Vafþrúðnismál- The Ballad of Vafþrúðnismál

Othin spoke:
30. “Sixth answer me well, | if wise thou art called,
If thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now:
Whence did Aurgelmir come | with the giants’ kin,
Long since, thou giant sage?”

Vafthruthnir spoke:
31. “Down from Elivagar | did venom drop,
And waxed till a giant it was;
And thence arose | our giants’ race,
And thus so fierce are we found.”

Othin spoke:
32. “Seventh answer me well, | if wise thou art called,
If thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now:
How begat he children, | the giant grim,
Who never a giantess knew?”

Vafthruthnir spoke:
33. “They say ‘neath the arms | of the giant of ice
Grew man-child and maid together;
And foot with foot | did the wise one fashion
A son that six heads bore.”

Othin spoke:
34. “Eighth answer me well, | if wise thou art called,
If thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now:
What farthest back | dost thou bear in mind?
For wide is thy wisdom, giant!”

Vafthruthnir spoke:
35. “Winters unmeasured | ere earth was made
Was the birth of Bergelmir;
This first knew I well, | when the giant wise
In a boat of old was borne.”

Othin spoke:
36. “Ninth answer me well, | if wise thou art called
If thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now:
Whence comes the wind | that fares o’er the waves
Yet never itself is seen?”

Vafthruthnir spoke:
37. “In an eagle’s guise | at the end of heaven
Hræsvelg sits, they say;
And from his wings | does the wind come forth
To move o’er the world of men.”

Othin spoke:
38. “Tenth answer me now, | if thou knowest all
The fate that is fixed for the gods:
Whence came up Njorth | to the kin of the gods,–
(Rich in temples | and shrines he rules,–)
Though of gods he was never begot?”

Vafthruthnir spoke:
39. “In the home of the Wanes | did the wise ones create him,
And gave him as pledge to the gods;
At the fall of the world | shall he fare once more
Home to the Wanes so wise.”

Othin spoke:
40. “Eleventh answer me well,
who issue forth from the stronghold
to hack each other every day?
Slaughter they choose | and ride to war
sit the glorious ones in reconciliation together.” *

31. Snorri quotes {illegible}is stanza, and the last two lines are taken from his version, as both of the manuscripts omit them. Elivagar (“Stormy Waves”): Mogk suggests that this river may have been the Milky Way. At any rate, the venom carried in its waters froze into ice-banks over Ginnunga-gap (the “yawning gap” referred to in Voluspo, 3), and then dripped down to make the giant Ymir.

33. Snorri gives, without materially elaborating on it, the same account of how Ymir’s son and daughter were born under his left arm, and how his feet together created a son. That this offspring should have had six heads is nothing out of the ordinary, for various giants had more than the normal number, and Ymir’s mother is credited with a little matter of nine hundred heads; cf. Hymiskvitha, 8. Of the career of Ymir’s six headed son we know nothing; he may have been the Thruthgelmir of stanza 29.

35. Snorri quotes this stanza. Bergelmir: on him and his boat cf. stanza 29 and note.

37. Snorri quotes this stanza. Hræsvelg (“the Corpse-Eater”) on this giant in eagle’s form cf. Voluspo, So, and Skirnismol, 27.

38. With this stanza the question-formula changes, and Othin’s questions from this point on concern more or less directly the great final struggle. Line 4 is presumably spurious. Njorth: on Njorth and the Wanes, who gave him as a hostage to the gods at the end of their war, cf. Voluspo, 21 and note.

40. In both manuscripts, apparently through the carelessness of some older copyist, stanzas 40 and 41 are run together: “Eleventh answer me well, what men in the home mightily battle each day? They fell each other, and fare from the fight all healed full soon to sit. ” Luckily Snorri quotes stanza 41 in full, and the translation is from his version. Stanza 40 should probably run something like this: “Eleventh answer me well, if thou knowest all / The fate that is fixed for the gods: / What men are they who in Othin’s home / Each day to fight go forth?”

* This stanza has been edited to replace the empty gaps, all of the stanza after the opening “Eleventh answer me well” is taken from Bugge’s edition as a literal translation by Dr. Marion Ingham.

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