A discussion of Völuspá beginning with verse 18 has just begun on Yahoogroups. This list got off to a slow start, but we're trying to get the conversation going. When we get to the end, the discussion will start again with verse 1.This list arose from the Havamal Studies list. Please join if you are interested.Your participation is welcome.
Völuspá 18: The Gifts of the Gods to Man
Codex Regius 18:
a/nd þa/ ne átto
óþ þav ne ha/fðo
la ne leti
ne lito goða.
Aund gaf oþiN
oþ gaf henir
la gaf loðvR
& lito goða.
ond þau ne attu
oð þau ne hofðu
laa ne læti
ne litv goða.
Ond gaf oðinn
od gaf henir
laa gaf loðvR
ok litv goða.
Önd þau né áttu,
óð þau né höfðu,
lá né læti
né litu goða.
Önd gaf Óðinn,
óð gaf Hnir,
lá gaf Lóðurr
ok litu goða.
Benjamin Thorpe 1866
18. Spirit they possessed not,
sense they had not,
blood nor motive powers,
nor goodly colour.
Spirit gave Odin,
sense gave Hoenir,
blood gave Lodur,
and goodly colour.
1883 Gudbrand Vigfusson
The breath of life was not in them, they had neither feeling nor motion, nor utterance, nor comely hues. Woden gave them the breath of life, Hoenir feeling, Lodur utterance, and comely hues.
1908 Olive Bray
18. Spirit they had not, and mind they owned not
Blood, nor voice nor fair appearance.
Spirit gave Odin, and mind have Hönir,
Blood gave Lodur and aspect fair.
1923 Henry Bellows
1962 Lee M. Hollander
Sense they possessed not, soul they had not,
Being nor bearing, nor blooming hue;
Soul gave Óthin, sense gave Hönir,
Being, Lóthur, and blooming hue.
1969, revised 1989, Patricia Terry
They did not breathe, nor think or speak,
They had no hair, no fairness of face
Odin gave lifes breath, Hoenir gave mind,
Lodur gave hair, fairness of face.
1969 W. H. Auden & P. B Taylor
Breath they had not, nor blood nor senses,
Nor language possessed, nor life-hue:
Odhinn gave them breath, Haenir senses,
Blood and life hue Lothur gave.
1996 Carolyne Larrington
Breath they had not, spirit they had not,
Character nor vital spark nor fresh complexions,
Breath gave Odin, spirit gave Hænir,
Vital spark gave Lodur and fresh complexions.
1997 Ursula Dronke
Breath they had not,
Spirit they had not,
No film of flesh nor cry of voice,
Nor comely hues.
Breath Óðinn gave,
Film of flesh Lóðurr gave
And comely hues.
2001 Bernard Scudder
They had no breath,
They had no spirit
Neither warmth nor voice
Nor fine complexion.
Odin gave them breath,
Haenir gave them spirit,
Lod gave them warm life
And fine complexion
To learn the identities of Lodur and Hoenir, we need look no further than Snorris Edda. In Gylfaginning 9 he says:
'When the sons of Borr were walking along the sea-strand, they found two trees, and took up the trees and shaped men of them: the first gave them spirit and life; the second, wit and feeling; the third, form, speech, hearing, and sight. They gave them clothing and names: the male was called Askr, and the female Embla, and of them was mankind begotten, which received a dwelling-place under Midgard.
In Gylfaginning 6, he clearly identifies Borrs sons as Odin and his brothers, Vili and Ve. Thus Vili and Ve are alternate names of Lodur and Hoenir.
[Audhumbla] licked the ice-blocks, which were salty; and the first day that she licked the blocks, there came forth from the blocks in the evening a man's hair; the second day, a man's head; the third day the whole man was there. He is named Búri: he was fair of feature, great and mighty. He begat a son called Borr, who wedded the woman named Bestla, daughter of Bölthorn the giant; and they had three sons: one was Odin, the second Vili, the third Vé.
Of course most scholars dont recognize (or oppose) this. Some, like Larrington, seem to see Borrs sons as separate from Odin, Vili and Ve. It seems rather obvious that Snorri saw them as one and the same without directly saying so. He probably got the names Vili and Ve from Lokasenna 26, where Loki accuses Frigg of sleeping with Ve and Vili, the brothers of Vidrir. Vidrir is another name for Odin, thus adding to the alteration of names. Snorri knew both poems, as he quotes from both of them in his Edda.
Some scholars equate Lodur and Loki based on the appearance of Odin, Hoenir, and Loki as traveling companions in Haustlong, but this need not be the case. For example, in Lokasenna 9, it says that Odin and Loki became blood-brothers. This would not have been necessary if they were both sons of Borr. It seems more likely that Loki was substituted for Lodur in the latter trio, rather than being identical to Lodur.
The key points of Voluspa 18 are the gifts of the gods to man. Youll notice that many translations give slight variants. As you can see from the comments below, many of the words do not have exact definitions. They were likely chosen for this reason, the poet intending to leave impressions rather than impart exact meaning. Thats the beauty of good poetry, many meanings flow from well-chosen words.
Here are some insightful comments.
Sigurd Nordal (translated by B.S. Benedikz and John McKinnell), who doesnt give a translation, comments (abbreviated):
önd, óðr: This is a differentiation between the breath of life and the soul. Önd governs the bodily life and is therefore common to man and beast. Óðr is the divine spark in man which is influenced by higher powers. The ancients distinguished this particularly in poetry, the gift of Odin
lá is interpreted as either blood (lá, liquid, sea) or heart of life but the difference is not great.
Læti means voice there is no point in looking for another meaning.
Ursula Dronke comments:
lá: literally the line of shoal water along a shore, edged by surf (Vigfusson s.v.), used generally in skaldic verse for liquid, of poetry, and of blood. In modern Icelandic, lá has the sense film, skin on the surface of water.
She also notes that among the heiti in Skaldskaparmal for hair is lá
læti covers aspects of behavior (expression, manners, bering) as well as voice, utterance. The poet may wish to imply all these human attributes here (even through in Grip. 39/2 læti expressly does not include speech)
Rydberg provides an interesting insight regarding litr goða normally translated as good complexion:
Lodur also gave at the same time another gift, litur goða. To understand this expression (previously translated with "good complexion"), we must bear in mind that the Teutons, like the Greeks and Romans, conceived the gods in human form, and that the image which characterizes man was borne by the gods alone before man's creation, and originally belonged to the gods. To the hierologists and the skalds of the Teutons, as to those of the Greeks and Romans, man was created in effigiem deorum (the image of the gods) and had in his nature a divine image in the real sense of this word, a litur goða.
The common meaning of the word litur is something presenting itself to the eye without being actually tangible to the hands. The Gothic form of the word is wlits, which Ulfilas uses in translating the Greek prosopon - look, appearance, expression. Certain persons were regarded as able to separate their litur from its union with the other factors of their being, and to lend it, at least for a short time, to some other person in exchange for his. This was called to skipta litum, víxla litum. It was done by Sigurd and Gunnar in the song of Sigurd Fafnisbani (Grípisspá 37-42). That factor in Gunnars being which causes his earthly body to present itself in a peculiar individual manner to the eyes of others is transmitted to Sigurd, whose exterior, affected by Gunnar's litur, accommodates itself to the latter, while the spiritual kernel in Sigurd's personality suffers no change (str. 39):
Lit hefir þú Gunnars
og læti hans,
Thus man has within him an inner body made in the image of the gods and consisting of a finer material, a body which is his litur, by virtue of which his coarser tabernacle, formed from the earth, receives that form by which it impresses itself on the minds of others.
The appearance of the outer body therefore depends on the condition of the litur, that is, of the inner being. Beautiful women have a "joyous fair litur" (Hávamál 93). An emotion has influence upon the litur, and through it on the blood and the appearance of the outward body. A sudden blushing, a sudden paleness, are among the results thereof and can give rise to the question, Hefir þú lit brugðið? - Have you changed your litur? (Fornaldarsaga.,I. 426). To translate this with, Have you changed color? is absurd. The questioner sees the change of color, and does not need to ask the other one, who cannot see it. On account of its mythological signification and application, it is very natural that the word litur should in every-day life acquire on the one hand the meaning of complexion in general, and on the other hand the signification of hamur, guise, an earthly garb which persons skilled in magic could put on and off. Skipta litum, víxla litum, have in Christian times been used as synonymous with skipta hömum, víxla hömum.
Dronke opposes this interpretation on literal grounds, but Rydbergs reasoning for this as a poetic interpretation seems sound. You must be the judge.
- --- In email@example.com, "William Reaves" <wreaves@...> wrote:
>Larrington, seem to see Borr's sons as separate from Odin, Vili and
> Of course most scholars don't recognize (or oppose) this. Some, like
Ve. It seems rather obvious that Snorri saw them as one and the same
without directly saying so. He probably got the names Vili and Ve from
Lokasenna 26, where Loki accuses Frigg of sleeping with Ve and Vili,
the brothers of Vidrir. Vidrir is another name for Odin, thus adding
to the alteration of names. Snorri knew both poems, as he quotes from
both of them in his Edda.
It's possible that Snorri encountered contradictory traditions. He
may have tried to reconcile these, or he may have presented them as he
found them. His interpretations may not always have been the same as
> The key points of Voluspa 18 are the gifts of the gods to man.You'll notice that many translations give slight variants. As you can
see from the comments below, many of the words do not have exact
definitions. They were likely chosen for this reason, the poet
intending to leave impressions rather than impart exact meaning.
That's the beauty of good poetry, many meanings flow from well-chosen
Other, more prosaic, factors to bear in mind are: that the use of a
word in one language doesn't always match up perfectly with any single
word in another language (hence no exact [English] definition), and
that the lines are obscure nowadays and so will tend to inspire
> .The common meaning of the word litur is something presenting itselfto the eye without being actually tangible to the hands.
Old Norse 'litr' (Modern Icelandic 'litur') can usually be translated
Tönn hans var blá at lit "His teeth were blue in colour".
á regnboga eru þrír litir "there are 3 colours in the rainbow"
Skeggið var þykkt og skammt og með sama lit "The beard was thick and
short and had the same colour".
uxa þann er brandkrossóttur var að lit "the ox which was brindled
brown (in colour) with a white cross on its forehead".
Also "dye", "colour of the sky at dawn or dusk" and more generally
"appearance" (=yfirlit). Cf. 'litarháttr' "complexion",
'lit(anar)gras' "herb for dying", 'litaskipti', 'litbrigði' "change of
colour", 'lita' "to dye", 'litklæði' "coloured/dyed clothes",
'litlauss' "colourless", 'litföróttr' "dappled", 'litka' "to colour,
stain", 'litr', adj. "coloured".
Some interesting examples here [
], in particular:
fjándr segja, at þat er ekki annat en litr ok læti þeirra (when the
angels speak well of man), kveðast fullkomit þenna mann eiga (Heilag.
I, 68126). "...but that's just their [outer] appearance..."?
> The Gothic form of the word is wlits, which Ulfilas uses intranslating the Greek prosopon - look, appearance, expression.
Gothic 'wlits' translates each of the following Greek words:
The latter meanings seem appropriate to the example of Sigurðr taking
on Gunnarr's appearance. Compare also the Old English cognate 'wlite'
"appearance, form; beauty, splendour, brightness; legal value, wergild".
> A sudden blushing, a sudden paleness, are among the results thereofand can give rise to the question, Hefir þú lit brugðið? - Have you
changed your litur? (Fornaldarsaga., I. 426). To translate this with,
"Have you changed color?" is absurd. The questioner sees the change of
color, and does not need to ask the other one, who cannot see it.
While a yes/no question is usually indicated by putting the finite
verb at the beginning of the sentence, not every sentence with a
finite verbs at the beginning is a question. It's quite normal to
place the verb at the beginning for stylistic reasons. It's not
absurd, syntactically or semantically, to translate this as a simple
statement: "you've changed your colour" (i.e. in this example, grown
pale through loss of blood), particularly as this information is
actually supplied for the benefit of people listening to the poem,
rather than the unfortunate Hjálmarr! The meaning is confirmed by
other examples of the expression 'bregða lit'. It would be absurd in
the context to translate it "you've changed your form" or "everything
that presents itself to my eyes about you has changed although the
tangible parts of you have remained the same."