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Odin and Wafthrudnir in a knowledge competition. Drawing by Lorenz Frølich , 1895.
Frigg and Odin. Drawing by Lorenz Frølich, 1895.

The Vafþrúðnismál ( Old Norse for speeches of Vafþrúðnir ) is a song of the gods from the Song Edda . The song depicts a conflict of knowledge between Oðinn and the hoop giant Vafþrúðnir, who gave the piece its name, about topics of creation, the becoming of the world and its fall ( Ragnarök ). In the song, ideas of the (Germanic) worldview were preserved before Christianity expanded to the north.

Tradition, structure

The Vafþrúðnismál is anonymous in the Codes Regius (CR) of the Song Edda from the middle of the 13th century in 56 stanzas in the Eddic meter of the Ljóðaháttr , where it is in third place after the Vǫluspá and Hávamál before the Grímnismál . In addition to the CR, parts of other Icelandic manuscripts of the Middle Ages have survived, such as in the Hss. AM 748 I 4 ° (stanzas 20–56) and in Snorri's Prosa-Edda (ten stanzas as direct quotations, six more according to their content). A peculiarity of the tradition is that in both CR and AM 748 the second half of verses 27 and 31, which Snorri delivers, is missing. The first part of stanza 41 can be found in AM 748 and in Snorri, but not in CR, which the writer / copyist of the manuscript probably overlooked. Further textual deviations among the traditional manuscripts are minor, which led research to the assumption that a common written template served all of them. In addition, notes for the speaker are attached to each stanza in CR and AM 748. A comparison with contemporary manuscripts with dramatic content from England and northern France, which show the same annotation system, suggests that the Vafþrúðnismál was read by more than one speaker. The lecture could also stand in a ritual context with the text's own magical repetitions.


In a conversation between Odin and the Vafþrúðnir, Odin's wife Frigg tries to keep Odin from his plan, a knowledge contest with the particularly wise Vafþrúðnir, but he decides to visit the giant's hall. There he uses the code name Gagnrad to start the competition. First, the giant Odin asks six questions about mythical geography and celestial science. After Odin answered these correctly, he asked Vafþrúðnir eighteen questions. However , the giant is unable to answer his last question, the one after Odin's last words to his dead son Balder before he was burned. Vafþrúðnir loses his head for this:

Óðinn qvað:
"Fiolð ec fór,
fiolð ec freistaðac,
fiolð ec reynda regin:
hvat mælti Óðinn,
áðr á bál stigi,
siálfr í eyra syni?"

Vafðrúðnir qvað:
"Ey manni þat veit,
hvair ð;
feigom munni mælta ec mína forna stafi
oc um ragna rǫc.
Nú ec við Óðin deildac mína orðspeki,
ert æ vísastr vera. "

"I learned a lot, I
researched a
lot, I asked experienced people a lot:
what did Odin say in
the son's ear
before you lifted him on the pile of wood?"

" Nobody knows what
you said to your son in the old days !
Falling to death, I told prehistoric lore
and about the downfall of the sir!
With Odin I measured my omniscience
you remain the wisest of beings! "

Old Norse basic text after S. Palsson, German translation after F. Genzmer.


Web links

Wikisource: Vafþrúðnismál  - sources and full texts