The Hávamál in the Prose Edda

Odin's Self-Sacrifice by W.G. Collingwood (1908).

Odin’s Self-Sacrifice by W.G. Collingwood (1908).

Roderick mentioned that the poem he included in yesterday’s meditative exercise came from the Poetic Edda.  I tracked it down to the Hávamál, which is presented as a single poem within the Edda.  It is a combination of different ones, and the Rúnatal (stanzas 138-146), or a series of stanzas describing how Odin won the runes, serves as a preface to a collection of charms termed the Ljóðatal.  The lines of the poem Roderick gave actually come from stanzas 138, 139, and 141 of the Rúnatal.

I show these stanzas below.  The text on the left is from Sophus Bugge’s 1867 edition, while the text on the right is from Benjamin Thorpe’s 1866 translation.

I chose to offer Thorpe’s translation here since Haukur Þorgeirsson and Óskar Guðlaugsson endorse it as the most accurate translation in their extensive comparison of translations on their Old Norse for Beginners website. I really can’t recommend this site enough.  If the text grabbed you in any way and you are curious about it, their translations and comparisons will bring you such a greater understanding of this section than many of us could otherwise have obtained.  They also have reconstructed pronunciations for the first three stanzas, which is amazing since I’m not sure any of us would have been able to hear a decent pronunciation otherwise.  Check out 138, 139, and 140.


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