Heimdalargaldr

Heimdalargaldr (Old Norse “Heimdallr’s galdr”) is an Old Norse poem about the god Heimdallr of Norse mythology. The poem is mentioned in two books of the 13th century Prose Edda book—Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál—but outside of a single, two-lined fragment that appears in Gylfaginning, the poem is considered to be lost. In the surviving fragment, Heimdallr comments that he is the son of nine sisters (the Nine Mothers of Heimdallr). Scholars have commented on the information the surviving lines presents and have speculated about what the poem may have contained.

The poem is mentioned in two books of the Prose Edda; Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál. The sole surviving fragment of Heimdalargaldr appears in chapter 27 of Gylfaginning. In the chapter, the enthroned figure of High tells the disguised mythical king Gangleri about the god Heimdallr, including that he is the son of nine sisters. After quoting a stanza about the Heimdallr’s dwelling Himinbjörg from the poem Grímnismál,

13.
Himinbjorg is the eighth, | and Heimdall there
O'er men holds sway, it is said;
In his well-built house | does the warder of heaven
The good mead gladly drink.

Grímnismál 13

13 – Himinbjorg (“Heaven’s Cliffs”): the dwelling at the end of the bridge Bifrost (the rainbow), where Heimdall (cf. Voluspo, 27) keeps watch against the coming of the giants. In this stanza the two functions of Heimdall–as father of mankind (cf. Voluspo, 1 and note, and Rigsthula, introductory prose and note) and as warder of the gods–seem both to be mentioned, but the second line in the manuscripts is apparently in bad shape, and in the editions is more or less conjectural.

High comments that Heimdallr says the following lines in a work by the name of Heimdalargaldr:

I am of nine | mothers the offspring,
Of sisters nine | am I the son.

In chapter 15 of Skáldskaparmál, Kennings for Heimdallr ,various ways to refer to Heimdallr are provided. The section notes that Heimdallr is the subject of a work known as Heimdalargaldr, and that, since the poem, “the head has been called Heimdall’s doom: man’s doom is an expression for sword.”

“How should one periphrase Heimdallr? By calling him Son of Nine Mothers, or Watchman of the Gods, as already has been written; or White God, Foe of Loki, Seeker of Freyja’s Necklace. A sword is called Heimdallr’s Head: for it is said that he was pierced by a man’s head. The tale thereof is told in Heimdalar-galdr; and ever since a head is called Heimdallr’s Measure; a sword is called Man’s Measure. Heimdallr is the Possessor of Gulltoppr; he is also Frequenter of Vágasker and Singasteinn, where he contended with Loki for the Necklace Brísinga-men, he is also called Vindlér. Úlfr Uggason composed a long passage in the Húsdrápa on that legend, and there it is written that they were in the form of seals. Heimdallr also is son of Odin.”

Skáldskaparmál 15.Kennings for Heimdallr

Scholar John Lindow comments that Heimdalargaldr must have provided information about the deeds and feats of Heimdallr, and that having the poem preserved would have helped with the difficulties that what survives about it presents, such as Heimdallr’s birth by way of nine sisters and why a head would be known as “Heimdallr’s sword”.


Bellows Edda Eiriksmal Facebook Fb Frigg Fáfnismál Goddess Eir Gróttasöngr Hakonarmal Harald Fairhair Heathen Heathens Heimskringla Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar I Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar I – The First Lay of Helgi the Hunding Sólarljóð – Songs of the Sun Gróttasöngr – The Lay of Grotti Hymiskviða Hyndluljóð Hárbarðsljóð Hávamál Lokasenna Nine worlds NNV Odin Othin Petition Poetic Edda Prophecy of the Seeress Prose Edda Ragnarök Reginsmál Sacred text Skaldskaparmal Skírnismál Snorri Sturluson social media Toughts Vafþrúðnismál Valhalla Viking Völundarkviða Völuspá Völuspá in skamma Yggdrasil Þrymskviða