by William P. Reaves

© 201
The Völva's Prophecy

Normalized 3
Codex Regius

Hauksbók 3
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Early was the age

  Ár var  alda   
  early was  a time, age  
  44 695 763  
  esp. in the sense of yore vera noun, feminine; genitive plural of öld, age  
The same phrase appears in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, 1
ár var alda, 
in times of yore.

when Ymir lived
  þar er  Ymir byggði, 
   that, when which, who, that Ymir, a giant   to inhabit, settle, live 
  695 131 727 90

There was no sand or sea,

  vara sandr  sær  
  was sand, beach, shore neither, not, nor sea
  695 513 449 618

nor cool wave

  né   svalar unnir  
  neither, not, nor cool, fresh wave  
  449 606 655  
    svalr uðr  

Earth was not found

  Jörð fannsk  æva  
  Earth was to be found never, not at all  
  327 154 LP 657  

nor heaven above.

  né    upphiminn,    
  neither, not, nor upper heaven    
  449 656    

The gap was gaping

  gap    var ginnunga,  
  a gap, empty space, was  great,  wide:
in an intensive sense only in poetry
  191 695 200  
cp. Ginnunga-gap, n. chaos, the formless void

still grass nowhere.

  en    gras  hvergi.  
  still;  yet  grass, vegetation  nowhere;
not at all
  127 211 300  

  3. Early was the age
when Ymir lived.

There was no sand or sea,
nor cool wave.
Earth was not found
nor heaven above

The gap was gaping
still grass nowhere.

3/2 þar er Ymir byggði. Both Codex Regius and Haukbók have this reading. However, manuscripts of  Snorri's Edda have: þat (þar U) er ecki var (SWTU), "when nothing was."   

Snorri narrates the story of Ymir (Gylfaginning 5-6). He combines and elaborates material from Eddic and skaldic sources relating to Ymir and Aurgelmir (the cosmic giant under another name). There is no verse source that describes the origin of Ymir; Snorri adapts the origin ascribed to Aurgelmir (Vafþrúðnismál 31) so that Ymir emerges by condensation in the midst of Ginnungagap. We are never told how Ymir begot the giant race, instead Aurgelmir's progeny spring from his armpit (a boy and a girl) and from rubbing his feet together (a three-headed son, Vafþ. 33). No verse describes the killing of Ymir, but Egill's image of the roaring sea that drown his son, as gushing from the wound of the Ymir's neck, presupposes a killing (Sonnatorrek 3). The neck-wound indicates a sacrifical, rather than a fighting, wound.  We are not told that Aurgelmir was ever killed or that the cosmos was formed from his body; in all sources it is made of Ymir's (Vafþ. 21, Grímnismál 40-41; in Magnússdrápa 19, Arnörr sees the heaven overhanging humanity as "Ymir's aged skull". In Gylfaginning 7, Snorri implies that Odin and his brothers killed Ymir in order to rid themselves of the evil race of frost-giants, except one survived by climbing up on a boat. No other source provides a reason for killing the primordial giant, so Snorri may have invented a motive that seemed reasonable to him, [Ursula Dronke, Poetic Edda II, p. 110-111].

3/3 sandr né sær, for the same alliterative association see Hávamál 53: Lítilla sanda lítilla sæva, "of small sands, of small seas...".

3/5-6 Jörð ... né upphiminn. The Wessobrunner prayer, 9th century, has a similar phrase: ero ni was, noh ufhimil.   The verbal combination of jörð and upphimmin, which appears in other Eddic poems (Þrymskviða 2, Vafþrúðnismál 20) is common Germanic, cp. OE eorðe ond upheofen, Old Saxon erða endi uphimil, thus there is no need to seek a common source. [S. Nordal, Völuspá p. 12].

3/7 gap var ginnunga,  the simpliest explanation is probably that ginnunga- is prefaced to gap for emphasis, as in ginnheilög goð or ginnregin. Compare  Anglo-Saxon gin or ginn = vast, wide; OHG ginunga, from the verb ginen,  "to gape wide open."

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