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:

Svalin heitir,
hann stendr sólu fyrir,
skjöldr, skínanda goði;
björg ok brim
ek veit at brenna skulu,
ef hann fellr í frá.

Svavl (Svöl) heitir,
hann stendr sólu fyrir,
skjöldr, skínanda gvði;
björg ok brim
ek veit at brenna skulu,
ef hann fellr í frá.

38. Svalinn heitir,
hann stendr sólu fyrir,
skjöldr, skínanda goði;
björg ok brim
ek veit at brenna skulu,
ef hann fellr í frá.

English Translations
1797 Amos Simon Cottle
in Icelandic Poetry
The Song of Grimnir
 1842 William Herbert
Works, p. 140 (footnote)

Presented to the blazing skies,
The argent shield, Sualiner
[1] lies:
Nature would its doom receive,
Were it once the heavens to leave.

[1] SUALINER, the solar shield or fabulous refrigerator of the world.

There is an account of this shield in the thirty-eighth stanza of Grimnismal.

"Svalin is his name, he stands a shield before the sun, the shining deity. I know that the hills and the sea would burn, if it were to fall from its place."

1851 C.P. in
The Yale Magazine, Vol. 16
The Song of Grimner
1866 Benjamin Thorpe
in Edda Sæmundar Hinns Frôða

The Lay of Grimnir

Svalinus standeth a shield before the sun,
Before his fiery glances; full well I know
That if it fall, the rocks, and e'en the sea,
The briny flood, shall burn with roaring flames.

[The form of the name Svalinus confirms that the source for this translation was Edda Saemundar hinns Fróda: Edda rhythmica seu antiquior, vulgo Saemundina Dicta, 1787, which provided a Latin translation of the original poem.]

38. Svalin the shield is called,
which stands before the sun,
the refulgent deity:
rocks and ocean must, I ween,
be burnt,
fell it from its place.

1883 Gudbrand Vigfusson
in Corpus Poeticum Boreale

The Sayings of the Hooded One
1908 Olive Bray
in Edda Saemundar
The Sayings of Grimnir
  Cooler is the name of the shield that stands before that shining Goddess the Sun. Rocks and sea would burn up, I know, if it fell down.

38. There is one called the Cooler who stands 'fore the Sun,
a shield from the shining goddess :
the mountains I ween, and the stormy sea
will flame if he fall from thence.

1923 Henry Bellows
in The Poetic Edda
Grimnismol: The Ballad of Grimnir
1962 Lee M. Hollander
in The Poetic Edda
The Lay of Grimnir

38. In front of the sun        does Svalin stand,
The shield for the shining god;
Mountains and sea        would be set in flames
If it fell from before the sun.

39. Svalin[1] is hight, the Sun before,
a shield from the shining god,
Would smoke and smolder both sea and land,
if from him it ever should fall.

[1] "Cooling."

1967 W. H. Auden & P. B. Taylor
in The Elder Edda
The Lay of Grimnir
1996 Carolyne Larrington
in The Poetic Edda
Grimnir’s Sayings

The Cooler he is called who covers the Sun
Like a shield, shining for gods:
Fire would consume fell and ocean
Should his shield fall.

38. Svalin is the name of a shield which stands before the sun,
before the shining god;
mountain and sea I know would burn up
if it fell away from in front.

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

38. ‘Chill is the name of what stands in front of Sun,
a shield before the shining god;
mountains and oceans I know should burn
if it fell from in front.


38. Shiver is its name,
he stands before the sun,
a shield for the shining goddess.
Mountain and main
I know must burn,
if he falls off.


Little else is known of Svalinn, the shield that stands in front of the sun. The name occurs only here and as a name for a shield in a nafnaþula in Skáldskaparmál.

Svalinn is alluded to in  Sigrdrífumál 15 (see previous stanza), and may also be referred to in a complex kenning for Thor found in Thorsdrapa 4, which reads: frumseyrir fljóða vargs Fríðar himintörgu "the prime diminisher of the maidens of the enemy of the goddess of the heavenly shield". Himintarga means "heavenly shield". Fríður "the beautiful one", is used as the name of a goddess in several kennings, and originally may have been an epithet of Freyja, [cp. Fjölsvinnsmál 38, where Fríð is one of Menglöd-Freyja's handmaidens.] Fríður himintörgu, thus is "the goddess of the heavenly-shield" (i.e. Svalinn, the sun-shield) or Sól, the sun-goddess. Her  "enemy" (vargur) is the wolf which chases her across the heavens. The fljóð "maidens" of the wolf are giantesses. Their frumseyrir "prime diminisher" is Thor, the foremost slayer of giant maidens.
The name Svalinn means 'the cool or cold-working', [Lexicon Poeticum], and is derived from the verb svala, 'to chill, cool'; svala sér means 'to slake one's thirst' and svala-drykkr is a 'cooling draught'. [Cleasby/Vigfusson Dictionary].
"If we come back to  Grímnismál and Sigrdrífumál, we may find a link between the sun disc drawn behind the horse and the shield called Svalin: originally the sun image was an impersonal representation of the sun, a golden disc. At some point in the myth's career the disc has ceased to be a symbol and became what it was like in actuality, a circular shield. And to 'explain' this shield, the poet put forth the tale that it was there to protect the horse from the sun's rays."   —Brian Branston, Gods of the North (1957), pp. 95-6.

The second half of the stanza states that "mountains and oceans, I know should burn, if it fell from in front," (björg ok brim /ek veit at brenna skulu,/ ef hann fellr í frá.) During Ragnarök, that is precisely what happens when Surt releases his destructive flames (surtaloga) over creation: the mountains and the oceans burn. Since, the chariots of both sun and moon are thought to be wrought from sparks  that flew up out of Surt's home, 'Muspel' or 'Muspelheim', according to Snorri, this stanza may be taken as an allusion to Ragnarök.