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Völuspá

1 of c. 30 poems in the Elder Edda


Scandinavian Component, Class 8
Fornyrðislag

Völuspá 3 main sources…

(The Prophesy of the Seeress) Codex Regius (c. 1270) 62 stanzas (Pálsson)

Hauksbók (c. 1306) 59 stanzas

Snorra Edda (c. 1220 but 1300) 30 stanzas


16 paraphrased

Sophus Bugge (1833-1907) 66 different stanzas (Larrington)


Alan.Macniven@ed.ac.uk

Tutorial Questions
Dating Völuspá 1. Consider the main sources for Völuspá. Can we make any
generalisations about the scribes / authors?
Ancient tradition or Icelandic innovation?
2. What is the poem about? Outline the narrative on a surface level.
St. 54 (P) St 57 (L)… Also, would dividing the text into sections help us work with it? If so,
where would the divisions be, and why?
3. To what extent does the story represent the mythology of pagan
John McKinnel c. AD 962 – 1065
Norse society? Are there any signs of Christian influence?

Hákonarmál by Eyvindr Finnsson (Hákon the Good of Norway)


Þorfinnsdrápa by Arnórr Jarlaskáld (Thorfinn the Mighty of Orkney)

c. AD 1000 - 1033???

AD 33

Similarities with Judeo-Christian Tradition (1)


Themes & Structure
Stanza 7: ‘high temples’
I: Prologue (1-2)

II: From Chaos to Destiny (3-21)

III: Óðinn and the Sibyl (22-29)

IV: Death of Baldr (30-34)

V: Portents (36-49)

VI: Ragnarök (50-58)

VII: Rebirth (59-66)

Heddal Stave Church,


SW Norway (13th C)

But, shamansim????

1
Similarities with Judeo-Christian Tradition (1) Völuspá & the Apocalypse
St. 39: Revelations 21:8
Stanza 7: ‘high temples’
‘But the fearful and the unbelieving, and the abominable, and
murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolators,
Stanza 17: Askr and Embla – Adam and Eve?
and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning
with fire and brimstone, which is the second death’
Stanza 32: Baldr as Jesus Christ?
St. 45: Mark 13:12
Stanza 52: Surtr, the black one – as Satan? Claiming the
‘And brother shall; betray his brother unto death’
heathen and their gods
Matthew 24:7
‘For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against
kingdom, and there shall be earthquakes and shortages in one
place after another’

St. 46: Revelations 8:6-10


And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared
themselves to sound.

St. 49 & 50: Revelations 20:2 & 7 Similarities between Völuspá and Classical Tradition
‘And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the
devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years… And Ymir - Saturn
when the thousand years shall be finished, Satan shall be
loose out of his prison’ Frost giants - Titans
Oðinn, Vili & Vé (Borr’s sons) - Jupiter, Neptune & Pluto
St. 57: Mark 13:24-5
‘But in those days, after the tribulations, the sun shall be Norns - Morae
darkened and the moon shall not give her light. And the stars of Asgard - Olympus
heaven shall not be falling down’
Baldr - Achilles
St. 59: Revelations 21:1 Mistletoe - Achilles’ heal
‘And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven
and the first earth were gone and the sea is now no more’ Garm - Cerberus
Loki - Prometheus
St. 64: Revelations 21:9, 10 etc.
The holy city, [new] Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Poison venom - Liver eaten by vulture
heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Tutorial Questions

1. Consider the main sources for Völuspá. Can we make any


generalisations about the scribes / authors?
2. What is the poem about? Outline the narrative on a surface level.
Also, would dividing the text into sections help us work with it? If so,
where would the divisions be, and why?
3. To what extent does the story represent the mythology of pagan
Norse society? Are there any signs of Christian influence?
4. Are there any (moral) subtexts in Völuspá? Is it possible to say
whether these are Christian or pagan?
5. Discuss the role of the Sibyl – does she represent ‘the earliest
female voice in Norse literature’?
6. Describe the relationship between the Gods and the Giants.
7. Could Völuspá work as an allegory in the modern world?