The Poetic Edda: A Study Guide
  Grímnismál
 The Speech of the Masked One
 
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17
Codex Regius
MS No. 2365 4to  [R]
Arnamagnæan Codex
AM 748 I 4to [A]
1954 Guðni Jónsson
Normalized Text:

17. Hrísi vex
ok há grasi
vinþars land, viði es
þar ma- vgr of lezc
af mars baki
frækn at hefna föður.  

17. Hrísi vex
ok ha grasi
viðars land viði;
en þar mögr of læz
af marsbaki
frækn at hefna föður.  

17. Hrísi vex
ok háu grasi
Víðars land Viði;
en þar mögr of læzt
af mars baki
frækn at hefna föður.  

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
 

XVII. The lands of Vidar far are seen,
Beset with thorny brakes obscene;
Rank herbage shoots aloft in air,
And marshy sallows flourish there.
Vidar, descending from his steed,
Swift in pursuit scarce bends the reed;
A parent's wrongs provoke his ire,
And vengeance from his arm require.

With thickets overgrown, and rankest grass,
And pliant osier, is Landvide seen;
But Vidar there descendeth from his steed,
Active in avengeance of his father's wrong.

 
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
 

17. O’ergrown with branches
and high grass
is Vidar’s spacious Landvidi:
There will the son descend,
from the steed’s back,
bold to avenge his father.

16. Wood, the land of Widar,
is overgrown with sprouts and high grass;
here the son [shall mount on] horseback
 to avenge his father.
 
 
1908 Olive Bray
in Edda Saemundar
The Sayings of Grimnir
1923 Henry Bellows
in The Poetic Edda
Grimnismol: The Ballad of Grimnir
 

17. With brushwood grows, and with grasses high,
Wood-home, Vidar's land ;
from his steed that son of Odin shall show him
strong to avenge his sire.

17. Filled with growing trees 
and high-standing grass is Vithi, Vithar’s land;
But there did the son    from his steed leap down,
When his father he fain would avenge.

 
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
 

17. Greenwoods grow,    and grasses tall,
    in Vithi, Vithar's land:
    from horseback leaps    the hero, eager
    to avenge his father's fall.

17. Vidar lives in the land called Wood,
Where grass and brushwood grow:
The bold one shall leap from the back of the mare
To avenge his father's death.

 
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”
 

17. Brushwood grows and high grass
widely in Vidar’s land;
and there the son proclaims on his horse’s back
that he’s keen to avenge his father.

17. Thicket grows
and tall grass
on Víðarr's land, Willow Wood,
and there the boy
from horseback shows
he has valour to avenge his father.

 
 

2011 Andy Orchard
The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore
'The Lay of Grimnir"

   

17. ‘Brushwood grows, and tall grass,
and wood, in Vídar’s land;
there the sons says from a horse’s back
brave, that he’ll avenge his father.

 

[HOME][GRÍMNISMÁL]
  
COMMENTARY
 
Vidar awaits Ragnarök
by Willy Pogány, 1920

Odin’s son, Vidar appears in Eddic poetry in Voluspa 55, Vafthrudnismal 51 and 53, Grimnismal 17 and Lokasenna 10.

His main purpose is to avenge his father’s death. Grimnismal 17 provides us a glimpse of the scene.
  
Vidar rides to the scene (or does he) on a mare. At any rate, he leaps from a mare’s back to face Fenrir, sword in hand.  The verse isn’t clear whether he already lives there (on the final battlefield of the gods and giants at Ragnarok) or rides there on the horse. Methinks the mare implies motion there. If the wooded land Vidar owns is the final battlefield, however, then Vidi is simply another name for Vigrid, the field where Odin meets the wolf. The “coincidence” that Vidar’s mother’s name is Grid may lend weight to this. Whatever the intent, the poet clearly makes clever use of language.
  
Snorri provides a fuller picture of Vidar’s role. In his Edda, Vidar appears in Gylfaginning 51 and 53, as well as in Skaldskaparmal. As far as minor gods go, he’s pretty well sourced.
 
51. "….Thor shall put to death the Midgard Serpent, and shall stride away nine paces from that spot; then shall he fall dead to the earth, because of the venom which the Snake has blown at him. The Wolf shall swallow Odin; that shall be his ending But straight thereafter shall Vídarr stride forth and set one foot upon the lower jaw of the Wolf: on that foot he has the shoe, materials for which have been gathering throughout all time. (They are the scraps of leather which men cut out: of their shoes at toe or heel; therefore he who desires in his heart to come to the Æsir's help should cast those scraps away.) With one hand he shall seize the Wolf's upper jaw and tear his gullet asunder; and that is the death of the Wolf. Loki shall have battle with Heimdallr, and each be the slayer of the other. Then straightway shall Surtr cast fire over the earth and burn all the world; so is said in Völuspá:
  
53. Then spake Gangleri: "Shall any of the gods live then, or shall there be then any earth or heaven?" Hárr answered: "In that time the earth shall emerge out of the sea, and shall then be green and fair; then shall the fruits of it be brought forth unsown. Vídarr and Váli shall be living, inasmuch as neither sea nor the fire of Surtr shall have harmed them; and they shall dwell at Ida-Plain, where Ásgard was before. And then the sons of Thor, Módi and Magni, shall come there, and they shall have Mjöllnir there. After that Baldr shall come thither, and Hödr, from Hel; then all shall sit down together and hold speech. with one another, and call to mind their secret wisdom, and speak of those happenings which have been before: of the Midgard Serpent and of Fenris-Wolf. Then they shall find in the grass those golden chess-pieces which the Æsir had had; thus is it said:
 
Vathrudnismal 51:
 
In the deities' shrines | shall dwell Vídarr and Váli, When the Fire of Surtr is slackened; Módi and Magni | shall have Mjöllnir At the ceasing of Thor's strife.
 
In the place called Hoddmímir's Holt there shall lie hidden during the Fire of Surtr two of mankind, who are called thus: Líf and Lífthrasir, and for food they shall have the morning-dews. From these folk shall come so numerous an offspring that all the world shall be peopled, even as is said here:
 
Vathrudnismal 45:
 
Líf and Lífthrasir, | these shall lurk hidden In the Holt of Hoddmímir; The morning dews | their meat shall be; Thence are gendered the generations.
 
And it may seem wonderful to thee, that the sun shall have borne a daughter not less fair than herself; and the daughter shall then tread in the steps of her mother, as is said here:
 
Vathrudnismal 47:
 
The Elfin-beam | shall bear a daughter,
Ere Fenris drags her forth;
That maid shall go, | when the great gods die, To ride her mother's road.
 
But now, if thou art able to ask yet further, then indeed I know not whence answer shall come to thee, for I never heard any man tell forth at greater length the course of the world; and now avail thyself of that which thou hast heard."
 
Skaldskaparmal:
  
I. “A certain man was named Ægir, or Hlér. He dwelt on the island which is now called Hlér's Isle (now Laesso), and was deeply versed in black magic. He took his way to Ásgard, but the Æsir had foreknowledge of his journey; he was received with good cheer, and yet many things were done by deceit, with eye-illusions. And at evening, when it was time for drinking, Odin had swords brought into the hall, so bright that light radiated from them: and other illumination was not used while they sat at drinking. Then the Æsir came in to their banquet, and in the high-seats sat them down those twelve Æsir who were appointed to be judges; these were their names: Thor, Njördr, Freyr, Týr, Heimdallr, Bragi, Vídarr, Váli, Ullr, Hœnir, Forseti, Loki; and in like manner the Ásynjur: Frigg, Freyja, Gefjun, Idunn, Gerdr, Sigyn, Fulla, Nanna. It seemed glorious to Ægir to look about him in the hall: the wainscottings there were all hung with fair shields; there was also stinging mead, copiously quaffed. [?!]* The man seated next to Ægir was Bragi, and they took part together in drinking and in converse: Bragi told Ægir of many things which had come to pass among the Æsir.”
  
*A translator’s flourish, to be sure.
  
The guest list here appears to be based on the dramatis personae of Lokasenna. Vidar also appears in Lokasenna, with a couple of additions. In the poem proper, Loki enters a hall unwelcome where the family of gods are feasting and demands a seat. He reminds Odin that they are blood-brothers and sworn to never take ale, one without the other.  So Odin asks Vidar to give his seat to the “Wolf’s father.” The wolf, of course, is Fenrir. Fenrir is fated to swallow Odin (just as Skoll will swallow the sun— the “one eye” of the sky), and Vidar is fated to kill Fenrir by standing a sword in his heart. That’s basically what we can glean from the Elder Edda regarding Vidar.
  
Snorri embellishes it:
  
18. "How should one periphrase Vídarr? He maybe called the Silent God, Possessor of the Iron Shoe, Foe and Slayer of Fenris-Wolf, Avenger of the Gods, Divine Dweller in the Homesteads of the Fathers, Son of Odin, and Brother of the Æsir.
  
36.  And Bragi answered: "It is worthy to be told at length, how Thor went to Geirrödr's dwelling. At that time he had not the hammer Mjöllnir with him, nor his Girdle of Might, nor the iron gauntlets: and that was the fault of Loki, who went with him. For once, flying in his sport with Frigg's hawk-plumage, it had happened to Loki to fly for curiosity's sake into Geirrödr's court. There he saw a great hall, and alighted and looked in through the window; and Geirrödr looked up and saw him, and commanded that the bird be taken and brought to him, But he who was sent could scarce get to the top of the wall, so high was it; and it seemed pleasant to Loki to see the man striving with toil and pains to reach him, and he thought it was not yet time to fly away until the other had accomplished the perilous climb. When the man pressed hard after him, then he stretched his wings for flight, and thrust out vehemently, but now his feet were stuck fast.
 
So Loki was taken and brought before Geirrödr the giant; but when Geirrödr saw his eyes, he suspected that this might be a man, and bade him answer; but Loki was silent. Then Geirrödr shut Loki into a chest and starved him there three months. And now when Geirrödr took him out and commanded him to speak, Loki told who he was; and by way of ransom for his life he swore to Geirrödr with oaths that he would get Thor to come into Geirrödr's dwelling in such a fashion that he should have neither hammer nor Girdle of Might with him.
 
Thor came to spend the night with that giantess who was called Grídr, mother of Vídarr the Silent. She told Thor the truth concerning Geirrödr, that he was a crafty giant and ill to deal with; and she lent him the Girdle of Might and iron gloves which she possessed, and her staff also, which was called Grídr's Rod.

Then Thor proceeded to the river named Vimur, greatest of all rivers. There he girded himself with the Girdle of Might and braced firmly downstream with Gridr's Rod, and Loki held on behind by the Girdle of Might. When Thor came to mid-current, the river waxed so greatly that it broke high upon his shoulders. Then Thor sang this:

Wax thou not now, Vimur,
For I fain would wade thee
Into the Giants' garth:
Know thou, if thou waxest,
Then waxeth God-strength in me
As high up as the heaven.


Then Thor saw Gjálp, daughter of Geirrödr, standing in certain ravines, one leg in each , spanning the river, and she was causing the spate. Then Thor snatched up a great stone out of the river and cast it at her, saying these words: 'At its source should a river be stemmed.' Nor did he miss that at which he threw. In that moment he came to the shore and took hold of a rowan-clump, and so climbed out of the river; whence comes the saying that rowan is Thor's deliverance.

Now when Thor came before Geirrödr, the companions were shown first into the goat-fold for their entertainment, and there was one chair there for a seat, and Thor sat there. Then he became aware that the chair moved under him up toward the roof: he thrust Grídr's rod up against the rafters and pushed back hard against the chair. Then there was a great crash, and screaming followed. Under the chair had been Geirrödr's daughters, Gjálp and Greip; and he had broken both their backs. Then Geirrödr had Thor called in the hall to play games. There were great fires the whole length of the hall. When Thor came up over against Geirrödr, then Geirrödr took up a glowing bar of iron with the tongs and cast it at Thor. Thor caught with his iron gloves and raised the bar in the air, but Geirrödr leapt behind an iron pillar to save himself. Thor lifted up the bar and threw it, and it passed through the wall, and so on out, even into the earth. Eilífr Gudrúnarson has wrought verses on this story, in Thórsdrápa.

Þórsdrápa 9:5-8 at The Jörmungrund site:

9/6: völ Gríðar = Gríðarvöl. There is no evidence for such a staff outside Snorri's prose account of the tale. This account is extremely dubious (see Analogues). We have already learned that Thor withstood the force of the ocean currents by plunging his spear into the bottom of the ocean. He must surely have used both hands to do so. So how can he suddenly be wielding this so-called Gríðarvölr "staff of Gríðr"? It is clearly absurd. Gríðr was a giantess, the mother of Víðarr by Óðinn. Snorri's tale seems to be made out of whole cloth, or perhaps his failed attempts to understand the complex language of Þórsdrápa.

 

 2003 John Lindow, Handbook of Norse Mythology, pp. 312-314:
Vidar:
 
Sometimes called the silent god, associated especially with vengeance.
 
Snorri includes Vidar in his catalog of the Aesir in Gylfaginning, after Höd and before Ali/Vali. Here Snorri says that Vidar is the silent god, that he has a thick show, that he is second in might only to Thor, and that the gods have great support or consolation from him in all struggles. In Skaldskaparmal, Snorri places Vidar among the other Aesir at the banquet of Aegir and tells us that we may use these kennings for Vidar: "the silent god," the owner of the iron shoe," "enemy and killer of the Fenris wolf [Fenrir]," "the vengeance god [ass] of the gods [goð]," "the dwelling god [áss] of paternal properties," "the son of Odin" and "brother of the Aesir." In his account of Thor's journey to Geirrod in Skaldskaparmal, Snorri says that the giantess Grid, who equips Thor with various pieces of equipment, is the mother of Vidar the silent.
 
In his vision of the dwellings of the gods in Grimnismal, Odin describes Vidar's "land" last, in stanza 17, and says it is grown with brushwood and tall grass:
 
There the son gets off the back of a mare,
The brave one, to avenge his father.
 
Vidar's silence is unexplained in the texts that have come down to us. Some scholars believe it may derive from ritual silences or other abstentions accompanying acts of vengeance; Baldr's brother, presumably Vali, does not wash his hands or comb his hair until he has laid Baldr's adversary on the funeral pyre (Voluspa, stanza 33, and Baldrs drautnat, stanza 11). As for the shoe, it is definitely associated with vengeance, for Vidar uses his shoe, according to Snorri, to take vengeance on the wolf Fenrir for killing Odin (who is his father, according to Voluspa, stanza 56). Just after Snorri has the wolf swallow Odin, he writes this:
 
Immediately thereafter Vidar will come forth and put one foot on the lower jaw of the wolf. On that foot he will have that shoe, which has been put together for all time; it is the leather scraps that people cut out of their shoes by the toes and heel, and therefore a person who wishes to take care to help the Aesir shall throw away the leather scraps. With one hand he takes hold of the upper jaw of the wolf and tears apart his gullet, and that will be the death of the wolf. This shoe is otherwise unknown; tentative identifications of Vidar on the stone crosses at Gosforth, Northumbria, and Kirk Andreas, Isle of Man, do not, as far as I can see, show any special footwear. The issue is further complicated  by the existence of an alternative version of Vidar's killing of Fenrir with a sword, in Voluspa, stanza 56:
 
Then comes the great son of Sigfather [Odin];
Vidar, to fight with the beast of battle;
For the son of Hvedrung. he makes stand with his hand
A sword in the heart; thus the father is avenged.
 
Hvedrung is surely Loki, since Ynglingatal, stanza 32, refers to Hel as Hvedrung's daughter. The name is also to be found among the thulur as a word for giant, and, confusingly, as an Odin name.
 
The account in Vafthrudnismal, stanza 53, is perhaps equivocal on the
method the vengeance took. Odin has just asked Vafthrudnir about Odin's fate:
 
The wolf will swallow Aldafodr [Odin]
Vidar will avenge this;
The malevolent jaws he will cleave
At the death of the wolf.
 
The verb "cleave" looks as though it should refer to something done with a sword, but it is just possible that one could imagine tearing a beast apart by its jaws to be an act of cleaving. It is of course not impossible that Snorri introduced this interpretation.
 
Vidar's major act in the mythology, then, is one of vengeance. In this he is like Vali, the avenger of Baldr, and we may speculate that there may once have been a story about Odin's seduction or rape of Grid, just as there exists one about his getting Vali on Rind (Bous on Rinda in Saxo). Vidar and Vali are linked not only by acts of vengeance, and by alliteration, but also by virtue of surviving Ragnarök and inhabiting the new world that is to exist. Vafthrudnismal, stanza 51, is the best source:
 
Vidar and Vali will inhabit the holy places of the gods,
When Surt's fire dies down;
M6di and Magni will have Mjollnir
And will bring about a cessation of killing.
 
Snorri is, as usual, more explicit. Vidar and Vali survive because neither fire nor the sea can harm them, and with the other surviving gods they inhabit Idavoll, where Asgard once was, and retain artifacts and memories of their forebears. According to Georges Dumezil, Vidar was a cosmic figure derived from an Indo-European archetype. He was aligned with both vertical space (from his foot on the wolf's lower jaw to his hand on the upper jaw) and horizontal space (by means of his step and strong shoe) and therefore served to define the boundaries of space, just as Heimdall defined the boundaries of time. By killing the wolf, Vidar keeps it from destroying the cosmos, which can then be restored in the aftermath of Ragnarök.
 

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