Muspilli is one of two surviving pieces of Old High German epic poetry (the other being Hildebrandslied), dating to around 870. One large fragment of the text has survived in the margins and empty pages of a codex marked as the possession of Louis the German and now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (cim. 14098). The beginning and end of the poem have not survived. It was re-discovered in 1817 and first published in 1832 by Johann Andreas Schmeller, who also titled it Muspilli, after a central word in the text.
The poem has been theorized as a Christianized version of the pagan Ragnarök, with figures represented in 13th century sources swapped with Christian figures; Surtr replaced by the Antichrist whom Elias – replacing Thor – fights, Loki by the old fiend. In the Norse Ragnarök, Muspelheim and Muspell play a large role, and both versions involve a wolf. Grau proposes a connection of all of the material in the poem except for two verses to the 4th century theologian Ephraim the Syrian.
The focus of the text is first on the fate of the soul after death. The hosts of heaven and hell do battle over the deceased individual's soul and the winning party will carry it off as booty (v. 1-37). Attention then shifts to another battle, the battle between Elijah and the Antichrist, which the text says will precede the Last Judgement. The two combatants are fighting as champions for God and the Devil, respectively. The Antichrist will fall but Elijah will be wounded and his blood dripping on the Earth will set the world on fire – announcing the muspilli (v. 38-56). The rest of the poem is concerned with the Resurrection and Judgment Day itself (v. 57-103).
- Keary (1882:424-425).
- Grau (1908).
- Charles Francis Keary (1882). Outlines of Primitive Belief Among the Indo-European Races. C. Scribner's sons.
- G. Grau (1908). Quellen und Verwandtschaften der Älteren germanischen Darstellungen des Jüngsten Gerichtes. Halle.