The Poetic Edda: A Study Guide
 The Speech of the Masked One
Codex Regius
MS No. 2365 4to  [R]
Arnamagnæan Codex
AM 748 I 4to [A]
1954 Guðni Jónsson
Normalized Text:

9. Mjök er auðkennt,
þeim er til odins koma
salkynni at séa:
sköftum er rann reft,
skjöldum er salr þakiðr,
brynjum um bekki strát.

9. Mjök er auðkennt,
þeim er Óðins koma
salkynni at séa:
sköftum er rann reft,
skjöldum er salr þakiðr,
brynjum um bekki strát.

9. Mjök er auðkennt,
þeim er til Óðins koma
salkynni at séa:
sköftum er rann reft,
skjöldum er salr þakiðr,
brynjum um bekki strát.

English Translations
1797 Amos Simon Cottle
in Icelandic Poetry
The Song of Grimnir
1851 C.P. in
The Yale Magazine, Vol. 16
The Song of Grimner

Where Odin's towers rise to view,
Thus may be known by symbols true;
Broken shafts of many a spear
Emblazoning the roofs appear:
The domes with shields are cover'd o'er,
And coats of mail surround the floor.

Easily 'tis known from the other palaces
By those who come to Odin;—its roof is wrought
With spears—its walls with hero-bucklers hung,
And coats of mail are strewn along the seats;—

1866 Benjamin Thorpe
in Edda Sæmundar Hinns Frôða

The Lay of Grimnir
1883 Gudbrand Vigfusson
in Corpus Poeticum Boreale

The Sayings of the Hooded One

9. Easily to be known is,
by those who to Odin come,
the mansion by its aspect.
Its roof with spears is laid,
its hall with shields is decked,
with corslets are its benches strewed.

That hall is very easy to know for all that come to visit Woden; the house is raftered with shafts, the hall is thatched with shields, the benches are strewn with mail-coats.

1908 Olive Bray
in Edda Saemundar
The Sayings of Grimnir
1923 Henry Bellows
in The Poetic Edda
Grimnismol: The Ballad of Grimnir

9. 'Tis easily known by all who come
to visit Odin's folk ;
with shafts 'tis raftered, with shields 'tis roofed,
with byrnies the benches are strewn.

9. Easy is it to know        for him who to Othin
Comes and beholds the hall’
Its rafter are spears,        with shields is it roofed,
On its benches are breastplates strewn.

1962 Lee M. Hollander
in The Poetic Edda
The Lay of Grimnir
1967 W. H. Auden & P. B. Taylor
in The Elder Edda
The Lay of Grimnir

9. Easily known    to Ygg's chosen
   are the heavenly halls:
   the rafters, spearshafts;    the roofs, shield-shingled;
   and the benches strewn with byrnies.

9. Easy to recognize for all who come there
Is Odin's lofty hall:
With spear-shafts and shields it is roofed,
Its benches are strewn with byrnies.

1996 Carolyne Larrington
in The Poetic Edda
Grimnir’s Sayings
2011 Ursula Dronke
in The Poetic Edda, Vol. III: Mythological Poems 
“The Lay of Grimnir”

9. 'It's very easy to recognize for those who come to Odin
to see how his hall's arranged;
the hall has spear-shafts for rafters, with shields it is thatched
mail-coats are strewn on the benches.

9. Much is easily recognizable
by those who come to Óðinn's
to see the household:
With spear-shafts the building is
with shields the hall is roofed,
coats of mail are cast over the benches.


The phrase meaning “to strew the benches” here is um bekki strát. The act of “strewing the benches” with items, usually costly things in anticipation of guests, occurs in several poems:
In Balder’s Dreams 6 & 7, the inhabitants of Hel prepare a feast for Balder before his arrival there:

Óðinn kvað:

6. "Vegtamr ek heiti,
sonr em ek Valtams;
segðu mér ór helju,
ek mun ór heimi:
Hveim eru bekkir
baugum sánir,
flet fagrlig
flóuð gulli?"

Vegtam (Odin) said:
“Vegtam is my name,
I am Valtam’s son.
Tell thou me of Hel:
from earth I call on thee.
For whom are those benches
strewn with rings
(bekkir baugum saner)
those costly couches
o’erlaid with gold?”

Völva kvað:

 7. "Hér stendr Baldri
of brugginn mjöðr,
skírar veigar,
liggr skjöldr yfir,
en ásmegir
í ofvæni;
nauðug sagðak,
nú mun ek þegja."

The Völva said:

“Here stands mead,
for Baldr brewed,
over the bright potion
a shield is laid;
but the Æsir race
are in despair.
By compulsion I have spoken
I will now be silent.”

In Thrymskvida 22, the giants prepare a wedding feast for the giant Thrym and the goddess Freyja, who turns out to be Thor in bridal garb, determined to retrieve his stolen weapon.

22. Þá kvað þat Þrymr,
þursa dróttinn:
"Standið upp, jötnar,
ok stráið bekki,
nú færa mér
Freyju at kván
Njarðar dóttur
ór Nóatúnum.

Then said Thrym,
the Thursar’s lord:
“Rise up, Jötuns!
and strew the benches (og straid bekki.)
now they bring me
Freyja to wife,
Niörd’s daughter,
from Noatún.

In Alvismal 1, the dwarf Alvis says his people are preparing a wedding feast for himself and Thor’s daughter, whom he has come to take home:

"Bekki breiða,
nú skal brúðr með mér
heim í sinni snúask;
hratat um mægi
mun hverjum þykkja,
heima skal-at hvíld nema."


”1. The benches they are decking, (bekki breiða)
now shall the bride with me
wend her way home.
That beyond my strength I have hurried
will to every one appear:
at home naught shall disturb my quiet.”
Translations above are those of Benjamin Thorpe, slightly modified.
In the opening verses of Eiriksmal, the inhabitants of Valhalla or their attending Valkyries prepare for the arrival of kings among them:

"Hvat es þat drauma," kvað Óðinn,
"es ek hugðumk fyr dag lítlu
Valhöll ryðja
fyr vegnu folki,
vakða ek einherja,
bað ek upp rísa,
bekki at stráa,
borðker at leyðra,
valkyrjur vín bera,
sem vísi kœmi;
es mér ór heimi
haulda vánir
göfgra nökkurra,
svá es mér glatt hjarta."

“’What kind of dream is it,’ said Odinn,
‘in which just before daybreak
I thought I cleared Valhall
for the coming of slain men?
I waked the Einherjar
bade Valkyries rise up
to strew the bench (bekki at straa)
and scour the beakers,
wine to carry for a king’s coming:
Here to me I expect
heroes’ coming from the world
certain great ones
so glad is my heart.’”
Translation by Alison Finlay

Rudolf Simek’s Dictionary of Northern Mythology, 1984:
Valhall or Valhalla (ON Vallholl, 'hall of the slain') is the name of Odin's home in Asgard where he gathers the warriors slain in battle around him.
The most detailed description of Valhall is in the list of godly residences in Grimnismal (8-10, 18-26) and subsequently in Snorri (Gylfaginning 37-40). Valhall is situated in the part of Asgard called Gladsheirnr; the hall is thatched with spears and shields and armour lies on the benches. The valkyries lead the slain heroes (the einherjar) to this hall, to Odin, and they serve them with meat from the boar Saehrimnir (which the cook Audhrimnir prepares in the cauldron Eldhrimnir). Everyone has enough to eat from the boar, which renews itself constantly. The einherjar drink mead with this meal which flows from the udders of the goat, Heidrun. The goat stands on the roof of Valhall and, like the stag Eikthymir, grazes on the foliage of the tree Laeradr (= Yggdrasill). Odin, however, only drinks wine, and he feeds the wolves Geri and Freki with his own food. One gate to Valhall is called Valgrind (perhaps the one through which the slain warriors enter) and a wolf lies in front of it and an eagle soars above. The einherjar fight the whole day with each other, but in the evening they are all alive again and sit around together, drinking (Vafthrudnismal 41). This seems to give an impression of how Viking Age warriors imagined paradise. At Ragnarok, however, the einherjar will march out - 800 through each of the 540 gates of Valhall- and will fight on the side of the gods against Fenrir and the powers of the Underworld.
The poetic image of the warriors' paradise given in Grimnismal derives, although  not in all details, without a doubt from folk-belief, but nonetheless several elements can be found already in 9th and 10th century skaldic poetry: in Thorbjorn Hornklofi's Hrafnsmal (the shield-covered hall), in Evvind's Hakonarmdl and in the Eiriksmal.
M. Olsen's provocative theory that the constantly fighting warriors and the 540 gates to Valhall were a recalling of the experiences gathered by a Scandinavian traveller to the Colosseum with its constant combats of gladiators in Rome, aroused much attention. Even if this recall was not the basis for the actual Nordic myth of Valhall, it is nonetheless a possible source of the later poetic treatment of the material. The number of 800 times 540 = 432,000 einherjar mentioned in the Grimnismal can possibly be traced back to Hellenic influence, and is not a number of any particular symbolic significance. It is also by no means certain if the number is at all correct and if the Grimnismal did not use the Germanic value of hundred (= 120). The ON Valholl (German Walhalla first used by H. Schutze in 1750) derives from valr 'those slain on the battlefield' and höll 'hall' and was understood, at least in the late heathen period, as 'hall of the slain'; however, some mountains in South Sweden which in folk-belief are thought to be the place where the dead live, as mountains of the dead, are also called Valhall. Perhaps the belief in Valhall also comes from the concept of life after death within barrows and mountains (Burial mound), as described in the sagas of the 13th century, where the dead are seen by the living to be celebrating with their ancestors in mountains (Gisla saga 11, Eyrbyggja saga 11, Njals saga 14). In this case it would be possible that ON Valholl does not derive from höll 'hall' but from hallr,  'rock'.
The origin of the concept is by no means older than the name: in the beginning there was the battlefield strewn with corpses, from which the demons of death (valkyries) led the fallen heroes to a god of the dead; the description of this place, whether as a place in a mountain, or else a heavenly drinking hall, only came secondarily.