Grímnismál is from the ancient Poetic Edda. The structure of the poem is a longer narrative introduction that sets up the verses of the poem for the uninitiated. In the poem, Odin, in the guise as Grimnir, travels to visit a king named Geirröd, after a foolish wager with his wife Frigga.
Not one to happily lose, Frigga intercedes and gets a warning through to Geirröd. Not realizing what he is getting involved in, he is on the lookout for strangers. When Odin turns up as the mysterious Grimnir, he is soon strung up and tortured. In a society that prided itself on hospitality towards guests, turning to violence was still never far away.
Structure and background
The Grímnismál is intact in both the Codex Regius and the Arnamagnæan Codex and it is quoted extensively by Snorri. With the two sources and all the quotes, the poem is well understood. This is in contrast to a few of the other Poetic Edda poems where some are partially damaged and some stanzas might be missing in one, or both of the source codexes.
Much like the Vafthruthnirsmal that precedes it, the Grímnismál is rather encyclopedic and contains a vast host of information. Especially many gods and other beings are named, providing Snorri, and us with deep insight into all the dwarves and elves among others.
Another poem that basically lists, or actually alludes to, a number of mythological events is the Lokasenna. In it Loki insults all the gods in order and refers to a number of things that had happened. Many of those references are otherwise unknown for us today, so somehow lost along the way.
This version is based on an older English translation that has been adapted slightly for a modern-day reader. Most, if not all, of the old English words and phrases, are changed as well as updating some sentence structures. When unsure of a particular meaning or spelling, I have consulted a more modern translation in Norwegian.
King Hrauthung had two sons, one was named Agnarr and the other was named Geirröd. Agnarr was ten winters, and Geirröd was eight winters. One time the pair went out in a row boat trolling for small fish.
Then the wind pushed them out to sea. In the darkness of night, they wrecked the boat on shore and getting up on land they met a peasant. They stayed with the peasants through the winter.
The woman fostered Agnarr, and the man looked after Geirröd, and he gave him good advice. When spring came, the peasant gave them a boat. But when the old woman led them to the beach, the man spoke to Geirröd.
They had a good wind and made it to their fathers’ dock. Geirrödr was in the bow of the boat. He leaped ashore and pushed the boat back out saying, “Go now, there are no winds for you!” And the boat drifted back out to sea.
Geirröd, on the other hand, went up to the village and the young boy was received well. His father, however, was dying. Then Geirröd became king and was known as a good man.
Odin and Frigga watches from Hlidskjálf
Odin and Frigga sat in Hlidskjálf and looked out over the nine worlds. Looking out over Midgard Odin said; “Do you see your foster son Agnarr, how he lives in a cave having children with a Jötun? But Gerirröd, my foster child, is a king and the ruler of his land.”
Frigga replied: “He is so greedy with food that he torments his guests if too many of them show up.” Odin then said that this was a great lie, and they agreed to make a bet on it. Frigga sent her chambermaid Fulla, with a message to Geirröd. She asked the king to be careful not to harm the man who had come to their land, saying that no dog was so fierce it would charge him.
Now, it was a great lie that king Geirrödr was not hospitable, but he still asked his men to arrest the man that no dogs were fierce enough to attack. He was wearing a blue hooded coat and called himself Grimnir and would not say anything more about himself, even though he was questioned.
The king had him tortured almost to death, and placed between two fires, and there he sat for eight nights. King Geirröd had a son ten winters old, he was named Agnar after his brother. Agnar went to Grimnir and gave him a horn full of drink, and he said that his father was ill-behaved having him tortured without cause.
Grimnir drank from the horn. Then the fire got so bad that Grimnirs’ fur burned off. He spoke:
1. You are hot fire! | and too fierce by far: Be gone now, you flames! The coat is burnt, | even though I lift it, And the fire scorches the fur 2. Eight night I sat | between the fires Not one man offered me food, Except for Agnar, | and he will rule Son of Geirröd, the land of the Goths 3. Bless you, Agnar! | for blessed you are As I am Veratýr; For only one drink | you will never Receive greater reward 4. Holy is the land | that I see Near the gods and elves However in Thrudheim | Thor will live, Until the gods meet their end. 5. Ydalir is it called | the place where Ull Have raised his halls; Álfheimr Freyr received | from the gods In ancient times as a teething gift. 6. There is a third home | were gentle gods Roofed the hall with silver Valaskjálf it is called, | built in ancient times Built by a god for himself. 7. The fourth is Sökkvabekkr, | with its cooling waves There Odin and Sága Drink every day, Happily from gold cups. 8. The fifth is Gladsheimr, | there shining in gold Stands Valhalla in all its might; And there Hroftr | collects each day The Einherjar among the slain. 9. It is easy to recognize | for he who to Odin Comes and sees the hall; The rafters are spears, | roofed with shields, Benches covered with chainmail. 10. It is easy to recognize | for he who to Odin Comes and sees the hall; A wolf hangs | west of the door; An Eagle soars above. 11. The sixth is Thrymheim, | where Thiassi lived, That all mighty jötunn; There Skadi now lives, | that bright god's bride In her fathers’ former home. 12. The seventh is Breidablik; | there Balder has raised his halls, In that land, | that is so fine, No evil is ever plotted. 13. The eight is Himinbjorg, | and there Heimdallr chose to live; The gods guardian drink, | in his great hall, Happily the wonderful mead. 14. The ninth is Folkvangr, | there Freyja rules Over who shall have a seat in the hall; Half of the slain, she choose each day, The other half is Odin’s. 15. The tenth is Glitnir; | with pillars of gold, And a silver roof; There Forseti lives | most of his days, Solving all matters. 16. The eleventh is Noatun; | and there Njord raised his halls; Ruler of men | free from vice sits there In his high-timbered hall. 17. Overgrown with brush | and tall grass Is Vidar’s land Vithi; There will the son | leap from his horse, Eager to avenge his slain father. 18. In Eldhrimnir | Andhrimner cooks Sæhrimnir’s sizzling flesh, The best of food, | but few men will know What the Einherjar feasts on. 19. Freki and Geri | Odin feeds The warrior god of ancient times; But on wine alone | does he glorious in arms, Odin, live forever. 20. Hugin and Munin, | each day fly Over the earth; I fear for Hugin | that he will be lost, But I fear more for Munin. 21. Thund roars loud, | and Thjothvitnir's fish Happily swims the wild river; It seems impossible | to the Einherjar To wade the wild torrent. 22. There stands Valgrind, | the sacred gate, Behind it the holy doors; The ancient gate, | few are they Who can tell how it is locked 23. Five hundred doors, | and forty more I believe there is in Valhall; Eight hundred Einherjar, | pass through one door When they go to battle the wolf. 24. Five hundred rooms, | and forty more I believe there is in Bilskirnir; Of all the halls | whose roofs I have seen, My son is surely the greatest. 25. The goat Heidrun | stands by Odin’s hall, Feeding on the branches of Læradr; Filling large pitchers | with the best mead, A never ending flow. 26. The stag Eikthyrnir | stands by Odin’s hall, Feeding on the branches of Læradr; From his horns | drips into Hvergelmir Flowing into all rivers. 27. Sid and Vid, | Sækin and Eikin, Svol and Gunnthro, Fiorm and Fimbulthul, Rin and Rennandi, Gipul and Gopul, Gomul and Geirvimul, They flow through the realms of gods;, Thyn and Vin, | Tholl, and Holl, Grad and Gunnthorin. 28. Vin is one named, | Vegsvin another, A third is Thiodnuma, Nyt and Not, | Nonn and Hronn, Slid and Hrid, | Sylg and Ylg, Vid and Van, | Vond and Strond, Gjoll and Leipt, | they flow close to men, And fall down to Hel after. 29. Kormt and Ormt, | and two hot springs, Thor wades through, each day, As he judges fairly, By the ash Yggdrasil, Or else the gods bridge Burns in flames, And the flowing water boils 30. Glad and Gyllir, | Glær and Skeidbrimir, Silfrintop and Sinir, Gisl and Falhofnir, | Gulltop and Lettfeti, On these horses the the Aesir ride every day, | when they go to judge By the ash Yggdrasil. 31. Three roots | branch three ways, Underneath the ash Yggdrasil; Hel lives under the first, | Frost Giants under the second, Humans under the third. 32. A squirrel named Ratatosk | runs there, By the ash Yggdrasil; The eagles words | he often bears, To Nidhöggr below. 33. There are four stags, | nibbling the buds With their necks bent; Dáinn and Dvalinn, Duneyr and Dyrathror. 34. More serpents lie | under the ash Yggdrasil Than a fool could imagine; Góin and Móin, | sons of Grafvitnir, Grabak and Grafvollud, Ofnir and Svafnir | I reckon will always Gnaw the roots of that tree. 35. The ash Yggdrasil | suffers greatly, Far more than men know; The stag nibble its top, | its trunk rots, And Nihöggr gnaws below. 36. Hrist and Mist | I want bringing me the horn, Skjeggold and Skogul; Hild and Thrud, | Hlok and Herfjötur, Göl and Geironlu, Randgrid and Radgrid | and Reginleif; Bring the Einherjar beer. 37. Arvak and Alsvid | will for all time, Wearily draw the sun; But under them, | the caring gods Placed two bellows with cool air. 38. Svalin is he who | stands in front of the sun, Shielding the shining god; Mountains and the sea | I reckon would burn Should it fall from the sun. 39. Sköll is the wolf | who pursues the shining god To the protective woods, Another is Hati, son of Hrothvitnir, Chasing the bright bride of heaven. 40. From the flesh of Ymir | the earth was made, The oceans from his blood; The hills of bones, | the forests of hairs, And of his skull the sky. 41. And from his eyebrows, the gentle gods, Created Midgard for man; And from his brains | the menacing Clouds they created. 42. Favored by Ull | and of all the gods He who first reach into the flames; For the house can be seen | by the sons of gods If the kettles were cast aside. 43. Sons of Ivalid | in ancient times, Created Skidbladnir; The best of ships | for bright Freyr, Noble son of Njord. 44. The ash Yggdrasil | is the greatest tree, Skidbladnir best of ships; Odin of all gods, of horses Sleipnir, Bifrost of bridges,| Bragi of poets, Hábrók of hawks, and Garmr of hounds. 45. Having shown my face | to sons of gods With that help is awakened; All Aesir | will come in aid, Sitting on Aegir’s benches Drinking at Aegir’s. 46. Grimnir is my name, | I am Gangleri, Herjan and Hjálmberi, Thekk and Thridi, | Thund and Ud, Helblindi and Hár; 47. Sath and Svipal, and Sanngetal, Herteit and Hnikar, Bileyg, Baleyg, | Bölverk, Fjölnir, Grim and Grimnir, | Glapsvith, Fjölsvith 48. Sithhott, Sithskegg, | Sigfather, Hnikuth, Allfather, Valfather, | Atrid, Farmatyr; Just one name | have I never had Since first I traveled among men. 49. I am called Grimnir | at Geirröd’s, And Jalk at Ásmundar, And I was Kjalar, when sleigh riding, Thror at the council, Vithur when going into battle; Oski and Omi, Jafnhor and Bilfindi, Gondlir and Harbard amongst gods. 50. I was Svithur and Svidir at Sökkmimir’s, And I tricked the ancient jötun; Son of Mithvitnir | the famous, I slayed single handed. 51. You are drunk Geiröd, | you drank too much, Much have you lost, | you are no longer, Favored by the Einherjar or Odin. 52. I advised you a lot, but you knew much better, And your false friends, I can lie down | I see my friends, Swords wet with blood. 53. Your slain body | now Ygg will have, I know you lived too long; The disir are hostile, the servant sees Odin, Now come to me, if you can. 54. Now I am Odin, | Ygg was I once, Before that they called me Thund; Vak and Skilfing, | Vofud and Hropatyr, Gaut and Jalk among the gods; Ofnir and Svafnir, | I think are all, Names for me.
King Geirröd sat with his sword on his knee, half drawn from its sheath. When he understood it was indeed Odin who was among them, he rose to get Odin away from the fires. The sword slipped from his hand, falling with the hilt down. King Geirröd stumbled and fell forward, falling on his own sword he died. Then Odin disappeared, and Agnar ruled as king for a long time.
Featured Image Credit: W.G. Collingwood (1854–1932), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons