Hyndluljóð – The Poem of Hyndla

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aka The Poem of Hyndla, The Lay of Hyndla, The Song of Hyndla

In the poem, the goddess Freyja meets the völva Hyndla and they ride together towards Valhalla. Freyja rides on her boar Hildisvíni and Hyndla on a wolf. Their mission is to find out the pedigree of Óttarr so that he can touch his inheritance, and the lay consists mostly of Hyndla reciting a number of names from Óttarr’s ancestry. The poem may be a twelfth-century work, through Bellows believed the material of which the poem was compounded must have been older.

Bellows’s notes on the poem

Introductory Note:

The Hyndluljoth is found in neither of the great manuscripts of the Poetic Edda, but is included in the so-called Flateyjarbok (Book of the Flat Island), an enormous compilation made some where about 1400. The lateness of this manuscript would of itself be enough to cast a doubt upon the condition in which the poem has been preserved, and there can be no question that what we have of it is in very poor shape. It is, in fact, two separate poems, or parts of them, clumsily put together. The longer one, the Poem of Hyndla proper, is chiefly a collection of names, not strictly mythological but belonging to the semi-historical hero-sagas of Norse tradition. The wise-woman, Hyndla, being asked by Freyja to trace the ancestry of her favorite, Ottar, for the purpose of deciding a wager, gives a complex genealogy including many of the heroes who appear in the popular sagas handed down from days long before the Icelandic settlements. The poet was learned, but without enthusiasm; it is not likely that he composed the Hyndluljoth much before the twelfth century, though the material of which it is compounded must have been very much older. Although the genealogies are essentially continental, the poem seems rather like a product of the archæological period of Iceland.

Inserted bodily in the Hyndluljoth proper is a fragment of fifty-one lines, taken from a poem of which, by a curious chance, we know the name. Snorri quotes one stanza of it, calling it “the short Voluspo.” The fragment preserved gives, of course, no indication of the length of the original poem, but it shows that it was a late and very inferior imitation of the great Voluspo. Like the Hyndluljoth proper, it apparently comes from the twelfth century; but there is nothing whatever to indicate that the two poems were the work of the same man, or were ever connected in any way until some blundering copyist mixed them up. Certainly the connection did not exist in the middle of the thirteenth century, when Snorri quoted “the short Voluspo.”

Neither poem is of any great value, either as mythology or as poetry. The author of “the short Voluspo” seems, indeed, to have been more or less confused as to his facts; and both poets were too late to feel anything of the enthusiasm of the earlier school. The names of Hyndla’s heroes, of course, suggest an unlimited number of stories, but as most of these have no direct relation to the poems of the Edda, I have limited the notes to a mere record of who the persons mentioned were, and the saga-groups in which they appeared.

** Note The Völuspá in skamma (Short Völuspá) is not included as part of Hyndluljóð, it has a seperate entry that proceeds this poem. Bellow’s notes have been kept intact from the original work. **

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