Grímnismál – The Ballad of Grimnir

31. Three roots there are | that three ways run
‘Neath the ash-tree Yggdrasil;
‘Neath the first lives Hel, | ‘neath the second the frost-giants,
‘Neath the last are the lands of men.

32. Ratatosk is the squirrel | who there shall run
On the ash-tree Yggdrasil;
From above the words | of the eagle he bears,
And tells them to Nithhogg beneath.

33. Four harts there are, | that the highest twigs
Nibble with necks bent back;
Dain and Dvalin, | . . . . . .
Duneyr and Dyrathror.

34. More serpents there are | beneath the ash
Than an unwise ape would think;
Goin and Moin, | Grafvitnir’s sons,
Grabak and Grafvolluth,
Ofnir and Svafnir | shall ever, methinks,
Gnaw at the twigs of the tree.

35. Yggdrasil’s ash | great evil suffers,
Far more than men do know;
The hart bites its top, | its trunk is rotting,
And Nithhogg gnaws beneath.

31. The first of these roots is the one referred to in stanza 26; the second in stanza 29 (cf. notes). Of the third root there is nothing noteworthy recorded. After this stanza it is more than possible that one has been lost, paraphrased in the prose of Snorri’s Edda thus: “An eagle sits in the branches of the ash tree, and he is very wise; and between his eyes sits the hawk who is called Vethrfolnir.”

32. Ratatosk (“The Swift-Tusked”): concerning this squirrel, the Prose Edda has to add only that he runs up and down the tree conveying the abusive language of the eagle (see note on stanza 31) and the dragon Nithhogg (cf. Voluspo, 39 and note) to each other. The hypothesis that Ratatosk “represents the undying hatred between the sustaining and the destroying elements-the gods and the giants,” seems a trifle far-fetched.

33. Stanzas 33-34 may well be interpolated, and are certainly in bad shape in the Mss. Bugge points out that they are probably of later origin than those surrounding them. Snorri closely paraphrases stanza 33, but without elaboration, and nothing further is known of the four harts. It may be guessed, however, that they are a late multiplication of the single hart mentioned in stanza 26, just as the list of dragons in stanza 34 seems to have been expanded out of Nithhogg, the only authentic dragon under the root of the ash. Highest twigs: a guess; the Mss. words are baffling. Something has apparently been lost from lines 3-4, but there is no clue as to its nature.

34. Cf. note on previous stanza. Nothing further is known of any of the serpents here listed, and the meanings of many of the names are conjectural. Snorri quotes this stanza. Editors have altered it in various ways in an attempt to regularize the meter. Goin and Moin: meaning obscure. Grafvitnir: “The Gnawing Wolf.” Grabak: “Gray-Back.” Grafvolluth: “The Field Gnawer.” Ofnir and Svafnir (“The Bewilderer” and “The Sleep-Bringer”): it is noteworthy that in stanza 54 Othin gives himself these two names.

35. Snorri quotes this stanza, which concludes the passage, beginning with stanza 25, describing Yggdrasil. If we assume that stanzas 27-34 are later interpolations–possibly excepting 32–this section of the poem reads clearly enough.