Odin ; The Old Norse noun Óðr may be the origin of the theonym Óðinn (Anglicized as Odin), and it means “mind”, “soul” or “spirit” (so used in stanza 18.1 of the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá). In addition, Óðr can also mean “song”, “poetry” and “inspiration”, and as noted has connotations of ‘possession’.
The Mead of Poetry
Down Odin flew in flash arrived,
And Odin spake So Shall It Be,
To wisdom voice shall insight see.
A new poetic account of an ancient Norse tale, inspired by Tolkien and written in the old Norse form of Fornyrdislag.
|Odin with wings, he thinks of things.|
About The Mead Of Poetry;
After the Aesir-Vanir War, the Gods sealed their truce by creating a man named Kvasir to share their blessings. He was so wise that there were no questions he could not answer. He traveled around the world to give knowledge to mankind.
The Fellowship of Kvasir
Unfortunately two dwarves, Fjalar and Galar, who were jealous of Kvasir’s wisdom and thought to profit by Kvasir’s death, killed him. They then mixed his blood with honey and created the magical mead of inspiration which endowed anyone who drank it with the gift of world-renowned poetry and wisdom. They explained to the Gods that Kvasir had suffocated in intelligence..
These same dwarves also took it upon themselves to drown a Giant named Gilling, and when they told his wife of the dreadful accident, to silence her wails of grief they killed her too.
When Gilling’s son Sutting learned what had happened, he went to take his revenge on the dwarves. To save their lives they offered him the magical mead in compensation for his father’s death (a compensation payment for death was known at this time as ‘weregild‘ and was employed to reduce socially destructive family feuds that could plague generations). Sutting accepted the mead because he knew of its magical properties and that the Aesir would want it. He kept the three barrels of the precious mead in his halls beneath Hnitbjorg mountain where his daughter Gunnlod was locked in to guard it.
When Odin found out about the existence of the magic mead through the head of Mimir, he set out the next day to obtain it. He came to Sutting’s Castle and planned how to recover the mead. First he set Sutting’s brother’s nine farmers to argue amongst themselves with the result that they killed each other, which left Baugi without enough hands for his harvest. Then Odin disguised himself as ‘Bolverk’ a wandering workman and offered to do the work in return for a taste of the mead, to which Baugi agreed.
However after the harvest, Sutting did not agree to Baugi’s deal with Bolverk and refused to give a taste of the mead to the workman. Bolverk then tricked Baugi into boring a hole through a wall of the treasure chamber where the mead was kept without his brother’s knowledge. Once the hole was made, Bolverk turned into a snake and went through the hole. Realizing his mistake Baugi tried to kill the snake but failed.
|Bolverk convinces Baugi to drill a hole|
Now inside the treasure chamber, Odin found Gunnlod, Sutting’s daughter. He turned himself into a handsome young giant and with three kisses coaxed her into allowing him to drink the three barrels of mead.
|Odin drinks the Mead of Poetry with Gunnlod|
Then Odin got her to open the door of the chamber, whereupon he immediately turned into an eagle and flew away. Realizing that she had fallen into his trap, Gunnlod screamed and Sutting hearing her came running. When Suttung discovered the theft, he turned himself into an eagle and chased after Odin.
When the Aesir saw Odin’s eagle approaching, they took out three large barrels for him. But Suttung was so close to Odin that he let some mead fall away, which anybody can drink this part is known as the ‘rhymester’s share’. Odin then landed with a flash and emerged with the three barrels full of the magic Mead Of Poetry. As the rising sun rose its beams touched the wings of Sutting’s pursuing eagle, which immediately turned into stone and plummeted down to the ground.
Then Odin said, ‘So shall it be with all the Giant kind. If the sun shines upon them in the holy land of Asgard, the evil that is in them shall weigh them down, and they will turn into stone.’
And so the Aesir celebrated as they each took a drink of the magical mead, Odin’s gift to the Gods and to men gifted in poetry, the mead of poetry.
About Norse Poetry; & The Fornyrdislag Form.
Poetry played an important role in the social and religious world of the Vikings. In Norse mythology, Skáldskaparmál tells the story of how Odin brought the Mead of Poetry to Asgard, which is an indicator of the significance of poetry within the ancient Scandinavian culture.
Old Norse poetry is conventionally split into two types, Eddaic poetry (also known as Eddic poetry) and Skaldic poetry. Eddic and Skaldic poetry are meant for oral delivery and as such, more meaning is contained in the sounds and rhythms of the voice than may be apparent on the page.
Eddic poems are usually mythological, or heroic in content. Most are in the Fornyrðislag form (pronounced FORT-near-this-lahg), while málaháttr ( speech meter ) is a common variation. The rest, about a quarter, are composed in ljóðaháttr. The language of the poems is usually clear and relatively unadorned. While Kennings are employed, they do not rise to the frequency or complexity found in Skaldic poetry. Kennings are a poetic rewrite of a word ( i.e. a corps’ sea = blood, wound-wand = sword ). They could be even more complex, with rewrites of rewrites and no limits to the words that were used to describe a single word…
Skaldic verse is usually created as a tribute to a specific Jarl or King, follows very strict rules and employs many Kennings which can make them hard to understand.
By contrast, most English poetry is dominated by a single form, the ‘end-rhyme’ in which the final word of each line rhymes with one or more other lines; the exact lines in a stanza which are paired or grouped in rhyme differ according to the specific form, giving us such end-rhyme forms as doggerel, limericks, and sonnets.
Fornyrðislag has two stressed syllables per half line, with two or three (sometimes one) unstressed syllables. Its name means ‘the metre of ancient word’ and it is an old Norse poetic form introduced in Snorre‘s Old Norse Poetic Eddas. The Norse poets tended to break up their verses into stanzas of from two to eight lines (or more), rather than writing continuous verse after the Old English model and used used Alliteration instead of rhyme (syllables alliterate when they begin with the same sound). The loss of unstressed syllables makes these verses seem denser and more emphatic. The Norse poets, unlike the Old English poets, tended to make each line a complete syntactic unit, avoiding enjambment where a thought begun on one line continues through the following lines; only seldom do they begin a new sentence in the second half-line. Often these poems also use ‘Heiti‘, which is a poetic word (synonym) that was used when other words could not fit into the strict form (some times they also made up new words).
J.R.R. Tolkien, Author, philologist and expert on Anglo-Saxon and Middle English also made use of the Fornyrðislag in his narrative poem The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, based upon the poetry of the Elder Edda and written to retell the Norse saga of Sigurd and the fall of the Niflungs.
|The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun|
”When ancient German, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon bards sat by the hearthfire of a night-dark hall, holding their harps and singing of heroes, monsters, and gods mastered by fate, this is the style that they used. And just as Tolkien loved the ancient Germanic tales, so also the world he created echoes them: Tolkien’s Middle Earth, like Norse Midgard, is a realm ruled by fate, a world of Elves and dwarves and men…”
( Forgotten Ground Regained ©1999, Paul Deane ).
Tolkien’s sources of inspiration also included Norse sagas such as the Volsunga saga and the Hervarar saga, the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, and numerous other culturally related works.
Blessed Be ~