What happens when Fjalarr and Galarr
go sailing with Gillingr?
Snorri’s myth of the mead of poetry in light of geomythology and disaster response
Fimmtudaginn 24. október 2013 kl. 16.30
The myth of the Mead of Poetry is extant in two very different versions. Hávamál 104-10 accounts for a myth whereby Óðinn steals Óðrerir from Suttungr by promising to marry Gunnlǫð, betrays his oath and flees the scene of a banquet in the hall. Snorri’s version in Skáldskaparmál is fundamentally different. It begins with the peace settlement between the Æsir and the Vanir. Kvasir is created by the Æsir and he travels the world far and wide, spreading his wisdom. Eventually, he is killed by some dwarves and they turn him into mead. As wergild for killing a jǫtunn named Gillingr during a sailing trip, the dwarves give the mead to Suttungr who stores it in the bottom of the mountain Hnitbjǫrg with his daughter Gunnlǫð. Óðinn enters the tale under the name Bǫlverkr and manages to kill the slaves of Suttungr’s brother Baugi. In return for working to bring in the harvest, Óðinn asks Baugi to help him get a drink of the mead from Suttungr. They try but fail, and instead Óðinn and the jǫtunn go to mountain Hnitbjǫrg and drill a hole into it. Óðinn transforms himself into a snake and crawls inside, copulates with Gunnlǫð, drinks the mead and bursts out of the mountain as an eagle. He returns to Ásgarðr in eagle form with Suttungr (also in eagle form) right at his heels and in order to escape Suttungr, Óðinn erupts, sending out the liquid skáldfíflahlutr backwards against Suttungr. In my presentation, I will outline a theory about why this myth is so much more extensive in Snorri’s version: why it involves several deaths, the entire expanse of the cosmos with several landscape features, and not least, a boat ride on an underworldly sea. I will argue that when Fjalarr (‘Hider’) and Galarr (‘Screamer’) go sailing with Gillingr (‘Noisy’), it is time to prepare for a volcanic eruption.
Mathias Nordvig is a Ph.D. student at Aarhus University. His research focuses on the transformation of Old Norse mythology in response to places and spaces in the Viking Age and medieval times. He works with concepts of Icelandic volcanism in Old Norse myths and investigates how certain myths may have changed as a result of early Icelanders’ encounters with volcanoes. He also works with conceptions of the sea in the myth of Thor’s fishing for the World Serpent, investigating how the migration across the North Atlantic sea may have altered the parameters within which the myth was told and retold.
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