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The Hávamál ( Háv ), the High Song or the Proverbs of the High, is the name of a collection of a total of 164 Eddic stanzas that are counted as part of the Song Edda . High in "Des Hohen Lied" or "The Proverbs of the High" refers to the Norse god Odin, who in the poem gives advice to mortal people on how to lead a successful and honorable life. Hávamál as part of the Edda belongs to wisdom literature and is compared with the Indian Vedas or the Homeric poems of Greece. The poem has survived exclusively in the Codex regius from the 13th century, which has been kept in the Arnamagnäan Collection in Reykjavík since 1971 . In the Codex regius, Hávamál is included as the second text directly after the Völuspá under the title hava mal , which indicates the great importance that the author of the Codex regius attached to the poem.

The fact that Snorri Sturluson puts the first verse of Hávamál at the beginning of his mythological textbook Gylfaginning and Eyvindr Skáldaspillir quotes verses of Hávamál at the end of his poem Hákonarmál is taken as evidence that Hávamál was already known in the 10th century. Klaus von See sees a number of dependencies on Latin poetry, especially the Disticha Catonis, be it directly or through the mediation of other Old Norse poems such as the Hugvinnsmál, and also cites other works that refer to Seneca and other literature known in the Middle Ages. Theodoricus Monachus , who wrote the Historia de antiquitate regum Norwagiensium in the 12th century , knew Plato , Chrysipp , Pliny , Lucanus , Horace , Ovid , Virgil , the church fathers such as Origines , Euseb , Hieronymus and Augustine , and the late antiquities resp. medieval authors Boëthius , Paulus Deacon , Isidore of Seville , Bede , Remigius of Auxerre , Hugo of St. Victor and Sigbert of Gembloux . This means that the archbishop's library in Nidaros was already well stocked in the 12th century.

The earliest editions

In 1665 there was a very unreliable edition by Peder Hansen Resen , further editions by Rasmus Christian Rask and Arvid August Afzelius in 1818 , by Finnur Magnússon in 1828 , by Franz Dietrich in 1843 , and by Peter Andreas Munch in 1847 . The subsequent editions built on his edition.


As early as the 19th century it was found that the work was composed of several individual parts, with the number of parts and their limits being disputed. Hazelius adopted five parts, Müllenhoff apparently assumed six parts in 1883, Finnur Jónsson in his monograph Hávamál (Copenhagen 1924) even assumed seven. The subheadings Ládfafnismál ("Loddfafnirs Lied", verses 111-138) Rúnatal þáttr Óðinn ("Odin's rune song", verses 139-142) and Ljóðatal ("magic songs", verses 147-165) are not found in the manuscript. Today, some researchers assume a three-way division: Part I (verses 1–76), Part II (verses 78–110) and Part III (verses 111–165). According to this classification, the first part ends with the famous verse:

Deyr fé,
deyja frændr,
deyr sjalfr it sama,
ek veit einn,
at aldrei deyr:
dómr um dahðan hvern.

Cattle die,
friends die, that's how
you die .
But I know one thing
that never dies:
what the verdict on anyone who is dead is.

Here one wanted to see Christian echoes, since in Ecclesiastes 3:19 EU a similar line of thought can be found. But not everything that is similar has to be interdependent.

In terms of content, the first two (of three accepted) parts are about wisdom and rules of conduct. The parts differ in that in the first part all possible topics are addressed and are consistently described in verse Ljóðaháttr , while the teachings of the second part focus on wealth and gender relations. Klaus von See naturally identifies the first-person narrator, who reports his own views and experiences in a few verses, with Odin for the entire poem. Ottar Grønvik , on the other hand, sees it as an authoritative narrative poet who reports on his career and also acts as a representation of people in relation to the divine. At one point in the first part, however, it is clearly Odin. The poet is critical of Odin when he downgrades the extraction of the poet 's met, praised in Snorris Skáldskaparmál, to a simple drunkenness.

The second part is already formally different from the first part in that simple list verses are also included between the verses in the meter of the Ljóðaháttr, e.g. B. Verses 84-86. Practical advice such as verses 80 to 82 is also missing in the first part. They could be of a later date, but verse 80 must be very old, according to which one should not praise the woman until she is burned. So the verse probably comes from the cremation time. The same applies to verse 70. Also in the second part there are references to Odin, which show the god in an unfavorable light. In the first, Odin reports the embarrassing failure of a forbidden love adventure (verses 95-101). This passage is probably old, because in verse 96 it uses the word " Jarl " as the highest social position , which refers to the pre-royal period. The second story of Odin (verses 104-110) shows Odin as an unscrupulous and immoral god. In verse 109 the ice giants ask for “Bölverkr”, which means wrongdoer. Again, Odin is not a positive hero. In the past one saw in the degradation of Odin's Christian influence. Today it is believed that there was not only tension between paganism and Christianity, but also within paganism between different cults. But the poet was not areligious, as verse 79 shows, in which he ascribes the sacred runes to the gods. The poet can, with some probability, be assigned to the peasant religion of Thor and Freya based on the moral standards he applies to Odin's behavior .

The much discussed verse 111 introduces the teachings to Loddfafnir:

Mál er at þylja
þular stóli á
Urðarbrunni at,
sá ek ok þagðak,
sá ek ok hugðak,
hlýdda ek á manna mál;
of rúnar heyrða ek dæma,
né of ráðum þögðu
Háva hellu at,
Háva hellu í,
heyrða ek segja svá:

It's time to speak
from the speaker 's chair. (Þulr). I sat at
Urd's well
and was silent,
I sat and thought,
I heard the men's speech;
I heard talk of runes,
and they did not withhold advice
from the high hall;
in the high hall
I heard it say:

The last verse of the Hávamál takes up this formulation, so that it can be assumed that originally only this part between these frame stanzas was called Hávamál and was an independent poem.

The discussion revolves around the person of "Þulr" (speaker) on the second line, who is often identified with Odin. Karl Müllenhoff , however, demonstrated through examples of usage in Old English that Þulr is a human speaker in the King's Hall, a powerful man. So he changed “manna mál” in line 6 to “Háva mál”. In his opinion, the first person is a human speaker on the speaker's chair who tells the people what he has heard at Urd's well, where Odin himself taught him and addressed him as “Loddfafnir”. He describes this as a rogue because in verse 113 he pretends that Odin advised him not to get up at night unless he had to go out or was assigned to be a guard. Verse 112 deletes Müllenhoff as a later ingredient. He was essentially followed by Finnur Jónsson . Sophus Bugge kept the text and interpreted verses 111f. so that Loddfafnir was sitting on the speaker's chair and proclaiming to those present the religious revelation about Odin's self-sacrifice (verse 139), which was bestowed upon him by Odin and initiated men. According to him, Loddfafnir is not a real person, but a mythical-poetic figure. Axel Olrik saw a connection between the magical framework of the sorcerers (Seiðhiall) and the chair of Þulr and considers the chair to be a magical prop. WH Vogt then emphasized the relationship between Völva and Þulr. He sees the high seat of the Völva and the poet's chair of the Þulr on the same level.

A particular difficulty is that the Þulr is said to have received his revelation at the same time at the Urd fountain and in the Hohe Halle, which is commonly equated with Valhalla. In the Nordic myth, however, both places were thought to be far apart: Valhalla by the gods, Urd's fountain under the world ash Yggdrasil . A more recent interpretation resolves this contradiction in that the Hohen Halle is not Valhalla, but a cult house dedicated to Odin and Urd's fountain is one of the holy springs in the immediate vicinity. This presupposes that there was originally no internal connection between the first two parts and the final third part, so that the designation "des Hohen Halle" in the last Odins adventure of the second part (verse 109), which clearly refers to Valhalla, cannot be transferred to the third part. The runes about which the men speak can be certain mystical-religious sayings, as they are also referred to in Vafþrúðnismál verse 42 with the term runes.

The name "Loddfáfnir" is made up of the two roots "Lodd" and "favne" and a suffix -nir (e.g. Vafþrúðnir, Fjósnir in verse 12 of the Rígsþula and more often). “Lodd” poetically stands for “woman” and “fáfnir” is derived from “faðmr”, “to hug”. * Faðmnir is the hugger and Loddfáfnir "who hugs the woman". From the immediately following stanzas, which deal with conjugal fidelity, one has to imagine an honest man who passes on the fixed moral norms of peasant society, which he heard in the hall. This leads to verse 139:

Veit ek, at ek hekk
vindga meiði á
nætr allar níu,
geiri undaðr
ok gefinn Óðni,
sjalfr sjalfum mér,
á þeim meiði,
er manngi veit
hvers af rótum renn.

I know that I hung
on a windy tree for
nine whole nights,
wounded by a spear
and consecrated to Odin,
on this tree,
from which no one knows
from which root it sprouts.

The last two lines are considered to be a later addition, as they take over the description of Yggdrasil under the name "Mímameiðr", of which nobody knows from which root it grows. Here, however, it is a question of a sacred sacrificial tree on earth, to which the remark that nobody knows where he is does not fit.

The spear was Odin's weapon and played a special role in the sacrifice. With him the victim was wounded as a sign that it was consecrated to Odin. Adam von Bremen writes in his Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum about the sacrificial celebrations in Uppsala that they lasted nine days and that every day a man was hung from the sacrificial tree. The ritual sacrifice described in verse 139 would have taken place at the beginning of such sacrificial celebrations, and the first sacrifice hung on the tree as long as the celebration lasted. The first two lines of the following verse, however, state that the Hávamál was not about an ordinary fertility sacrifice:

Við hleifi mik sældu
né við hornigi;
nýsta ek niðr,
nam ek upp rúnar,
æpandi nam,
fell ek aftr þaðan.

I gave myself up neither for bread
nor for horned cattle,
I looked down,
picked up runes, out
loud I learned them,
fell from there again.

So the victim was not hung by the neck to die, but by the body so that he could look down, and so he appropriated the runes. Learning by speaking the material out loud was the usual way of teaching at the time. With “runes” the religious secrets and magical knowledge are meant in fixed memos, and they stand in contrast to the bread and cattle of the fertility sacrifice. The image of the hanged sacrifice is perhaps also portrayed in verse 135:

Snoldelev stone. On it a man is referred to as rulr.

Often ór skorpum belg
skilin orð koma
þeim er hangir með hám
ok skollir með skrám
ok váfir með vílmögum.

From wrinkled skin
often comes sensible word,
(from) the one who hangs together with skins
and dangles between animal hides and
floats together with sons of misfortune.

The remains of a tapestry depicting nine men hanging from a tree were found in Vestfold . It is believed that Odin is speaking here. Sophus Bugge saw Christian influence in this by assuming a parallel to the crucifixion of Christ. Britt-Mari Näsström recently joined in. However, this is opposed to the fact that the Bible does not speak of a sacrifice of God to himself, but of a redeeming suffering of Jesus, who is a person of God who is different from the Father. Grønvik therefore assumes that it is not Odin but the Þulr from verses 111 and 112 who is the first person who experiences the mystical union with Odin in an ecstasy , as it is described for the mystics in many religions. This mystical union with Odin represents at the same time an initiation rite for an Þulr, which has also been pointed out earlier. He follows the idea that Odin hung in the mythical prehistoric times in the world ash Yggdrasil. Yggr is one of Odin's many names.

Grønvik claims to have found references in many names and designations on rune stones to people who are called Þulr. On the Snoldelev stone of Zealand it says: "Gunvalds stone, son of Roald, Tul in Salhauku (m)" (= Salløv).


The philosophy of the poem is rooted in the belief in the worth of the individual who is nonetheless not alone in this world, but is bound by an inseparable bond with nature and society. The cycle of life is perfect and inseparable. The living world forms a harmonious whole in all its manifestations. Violations of nature have a direct effect on people themselves. Each individual is responsible for his or her own life, happiness or unhappiness, and creates his or her own life out of his or her own resources.

Individual evidence

  1. von See 1972 p. 49, however, means that the two lines in the Hákonarmál could also be taken from the Old English elegy “The Wanderer”, and refers to the stay of Håkon des Guten with King Æthelstan .
  2. See 1981 pp. 32, 44.
  3. ^ Hazelius pp. 2-9.
  4. Karl Müllenhoff does not explicitly make this classification, but it emerges from his section-by-section investigation.
  5. It is counted according to Simrock's translation. His counting deviates from the norrønen counting: He pulls verses 11 and 12 together to verse 11, so that the following verses are 1 lower, and divides verse 102 into verses 102 and 103 so that the counting then matches again . He divides verse 111 again into verse 111 and verse 112, so that the number is now 1 higher.
  6. So from See 1972 and Grønvik 1999.
  7. See 1981 p. 29.
  8. See 1972 p. 16.
  9. Simrock translates "the woman in death", but in the original text it says "kono er brend er". “Brend” means burned.
  10. Grønvik p. 27.
  11. Hazelius 1860 p. 35; Grundtvig 1874 p. 110. Von See also sees (1972 p. 49) Christian influences that had come to Norway from England with King Håkon , who was educated at the court of Æthelstan . Behind such considerations is the assumption that there was a non-Christian, genuinely pagan worldview that was contaminated by Christianity. In view of Norway's multiple connections with the continent, which archaeologically dates back to 500 BC. Is certain, the development of a worldview independent of continental ideas is unlikely.
  12. Grønvik p. 29.
  13. Grønvik p. 30.
  14. On the other hand, von See 1972 p. 5 states that the title Hávamál refers to all three parts and justifies this with the text form of the Codex Regius.
  15. Müllenhoff p. 252 ff.
  16. Müllenhoff p. 267. This judgment is due to the view of a bourgeois culture of the 19th century.
  17. Finnur Jónsson 1924 pp. 113–116.
  18. Bugge 1881–1889. P. 342.
  19. Olrik.
  20. Vogt p. 108.
  21. Grønvik p. 38 with evidence of similar use of the name.
  22. Alexander Jóhannesson: Icelandic etymological dictionary . Bern 1956. p. 254.
  23. Alexander Jóhannesson: Icelandic etymological dictionary . Bern 1956. p. 538 f.
  24. Grønvik p. 40.
  25. Andreas Nordberg says in Jul, disting och förkyrklig tideräkning. ( Memento of the original from December 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 2.1 MB) p. 95 that he had to wait eight nights until he got enlightenment in the ninth. Because the number "eight" played the decisive role in determining the time, since the moon after eight solar years = 99 lunar months is again approximately the same distance from the sun and therefore z. B. the festival cycle adhered to an eight-year cycle. When determining the time by days, the first day was counted, as the expression “eight days” means a week (of seven days) today. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.kgaa.nu
  26. Finnur Jónsson 1924 p. 146.
  27. Grønvik p. 46; approving Solli 162 f.
  28. According to Fritzner, keyword “við” No. 14, the word “við” also has the meaning “i Bytte mod noget” (in exchange for something). The word "seldo" is controversial. The obvious interpretation that it was a past tense of “selja” = Norwegian “selge” = “sell” was already rejected as inappropriate by Bugge 1881–1889 p. 345 footnote 3. But according to Johan Fritzner, Ordbog over Det gamle norske Sprog Oslo 1954. p. 202 "selja" initially simply means "handed over". In Gothic , “selja” means to sacrifice (this is how the word “selja” is used in the Wulfilabibel when translating 1 Cor 10.20  EU ). “Mik” is the accusative of ék = I and therefore means “me” and not “me”, as in Simrock. See in detail Grønvik p. 47. Reichardt p. 16 also translates: “I was refreshed neither with bread nor with drink” in order to save the accusative. But seldo has nothing to do with "refreshing".
  29. "Horn" means animal horn, also drinking horn, in Gulathingslov § 165 and in Frostathingslov IV § 40 clearly used as pars pro toto for cattle. Simrock's translation “Met” is otherwise not documented.
  30. Reichardt p. 19 has Odin hung on his neck for nine days, bend over, set the branch in vertical oscillations and pick up rune staves. It was also the fact that no one can survive hanging around their necks for nine days, with a noose around their necks, which Odin complains according to the classical translation, that bending over and especially picking up sticks is impossible known to the poet as completely absurd.
  31. The "sons of misfortune" denotes the people who are hung up during the sacrificial ceremonies, and in contrast to the Þulr in verse 139, not voluntarily, but compulsorily.
  32. Steinsland 2005 p. 297.
  33. Bugge 1881–1889. P. 297.
  34. Näsström p. 84.
  35. Reichardt (p. 26 f.) Must, in order to establish the origin in a Christian-popular idea, fall back on the influence of Scottish missionaries and refer to a Shetland poem from the 19th century, according to which Christ hung on a rootless tree for nine days have.
  36. Grønvik p. 53.
  37. Sijmons / Gering p. 147 with further literature.
  38. Steinsland 2005 p. 42. She considers the Tul to be a cult leader or rune master .
  39. Matthías Viðar Sæmundsson in: So spoke the Vikings, Reykjavík (2007). 14th


  • Gustav Neckel , Hans Kuhn (ed., Editor): Edda: The songs of the Codex Regius together with related monuments. 5th improved edition, Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 1983 ( digitized version ).
  • Hermann Pálsson : Eddukvæði: Hávamál. Útgáva með formála og skýringum. Reykjavík 1992.
  • The Edda. Poetry of gods, proverbs and heroic songs of the Germanic peoples (= Diederich's yellow row ). Translated into German by Felix Genzmer . Diederichs, Düsseldorf 1981, Munich 1997, Weltbild a. a. 2006 (Háv. 154–207), ISBN 3-424-01380-3 , ISBN 3-7205-2759-X .
  • Hugo Gering : The Edda. The songs of the so-called older Edda, with an appendix: The mythical and heroic stories of the Snorra Edda. Bibliographical Institute, Leipzig 1893.
  • The songs of the gods of the Elder Edda. Translated, commented on and edited by Arnulf Krause . Reclam, Stuttgart 2006. (RUB 18426)
  • Karl Simrock / Manfred Stange: The Edda. Songs of gods, heroic songs, proverbs of the Germanic peoples. Complete text edition in the translation by Karl Simrock. Revised new edition with afterword and register by Manfred Stange. Bechtermünz publishing house. 1995. ISBN 3-86047-107-4 .
Research literature
  • Sophus Bugge : Studier over de nordiske Gude- og Heltesagns oprindelse. Første Rekke. Christiania. 1881-1889.
  • Johan Fritzner: Ordbog over Det gamle norske Sprog. Nytt Uforandret Opptrykk av 2. Utgave (1883-1896). Oslo 1954. 3rd vol.
  • Finnur Jónsson : Hávamál. Copenhagen 1924.
  • Svend Grundtvig: Sæmundur Edda hins Fróða. The ældre Edda. Kritisk håndutgave. Andre på ny gennemarbejdede udgave. Copenhagen 1874.
  • Ottar Grønvik : Håvamål. Study about sales formal options and religious issues. Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi Oslo 1999. ISBN 82-90888-27-9
  • Arthur Immanuel Hazelius: Innledning till Hávamál eller Odens sång . Uppsala 1860.
  • Karl Müllenhoff in Deutsche Altertumskunde Vol. 5. New print Berlin 1908. pp. 250–288.
  • Britt-Marit Näsström: “Stucco, hanging och drains. Ritual monsters i norrön litteratur och i Adam av Bremens notiser om Uppsalakultten. “In: Anders Hultgård (ed.): Uppsalakulten och Adam av Bremen . Bokförlaget Nya Doxa. Pp. 75-99.
  • Axel Olrik: At sidde pa hoj . In: Danske Studier . 1909. pp. 1-10.
  • Konstantin Reichardt: "Odin on the gallows." In: Curt von Faber du Faurt (Herg.): Guardian and Guardian. Yale University 1957. pp. 15-28.
  • Klaus von See : Sonatorrek and Hávamál. In: Journal for German Antiquity and German Literature , 99, 1970, pp. 26–33.
  • Kalus von See: The figure of the Hávamál. A study on Eddic poetry. Athenäum Verlag 1972.
  • Klaus von See: "Disticha Catonis and Hávamál". In: Contributions to the history of German language and literature 94, 1972, pp. 1–18. Again in Ders .: Edda, Saga, Skaldendichtung. Essays on Scandinavian literature of the Middle Ages . Carl Winter 1981. pp. 27-44.
  • Barend Sijmons and Hugo Gering: The songs of the Edda. Third volume: commentary. First half: songs of the gods. (German reference library VII, 3, 1st half). Hall 1927.
  • Brit Solli: Be. Myter, sjamanisme and kjønn in vikinges tid . Oslo 2002.
  • Great stone country : Norrøn religion. Myter, riter, samfunn. Oslo 2005. ISBN 82-530-2607-2 .
  • Ulrike Strerath-Bolz:  Hávamál. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 14, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999, ISBN 3-11-016423-X , pp. 89-91.
  • Kieran RM Tsitsiklis: The Thul in Text and Context. Þulr / Þyle in Edda and Old English literature. (= Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde - supplementary volumes , vol. 98). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2016, ISBN 978-3-11-045730-8 .
  • Walther Heinrich Vogt : Style history of the Eddischen knowledge poetry : First volume: The cult speeches (ThULR) . Wroclaw 1927.

Web links

Wikisource: Hávamál  - sources and full texts