Skírnismál

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"The Lovesickness of Frey" (1908) by W.G. Collingwood.

Skírnismál (Sayings of Skírnir) is one of the poems of the Poetic Edda. It is preserved in the 13th-century manuscripts Codex Regius and AM 748 I 4to but may have been originally composed in heathen times. Many scholars believe that the poem was acted out, perhaps in a sort of hiéros gamos.

Synopsis[edit]

AM 748 I 4to, one of the two manuscripts to preserve Skírnismál, has notes on the margin indicating the speaker of each verse. Some scholars consider this a clue that the poem might have been performed as ritual drama.

The prose prologue to the poem says that the god Freyr, the son of Njörðr, sits in Odin's throne, Hliðskjálf and looked over all the worlds. On looking to Jötunheimr, the land of the giants, Freyr sees a beautiful girl and is immediately seized by love. Fearing that the object of his heart's desire is unattainable, gloom settles upon him.

The poem itself starts with the wife of Njörðr, bidding Skírnir to ask of Freyr why he is so sad. Skírnir, fearing his master's wrath, nevertheless does as he is bidden. Freyr's response is sullen, yet he pours his heart out. Skírnir agrees to undertake a journey to woo Gerðr, and Freyr furnishes him with his magical steed and sword.

Skírnir duly fetches up in Jötunheimr, at the hall of the giant Gymir. Gerðr, the daughter of Gymir bids him enter the hall; without further ado, Skírnir tries to woo Gerðr on Freyr's behalf, offering first gifts then threats (in other versions Skírnir does not use threats but manages to successfully woo Gerðr). Eventually, Gerðr succumbs. Skírnir reports to Freyr, who asks him:

Tell me, Skírnir, before unsaddling
Or stepping forth another pace
Is the news you bring from Jotunheim
For better or for worse?

Skírnir replies:

In the woods of Barri, which know we both so well,
A quiet still and tranquil place
In nine nights time to Njörd's son
Will Gerd give herself.

Freyr responds:

One night is long enough, yet longer still are two;
How then shall I contend with three?
For months have passed more quickly
Than half a bridal eve.

Later, Skírnir speaks to Gerd:

Seest thou, maiden, this keen, bright sword
That I hold here in my hand?
Before its blade the old giant bends,—
Thy father is doomed to die.
I strike thee, maid, with my gambantein,
To tame thee to work my will;
There shalt thou go where never again
The sons of men shall see thee.

Cultural references[edit]

The Misty Mountains of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit are likely to have been inspired by the úrig fiöll in the Skírnismál. Tolkien was familiar with the Poetic Edda.[1]

  1. ^ Tom Shippey (2003), The Road to Middle-earth, Houghton Mifflin, ch. 3 p. 70-71, ISBN 0-618-25760-8.

Sources and external links[edit]

Translations[edit]

  • Skirnismol Henry A. Bellows' translation and commentary
  • Skírnismál Bellows' translation with clickable names

Editions[edit]

Scholarship[edit]