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

1883 Gubrand Vigfusson and F. York Powell

Grimnis-mál or
The Sayings of  the Hooded One


 Source: Corpus Poeticum Boreale, The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue. Vol. I: Eddic Poetry.


Found complete in two sister MSS., R and A. Copious quotations and paraphrases of the same text are found in Snorri's Edda (GG), vv. 5, 6, 10-15, 19-30, 32 and Appendix vv. 1-7, 9. One verse (25) lost in our vellums is preserved there also in paraphrase. The text of Snorri had the same interpolations as ours.


The subject is celestial geography. The framework is the visit of Woden in disguise to a certain wise but cruel king, Geirrod, who, not knowing his rank, seizes his guest and binds him between the fires on the hearth to torture him, denying him food or drink. On the third day, Agnar, the king's son, takes pity on him and offers him a beaker of mead, whereupon he speaks, and after giving his treasure of old lore blesses the young man, and by the death of his father, which he brings about, endows him with the kingdom.


The text is doubly interpolated, first out of a similar poem in which Woden is speaking without disguise, which of course is quite incompatible with the plan of our story (the fragments of this poem we have eliminated and subjoined in an Appendix); the second are memorial verses of a different metre.


One verse between 1 and 2 is put in a foot-note, being epic and in different metre.


THE SCENE, Grimni (Woden in disguise) in the hall of King Geirrod, staked between two fires, without food or drink. Agnar, the King's son, hands the prisoner a goblet of wine. Then Woden breaks forth into song,


1. Grimni. —HOT thou art, flame, and far too great! Fall back from me, flame ! My fur is singed, though I hold it aloft. My fur burns on me. (Here Agnar reaches him the cup)



R here adds —Atta naetr sat ek milli elda her

sva at mer mangi mat ne baud

netna einn Agnarr, es einn skal rada

Geirroðar sonr Gotna landi ;   i.e.


I sat here eight nights between the fires, while nobody offered me morsel, save Agnar alone, who alone of Geirrod's sons shall rule the land of the Goths.



2. Woden. Hail to thee, Agnar, the God of men bids thee hail. Never for one draught shalt thou get better guerdon. (Here Woden breaks forth in song):—


3-16. A holy land I see nigh Anses and Elves. Ever in Thrudham Thor shall dwell till the fall of the Powers. Yewdales they are called where Wuldor has built him a hall; Elfham the Gods gave to Frey in olden time for a tooth-fee. There is the third mansion, which the blessed Gods thatched with silver: it is called Wale-shelf, the Anse (Thor) bought it in the olden time. Sunkbench the fourth is called, where the cold waves ever murmur above ; there Woden and the Seeress drink every day joyfully out of golden cups. Gladham the fifth is called, where the gold-bright wide Walhall towers ; there the Sage (Woden) chooses every day weapon-dead men. 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. That hall is, etc. A wolf hangs before the west door, an eagle hovers above it. Thrymham the sixth is called, where Thiazi dwelt, that foul giant ; but Skathi, the fair bride of the Gods, now dwells in her father's old home. Broad-blink is the seventh, there Balder has made him a hall; the land in which the fewest curses lie [the most blessed of lands]. Heavenhold is the eighth, where they say Heimdall rules over the fane; here the glad watchman of the Gods drinks the goodly mead in the peaceful hall. Folking is the ninth, where Freyja orders the seats in the hall: she chooses half the slain every day, but Woden the other half. Glistener is the tenth, its pillars are of gold and it is thatched with silver : here Forseti (Judge) lives every day, settling all causes. Noaton is the eleventh ; there Niord has built him a hall ; the guileless helper of men rules a high-timbered altar-place.



16. Wood, the land of Widar, is overgrown with sprouts and high grass; here the son [shall mount on] horseback to avenge his father.


17. (….one verse).


18-19. Wal-gate is the gate's name: it stands on the holy plain before the holy doors. It is an ancient gate, but few know how it is locked. Five hundred and forty doors there are to Wal-hall I ween. Eight hundred of the Chosen shall go out of each door at one time, when they go forth to fight the Beast.


20-21. Heathrun is the name of the goat that stands on the hall of the Father of Hosts and bites at the boughs of Learad (a tree). She  shall fill a vat with pure mead which shall never fail. 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. . . .


22-23. Kormth and Wormth and the two Charlocks Thor must wade every day when he goes to court at the ash Ygg's-steed, for the Anse-bridge burns all aflame, and the holy waters bellow. Gleed and Gylli, Gler and Skidbrim, Silvertop and Sini, Hostage and Fallow-hoof, Goldcrest and Lightfoot, these steeds the Anses ride every day when they go to court at the ash Ygg's-steed.


24-29. Three roots stretch three ways under the ash Ygg's-steed. Hell dwells under one, the Frost Giants under the second, mortal men under the third.[1] Rat-tusk[2] is the name of the squirrel that runs up and down the ash Ygg's-steed: he carries the Eagle's words down and tells them to the Serpent below. There are four bow-necked Harts that gnaw the [high shoots]: Dain and Dwalin, Duneyr and Durathror. More serpents lie under the ash Ygg's-steed than any foolish ape can know: Coin and Moin the sons of Grave-wolf, Greyback and Gravedigger, O. and S., I know will for ever be boring at the roots of the tree. The ash Ygg’s-steed suffers greater hardships than men know of. The hart bites its root, and its side is rotting, the Serpent crops it below.


30-32. The speedy Earlywaker and Allswift draw the Sun hence, and under their shoulders the blissful powers, the Anses, hid the cooling of iron. 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. Skulk is the name of the wolf that follows the fair-faced Goddess to ....[3] But the other is called Hastener; he is the son of the Great Beast: he has to run before the bright bride of Heaven. . . 


33. He has the favour of Wuldor and all the Gods who first touches the fire; for all worlds stand open