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:
Eikþyrnir heitir hjörtr,
er stendr höllu á
ok bítr af Læraðs limum;
en af hans hornum
drypr í Hvergelmi,
þaðan eigo vötn öll vega:
Eikþyrnir heitir hjörtr,
er stendr a hællv heria föðrs
ok bítr af Læraðs limum;
en af hans hornum
dvpr í Hvergelmi,
þaðan æiga vötn öll vega: 
26. Eikþyrnir heitir hjörtr,
er stendr höllu á
ok bítr af Læraðs limum;
en af hans hornum
drýpr í Hvergelmi,
þaðan eiga vötn öll vega:
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

XXVI. There too, forever wand'ring near,
Is seen swift-footed Eikthyrner;1
He on Lærad's foliage feeds,
And annually prolific breeds.
Fast in Hrvergelmer's2 tide,
Dew-drops down his antlers glide;
Whence, winding thro' the porous earth,
Augmented rivers take their birth.

1 EIKTHYRNER, the Stag.
2 HRVERGELMER, the father of rivers.

The stag, which over the hall of Heriafauthr,
Standeth, and browseth for food the boughs of Laerath,
Is Esikthyrnir; and into Huergelmer
Droppeth from his horns the limpid dew; thence flow

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

26. Eikthyrnir the hart is called,
that stands o’er Odin’s hall,
and bits from Lærad’s branches;
from his horns fall
drops into Hvergelmir,
whence all waters rise:-

Oakthorn is the name of the hart that stands on the hall of the Father of Hosts and bites at the boughs of Learad : his horns drip into the Boiling-cauldron [Tartarus], whence come all the rivers on earth. . . .

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

26. Oak-thorn o'er Valholl stands, the hart,
who gnaws the Shelterer's boughs ;
run drops from his horns into Roaring-kettle
whence flow all floods in the world.

26. Eikthyrnir is the hart | who stands by Heerfather's hall
And the branches of Lærath he bites;
From his horns a stream | into Hvergelmir drops,
Thence all the rivers run.

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

26. Eikthyrnir, 38 the hart on the hall that stands,
eateth off Læráth's limbs;
drops from his horns in Hvergelmir39 fall,
thence wend all the waters their way.
38 "Oak Antlers" (?).
39 A well at the foot of Yggdrasil.

26. Oak-Thorn the hart in the hall of All-Father
Who bites at Laerað's boughs:
His horns drip into Hvergelmir,
Whence all waters rise.

1969/1989 Patricia Terry
in Poems of the Elder Edda 
“The Lay of Grimnir”
1996 Carolyne Larrington
in The Poetic Edda
Grimnir’s Sayings

Eikthrynir the stag stands on Warfather's hall
and bites off Laerad's branches;
drops fall from his horns down to the well
from which the world's rivers run.
down to the well= Hvergelmir, the well at the root of Yggdrasil

26. Eikthyrnir is the hart's name, who stands on Father of Hosts' hall
and grazes Lærad's branches;
and from his horns liquid drips into Hvergelmir,
from thence all waters have their flowing:

2011 Ursula Dronke
in The Poetic Edda, Vol. III 
“The Lay of Grimnir”
2011 Andy Orchard
The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore
'The Lay of Grimnir"

26. Oak thorn is the stag's name
that stands on the Father of Armies' hall
and browses from Listener's branches,
while drops from his antlers
drip into Cauldron Roar-
all waters take their ways from

26. ‘Oak-antlered is the name of the hart,
standing on Host-father’s hall,
who bites Lærad’s limbs;
from his horns there drips into Hvergelmir
the source from which all rivers run.



The stag Eikþyrnir stands on the roof of Valhall and eats from the branches of the World-Tree, here called Læraðr. Valhall appears to be depicted as a hall similar to the one described in Völsungasaga, ch. 2. Thus the stag, standing on its roof, can eat from the tree.

Svo er sagt að Völsungur konungur lét gera höll eina ágæta og með þeim hætti að ein eik mikil stóð í höllinni og limar trésins með fögrum blómum stóðu út um ræfur hallarinnar en leggurinn stóð niður í höllina og kölluðu þeir það barnstokk.

"It is said that King Volsung had an excellent palace built in this fashion: a huge tree1 stood with its trunk in the hall and its branches, with fair blossoms, stretched out through the roof. They called the tree Barnstock."2  (Jessie Byock tr.)

1 Eik means oak but the Icelanders often used the word as a general term for tree.
2 Barnstokkr literally means child-trunk (Bairnstock), although it is not clear that this was its original meaning. In the passage the tree is called eik (oak). A few passages farther on it is called apaldr (apple tree), another general term for tree. Apaldr, however, may have a further symbolic meaning, possibly associated with the apple tree of the goddess Idunn. Barnstokkr may also be identified with the world tree Yggdrasil.

Eikþyrnir, the name of the stag, is most commonly translated as 'Oak-Thorn', and taken as a reference to its antlers.

"The one with oak-like antlers": Rudolf Simek, Dictionary of Norse Mythology
"Oak-thorny": Andy Orchard, The Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend
"Oak-encircler": John Lindow, Handbook of Norse Mythology

1923 Henry Bellows, The Poetic Edda, “Grimnismol: The Ballad of Grimnir”:
26. Eikthyrnir ("The Oak-Thorned," i.e., with antlers, "thorns," like an oak): this animal presumably represents the clouds. The first line, like that of stanza 25, is too long in the original. Lærath: cf. stanza 25, note.

Hvergelmir: according to Snorri, this spring, "the Cauldron-Roaring," was in the midst of Niflheim, the world of darkness and the dead, beneath the third root of the ash Yggdrasil. Snorri gives a list of the rivers flowing thence nearly identical with the one in the poem.

Gylfaginning 4:

Fyrr var þat mörgum öldum en jörð var sköpuð er Niflheimr var gerr, ok í honum miðjum liggr bruðr sá, er Hvergelmir heitir, ok þaðan af falla þær ár, er svá heita: Svöl, Gunnþrá, Fjörm, Fimbulþul, Slíðr ok Hríð, Sylgr ok Ylgr, Víð, Leiptr. Gjöll er næst Helgrindum.

"It was many ages before the earth was shaped that Niflheim was made; and midmost within it lies the well that is called Hvergelmir, from which spring the rivers called Svöl, Gunnthrá, Fjörm, Fimbulthul, Slídr and Hríd, Sylgr and Ylgr, Víd, Leiptr; Gjöll is hard by Hel-gates."

Snorri also paraphrases this verse in Gylfaginning 39:

Enn er meira mark at of hjörtinn Eikþyrni, er stendr á Valhöll ok bítr af limum þess trés, en af hornum hans verðr svá mikill dropi, at niðr kemr í Hvergelmi, ok þaðan af falla þær ár, er svá heita: Síð, Víð, Sækin, Ekin, Svöl, Gunnþró, Fjörm, Fimbulþul, Gípul, Göpul, Gömul, Geirvimul. Þessar falla um ása byggðir. Þessar eru enn nefndar: Þyn, Vín, Þöll, Höll, Gráð, Gunnþráin, Nyt, Nöt, Nönn, Hrönn, Vína, Vegsvinn, Þjóðnuma."

"Even more worthy of note is the hart Eikthyrnir, which stands in Valhall and bites from the limbs of the tree; and from his horns distils such abundant exudation that it comes down into Hvergelmir, and from thence fall those rivers called thus: Síd, Víd, Søkin, Eikin, Svöl, Gunnthrá, Fjörm, Fimbulthul, Gípul, Göpul, Gömul, Geirvimul. Those fall about the abodes of the Æsir; these also are recorded: Thyn, Vín, Thöll, Höll, Grád, Gunnthráin, Nyt, Nöt, Nönn, Hrönn, Vína, Vegsvinn, Thjódnuma."

 The name Eikþyrnir is also found in the þula (name-list) of stags.

Læraðr: A Name of the World-Tree?
Rudolf Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology (1984):

Læraðr: The name of a mythical tree. In Grímnismál 25 and 26 it is said to stand on the roof of Valhall and a goat (heiðrun) and a stag (Eikþrynir) graze in its branches. ...Both these stanzas stem from the late heathen period, when various aspects of the mythology were brought into a system. This in turn is why Læraðr is usually identified as being the world tree Yggdrasill as we have no further information about Læraðr other than that above quoted, and in Norse mythology only Yggdrasill is named as a mythological tree. The meaning of Læraðr is also obscure. The closest interpretation is 'causer of harm' (from )  but this would not be an appropriate name for a mythological tree. Sturtevant has suggested that the 'damage' refers to Odin, since Yggdrasill, too, means 'horse of the terrible one' = 'horse of Odin'. Other suggestions as to the meaning of the name are somewhat problematic phonetically speaking: 'giver of protection' (from *hléráðr) or else 'giver of humidity.'

Andy Orchard, Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend (1998):

Lærad ('root of harm'?) is sometimes identified with the world-tree Yggdrasil, partly on the rather doubtful grounds that Norse sources name no other mythological tree. The thirteenth-century Icelander Snorri Sturluson further confuses the issue by describing Lærad, which he calls Lerad, otherwise unattested outside of Grímnismál as a 'tree whose name is well known.'

Ursula Dronke, The Poetic Edda, Volume III: Mythological Poems, Part 2 (2011), Grímnismál:

25-6 Two living creatures provide all the liquid the world requires: the goat gives honeyed mead for the gods (25) and the stag's wide-spreading antlers are so heavily drenched with dew that they supply all the earth's waterways (26).

...Only in Grímnismál are the goat and the stag mentioned, and only here is the World Tree called Leraðr (MS. 'Læraðr), an aphetic form, I suggest of *Hlerarðr, 'Secret listener at doors and shutters' cf. Noreen § 289; Bugge XII; Lexicon Poeticum s.v.v. hleri, hlertjöld, 'hearing tent', 'ear', as in Egill's poem to his friend and saviour Arinbjörn. Egill itemizes the invalueable parts of his body that Arinbjörn rescued, when he won Egill's pardon from Eiríkr Bloodaxe for him, including his ears....

...þars tannfjölð
með tungu þák
ok hlertjöld
hlustum gofguð...

..There a multitude of teeth
together with a tongue I got,
and listening tents
trimmed with hearing...
On the hearing powers of the World Tree, see Poetic Edda Volume II, 48f.

Ursula Dronke, The Poetic Edda, Volume III Mythological Poems, Part 1, (1997), p. 48-49:

(1) Heimdall as watchman. Beneath the holy tree that is heiðvanr — 'accustomed to bright mead' from the well at its foot— the völva 'knows' that the miraculous hearing (hljóð) of Heimdallr is couched. Tree of the world, he is the divine sentinel. To catch all sounds, his 'ear' is to the ground, where the tree-roots in the nine realms of the underworld attend the vibrations of the giants' coming.

She knows that beneath the tree the sound (hljóð) of Heindallr's horn lies silent. It will be heard at Ragnarök (45). Until then the horn stays a drinking horn for the mead of wisdom, by the well at the foot of the tree. Sigrdrífa speaks of this horn, dripping runes, in a distinct mythological context in Sigrdrífumál 13.

The poet here employs the two senses of hljóð to recall both Heimdallr's 'hearing' and his 'sound'— that is, his echoing horn. Like any good sentinel, he hears and is heard.

Völuspá 27/2:

hljóð: both 'hearing' (cf. Vsp 1/1) and 'sound' (klukku hljóð, 'sound of a bell'). In OE Riddle 4 (ASPR III. 187) the horn is described as a wind instrument, swallowing wind from some man's breast, summoning a troop to war, and also as a drinking vessel, filled by a courtly girl. I think it likely that in his use of hljóð in the sense 'sound' the poet of Vsp is alluding to Heimdallr's horn both as a sounding horn and as a drinking horn, as in the OE riddle (and, indeed, as Snorri understands it: Mimir is full of knowledge 'because he drinks from the well out of the horn Gjallarhorn', SnE 22). So hljóð, 'sound' i.e. 'horn', becomes associated with the well of mead (from which Odinn takes his drink of wisdom, cf. 27/5-7,28/7-12: a myth of which Sigrdr 13/6-10, including a dripping horn, seems to be a variant), as well as with Ragnarök, when the horn's hljóð must sound (45). As to the acute hearing of the world tree, Heimdallr, huntsmen say that birds in a tree will hear a distant gunshot much sooner than a man standing near them (and fly off), because the ground carries the vibrations more swiftly than the air, and they are communicated via the tree's roots to the birds.”

“Some Thoughts on Völuspá” by Paul Schach from Edda, A Collection of Essays (1983), p. 99:

 “Heimdallar hljóð has aroused much speculation. Snorri seems to have confused this word with Gjallarhorn, but there is otherwise no attestation of the use of hljóð in the sense “horn” in Icelandic. Nordal espouses the view set forth by Detter, Heinzel and Höckert that hljóð in this stanza is used in its original meaning of  ‘hearing.’ Olafur Breim glosses hljóð with hlust ‘auditory passage’ and heyrn ‘sense of hearing, ear’ Guðni Jónsson lists only heyrn. Turville-Petre (1964, p. 149) suggests that Heimdallr’s hearing ‘may be conceived in concrete form, as one of Heimdallr’s ears.’