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In Norse mythology, Lævateinn is a weapon crafted by Loki mentioned in the Poetic Edda poem Fjölsvinnsmál. The name Lævateinn does not appear in the original manuscript reading, but is an emendation from Hævateinn made by Sophus Bugge and others.

The weapon is needed to slay the rooster Viðofnir atop the Mímameiðr tree in order for the seeker to achieve his quest, or so replies the wise porter Fjölsviðr, the title character of the poem.

Lævateinn has variously been asserted to be a dart (or some projectile weapon), or a sword, or a wand, by different commentators and translators. It is glossed as literally meaning a "wand" causing damage by several sources, yet some of these same sources claim simultaneously that the name is a kenning for sword. Others prefer to regard it as a magic wand (seiðr staff).


Lævateinn is the only weapon capable of defeating the cockerel Viðofnir, as explained by Fiölsvith "the very wise" porter in the poem Fjölsvinnsmál.[1][2][3] Lopt, the sword's maker, refers to Loki.[4]

Name and meanings[edit]

Hævateinn, the untampered form of the weapon's name as occurs in manuscript, has been glossed as "sure-striking dart/arrow" by Árni Magnússon in 1787,[a][5] and rendered "an arrow's name /That never disappoints the aim" by A. S. Cottle in 1797.[6]

Lævateinn, the emendation made by changing the first letter from H to L, was proposed by Sophus Bugge in 1860/1861,[7] later printed in Bugge's edition of the Poetic Edda (1867 ),[8] and construed to mean 'Wounding Wand',[4] or 'damage twig', [9] or "Wand-of-Destruction".[10]

To be fair, Lævateinn or -wand can have three possible senses of meaning,[11] and the latter three English glosses exploit only one of them. The three meanings of (the nominative case of læva) are: "cunning", "deception", and "injury".[12][13] The weapon's name is glossed as "wand of non deceit" in passing without further explanation by Einar Ólafur Sveinsson.[1][14]


The weapon is mentioned briefly thus in the poem Fjölsvinnsmál:

Segþv mer þat, Fjölsviþr!
Hvart ſe vapna nockvt
þat er knegi Viþofnir for
Hníga á heljar ſjót?“

Hæva-teinn heitir hann;
Enn hann gerþi Loptr Rúinn
Fyr ná-grindor neþan,
I ſæg iárnkeri liggr han
Hia Sin-mörv;
Oc halda njarþ-láſar nío.[5]

Tell me, Fiölsvith! etc.
whether there be any weapon,
before which Vidofnir may
fall to Hel´s abode?

Hævatein the twig is named,
and Lopt plucked it,
down by the gate of Death.
In an iron chest it lies
with Sinmoera,
and is with nine strong locks secured.[3]

Fjölsvinnsmál, str. 26–27. Árni Magnússon pub. (1787) —Benjamin Thorpe translation

Bugge proposed that this poem Fjölsvinnsmál should be treated as Part II of Svipdagsmál (sequel to Part I Grógaldr), and the sword's name was emended to Lævateinn by him.[8]

The poem underwent further modifications. The phrase "í sæg iárnkeri" ('placed in an iron vase')[15][b] was modified by Hjalmar Falk to "í Lægjarns keri", where Lægjarn denoted 'Lover of Ill', a nickname of Loki.[16][4]

Vindkaldr kvað:
Segðu mér þat, Fjölsviðr!
er ek þik spyrja mun
ok ek vilja vita:
hvárt sé vápna nökkut,
þat er knegi Viðofnir fyr
hníga á Heljar sjöt?

Fjölsviðr kvað:
Lævateinn hann heitir,
en hann gerði Loptr rýninn
fyr nágrindr neðan;
í seigjárnkeri [í Lægjarns keri][16]
liggr hann hjá Sinmöru,
ok halda njarðlásar níu.[8]

Svipdag spake:
"Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask,
For now the truth would I know:
What weapon can send Vithofnir to seek
The house of Hel below?"

Fjolsvith spake:
"Lævatein is there, that Lopt with runes
Once made by the doors of death;
In Lægjarn[Loki]'s chest by Sinmora lies it,
And nine locks fasten it firm".[2]

—Fjölsvinnsmál, str. 25–26. Sophus Bugge ed. (1867)[c] —Henry Adams Bellows translation


The Laeva- stem of the weapon's name is considered the genitive form of Lae-, as occurs in Loki's nickname Lægjarn, where lae means 'deceit, fraud; bane', and so forth.[11][13]

Type of weapon[edit]

The identification of the type of weapon is not in agreement among commentators and translators.

The Hævateinn was interpreted to be a dart/arrow (spiculum) by Árni Magnússon and A. S. Cottle in the 18th century as already noted.[5][6]

Whereas Finnur Jónsson glossed it as a sword, along with other editors at the beginning of early 20th century,[17][18] and it was specifically claimed to be the same as the flaming sword of the giant Surtr by Henrik Schück.[19]

Or, the Hævateinn or Lævateinn was probably a magic wand crafted by Loki according to others, e.g., Albert Morey Sturtevant,[20] and a paper on seiðr magic staffs citing Rudolf Simek.[21][d]

Henry Adams Bellows glossed Lævateinn as meaning 'wounding wand', but rejected identification with the mistilteinn or "mistletoe with which Baldr was killed".[4] To complicate matters, the argument is also made by e.g. Lee M. Hollander that although Lævateinn is literally renderable as a "Wand-of-Destruction", it is etymologically considered to be a kenning for a sword.[10][9]

In Adolfo Zavaroni and Reggio Emilia's conception of the poem, Lævateinn is a cudgel ("Evilcudgel"), while it is Viðofnir who owns a collection of rods (divining rods) whereamong he maintains his sickle. In fact, the word völr in the text literally means "rounded rods",[22] although translators have figuratively interpreted the word to be the rooster's plumage.[23][e]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Latin: spiculum in feriendo certum.
  2. ^ Or, if parsed as "sæ-gjarn" becomes construable as 'sea lover'.[4]
  3. ^ with an emendation by Falk shown in brackets.
  4. ^ Leszek Gardeła notes magic staff gambanteinn which also has a -teinn stem meaning 'twig'.
  5. ^ It should be explained that in Zavaroni and Emilia's picture, Viðofnir is not a mere bird, but "one of the aspects or hypostases of the [god] Hœnir".[22]


  1. ^ a b Einar Ól. Sveinsson (1971–1973), pp. 300–301.
  2. ^ a b Bellows tr. (1923). "Svipdagsmol (II Fjolsvinnsmol)" str. 41–42. p. 245
  3. ^ a b Thorpe tr. (1907). "The Lay of Filolsvith" str. 26–27. pp. 98–99
  4. ^ a b c d e Bellows tr. (1923), pp. 245–246. Notes to "Svipdagsmol (II Fjolsvinnsmol)" str. 42.
  5. ^ a b c Magnæus (1787). "Fiöl-svinns mál" str. 26–27. 1: 294–295
  6. ^ a b Cottle tr. (1797). "The Fable of Fiolsuid". p. 278
  7. ^ Bugge, Sophus (1861), "Hr. Bugge holdt folgende Foredrag om Forbindelsenn mellem de norrøne Digte Grógaldr og Fjölsvinnsmál oplyst ved Sammenligning med den dansk-svenske Folkevise om Sveidal", Forhandlinger i videnskabs-selskabet i Christiania, vol. Aar 1860, p. 139
  8. ^ a b c Bugge (1867). "Svipdagsmál II: Fjölsvinnsmál" str. 25–26. pp. 347–348.
  9. ^ a b Simek (2007), p. 185.
  10. ^ a b Hollander tr. (2011). str. 26–27. p. 148 and note.
  11. ^ a b c d Wanner, Kevin J. (February 2009), "Cunning Intelligence in Norse Myth: Loki, Óðinn, and the Limits of Sovereignty", History of Religions, 48 (3): 216 and n18, doi:10.1086/598231, JSTOR 10.1086/598231, S2CID 161860193
  12. ^ Wanner citing Jan de Vries (1961), Wörterbuch.[11]
  13. ^ a b Cf. "" s.v. Cleasby=Vigfusson's Dictionary (1874).
  14. ^ Pettit (2019), pp. 206–210, note 41
  15. ^ Magnæus (1787), p. 294 "Latin: In sino, ferreo vase".
  16. ^ a b Falk (1894), p. 51. "Mimetræts hane (Cockerel of the Mímameiðr--Mímir's tree)" str. 26. p. 51.
  17. ^ Finnur Jónsson (1905) p. 216 , and index, p. 524
  18. ^ Sijmons, Barend; Gering, Hugo ed. (1903–31) Edda 1:207. Cited by Wanner.[11]
  19. ^ Schück, Henrik (1904). Studier i nordisk litteratur- och religionshistoria. Vol. 2. Stockholm: Hugo Geber. p. 124.
  20. ^ Sturtevant, Albert Morey (March 1915), "A Note on the Sigrdrífumál", Publications of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, 2 (2): 83, JSTOR 40914942
  21. ^ Gardeła (2009), p. 199, citing Simek (2006), p. 185.
  22. ^ a b Zavaroni & Emilia (2006), p. 72.
  23. ^ e.g. Bellows tr. (1923). "Svipdagsmol (II Fjolsvinnsmol)" str. 46. p. 246: "sickle.. mid Vithofnir's feathers found".
(texts and translations)
(secondary sources)