The Speech of Grimnir ("The Masked One" i.e. Odin)

1908 Olive Bray

The Sayings of Grimnir The God in Torment



  Introduction to the translation


King Hraudung[1] had two sons, one called Agnar and the other Geirröd. When Agnarr was ten years old and Geirröd was eight the twain set forth in a boat with their tackle in pursuit of small fish; but the wind drove them out to sea, and in the darkness of night they broke up by the shore. They got safe to land and presently came upon a cottage, where they stayed throughout the winter. The old wife fostered Agnar, and her man fostered Geirröd, and taught him wisdom. In the spring the peasant got a boat for them, and when he and the woman had brought them down to the shore he held talk apart with Geirröd. Then they put forth to sea and found a fair wind, and reached their father’s realm. Geirröd, who was standing in the prow, sprang to shore and pushed the boat off, saying —“Go where a fiend may take thee!” And the vessel was driven out. Then he went up to the town where he was well received, and as his father was then dead, he was made king, and became a famous man.


Odin and Frigg were sitting once on Window-shelf, gazing out over all the world. Said Odin: " Seest thou Agnar, thy fosterling, how he begets children with a giantess in a cave? But Geirrod, my fosterling, is a king, and rules over the realm." "He is such a meat-grudger," answered Frigg, "that he starves his guests when he deems that too many are come into his halls." Odin swore that this was the greatest lie, and they wagered on the matter. Frigg sent her handmaiden Fulla to Geirrod to bid the king beware lest an enchanter, who had come into the land, should bewitch him, and she gave them this sign whereby he might be known: no dog, however fierce, would assail him. Men had lied greatly in saying that Geirrod was not hospitable, but for all that he caused a certain guest to be seized, whom the dogs would not attack. He came clad in a blue mantle, calling himself Grimnir, the Masked One, and would tell nought beside, however much they asked him. Then the king ordered him to be tortured till he should speak, and they set him in the midst between two fires, and eight nights he sat there. Geirrod's son, who was ten years old, and named Agnar after the king's brother, went up to Grimnir and gave him to drink out of a brimming horn, saying that the king had done ill thus to torture him without cause ; and Grimnir drank. At length, when the fire had waxed so nigh that his mantle burned upon him, he spake:


1. Fierce art thou, fire ! and far too great ;

flame, get thee further away !

my cloak is scorched though I hold it high ;

my mantle burns before me.


2. Eight nights have I sat betwixt the fires,

while no man offered me food,

save only Agnar, the son of Geirrod,

who alone shall rule the realm.[2]


3. Blest be thou, Agnar the God of all beings

shall call a blessing upon thee :

for one such draught thou shalt never more

so fair a guerdon win.


(The Twelve Homes of the Gods.)


4. Holy is the land which yonder lies

near the world of gods and elves :

in the Home of Strength shall the Thunderer dwell,

even till the Powers perish.


5. Yew-dale is called the realm where Ull

hath set him a hall on high ;

and Elf-home that which the gods gave Frey

as tooth-fee in days of yore.[3]


6. A third home is there whose hall is thatched

with silver by blessed Powers ;

Vala-shelf that seat is named,

which was founded in former days.


7. The fourth is Falling-brook;[4] there, for ever,

the chill waves are rushing over ;

while day by day drink Odin and Saga,

glad-hearted, from golden cups.



8. The fifth is called Glad-home, and gold-bright Valholl,

spacious, lies in its midst :

there Odin[5] shall choose his own each day

of the warriors fallen in war.


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.


10. 'Tis easily known by all who come

to visit Odin's folk;

there hangs a wolf 'fore the western door,

and an eagle hovers over.


11. The sixth is Sound-home, where Thiazi bode,

that fearful Jotun of yore;[6]

now Skadi dwells, fair bride of gods,

in her father's former home.


12. The seventh is Broad-gleam; there hath Baldr

set him a hall on high,

away in the land where I ween are found

the fewest tokens of ill.


13. The eighth is Heaven-hill; world-bright Heimdal

rules o'er its holy fanes :

in that peaceful hall the watchman of gods

glad-hearted the good mead quaffs.


14. The ninth is Folk-field; Freyja rules there

choice of seats in the hall:

one half the dead she chooses each day

but half the War-father owns.[7]


15. The tenth is Glistener pillared with gold,

and eke with silver roofed ;

there Forseti dwells nigh the long day through,

the Judge, and soothes all strife.


16. The eleventh is Noatun; Njörd in that haven[8]

hath built him a hall by the sea ;

a prince of men, ever faultless found,

he holds the high built fanes.


17. With brushwood grows, and with grasses high,

Wood-home, Vidar's land;[9]

from his steed that son of Odin shall show him

strong to avenge his sire.


 (The Sky-road to Valholl.)


18. (21)[10] The Thunder-flood[11] roars, while sports

the fish of the mighty Wolf[12] therein ;

o'erwhelming seems the flow of that stream

for the host of slain to wade.


19. (23) Halls five hundred and forty more

hath the Lightning-abode in its bendings,

of all the high roofed houses I know,

highest is that of the Thunderer.




20. (22) Death-barrier stands, the sacred gate,

on the plain 'fore the sacred doors ;

old is the lattice and few have learned

how it is closed on the latch.


21. (24) Doors five hundred, and forty more

I ween may be found in Valholl;

and eight hundred Chosen pass through each one

when they fare to fight with the Wolf.[13]


22. (18) There Sooty-face boils in Sooty-flame

the boar called Sooty-black ;

'tis the best of fare, which few have heard

is the chosen warriors' food.


23. (19)[14] Glorying, the battle-wont Father of Hosts

feeds Ravener and Greed, his wolves ;

but on wine alone ever Odin lives,

the Weapon-famed god of war.


24. (20) Ravens, Hugin and Munin, of Thought and Memory

wing the wide world each day :

I tremble for Thought, lest he come not again,

yet for Memory more I fear.


(The Waters of the World.)


25. Sky-bright o'er Valholl stands, the goat,

who gnaws the Shelterer's boughs ;

she fills a bowl with the shining mead :

'Tis a draught which runs not dry.


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.


27, 28. — Interpolations B, Mh, S, J. The names contained in these strophes do not all bear interpretation and seem to belong to existing, not mythical, rivers, some of which were to be found in Britain.


29. Kormt and Ormt and the Bath-tubs twain,

these must the Thunderer wade,

when he fares each day to his throne of doom

under Yggdrasil's ash ;

thence Bifrost burns, the bridge of the gods,

and the mighty waters well.


30. Glad One, Goldy, Gleamer, Race-giant,

Silvery-lock and Sinewy,

Shiner, Pale-hoof, Gold-lock, Lightfoot,

these are the steeds which the gods ride,

when they fare each day to their thrones of doom

under Yggdrasil's ash.


(The World Tree's torments.)


31. There are three roots stretching three divers ways

from under Yggdrasil's ash:[15]

'neath the first dwells Hel, 'neath the second Frost giants,

and human kind[16] 'neath the third.


31A. An eagle sits in the boughs of the ash,

knowing much of many things;

and a hawk is perched, Storm-pale, aloft

betwixt that eagle’s eyes.[17]


32. Ratatosk is the squirrel with gnawing tooth

which runs in Yggdrasil's ash :

he bears the eagle's words from above

and to Fierce-stinger tells below.


33. There are four harts too, who with heads thrown back

gnaw the topmost boughs of the tree :

Dainn the Dead One. Dvalin the Dallier,

Duneyr and Dyrathror.


34. More serpents lie under Yggdrasil's ash

than a witless fool would ween

Coin and Moin, the offspring of Grave-monster,

Grey-back and Grave-haunting worm,

Weaver and Soother, I ween they must ever

rend the twigs of the tree.


35. Yggdrasil's ash suffers anguish more

than mortal has ever known,

on high gnaw harts, it rots at the side,

and Fierce-stinger[18] rends it beneath.


(Then cries he from the fire-torment.)


36. Would that Hrist and Mist would bear me a horn!

my Valkyries,[19] Axe and Spear-point,

Bond and War-fetter, Battle and Might,

Shrieker and Spear-fierce in strife ;

Shield-fierce, Counsel-fierce, Strength-maiden all

who bear ale to the Chosen in War.


(Sun and Earth.)


37. Early-woke, All-fleet, hence must these horses

wearily draw up the sun,

but under their withers the gods, gracious Powers,

an iron-coolness have hid.


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.


39. Skoll is the wolf called who hunts the bright sun-goddess

even to the Sheltering grove ;

a second fares, Moon-hater, offspring of Fenrir

in front of that fair bride of heaven.[20]


40. From the flesh of Ymir[21] the world was formed,

from his blood the billows of the sea,

the hills from his bones, the trees from his hair,

the sphere of heaven from his skull.


41. (40)[22] Out of his brows the blithe Powers made

Midgarth[23] for sons of men,

and out of his brains were the angry clouds

all shaped above in the sky.


(The Kettle is taken off the fire in Geirrod's hall.)


42. (41) The favour of Ull and of all the Powers

to him touching first the fire !

For gods can enter the homes of men

when the kettle is raised from the hearth. [24]


(The Treasures of the World.)


43. (42) Went the Wielder's sons[25] of old to build

Skidbladnir the wooden bladed,

best of all ships, for the bright god Prey,

ever bountiful son of Niord.


44. (43) Yggdrasil's ash, 'tis the best of trees,

but Skidbladnir[26] of ships,

Odin of gods, Sleipnir of steeds,

Bifrost of bridges, Bragi of skalds,

Habrok of hawks and Garm of hounds.



(Grimnir reveals himself as Odin.)


45. (44) Now my face have I shown to the war-god's sons,

therewith shall help awake,

and the gods shall gather, all glad, to the bench

in Aegir's feasting hall. [27]


46. (50) Dulled with ale art thou, Geirrod, too much hast thou drunk,

of great treasure art thou deprived,

bereft of my help, and of all chosen warriors,

even the favour of Odin.[28]


47. (51) Much have I told thee, but little thou mindest,

by tricks thou hast been betrayed :

ere long shall I see thy sword, good friend,

lying all bathed in blood.


48. (52) Thy days are run out, the Dread War-father owns

him who is slain by the sword :

the spirits are hostile, behold now! 'tis Odin ;

more nigh shalt thou come if thou canst.


(He makes known his names.)


49. They have called me Hood- winker, called me Wanderer,

Helm-bearer, Lord of the Host,

Well-comer, Third Highest, Wave, and Slender,

High One, Dazzler of Hel.


50. They have called me Soothsayer, True and Fickle,

On-driver, Eager in War,

Flashing-eyed, Flaming-eyed, Bale-worker, Shape-shifter,

Veiled One, Masked One, Wile-wise and Much-wise,

Broad-hat, Long-beard, War-father, On-thruster,

All-father, Death-father, On-rider, Freight-wafter

ne'er was I called by one name alone

since I passed through the people of men.



51. (48) They called me Grimnir, the Masked one, at Geirrod's,

Jalk was I named at Osmund's,

Keeler once, when I drew the sledge,

Thror in council, in strife the Stormer,[29]

Wish-giver, Wind-roar, Tree-rocker,[30] Equal-ranked,

Grey-beard and Wizard of gods.


52. (49) They called me Sage and Wise when I duped

the old Jotun[31] who dwells 'neath the earth,

and slew single-handed the glorious son

of that monster who owned the Mead.


53. (53) They call me now Odin, but erewhile the Dread One,

Thund was I called before that,

Watcher and Shaker, Wafter and Counsellor,

Maker and Jalk among gods,

   (54) Weaver and Soother, names which I deem

come all from Myself alone.


King Geirrod was sitting by with a half-drawn sword across his knees. When he knew that Odin was there, he rose up desiring to remove the god from the fire. But as he did so the sword slipped out of his hand point upwards, while losing his feet he fell forward upon it, and was pierced through and slain. Then Odin vanished, and Agnar was left to rule long time as king.

[1] King Hraudung.— Much finds the historical sources of this legend in Hervarasaga and the story of Heidrik (Z.f.d.a 46, p. 309).

[2] Rule the realm or land of the Goths, a name used in a general sense for warriors or a nation.

[3] Frey, Elf-home, see Introd. to Skm. and Ls. st. 43. Tooth fee, gift to a child at teething.

[4] ' Falling-brook V : Sokkvabekkr has usually been rendered Sinking-bench; Detter suggests the above.

[5] . Odin, here called Hropt : See Introd.

[6] Thiazi, Skadi, see Ls. st. 50 and Introd. Jötun or giant; J in Icelandic is pronounced like Y ; so also Freyja, Njörd.

[7] Freyja seems here to stand for Frigg,wife of Odin, who shared the slain with him.

[8] Njörd in that haven; the suggested meaning for Noatun is "Ship-haven," see Fragments from Sn.E, and Saga-book, v., 797, 192.

[9] Vidar, see Vm. st. 53 : Vsp. st. 54

[10] The rearrangement of strophes, which is not an attempt at restoration, but made for the sake of clearness, is indicated by figures in parenthesis corresponding to the strophe numbering of R.

[11] Thunder-flood. The river name Thund may thus be connected with Icl. þunor by the suffix þ (V), or, meaning Swollen, with Icl.  þindan (B).

[12] The fish of the mighty Wolf is according to G. the sun, or prey of the wolf of darkness, st. 39 : she shines in the heavens till swallowed by Fenrir ; see Vm. 46. Cf. Dt. Hl. who translate the Wolfs flood or stream which flowed from his jaws, and connect the passage with the storming of Asgarth by the Wanes mentioned in Vsp. 24.

[13] See Vsp. st. 43.

[14] Wolves, ravens : these particulars are taken from Sn.E., who had evidently other sources than Grm. for his description.

[15] Yggdrasil's ash, the World Tree; see Vsp. st. 2, 19; Hav. st. 137.

[16] Human kind. These are the dead folk whose dwelling is in the underworld (see Vsp. st. 52), not, as Snorri suggests, the living. We are repeatedly told that Yggdrasil springs from under the earth. (Dt. HI.) Hel, see Bdr. st.1

[17] — Not found in the MSS, but reconstructed from the prose of Sn.E by G.S.Mk, Mh.

[18] Fierce-stinger, the dragon of the underworld ; set Vsp. st. 39.

[19] Valkyries, or war maidens of Odin ; see Vsp. st. 31.

[20]  Skoll, Moon-hater, wolves of darkness ; see Vsp. st. 40. Fenrir, the great Wolf who swallows Odin ; see Vsp. st. 53.

[21] Ymir, a Jotun, the first born of beings ; see Vm. st. 21, 29.

[22] 40, 41. One strophe R.

[23] Midgarth : In Old English poems also the earth is called Middle-garth.

[24]  So understood by the Copenhagen edition (1848). When the kettle is taken off the gods can see Odin through the roof opening, come to his rescue, and then hold a triumphal feast ; see st. 45 (G. J. L.). Dt. HI. explain it in connection with the strophe -following. The house was set open to guests at meal-time, and he who thus first invited a god and kindled the friendly hearth fire was regarded as one of the benefactors of the race.

[25] The Wielder's sons are rival forgers of the Sparkler's race; see Vsp. st. 37.

[26] Skidbladnir, see Saga-book, iv., 192, 193.

[27] Aegir's feasting hall, see Ls.

[28]This strophe as the alliteration shows, in in fornyrþislag, but imperfect; H.G.S.

[29] —Viþurr at vígum A, not found in R.

[30] Tree-rocker, Odin as Wind god. Another meaning suggested for Biflindi is Shield-shaker.

[31] The old Jötun, Suttung, who owned the Song-mead; see Hav. St. 102.