The Complete

Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda

Legendary Sagas of the Northland

in English Translation

King Guðmundr of Glæsisvellir
"King Gudmund of the Glittering Plains"

 Who is Guðmund of Glæsisvellir?
Guðmund of Glæsisvellir is a recurring character in the Forndaldarsögur (14th and 15th centuries). He is described as a powerful heathen king and ruler of a giant-kingdom. Since the Fornaldarsagas were composed some time after the Christian conversion, and are rife with mythical and magical information, this begs the question: Is Guðmund a creation of Christian times or is he a character already established in the old Norse imagination?  His appearance in a broad range of tales suggests the latter.

King Guðmund appears in several of the fornaldarsögur. In the legend of Helgi Thorisson, he is pitted against the Christian King Olaf Tryggvason as a representative of the new and true doctrine. King Gudmund of the Glittering Plains represents the older heathen doctrine. The author would not have done this if he had not believed that the king of the Glittering Plains had his ancestry in heathendom. In the oldest surviving tale of Guðmund, told by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus around 1200, King Gudmund is the giant Geirrod's (Geruthus') brother. His kingdom borders on Jotunheim and on the kingdom of death.
The saga of Thorsteinn Bæjarmagn places Gudmund and the Glittering Plains in a tributary relation to Jotunheim and to Geirrod, the giant, well known in the mythology. The author of Hervör's saga identifies Odainsakur, the acre of the not-dead, as a heathen belief, and gives reasons why it was believed that Odainsakur was situated within the limits of Gudmund's kingdom, the Glittering Plains. This is because Gudmund and his men grew so old that they lived several generations. Gudmund  alone lived five hundred years. Therefore the heathens believed that Odainsakur was situated in his domain. The saga of Erik Vidforli makes the way to Odainsakur pass through Syria, India, and an unknown land which lacks the light of the sun, and where the stars are visible all day long. On the other side of Odainsakur, and bordering on it, lies the land of the happy spirits, Paradise. That these last ideas have been influenced by Christianity would seem to be sufficiently clear. We find no trace of Syria, India, and Paradise as soon as we leave this saga and pass to the others, in the chain of which it forms one of the later links. All the rest agree in transferring to the uttermost North the land which must be reached before the journey can be continued to the Glittering Plains and Odainsakur. Hervör's saga says that the Glittering Plains and Odainsakur are situated north of Halogaland, in Jotunheim; Bosi's saga states that they are situated in the vicinity of Bjarmaland. The saga of Thorsteinn Bæjarmagn says that they are a kingdom subject to Geirrod in Jotunheim. Gorm's saga in Saxo says it is necessary to sail past Halogaland north to a Bjarmia ulterior in order to get to the kingdoms of Gudmund and Geirrod. The saga of Helgi Thorisson makes its hero meet the daughters of Gudmund, the ruler of the Glittering Plains, after a voyage to Finmarken. Hadding's saga in Saxo makes the Danish king pay a visit to the unknown but wintry cold land of the "Nitherians," when he is invited to make a journey to the lower world. Thus the older and common view was that he who made the attempt to visit the Glittering Plains and Odainsakur must first penetrate the regions of the uttermost North, known only by hearsay.


From Vikings in Russia by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards, 1989.

Is Gudmund and his realm an invention of Christian times or is any person found in the mythology who dwells in a similar environment and is endowed with similar attributes and qualities? These form an exceedingly rare ensemble, and can therefore be easily recognized. He is  a ruler in the lower world, and a giant. Though a giant, he is pious in a heathen sense. With these qualities are united wisdom and great wealth.  He rules a domain which winter cannot penetrate. Within that domain is an enclosed place, whose bulwark neither sickness, nor age, nor death can surmount. It is left to his pleasure to give admittance to the mysterious meadows where the mead-cisterns of the lower world are found, and where the most precious of all horns, a wonderful sword, and a splendid arm-ring are kept. Old as the hills, but yet subject to death, he is honored as a divine being. These are the features which characterize Guðmund, and should be found in his mythological prototype, if there is one.

Upon reflection, these qualities also describe Mimir, perhaps the most characteristic figure of all Germanic mythology. He is the lord of the fountain which bears his name. Odin covets its liquid, yet he has neither authority nor power over it. Neither he nor anyone else of the gods seek to get control of it, even upon Mimir's death. His authority remains unchallenged. To get a drink from it, Odin must subject himself to great sufferings and sacrifices (Völuspá 27-28; Hávamál 138-140; Gylfaginning 15), and it is as a gift or a loan that he afterwards receives from Mimir the invigorating and soul-inspiring drink (Hávamál 140-141). Over the fountain and its territory Mimir, exercises unlimited control, an authority which the gods never appear to have disputed. He has a sphere of power which the gods recognize as inviolable. The domain of his rule belongs to the lower world; it is situated under one of the roots of the world-tree (Völuspá 27-28; Gylfaginning 15), and when Odin, from the world-tree, asks for the precious mead of the fountain, he peers downward into the deep, and from there brings up the runes (nýsta eg niður, nam eg up rúnar - Hávamál 139). Saxo's account of the adventure of Hotherus (Hist., Book 3) shows that there was thought to be a descent to Mimir's land in the form of a mountain cave (specus), and that this descent was, like the one to Gudmund's domain, to be found in the uttermost North, where terrible cold reigns.With these peculiar characteristics are united wisdom and wealth.

Though a giant, Mimir is the friend of the order of the world and of the gods. He, like Urd, guards the sacred ash, the world-tree (Völuspá 28), which accordingly also bears his name and is called Mimir's tree (Mímameiður - Fjölsvinnsmál 20; meiður Míma - Fjölsvinnsmál 24). The intercourse between the Asa-father and him has been of such a nature that the expression "Mimir's friend" (Míms vinur - Sonatorrek 23; Skáldskaparmál 3, 9, Hattatal 4) - could be used by the skalds as an epithet of Odin. Of this friendship, Ynglingasaga 4 has preserved a record. It makes Mimir lose his life in his activity for the good of the gods, and makes Odin embalm his head, in order that he may always be able to get wise counsels from its lips. Sigurdrífumál 14 represents Odin as listening to the words of truth which come from Mimir's head. Völuspá 46 predicts that, when Ragnarok approaches, Odin shall converse with Mimir's head; and, according to Gylfaginning 51, he, immediately before the conflagration of the world, rides to Mimir's fountain to get advice from the deep thinker for himself and his friends. The firm friendship between All-Father and this strange giant of the lower world was formed in time's morning while Odin was still young and undeveloped (Hávamál 141), and continued until the end of the gods and the world.

Like Gudmund of Glæasisvellir, Mimir is the collector of treasures. According to mythology, the same treasures that Gorm and his men find in the land which Gudmund lets them visit are in the care of Mimir: the wonderful horn (Völuspá 27), the sword of victory, and the ring (Saxo, Hist., Book 3). In all these points, the Gudmund of the medieval sagas and Mimir of the mythology are one. There still remains an important point. In Gudmund's domain, there is a splendid grove, an enclosed place, from which weaknesses, age, and death are banished - a Paradise of the peculiar kind, that it is not intended for the souls of the dead, but for certain lifandi menn (living men), yet inaccessible to people in general. In the myth concerning Mimir, we also find such a grove. Speaking of the world that shall arise after Ragnarök, Vafþrúðnismál 45 states that the human beings,

Líf og Leifþrasir,

en þau leynast munu

í holti Hoddmímis.


þau sér að mat hafa,

en þaðan af aldir alast.

Lif and Leifthrasir

are concealed

in Hodd-Mimir's grove.

Morning dews

they will have for nourishment,

From them are born (new) races.

Lif and Leifthrasir must have had their secure place of refuge in Mimir's grove during the fimbul-winter, which precedes Ragnarok. And, accordingly, the idea that they were there only during Ragnarok is unfounded. They continue to remain there while the winter rages, and during all the episodes which characterize the progress of the world towards ruin, and, finally, also, as Gylfaginning reports, during the conflagration and regeneration of the world. The mythology doesn't inform us how long they have been concealed there, but we gather is has been a very long time. Thus it is explained why the myth finds it of importance to inform us how Lif and Leifthrasir support themselves during their stay in Mimir's grove. It would not have occurred to the myth to present and answer this question had not the sojourn of the human pair in the grove continued for some length of time. Their food is the morning dew. 


The Germanic mythology has not looked upon the regeneration of the world as a new creation. The life which in time's morning developed out of chaos is not destroyed by Surt's flames, but rescues itself, purified, for the coming age of the world. The world-tree survives the conflagration, for it defies both edge and fire (Fjölsvinnsmál, 20, 21- fellir-at hann eldur né járn). The Ida-plains are not annihilated. After Ragnarok, as in the beginning of time, they are the scene of the assemblings of the gods (Völuspá 7- Hittust æsir á Iðavelli ; Völuspá 61- Finnast æsir á Iðavelli). Vanaheim is not affected by the destruction, for Njörd shall in aldar rök (Vafþrúðnismál 39) return there "to wise Vanir ." Odin's dwellings of victory remain, and are inhabited after the regeneration by Baldur and Hodur (Völuspá 63- Búa þeir Baldur og Höður Hropts sigtóftir). The new sun is the daughter of the old one, and was born before Ragnarok, which she passes through unscathed (Vafþrúðnismál 46-47). The ocean does not disappear in Ragnarok, for the present earth sinks beneath its surface (Völuspá 58- sígur fold í mar), and the new earth after regeneration rises from its deep (Völuspá 60 - jörð úr ægi). Gods survive (Völuspá 61, 63, 64 - æsir, Höður og Baldur, Hænir); Vafþrúðnismál 51 -Víðar og Váli, Móði og Magni; cp. Gylfaginning 53). Human beings survive, for Lif and Leifthrasir are destined to become the connecting link between the present human race and the better race which is to spring therefrom. Animals and plants survive - though the animals and plants on the surface of the earth perish; but the earth risen from the sea was decorated with green, and there is not the slightest reference to a new act of creation to produce the green vegetation. Its cascades contain living beings, and over them flies the eagle in search of his prey (Völuspá 60). A work of art from antiquity is also preserved in the new world. The game of tafl, with which the gods played in their youth while they were yet free from care, is found again amid the grass on the new earth (Völuspá 8 - Tefldu í túni; Völuspá 62 - gullnar töflur í grasi finnast).

Still the purpose of Mimir's land is not limited to being a protection for the fathers of the future world against moral and physical corruption, through this epoch of the world, and a seminary where Baldur educates them in virtue and piety. The grove protects, as we have seen, the ásmegir during Ragnarok, whose flames do not penetrate therein. Thus the grove, and the land in which it is situated, exist after the flames of Ragnarok are extinguished. Was it thought that the grove after the regeneration was to continue in the lower world and there stand uninhabited, abandoned, desolate, and without a purpose in the future existence of gods, men, and things?


The last moments of the existence of the crust of the old earth are described as a chaotic condition in which all elements are confused with each other. The sea rises, overflows the earth sinking beneath its billows, and the crests of its waves aspire to heaven itself (cp. Völuspá 58:2 - sígur fold í mar, with Völuspá in skamma 14:1-3 - Haf gengur hríðum við himin sjálfan, líður lönd yfir). The atmosphere, usurped by the sea, disappears, as it were (loft bilar - Völuspá in skamma 14:4). Its snow and winds (Völuspá in skamma 14:5-6 - snjóar og snarir vindar) are blended with water and fire, and form with them heated vapors, which "play" against the vault of heaven (Völuspá 58:7-8 - leikur hár hiti við himin sjálfan). One of the reasons why the fancy has made all the forces and elements of nature thus contend and blend was doubtless to furnish a sufficiently good cause for the dissolution and disappearance of the burnt crust of the earth. At all events, the earth is gone when the rage of the elements is subdued, and thus it is not impediment to the act of regeneration which takes its beginning beneath the waves.


This act of regeneration consists in the rising from the depths of the sea of a new earth, which on its very rising possesses living beings and is clothed in green. The fact that it, while yet below the sea, could be a home for beings which need air in order to breathe and exist, is not necessarily to be regarded as a miracle in mythology. Our ancestors only needed to have seen an air-bubble rise to the surface of the water in order to draw the conclusion that air can be found under the water without mixing with it, but with the power of pushing water away while it rises to the surface. Like the old earth , the earth rising from the sea has the necessary atmosphere around it. Under all circumstances, the seeress in Völuspá 60 sees after Ragnarok -



...upp koma

öðru sinni

jörð úr ægi

iðja græna.

…come up

a second time

earth out of the sea

iðja green.


The earth risen from the deep has mountains and cascades, which, from their fountains in the fells, hasten to the sea. The waterfalls contain fishes, and above them soars the eagle seeking its prey (Völuspá 60:5-8). The eagle cannot be a survivor of the beings of the old earth. It cannot have endured in an atmosphere full of fire and steam, nor is there any reason why the mythology should spare the eagle among all the creatures of the old earth. It is, therefore, of the same origin as the mountains, the cascades, and the imperishable vegetation which suddenly came to the surface. The earth risen from the sea also contains human beings, namely, Lif and Leifthrasir, and their offspring. Mythology did not need to have recourse to any hocus-pocus to get them there. The earth risen from the sea had been the lower world before it came out of the deep, and a paradise-region in the lower world had for centuries been the abode of Lif and Leifthrasir. It is more than unnecessary to imagine that the lower world with this Paradise was duplicated by another with a similar Paradise, and that the living creatures on the former were by some magic manipulation transferred to the latter.


Among the mountains which rise on the new earth are found those which are called Niða fjöll (Völuspá 67), Nidi's mountains. The very name Niði suggests the lower world. It means the "lower one." Among the abodes of Hades, mentioned in Völuspá, there is also a hall of gold on Nidi's plains (á Niða völlum - Völuspá 37), and from Sólarljóð (56) we learn - a statement confirmed by much older records - that Nidi is identical with Mimir. Thus, Nidi's mountains are situated on Mimir's fields. Völuspá's seeress discovers on the rejuvenated earth Nidhogg, the corpse-eating demon of the lower world, flying, with dead bodies under his wings, away from the rocks, where he from time immemorial had had his abode, and from which he carried his prey to Nastrond (Völuspá 38-39). There are no more dead bodies to be had for him, and his task is done. Völuspá's description of the regenerated earth under all circumstances shows that Nidhogg has nothing there to do but to fly thence and disappear. The existence of Nidi's mountains on the new earth confirms the fact that it is identical with Mimir's former lower world, and that Lif and Leifthrasir did not need to move from one world to another in order to get to the daylight of their final destination. Völuspá gives one more proof of this.

In their youth, free from care, the Aesir played with a wonderful tafl game. But they had it only í árdaga, in the earliest time (Völuspá 8, 61). Afterwards, they must in some way or other have lost it. The Icelandic sagas of the Middle Ages have remembered this tafl game, and there we learn, partly that its wonderful character consisted in the fact that it could itself take part in the game and move the pieces, and partly that it was preserved in the lower world, and that Gudmund-Mimir was in the habit of playing tafl (Fornaldarsögur: Saga Heiðreks konungs ins vitra ch. 6; Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks konungs ch. 5; Sörla saga sterka ch. 4; Egils saga einhenda ok Ásmundar berserkjabana chs. 12, 13, 15; In the last passages, the game is mentioned in connection with another subterranean treasure, the horn.) If, now, the mythology had no special reason for bringing the tafl game from the lower world before Ragnarok, then they naturally should be found on the risen earth, if the latter was Mimir's domain before. Völuspá 61 also relates that they were found in its grass:

Þar munu eftir


gullnar töflur

í grasi finnast.

There, once again, will

the wonderous

golden tablemen

be found in the grass.


Thus: the tafl game was refound in the grass, in the meadows of the renewed earth, having from the earliest time been preserved in Mimir's realm. Lif and Leifthrasir are found after Ragnarok on the earth of the regenerated world, having had their abode there in Mimir's domain for a long time. Nidi's mountains, and Nidhogg with them, have been raised out of the sea, together with the rejuvenated earth, since these mountains are located in Mimir's realm. The earth of the new era -- the era of virtue and bliss -- although concealed, has existed through thousands of years below the sin-stained earth, as the kernel within the shell.

Thus, when the Fornaldarsagas speak of Guðmund and his realm, they provide us additional insight into Mimir and his role in Germanic mythology:
Hervarar saga og Heiðreks  chapters 5-6 Hervor & King Heidrek
      6.  "It is said that in days of yore there was a country up north in Finnmark called Jotunheim, and to the south, between there and Halogaland, lay Ymisland.  ...Gudmund was the name of a king in Jotunheim. His home was called Grund and his land Glasisvellir. He was a great worshiper of the old gods. He was a wise and powerful man and so old—and all his men too—that they each lived many times the normal span. And because of this, heathens believe that it must be in his realm that Óðains-acre [The Acre of the Not-Dead] is to be found, that place to which anyone who comes is so healed that sickness and old age vanish from them and they cannot die. It is said that after Gudmund’s death, folk worshipped him with sacrifices and called him their god.  One day he was playing chess...."

Helga þáttr Þórissonar  chapters 1-3 Helgi's Tale
      1. Helgi had gone deeper into the woods than the others. Then a thick fog came down so that he couldn't find the ship that evening. Soon night fell too. Then Helgi saw twelve women riding from the wood. They were all in red, on red horses. They dismounted. All the trappings of the horses glittered with gold. One surpassed the others in loveliness, and they all served her, this magnificent imposing woman. Their horses went to graze. Next, they set up a beautiful tent. It was covered in different coloured stripes shot through with gold, and the points flashed with gold as the tent went up, and the pole too, as it stood up, with a big knob of gold on top.And when they were ready, they set up a table and put on it all sorts of delicacies. Then they took water to wash their hands with, using a jug in the shape of a man and basins made of silver and inlaid all over with gold. Helgi stepped closer to the tent and looked in. She who was chief of them said, “Helgi, come here and take food and drink with us.”So he does. Helgi sees that there is excellent drink and good food too and beautiful vessels. Then the table was taken down and beds prepared, and they were much more ornate than the beds of other folk. That woman, the one who was their leader, asks Helgi whether he'd rather sleep on his own, or with her. Helgi asked her name. “I am Ingibjorg, daughter of Godmund of Glasisvellir.”
Þorsteins þáttr bæjarmagns chapters 5-12 Thorstein Mansion-Might

5. Now Thorsteinn saw three well armed men riding, and so huge that he had never seen such large men before. The one who rode in the middle was the largest, in clothes woven through with gold, on a pale horse, and the two others rode on gray horses in red scarlet clothes.

...The biggest man took a gold ring from his finger and gave it to Thorsteinn. It was three aura in weight. Thorsteinn said: "What is your name, and from what background are you, and into what land have I come?"

"Godmund is my name. I rule that place which is called Glaesir Plain. They are a colony of that land that is called Risaland. I am a king’s son, and my squires are called Fullsterk and Allsterk. But did you see any men ride here this morning.?"

Thorsteinn said: "Twenty-two men rode here and did not slow down."

"They are my squires," said Godmund. "That land lies nearby, called Giant-land. A king rules there, who is called Geirrod. We are tributaries under him. My father was called Ulfheidinn the Trustworthy. He was called Godmund, like everyone else who lives in Glaesir Plain. But my father went to Geirrod’s court to deliver his tribute to the king, and died on the journey. The king gave me a request that I should have a funeral feast for my father, and take the rank that my father had. But we are not happy to serve the Giants."

"Why do your men ride ahead?" said Thorsteinn.

"A great river divides our land," said Godmund. "It is called Hemra. It is so deep and strong, that no horses can ford it, except those which we companions ride. Those others have to ride to the source of the river, and we meet in the evening."

...They now rode to the river. There was a house there, and they took other clothes, and dressed themselves and their horses. The clothes were of such a nature that water could not touch them, but the water was so cold that gangrene would set in, if anything got wet. They then forded the river. The horses pushed ahead strongly. Godmund’s horse stumbled, and Thorsteinn got water on his toe, and gangrene then set in. When they came out of the river, they spread out their clothes to dry. Thorsteinn cut off his toe, and they were very impressed with his valor. They then rode on their way.

...They now came to the town, and Godmund’s men came to meet them. They now rode into the town. They could now hear all kinds of instruments, but Thorsteinn did not think much of the tune. King Geirrod came now toward them and greeted them well, and they were shown a stone house or hall to sleep in and men to lead their horses to the stalls. Godmund was led to the king’s hall. The king sat on the high seat, and his earl next to him, who was called Agdi. He ruled the district that was called Grundir. That is between Risaland and Giant-land. He had his residence at Gnipalundi. He was a sorcerer and his men were more like trolls than men.

Godmund sat on a step before the high seat opposite the king. It was their custom that the king’s son should not sit at the high seat, before he took title from his father and had drunk the first toast. A fine feast got under way, and men drank and were merry and then went to sleep.  

Bósa saga ok Herrauðs  chapters 7-8, 10, 12, 14, 16 Bosi and Herraud’s Saga

 7. The king who ruled there was named Harek. He was married, and had two sons. One was named Hraerek and the other Siggeirr. They were great champions, and retainers of King Gudmund of Glaesir Plain, and were his land guardians. The king's daughter was named Edda. She was pretty to look at, and very capable in most matters.

8. "Here in the forest stands a great temple. King Harek owns it, who rules here over Bjarmaland. The god called Jomali is worshipped. There is much gold and treasure. The king's mother, who is called Kolfrosta, is in charge of the temple. She is made strong by witchcraft so that nothing takes her by surprise. She knows beforehand with her magic that she will not live out this month, and so she traveled in the shape of an animal east to Glaesir Plain and took away Hleidi, the sister of King Gudmund, and intends that she shall be one of her priestesses. That is a loss indeed, for she is the most beautiful and most courteous maiden, and it would be best if that could be prevented."
Norna-Gests þáttur Norna-Gest’s Tale mentions the gift of the horns called Grim to King Ólaf.
Related Sagas & Concepts:
Eiríks saga víðförla

Eirek the Far-Traveller mentions Óðains-acre.

Egils saga einhenda ok Ásmundar berserkjabana The Story of Egil One-Hand and Asmund Berserkers-Slayer  *Refers to three treasures kept in the underworld: a cloak that cannot burn, a horn that cannot be emptied, and a chess set that plays itself.

Other Sources:

Samsons Saga Fagra
['Saga of Samson the Fair']:  A later saga which places Gudmund’s realm in India.

The oldest source for the legend of Guðmund of Glæsisvellir is  Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Dancorum, Book 8, written around 1200, which predates the Icelandic fornaldarsögur by one or two centuries, and Snorri Sturluson's Edda by about a generation. Here Glæsisvellir is part of the underworld :

Dan 8.14.6 (p. 240,4)

1 Quo facto, optato vento excepti in ulteriorem Byarmiam navigant. 2 Regio est perpetui frigoris capax praealtisque offusa nivibus, ne vim quidem fervoris persentiscit aestivi, inviorum abundans nemorum, frugum haud ferax inusitatisque alibi bestiis frequens. 3 Crebri in ea fluvii ob insitas alveis cautes stridulo spumantique volumine perferuntur. 4 Illic Thorkillus, subductis navibus, tendi in litore iubet, eo loci perventum astruens, unde brevis ad Geruthum transitus foret. 5 Prohibuit etiam ullum cum supervenientibus miscere sermonem, affirmans monstra nullo magis nocendi vim quam advenarum verbis parum comiter editis sumere, ideoque socios silentio tutiores exsistere; se vero solum tuto profari posse, qui prius gentis eius mores habitumque perviderit.


This done, a favouring wind took them, and they sailed to further Permland. It is a region of eternal cold, covered with very deep snows, and not sensible to the force even of the summer heats; full of pathless forests, not fertile in grain and haunted by beasts uncommon elsewhere. Its many rivers pour onwards in a hissing, foaming flood, because of the reefs imbedded in their channels. Here Thorkill drew up his ships ashore, and bade them pitch their tents on the beach, declaring that they had come to a spot whence the passage to Geirrod would be short. Moreover, he forbade them to exchange any speech with those that came up to them, declaring that nothing enabled the monsters to injure strangers so much as uncivil words on their part: it would be therefore safer for his companions to keep silence; none but he, who had seen all the manners and customs of this nation before, could speak safely.

Dan 8.14.7 (p. 240,14)

1 Crepusculo appetente, inusitatae magnitudinis vir, nominatim salutatis nauticis, intervenit. 2 Stupentibus cunctis, Thorkillus adventum eius alacriter excipiendum admonuit, Guthmundum hunc esse docens, Geruthi fratrem, cunctorum illic applicantium piissimum inter pericula protectorem. 3 Percontantique, quid ita ceteri silentium colerent, refert rudes admodum linguae eius ignoti pudere sermonis. 4 Tum Guthmundus hospitio invitatos curriculis excipit. 5 Procedentibus amnis aureo ponte permeabilis cernitur. 6 Cuius transeundi cupidos a proposito revocavit, docens eo alveo humana a monstruosis secrevisse naturam nec mortalibus ultra fas esse vestigiis.


As twilight approached, a man of extraordinary bigness greeted the sailors by their names, and came among them. All were aghast, but Thorkill told them to greet his arrival cheerfully, telling them that this was Gudmund, the brother of Geirrod, and the most faithful guardian in perils of all men who landed in that spot. When the man asked why all the rest thus kept silence, he answered that they were very unskilled in his language, and were ashamed to use a speech they did not know. Then Gudmund invited them to be his guests, and took them up in carriages. As they went forward, they saw a river which could be crossed by a bridge of gold. They wished to go over it, but Gudmund restrained them, telling them that by this channel nature had divided the world of men from the world of monsters, and that no mortal track might go further.

Dan 8.14.8 (p. 240,23)

1 Subinde ad ipsa ductoris penetralia pervenitur. 2 Illic Thorkillus, seductis copiis, hortari coepit, ut inter tentamentorum genera, quae varius obtulisset eventus, industrios viros agerent atque a peregrinis sibi dapibus temperantes propriis corpora sustentanda curarent discretasque ab indigenis sedes peterent, eorum neminem discubitu contingendo. 3 Fore enim illius escae participibus inter horridos monstrorum greges, amissa cunctorum memoria, sordida semper communione degendum. 4 Nec minus ministris eorum ac populis abstinendum edocuit.


Then they reached the dwelling of their guide; and here Thorkill took his companions apart and warned them to behave like men of good counsel amidst the divers temptations chance might throw in their way; to abstain from the food of the stranger, and nourish their bodies only on their own; and to seek a seat apart from the natives, and have no contact with any of them as they lay at meat. For if they partook of that food they would lose recollection of all things, and must live for ever in filthy intercourse amongst ghastly hordes of monsters. Likewise he told them that they must keep their hands off the servants and the cups of the people.

Dan 8.14.9 (p. 240,31)

1 Duodecim filii Guthmundi egregia indole totidemque filiae praeclui forma circumsteterant mensas. 2 Qui cum regem a suis dumtaxat illata delibare conspiceret, beneficii repulsam obiciens iniuriosum hospiti querebatur. 3 Nec Thorkillo competens facti excusatio defuit. 4 Quippe insolito cibo utentes plerumque graviter affici solere commemorat, regemque, non tam alieni obsequii ingratum quam propriae sospitatis studiosum, consueto more corpus curantem domesticis cenam obsoniis instruxisse. 5 Igitur haudquaquam contemptui imputari debere, quod fugiendae pestis salutari gereretur affectu.


Round the table stood twelve noble sons of Gudmund, and as many daughters of notable beauty. When Gudmund saw that the king barely tasted what his servants brought, he reproached him with repulsing his kindness, and complained that it was a slight on the host. But Thorkill was not at a loss for a fitting excuse. He reminded him that men who took unaccustomed food often suffered from it seriously, and that the king was not ungrateful for the service rendered by another, but was merely taking care of his health, when he refreshed himself as he was wont, and furnished his supper with his own viands. An act, therefore, that was only done in the healthy desire to escape some bane, ought in no wise to be put down to scorn.

Dan 8.14.10 (p. 240,39)

1 Videns autem Guthmundus apparatus sui fraudem hospitum frugalitate delusam, cum abstinentiam hebetare non posset, pudicitiam labefactare constituit, omnibus ingenii nervis ad debilitandam eorum temperantiam inhians. 2 Regi enim filiae matrimonium offerens, ceteris, quascumque e famulitio peterent, potiendas esse promittit. 3 Plerisque rem approbantibus, Thorkillus hunc quoque illecebrarum lapsum, sicut et ceteros, salubri monitu praecurrit, industriam suam inter cautum hospitem ac laetum convivam egregia moderatione partitus. 4 Quattuor e Danis oblatum amplexi, saluti libidinem praetulerunt. 5 Quod contagium lymphatos inopesque mentis effectos pristina rerum memoria spoliavit; quippe post id factum parum animo constitisse traduntur. 6 Qui si mores intra debitos temperantiae fines continuissent, Herculeos aequassent titulos, giganteam animo fortitudinem superassent perenniterque patriae mirificarum rerum insignes exstitissent auctores.


Now when Gudmund saw that the temperance of his guest had baffled his treacherous preparations, he determined to sap their chastity, if he could not weaken their abstinence, and eagerly strained every nerve of his wit to enfeeble their self-control. For he offered the king his daughter in marriage, and promised the rest that they should have whatever women of his household they desired. Most of them inclined to his offer: but Thorkill by his healthy admonitions prevented them, as he had done before, from falling into temptation. With wonderful management Thorkill divided his heed between the suspicious host and the delighted guests. Four of the Danes, to whom lust was more than their salvation, accepted the offer; the infection maddened them, distraught their wits, and blotted out their recollection: for they are said never to have been in their right mind after this. If these men had kept themselves within the rightful bounds of temperance, they would have equalled the glories of Hercules, surpassed with their spirit the bravery of giants, and been ennobled for ever by their wondrous services to their country.

Dan 8.14.11 (p. 241,11)

1 Adhuc Guthmundus propositi pertinacia dolum intendere perseverans, collaudatis horti sui deliciis, eo regem percipiendorum fructuum gratia perducere laborabat, blandimentis visus illecebrisque gulae cautelae constantiam elidere cupiens. 2 Adversum quas insidias rex Thorkillo, ut prius auctore firmatus, simulatae humanitatis obsequium sprevit, utendi excusationem a maturandi itineris negotio mutuatus. 3 Cuius prudentiae Guthmundus suam in omnibus cessisse considerans, spe peragendae fraudis abiecta, cunctos in ulteriorem fluminis ripam transvectos iter exsequi passus est.


Gudmund, stubborn to his purpose, and still spreading his nets, extolled the delights of his garden, and tried to lure the king thither to gather fruits, desiring to break down his constant wariness by the lust of the eye and the baits of the palate. The king, as before, was strengthened against these treacheries by Thorkill, and rejected this feint of kindly service; he excused himself from accepting it on the plea that he must hasten on his journey. Gudmund perceived that Thorkill was shrewder than he at every point; so, despairing to accomplish his treachery, he carried them all across the further side of the river, and let them finish their journey.

Dan 8.14.12 (p. 241,19)

1 Progressi atrum incultumque oppidum, vaporanti maxime nubi simile, haud procul abesse prospectant. 2 Pali propugnaculis intersiti desecta virorum capita praeferebant. 3 Eximiae ferocitatis canes tuentes aditum prae foribus excubare conspecti. 4 Quibus Thorkillus cornu abdomine illitum collambendum obiciens, incitatissimam rabiem parvula mitigavit impensa. 5 Superne portarum introitus patuit; quem scalis aequantes arduo potiuntur ingressu. 6 Atrae deintus informesque larvae conferserant urbem, quarum perstrepentes imagines aspicere horridius an audire fuerit, nescias; foeda omnia, putidumque caenum adeuntium nares intolerabili halitu fatigabat. 7 Deinde conclave saxeum, cui Geruthum fama erat pro regia assuevisse, reperiunt. 8 Cuius artam horrendamque crepidinem invisere statuentes, repressis gradibus in ipso paventes aditu constiterunt.


They went on; and saw, not far off, a gloomy, neglected town, looking more like a cloud exhaling vapour. Stakes interspersed among the battlements showed the severed heads of warriors and dogs of great ferocity were seen watching before the doors to guard the entrance. Thorkill threw them a horn smeared with fat to lick, and so, at slight cost, appeased their most furious rage. High up the gates lay open to enter, and they climbed to their level with ladders, entering with difficulty. Inside the town was crowded with murky and misshapen phantoms, and it was hard to say whether their shrieking figures were more ghastly to the eye or to the ear; everything was foul, and the reeking mire afflicted the nostrils of the visitors with its unbearable stench. Then they found the rocky dwelling which Geirrod was rumoured to inhabit for his palace. They resolved to visit its narrow and horrible ledge, but stayed their steps and halted in panic at the very entrance.

Dan 8.14.13 (p. 241,31)

1 Tunc Thorkillus, haerentes animo circumspiciens, cunctationem introitus virili adhortatione discussit, monens temperaturos sibi, ne ullam ineundae aedis supellectilem, tametsi possessu iucunda aut oculis grata videretur, attingerent, animosque tam ab omni avaritia aversos quam a metu remotos haberent, neque vel captu suavia concupiscerent vel spectatu horrida formidarent, quamquam in summa utriusque rei forent copia versaturi. 2 Fore enim, ut avidae capiendi manus subita nexus pertinacia a re tacta divelli nequirent et quasi inextricabili cum illa vinculo nodarentur. 3 Ceterum composite quaternos ingredi iubet. 4 Quorum Broderus et Buchi primi aditum tentant; hos cum rege Thorkillus insequitur; ceteri deinde compositis gradiuntur ordinibus.


Then Thorkill, seeing that they were of two minds, dispelled their hesitation to enter by manful encouragement, counselling them, to restrain themselves, and not to touch any piece of gear in the house they were about to enter, albeit it seemed delightful to have or pleasant to behold; to keep their hearts as far from all covetousness as from fear; neither to desire what was pleasant to take, nor dread what was awful to look upon, though they should find themselves amidst abundance of both these things. If they did, their greedy hands would suddenly be bound fast, unable to tear themselves away from the thing they touched, and knotted up with it as by inextricable bonds. Moreover, they should enter in order, four by four. Broder and Buchi (Buk?) were the first to show courage to attempt to enter the vile palace; Thorkill with the king followed them, and the rest advanced behind these in ordered ranks.

Dan 8.14.14 (p. 242,1)

1 Aedes, deintus obsoleta per totum ac vi taeterrimi vaporis offusa, cunctorum, quibus oculus aut mens offendi poterat, uberrima cernebatur. 2 Postes longaeva fuligine illiti, obductus illuvie paries, compactum e spiculis tectum, instratum colubris pavimentum atque omni sordium genere respersum inusitato advenas spectaculo terruerunt. 3 Super omnia perpetui foetoris asperitas tristes lacessebat olfactus. 4 Exsanguia quoque monstrorum simulacra ferreas oneraverant sedes; denique consessuum loca plumbeae crates secreverant; liminibus horrendae ianitorum excubiae praeerant. 5 Quorum alii consertis fustibus obstrepentes, alii mutua caprigeni tergoris agitatione deformem edidere lusum. 6 Hic secundo Thorkillus, avaras temere manus ad illicita tendi prohibens, iterare monitum coepit.


Inside, the house was seen to be ruinous throughout, and filled with a violent and abominable reek. And it also teemed with everything that could disgust the eye or the mind: the door-posts were begrimed with the soot of ages, the wall was plastered with filth, the roof was made up of spear-heads, the flooring was covered with snakes and bespattered with all manner of uncleanliness. Such an unwonted sight struck terror into the strangers, and, over all, the acrid and incessant stench assailed their afflicted nostrils. Also bloodless phantasmal monsters huddled on the iron seats, and the places for sitting were railed off by leaden trellises; and hideous doorkeepers stood at watch on the thresholds. Some of these, armed with clubs lashed together, yelled, while others played a gruesome game, tossing a goat's hide from one to the other with mutual motion of goatish backs. Here Thorkill again warned the men, and forbade them to stretch forth their covetous hands rashly to the forbidden things.

Dan 8.14.15 (p. 242,12)

1 Procedentes perfractam scopuli partem nec procul in editiore quodam suggestu senem pertuso corpore discissae rupis plagae adversum residere conspiciunt. 2 Praeterea feminas tres corporeis oneratas strumis ac veluti dorsi firmitate defectas iunctos occupasse discubitus. 3 Cupientes cognoscere socios Thorkillus, qui probe rerum causas noverat, docet Thor divum, gigantea quondam insolentia lacessitum, per obluctantis Geruthi praecordia torridam egisse chalybem eademque ulterius lapsa convulsi montis latera pertudisse; feminas vero vi fulminum tactas infracti corporis damno eiusdem numinis attentati poenas pependisse firmabat.


Going on through the breach in the crag, they beheld an old man with his body pierced through, sitting not far off, on a lofty seat facing the side of the rock that had been rent away. Moreover, three women, whose bodies were covered with tumours, and who seemed to have lost the strength of their back-bones, filled adjoining seats. Thorkill's companions were very curious; and he, who well knew the reason of the matter, told them that long ago the god Thor had been provoked by the insolence of the giants to drive red-hot irons through the vitals of Geirrod, who strove with him, and that the iron had slid further, torn up the mountain, and battered through its side; while the women had been stricken by the might of his thunderbolts, and had been punished (so he declared) for their attempt on the same deity, by having their bodies broken.

Dan 8.14.16 (p. 242,21)

1 Inde digressis dolia septem zonis aureis circumligata panduntur, quibus pensiles ex argento circuli crebros inseruerant nexus. 2 Iuxta quae inusitatae beluae dens, extremitates auro praeditus, reperitur. 3 Huic adiacebat ingens bubali cornu, exquisito gemmarum fulgore operosius cultum nec caelaturae artificio vacuum; iuxta quod eximii ponderis armilla patebat. 4 Cuius immodica quidam cupiditate succensus, avaras auro manus applicuit, ignarus excellentis metalli splendore extremam occultari perniciem nitentique praedae fatalem subesse pestem. 5 Alter quoque, parum cohibendae avaritiae potens, instabiles ad cornu manus porrexit. 6 Tertius, priorum fiduciam aemulatus nec satis digitis temperans, osse humeros onerare sustinuit. 7 Quae quidem praeda uti visu iucunda, ita usu prodigialis exstitit; illices enim formas subiecta oculis species exhibebat. 8 Armilla siquidem anguem induens venenato dentium acumine eum, a quo gerebatur, appetiit; cornu in draconem extractum sui spiritum latoris eripuit; os ensem fabricans aciem praecordiis gestantis immersit. 9 Ceteri sociae cladis fortunam veriti, insontes nocentium exemplo perituros putabant, ne innocentiae quidem incolumitatem tribuendam sperantes.


As the men were about to depart thence, there were disclosed to them seven butts hooped round with belts of gold; and from these hung circlets of silver entwined with them in manifold links. Near these was found the tusk of a strange beast, tipped at both ends with gold. Close by was a vast stag-horn, laboriously decked with choice and flashing gems, and this also did not lack chasing. Hard by was to be seen a very heavy bracelet. One man was kindled with an inordinate desire for this bracelet, and laid covetous hands upon the gold, not knowing that the glorious metal covered deadly mischief, and that a fatal bane lay hid under the shining spoil. A second also, unable to restrain his covetousness, reached out his quivering hands to the horn. A third, matching the confidence of the others, and having no control over his fingers, ventured to shoulder the tusk. The spoil seemed alike lovely to look upon and desirable to enjoy, for all that met the eye was fair and tempting to behold. But the bracelet suddenly took the form of a snake, and attacked him who was carrying it with its poisoned tooth; the horn lengthened out into a serpent, and took the life of the man who bore it; the tusk wrought itself into a sword, and plunged into the vitals of its bearer. The rest dreaded the fate of perishing with their friends, and thought that the guiltless would be destroyed like the guilty; they durst not hope that even innocence would be safe.

Dan 8.14.17 (p. 242,37)

1 Alterius deinde tabernaculi postica angustiorem indicante secessum, quoddam uberioris thesauri secretarium aperitur, in quo arma humanorum corporum habitu grandiora panduntur. 2 Inter quae regium paludamentum, cultiori coniunctum pilleo, ac mirifici operis cingulum visebantur. 3 Quorum Thorkillus admiratione captus, cupiditati frenos excussit, propositam animo temperantiam exuens, totiesque alios informare solitus ne proprios quidem appetitus cohibere sustinuit. 4 Amiculo enim manum inserens, ceteris consentaneum rapinae ausum temerario porrexit exemplo.


Then the side-door of another room showed them a narrow alcove: and a privy chamber with a yet richer treasure was revealed, wherein arms were laid out too great for those of human stature. Among these were seen a royal mantle, a handsome hat, and a belt marvellously wrought. Thorkill, struck with amazement at these things, gave rein to his covetousness, and cast off all his purposed self-restraint. He who so oft had trained others could not so much as conquer his own cravings. For he laid his hand upon the mantle, and his rash example tempted the rest to join in his enterprise of plunder.

Dan 8.14.18 (p. 243,7)

1 Quo facto, penetralia, ab imis concussa sedibus, inopinatae fluctuationis modo trepidare coeperunt. 2 Subinde a feminis conclamatum aequo diutius infandos tolerari praedones. 3 Igitur, qui prius semineces expertiaque vitae simulacra putabantur, perinde ac feminarum vocibus obsecuti, e suis repente sedibus dissultantes vehementi incursu advenas appetebant. 4 Cetera raucos extulere mugitus. 5 Tum Broderus et Buchi, ad olim nota sibi studia recurrentes, incursantes se Lamias adactis undique spiculis incessebant arcuumque ac fundarum tormentis agmen obtrivere monstrorum. 6 Nec alia vis repellendis efficacior fuit. 7 Viginti solos ex omni comitatu regio sagittariae artis interventus servavit, ceteri laniatui fuere monstris.


Thereupon the recess shook from its lowest foundations, and began suddenly to reel and totter. Straightway the women raised a shriek that the wicked robbers were being endured too long. Then they, who were before supposed to be half-dead or lifeless phantoms, seemed to obey the cries of the women, and, leaping suddenly up from their seats, attacked the strangers with furious onset. The other creatures bellowed hoarsely. But Broder and Buchi fell to their old and familiar arts, and attacked the witches, who ran at them, with a shower of spears from every side; and with the missiles from their bows and slings they crushed the array of monsters. There could be no stronger or more successful way to repulse them; but only twenty men out of all the king's company were rescued by the intervention of this archery; the rest were torn in pieces by the monsters.

Dan 8.14.19 (p. 243,17)

1 Regressos ad amnem superstites Guthmundus navigio traicit exceptosque domi, cum diu ac multum exoratos retentare non posset, ad ultimum donatos abire permisit. 2 Hic Buchi parum diligens sui custos, laxatis continentiae nervis, virtute, qua hactenus fruebatur, abiecta, unam e filiabus eius irrevocabili amore complexus, exitii sui connubium impetravit, moxque repentino verticis circuitu actus, pristinum memoriae habitum perdidit. 3 Ita egregius ille tot monstrorum domitor, tot periculorum subactor, unius virginis facibus superatus, peregrinatum a continentia animum miserabili iugo voluptatis inseruit. 4 Qui cum abiturum regem honestatis causa prosequeretur, vadum curriculo transiturus, altius desidentibus rotis, vi verticum implicatus absumitur.


The survivors returned to the river, and were ferried over by Gudmund, who entertained them at his house. Long and often as he besought them, he could not keep them back; so at last he gave them presents and let them go. Buchi relaxed his watch upon himself; his self-control became unstrung, and he forsook the virtue in which he hitherto rejoiced. For he conceived an incurable love for one of the daughters of Gudmund, and embraced her; but he obtained a bride to his undoing, for soon his brain suddenly began to whirl, and he lost his recollection. Thus the hero who had subdued all the monsters and overcome all the perils was mastered by passion for one girl; his soul strayed far from temperance, and he lay under a wretched sensual yoke. For the sake of respect, he started to accompany the departing king; but as he was about to ford the river in his carriage, his wheels sank deep, he was caught up in the violent eddies and destroyed.

Dan 8.14.20 (p. 243,27)

1 Rex amici casum gemitu prosecutus, maturata navigatione discessit. 2 Qua primum prospera usus, deinde adversa quassatus, periclitatis inedia sociis paucisque adhuc superstitibus, religionem animo intulit atque ad vota superis nuncupanda confugit, extremae necessitatis praesidium in deorum ope consistere iudicans. 3 Denique, aliis varias deorum potentias exorantibus ac diversae numinum maiestati rem divinam fieri oportere censentibus, ipse Utgarthilocum votis pariter ac propitiamentis aggressus, prosperam exoptati sideris temperiem assecutus est.


The king bewailed his friend's disaster and departed hastening on his voyage. This was at first prosperous, but afterwards he was tossed by bad weather; his men perished of hunger, and but few survived, so that he began to feel awe in his heart, and fell to making vows to heaven, thinking the gods alone could help him in his extreme need. At last the others besought sundry powers among the gods, and thought they ought to sacrifice to the majesty of divers deities; but the king, offering both vows and peace-offerings to Utgarda-Loki, obtained that fair season of weather for which he prayed.

Dan 8.15.1 (p. 243,35)

1 Domum veniens, cum tot maria se totque labores emensum animadverteret, fessum aerumnis spiritum a negotiis procul habendum ratus, petito ex Suetia matrimonio, superioris studii habitum otii meditatione mutavit. 2 Vita quoque per summum securitatis usum exacta, ad ultimum paene aetatis suae finem provectus, cum probabilibus quorundam argumentis animas immortales esse compertum haberet, quasnam sedes esset, exuto membris spiritu, petiturus, aut quid praemii propensa numinum veneratio mereretur, cogitatione secum varia disquirebat.


Coming home, and feeling that he had passed through all these seas and toils, he thought it was time for his spirit, wearied with calamities, to withdraw from his labours. So he took a queen from Sweden, and exchanged his old pursuits for meditative leisure. His life was prolonged in the utmost peace and quietness; but when he had almost come to the end of his days, certain men persuaded him by likely arguments that souls were immortal; so that he was constantly turning over in his mind the questions, to what abode he was to fare when the breath left his limbs, or what reward was earned by zealous adoration of the gods.



Saxo's description of that house of torture, which is found within the city, is not unlike Völuspá's description of that dwelling of torture on the Náströnds ["corpse-shores"]. In Saxo, the floor of the house consists of serpents wattled together, and the roof of sharp stings. In Völuspá, the hall is made of serpents braided together, whose heads from above spit venom down on those dwelling there. Saxo speaks of soot a century old on the door frames; Völuspá of ljórar, air- and smoke-openings in the roof.


Saxo himself points out that the Geruthus (Geirröðr) mentioned by him, and his famous daughters, belong to the myth about the god Thor. That Geirrod after his death is transferred to the lower world is no contradiction to the heathen belief, according to which beautiful or terrible habitations await the dead, not only of men but also of other beings. Compare Gylfaginning 42, where Thor with one blow of his Mjölnir sends a giant niðr undir Niflhel.

 As Mimir's and Urd's fountains are found under the roots of the world-tree, and as Mimir is mentioned as the guardian of Heimdall's horn and other treasures, it might be expected that these circumstances would not be forgotten in those stories from Christian times which have been cited above and found to have their origin in the myths.


When the Danish adventurers had left the horrible city of fog in Saxo's saga about Gorm, they came to another place in the lower world where the gold-plated mead-cisterns were found. The Latin word used by Saxo, which I translate with cisterns of mead, is dolium. In the classical Latin, this word is used in regard to wine-cisterns of so immense a size that they were counted among the immovables, and usually were sunk in the cellar floors. They were so large that a person could live in such a cistern, and this is also reported as having happened. The size is therefore no obstacle to Saxo's using this word for a wine-cistern to mean the mead-wells in the lower world of Germanic mythology. The question now is whether he actually did so, or whether the subterranean dolia in question are objects in regard to which our earliest mythic records have left us in ignorance.


In Saxo's time, and earlier, the epithets by which the mead-wells - Urd's and Mimir's - and their contents are mentioned in mythological songs had come to be applied also to those mead-vessels which Odin is said to have emptied in the halls of the giant Fjalar or Suttung. This application also lay near at hand, since these wells and these vessels contained the same liquor, and since it originally, as appears from the meaning of the words, was the liquor, and not the place where the liquor was kept, to which the epithets Óðrærir, Boðn, and Són applied. In Hávamál 107, Odin expresses his joy that Óðrærir has passed out of the possession of the giant Fjalar and can be of use to the beings of the upper world. But if we may trust Skáldskaparmál 6, it is the drink and not the empty vessels that Odin takes with him to Valhall. On this supposition, it is the drink and not one of the vessels which in Hávamál is called Óðrærir. In Hávamál 140, Odin relates how he, through self-sacrifice and suffering, succeeded in getting runic songs up from the deep, and also a drink dipped out of Óðrærir. He who gives him the songs and the drink, and accordingly is the ruler of the fountain of the drink, is a man, "Bölthorn's celebrated son." Here again Óðrærir is one of the subterranean fountains, and no doubt Mimir's, since the one who pours out the drink is a man. But in the second stanza of Forspjallsljóð, Urd's fountain is also called Óðrærir (Óðhrærir Urðar). Paraphrases for the liquor of poetry, such as "Boðn's growing billow" (Einar Skálaglamm) and "Són's reed-grown grass edge" (Eilífr Guðrúnarson, Skáldskaparmál 10, Jónsson edition), point to fountains or wells, not to vessels. Meanwhile, a satire was composed before the time of Saxo and Sturluson about Odin's adventure at Fjalar's, and the author of this song, the contents of which the Prose Edda has preserved, calls the vessels which Odin empties at the giant's Óðhrærir, Boðn, and Són (Skáldskaparmál 5-6, Jónsson ed.). Saxo, who reveals a familiarity with the genuine heathen, or supposed heathen, poems handed down to his time, may thus have seen the epithets Óðrærir, Boðn, and Són applied both to the subterranean mead-wells and to a giant's mead-vessels. The greater reason he would have for selecting the Latin dolium to express an idea that can be accommodated to both these objects.


Over these mead-reservoirs there hang, according to Saxo's description, round-shaped objects of silver, which in close braids drop down and are spread around the seven times gold-plated walls of the mead-cisterns. Over Mimir's and Urd's fountains hang the roots of the ash Yggdrasil, which sends its root-knots and root-threads down into their waters. But not only the rootlets sunk in the water, but also the roots from which they are suspended, partake of the waters of the fountains. The norns take daily from the water and sprinkle the stem of the tree therewith, "and the water is so holy," says Gylfaginning 16, "that everything that is put in the well (consequently, also, all that which the norns daily sprinkle with the water) becomes as white as the membrane between the egg and the egg-shell." Also the root over Mimir's fountain is sprinkled with its water (Völuspá 27), and this water, so far as its color is concerned, seems to be of the same kind as that in Urd's fountain, for the latter is called hvítr aurr (Völuspá 19) and the former runs in aurgum fossi upon its root of the world-tree (Völuspá 27). The adjective aurigr, which describes a quality of the water in Mimir's fountain, is formed from the noun aurr, with which the liquid is described which waters the root over Urd's fountain. Yggdrasil's roots, as far up as the liquid of the wells can get to them, thus have a color like that of "the membrane between the egg and the egg-shell," and consequently recall both as to position, form, and color the round-shaped objects "of silver" which, according to Saxo, hang down and are intertwined in the mead-reservoirs of the lower world. Mimir's fountain contains, as we know, the purest mead - the liquid of inspiration, of poetry, of wisdom, of understanding.  Near by Yggdrasil, according to Völuspá 27, Heimdall's horn is concealed. The seeress in Völuspá knows that it is hid "beneath the hedge-o'ershadowing holy tree,"


Veit hún Heimdallar
hljóð um fólgið
undir heiðvönum

helgum baðmi.

She knows Heimdall's
hearing is hidden
beneath the bright-accustomed
holy tree.

Near one of the mead-cisterns in the lower world, Gorm's men see a horn ornamented with pictures and flashing with precious stones. Among the treasures taken care of by Mimir is the world's foremost sword and a wonderful arm-ring, smithied by the same master as made the sword.   Near the gorgeous horn, Gorm's men see a gold-plated tooth of an animal and an arm-ring. The animal tooth becomes a sword when it is taken into the hand. Nearby is treasury filled with a large number of weapons and a royal robe. Mimir is known in mythology as a collector of treasures. He is therefore called Hoddmímir, Hoddrofnir, Baugreginn. Thus, on their journeys in the lower world, Gorm and his men have seen not only Náströnd's place of punishment in Niflhel, but also the holy land, where Mimir reigns.

 When Gorm and his men desire to cross the golden bridge and see the wonders to which it leads, Gudmund prohibits it. When they desire to cross the river, in another place farther up, in order to see what is there beyond, he consents and has them taken over in a boat. He does not deem it proper to show them the unknown land at the golden bridge, but it is within the limits of his authority to let them see the places of punishment and those regions which contain the mead-cisterns and the treasure chambers. The sagas call him the king on the Glittering Plains, and as the Glittering Plains are situated in the lower world, he must be a lower world ruler.


Two of the sagas, Helgi Thorisson's and Gorm's, cast a shadow on Gudmund's character. In the former, this shadow does not produce confusion or contradiction. The saga is a legend which represents Christianity, with Olaf Tryggvason as its apostle, in conflict with heathenism, represented by Gudmund. It is therefore natural that the latter cannot be presented in the most favorable light. With his prayers, Olaf destroys the happiness of Gudmund's daughter. He compels her to abandon her lover, and Gudmund, who is unable to take revenge in any other manner, tries to do so, as is the case with so many of the characters in saga and history, by treachery. This is demanded by the fundamental idea and tendency of the legend. What the author of the legend has heard about Gudmund's character from older sagamen, or what he has read in records, he does not, however, conceal with silence, but admits that Gudmund, aside from his heathen religion and grudge toward Olaf Tryggvason, was a man in whose home one might fare well and be happy.


Saxo has preserved the shadow, but in his narrative it produces the greatest contradiction. Gudmund offers fruits, drinks, and embraces in order to induce his guests to remain with him forever, and he does it in a tempting manner and, as it seems, with conscious cunning. Nevertheless, he shows unlimited patience when the guests insult him by accepting nothing of what he offers. When he comes down to the beach, where Gorm's ships are anchored, he is greeted by the leader of the discoverers with joy, because he is "the most pious being and man's protector in perils." He conducts them in safety to his castle. When a handful of them returns after the attempt to plunder the treasury of the lower world, he considers the crime sufficiently punished by the loss of life they have suffered, and takes them across the river to his own safe home; and when they, contrary to his wishes, desire to return to their native land, he loads them with gifts and sees to it that they get safely on board their ships. It follows that Saxo s sources have described Gudmund as a kind and benevolent person. Here, as in the legend about Helgi Thorisson, the shadow has been thrown by younger hands upon an older background painted in bright colors.


Hervör's saga says that Gudmund was wise, mighty, in a heathen sense pious ("a great sacrificer"), and so honored that sacrifices were offered to him, and he was worshipped as a god after death. Bosi's saga says that he was greatly skilled in magic arts, which is another expression for heathen wisdom, for fimbul-songs, runes, and incantations.


The change for the worse which Gudmund's character seems in part to have suffered is confirmed by a change in the conception of those things which belonged to the lower world of the Germanic heathendom and to Gudmund's domain. The warm, green Hel of the heathen was gradually equated with the Christian Hell. In Saxo, we find an idea related to the Classical Lethe myth, according to which the liquids and plants which belong to the lower world produce forgetfulness of the past.  Therefore, Thorkil (Thorkillus) warns his companions not to eat or drink any of that which Gudmund offers them. In Guðrúnarkviða in forna 21, and elsewhere, we meet with the same idea. In addition, Indo-European parallels to Mimir and to Gudmund's realm are found in Jima of the Avesta and Jama of the Rigveda.