The "Grimnismal" has a didactic purpose, instruction in the
mythology, the heavenly geography, and the nomenclature of the
It is conveyed in Othin's monologue, addressed first, as a reward,
to young Agnar, who takes pity on his plight, and finally to his
erstwhile favorite Geirroeth, to whom the god gradually re- veals'
his dread identity. The epic framework has elements in common with a
fairy story, still told in our days in northern Norway, of two
brothers who sail to a monster-infested island where the one brother
abandons the other to his fate in order to claim the kingdom for
him- self. And there is a striking similarity between the story of
the rivalry of Othin and his wife Frigg, as told in the Introductory
Prose, and the legend about the origin of the Langobards as told in
the Edict of their king, Rotharis (644 A.D.), and retold by the
Langobardian monk and historian, Paulus Diaconus (ca. 800):
"The form of the narrative is very symptomatic. The reader is to
gather that the old cotter has given Geirroeth the counsel to make
away with his brother; from the conversation between Othin and
Frigg, that it was they who fostered the youths; again, that Frigg,
in maligning Geirroeth as a miser had a double purpose -- in the
first place, to induce Othin to visit the king whom by her emissary
she renders hostile to the disguised god; in the second place, to
destroy Geirroeth, since Othin would of course not let his ill
treatment go unavenged."(2)
The poem has suffered chiefly from accretions, which detract
seriously from its aesthetic value: its monologic form no doubt
tempted copyists to interpolate stray bits of lore -- some- times of
great value -- which they were anxious to have preserved within its
framework. For the most part, these differ in form from the
otherwise regular ljodahattr stanzas. There are no positive
indications as to time of composition (tenth century?) or place of
origin. Certainly the poem is archheathen. It is handed down
completely both in the Codex Regis and the Hauksbok; and some twenty
stanzas are embedded in Snorri's paraphrase in the "Gylfaginning."
King Hrauthung had two sons, Agnar and Geirroeth.(3) Agnar was ten
years old, Geirroeth eight. One day they were rowing in a boat with
their tackle, to catch small fry, when the wind blew them out to
sea. In the darkness of night they were dashed against the land.
They made the shore and found a cotter. They stayed there that
winter. The goodwife fostered Agnar, the goodman, Geirroeth and
counseled him in shrewdness. In spring he got them a boat, and when
he and his wife led them down to the shore he spoke secretly with
Geirroeth. They had a fair wind and came to their father's landing
place. Geirroeth was forward in the boat. He leapt out on shore and
thrust the boat back into the sea and said, "Now go where all trolls
may take thee!" Agnar drifted out to sea; but Geirroeth went up to
the buildings. He was warmly welcomed, and as his father had died he
was made king and became a famous leader.
One day, Othin and Frigg were sitting in Hlithskjalf (4) and were
looking out upon all the worlds. Then said Othin: "Dost thou see
Agnar, thy foster son, how he begets children with an ogress in a
cave? But Geirroeth, my foster son, is king in the land." Frigg
answered: "He is so grudging about his food(5) that he lets his
guests die of hunger when he thinks too many have come." Othin said
that this was a gross lie, and so they laid a wager about this
matter. Frigg sent her chambermaid Fulla to Geirroeth to tell him to
beware lest he be bewitched by a warlock who was then come into the
land. She told him that the warlock could be recognized by this,
that no dog was so fierce as to rush at him. But it was evil
slander, to say that King Geirroeth was not generous about his food.
Yet he had that man taken captive whom his dogs would not set on. He
was clad in a blue cloak and gave his name as Grimnir,(6) and said
no more about himself though he was asked. The king tortured him to
make him speak, by setting him be- tween two fires; and there he
sate for eight nights. Geirroeth had a son ten years old, who was
named Agnar after his brother. Agnar went up to Grimnir and gave him
a full horn to drink from and said that the king did ill to torture
one who had done no wrong. Grimnir emptied it. By that time the fire
had come so near him that his cloak began to burn.
1. Hot art thou, blaze, and too high, withal!
Get, fire, thee farther away!
My frieze coat is singed though I flung it aloft,
flares up the fur in the flames.
2. Eight nights famished 'twixt the fires I sate,
nor did anyone fetch me food,
but Agnar only who after shall rule,
Geirroeth's son, o'er the Goths.(7)
3. All hail to thee, for happiness
is given thee, Agnar, by Othin.
Better guerdon shalt never get
for one beaker of beer.
4. The land is holy which lies yonder,
near to Aesir and alfs;
in Thruthheim,(8) there shall Thor ay dwell,
till draws nigh the doom of the gods.
5. On Ydal's(9) plains Ull hath reared him
his hall timbered on high.
For Frey's(10) tooth-fee was fashioned of yore
Alf-Home, as gift by the gods.
6. A third hall still, all thatched with silver,
was built by the blessed gods:
in Valaskjalf (11) hall did house himself
Othin in olden days.
7. Sokkvabekk(12) called is the fourth, which cool waters
ripple round about;
there Othin and Saga(13) all their days drink,
glad from golden cups.
8. Gladhome is hight the fifth where golden shimm'ring
Valholl(14) is widely spread out;
here Othin chooses every day
9. Easily known to Ygg's chosen
are the heavenly halls:
the rafters, spearshafts; the roofs, shield-shingled;
and the benches strewn with byrnies.
10. Easily known to Ygg's chosen
are the heavenly halls:
a wolf hangeth o'er the western gate,
and hovers an eagle on high.(15)
11. Thrymheim(16) is hight the sixth, where Thjatsi dwelled,
the etin of awful might;
Njorth's bride there her bower hath,
Skathi,(17) where her father before.
12. Breithablik(18) the seventh; there Baldr the good
hath reared him his bright abode:
in that land it lies where least I know
falsehood and faithlessness.
13. Himinbjorg(19) the eighth; there Heimdall, they say,
guards the holy hall;
there the gods' warder in goodly stead
the mead drinks, glad in mind.
14. Folkvang(20) the ninth, where Freya(21) chooses
who seats shall have in her hall:
half of the slain are hers each day,
and half are Othin's own.
15. Glitnir(22) the tenth, which with gold is propped,
and is shingled with shining silver;
there Forseti(23) unflagging sits,
the god that stills all strife.
16. Noatun(24) the eleventh, where Njorth hath him
reared his bright abode;
the sinless god his seat there has
and rules in high-timbered hall.
17. Greenwoods grow, and grasses tall,
in Vithi,(25) Vithar's land:
from horseback leaps the hero, eager
to avenge his father's fall.
18. By Andhrimnir(26) in Eldhrimnir(27)
Saehrimnir,(28) the boar, is boiled,
the best of bacons; though 'tis barely known
what the einherjar(29) eat.
19. Valfather feeds Freki and Geri(30)
on the flesh of the fallen;
but weapon-glad Othin on wine only
lives forever and ay.
20. The whole earth over, every day,
hover Hugin and Munin;(31)
I dread lest Hugin droop in his flight,
yet I fear me still more for Munin.
21. Thund(32) roars loudly; sports Thjothvitnir's
fish(33) in the foaming Rood;
the strong stream seems too stiff to wade
for warriors to Valholl bent.
22. Valgrind(34) is the gate that wards the gods,
holy, nigh holy doors;
old is that wicket, nor wot many
with what bolt that gate is barred.
23. Five hundred rooms and forty withal
I ween that in Bilskirnir(35) be;
of all the halls which on high are reared
the greatest I see is my son's.
24. Five hundred doors and forty withal
I ween that in Valholl be:
eight hundred warriors through one door hie them
when they fare forth to fight the Wolf.(36)
25. Heithrun, the goat on the hall that stands,
eateth off wrath's(37) limbs;
the crocks she fills with clearest mead,
will that drink not e'er be drained.
26. Eikthyrnir,(38) the hart on the hall that stands,
eateth off wrath's limbs;
drops from his horns in Hvergelmi(39) fall,
thence wend all the waters their way.
27.(40)[ Sith and Vith, Soekin and Eikin,
Svol and Gunnthro, Fjorm and Fimbulthul,
Rin and Rinnandi,
Gipul and Gopul, Gomul and Geirvimul,
they flow by the garth of the gods;
Thyn and Vin, Tholl and Holl,
Grath and Gunnthorin.
28. Vina is hight one, Vegsvinn the other,
the third, Thjothnuma;
Nyt and Not, Nonn and Hronn,
Slith and Hrith, Sylg and Ylg,
Vil and Van, Vond and Strond,
Gjoll and Leiptr, flow in the land of men,
but hence flow to Hel.]
29. Kormt and Ormt and the Kerlaugs twain,
Thor does wade through
every day, to doom when he fares
'neath the ash Yggdrasil;
for the bridge of the gods(41) is ablaze with flames --
hot are the holy waters.
30.(42)[Glath and Gyllir, Gler and Skeithbrimir,
Silfrintopp and Sinir,
Gisl and Falhofnir, Golltopp and Lettfeti --
these steeds ride heavenly hosts
every day, to the doom when they fare
'neath the ash Yggdrasil.]
31. Three roots do spread in threefold ways
beneath the ash Yggdrasil:
dwell etins 'neath one, 'neath the other, Hel,
'neath the third; Mithgarth's(43) men.
32.(44)(An eagle sitteth on Yggdrasil's limbs,
whose keen eyes widely ken;
'twixt his eyes a fallow falcon is perched,
hight Vethrfolnir, and watcheth. )
33. Ratatosk(45) the squirrel is hight which runneth ay
about the ash Yggdrasil:
the warning words of the watchful eagle
he bears to Nithhogg(46) beneath.
34.(47)[Four harts also the highest shoots(48)
ay gnaw from beneath:
Dain and Dvalin,(49) Duneyr and Dyrathror.]
35. [More worms do lie the world-tree beneath
than unwise apes may ween:
Goin and Moin, which are Grafvitnir's sons,
Grabak and Grafvolluth;
Ofnir and Svafnir(50) ay, I fear me,
on that tree's twigs will batten.]
36. The ash Yggdrasil doth ill abide,
more than to men is known:
the hart browsing above, its bole rotting,
and Nithhogg gnawing beneath.
37. Hrist and Mist the horn shall bear me,
Skeggjold and Skogul;
but Hild and Thruth, Hlokk and Herfjotur,
Goll and Geironul,
Randgrith and Rathgrith and Reginleif,(51)
to the einherjar ale shall bear.
38. Arvakr and Alsvith,(52) they up shall draw
the sun's wain wearily;
but under their bellies the blessed gods
have hidden the "icy irons."(53)
39. Svalin(54) is hight, the Sun before,
a shield from the shining god.
Would smoke and smolder both sea and land,
if from him it ever should fall.
40. Skoll the wolf, in the sky dogs him
to the warding woods;(55)
but Hati(56) the other, Hrothvitnir's son,
follows the fair orb too.
41. Of Ymir's(57) flesh the earth was shaped,
of his blood, the briny sea,
of his hair, the trees, the hills of his bones,
out of his skull the sky.
42. But of his lashes the loving gods made
Mithgarth for sons of men;
from his brow they made the menacing clouds
which in the heavens hover.
43. Will Ull(58) befriend him, and all the gods,
who erst the fire clenches;
for open lie to the Aesir all worlds,
when kettles are heaved from the hearth.(59)
44. [In earliest times Ivaldi's sons(60)
Skithblathnir, the ship, did shape,
the best of boats, for beaming Frey,
the noble son of Njorth.]
45. [The ash Yggdrasil is of all trees best;
Skithblathnir, the best of boats;
of holy gods, Othin; of horses, Sleipnir;(61)
of bridges, Bifrost;(62) of skalds, Bragi;(63)
of hawks, Habrok;(64) of hounds all, Garm.](65)
46. Now my looks have I lifted aloft to the gods:(66)
help will come from on high,
from all the Aesir which in shall come
on Aegir's benches,
at Aegir's feast.(67)
47. Grim(68) is my name, and Gangleri,(69)
Herjan(70) and Hjalmberi,(71)
Thekk(72) and Thrithi,(73) Thuth and Uth,
Helblindi and Har.(74)
48. Sath(75) and Svipal(76) and Sanngetal,(77)
Herteit(78) and Hnikar,(79)
Bileyg,(80) Baleyg,(81) Bolverk,(82) Fjolnir,(83)
Grim and Grimnir, Glapsvith, Fjolsvith,
49. Sithhott,(84) Sithskegg,(85) Sigfather,(86) Hnikuth,(87)
Alfather,(88) Valfather,(89) Atrith,(90) Farmatyr:(91)
by one name was I not welcomed ever,
since among folk I fared.
50. Grimnir my name in Geirroeth's hall,
but Jalk in Asmund's.(92)
Was I Kjalar hight when the hand sled I drew,
but Thror(93) at Things,
Vithur in wars,
Oski and Omi, Jafnhar, Biflindi,
Gondlir(94) and Harbarth(95) among gods.
51. Svithur and Svithrir(96) at Sokkmimir's was I,
when the old etin I hid,
and when Mithvitnir's, the mighty one's,
son I slew alone.
52. Thou art muddled, Geirroeth! Too much thou hast drunk;
of much art robbed since rashly thou losest
Othin's and the einherjars' favor.
53. Full long I spake, but little thou mindest:
faithless friends(97) betray thee:
before me I see my foster son's sword,
its blade all dripping with blood.
54. A death-doomed man will soon drink with Ygg:(98)
not long the life left thee.
The norns wish thee ill: now Othin mayst see;
come thou near if thou canst.(99)
55. Now Othin's my name. Ygg was I hight,
Thund was my name ere then;
Vak(100) and Skilfing, Vafuth(101) and Hroptatyr,(102)
Gaut(103) and Jalk among gods.
Ofnir(104) and Svafnir,(105) they all have become
one with me, I ween.
King Geirroeth was sitting with his sword on his knees half
unsheathed. But when he heard that it was Othin who had come to him,
he arose and wanted to take him from between the fires. His sword
slid from his hands with its hilt downward. The king stumbled and
fell forward, the sword pierced him, and so he lost his life. Then
Othin vanished; but Agnar was king in that land for a long time.
1 Some scholars, to be sure, see in the poem an Othin monologue of great impressiveness,
with no breaks in its unity -- one which originally had nothing to do with the King Geirroeth
2 Detter and Heinzel II, 172.
3 "Spear-Peace" (? ), that is, peace gained by the spear.
4 "Hall of Gates" or "Gate-Tower," Othin's seat in Valholl. "When' he seats himself in
the high-seat he can see all the world and the doings of every man" ("Gylfaginning," Chap.
5 A cardinal sin in a king, according to Old Norse conceptions.
6 "The Masked One," Othin. He is frequently pictured as concealing his countenance by a
7 Here, as frequently, used in a general and honorific sense for "warriors."
8 "Land of Strength."
9 "Yew Dales." Ull, "Glorious," is the god of archery. His weapon, the longbow, was
made out of the yew. He is, possibly, a hypostasis of Othin, or of Tyr, the god of war.
10 "Lord." He is the god of fertility and prosperity. Like Njorth (see "Vafprudnismal," Sts.
38-39), his father, he is said to be of Van origin. The "tooth-fee" is a gift to an infant when
he cuts his first tooth.
11 "Hall of Slain Warriors" (?), the first of Othin's three halls.
12 "Sunken Hall" (?). Compare with Fensalir in "Voluspa," St. 33.
13 "Seeress," Frigg. The name is etymologically connected, but not identical, with the Norse
word for "history," "story."
14 "Hall of Slain Warriors." See Valaskjalf, in St. 6 above, and, "Vafprudnismal," Sts. 40- 41.
15 Wolf and eagle, as scavengers of the battlefield, are symbolic of Othin's warlike activi-
ties. Their carved images adorn the gable ends of his hall.
17 "Scathe." She is Thjatsi's daughter and Njorth's wife. See also "Harbarzljod," St. 19,
and "Lokasenna," St. 50.
18 "The Far-Shining"; properly the seat of Baldr, the god of innocence, justice, and light.
19 "Heavenly Mountains." Concerning Heimdall, see "Voluspa," St. 1, note.
21 "Mistress," "Queen" (feminine of Frey), the goddess of love. She is the daughter of
Njorth and the sister of Frey.
23 "The Presiding One," son of Baldr and Nanna.
24 "Shipstead," "harbor."
25 "Wide land" (? ). As to Vithar, see "Voluspa," St. 53.
26 "Sooty in the Face," the cook of Valholl.
27 "Sooty from the Fire," the kettle.
28 "Sooty Black" (?).
29 See "Vafprudnismal," St. 41.
30 Both names signify "the Greedy One." They are Othin's two wolves.
31 "Thought" and "Remembrance," Othin's ravens which bring him intelligence.
32 "The Noisy" (?), a river probably thought to flow around Valholl.
33 "The Great Wolf," Fenrir; his "fish," is possibly the Mithgarth Serpent. But the whole
stanza presents great difficulty.
34 "The Gate of the Battle-Slain."
35 Of uncertain meaning. It is the hall of Thor, who is a son of Othin.
36 Fenrir. See "Lokasenna," Note 24, and "Voluspa," St. 52.
37 Laerath seems to be identical with the tree Yggdrasil, which suffers still other harm. See
Sts. 26 and 33 ff.
38 "Oak Antlers" (?).
39 A well at the foot of Yggdrasil.
40 The following catalog of rivers is plainly interpolated. Their names refer, some to swift-
ness, others to coldness and depth. For Leiptr, see "Helgakvida Hundingsbana" II, St. 30.
41 Bifrost, "The Quaking Bridge" (see St. 45). The bearing of the passage is not clear.
42 The catalog of steeds likewise is interpolated. Their names refer to speed, bright appear-
ance, and similar qualities.
43 "Middle World" or "The Enclosure."
44 This stanza is lacking in the original. We are able to reconstruct it from Snorri's close
paraphrase ("Gylfaginning," Chap. 15). The eagle and the falcon possibly symbolize the
watchfulness of the gods.
45 "Rat Tusk."
46 See "Voluspa," Note 46. The dragon is here conceived as gnawing the roots of Yggdras-
il. See St. 36.
47 The following two stanzas are very likely interpolations.
49 These are, rather, dwarf names.
50 Several of these names have reference to the burrowing activities of worms and snakes.
The last two are names of Othin; see St. 55 and note.
51 The names of the valkyries indicate their warlike activities, like those of "Voluspa,"
52 "Early-Awake" and "Very Swift," the sun horses. See "Vafprudnismil," St. 12, and
"Sigrdrifumal," St. 17.
53 Snorri, in his "Gylfaginning," Chap. 10, has the following prosy explanation of these:
"Under their shoulders the gods placed two bellows to cool them, and in some lays these are
called 'icy irons' " (?).
55 This passage, as well as the following, is of doubtful meaning.
56 "Hater," the son of Hrothvitnir, "the Famous Wolf," that is, Fenrir (who according to
"Vafprudnismal," St. 46-47, himself swallows the sun).
57 See "Vafprudnismal," St. 21.
58 See St. 5 and note.
59 The words of the second part of the stanza seem clear, but their meaning has so far re-
sisted convincing explanation.
60 According to "Gylfaginning," Chap. 42, they are skilful dwarfs who make a present of
the ship Skithblathnir, "the Thin-Planked," to Frey. "It is so large that all the gods may find
room in it with all their equipment." Also', it has a favorable breeze whenever its sail is
raised, and can sail both on sea and over land. It may be laid together like a cloth and put in
one's pocket. Stanzas 44 and 45 are evidently interpolated.
61 "The Runner," Othin's horse. It has eight feet. According to the story in "Gylfaginning,"
Chap. 41, it was begotten on Loki by the stallion of the giant who built the wall around
Asgarth. See "Voluspa," St. 25 and Note 24, and "Voluspa hin skamma," St. 12.
62 See St. 29, note.
63 The god of poetry and eloquence. Bragr signifies "poetry." It is uncertain whether Bragi
Boddason (ninth century), the first skald whose name and verses have come down to us, was
the prototype of the god.
64 "High-Leg." 65 See "Voluspa," St. 43.
66 The translation here offered is somewhat of a guess, no interpretation being altogether
67 As in the "Hymiskvida," St. 1.
68 Grim is short for Grimnir (see the Prose above). A number of the following names
cannot be satisfactorily explained.
69 "The Way-Weary." 70 "War God" (?).
71 "Helm-Bearer." 72 "The Welcome One."
73 "The Third," (with Har, below, and Jafnhar in St. 50). This trinity seems to betray
74 "One-Eyed"; but, as evidenced by Jafnhar, "Equally High" (St. 50), the name was at an
early time confused with the homonymous word meaning "high."
75 "The Truthful." 76 "The Changeable." 77 "Truthfinder."
78 "Glad in Battle." 79 "[Spear-] Thruster." 80 "One-Eyed."
81 "Fiery-Eyed." 82 "Bale-Worker." 83 "The Concealer."
84 "Long-Hood." 85 "Long-Beard." 86 "Victory Father."
87 "[Spear-]Thruster." 88 "Father of All."
89 "Father of the Battle-Slain." 90 "Attacker by Horse" (?).
91 "Lord of Boatloads." This epithet shows Othin in his role (historically earlier) as god
of the merchants. Compare with Mercury-Hermes with whom he shares other important
92 None of the several adventures of Othin here alluded to are known.
93 "Inciter to Strife" (?). See "Harbarzljod," St. 24 and Note 18.
94 "Bearer of the [Magic] Wand." 95 "Graybeard."
96 Both epithets signify "the Wise."
97 Probably Frigg and her minion who, we are to understand, had made Geirrroeth go
counter to Othin's instruction, given him the time he was fostered by the god, to be hospitable
98 That is, in Othin's (Ygg's) hall.
99 After these words Othin probably vanishes as, in a similar situation, he vanishes in the
hall of King Heithrek, Hervarar saga, Chap. 9. The last stanza, which botches this excellent
ending, is no doubt a later addition.
100 "Wakeful." 101 "Wayfarer." 102 "God of Gods."
103 "The God of Goths"; that is, of men (?).
104 "The Entangler," that is, in questions (see the translation for Vafthruthnir, in
"Vafprudnismal," Note 1).
105 "He Who Lulls to Sleep or to Dreams."