Grottasöngr – The Lay of Grótti

This version of the Lay of Grótti has been taken from Snorri Sturluson’s Skáldskaparmál to be posted here. Grottasônger is …

This version of the Lay of Grótti has been taken from Snorri Sturluson’s Skáldskaparmál to be posted here. Grottasônger is by many included in the slightly expanded collection of poems of the Poetic Edda.

Based on a translation by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur from 1916 I have worked on modernizing the language slightly while maintaining the integrity of the text. There is a bit more prose and context given in this text than what is associated with only the poem proper.

The Lay of Grótti from Skáldskaparmál

This is the tale that explains how gold came to be known as Fródi’s Meal. One of Odin’s sons, named Skjöldr, whom the Skjöldungs descend from, had his home and ruled in the realm that now is called Denmark, but then was known as Gotland. Skjöldr’s son, who ruled the land after him, was named Fridleifr. 

Fridleifr’s son was Fródi, he succeeded to the kingdom after his father. At that time Augustus Caesar imposed peace on the whole world, and at that time Christ was born. Because Fródi was the mightiest of all kings in the Northern lands, the peace was called by his name wherever the Danish tongue was spoken. Men came to call it the Peace of Fródi. 

No man injured any other, even though he met face to face his father’s slayer or his brother’s, loose or bound. Neither was there any thief or robber then, so that a gold ring lay long on Jalangr’s Heath. King Fródi went to a feast in Sweden at the court of the king who was called Fjölnir, and there he bought two maid-servants, Fenja and Menja: they were huge and strong. 

In that time two mill-stones were found in Denmark, so great that no one was so strong that he could turn them: the nature of the mill was such that whatsoever he who turned asked for, was ground out by the mill-stones. This mill was called Grótti. He who gave King Fródi the mill was named Hengikjöptr. 

King Fródi had the maid-servants led to the mill, and asked them to grind gold; and they did so. First, they ground gold and, peace and happiness for Fródi; then he would grant them rest or sleep no longer than the cuckoo held its peace or a song might be sung. It is said that they sang the song which is called the Lay of Grótti, and this is its beginning:

Now are we come
To the king’s house,
The two fore-knowing,
Fenja and Menja:
These are with Fródi
Son of Fridleifr,
The Mighty Maidens,
As maid-thralls held.

And before they ceased their singing, they ground out an army against Fródi, so that the sea-king called Mýsingr came there that same night and slew Fródi, taking much plunder. Then the Peace of Fródi ended. Mýsingr took Grótti with him, and Fenja and Menja also, and asked them to grind salt. And at midnight they asked whether Mýsingr was not weary of salt. He asked them to grind longer. They had ground but a little while, when down sank the ship; and from that time there has been a whirlpool in the sea where the water falls through the hole in the mill-stone. It was then that the sea became salt.

The lay of Grótti

Lay of Grotti
George Pearson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

They to the flour-mill
Were led, those maidens,
And bidden tirelessly
To turn the gray mill-stone:
He promised to neither
Peace nor surcease
Till he had heard
The handmaids’ singing.

They chanted the song
Of the ceaseless mill-stone:
‘Lay we the bins right,
Lift we the stones!’
He urged the maidens
To grind on ever.

They sung and slung
The whirling stone
Till the men of Fródi
For the most part slept;
Then spoke Menja,
To the mill coming:

‘Wealth grind we for Fródi,
We grind it in plenty,
Fullness of fee
At the mill of fortune:
Let him sit on riches
And sleep on down;
Let him wake in weal:
Then well it is ground.

Here may no one
Harm another,
Contrive evil,
Nor cast wiles for slaying,
Nor slaughter any
With sword well sharpened,
Though his brother’s slayer
In bonds he find.’

But he spoke no word
Save only this:
‘Sleep ye no longer
Than the hall-cuckoo’s silence,
Nor longer than so,
While one song is sung.’

‘Thou wast not, Fródi,
Full in wisdom,
Thou friend of men,
When thou boughtest the maidens:
Did choose for strength
And outward seeming;
But of their kindred
Did not inquire.

‘Hardy was Hrungnir,
And his father;
Yet was Thjazi
Than they more mighty:
Idi and Aurnir
Of us twain are kinsmen,–
Brothers of Hill-Giants,
Of them were we born.

Grótti had not come
From the gray mountain,
Nor the hard boulder
From the earth’s bosom,
Nor thus would grind
The Hill-Giants’ maiden,
If any had known
The news of her.

‘We nine winters
Were playmates together,
Mighty of stature,
Underneath the earth’s surface,
The maids had part
In mighty works:
Ourselves we moved
Mighty rocks from their place.

‘We rolled the rock
Over the Giants’ roof-stead,
So that the ground,
Quaking, gave before us;
So slung we
The whirling stone,
The mighty boulder,
Till men took it.

‘And soon after
In Sweden’s realm,
We twain fore-knowing
Strode to the fighting;
Bears we hunted,
And shields we broke;
We strode through
The gray-mailed spear-army.

We cast down a king,
We crowned another;
To Gotthormr good
We gave assistance;
No quiet was there
Ere Knúi fell.

‘This course we held
Those years continuous,
That we were known
For warriors mighty;
There with sharp spears
Wounds we scored,
Let blood from wounds,
And reddened the brand.

‘Now are we come
To the king’s abode
Of mercy bereft
And held as bond-maids;
Clay eats our foot-soles,
Cold chills us above;
We turn the Peace-Grinder:
It is gloomy at Fródi’s.

‘Hands must rest,
The stone must halt;
Enough have I turned,
My toil ceases:
Now may the hands
Have no remission
Till Fródi hold
The meal ground fully.

‘The hands should hold
The hard shafts,
The weapons gore-stained,–
Wake thou, Fródi!
Wake thou, Fródi,
If thou would hearken
To the songs of us twain
And to ancient stories.

‘Fire I see burning
East of the burg,
War-tidings waken,
A beacon of warning:
A army shall come
Hither, with swiftness,
And fire the dwellings
Above King Fródi.

You shall not hold
The stead of Hleidr,
The red gold rings
Nor the gods’ holy altar;
We grasp the handle,
Maiden, more hardly,–
We were not warmer
In the wound-gore of corpses.

‘My father’s maid
Mightily ground
For she saw the feyness
Of men full many;
The sturdy posts
From the flour-box started,
Made staunch with iron.
We grind yet swifter.

‘We grind even swifter!
The son of Yrsa,
Hálfdanr’s kinsman,
Shall come with vengeance
On Fródi’s head:
Him shall men call
Yrsa’s son and brother.
We both know that.’

The maidens ground,
Their might they tested,
Young and fresh
In giant-frenzy:
The bin-poles trembled,
And burst the flour-box;
In sunder burst
The heavy boulder.

And the sturdy bride
Of Hill-Giants spoke:
‘We have ground, O Fródi!
Soon we cease from grinding;
The women have labored
Far too long at the grist.’

Featured Image Credit: Carl Larsson and Gunnar Forssell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of author


Norse mythology enthusiast, Norwegian and living in Oslo next to a series of old Viking age burial mounds.I am also able to navigate and understand quite a lot of the old Norse texts and I often lean on original texts when researching an article. Through this blog I hope more people, young and old will get to know Norse mythology and the world of the Vikings a bit better.

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