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Prose Edda - Anderson Trans.


Chapter 12


Life in Valhal

      39. Then said Ganglere: You say that all men who since the beginning of the world have fallen in battle have come to Odin in Valhal. What does he have to give them to eat? It seems to me there must be a great throng of people. Har answered: It is true, as you remark, that there is a great throng; many more are yet to come there, and still they will be thought too few when the wolf (1) comes. But however great may be the throng in Valhal, they will get plenty of flesh of the boar Sahrimner. He is boiled every day and is whole again in the evening. But as to the question you just asked, it seems to me there are but few men so wise that they are able to answer it correctly. The cook's name is Andhrimner, and the kettle is called Eldhrimner, as is here said:

                Andhrimner cooks
                In Eldhrimner
                Sahrimner.
                'Tis the best of flesh.
                There are few who know

            What the einherjes eat. (2)


        Ganglere asked: Does Odin have the same kind of food as the einherjes? Har answered: The food that is placed on his table he gives to his two wolves, which hight Gere and Freke. He needs no food himself. Wine is to him both food and drink, as is here said:

                Gere and Freke
                Sates the warfaring,
                Famous father of hosts;
                But on wine alone
                Odin in arms renowned
                Forever lives. (3)

        Two ravens sit on Odin's shoulders, and bring to his ears all that they hear and see. Their names are Hugin and Munin. At dawn he sends them out to fly over the whole world, and they come back at breakfast time. Thus he gets information about many things, and hence he is called Rafnagud (raven-god). As is here said:

                Hugin and Munin
                Fly every day
                Over the great earth.
                I fear for Hugin
                That he may not return,
                Yet more am I anxious for Munin. (4)

      40. Then asked Ganglere: What do the einherjes have to drink that is furnished them as bountifully as the food? Or do they drink water? Har answered: That is a wonderful question. Do you suppose that Alfather invites kings, jarls, or other great men, and gives them water to drink? This I know, forsooth, that many a one comes to Valhal who would think he was paying a big price for his water-drink, if there were no better reception to be found there,---persons, namely, who have died from wounds and pain. But I can tell you other tidings. A she-goat, by name Heidrun, stands up in Valhal and bites the leaves off the branches of that famous tree called Lerad. From her teats runs so much mead that she fills every day a vessel in the hall from which the horns are filled, and which is so large that all the einherjes get all the drink they want out of it. Then said Ganglere: That is a most useful goat, and right excellent tree that must be that she feeds upon. Then said Har: Still more remarkable is the hart Eikthyrner, which stands over Valhal and bites the branches of the same tree. From his horns fall so many drops down into Hvergelmer, that thence flow the rivers that are called Sid, Vid, Sekin, Ekin, Svol, Gunthro, Fjorm, Fimbulthul, Gipul, Gopul, Gomul and Geirvimul, all of which fall about the abodes of the asas. The following are also named: Thyn, Vin, Thol, Bol, Grad, Gunthrain, Nyt, Not, Non, Hron, Vina, Vegsvin, Thjodnuma.
      41. Then said Ganglere: That was a wonderful tiding that you now told me. A mighty house must Valhal be, and a great crowd there must often be at the door. Then answered Har: Why do you not ask how many doors there are in Valhal, and how large they are? When you find that out, you will confess it would rather be wonderful if everybody could not easily go in and out. It is also a fact that it is no more difficult to find room within than to get in. Of this you may hear what the Lay of Grimner says:
        
                Five hundred doors
                And forty more,
                I trow, there are in Valhal.
                Eight hundred einherjes
                Go at a time through one door
                When they fare to fight with the wolf. (5)

      42. Then said Ganglere: A mighty band of men there is in Valhal, and, forsooth, I know that Odin is a very great chief, since he commands so mighty a host. But what is the pastime of the einherjes when they do not drink? Har answered: Every morning, when they have dressed themselves, they take their weapons and go out into the court and fight and slay each other. That is their play. Toward breakfast-time they ride home to Valhal and sit down to drink. As is here said:

                All the einherjes
                In Odin's court
                Hew daily each other.
                They choose the slain
                And ride from the battle-field,
                Then sit they in peace together. (6)

        But true it is, as you said, that Odin is a great chief. There are many proofs of that. Thus it is said in the very words of the asas themselves:

                The Ygdrasil ash
                Is the foremost of trees,
                But Skidbladner of ships,
                Odin of asas,
                Sleipner of steeds.
                Bifrost of bridges,
                Brage of Skalds,
                Habrok of hows,
                But Garm of dogs. (7)


ENDNOTES:
1. The Fenris-wolf in Ragnarok. Back

2. Elder Edda: Grimner's Lay, 18. Back


3. Elder Edda: Grimner's Lay, 19. Back


4. Elder Edda: Grimner's Lay, 20. Back


5. Elder Edda: Grimner's Lay, 23 Back


6. Elder Edda: Vafthrudner's Lay, 41. Back


7. Elder Edda: Grimner's Lay, 44 Back




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