Alvíssmál – The Ballad of Alvis

Alvis spake:

1. “Now shall the bride | my benches adorn,
And homeward haste forthwith;
Eager for wedlock | to all shall I seem,
Nor at home shall they rob me of rest.”

Thor spake:

2. “What, pray, art thou? | Why so pale round the nose?
By the dead hast thou lain of late?
To a giant like | dost thou look, methinks;
Thou wast not born for the bride.”

Alvis spake:

3. “Alvis am I, | and under the earth
My home ‘neath the rocks I have;
With the wagon-guider | a word do I seek,
Let the gods their bond not break.”

Thor spake:

4. “Break it shall I, | for over the bride
Her father has foremost right;
At home was I not | when the promise thou hadst,
And I give her alone of the gods.”

Alvis spake:

5. “What hero claims | such right to hold
O’er the bride that shines so bright?
Not many will know thee, | thou wandering man!
Who was bought with rings to bear thee?”

1. Alvis (“All-Knowing”): a dwarf, not elsewhere mentioned. The manuscript nowhere indicates the speakers’ name. The bride in question is Thor’s daughter; Thruth (“Might”) is the only daughter of his whose name is recorded, and she does not appear elsewhere in the poems. Her mother was Sif, Thor’s wife, whereas the god’s sons were born of a giantess. Benches: cf. Lokasenna, 15 and note.

2. The dwarfs, living beyond the reach of the sun, which was fatal to them (cf. stanzas 16 and 35), were necessarily pale. Line 3 is, of course, ironical.

3. Wagon-guider: Thor, who travels habitually on his goat drawn wagon. Bugge changes “Vagna vets” to “Vapna verþs,” rendering the line “I am come to seek the cost of the weapons.” In either case, Alvis does not as yet recognize Thor.

4. Apparently the gods promised Thor’s daughter in marriage to Alvis during her father’s absence, perhaps as a reward for some craftsmanship of his (cf. Bugge’s suggestion as to stanza 3). The text of line 4 is most uncertain.

5. Hero: ironically spoken; Alvis takes Thor for a tramp, the god’s uncouth appearance often leading to such mistakes; cf. Harbarthsljoth, 6. Line 4 is a trifle uncertain; some editors alter the wording to read “What worthless woman bore thee?”

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