Prose Edda/Skáldskaparmál

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Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson
Skáldskaparmál (Extracts From the Poetical Diction)
The second part of the Younger Edda of Snorri Sturluson the Skáldskaparmál or 'language of poetry' is effectively a dialogue between the Norse god of the sea, Ægir and Bragi, the god of poetry, in which both Norse mythology and discourse on the nature of poetry are intertwined. The origin of a number of kennings are given and Bragi then delivers a systematic list of kennings for various people, places and things. Bragi then goes on to discuss poetic language in some detail, in particular heiti, the concept of poetical words which are non-periphrastic e.g. steed for horse, and again systematises these. This in a way forms an early form of poetic thesaurus.

Bragarödur (Brage's Talk)[edit]

1. A man by name Æger, or Hler, who dwelt on the island of Hler's Isle, was well skilled in the black art. He made a journey to Asgard. But the asas knew of his coming and gave him a friendly reception; but they also made use of many sorts of delusions. In the evening, when the feast began, Odin had swords brought into the hall, and they were so bright that it glistened from them so that there was no need of any other light while they sat drinking. Then went the asas to their feast, and the twelve asas who were appointed judges seated themselves in their high-seats. These are their names: Thor, Njord, Frey, Tyr, Heimdal, Brage, Vidar, Vale, Uller, Honer, Forsete, Loke. The asynjes (goddesses) also were with them: Frigg, Freyja, Gefjun, Idun, Gerd, Sigyn, Fulla, Nanna. Æger thought all that he saw looked very grand. The panels of the walls were all covered with beautiful shields. The mead was very strong, and they drank deep. Next to Æger sat Brage, and they talked much together over their drink. Brage spoke to Æger of many things that had happened to the asas.

2. Brage began his tale by telling how three asas, Odin, Loke and Honer, went on a journey over the mountains and heaths, where they could get nothing to eat. But when they came down into a valley they saw a herd of cattle. From this herd they took an ox and went to work to boil it. When they deemed that it must be boiled enough they uncovered the broth, but it was not yet done. After a little while they lifted the cover off again, but it was not yet boiled. They talked among themselves about how this could happen. Then they heard a voice in the oak above them, and he who sat there said that he was the cause that the broth did not get boiled. They looked up and saw an eagle, and it was not a small one. Then said the eagle: If you will give me my fill of the ox, then the broth will be boiled. They agreed to this. So he flew down from the tree, seated himself beside the boiling broth, and immediately snatched up first the two thighs of the ox and then both the shoulders. This made Loke wroth: he grasped a large pole, raised it with all his might and dashed it at the body of the eagle. The eagle shook himself after the blow and flew up. One end of the pole fastened itself to the body of the eagle, and the other end stuck to Loke's hands. The eagle flew just high enough so that Loke's feet dragged over stones and rocks and trees, and it seemed to him that his arms would be torn from his shoulder-blades. He calls and prays the eagle most earnestly for peace, but the latter declares that Loke shall never get free unless he will pledge himself to bring Idun and her apples out of Asgard. When Loke had promised this, he was set free and went to his companions again; and no more is related of this journey, except that they returned home. But at the time agreed upon, Loke coaxed Idun out of Asgard into a forest, saying that he had found apples that she would think very nice, and he requested her to take with her her own apples in order to compare them. Then came the giant Thjasse in the guise of an eagle, seized Idun and flew away with her to his home in Thrymheim. The asas were ill at ease on account of the disappearance of Idun,---they became gray-haired and old. They met in council and asked each other who last had seen Idun. The last that had been seen of her was that she had gone out of Asgard in company with Loke. Then Loke was seized and brought into the council, and he was threatened with death or torture. But he became frightened, and promised to bring Idun back from Jotunheim if Freyja would lend him the falcon-guise that she had. He got the falcon-guise, flew north into Jotunheim, and came one day to the giant Thjasse. The giant had rowed out to sea, and Idun was at home alone. Loke turned her into the likeness of a nut, held her in his claws and flew with all his might. But when Thjasse returned home and missed Idun, he took on his eagle-guise, flew after Loke, gaining on the latter with his eagle wings. When the asas saw the falcon coming flying with the nut, and how the eagle flew, they went to the walls of Asgard and brought with them bundles of plane-shavings. When the falcon flew within the burg, he let himself drop down beside the burg-wall. Then the asas kindled a fire in the shavings; and the eagle, being unable to stop himself when he missed the falcon, caught fire in his feathers, so that he could not fly any farther. The asas were on hand and slew the giant Thjasse within the gates of Asgard, and that slaughter is most famous.

Skade, the daughter of the giant Thjasse, donned her helmet, and byrnie, and all her war-gear, and betook herself to Asgard to avenge her father's death. The asas offered her ransom and atonement; and it was agreed to, in the first place, that she should choose herself a husband among the asas, but she was to make her choice by the feet, which was all she was to see of their persons. She saw one man's feet that were wonderfully beautiful, and exclaimed: This one I choose! On Balder there are few blemishes. But it was Njord, from Noatun. In the second place, it was stipulated that the asas were to do what she did not deem them capable of, and that was to make her laugh. Then Loke tied one end of a string fast to the beard of a goat and the other around his own body, and one pulled this way and the other that, and both of them shrieked out loud. Then Loke let himself fall on Skade's knees, and this made her laugh. It is said that Odin did even more than was asked, in that he took Thjasse's eyes and cast them up into heaven, and made two stars of them. Then said Æger: This Thjasse seems to me to have been considerable of a man; of what kin was he? Brage answered: His father's name was Olvalde, and if I told you of him, you would deem it very remarkable. He was very rich in gold, and when he died and his sons were to divide their heritage, they had this way of measuring the gold, that each should take his mouthful of gold, and they should all take the same number of mouthfuls. One of them was Thjasse, another Ide, and the third Gang. But we now have it as a saw among us, that we call gold the mouth-number of these giants. In runes and songs we wrap the gold up by calling it the measure, or word, or tale, of these giants. Then said Æger: It seems to me that it will be well hidden in the runes.

3. And again said Æger: Whence originated the art that is called skaldship? Made answer Brage: The beginning of this was, that the gods had a war with the people that are called vans. They agreed to hold a meeting for the purpose of making peace, and settled their dispute in this wise, that they both went to a jar and spit into it. But at parting the gods, being unwilling to let this mark of peace perish, shaped it into a man whose name was Kvaser, and who was so wise that no one could ask him any question that he could not answer. He traveled much about in the world to teach men wisdom. Once he came to the home of the dwarfs Fjalar and Galar. They called him aside, saying they wished to speak with him alone, slew him and let his blood run into two jars called Son and Bodn, and into a kettle called Odrarer. They mixed honey with the blood, and thus was produced such mead that whoever drinks from it becomes a skald and sage. The dwarfs told the asas that Kvaser had choked in his wisdom, because no one was so wise that he could ask him enough about learning.

4. Then the dwarfs invited to themselves the giant whose name is Gilling, and his wife; and when he came they asked him to row out to sea with them. When they had gotten a short distance from shore, the dwarfs rowed onto a blind rock and capsized the boat. Gilling, who was unable to swim, was drowned, but the dwarfs righted the boat again and rowed ashore. When they told of this mishap to his wife she took it much to heart, and began to cry aloud. The Fjalar asked her whether it would not lighten her sorrow if she could look out upon the sea where her husband had perished, and she said it would. He then said to his brother Galar that he should go up over the doorway, and as she passed out he should let a mill-stone drop onto her head, for he said he was tired of her bawling. Galar did so. When the giant Suttung, the son of Gilling, found this out he came and seized the dwarfs, took them out to sea and left them on a rocky island, which was flooded at high tide. They prayed Suttung to spare their lives, and offered him in atonement for their father's blood the precious mead, which he accepted. Suttung brought the mead home with him, and hid it in a place called Hnitbjorg. He set his daughter Gunlad to guard it. For these reasons we call songship Kvasir's blood; the drink of the dwarfs; the dwarfs' fill; some kind of liquor of Odrarer, or Bodn or Son; the ship of the dwarfs (because this mead ransomed their lives from the rocky isle); the mead of Suttung, or the liquor of Hnitbjorg.

5. Then remarked Æger: It seems dark to me to call songship by these names; but how came the asas by Suttung's mead? Answered Brage: The saga about this is, that Odin set out from home and came to a place where nine thralls were mowing hay. He asked them whether they would like to have him whet their scythes. To this they said yes. Then he took a whet-stone from his belt and whetted the scythes. They thought their scythes were much improved, and asked whether the whet-stone was for sale. He answered that he who would buy it must pay a fair price for it. All said they were willing to give the sum demanded, and each wanted Odin to sell it to him. But he threw the whet-stone up in the air, and when all wished to catch it they scrambled about it in such a manner that each brought his scythe onto the other's neck. Odin sought lodgings for the night at the house of the giant Bauge, who was a brother of Suttung. Bauge complained of what had happened to his household, saying that his nine thralls had slain each other, and that he did not know where he should get other workmen. Odin called himself Bolverk. He offered to undertake the work of the nine men for Bauge, but asked in payment therefore a drink of Suttung's mead. Bauge answered that he had no control over the mead, saying that Suttung was bound to keep that for himself alone. But he agreed to go with Bolverk and try whether they could get the mead. During the summer Bolverk did the work of the nine men for Bauge, but when winter came he asked for his pay. Then they both went to Suttung. Bauge explained to Suttung his bargain with Bolverk, but Suttung stoutly refused to give even a drop of the mead. Bolverk then proposed to Bauge that they should try whether they could not get at the mead by the aid of some trick, and Bauge agreed to this. Then Bolverk drew forth the auger which is called Rate, and requested Bauge to bore a hole through the rock, if the auger was sharp enough. He did so. Then said Bauge that there was a hole through the rock; but Bolverk blowed into the hole that the auger had made, and the chips flew back into his face. Thus he saw that Bauge intended to deceive him, and commanded him to bore through. Bauge bored again, and when Bolverk blew a second time the chips flew inward. Now Bolverk changed himself into the likeness of a serpent and crept into the auger-hole. Bauge thrust after him with the auger, but missed him. Bolverk went to where Gunlad was, and shared her couch for three nights. She then promised to give him three draughts from the mead. With the first draught he emptied Odrarer, in the second Bodn, and in the third Son, and thus he had all the mead. Then he took on the guise of an eagle, and flew off as fast as he could. When Suttung saw the flight of the eagle, he also took on the shape of an eagle and flew after him. When the asas saw Odin coming, they set their jars out in the yard. When Odin reached Asgard, he spewed the mead up into the jars. He was, however, so near being caught by Suttung, that he sent some of the mead after him backward, and as no care was taken of this, anybody that wished might have it. This we call the share of poetasters. But Suttung's mead Odin gave to the asas and to those men who are able to make verses. Hence we call songship Odin's prey, Odin's find, Odin's drink, Odin's gift, and the drink of the asas.

6. Then said Æger: In how many ways to you vary the poetical expressions, or how many kinds of poetry are there? Answered Brage: There are two kinds, and all poetry falls into one or the other of these classes. Æger asks: Which two? Brage answers: Diction and meter. What diction is used in poetry? There are three sorts of poetic diction. Which? One is to name everything by its own name; another is to name it with a pronoun, but the third sort of diction is called kenning (a poetical periphrasis or descriptive name); and this sort is so managed that when we name Odin, or Thor or Tyr, or any other of the asas or elves, we add to their name a reference to some other asa, or we make mention of some of his works. Then the appellation belongs to him who corresponds to the whole phrase, and not to him who was actually named. Thus we speak of Odin as Sigtyr, Hangatyr or Farmatyr, and such names we call simple appellatives. In the same manner he is called Reidartyr.

Thor and Hrungner[edit]

Brage told Æger that Thor had gone eastward to crush trolls. Odin rode on his horse Sleipner to Jotunheim, and came to the giant whose name is Hrungner. Then asked Hrungner what man that was who with a golden helmet rode both through the air and over the sea, and added that he had a remarkably good horse. Odin said that he would wager his head that so good a horse could not be found in Jotunheim. Hrungner admitted that it was indeed an excellent horse, but he had one, called Goldfax, that could take much longer paces; and in his wrath he immediately sprang upon his horse and galloped after Odin, intending to pay him for his insolence. Odin rode so fast that he was a good distance ahead, but Hrungner had worked himself into such a giant rage that, before he was aware of it, he had come within the gates of Asgard. When he came to the hall door, the asas invited him to drink with them. He entered the hall and requested a drink. They then took the bowls that Thor was accustomed to drink from, and Hrungner emptied them all. When he became drunk, he gave the freest vent to his loud boastings. He said he was going to take Valhal and move it to Jotunheim, demolish Asgard and kill all the gods except Freyja and Sif, whom he was going to take home with him. When Freyja went forward to refill the bowls for him, he boasted that he was going to drink up all the ale of the asas. But when the asas grew weary of his arrogance, they named Thor's name. At once Thor was in the hall, swung his hammer in the air, and, being exceedingly wroth, asked who was to blame that dog-wise giants were permitted to drink there, who had given Hrungner permission to be in Valhall, and why Freyja should pour ale for him as she did in the feasts of the asas. Then answered Hrungner, looking with anything but friendly eyes at Thor, and said that Odin had invited him to drink, and that he was there under his protection. Thor replied that he should come to rue that invitation before he came out. Hrungner again answered that it would be but little credit to Asa-Thor to kill him, unarmed as he was. It would be a greater proof of his valor if he dared fight a duel with him at the boundaries of his territory, at Grjottungard. It was very foolish of me, he said, that I left my shield and my flint-stone at home; had I my weapons here, you and I would try a holmgang (duel on a rocky island); but as this is not the case, I declare you a coward if you kill me unarmed. Thor was by no means the man to refuse to fight a duel when he was challenged, an honor which never had been shown him before. Then Hrungner went his way, and hastened with all his might back to Jotunheim. His journey became famous among the giants, and the proposed meeting with Thor was much talked of. They regarded it very important who should gain the victory, and they feared the worst from Thor if Hrungner should be defeated, for he was the strongest among them. Thereupon the giants made at Grjottungard a man of clay, who was nine rasts tall and three rasts broad under the arms, but being unable to find a heart large enough to be suitable for him, they took the heart from a mare, but even this fluttered and trembled when Thor came. Hrungner had, as is well known, a heart of stone, sharp and three-sided; just as the rune has since been risted that is called Hrungner's heart. Even his head was of stone. His shield was of stone, and was broad and thick, and he was holding this shield before him as he stood at Grjottungard waiting for Thor. His weapon was a flint-stone, which he swung over his shoulders, and altogether he presented a most formidable aspect. On one side of him stood the giant of clay, who was named Mokkerkalfe. He was so exceedingly terrified, that it is said that he wet himself when he saw Thor. Thor proceeded to the duel, and Thjalfe was with him. Thjalfe ran forward to where Hrungner was standing, and said to him: You stand illy guarded giant; you hold the shield before you, but Thor has seen you; he goes down into the earth and will attack you from below. Then Hrungner thrust the shield under his feet and stood on it, but the flint-stone he seized with both his hands. The next that he saw were flashes of lightning, and he heard loud crashings; and then he saw Thor in his asa-might advancing with impetuous speed, swinging his hammer and hurling it from afar at Hrungner. Hrungner seized the flint-stone with both his hands and threw it against the hammer. They met in the air, and the flint-stone broke. One part fell to the earth, and from it have come the flint-mountains; the other part hit Thor's head with such force that he fell forward to the ground. But the hammer Mjolner hit Hrungner right in the head, and crushed his skull in small pieces. He himself fell forward over Thor, so that his foot lay upon Thor's neck. Meanwhile Thjalfe attacked Mokkerkalfe, who fell with but little honor. Then Thjalfe went to Thor and was to take Hrungner's foot off from him, but he had not the strength to do it. When the asas learned that Thor had fallen, they all came to take the giant's foot off, but none of them was able to move it. Then came Magne, the son of Thor and Jarnsaxa. He was only three nights of age. He threw Hrungner's foot off Thor, and said: It was a great mishap, father, that I came so late. I think I could have slain this giant with my fist, had I met him. Then Thor arose, greeted his son lovingly, saying that he would become great and powerful; and, added he, I will give you the horse Goldfax, that belonged to Hrungner. Odin said that Thor did wrong in giving so fine a horse to the son of a giantess, instead of to his father. Thor went home to Thrudvang, but the flint-stone still stuck fast in his head. Then came the vala whose name is Groa, the wife of Orvandel the Bold. She sang her magic songs over Thor until the flint-stone became loose. But when Thor perceived this, and was just expecting that the flint-stone would disappear, he desired to reward Groa for her healing, and make her heart glad. So he related to her how he had waded from the north over the Elivogs rivers, and had borne in a basket on his back Orvandel from Jotunheim; and in evidence of this he told her how that one toe of his had protruded from the basket and had frozen, wherefore Thor had broken it off and cast it up into the sky, and made of it the star which is called Orvandel's toe. Finally he added that it would not be long before Orvandel would come home. But Groa became so glad that she forgot her magic songs, and so the flint-stone became no looser than it was, and it sticks fast in Thor's head yet. For this reason it is forbidden to throw a flint-stone across the floor, for then the stone in Thor's head is moved.

Thor's Journey To Geirrod's[edit]

Then said Æger: Much of a man, it seems to me, was that Hrungner. Has Thor accomplished any other great deeds in his intercourse with trolls (giants)? Then answered Brage: It is worth giving a full account of how Thor made a journey to Geirrodsgard. He had with him neither the hammer Mjolner, nor his belt of strength, Megingjard, nor his steel gloves; and that was Loke's fault,---he was with him. For it happened to Loke, when he once flew out to amuse himself in Frigg's falcon-guise, that he saw a large hall. He sat down and looked in through the window, but Geirrod discovered him, and ordered the bird to be caught and brought to him. The servant had hard work to climb up the wall of the hall, so high was it. It amused Loke that it gave the servant so much trouble to get at him, and he thought it would be time enough to fly away when he had gotten over the worst. When the latter now caught at him, Loke spread his wings and spurned with his feet, but these were fast, and so Loke was caught and brought to the giant. When the latter saw his eyes he suspected that it was a man. He put questions to him and bade him answer, but Loke refused to speak. Then Geirrod locked him down in a chest, and starved him for three months; and when Geirrod finally took him up again, and asked him to speak, Loke confessed who he was, and to save his life he swore an oath to Geirrod that he would get Thor to come to Geirrodsgard without his hammer or his belt of strength.

On his way Thor visited the giantess whose name is Grid. She was the mother of Vidar the Silent. She told Thor the truth concerning Geirrod, that he was a dog-wise and dangerous giant; and she lent him her own belt of strength and steel gloves, and her staff, which is called Gridarvol. Then went Thor to the river which is called Vimer, and which is the largest of all rivers. He buckled on the belt of strength and stemmed the wild torrent with Gridarvol, but Loke held himself fast in Megingjard. When Thor had come into the middle of the stream, the river waxed so greatly that the waves dashed over his shoulders. The quoth Thor:

Wax not Vimer,
Since I intend to wade
To the gards of giants.
Know, if you wax,
Then waxes my asa-might
As high as the heavens.

Then Thor looked up and saw in a cleft Gjalp, the daughter of Geirrod, standing on both sides of the stream, and causing its growth. Then took he up out of the river a huge stone and threw at her, saying: At its source the stream must be stemmed. (13) He was not wont to miss his mark. At the same time he reached the river bank and got hold of a shrub, and so he got out of the river. Hence comes the adage that a shrub saved Thor. (14) When Thor came to Geirrod, he and his companion were shown to the guest-room, where lodgings were given them, but there was but one seat, and on that Thor sat down. Then he became aware that the seat was raised under him toward the roof. He put the Gridarvol against the rafters, and pressed himself down against the seat. Then was heard a great crash, which was followed by a loud screaming. Under the seat were Geirrod's daughters, Gjalp and Greip, and he had broken the backs of both of them. Then quoth Thor:

Once I employed
My asa-might
In the gards of the giants.
When Gjalp and Greip,
Geirrod's daughters,
Wanted to lift me to heaven.

Then Geirrod had Thor invited into the hall to the games. Large fires burned along the whole length of the hall. When Thor came into the hall, and stood opposite Geirrod, the latter seized with a pair of tongs a red-hot iron wedge and threw it at Thor. But he caught it with his steel gloves, and lifted it up in the air. Geirrod sprang behind an iron post to guard himself. But Thor threw the wedge with so great force that it struck through the post, through Geirrod, through the wall, and then went out and into the ground.

Loke's Wager With the Dwarves[edit]

Why is gold called Sif's hair? Loke Laufey's son had once craftily cut all the hair off Sif; but when Thor found it out he seized Loke, and would have broken every bone in him, had he not pledged himself with an oath to get the swarthy elves to make for Sif a hair of gold that should grow like other hair. Then went Loke to the dwarfs that are called Ivald's sons, and they made the hair and Skidbladner, and the spear that Odin owned and is called Gungner. Thereupon Loke wagered his head with the dwarf, who hight Brok, that his brother Sindre would not be able to make three other treasures equally as good as these were. But when they came to the smithy, Sindre laid a pig-skin in the furnace and requested Brok to blow the bellows, and not to stop blowing before he (Sindre) had taken out of the furnace what he had put into it. As soon, however, as Sindre had gone out of the smithy and Brok was blowing, a fly lighted on his hand and stung him; but he kept on blowing as before until the smith had taken the work out of the furnace. That was now a boar, and its bristles were of gold. Thereupon he laid gold in the furnace, and requested Brok to blow, and not to stop plying the bellows before he came back. He went out; but then came the fly and lighted on his neck and stung him still worse; but he continued to work the bellows until the smith took out of the furnace the gold ring called Draupner. Then Sindre placed iron in the furnace, and requested Brok to work the bellows, adding that otherwise all would be worthless. Now the fly lighted between his eyes and stung his eye-lids, and as the blood ran down into his eyes so that he could not see, he let go of the bellows just for a moment and drove the fly away with his hands. Then the smith came back and said that all that lay in the furnace came near being entirely spoiled. Thereupon he took a hammer out of the furnace. All these treasures he then placed in the hands of his brother Brok, and bade him go with Loke to Asgard to fetch the wager. When Loke and Brok brought forth the treasures, the gods seated themselves upon their doom-steads. It was agreed to abide by the decision which should be pronounced by Odin, Thor and Frey. Loke gave to Odin the spear Gungner, to Thor, the hair, which Sif was to have, and to Frey, Skidbladner; and he described the qualities of all these treasures, stating that the spear never would miss its mark, that the hair would grow as soon as it was placed on Sif's head, and that Skidbladner would always have a fair wind as soon as the sails were hoisted, no matter where its owner desired to go; besides, the ship could be folded together like a napkin and be carried in his pocket if he desired. Then Brok produced his treasures. He gave to Odin the ring, saying that every ninth night eight other rings as heavy as it would drop from it; to Frey he gave the boar, stating that it would run through the air and over seas, by night or by day, faster than any horse; and never could it become so dark in the night, or in the worlds of darkness, but that it would be light where this boar was present, so bright shone his bristles. Then he gave to Thor the hammer, and said that he might strike with it as hard as he pleased; no matter what was before him, the hammer would take no scathe, and wherever he might throw it he would never lose it; it would never fly so far that it did not return to his hand; and if he desired, it would become so small that he might conceal it in his bosom; but it had one fault, which was, that the handle was rather short. The decision of the gods was, that the hammer was the best of all these treasures and the greatest protection against the frost-giants, and they declared that the dwarf had fairly won the wager. Then Loke offered to ransom his head. The dwarf answered saying there was no hope for him on that score. Take me, then! said Loke; but when the dwarf was to seize him Loke was far away, for he had the shoes with which he could run through the air and over the sea. Then the dwarf requested Thor to seize him, and he did so. Now the dwarf wanted to cut the head off Loke, but Loke said that the head was his, but not the neck. Then the dwarf took thread and a knife and wanted to pierce holes in Loke's lips, so as to sew his mouth together, but the knife would not cut. Then said he, it would be better if he had his brother's awl, and as soon as he named it the awl was there and it pierced Loke's lips. Now Brok sewed Loke's mouth together, and broke off the thread at the end of the sewing. The thread with which the mouth of Loke was sewed together is called Vartare (a strap).

The Niflungs and Gjukungs[edit]

The following is the reason why gold is called otter-ransom: It is related that three asas went abroad to learn to know the whole world, Odin, Honer and Loke. They came to a river, and walked along the river-bank to a force, and near the force was an otter. The otter had caught a salmon in the force, and sat eating it with his eyes closed. Loke picked up a stone, threw it at the otter and hit him in the head. Loke bragged of his chase, for he had secured an otter and a salmon with one throw. They took the salmon and the otter with them, and came to a byre, where they entered. But the name of the bonde who lived there was Hreidmar. He was a mighty man, and thoroughly skilled in the black art. The asas asked for night-lodgings, stating that they had plenty of food, and showed the bonde their game. But when Hreidmar saw the otter he called his sons, Fafner and Regin, and said that Otter, their brother, was slain, and also told who had done it. Then the father and the sons attacked the asas, seized them and bound them, and then said, in reference to the otter, that he was Hreidmar's son. The asas offered, as a ransom for their lives, as much money as Hreidmar himself might demand, and this was agreed to, and confirmed with an oath. Then the otter was flayed. Hreidmar took the otter-belg and said to them they should fill the belg with red gold, and then cover it with the same metal, and when this was done they should be set free. Thereupon Odin sent Loke to the home of the swarthy elves, and he came to the dwarf whose name is Andvare, and who lived as a fish, in the water. Loke caught him in his hands, and demanded of him, as a ransom for his life, all the gold that he had in his rock. And when they entered the rock, the dwarf produced all the gold that he owned, and that was a very large amount. Then the dwarf concealed in his hand a small gold ring. Loke saw this, and requested him to hand forth the ring. The dwarf begged him not to take the ring away from him, for with this ring he could increase his wealth again if he kept it. Loke said the dwarf should not keep as much as a penny, took the ring from him and went out. But the dwarf said that the ring should be the bane of every one who possessed it. Loke replied that he was glad of this, and said that all should be fulfilled according to his prophecy: he would take care to bring the curse to the ears of him who was to receive it. He went to Hreidmar and showed Odin the gold; but when the latter saw the ring, it seemed to him a fair one, and he took it and put it aside, giving Hreidmar the rest of the gold. They filled the otter-belg as full as it would hold, and raised it up when it was full. Then came Odin, and was to cover the belg with gold; and when this was done, he requested Hreidmar to come and see whether the belg was sufficiently covered. But Hreidmar looked at it, examined it closely, and saw a mouth hair, and demanded that it should be covered, too, otherwise the agreement would be broken. Then Odin brought forth the ring and covered with it the mouth-hair, saying that now they had paid the otter-ransom. But when Odin had taken his spear, and Loke his shoes, so that they had nothing more to fear, Loke said that the curse that Andvare had pronounced should be fulfilled, and that the ring and the gold should be the bane of its possessor; and this curse was afterward fulfilled. This explains why gold is called the otter-ransom, or forced payment of the asas, or strife-metal.

What more is there to be told of this gold? Hreidmar accepted the gold as a ransom for his son, but Fafner and Regin demanded their share of it as a ransom for their brother. Hreidmar was, however, unwilling to give them as much as a penny of it. Then the brothers made an agreement to kill their father for the sake of the gold. When this was done, Regin demanded that Fafner should give him one half of it. Fafner answered that there was but little hope that he would share the gold with his brother, since he had himself slain his father to obtain it; and he commanded Regin to get him gone, for else the same thing would happen to him as had happened to Hreidmar. Fafner had taken the sword hight Hrotte, and the helmet which had belonged to his father, and the latter he had placed on his head. This was called the Æger's helmet, and it was a terror to all living to behold it. Regin had the sword called Refil. With it he fled. But Fafner went to Gnita-heath (the glittering heath), where he made himself a bed, took on him the likeness of a serpent (dragon), and lay brooding over the gold.

Regin then went to Thjode, to king Hjalprek, and became his smith. There he undertook the fostering of Sigurd (Sigfrid), the son of Sigmund, the son of Volsung and the son of Hjordis, the daughter of Eylime. Sigurd was the mightiest of all the kings of hosts, in respect to both family and power and mind. Regin explained to him where Fafner was lying on the gold, and egged him on to try to get possession thereof. Then Regin made the sword which is hight Gram (wrath), and which was so sharp that when Sigurd held it in the flowing stream it cut asunder a tuft of wool which the current carried down against the sword's edge. In the next place, Sigurd cut with his sword Regin's anvil in twain. Thereupon Sigurd and Regin repaired to Gnita-heath. Here Sigurd dug a ditch in Fafner's path and sat down in it; so when Fafner crept to the water and came directly over this ditch, Sigurd pierced him with the sword, and this thrust caused his death. Then Regin came and declared that Sigurd had slain his brother, and demanded of him as a ransom that he should cut out Fafner's heart and roast it on the fire; but Regin kneeled down, drank Fafner's blood, and laid himself down to sleep. While Sigurd was roasting the heart, and thought that it must be done, he touched it with his finger to see how tender it was; but the fat oozed out of the heart and onto his finger and burnt it, so that he thrust his finger into his mouth. The heart-blood came in contact with his tongue, which made him comprehend the speech of birds, and he understood what the eagles said that were sitting in the trees. One of the birds said:

There sits Sigurd,
Stained with blood.
On the fire is roasting
Fafner's heart.
Wise seemed to me
The ring-destroyer,
If he the shining
Heart would eat.

Another eagle sang:

There lies Regin,
How to deceive the man
Who trusts him;
Thinks in his wrath
Of false accusations.
The evil smith plots
Revenge 'gainst the brother.

Then Sigurd went to Regin and slew him, and thereupon he mounted his horse hight Grane, and rode until he came to Fafner's bed, took out all the gold, packed it in two bags and laid it on Grane's back, then got on himself and rode away. Now is told the saga according to which gold is called Fafner's bed or lair, the metal of Gnita-heath, or Grane's burden.

Then Sigurd rode on until he found a house on the mountain. In it slept a woman clad in helmet and coat-of-mail. He drew his sword and cut the coat-of-mail off from her. Then she awaked and called herself Hild. Her name was Brynhild, and she was a valkyrie. Thence Sigurd rode on and came to the king whose name was Gjuke. His wife was called Grimhild, and their children were Gunnar, Hogne, Gudrun, Gudny; Gothorm was Gjuke's step-son. Here Sigurd remained a long time. Then he got the hand of Gudrun, Gjuke's daughter, and Gunnar and Hogne entered into a sworn brotherhood with Sigurd. Afterward Sigurd and the sons of Gjuke went to Atle, Budle's son, to ask for his sister, Brynhild, for Gunnar's wife. She sat on Hindfell, and her hall was surrounded by the bickering flame called the Vafurloge, and she had made a solemn promise not to wed any other man that him who dared to ride through the bickering flame. Then Sigurd and the Gjukungs (they are also called Niflungs) rode upon the mountain, and there Gunnar was to ride through the Vafurloge. He had the horse that was called Gote, but his horse did not dare to run into the flame. So Sigurd and Gunnar changed form and weapons, for Grane would not take a step under any other man than Sigurd. Then Sigurd mounted Grane and rode through the bickering flame. That same evening he held a wedding with Brynhild; but when they went to bed he drew his sword Gram from the sheath and placed it between them. In the morning when he had arisen, and had donned his clothes, he gave to Brynhild, as a bridal gift, the gold ring that Loke had taken from Andvare, and he received another ring as a memento from her. Then Sigurd mounted his horse and rode to his companions. He and Gunnar exchanged forms again and went back to Gjuke with Brynhild. Sigurd had two children with Gudrun. Their names were Sigmund and Swanhild.

Once it happened that Brynhild and Gudrun went to the water to wash their hair. When they came to the river Brynhild waded from the river bank into the stream, and said that she could not bear to have that water in her hair that ran from Gudrun's hair, for she had a more high-minded husband. Then Gudrun followed her into the stream, and said that she was entitled to was her hair farther up the stream than Brynhild, for the reason that she had the husband who was bolder than Gunnar, or any other man in the world; for it was he who slew Fafner and Regin, and inherited the wealth of both. Then answered Brynhild: A greater deed it was that Gunnar rode through the Vafurloge, which Sigurd did not dare to do. Then laughed Gudrun and said: Do you think it was Gunnar who rode through the bickering flame? Then I think you shared the bed with him who gave me this gold ring. The gold ring which you have on your finger, and which you received as a bridal-gift, is called Andvaranaut (Andvare's Gift), and I do not think Gunnar got it on Gnita-heath. Then Brynhild became silent and went home. Thereupon she egged Gunnar and Hogne to kill Sigurd; but being sworn brothers of Sigurd, they egged Guthorm, their brother, to slay Sigurd. Guthorm pierced him with his sword while he was sleeping; but as soon as Sigurd was wounded he threw his sword, Gram, after Guthorm, so that it cut him in twain through the middle. There Sigurd fell, and his son, three winters old, by name Sigmund, whom they also killed. Then Brynhild pierced herself with the sword and was cremated with Sigurd. But Gunnar and Hogne inherited Fafner's gold and the Gift of Andvare, and now ruled the lands.

King Atle, Budle's son, Brynhild's brother, then got in marriage Gudrun, who had been Sigurd's wife, and they had children. King Atle invited Gunnar and Hogne to visit him, and they accepted his invitation. But before they started on their journey they concealed Fafner's hoard in the Rhine, and that gold has never since been found. King Atle had gathered together an army and fought a battle with Gunnar and Hogne, and they were captured. Atle had the heart cut out of Hogne alive. This was his death. Gunnar he threw into a den of snakes, but a harp was secretly brought to him, and he played the harp with his toes (for his hands were fettered), so that all the snakes fell asleep excepting the adder, which rushed at him and bit him in the breast, and then thrust its head into the wound and clung to his liver until he died. Gunnar and Hogne are called Niflungs (Niblungs) and Gjukungs. Hence gold is called the Niflung treasure or inheritance. A little later Gudrun slew her two sons and made from their skulls goblets trimmed with gold, and thereupon the funeral ceremonies took place. At the feast, Gudrun poured for King Atle in these goblets mead that was mixed with the blood of the youths. Their hearts she roasted and gave to the king to eat. When this was done she told him all about it, with many unkind words. There was no lack of strong mead, so that the most of the people sitting there fell asleep. On that night she went to the king when he had fallen asleep, and had with her her son Hogne. They slew him, and thus he ended his life. Then they set fire to the hall, and with it all the people who were in it were burned. Then she went to the sea and sprang into the water to drown herself; but she was carried across the fjord, and came to the land which belonged to King Jonaker. When he saw her he took her home and made her his wife. They had three children, whose names were Sorle, Hamder and Erp. They all had hair as black as ravens, like Gunnar and Hogne and the other Niflungs.

There was fostered Swanhild, the daughter of Sigurd, and she was the fairest of all women. That Jormunrek, the rich, found out. He sent his son, Randver, to ask for her hand for him; and when he came to Jonaker, Swanhild was delivered to him, so that he might bring her to King Jormunrek. Then said Bikke that it would be more fitting that Randver should marry Swanhild, he being young and she too, but Jormunrek being old. This plan pleased the two young people well. Soon afterward Bikke informed the king of it, and so King Jormunrek seized his son and had him brought to the gallows. Then Randver took his hawk, plucked the feathers off him, and requested that it should be sent to his father, whereupon he was hanged. But when King Jormunrek saw the hawk, it came to his mind that as the hawk was flightless and featherless, so his kingdom was without preservation; for he was old and sonless. Then King Jormunrek riding out of the woods from the chase with his courtiers, while Queen Swanhild sat dressing her hair, had the courtiers ride onto her, and she was trampled to death beneath the feet of the horses. When Gudrun heard of this, she begged her sons to avenge Swanhild. While they were busking themselves for the journey, she brought them byrnies and helmets, so strong that iron could not scathe them. She laid the plan for them, that when they came to King Jormunrek, they should attack him in the night whilst he was sleeping. Sorle and Hamder should cut off his hands and feet, and Erp his head. On the way they asked what assistance they were to get from him, when they came to King Jormunrek. He answered them that he would give them such assistance as the hand gives the foot. They said that the feet got no support from the hands whatsoever. They were angry at their mother, because she had forced them to undertake this journey with harsh words, and hence they were going to do that which would displease her most. So they killed Erp, for she loved him the most. A little later, while Sorle was walking, he slipped with one foot, and in falling supported himself with his hands. Then said he: Now the hands helped the foot; better it now if Erp were living. When they came to Jormunrek, the king, in the night, while he was sleeping, they cut of both his hands and feet. Then he awakened, called his men and bade them arise. Said Hamder then: The head would now have been off had Erp lived. The courtiers got up, attacked them, but could not overcome them with weapons. Then Jormunrek cried to them that they should stone them to death. This was done, Sorle and Hamder fell, and thus perished the last descendants of Gjuke.

After King Sigurd lived a daughter hight Aslaug, who was fostered at Heimer's in Hlymdaler. From her mighty races are descended. It is said that Sigmund, the son of Volsung, was so powerful, that he drank venom and received no harm therefrom. But Sinfjotle, his son, and Sigurd, were so hard-skinned that no venom coming onto them could harm them. Therefore the skald Brage has sung as follows:

When the tortuous serpent,
Full of the drink of the Volsungs,
Hung in coils
On the bait of the giant-slayer.

Upon these sagas very many skalds have made lays, and from them they have taken various themes. Brage the Old made the following song about the fall of Sorle and Hamder in the drapa, which he composed about Ragnar Lodbrok:

Jormunrek once,
In an evil dream, waked
In that sword-contest
Against the blood-stained kings.
A clashing of arms was heard
In the house of Randver's father,
When the raven-blue brothers of Erp
The insult avenged.
Sword-dew flowed
Off the bed on the floor.
Bloody hands and feet of the king
One saw cut off.
On his head fell Jormunrek,
Frothing in blood.
On the shield
This is painted.
The king saw
Men so stand
That a ring they made
'Round his house.
Sorle and Hamder
Were both at once,
With slippery stones,
Struck to the ground.
King Jormunrek
Ordered Gjuke's descendants
Violently to be stoned
When they came to take the life
Of Swanhild's husband.
All sought to pay
Jonaker's sons
With blows and wounds.
This fall of men
And sagas many
On the fair shield I see.
Ragnar gave me the shield.

Menja and Fenja[edit]

Why is gold called Frode's meal? The saga giving rise to this is the following: Odin had a son by name Skjold, from whom the Skjoldungs are descended. He had his throne and ruled in the lands that are now called Denmark, but were then called Gotland. Skjold had a son by name Fridleif, who ruled the lands after him. Fridleif's son was Frode. He took the kingdom after his father, at the time when the Emperor Augustus established peace in all the earth and Christ was born. But Frode being the mightiest king in the northlands, this peace was attributed to him by all who spake the Danish tongue, and the Norsemen called it the peace of Frode. No man injured the other, even though he might meet, loose or in chains, his father's or brother's bane. There was no thief or robber, so that a gold ring would be a long time on Jalanger's heath. King Frode sent messengers to Svithjod, to the king whose name was Fjolner, and brought there two maid-servants, whose names were Fenja and Menja. They were large and strong. About this time were found in Denmark two mill-stones, so large that no one had the strength to turn them. But the nature belonged to these mill-stones that they ground whatever was demanded of them by the miller. The name of this mill was Grotte. But the man to whom King Frode gave the mill was called Hengekjapt. King Frode had the maid-servants led to the mill, and requested them to grind for him gold and peace, and Frode's hapiness. Then he gave them no longer time to rest or sleep than while the cuckoo was silent or while they sang a song. It is said that they sang the song called the Grottesong, and before they ended it they ground out a host against Frode; so that on the same night there came the sea-king, whose name was Mysing, and slew Frode and took a large amount of booty. Therewith the Frode-peace ended. Mysing took with him Grotte, and also Fenja and Menja, and bade them grind salt, and in the middle of the night they asked Mysing whether he did not have salt enough. He bade them grind more. They ground only a short time longer before the ship sank. But in the ocean arose a whirlpool (Maelstrom, mill-stream) in the place where the sea runs into the mill-eye. Thus the sea became salt.

Rolf Krake[edit]

A king in Denmark hight Rolf Krake, and was the most famous of all kings of olden times; moreover, he was more mild, brave and condescending than all other men. A proof of his condescension, which is very often spoken of in olden stories, was the following: There was a poor little fellow by name Vog. He once came into King Rolf's hall while the king was yet a young man, and of rather delicate growth. Then Vog went before him and looked up at him. Then said the king: What do you mean to say, my fellow, by looking so at me? Answered Vog: When I was at home I heard people say that King Rolf, at Hleidra, was the greatest man in the northlands, but now sits here in the high-seat a little crow (krake), and it they call their king. Then made answer the king: You, my fellow, have given me a name, and I shall henceforth be called Rolf Krake, but it is customary that a gift accompanies the name. Seeing that you have no gift that you can give me with the name, or that would be suitable to me, then he who has must give to the other. Then he took a gold ring off his hand and gave it to the churl. Then said Vog: You give as the best king of all, and therefore I now pledge myself to become the bane of him who becomes your bane. Said the king, laughing: A small thing makes Vog happy.

Another example is told of Rolf Krake's bravery. In Upsala reigned a king by name Adils, whose wife was Yrsa, Rolf Krake's mother. He was engaged in a war with Norway's king, Ale. They fought a battle on the ice of the lake called Wenern. King Adils sent a message to Rolf Krake, his stepson, asking him to come and help him, and promised to furnish pay for his whole army during the campaign. Furthermore King Rolf himself should have any three treasures that he might choose in Sweden. But Rolf Krake could not go to his assistance, on account of the war which he was then waging against the Saxons. Still he sent twelve berserks to King Adils. Among them were Bodvar Bjarke, Hjalte the Valiant, Hvitserk the Keen, Vot, Vidsete, and the brothers Svipday and Beigud. In that war fell King Ale and a large part of his army. Then King Adils took from the dead King Ale the helmet called Hildesvin, and his horse called Rafn. Then the berserks each demanded three pounds of gold in pay for their service, and also asked for the treasures which they had chosen for Rolf Krake, and which they now desired to bring to him. These were the helmet Hildegolt; the byrnie Finnsleif, which no steel could scathe; and the gold ring called Sviagris, which had belonged to Adils' forefathers. But the king refused to surrender any of these treasures, nor did he give the berserks any pay. The berserks then returned home, and were much dissatisfied. They reported all to King Rolf, who straightway busked himself to fare against Upsala; and when he came with his ships into the river Fyre, he rode against Upsala, and with him his twelve berserks, all peaceless. Yrsa, his mother, received him and took him to his lodgings, but not to the king's hall. Large fires were kindled for them, and ale was brought them to drink. Then came King Adils' men in and bore fuel onto the fireplace, and made a fire so great that it burnt the clothes of Rolf and his berserks, saying: Is it true that neither fire nor steel will put Rolf Krake and his berserks to flight? Then Rolf Krake and all his men sprang up, and he said:

Let us increase the blaze
In Adils' chambers.

He took his shield and cast it into the fire, and sprang over the fire while the shield was burning, and cried:

From the fire flees not he
who over it leaps.

The same did also his men, one after the other, and then they took those who had put fuel on the fire and cast them into it. Now Yrsa came and handed Rolf Krake a deer's horn full of gold, and with it she gave him the ring Sviagris, and requested them to ride straightway to their army. They sprang upon their horses and rode away over the Fyrisvold. Then they saw that King Adils was riding after them with his whole army, all armed, and was going to slay them. Rolf Krake took gold out of the horn with his right hand, and scattered it over the whole way. But when the Swedes saw it they leaped out of their saddles, and each one took as much as he could. King Adils bade them ride, and he himself rode on with all his might. The name of his horse was Slungner, the fastest of all horses. When Rolf Krake saw that King Adils was riding near him, he took the ring Sviagris and threw it to him, asking him to take it as a gift. King Adils rode to the ring, picked it up with the end of his spear, and let it slide down to his hand. Then Rolf Krake turned round and saw that the other was stooping. Said he: Like a swine I have now bended the foremost of all Swedes. Thus they parted. Hence gold is called the seed of Krake or of Fyrisvold.

Hogne and Hild[edit]

A king by name Hogne had a daughter by name Hild. Her a king, by name Hedin, son of Hjarrande, made a prisoner of war, while King Hogne had fared to the trysting of the kings. But when he learned that there had been harrying in his kingdom, and that his daughter had been taken away, he rode with his army in search of Hedin, and learned that he had sailed northward along the coast. When King Hogne came to Norway, he found out that Hedin had sailed westward into the sea. Then Hogne sailed after him to the Orkneys. And when he came to the island called Ha, then Hedin was there before him with his host. Then Hild went to meet her father, and offered him as a reconciliation from Hedin a necklace; but if he was not willing to accept this, she said that Hedin was prepared for a battle, and Hogne might expect no clemency from him. Hogne answered his daughter harshly. When she returned to Hedin, she told him that Hogne would not be reconciled, and bade him busk himself for the battle. And so both parties did; they landed on the island and marshaled their hosts. Then Hedin called to Hogne, his father-in-law, offering him a reconciliation and much gold as a ransom. Hogne answered: Too late do you offer to make peace with me, for now I have drawn the sword Dainsleif, which was smithied by the dwarfs, and must be the death of a man whenever it is drawn; its blows never miss the mark, and the wounds made by it never heal. Said Hedin: You boast the sword, but not the victory. That I call a good sword that is always faithful to its master. Then they began the battle which is called the Hjadninga-vig (the slaying of the Hedinians); they fought the whole day, and in the evening the kings fared back to their ships. But in the night Hild went to the battlefield, and waked up with sorcery all the dead that had fallen. The next day the kings went to the battlefield and fought, and so did also they who had fallen the day before. Thus the battle continued from day to day; and all they who fell, and all the swords that lay on the field of battle, and all the shields, became stone. But as soon as day dawned all the dead arose again and fought, and all the weapons became new again, and in songs it is said that the Hjadnings will so continue until Ragnarok.