by William P. Reaves

© 2014
The Völva's Prophecy

Normalized 1

Codex Regius 1
Hauksbók 1

A hearing I

  Hljóðs  bið ek  
  hearing; a hearing, listening, silence to beg, pray I  
  271 62 124  

 R: all kind,
H: all holy kind,
  allar H: helgar* kindir  
  all, entire, the whole holy —kind, kin, kith
—offspring (collectively), scion
  16 248 338
LP 338
  allr heilagr    

  *helgar, holy: only present in Hauksbók; not found in Codex Regius.  

greater and lesser,

  meiri ok minni  
  more and superl. most, greater, greatest and

lesser, smaller, and superl. least, smallest

  423 465 429  

sons of Heimdall;
  mögu Heimdallar    
  prop. a boy, youth; & so a son Heimdall    
  443 LP 238    
  mögr The gods' guardian    

R: You wish, Valfather, that I
H: You wish that I Woe-father´s 

R: vildu
H: villtu*
 at ek R: Valföðr**
you wish that I R: Father of the slain
H: the father of woe, calamity, danger
706 29 124 R: 676: valr
LP 589

H: 683
vilja     R: Odin
H: Loki's (?)

  *2nd pers. vilduwilt thou [R], the same as villtu [H]. 
**Valföðr, used of Odin in Grímnismál 48.

R: well recount,
H:  wile recount

  vel / vél* fyr telja**    
  vel: well
vél: a wile,
device, trick
 to tell, say, mention; fyr telja (Dan. fortælle)     
  692 628    

  *Since the texts do not contain diacritical marks, both readings are possible.
**U. Dronke, PE II, p. 108: fyr telia, 'expound before this audience'. The phrase, common in prose, but not found elsewhere in verse, implies the setting out of the facts of a case.

R: the living´s ancient lore,
H: the living's ancient damage,

  forn spjöll  fíra  
  old, ancient,
a 'spell.' saw, saying; words tidings, lore*
—a 'spell,' mischief, damage;
a flaw
"the living" cp. fjör
poët. men, people
  165 583 156
LP 133
    spjall fírar  
  U. Dronke, PE II, p. 108: "forn spiöll fira, it is not possible to render adequately this ambiguous, seemingly colloquial phrase"; "spjöll signifies 'things told': reports of happenings, news, information";

*Cleasby/Vigfusson: forn spjöll, old words, old lore, of bygone days, Vsp 1.

S. Nordal, Vsp: "forn spjöll: tales of ancient events"; "firar: living beings: usually men, but here (as in rök fira of Alvíssmál 9, etc.) both gods and men."

—With Hauksbók 1/5 reading vaföðrs vél, possibly "the ancient damage to men" caused by the wiles of the Woe-father (Loki).

R: that is furthest in memory.
H: that I foremost remember.

  R: þau er
 þau ek  
fremst* of man  
  R: that I
H: that is
III. superl. foremost to call to mind, remember  
  731 170 437  
  þat framr muna  

*S. Nordal, Vsp: "As its context shows, fremst, here means 'furthest back in time'.

Codex Regius [R]

1. A hearing I pray
all kind 1
greater and lesser,
sons of Heimdall2
you wish, Valfather, that I
should recount,
the living´s ancient lore,
that is furthest (back) in memory.


  1. all progeny, all men.

2. Sons of Heimdall, the human race; S. Nordal: "This kenning is the more remarkable in that it is unique.  So as is known, no other poet has tried to indicate the human race by reference to Heimdallr (or Rígr), great though the need for a variety of kennings was considered to be. If Rígsþula had been lost there would be no means of elucidating it."

Hauksbók [H]

1. A hearing I pray all
holy kind,1
greater and smaller,
sons of Heimdall,
you wish that I Woe-father´s
wile2 recount,
the living´s ancient damage
that I foremost remember.


  1.  Vigfusson/Cleasby: helgar kindir, 'holy-kind' = the gods, Vsp. 1, opp. to mann-kind, mankind.

Sigurd Nordal, Vsp.: "Some commentators think that these words refer to men, not gods; ...However, the excitement of the poet, who knows that he is beginning a poem about the fate of all gods and men, impells him to make address all the beings who have a stake in the matter. From the poet's vantage point, "there is a wide view over every world." So just as a court poet looked round the royal hall and called for silence from king and court, the sibyl surveys the worlds of gods and men as she begins her prophecy."

U. Dronke, PE II, p. 106: "'all the hallowed families (of men)'. ...The senses of kind (cognate with Latin gens) range from 'begotten being', 'progeny' 'species', 'race' in sg. only. ...The pl. kindir is not recorded used of the gods. To interpret the phrase as relating to the gods would be contextually and idiomatically incorrect."

2. Vaföðrs vél: the wile of the Woe-father, Loki (?)