on a 

leaf now lost. Snorri quotes eight stanzas of it in the Prose Edda, 

and in his prose text closely paraphrases many others. 



The poem is wholly in dialogue form except for a single 

narrative stanza (stanza 5). After a brief introductory discus- 

sion between Othin and his wife, Frigg, concerning the reputed 

wisdom of the giant Vafthruthnir, Othin, always in quest of 

wisdom, seeks out the giant, calling himself Gagnrath. The giant 

immediately insists that they shall demonstrate which is the 

wiser of the two, and propounds four questions (stanzas 11, 13, 

15, and 17), each of which Othin answers. It is then the god's 

turn to ask, and he begins with a series of twelve numbered 

questions regarding the origins and past history of life. These 

Vafthruthnir answers, and Othin asks five more questions, 

this time referring to what is to follow the destruction of the 

gods, the last one asking the name of his own slayer. Again 

Vafthruthnir answers, and Othin finally propounds the unanswer- 

able question: "What spake Othin himself in the ears of his son, 

ere in the bale-fire he burned?" Vafthruthnir, recognizing his 

questioner as Othin himself, admits his inferiority in wisdom, 

and so the contest ends. 



The whole poem is essentially encyclopaedic in character, and 

thus was particularly useful to Snorri in his preparation of the 

Prose Edda. The encyclopaedic poem with a slight narrative 

outline seems to have been exceedingly popular; the Grimnismol 

and the much later Alvissmol represent different phases of the 

same type. The Fafthruthnismol and Grimnismol together, in- 

deed, constitute a fairly complete dictionary of Norse mythology. 

There has been much discussion as to the probable date of the 

Fafthruthnismol, but it appears to belong to about the same 

period as the Foluspo: in other words, the middle of the tenth 

century. While there may be a few interpolated passages in the 

poem as we now have it, it is clearly a united whole, and evi- 

dently in relatively good condition. 



[68] 






Vafthruthnismol 



Othin spake: 



1. "Counsel me, Frigg, for I long to fare, 



And Vafthruthnir fain would find ; 

In wisdom old with the giant wise 

Myself would I seek to match." 



Frigg spake: 



2. "Heerfather here at home would I keep, 



Where the gods together dwell; 

Amid all the giants an equal in might 

To Vafthruthnir know I none." 



Othin spake: 



3. "Much have I fared, much have I found, 



Much have I got from the gods ; 

And fain would I know how Vafthruthnir now 

Lives in his lofty hall." 



Frigg spake: 



4. "Safe mayst thou go, safe come again, 



And safe be the way thou wendest! 

Father of men, let thy mind be keen 

When speech with the giant thou seekest." 



5. The wisdom then of the giant wise 






I. The phrases "Othin spake," "Frigg spake," etc., appear 

in abbreviated form in both manuscripts. Frigg: Othin's wife; 

of. Voluspo, 34 and note. Vafthruthnir ("the Mighty in Rid- 

dles") : nothing is known of this giant beyond what is told in this 

poem. 



3. Heerfather ("Father of the Host") : Othin. 



5. This single narrative stanza is presumably a later interpo< 



[69] 






Poetic Edda 



Forth did he fare to try; 

He found the hall of the father of Im, 

And in forthwith went Ygg. 



Othin spake: 

"Vafthruthnir, hail! to thy hall am I come, 



For thyself I fain would see ; 

And first would I ask if wise thou art, 



Or, giant, all wisdom hast won." 



Vafthruthnir spake: 

"Who is the man that speaks to me, 



Here in my lofty hall ? 

Forth from our dwelling thou never shalt fare. 



Unless wiser than I thou art." 



Othin spake: 

"Gagnrath they call me, and thirsty I come 



From a journey hard to thy hall; 

Welcome I look for, for long have I fared. 



And gentle greeting, giant." 



Vafthruthnir spake: 

"Why standest thou there on the floor whilst thou 

speakest ? 

A seat shalt thou have in my hall ; 






lation. Im: the name appears to be corrupt, but we know nothing 

of any son of Vafthruthnir. Ygg ("the Terrible") ; Othin. 



8. Gagnrath ("the Gain-Counsellor") : Othin on his travels 

always assumes a name other than his own. 



[70] 






Vafthruthnismol 



Then soon shall we know whose knowledge is 

more, 

The guest's or the sage's gray." 



Othin spake: 



10. "If a poor man reaches the home of the rich, 



Let him wisely speak or be still ; 

For to him who speaks with the hard of heart 

Will chattering ever work ill." 



Vafthruthnir spake: 



11. "Speak forth now, Gagnrath, if there from the 



floor 

Thou wouldst thy wisdom make known: 

What name has the steed that each mom anew 

The day for mankind doth draw?" 



Othin spake: 



12. "Skinfaxi is he, the steed who for men 



The glittering day doth draw; 

The best of horses to heroes he seems, 

And brightly his mane doth burn." 



Vafthruthnir spake: 



13. "Speak forth now, Gagnrath, if there from the 



floor 






10. This stanza sounds very much like many of those in the 

first part of the Hovamol, and may have been introduced here 

from some such source. 



12. Skinfaxi: "Shining-Mane." 



[71] 






Poetic Edda 



Thou wouldst thy wisdom make known : 

What name has the steed that from East anew 

Brings night for the noble gods?" 



Othin spake: 



14. "Hrimfaxi name they the steed that anew 



Brings night for the noble gods; 

Each morning foam from his bit there falls, 

And thence come the dews in the dales." 



Vafthruthnir spake: 



15. "Speak forth now, Gagnrath, if there from the 



floor 

Thou wouldst thy wisdom make known: 

What name has the river that 'twixt the realms 

Of the gods and the giants goes?" 



Othin spake: 



16. "Ifing is the river that 'twixt the realms 



Of the gods and the giants goes ; 

For all time ever open it flows, 

No ice on the river there is." 



Vafthruthnir spake: 



17. "Speak forth now, Gagnrath, if there from the 



floor 






13. Here, and in general throughout the poem, the two-line 

introductory formulae are abbreviated in the manuscripts. 



14. Hrimfaxi: "Frosty-Mane." 



16. Ifing: there is no other reference to this river, which 

never freezes, so that the giants cannot cross it. 



[72] 






Vafthruthnismol 



Thou wouldst thy wisdom make known: 

What name has the field where in fight shall meet 

Surt and the gracious gods?" 



Othin spake: 



1 8. "Vigrith is the field where in fight shall meet 



Surt and the gracious gods; 

A hundred miles each way does it measure, 

And so are its boundaries set." 



Vafthruthnir spake: 



19. "Wise art thou, guest ! To my bench shalt thou go, 



In our seats let us speak together ; 

Here in the hall our heads, O guest, 

Shall we wager our wisdom upon." 



Othin spake: 



20. "First answer me well, if thy wisdom avails. 



And thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now: 

In earliest time whence came the earth. 

Or the sky, thou giant sage ?" 






17. Surt: the ruler of the fire-world (Muspcllsheim), who 

comes to attack the gods in the last battle; cf. Voluspo, 52. 



18. Vigrith: "the Field of Battle." Snorri quotes this stanza. 

A hundred miles: a general phrase for a vast distance. 



19. With this stanza Vafthruthnir, sufficiently impressed with 

his guest's wisdom to invite hira to share his own seat, resigns 

the questioning to Othin. 



20. The fragmentary version of this poem in the Arita- 

magnaan Codex begins in the middle of the first line of this 

stanza. 

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.