An investigation of poetic fragments preserved in the Elder Edda following the research of Dr. Viktor A. Rydberg (1828-1895)

by William Reaves, edited by Úlfgrim Vílmeiđson
Copyright © William Reaves

Two versions of the Mead Myth, in which Odin secures the mead of poetry for Asgard, exist: one in Snorri Sturluson's Skáldskaparsmál, found in the Younger Edda; and another in the poems of the Elder Edda. As Snorri's account is well-known, and the accepted version of the tale, let us consider the references found in the Elder Edda and other related poetic fragments in regard to this mythic event, apart from Snorri's tale of giants and dwarves vying for the blood of the slain god Kvasir. Only in this manner can we hope to discover the outline of a genuine heathen account of Odin's journey to the giant Suttung in order to recover the mead, as composed by heathen skalds for the entertainment of an audience who believed in the veracity of the gods and were familiar with their adventures. The sources in question are Havamal strophes 104-110; Havamal 13 & 14, Grímnismál 50, Ynglingatal 15, and a loose strophe preserved in the Younger Edda's Skáldskaparsmál 9; all of which make reference to Odin's recovery of the mead from a group of giants.

Havamal strophes 104-110 provide the primary and the most complete source for the heathen Mead Myth. From these few stophes we can recognize a chain of events, to which other poetic references can be linked, thereby expanding our knowledge of the events surrounding Odin's quest , and strengthening the sketch with details, not fully explained there. From examining Havamal 104-110, we get the following results:

To recover the mead of inspiration, Odin travelled to "Suttung's Halls." (strophe 104), and specifically sought out a person characterized as "aldna jotun," the ancient giant. To accomplish this feat, Odin did not arrive in his usual appearance, but rather he wore a disguise "vel keyptz litar" (str. 107); this was necessary because of the great danger posed to a god entering this giant's halls (str. 106) "svá hćta ek hofđi til" ("thus I my head did peril," Benjamin Thorpe translation, and hereafter). However, Odin did not take on the appearance of a stranger unknown there, but that of an expected guest, presumably the suitor of the giantess Gunnlod, for, in the presense of the gathered guests, Odin takes an oath (str. 110) "Baugeiđ Ođinn hygg ek at unnit hafi," ("Odin, I believe a ring-oath gave"). The context of the passage makes it apparent that this oath is an oath of marriage. A large group of guests have gathered in the hall, both Hrim-thurses (str. 109) and a clan of giants known as "Suttung's sons." As we know, the action takes place in Suttung's halls, and the mythology knows of a race of beings called Suttungs synir, Suttung's sons (Alvismal 34 and elsewhere). For Skirnis 34, distinquishes between these two groups of beings, naming them side by side. Thus this is an important celebration and festive occassion, attended by at least two seperate clans, Frost-giants (Hrimthursar) and the Sons of Suttung. That they are gathered to celebrate a wedding is made clear by the fact that, even though Odin appears in the guise of another, Gunnlod loves him (str. 105) and after the feast, they are allowed to sleep together (str. 108) This is further confirmed by the actions of the frost-giants in strophe 109, who come to the door of the bridal-chamber the following morning to inquire of the "High one's match," ("Hŕva rŕđs at fregna"). Thus from Havamal 104-110, we gather that Odin has arrived in a hall, filled with guests, to participate in a wedding and that he, in disguise, has taken the place of the expected groom. Snorri's version mentions nothing of this, nor does his premise allow him to do so. In his account, Odin steals in through a hole cut directly into Gunnlod's chamber, where he stays three nights, meeting no one, but the giantess herself. As you can see, the two versions of the myth differ greatly.

In Havamal, Odin must play the part of the groom to achieve his aim, to retrieve the mead of inspiration kept by the giants. It is no easy task, even for a god. He places his life in danger by coming here. However, although he is their mortal enemy, the disguised Odin takes a place of honor among these giants and the bride-to-be serves him mead (str. 105) "Gunnlođ mér um gaf gullnom stóli ŕ drykk ins dýra mjáđar" ("Gunlodd gave me, on her golden seat, a draught of the precious mead."). He weds the giant maid in the presense of his gathered foes. Odin is clever and cunning; he skillfully plays the part of the groom, seemingly saying all the right things (cp. strophes 105 & 107). However in the course of events, the giants must have suspected his identity, for the next morning the frost-giants gathered in the hall inquire whether "Bolverkr" (the Evil-worker, a description which is entirely understandable from their perspective) had returned to the gods or whether Suttung had slain him (str. 109). In Snorri's account, Odin gives himself assumes this name, a name not calculated to inspire confidence in its bearer. In Havamal, the giants bestow this name on Odin, only after they discover his true identity.

Although Odin plays the part of the suitor convincingly, something must have happened in the night, that placed his life in great danger for, as he tells us "Tis doubtful to me that I could have come from the Jotun's courts, had not Gunnlod aided me." ("Ifi er mér ŕ , at ek vaera enn kominn iotna gorđom ór, ef ek Gunnlađar né nytac" str. 108). He does not leave her chamber the way he came in, but rather through a tunnel cut by "Rata munn," Rati's mouth, giant-ways above and below it (Rydberg suggests a meaning for the rather egnimatic "Rata munn," but on rather uncertain grounds; Thus I feel it best not to discuss it here). Snorri informs us that Odin navigates this passage in the shape of an eagle, a statement most likely in agreement with the heathen account, as evidenced by the words of a loose strophe in Skáldskaparsmál 9 by the skald Eyvind, which tells us that Odin "flying bore" ("fljúgandi bar") the mead. Thus we can surmise, that Odin, his identity revealed, must flee for his life through a hole cut into the rock.

Havamal strophes 13 & 14, support this account, as well as providing a valueable clue as to what must have happened in Suttung's hall that compromised Odin's masterful disguise. The two strophes are tied together by their common theme of drunkenness, and have direct bearing on the mead-myth since strophe 14 states that Odin was drunk "at ins fróđa Fjalars," at the cunning Fjalar's, which is described as "garđi Gunnlađar," Gunnlod's home, in the previous strophe. Thus, what Havamal 104 calls "Suttung's Halls" is here called "Fjalar's." In a literature known for its polynomy, we can safely assume that, Fjalar is an epithet of Suttung, an assumption that is confirmed by sources I shall consider as the investigation progresses. (Snorri, who also must have associated Havamal 14 with the mead myth, makes Fjalar an independant character and a dwarf, no doubt on the authority of Voluspa 16, but makes no mention of Odin drinking with him or at his house.) Whereas Havamal strophe 105 informs us that Odin drank mead in Gunnlod's home, strophe 13 & 14 tell us that he drank to excess. He was not merely drunk, but "over-drunk" (ofrolvi). Both strophes indicate this and, as both strophes emphasize the lack of reason that accompanies such insobriety, and strophe 14 particularily characterizes Fjalar, the hall-owner, as "cunning," we can infer that Odin lapsed in judgement, perhaps speaking careless words that betrayed his identity. The previous strophes, 10, 11, and 12, all speak on this point, emphasizing the impact of the situation.

In light of this emerging account of the events that comprise the genuine heathen Mead-Myth, let us now consider Grímnismál 50:

"Sviđurr and Sviđrir I was at SökkMimir's called and beguiled that ancient giant, when of Miđvitnir's renowned son, I was the sole destroyer."

At first glance, the strophe would seem to refer to the well-known myth in which Odin receives a drink of mead from Mimir, and perhaps this is the poet's intention, but within the strophe, he places the phrase "inn aldna jotun," the very words of Havamal strophe 104. This alone does not confirm their association, but beside a poetic fragment found in Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla, Ynglingatal 15, its relation to the mead-myth becomes clear. Ynglingatal 15 reads:

"The day-shy hall-guard of Durnir's descendants deceived Svigdir when he, the dauntless son of Dulsi, ran after the dwarf into the rock, when the shining giant inhabited hall of SökkMimir's kinsmen yawned against the dwarf" (Rasmus B. Anderson's translation, after Viktor Rydberg).

There can be no doubt that these two strophes are related, and speak of the same event: In these two strophes alone, we encounter the epithet SökkMimir, "Mimir of the Deep.". Both strophes speak of giants, and in both occur the variant names Sviđurr, Sviđrir, and Svigđir. But whereas, Grímnismál 50 lists the names Sviđurr or Sviđrir as epithets of Odin, in Ynglingatal 15, this name belongs to an elf who is killed outside of SökkMimir's "sal bjartr," bright hall. That this strophe speaks of Svigđir's death is apparent from the prose introduction to Ynglingatal, in which Snorri informs us that the elf Svigđir dies.He tells us that Svigđir ran into the rock, but never came out, which, perhaps is a poetic metaphor for an avalanche or entombment in a cave. Thus, before the elf Svigđir can enter the brightly lit hall, he dies at the hands of a treacherous dwarf. Snorri tells us that this dwarf informs Svigdir that Odin is inside the hall. To confirm this assertion, the strophe itself informs us that Svigđir was "decieved." (The remainder of his explanation of this strophe has nothing to do with the myth at hand. Thus, it becomes clear, as so often is the case, that Snorri has only a limited understanding of the strophes he uses, and is not afraid to embellish what he finds there.)

If, as I believe, these two related strophes have relevance to the Havamal strophes examined above, then we are supplied more details of the events currently under discussion. As we know, Odin has come to Suttung's hall in disguise (Havamal 108), he has taken the place of an expected suitor and marries the giantess Gunnlod. Ynglingatal 15 then informs us what happened to the real suitor; he was treacherously murdered outside of the festively lit hall, while Odin took his place inside.Thus Odin can operate inside the hall without fear of the real Svigđir appearing and spoiling his masquerade. Although Grímnismál 50 lists the variations Sviđurr and Sviđrir as names of Odin, we have seen in our investigation of the Havamal strophes, the name can only be applied to Alfather in a secondary sense, since he assumes it while in the shape of another who rightly bears the name. Odin is not Svigđir, but rather once played his part. The name Svigđir occurs elsewhere in the sagas and indicates a national-hero of the Swedes. In Ynglingtal 14, Sweden itself is called "Svigđir's domain." A full investigation, which I cannot embark on here, reveals that Svigđir himself has supplied Suttung the mead, in exchange for the hand of his daughter Gunnlod. Svigđir means "the drinker," "the swigger," and as the name infers, Odin in this disguise was expected to drink. Havamal 13 & 14 confirms this conclusion.

Once seen as related to the mead-myth, Grímnismál 50 and Ynglingatal 15 become a virtual treasurechest of epithets, that provide us with the key to unlocking the identity of Odin's opponents, the possessors' of the mead of poetry. In Ynglingatal 15, the first half of the strophe tells us that the events of the myth took place inside the hall of "Durnir's descendants," while the second half tells us that the hall is inhabited by "Sökkmimir's kinsmen." The kinsmen of Sökkmimir dwell in the hall of Durnir's descendants. Thus Durnir and SökkMimir are identical. That a skald would refer to a character named in the first half of a strophe, by an epithet in the second half of the strophe is not uncommon (see Volupsa 51, which speaks of Loki both as Loki and as Byleist's brother) Grímnismál 50 informs us that one of the inhabitants of the hall is named Miđvitnir (mjöđ; dative miđi), the Mead-wolf, and that Odin has killed his son. Thus we can imagine a struggle ensuing during the night, after Odin and Gunnlod had retired to their bedchamber, in which Odin slays Gunnlod's kinsman, Miđvitnir's son.

Voluspa 10 & 11 contain variations of the names, Durnir and Miđvitnir, which may provide an explanation of their relationship to one another. In strophe 10, Móđsognir and Durin create a race of dwarves, and, in strophe 11 one of the dwarves they create is named Mjöđvitnir, the mead-wolf. Thus Mjöđvitnir is a creation, and in a sense, the son of Durin. That Mjöđvitnir is a dwarf should come as no surprise since Ynglingatal 15 places a "day-shy dwarf" (akin to Alvis in Alvismal) as a sentry outside the hall entrance of Suttung's sons. Thus we arrive at the parallel name formations Durnir, Durin, whom we know to be identical with SökkMimir, and whose descendants are the same as those called "Suttung's Sons,"; and Miđvitnir, Mjöđvitnir, who is a dwarf and a distinquished inhabitant of the hall. As the Voluspa also incorporates the name Fjalar in the dwarf-list, it is possible that the names Suttung, Mjöđvitnir, and Fjalar, all refer to the
same being, a possibility that becomes more probable as the investigation continues.

In regard to the name SökkMimir, two passages must be observed: a half-strophe preserved in Skáldskaparsmál 9, and a paraphrase for mead found in Fornmanna iii, 3. In Skáldskaparsmál 9, 23 the skald Eyvind sings "Hinn, er Surts ór sökkdölum farmögnuđr fljúgandi bar," the drink which the Strong-thru-spells (Odin) bore flying from Surt's "sökkdölum," Surt's deep-dales. This provides us at once with the explanation of the epithet Sökk-Mimir, the Mimir of the Deep. After his home in "sökkdölum," the skald call Surt SökkMimir. This is confirmed by the paraphrase in Fornmanna which calls mead "sylgr Surts aettar," the drink of Surt's race. Thus when Odin sought "aldna Jotun," the ancient giant, when he came to "Suttung's," he stood in the halls of Surt's race, deep in southern dales.From this we can surmise that the original form of Suttung was Surt-ungr, the son of Surt. Thus Suttung is Surt's son. This conclusion provides us with the key to explain the use of the name Fjalar in Havamal 14.

As you recall, Havamal 14 informs us that the hall inhabited by Suttung's sons is also called "Fjalar's." In regard to the name Fjalar, Harbardsljod 26 provides a valueable clue. There, Harbard accuses Thor of hiding in a glove "afraid to sneeze or fart lest Fjalar hear it." Snorri Sturluson incorporates this event within his tale of Thor's journey to the giant Utgard Loki. There Thor and his companions spend the night in a glove, which turns out to belong to the giant Skrymir. At the end of the tale, Utgard-Loki , the ruler of a group of powerful race of giants, reveals that he himself was Skrymir. That these are fire giants may be discerned from what is said of them. Logi, fire, is Utgard-Loki's servant. He causes Earthquakes, which are associated with volcanic action, and is a master of illusion, even as heat creates mirages and plays tricks with the eyes. Harbardsljod informs us that Fjalar is Utgard-Loki's proper name. Recall, Havamal 14 tells us that when Odin sought the mead, he went to Fjalar's. Thus when Thor travelled to the halls of Utgard-Loki, he visited the same place that Odin, in the guise of Svigđir, secured the mead, the abode of Surt and his kinsmen. The fire-giants are masters of illusion, as witnessed in Thor's encounter with Utgard-Loki, thus Odin, by appearing in disguise, has beaten them at their own game!

Nor does this exhaust the record in regard to the name Fjalar. In Voluspa 42, as the events leading up to Ragnarok unfold, Fjalar, a red cock is said to "crow in the galg-wood." In the first half of the same strophe, Eggthir the sword-guardian rejoices. Here the two are put into close connection immediately preceding Ragnarok. In poetic fashion, the skald informs us that Fjalar has retrieved a sword from the frost giant Eggthir, who sits on a gravemound strumming a harp.. When we realize that Fjalar is a son of Surt, the actions of the red cock, a symbol of fire, become clear, for in
strophe 51, Surt comes from the south armed with a sword which once belonged to a val-tivi, one of the gods. Snorri Sturluson in Gylfaginning 65 tells us that the sword belonged to Frey. The Eddic poem For Skirnis recounts the tale of Frey giving his sword over to the giants in exchange for the giantess Gerd. On the way to Gerd's home, Frey's servant Skirnir encounters a goat-herd sitting on a gravemound striking a harp. This cannot be a coincidence. The goatherd is none other than Volupsa's Eggthir, who must afterward be entrusted with this sword by Gerd's parents, Aurboda and
Gymir. Thus Frey's sword is the one watched over by Eggthir, "the sword-guardian," and he keeps it until Fjalar comes to fetch it and deliver it to his father Surt. The red cock, a symbol of fire, "crows" at this triumph. Surely the strophe is allegorical, but the skald makes his meaning by clear by use of the name "Fjalar" in which we have discovered "Suttung," Surt's son. (A broader investigation of Eggthir, and the sword, which Skirnir calls "gambanteinn," confirms these conclusions and reveals the fate of this sword as a popular heathen theme, recurring in many poems of the Elder Edda and elsewhere.) It is this sword, shining brighter than the sun, which Surt uses to set the world ablaze. Voluspa 52 refers to it as "sviga laevi,," the bane of twigs, a euphemism for fire itself. In this way, Surt takes revenge on Odin by destroying his creations, Midgard and Asgard. From our investigation, we know that Odin has married and betrayed Fjalar's daughter,   Gunnlod. For this she weeps bitter tears (Havamal 110). He has slain Svigđir, Gunnlod's rightful suitor and one of Fjalar's (Mjöđvitnir's) sons, besides stealing the precious mead. Truly from the perspective of these giants, Odin is a "Bolverkr," an evil-worker, upon whom Surt has the right of blood-revenge. Thus Surt has just cause to appear during Ragnarok and take vengeance on Alfather and his creation. Although Odin has stolen the mead back from the fire-giants for the good of the world, he has also sealed its fate.

One looming question remains however: How can Surt, the most dangerous enemy of the gods, be associated with Mimir, the greatest ally of the Aesir, and characterized as SökkMimir, the Mimir of the Deep? Besides the obvious connection of Mimir and Surt as drinkers and keepers of mead, Voluspa 11 provides an answer. As we have seen Durnir is an epithet  of Surt, and a variation of the name Durin, co-creator of the dwarves alongside Mótsognir. Of these strophes, regarding the creation of the dwarves, we have three variant sources:

Konungsbók: Hauksbók: Snorra-Edda:
9:1 Ţá gengu regin öll Ţá gengu regin öll Ţá gengu regin öll
9:2 á rökstóla, á rökstóla, á rökstóla,
9:3 ginnheilög gođ, ginnheilög gođ, ginnheilög gođ,
9:4 og um ţađ gćttust, og um ţađ gćttust og um ţađ gćttust,
9:7 úr Brimis blóđi úr Brimis blóđi úr Brimis blóđi
9:8 og Bláins leggjum. og Bláins leggjum. og Bláins leggjum.

10:1 Ţar Mótsognir Ţar var Móđsognir "Móđsognir var
10:2 mćztur um orđinn mćztur of orđinn ćđstur, og annar
10:3 dverga allra, dverga allra, Durinn" (given in
10:4 en Durinn annar; en Durinn annar; prose).
10:5 ţeir mannlíkun Ţeir mannlíkan Ţar mannlíkun
10:6 mörg um gerđu, mörg of gerđu mörg of gerđust,
10:8 sem Durinn sagđi. sem Durinn sagđi. sem Durinn sagđi.

(kindly provided by Eysteinn Bjornsson)

The oldest of these two sources translate as:

Voluspa 9 "Then all the powers went to their judgement seats and decided who of the dwarves should create mankind....."

10. "Mótsognir was the mightest of the dwarves, Durin second. They created many human-likenesses as Durin instructed."

Here, I am following a more recent, and I believe more accurate, translation in which Mótsognir and Durin are seen not as dwarves created by the gods, but rather as rulers of the dwarves, who create human bodies for mankind. If we follow the traditional interpretation founded on Snorri's text, then we must assume that Mótsognir and Durin, as dwarves, created themselves. However, regardless of the translation, as the events described here take place in the earliest times, we can rest assured that Mótsognir and Durin are among the oldest beings in Creation, at least as old as the gods themselves (which explains Havamal's reference to "aldna jotun," the ancient giant, as a paraphrase for Surt himself). Be this as it may, Mótsognir is named nowhere else, and thus likely is an epithet of a character known by some other more common name. The name Mótsognir means the "Mead-drinker," and is associated with the name Durin, which in turn is identical with the epithet SökkMimir, the Mimir of the Deep. Durin-SökkMimir, as we have seen, is a byname of Surt, one of the oldest beings in the nine worlds. This provides a clue to the identity of Mótsognir, the Mead-Drinker. He can be none other than Mimir, who "drinks mead every morning from Valfather's pledge." (Voluspa 29) and who we know to be associated with both elves and dwarves (Havamal 143). He is the being from which Odin obtains a draught of the mead, "Óđreri," (Havamal 140), the very liquid he must now recover from Suttung's hall: "Ţvi at Óđrerir er nú upp kominn." (Havamal 107) From this it would seem that Mimir and Surt, Voluspa's Mótsognir and Durin, are the masters of a class of beings known as "dvergr," which demonstratably includes both elves and dwarves, as well as what we call "fire-giants."

>From the fragments that survive in regard to Mimir and Surt, it appears that they worked together in the earliest days, however at some point they must have had a falling out, because Mimir alone appears in possession of the mead of inspiration. Surt on the otherhand, has retired to Deep Dales, dangerous for the gods to visit, and there comes into an illicit supply of "Ođrerir", which Odin must retrieve. Around him he has gathered a tribe of dwarves "Suttung's synir," led by one in particular called "Mjöđvitnir," while Mimir too has gathered together a group of artists, namely Dainn, an elf, and the dwarf Dvalin , who is said to have his own band of dwarves (Dvalin's liđi, Voluspa 14; cp. Havamal 143). Voluspa 46 distinquishes a group of beings as "Mims synir," Mimir's sons. Thus the dwarves have split their loyalties among their creators, some following Motsognir-Mimir, and others following Durin-Surt. The tale of this division is lost.

Thus, from the surviving record in regard to the genuine heathen mead-myth, we can summarize as follows:

In the beginning of time, Mimir and Surt worked closely together, both in possession of the mead of inspiration. Together they created the dwarves and elves. At some point, they dissolve their association and Surt takes a number of dwarves with him to sunken dales, deep in the south, inaccessible to the gods. In Surt's hall,.a wedding is planned in which Svigđir, who from other sources, not mentioned here, has previously obtained a supply of mead from Mimir's well, and brought it for safe keeping to Surt's realm. In exchange for the mead, he plans to marry Fjalar's daughter Gunnlod. The enemies of the gods, both "Suttungs Synir," the fire-giants and "Hrim-thursar," frost-giants are gathered in the hall awaiting Svigdir's arrival. The expected guest arrives, but, unbeknownst to them, it is secretly Odin in disguise. The real Svigđir is dispatched outside the hall. Odin takes the place of the groom, and marries the giantess Gunnlod. At the wedding feast he drinks to excess, dropping careless words which endanger his masquerade. Sometime in the night, the fire-giants ambush Odin, who kills one of Fjalars sons. Odin manages to escape through a hole in the rock with the mead, and returns safely to Asgard. However, he has made a mortal enemy of Surt who plots to kill Odin's own son, Thor. Unsuccessful in his attempt on Thor's life, and fearful of his power, Surt bides his time until he appears at Ragnarok, wielding Frey's sword, and destroys heaven and earth. Thus we have uncovered an unbroken chain of events from the Creation through to the destruction of the powers lying hidden in plain sight in the poems of the Elder Edda. Had it not been for the confusion perpetuated by Snorri, the tale would be well-known.

From what we have learned in the investigation above, it seems that the proper name of Surt's southern region, the home of fire and light, is Sökkdölum, the Sunken Dales, or Deep Dales. This fits neatly into the pattern of alliteration common in the place names of the mythic geography and which corresponds to their locations in regard to the points of a compass. In the North, we find Niflhel and the Nastrands. In the East (Austr), we find the Elfhome, Alfheim; in the West (Vestr), we find Vanaheim and Varnavidr; thus in the South, we find Sökkdölum, the home of Surt and Suttung's sons. This alliterative agreement throws Snorri's designation of the Surt's home as Muspelheim into question. And indeed, the name Muspelheim, which does not occur in the poems of the Elder Edda, cannot stand up to close scrutiny.

Snorri seems to have freely formed the name Muspelheim from his belief that "Muspels megir," the Sons of Muspel ride from the South with Surt during the battle of Ragnarok. Snorri's source for this statement, Volupsa 51 and 52 contradict his conclusions. Voluspa 52 informs us that Surt rides from the South with "the bane of twigs."However Voluspa 51 clearly states that the Sons of Muspel arrive from the east in a ship, with Loki at the rudder "Kjóll ferr austan, koma munu Muspells of lög lýđir, en Loki stýrir." The east is well-known as the home of giants. Furthermore, the second half of the strophe describes the passengers on the ship as Freki, a wolf, and "fiflmegir," Fifl's children. As we know Loki to be chained beside the Wolf (Lokasenna 41) and that "the old one in the Ironwood," fosters Fenrir's children "Fenris kindir" in the east (Voluspa 40), Freki and Fiflsmegir can have no other explanation than Fenrir and his monster brood. Thus Loki arrives at the battle of Ragnarok in the company of his son, Fenrir, and his hideous grandchildren, who are together characterized as "Muspells lýđir." Lokasenna 42 confirms this view, when it says that during the battle of Ragnarok, "Muspels synir," "the Sons of Muspel," "ride over the Myrkwood." In Volundarkvida 1, swan-maids fly from the south "to Myrkwood," which from the context of the poem itself, and from comparision to the Old English poem Doer's Lament, we know to be situated near a "winter-cold" land known as "the Wolfdales." Thus the heathen skalds did not conceive of Muspells sons as inhabiting the southern realms of fire and light, but rather a northern or eastern realm of extreme cold, cut off from the world of the gods by a vast forest characterized as the "Ironwood," the "Myrkwood," and also possibly the"galg-wood" (a word in which Viktor Rydberg sees a fossil word for "metal" related to other Indo-European cognates for "copper"). This cannot be reconciled with the ideas presented by Snorri in regard to Muspelheim, and upon closer inspection, it seems that Snorri himself was unsure of this name referring to Surt's realm as "Múspellsheimi,""Múspelli," (Gylfaginning 3). and "Múspells heimi" (Gylf. 8). It is obvious that Snorri has formed the name of the southern realm from his misunderstanding of the references to "Muspel's sons" he has encountered in the poems of the Elder Edda; confounding him with "Suttung's synir" who arrive with Surt from the south. In the oldest Old Norse literature, we cannot find another occurance of the people of a land being called the "synir" or "megir" of that country. Thus this, like the fanciful tale of Odin vying for the blood of Kvasir with a variety of treacherous dwarves and giants, is undoubtedly a creation of the author of Gylfaginning freely formed from the poetic fragments and paraphrases at hand, and still extant today.

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