Hrafnagaldur Óðins
eða Forspallsljóð

Odin's Raven-Magic


Hrafnagaldur Oðins is transmitted in a single version contained in at least thirty-seven copies, now housed in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain, Germany and the United States. All manuscripts that contain the poem include the subtitle Forspjallsljóð ("Preface-song"). Of these, only five are considered to have independent textual value. All other manuscripts of Hrafnagaldur Óðins are ultimately derived from these five, known respectively as A, B, C, D, and E. There are only minor variations among them. The earliest manuscripts, known as A and B, date from the second half of the 17th century. The number and ordering of stanzas is the same in all manuscripts, except for a probable scribal error in E effecting verses 21 and 25. According to an analysis of the best manuscripts, the various copies all derive from a single archetype known as X, (Lassen, 2011).  This is consistent with the first modern reference to the poem in 1729— Arni Magnuson's recollection that this poem was preserved on a single leaf, from which all later copies were made (see below).

Since it is not transmitted in other than paper manuscripts, the poem is usually considered a late work, possibly a post-medieval imitation of an Eddic poem, akin to Gunnarsslagr, composed by Gunnar Pálsson around 1745. But unlike Gunnarsslagr whose true authorship was known despite some arguing for its inclusion in the Poetic Edda based on its clarity, Hrafnagaldur Óðins speaks of an otherwise unknown mythic event and the text of the poem is inexplicably cryptic and most probably corrupt in places. No one has ever claimed authorship of this poem.  If the poem is a late imitation, ironically, even Gunnar Pálson, the author of Gunnarslagr, believed it to be medieval.

In none of the manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries is the poem written in contemporary neo-Gothic italics, even in manuscripts where this script is dominant, indicating that the scribes of that time felt that the poem was ancient or at least that it should be treated as such. The poem was already considered old in the later part of the 17th century, when Erik Halson (d. 1699), famously studied the poem for 10 years before throwing it aside, confessing he learned little or nothing of it. Therefore it must have been composed sometime prior to that. His is an oft-told tale to illustrate the obscurity of this poem. A scholar such as Erik Halson would not have wasted a decade in study had he not believed the poem was authentic. Today, those who support its antiquity argue that the presense of a handful of word-forms not attested to until after 1300, and the possible presense of a Greek proverb in st. 22, may be due to the poem having been copied from a poorly preserved manuscript. In this event, a scribe working in the 1600s may have mended illegible passages, introducing later forms. 

Árni Magnússon made the first modern reference to this poem in a letter dated June 18, 1729 to Jón Halldórsson, Dean of Hítardalur, raising the spectre that Hrafnagaldur Óðins may have once existed in a vellum manuscript now lost in the Great Fire in Copenhagen of 1728. The fire destroyed a large part of Arni's library, including as many as 15 bound manuscripts of Eddic poetry [Bugge (eds.) 1965 [1867], xlviii]. After a career of collecting and copying Icelandic manuscripts under the ægis of the Danish crown, Arni literally escaped the fire with as many books and manuscripts of eddas and sagas as he could carry in a horsedrawn wagon.  Among these are the most important manuscripts available for study today. The extent of the loss is unknown since Arni did not catalogue his sizeable collection. Although estimates vary, it has been said that he was able to rescue as little as one-fifth of his library. Regardless of the exact figure, the loss was devastating and Arni died a broken man in 1731.

Following the conflagration, Arni desperately tried to regather a semblence of what he had lost.  Attempting to find copies of the eddic poems  which he no longer possessed copies of, Arni writes to Jón Halldórsson:

Ég hafðe (sem brann) bref Sal. Sra Olafs (Skolameistara ockar) ahrærande eina af þessum odis (mig minnir Hrafnaga. Odins) ad Mag. Brýniolfur hafe þá qvidu uppskrifa láteð epter gömlu saurugu einstaka blade, og minnir mig þar stæde, ad þar aftan vid hefde vantad, og eins kynne um fleira gengid vera. Þetta verður svo sem allt i þoku, því documentin eru burtu,'
"I had (which burned) holy Rev. Ólafur's (our principal's) letter regarding one of these odes (I believe Hrafnagaldur Odins) a song that Magister Brynjólfur had allowed to be copied from one old, dirty leaf, and as I recall, he said that there was something missing at the end, and that it may have occurred in the same manner. This is all as if in a fog, the documents are gone."
  Although Arni wasn't quite sure if the poem he recalls was Hrafnagaldur Óðins, the few facts found in the letter correspond to the existing manuscripts. Like other eddic manuscripts, Hrafnagaldur Óðins was probably once written out as prose, without division into lines and stanzas. An analysis of the best manuscripts suggests that this was the case. The length of the poem makes it possible for it to have been contained on a single sheet, front and back (Lassen 2011).  Arni Magnusson also had a reputation for having an excellent memory, so even if he wasn't sure, we have reason to believe his memory was correct. A vellum manuscript would prove the poem authentic, but since the earliest copy of the poem dates from 1687 and is written on paper, the point remains debatable. Most recently, Annette Lassen has argued that the poem was composed by a scribe or student at Skálholt sometime after the discovery of the Codex Regius manuscript there in 1643. In her opinion, this accounts for the 'borrowed' words and phrases from other Eddic poems, not found in Snorri's Edda, a major source of inspiration for Hrafnagaldur Óðins, according to her argument. In Lassen's estimation "The poem should not be considered a falsification, rather it should be seen as an expression of an antiquarian interest in the ancient eddic art," (ibid, p. 26).

Poetic, linguistic and stylistic arguments have been made both for and against Hrafnagaldur Óðins being an authentic Eddic poem. The major arguments and translations of the poem can be found in their original languages HERE. The most influencial of these is that of Sophus Bugge in 1867 who declared the poem a later forgery and proposed that it no longer be included in editions of the Poetic Edda. His proposal was ultimately adopted and throughout the 20th century  there was little scholarly investigation into Hrafnagaldur Odins. It was not until the dawn of the 21st century that scholarly interest was rekindled by Jónas Kristjanson, former head of the Arni Magnusson Institute in Iceland, with an article proclaiming the poem's authencity in 2002.
  Despite any textual difficulties, the action of Hrafnagaldur Óðins is relatively easy to comprehend, as this synopsis of the poem from the mid-19th century demonstrates.

From "The Odin Religion" in Westminister Review, Vol. 62, 1854:

"The elder Edda (Hrafna-galldr Odhins) tells of strange presentiments arising in Asgard; mystic words are uttered, dreams are dreamed; strength is waning, the sky lowering, the currents of the air are disturbed; the wisdom of the wise is confounded.
'Know ye what that signifies?' asks the Seer: Iduna has dropped from the heights of Yggdrasil, lies down below, hidden in dark places. With sadness, she bears her changed condition, accustomed to so bright an existence before.—The gods, upon hearing this, send her a wolf-skin for a covering, whereby she is cheered a little, not much. But Odin, seeing farther than others, and much disturbed in his mind, sends messengers to her to ask her several things. Heimdal and Loki, and Bragi the poet, who is Iduna's husband, or lover, and would naturally wish to join the exploring party,—these three go. Odin looks on from his high-seat.
They find poor Iduna sitting silent, as if sleep-benumbed; vainly concealed tears drop from 'the mirrors of her head,' moistening her hands. No use asking her questions, urging for answers: she sits speechless, tongue-tied, utterly wretched. No answers to Odin's questions are to be had.
Faithful Bragi remains below, to watch over Iduna in her desolate loneliness; the other two rejoin the assembled gods: "Hail to the Asen! may Odin live for ever, and the gods be prosperous! but solution we bring none, Iduna weeps, and speaks not!" The gods are troubled; but night approaches,—'Tis good t'obey the night; so they resolve to sleep over it; and 'may the morrow bring new council!'

That neatly summarizes the action of the poem. And it is also the most common interpretation of the poem, as well as a valid surface reading.  Finnur Magnuson also provides an excellent summary of the action of Hrafnagaldur Óðins, which closely mirrors the one above.

Still, there are other ways to understand this poem, depending on how one reads and interprets key phrases.  Here is a more detailed synopisis of the poem, exposing these points of contention.

1-8 As the poem opens, wights have confounded the weather, and a deadly cold begins to envelop the world. Urd is called to protect Óðhrerir, the well of poetic inspiration. Nature itself is threatened as the conditions worsen. The goddess Idunn has fallen (like an apple) from the world-tree into the cold, dark underworld. Unhappy in her new home, beings designated as 'sigtívar' (victory-gods) provide her a wolf-skin. Afterwards, Idunn takes on the appearance and demeanor of a wolf.

9-13 Faced with such a crisis, Odin sends three messengers down to a goddess in the underworld to ask about the fate of the world. He selects Heimdall, Loki and Bragi. Odin listens in Hlidskalf as they make the journey. When they arrive in the underworld, they cannot compel the goddess found there to speak. Tears are her only response. She is not identified by name.

14-22 Heimdall and Loki return to Asgard. Bragi stays behind. The gods are holding a feast when Heimdall and Loki enter. Heimdall informs the gods regarding the failed mission and Loki informs the goddesses. A feast ensues. At last, the merriment ends, and Odin bids everyone sleep for "night renews counsel".

23-26 The sun rises. The spirits of darkness are driven to their beds. Day blazes across the sky. Heimdall blows the Gjallar horn.

The poem ends.

Idunn Fallen from Yggdrasil
in Frederik Sanders' Edda Sämund den vises
Artist Unknown

Idunn Fallen from the World-Tree
in Hans von Wolzogen's Die Edda: Germanische Götter- und Heldensagen
Illustrated by Franz Stassen

Questions of interpretation rise at a few critical points in the poem:

Named in st. 6, Idunn is said to have fallen from the world-tree (st. 6-7). The imagery here clearly invokes fruit falling from a tree. Presumably Idunn has taken her golden apples which are the 'Æsir's remedy against old-age' with her. The myth knows only one other time Idunn was absent from Asgard— that is when she was stolen by the giant Thjazi, with Loki's help. She now resides in a dark, cold realm, quite unlike the warm, luminiscent abodes she was used to back home. 

st. 8.  Certain sigtívar, "victory-gods" are said to give Iðunn a wolf-skin. Once she dons it, she "changes her character, delights in guile." Clearly, she has taken on the form and nature of a wolf, while living in this winter-cold land. This shape-shifting ability is given to her by sig-tivar, "victory-gods."  While most commentators assume that the Æsir are meant here, the term sigtivar in eddic poetry refers to both the Æsir and the elves, particularly the Nibelungs. We cannot rule out the possibility that by sigtívar, elves are meant since Idunn is identified as the daughter of Ivaldi in stanza 6. Thus she is a sister to the famous Sons of Ivaldi, the "dark-elves" who made Odin's spear Gungnir and Frey's ship Skidbladnir.

st. 9 Odin sends three messengers down to the underworld to inquire of a woman there, designated as the "doorpost of Gjöll's Sunna" [i.e. tree of gold, a 'woman'], what she knows of "the origin, duration, and end of heaven, of hel, of the world," (st 11).  The woman is not named.  She is most often identified as Idunn. However, this woman has also been identified with Urd, the goddess of fate, named in stanza 2; and Hela, goddess of death.

st. 10 While "sigtívar" give Idunn a wolf-skin, "Rögnir and regin" are said to ride on gands (wolves, rods) and chant galdur "against the house of the world", as Odin listens in Hlidskjalf. While "Rögnir and regin" are most often interpreted as gods, their actions here appear to be hostile, and more like those of the gods' enemies, the giants.  The wolf theme is continued.  Outlaws are known as vargr, wolves. Since Idunn has taken on the form of a wolf, we suspect some sexual inuendo in the term 'riða gandar' (riding wolves). The word gandr also refers to a magic object, implying that they are witches.

The phrase Rögnir og regin is commonly taken to mean "Odin (Rögnir) and the gods", and thus refer to the Æsir, but this is debatable since Odin is said to listen in Hlidskjalf as they leave. Obviously, he cannot be in two places at once. So the phrase Rögnir og regin has also been interpreted as "God and the gods" and said to refer to the three divine messengers: Heimdall, Loki and Bragi on their way to the underworld. Thus, Odin listens in Hlidskjalf.

In the poem Haustlöng, the names Rögnir and regin are  used as the base of kennings for the giant Thjazi who kidnaps Idunn. In the Eddas, the giant Thjazi is known as the son of Allvaldi or Ölvaldi. Upon his death, the gods honor him by making stars of his eyes, and allowing his daughter Skadi to marry into the family of gods. This is extraordinary compensation for the death of a giant, and a hostile giantess seeking revenge. It is unique in all the mythology.

In Hrafnagaldur Óðins, Idunn is the daughter of Ivaldi. Ivaldi's sons are famous smiths who forge treasures for the gods. They are the Sons of Ivaldi. Snorri calls them dwarves or "dark-elves", dökkalfar, a term which reappears in st. 25. In Völuspá, regin is used as a collective term for the creating gods and primeval smiths. Might this "Rögnir" and these "regin" have been friends of the gods at one time, forging treasures for them, and now have become their enemies? As elves, are they the sigtívar which clothed Idunn in a wolf-skin?

How the reader interprets the poem at these critical junctures determines his interpretation of the entire poem.

Most  commentators on this poem, have assumed that Odin sends the delegation of three to speak with Idunn in the underworld. This is the most common interpretation of the poem. Yet, the woman  they encounter in the lower world is never identfied as Idunn.

In Hrafnagaldur Óðins 6-7, Idunn is said to 'fall down' from the world-tree. She is unhappy in her new abode, and wraps herself in wolf-skin, changing her character for the worse. In verse 9, Odin sends Heimdall, Loki and Bragi to obtain information regarding the fate of the world from a lower world goddess which the poet designates as Gjallar sunnu gátt, "the bearer of Gjöll's sun", a clever kenning for woman, "the bearer of gold." The woman is not identified, thus she need not be Idunn. In fact, if she is Idunn, then the poem makes little sense.

 Urd is a much better fit for the underworld goddess of Hrafnagaldur Óðins, whom is also called Gefjun in verse 12 and Jorunn in verse 15. In verse 11, Heimdall and his companions ask this woman,  "if she knew the origin, duration, and end, of heaven, hel and the world" (ihlýrnis heljar heims ef vissi ártíð æfi aldurtila.)  Thus, this woman must have extensive knowledge of the past, present and the future. In our mythology, only Urd fulfills that role. Thus, if this theory is correct, it is not Idunn whom Odin's envoys visit in the underworld, but rather Urd, the goddess of fate and death. Based on a close examination of the cosmological statements in the Eddic poems (see link), Urd's well is best placed in Hel near the southern root of the world-tree.

 In this illustration by Lorenz Frölich, Heimdall, Loki and Bragi approach Idunn in the underworld, but are unable to get her to speak. It appears that the eagle Thjazi is perched above. [The eagle also might symbolize Odin, who listens in his throne Hlidskjalf at the apex of the tree.]

Heimdall, Loki and Bragi plead with Idunn in the Underworld
from Karl Gjellerup's Den Ældre Edda
Illustrated by Lorenz Frölich
  According to this interpretation, Idunn is the "doorpost of Gjöll's sun" (st. 9) and the "server of drinks" (st. 11). In st. 16, Bragi ("Grimnir's poet") is said to stay behind and guard the grund, "ground". Since Bragi is also Idunn's husband, the word grund has been interpreted as a so-called half-kenning for woman, since grund often appears as a base in kennings for women [Lassen, 2011]. Thus, Bragi stays behind with his wife Idunn as the other two gods return to Asgard.

In a competing theory, the woman that the trio of messengers approach in the underworld is Urd, who is named in stanza 2, or alternately Hela, the goddess of death. In the illustration below, Heimdall pleas with Hela, the goddess of death, indicated by a skull at her feet and a snake in her hand, for the release of the goddess Idunn, seen seated on a dias in the background, holding her basket of apples.  This illustration represents a much different interpretation of the action of Hrafnagaldur Óðins than the Frølich drawing above.

Heimdall pleads with Hela for the return of Idunn
from Wilhelm Wagner's Unzre Vörzeit

Illustration by Emil Doepler
  Thus the goddess that the three messengers seek in the Underworld can be interpreted either as Idunn or as Urd. Scholars have historically supported both views. However, if Idunn is the goddess, the poem makes little sense. If this goddess is Urd, the poem can be corrolated with other eddic material concerning Idunn and her time away from Asgard. That this goddess is Urd should come as no surprise, since Urd is mentioned first in the poem. Thus, the poet has provided a powerful clue to her identity. In the second verse, Urd is appointed the keeper of Mimir's well, to protect it against the cold conjured by evil beings.  
2.1  Ætlun æsir  The Æsir suspected
2.2  illa gátu,  an evil scheme;
2.3  veður villtu  wights confounded
2.4  vættar rúnum;  the weather with magic;
2.5  Óðhræris skyldi  Urð was appointed
2.6  Urður geyma,  Óðhrærir's keeper,
2.7  máttk at verja  powerful to protect it
2.8  mestum þorra.  from the mightiest winter.


Wights have confounded the weather with magic runes. These evil beings cause a devastating winter (Fimbulvetur) which threatens all life on earth. Urd must intervene.

Gunnar Pálsson suggested a slight emendation here to solve the syntactical impossibility of the verse as written: Óðhrærir —Urðar to Óðhræris — Urður. Many translations have adopted this reading— Urður is called in to protect Óðhrærir, the well of wisdom. Mimir himself is powerless to protect it (st. 5). Called here by her proper name, Urd will be referred to later in the poem by a variety of paraphrases.

According to Old Norse Cosmology derived from passages in the Poetic Edda, the three Wells, which nourish the world-tree, are situated in the Underworld: Hvergelmir (cold) in the North, Mímisbrunnur (Óðhrærir) in the Middle, Urðarbrunnur (hot) in the South. Using sorcery, the enemies of the gods ("wights") send forth (from the north) an icy winter, confounding the weather ("veður villtu vættar rúnum"). The Fimbulvetur ("mestur Þorri") creeps southward, and the Æsir realize the threat ("ætlun Æsir illa gátu"). As soon as the freezing cold reaches Mímisbrunnur (in the middle), it becomes apparent that even Mímir cannot protect his own well. Should the Central Well of Creative Power freeze over, all of creation will be in danger. Urður must be summoned. She is the guardian of the Well of Heat in the South (Urðarbrunnur), and she alone commands the power to generate the heat required to keep Mímisbrunnur from freezing over. Urd and her sisters lave the tree with mud from their well everyday, keeping it healthy. Swans are said to swim in these waters. All that touches this liquid turns as white as the inner lining of an eggshell, making the tree transparent to the naked eye.

Óðinn (Viðrir) decides that the situation calls for messengers to be sent into the Underworld, in order to seek news from a certain wise woman. He choses three messengers: Heimdall, as the leader, and Bragi and Loki as his companions. The woman to which they are sent is never identified by name. She is called 'Gjallar sunnu gátt' ['the doorpost of Gjöll's Sun (gold)'] in stanza 9, 'veiga selja'['Server of drinks'] in stanza 11, both kennings for "woman"; Gefjun in stanza 12, Jórunn in stanza 15, sprund in stanza 20, svanni in stanza 21.

Gjallar sunnu gátt, "the doorpost of Gjöll's sunna": A kenning for "woman". Gjöll's sun is, of course, gold. (Gold was commonly designated as "fire of the river/sea/ocean"). Thus the poet's choice of the individual parts of this kenning seems to invoke images of Urður, her purpose, and her position in the world picture. The bearer of gold is a woman. The woman in question must be Urður (see stanza 2). She alone could hold the knowledge needed (stanza 11). She is, indeed, identical with the great Völva of Völuspá, whose memory reaches back to the beginning of time, and who has foreknowledge of Ragnarök. The terms used in the kenning seem to be intentionally chosen. Gjöll is an underworld river, over which the dead must cross. Sunna, of course, is the sun, a source of heat, like Urður's well in the south of the underworld. It must be mentioned that most commentators take the woman to be Iðunn. Since we know that Iðunn has been transformed into a wolf, and has changed her inner nature, "delighting in guile", she would certainly be an unlikely target for the three messengers.

11.2 veiga selja, "the server of drinks". A common circumlocution for "woman". Here the woman is Urður, who was named in stanza 2, and referred to as "Gjallar sunnu gátt" in stanza 9. Urð is the server of a particularly potent mead, i.e. the powerful liquid from her well, called "Urðar megin" in Guðrúnarkviða in forna 21. Swans swim upon these waters, and are, indeed, born from it (Gylfaginning 16). The consistent associations with heat (see stanza 2) and brightness are not surprising, since Urð's well is situated in the south of the Underworld (Skaldskaparmál 65).

5.-8. hlýrnis, heljar, heims ... ártíð, æfi, aldurtila. Space and Time are perfectly encapsulated in six words. The Heavens, the Underworld, and Miðgarður mid-way between the two, succinctly encompass the material universe. The beginning, life-time, and end, add the temporal dimension. For an extremely suggestive parallel, see commentary to stanza 12, line 3 (Gefjun).

12. 6 The skull's shields are the eyes. A normal kenning.

7.-8. eljunfaldin / endurrjóða. These two words are extremely difficult. Our translation should be taken as an attempt to give an approximate meaning. Eljunfaldin would seem to mean "power-hooded", "power-crowned". Urð is a powerful lady (the creator of destiny), so this seems quite possible. Endurrjóða is a rare, local word in the language, meaning "astonished; at a loss; powerless". The implication may be that she, who has the greatest power, the power of shaping the destiny of all living creatures, is now powerless. Some of these living creatures have violently changed their destinies. Urður can see the future, and what she sees is Ragnarök, the destruction of the world. Her poignant sorrow forces her to be silent, but her tears say more than words can express.

  Idunn and Ivaldi's Sons  

2.2. Wights confound the weather with runes. We are not told who these supernatural beings are, but there seems to be some noticeable confusion about the role of the gods in this poem. Words  normally used to designate "gods" are equated with actions associated with witches, giants and other enemies of Asgard. 

Beings known as Rögnir and Reginn (see stanza 10) cause the devastating winter (Fimbulvetur). They ride on wolves, chant galdur "against the world". They give Idunn a wolfskin. She changes her nature, delights in guile.

Rögnir is usually interpreted as a name of Odin, and regin as a general term for "gods" as in Völuspá. However, based on what this poem says of them, Rögnir and Reginn cannot be the Aesir. The term regin implies that they are divine beings, closely associated with the creative gods who shaped the world.

In Skaldskaparmal, the Sons of Ivaldi (called Dwarves and dark-elves) create three treasures for the gods. Loki takes these to their rivals, Brokk and Sindri, betting his head that they cannot create better works of art. Brokk and Sindri accept the challenge and create three treasures of their own as gifts to the gods. The gods, prompted by Loki, prefer the works of Sindri, which include Thor's mighty hammer Mjöllnir. The sons of Ivaldi are not present for the judgment. Their works thus must speak for themselves.

In a list of kennings found in Skáldskaparmál, golden works of art are called Thjaza thingskil, "Thjazi's testiminy before a Thing (court)." Thjazi's father is named Öl-valdil there.

In the poem Hárbardsljóð, the giant Thjazi's father is named All-valdi. The names Ölvaldi and Allvaldi appear to be variations of the name Ivaldi.

In the poem Haustlöng, Odin, Hoenir and Loki arrive in Thjazi's territory. They encounter a series of magical objects including a decoy-reindeer, a fire that won't cook, and a rod which cannot be put down. Thjazi himself appears in the form of an eagle. Thjazi singles out Loki for abuse. Sometime later, Thjazi kidnaps Idunn. He enlists Loki's help under threat of death. In exchange for his life, Loki lures Idunn out of Asgard with the promise of finding apples better than her own. She is curious and follows him. Thjazi lies in ambush.

Based on a comparison of the available information, it stands to reason that Thjazi, the son of Öl-valdi or All-valdi, is in fact, a son of I-valdi, one of the creative powers associated with the gods in the earliest days. If Hrafnagaldr Óðinns speaks of the time Idunn was away from Asgard and in Thjazi's power, then it follows that the sons of Ívaldi have become mortal enemies of the gods, and thus of all creation. Since the gods judged their work inferior to that of the dwarf Sindri, the mythology supplies a motive why the Sons of Ivaldi have turned on the gods, and why their anger is directed specifically at Loki.

Hrafnagaldr Óðinns stanza 6 informs us that Idunn is their half-sister.

6.1 Dvelur í dölum Dwells in dales
6.2 dís forvitin, the curious dís,
6.3 Yggdrasils frá from Yggdrasill's
6.4 aski hnigin; ash descended;
6.5 álfa ættar, of elven kin,
6.6 Iðunni hétu, Iðunn was her name,
6.7 Ívalds eldri youngest of Ívaldi's
6.8 yngsta barna. elder children.


The language is unusually clear. The meaning, however, is obscure. But if Rydberg's penetrating analysis is accepted, the stanza instantly acquires multiple levels of relevance.

The poem Völundarkviða concerns three elven brothers living in the Ulfdalir, Wolf-dales. There they are joined by three swan maidens. Swans weave and divine fate (Völundarkviða 2). These birds are closely associated with Urd and her sisters, who are also three in number. Like the giant Thjazi, Völund wears a feathered-guise. He is imprisoned in the underworld for a time and there plots a cruel revenge on his foes.

With all this in mind, consider Hrafnagaldr Óðinns 6:

1. Dvelur í dölum, "dwells in dales". We can take dölum as referring to the Úlfdalir (Wolfdales), the abode of the sons of Ívaldi, after they have fallen out with the gods. The Wolfdales are in the extreme North of the Underworld, i.e. in Niflhel. This place-name only occurs in Völundarkviða 5, 7, 14. A circumlocution of the name can be seen in stanza 8, vé viggjar Naumu, i.e. "home of the giantess' steed = home of the wolf".

2. forvitin. The obvious meaning "curious" is quite possible, but "prescient" is also a possibility. A passage from Skáldskaparmál 2-3 actually gives us a reason for a portrayal of Iðunn as "curious": Thjazi (who is Völund, son of Ívaldi) employs Loki to entice Iðunn away from Ásgarður. Loki tells Iðunn that he has found apples superior to hers, and tempts her to come along and bring her own apples for comparison. She is, of course, curious, and lets herself be fooled. The scheme results in her capture by Thjazi (Völund), her half-brother and lover (already an enemy of the gods, intent on their destruction), referred to in Haustlöng 6 as "dólg ballastan valla" (earth's mightiest foe). It goes without saying that if this capture of Iðunn corresponds with her "fall" from the Tree down to Niflhel (whereThjazi resides), she has taken her apples with her - a devastating blow to the well-being of the gods. As the Fimbul-winter strikes, the Æsir no longer enjoy the effects of Iðunn's apples - they start growing old. [An aspect of the "falling" imagery of the poem should be pointed out, perhaps fancifully: As an apple falls from an apple-tree, so does Iðunn, the keeper of apples, fall from the World-Tree.

5.-8. álfa ... barna. Here we are told that Iðunn is an elf. Her father is Ívaldi (which makes the sons of Ívaldi her brothers). We are also told that Ívaldi had two sets of children (obviously by two mothers), and that Iðunn is the youngest of the first set. His elder children are three elven Dísir, also known as Swan-Maidens. Their mother seems to have been Sunna, the daughter of Sól (Sun). Ívaldi's younger children are Völund and his two brothers, the Ívaldasynir. Their mother was a giantess. They are the "wights" in stanza 2, who are summoning forth the Fimbul-winter, in order to destroy both gods and men.

10. 1-4 Most commentators have interpreted the first four lines as referring to Odin's three messengers, Heimdall, Bragi and Loki, as "Rögnir og regin" as "the god and the gods". Others have attempted to read "Óðinn and the other gods" into this. Translators such as Benjamin Thorpe have expressed their uncertainly here as neither is plausible. Wolf-riding creatures howling sorcery simply cannot be gods. They must be the gods' enemies.

10.1.-2. Galdur gólu / göndum riðu. Anyone familiar with the conventions will know that these lines could never refer to gods. Gods do not chant magical songs while riding on wolves. Giants and other enemies of the gods do.

10.3.  Rögnir og regin. These names refer to Ívaldi's sons, probably also identical to Völund and his brothers. They are the ones who are magically sending the ice-cold Fimbul-winter forth towards the created universe. As enemies of the gods they may easily be referred to as "wights" (see stanza 2) or actual Giants, as implied here (Wolf-riders).

8.1. sigtívar. The literal meaning of this epithet is "victorious gods". It is, however, by no means certain that the Æsir (or Vanir) are meant here. In Fáfnismál 24, Sigurður Fáfnisbani uses the word in a way surely referring to human warriors (i.e. the Niflungar). The epithet also occurs in Atlakviða 30, but a lacuna in the manuscript makes it impossible to pinpoint the context exactly, although common sense indicates a meaning of "Niflungar" rather than "gods". Rydberg has established that the Niflungar are direct descendants of one of the sons of Ívaldi. However tenuous, this might indicate that sigtívar are, indeed, Ívaldi's sons.  Once friends of the gods, they have now severed their alliance.

We have further indication of this in the first stanza of the poem, where various creatures and their actions are listed. There the elves are said to skilja, 'discern' or 'seperate':

1.2 alfar skilja. Unlike the English word "discern", the Icelandic verb skilja basically means "separate (one thing from another)". Other meanings are "part, divorce, cut off, sever, split". This double-meaning makes sense, if the poem describes the effects of the Ívaldasynir (elves) severing their friendly relationship with the gods, becoming enemies of all creation.

For a more detailed analysis of the relationship between
Hrafnagaldur Óðins, Haustlöng and Völundarkviða
Please see
The Æsir and the Elves