Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2097
The Sibyl's Prophecy
At Odin's request, a prophetess predicts the future from creation to fall and renewal. She begins with a time when nothing existed; heavens and earth come into existence, but in chaos. The gods, who create the arts and crafts, social life, and finally, mankind, impose order. She prophesies the war between the Aesir and the Vanir and their conciliation, the death of Balder through Loki's trickery, Loki's punishment, the dwarves's golden home, the realm of the dead, and the punishment of the wicked. She foresees the final battle between gods and giants that will end in their mutual destruction. Sun and stars fail, the earth sinks beneath the sea, but in the final stanzas, she describes a second green earth rising from the waters. Balder and Hod, his blind brother who accidentally killed him, will come again to rule. Then a mighty one, sometimes identified as Christ, will come down to bring the deserving to a hall more beautiful than the sun.
The Sayings of the High One
This is a composite poem in which only stanzas 111-64 are in the voice of Odin the 'High One.' It begins with practical advice on behavior and attitude: "It takes sharp wits to travel in the world / they're not so hard on you at home—Better to be alive than to be lifeless / the living can hope for a cow." Even among such homely advice, however, is fame, so important to the epic attitude: "Cattle die, kinsmen die, / One day you die yourself; but the words of praise will not die." The poem ends with Odin's advice addressed to a young man called Loddfafnir.
The Lay of Vafthrudnir
Odin has a contest with the giant Vafthrudnir to determine who has the greater knowledge of the gods, creation, and the future. Odin wins because he alone knows what he whispered in Balder's ear as he lay on his funeral pyre. The lay serves as a glossary of the metaphors and images used in early Norse poetry.
The Lay of Grimnir
Hunding had two sons: Agnar and Geirrod. They were fishing from a rowboat and were swept out to sea. When they made land, a farmer took them in until spring came. When they arrived back home, Geirrod jumped out of the boat and pushed it and his brother back out to sea. Geirrod became king. Later, Odin and Frigg, his wife, were looking down at earth. Odin teased Frigg that Geirrod, whom he favored, was king while Agnar, whom Frigg favored, lived in the wilds. Frigg answered that Geirrod was stingy. Odin bet her he would find him generous to strangers. Frigg sends a message to Geirrod to beware of a wizard coming to his court, describing Odin in disguise. Odin arrives and when he refuses to give more than an assumed name, Grimnir, he is seated between two fires to make him speak. Geirrod's son Agnar thinks it wrong to mistreat a guest and brings him a drink. For this act, Odin blesses the boy and tells him his real name. When the king hears, he jumps up to take him away from the fires, but stumbles and falls on his own sword.
This lay tells of the god Frey who saw and loved a giant's beautiful daughter. He sent his servant Skirnir to persuade her to accept him as her lover. Skirnir cajoles and threatens her until she finally accepts Frey.
The Lay of Harbard
The first of the comical lays. Odin disguised himself as a ferryman and engaged Thor in a duel of words. Thor loses badly.
The Lay of Hymir
The gods are feeling like a party and ask the giant Aegir to brew beer for it. Thor unfortunately annoys Aegir. Aegir tells Thor he must borrow the giant Hymir's brewing vat. Thor and Tyr, Hymir's son, set out for Hymir's home where Hymir's young mistress welcomes them. She warns them Hymir does not like guests and makes them hide when he comes. She tells Hymir that his son has come with a friend. Three bulls are cooked for dinner. Thor eats two of them. Hymir tells his guests that they will go out...
(The entire section contains 2097 words.)
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