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1 24th April 01:25
hgraw
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Posts: 1
Default Rydberg: IV.60. The Word Hel in Skirnismal... (wise friend evil runes master)


http://www.northvegr.org/lore/rydberg/060.php

Part 4


60.
THE WORD HEL IN SKÍRNISMÁL. DESCRIPTION OF NIFLHEL. THE MYTHIC MEANING
OF NÁR, NÁIR. THE HADES-DIVISION OF THE FROST-GIANTS AND SPIRITS OF
DISEASE.

In Skírnismál 27 occurs the expression horfa ok snugga Heljar til. It
is of importance to our theme to investigate and explain the
connection in which it is found.

The poem tells that Frey sat alone, silent and longing, ever since he
had seen the giant Gymir's wonderfully beautiful daughter Gerd. He
wasted with love for her; but he said nothing, since he was convinced
in advance that neither Asas nor Elves would ever consent to a union
between him and her. But when the friend of his youth, who resided in
Asgard, and in the poem is called Skirnir, succeeded in getting him to
confess the cause of his longing, it was, in Asgard, found necessary
to do something to relieve it, and so Skirnir was sent to the home of
the giant to ask for the hand of Gerd on Frey's behalf. As bridal
gifts he took with him eleven golden apples and the ring Draupnir. He
received one of the best horses of Asgard to ride, and for his defence
Frey's magnificent sword, "which fights of itself against the race of
giants". In the poem this sword receives the epithets Tamsvöndr (26)
and Gambanteinn (32). Tamsvöndr, means the "staff that subdues";
Gambanteinn means the "rod of revenge" (see Nos. 105, 116). Both
epithets are formed in accordance with the common poetic usage of
describing swords by compound words of which the latter part is vöndr
or teinn. We find, as names for swords, benvöndr, blóđvöndr,
hjaltvöndr, hríđvöndr, hvítvöndr, morđvöndr, sárvöndr, benteinn,
eggteinn, hćvateinn, hjörteinn, hrćteinn, sárteinn, valteinn,
mistilteinn.

Skirnir rides over damp fells and the fields of giants, leaps, after a
quarrel with the watchman of Gymir's citadel, over the fence, comes in
to Gerd, is welcomed with ancient mead, and presents his errand of
courtship, supported by the eleven golden apples. Gerd refuses both
the apples and the object of the errand. Skirnir then offers her the
most precious treasure, the ring Draupnir, but in vain. Then he
resorts to threats. He exhibits the sword so dangerous to her kinsmen;
with it he will cut off her head if she refuses her consent. Gerd
answers that she is not to be frightened, and that she has a father
who is not afraid to fight. Once more Skirnir shows her the sword,
which also may fell her father (sér ţú ţenna mćki, mey, &c.), and he
threatens to strike her with the "subduing staff," so that her heart
shall soften, but too late for her happiness, for a blow from the
staff will remove her thither, where sons of men never more shall see
her (Grímnismál 26).

Tamsvendi eg ţig drep,
en eg ţig temja mun,
mćr, ađ mínum munum;
ţar skaltu ganga,
er ţig gumna synir
síđan ćva sjá.

This is the former threat of death repeated in another form. The
former did not frighten her. But that which now overwhelms her with
dismay is the description Skirnir gives her of the lot that awaits her
in the realm of death, whither she is destined - she, the giant maid,
if she dies by the avenging wrath of the gods (gambanreiđi). She shall
then come to that region which is situated below the Na-gates (fyr
nágrindur neđan - 35), and which is inhabited by frost-giants who, as
we shall find, do not deserve the name mannasynir, even though the
word menn be taken in its most common sense, and made to embrace
giants of the masculine kind.

This phrase fyr nágrindur neđan must have been a stereotyped
eschatological term applied to a particular division, a particular
realm in the lower world. In Lokasenna 63, Thor says to Loki, after
the latter has emptied his phials of rash insults upon the gods, that
if he does not hold his tongue the hammer Mjolnir shall send him to
Hel fyr nágrindur neđan. Hel is here used in its widest sense, and
this is limited by the addition of the words "below the Na-gates," so
as to refer to a particular division of the lower world. As we find by
the application of the phrase to Loki, this division is of such a
character that it is intended to receive the foes of the Asas and the
insulters of the gods.

The word Nagrind, which is always used in the plural, and accordingly
refers to more than one gate of the kind, has as its first part nár
(pl. náir), which means corpse, dead body. Thus Na-gates means Corpse-
gates.

The name must seem strange, for it is not dead bodies, but souls,
released from their bodies left on earth, which descend to the kingdom
of death and get their various abodes there. How far our heathen
ancestors had a more or less material conception of the soul is a
question which it is not necessary to discuss here (see on this point
No. 95). Howsoever they may have regarded it, the very existence of a
Hades in their mythology demonstrates that they believed that a
conscious and sentient element in man was in death separated from the
body with which it had been united in life, and went down to the lower
world. That the body from which this conscious, sentient element fled
was not removed to Hades, but went in this upper earth to its
disintegration, whether it was burnt or buried in a mound or sunk to
the bottom of the sea, this our heathen ancestors knew just as well as
we know it. The people of the stone-age already knew this.

The phrase Na-gates does not stand alone in our mythological
eschatology. One of the abodes of torture lying within the Na-gates is
called Nastrond (Náströnd), and is described in Völuspá as filled with
terrors. And the victims, which Nidhogg, the winged demon of the lower
world, there ****s, are called náir framgengnir, "the corpses of those
departed".

It is manifest that the word nár thus used cannot have its common
meaning, but must be used in a special mythological sense, which had
its justification and its explanation in the heathen doctrine in
regard to the lower world.

It not unfrequently happens that law-books preserve ancient
significations of words not found elsewhere in literature. The
Icelandic law-book Grágás (ii. 185) enumerates four categories within
which the word nár is applicable to a person yet living. Gallows-nár
can be called, even while living, the person who is hung; grave-nár,
the person placed in a grave; skerry-nár or rock-nár may, while yet
alive, he be called who has been exposed to die on a skerry or rock.
Here the word nár is accordingly applied to persons who are conscious
and capable of suffering, but on the supposition that they are such
persons as have been condemned to a punishment which is not to cease
so long as they are sensitive to it.

And this is the idea on the basis of which the word náir is
mythologically applied to the damned and tortured beings in the lower
world.

If we now take into account that our ancestors believed in a second
death, in a slaying of souls in Hades, then we find that this same use
of the word in question, which at first sight could not but seem
strange, is a consistent development of the idea that those banished
from Hel's realms of bliss die a second time, when they are
transferred across the border to Niflhel and the world of torture.
When they are overtaken by this second death they are for the second
time náir. And, as this occurs at the gates of Niflhel, it was
perfectly proper to call the gates nágrindr.

We may imagine that it is terror, despair, or rage which, at the sight
of the Na-gates, severs the bond between the damned spirit and his
Hades-body, and that the former is anxious to soar away from its
terrible destination. But however this may be, the avenging powers
have runes, which capture the fugitive, put chains on his Hades-body,
and force him to feel with it. The Sun-song, a Christian song standing
on the scarcely crossed border of heathendom, speaks of damned ones
whose breasts were risted (carved) with bloody runes, and Hávamál 157
of runes which restore consciousness to náir. Such runes are known by
Odin. If he sees in a tree a gallows-nár (virgil-nár), then he can
rist runes so that the body comes down to him and talks with him (see
No. 70):

Ef eg sé á tré uppi
váfa virgilná,
svá eg rist
og í rúnum fák,
ađ sá gengur gumi
og mćlir viđ mig.

Some of the subterranean náir have the power of motion, and are doomed
to wade in "heavy streams". Among them are perjurers, murderers, and
adulterers (Völuspá 39). Among these streams is Vadgelmir, in which
they who have slandered others find their far-reaching retribution
(Reginsmál 4). Other náir have the peculiarity which their appellation
suggests, and receive quiet and immovable, stretched on iron benches,
their punishment (see below). Saxo, who had more elaborate
descriptions of the Hades of heathendom than those which have been
handed down to our time, translated or reproduced in his accounts of
Hadding's and Gorm's journeys in the lower world the word náir with
exsanguia simulacra ["lifeless shades" - Fisher, p. 266].

That place after death with which Skirnir threatens the stubborn Gerd
is also situated within the Na-gates, but still it has another
character than Nastrond and the other abodes of torture, which are
situated below Niflhel. It would also have been unreasonable to
threaten a person who rejects a marriage proposal with those
punishments which overtake criminals and nithings. The Hades division,
which Skirnir describes as awaiting the giant-daughter, is a
subterranean Jotunheim, inhabited by deceased ancestors and kinsmen of
Gerd.

Mythology has given to the giants as well as to men a life hereafter.
As a matter of fact, mythology never destroys life. The horse which
was cremated with its master on his funeral pyre, and was buried with
him in his grave-mound, afterwards brings the hero down to Hel. When
the giant who built the Asgard wall got into conflict with the gods,
Thor's hammer sent him "down below Niflhel" (niđur undir Niflhel -
Gylfaginning 42). King Gorm saw in the lower world the giant Geirrod
and both his daughters. According to Grímnismál 31, frost-giants dwell
under one of Yggdrasil's roots - consequently in the lower world; and
Forspjallsljóđ says that hags (giantesses) and thurses (giants), náir,
dwarfs, and swarthy elves go to sleep under the world-tree's farthest
root on the north border of Jormungrund[*] (the lower world), when
Dag on a chariot sparkling with precious stones leaves the lower
world, and when Nat after her journey on the heavens has returned to
her home ( Forspjallsljóđ 24, 25). It is therefore quite in order if
we, in Skirnir's description of the realm which after death awaits the
giant-daughter offending the gods, rediscover that part of the lower
world to which the drowned primeval ancestors of the giant-maid were
relegated when Bor's sons opened the veins of Ymir's throat
(Sonatorrek 3) and then let the billows of the ocean wash clean the
rocky ground of earth, before they raised the latter from the sea and
there created the inhabitable Midgard.

* With this name of the lower world compare Gudmund-Mimir's abode á
Grund (see No. 45), and Helligrund (Heliand., 44, 22), and neowla
grund (Caedmon, 267, 1, 270, 16).

The frost-giants (rimethurses) are the primeval giants (gigantes) of
the Teutonic mythology, so called because they sprang from the frost-
being Ymir, whose feet by contact with each other begat their
progenitor, the "strange-headed" monster Thrudgelmir (Vafţrúđnismál
29, 33). Their original home in chaos was Niflheim. From the
Hvergelmir fountain there the Elivágar rivers flowed to the north and
became hoar-frost and ice, which, melted by warmth from the south,
were changed into drops of venom, which again became Ymir, called by
the giants Aurgelmir (Vafţrúđnismál 30-31; Gylfaginning 5).
Thrudgelmir begat Bergelmir countless winters before the earth was
made (Vafţrúđnismál 29; Gylfinning 7). Those members of the giant race
living in Jotunheim on the surface of the earth, whose memory goes
farthest back in time, can remember Bergelmir when he var á lúđr um
lagiđr. At least Vafthrudnir is able to do this (Vafţrúđnismál 35).

When the original giants had to abandon the fields populated by Bor's
sons (Völuspá 4), they received an abode corresponding as nearly as
possible to their first home, and, as it seems, identical with it,
excepting that Niflheim now, instead of being a part of chaos, is an
integral part of the cosmic universe, and the extreme north of its
Hades. As a Hades-realm it is also called Niflhel.

In the subterranean land with which Skirnir threatens Gerd, and which
he paints for her in appalling colours, he mentions three kinds of
beings - (1) frost-giants, the ancient race of giants; (2) demons; (3)
giants of the later race.

The frost-giants occupy together one abode, which, judging from its
epithet, hall (höll), is the largest and most important there; while
those members of the younger giant clan who are there, dwell in single
scattered abodes, called gards. [Compare the phrase jötna görđum í
(30:3) with til hrímţursa hallar (30:4).] Gerd is also there to have a
separate abode (Skírnismál 28).

Two frost-giants are mentioned by name, which shows that they are
representatives of their clan. One is named Rimgrimnir (Hrímgrímnir -
35), the other Rimnir (Hrímnir - 28).

Grimnir is one of Odin's many surnames (Grímnismál 47, and several
other places; cp. Egilsson's Lex. Poet.). Rimgrimnir means the same as
if Odin had said Rim-Odin, for Odin's many epithets could without
hesitation be used by the poets in paraphrases, even when these
referred to a giant. But the name Odin was too sacred for such a
purpose. Upon the whole the skalds seem piously to have abstained from
using that name in paraphrases, even when the latter referred to
celebrated princes and heroes. Glum Geirason [Gráfeldardrápa] is the
first known exception to the rule. He calls a king málm-Óđinn. The
above epithet places Rimgrimnir in the same relation to the frost-
giants as Odin-Grimnir sustains to the asas: it characterises him as
the race-chief and clan-head of the former, and in this respect gives
him the same place as Thrudgelmir occupies in Vafţrúđnismál. Ymir
cannot be regarded as the special clan-chief of the frost-giants,
since he is also the progenitor of other classes of beings (see
Vafţrúđnismál 33, and Völuspá 9; cp. Gylfaginning 14). But they have
other points of resemblance. Thrudgelmir is "strange-headed" in
Vafţrúđnismál; Rimgrimnir is "three-headed" in Skírnismál (31; cp.
with 35). Thus we have in one poem a "strange-headed" Thrudgelmir as
progenitor of the frost-giants; in the other poem a "three-headed"
Rimgrimnir as progenitor of the same frost-giants. The "strange-
headed" giant of the former poem, which is a somewhat indefinite or
obscure phrase, thus finds in "three-headed" of the latter poem its
further definition. To this is to be added a power which is possessed
both by Thrudgelmir and by Rimgrimnir, and also a weakness for which
both Thrudgelmir and Rimgrimnir are blamed. Thrudgelmir's father begat
children without possessing gýgjar gaman (Vafţrúđnismál 32). That
Thrudgelmir inherited this power from his strange origin and handed it
down to the clan of frost-giants, and that he also inherited the
inability to provide for the perpetuation of the race in any other
way, is evident from Alvíssmál 2. If we make a careful examination, we
find that Skirnirsmal presupposes this same positive and negative
quality in Rimgrimnir, and consequently Thrudgelmir and Rimgrimnir
must be identical.

Gerd, who tries to reject the love of the fair and blithe Vana-god,
will, according to Skirnir's threats, be punished therefore in the
lower world with the complete loss of all that is called love,
tenderness, and sympathy. Skirnir says that she either must live alone
and without a husband in the lower world, or else vegetate in a
useless cohabitation (nara) with the three-headed giant (31). The
threat is gradually emphasised to the effect that she shall be
possessed by Rimgrimnir, and this threat is made immediately after the
solemn conjuration (34) in which Skirnir invokes the inhabitants of
Niflhel and also of the regions of bliss, as witnesses, that she shall
never gladden or be gladdened by a man in the physical sense of this
word:


Heyri jötnar,
heyri hrímţursar,
synir Suttunga,
sjálfir ásliđar,[*]
hve eg fyrirbýđ,
hve eg fyrirbanna
manna glaum mani,
manna nyt mani.
Hrímgrímnir heitir ţurs,
er ţig hafa skal
fyr nágrindur neđan.
Hear ye giants,
hear, frost-giants,
sons of the Suttungs,
the asa-champions themselves,
how I forbid,
how I banish
pleasure in men from the maid,
enjoyment of men from the maid.
Rimgrimnir is the giant,
who shall possess you
down below the corpse-gates.


* With ásliđar, asa-champions, there can hardly be meant others than
the ásmegir gathered in the lower world around Baldur. This is the
only place where the word ásliđar occurs.

More plainly, it seems to me, Skirnir in speaking to Gerd could not
have expressed the negative quality of Rimgrimnir in question. Thor
also expresses himself clearly on the same subject when he meets the
dwarf Alvis carrying home a maid over whom Thor has the right of
marriage. Thor says scornfully that he thinks he discovers in Alvis
something which reminds him of the nature of thurses, although Alvis
is a dwarf and the thurses are giants, and he further defines wherein
this similarity consists: ţursa líki ţyki mér á ţér vera; erattu til
brúđar borinn: "Thurs' likeness you seem to me to have; you were not
born to have a bride". So far as the positive quality is concerned it
is evident from the fact that Rimgrimnir is the progenitor of the
frost-giants.

Descended to Niflhel, Gerd must not count on a shadow of friendship
and sympathy from her kinsmen there. It would be best for her to
confine herself in the solitary abode which there awaits her, for if
she but looks out of the gate, staring gazes shall meet her from
Rimnir and all the others down there; and she shall there be looked
upon with more hatred than Heimdall, the watchman of the gods, who is
the wise, always vigilant foe of the rimethurses and giants. But
whether she is at home or abroad, demons and tormenting spirits shall
never leave her in peace. She shall be bowed to the earth by tramar
(evil witches). Morn (a Teutonic Eumenides, the agony of the soul
personified) shall fill her with his being. The spirits of sickness -
such also dwell there; they once took an oath not to harm Baldur
(Gylfaginning 49) - shall increase her woe and the flood of her tears.
Topi (insanity), Opi (hysteria), Tjosul and Otholi (constant
restlessness), shall not leave her in peace. These spirits are also
counted as belonging to the race of thurses, and hence it is said in
the rune-song that ţurs veldr kvenna kvillu, "thurs causes sickness of
women". In this connection it should be remembered that the daughter
of Loki, the ruler of Niflhel, is also the queen of diseases. Gerd's
food shall be more loathsome to her than the poisonous serpent is to
man, and her drink shall be the most disgusting. Miserable she shall
crawl among the homes of the Hades giants, and up to a mountain top,
where Ari, a subterranean eagle-demon has his perch (doubtless the
same Ari which, according to Völuspá 50, is to join with his screeches
in Rymur's shield-song, when the Midgard-serpent writhes in giant-
rage, and the ship of death, Naglfar, gets loose). Up there she shall
sit early in the morning, and constantly turn her face in the same
direction - in the direction where Hel is situated, that is, south
over Mt. Hvergelmir, toward the subterranean regions of bliss. Toward
Hel she shall long to come in vain:

Ara ţúfu á
skaltu ár sitja,
horfa og snugga Heljar til. "On Ari's perch thou shalt early sit, turn
toward Hel, and long to get to Hel."

By the phrase snugga Heljar til, the skald has meant something far
more concrete than to "long for death". Gerd is here supposed to be
dead, and within the Na-gates. To long for death, she does not need to
crawl up to "Ari's perch". She must subject herself to these nightly
exertions, so that when it dawns in the foggy Niflhel, she may get a
glimpse of that land of bliss to which she may never come; she who
rejected a higher happiness - that of being with the gods and
possessing Frey's love.

I have been somewhat elaborate in the presentation of this description
in Skírnismál, which has not hitherto been understood. I have done so,
because it is the only evidence left to us of how life was conceived
in the fore-court of the regions of torture, Niflhel, the land
situated below Yggdrasil's northern root, beyond and below the
mountain, where the root is watered by Hvergelmir. It is plain that
the author of Skírnismál, like that of Vafţrúđnismál, Grímnismál,
Vegtamskviđa, and Ţórsdrápa (as we have already seen), has used the
word Hel in the sense of a place of bliss in the lower world. It is
also evident that with the root under which the frost-giant dwells
impossibly can be meant, as supposed by Gylfaginning, that one under
which Mimir's glorious fountain, and Mimir's grove, and all his
treasures stored for a future world, are situated.
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2 25th April 19:15
hgraw
External User
 
Posts: 1
Default Rydberg: IV.60. The Word Hel in Skirnismal... (wise friend evil runes master)


http://www.northvegr.org/lore/rydberg/060.php


Part 4

60.
THE WORD HEL IN SKÍRNISMÁL. DESCRIPTION OF NIFLHEL. THE MYTHIC MEANING
OF NÁR, NÁIR. THE HADES-DIVISION OF THE FROST-GIANTS AND SPIRITS OF
DISEASE.

In Skírnismál 27 occurs the expression horfa ok snugga Heljar til. It
is of importance to our theme to investigate and explain the
connection in which it is found.

The poem tells that Frey sat alone, silent and longing, ever since he
had seen the giant Gymir's wonderfully beautiful daughter Gerd. He
wasted with love for her; but he said nothing, since he was convinced
in advance that neither Asas nor Elves would ever consent to a union
between him and her. But when the friend of his youth, who resided in
Asgard, and in the poem is called Skirnir, succeeded in getting him to
confess the cause of his longing, it was, in Asgard, found necessary
to do something to relieve it, and so Skirnir was sent to the home of
the giant to ask for the hand of Gerd on Frey's behalf. As bridal
gifts he took with him eleven golden apples and the ring Draupnir. He
received one of the best horses of Asgard to ride, and for his defence
Frey's magnificent sword, "which fights of itself against the race of
giants". In the poem this sword receives the epithets Tamsvöndr (26)
and Gambanteinn (32). Tamsvöndr, means the "staff that subdues";
Gambanteinn means the "rod of revenge" (see Nos. 105, 116). Both
epithets are formed in accordance with the common poetic usage of
describing swords by compound words of which the latter part is vöndr
or teinn. We find, as names for swords, benvöndr, blóđvöndr,
hjaltvöndr, hríđvöndr, hvítvöndr, morđvöndr, sárvöndr, benteinn,
eggteinn, hćvateinn, hjörteinn, hrćteinn, sárteinn, valteinn,
mistilteinn.

Skirnir rides over damp fells and the fields of giants, leaps, after a
quarrel with the watchman of Gymir's citadel, over the fence, comes in
to Gerd, is welcomed with ancient mead, and presents his errand of
courtship, supported by the eleven golden apples. Gerd refuses both
the apples and the object of the errand. Skirnir then offers her the
most precious treasure, the ring Draupnir, but in vain. Then he
resorts to threats. He exhibits the sword so dangerous to her kinsmen;
with it he will cut off her head if she refuses her consent. Gerd
answers that she is not to be frightened, and that she has a father
who is not afraid to fight. Once more Skirnir shows her the sword,
which also may fell her father (sér ţú ţenna mćki, mey, &c.), and he
threatens to strike her with the "subduing staff," so that her heart
shall soften, but too late for her happiness, for a blow from the
staff will remove her thither, where sons of men never more shall see
her (Grímnismál 26).

Tamsvendi eg ţig drep,
en eg ţig temja mun,
mćr, ađ mínum munum;
ţar skaltu ganga,
er ţig gumna synir
síđan ćva sjá.

This is the former threat of death repeated in another form. The
former did not frighten her. But that which now overwhelms her with
dismay is the description Skirnir gives her of the lot that awaits her
in the realm of death, whither she is destined - she, the giant maid,
if she dies by the avenging wrath of the gods (gambanreiđi). She shall
then come to that region which is situated below the Na-gates (fyr
nágrindur neđan - 35), and which is inhabited by frost-giants who, as
we shall find, do not deserve the name mannasynir, even though the
word menn be taken in its most common sense, and made to embrace
giants of the masculine kind.

This phrase fyr nágrindur neđan must have been a stereotyped
eschatological term applied to a particular division, a particular
realm in the lower world. In Lokasenna 63, Thor says to Loki, after
the latter has emptied his phials of rash insults upon the gods, that
if he does not hold his tongue the hammer Mjolnir shall send him to
Hel fyr nágrindur neđan. Hel is here used in its widest sense, and
this is limited by the addition of the words "below the Na-gates," so
as to refer to a particular division of the lower world. As we find by
the application of the phrase to Loki, this division is of such a
character that it is intended to receive the foes of the Asas and the
insulters of the gods.

The word Nagrind, which is always used in the plural, and accordingly
refers to more than one gate of the kind, has as its first part nár
(pl. náir), which means corpse, dead body. Thus Na-gates means Corpse-
gates.

The name must seem strange, for it is not dead bodies, but souls,
released from their bodies left on earth, which descend to the kingdom
of death and get their various abodes there. How far our heathen
ancestors had a more or less material conception of the soul is a
question which it is not necessary to discuss here (see on this point
No. 95). Howsoever they may have regarded it, the very existence of a
Hades in their mythology demonstrates that they believed that a
conscious and sentient element in man was in death separated from the
body with which it had been united in life, and went down to the lower
world. That the body from which this conscious, sentient element fled
was not removed to Hades, but went in this upper earth to its
disintegration, whether it was burnt or buried in a mound or sunk to
the bottom of the sea, this our heathen ancestors knew just as well as
we know it. The people of the stone-age already knew this.

The phrase Na-gates does not stand alone in our mythological
eschatology. One of the abodes of torture lying within the Na-gates is
called Nastrond (Náströnd), and is described in Völuspá as filled with
terrors. And the victims, which Nidhogg, the winged demon of the lower
world, there ****s, are called náir framgengnir, "the corpses of those
departed".

It is manifest that the word nár thus used cannot have its common
meaning, but must be used in a special mythological sense, which had
its justification and its explanation in the heathen doctrine in
regard to the lower world.

It not unfrequently happens that law-books preserve ancient
significations of words not found elsewhere in literature. The
Icelandic law-book Grágás (ii. 185) enumerates four categories within
which the word nár is applicable to a person yet living. Gallows-nár
can be called, even while living, the person who is hung; grave-nár,
the person placed in a grave; skerry-nár or rock-nár may, while yet
alive, he be called who has been exposed to die on a skerry or rock.
Here the word nár is accordingly applied to persons who are conscious
and capable of suffering, but on the supposition that they are such
persons as have been condemned to a punishment which is not to cease
so long as they are sensitive to it.

And this is the idea on the basis of which the word náir is
mythologically applied to the damned and tortured beings in the lower
world.

If we now take into account that our ancestors believed in a second
death, in a slaying of souls in Hades, then we find that this same use
of the word in question, which at first sight could not but seem
strange, is a consistent development of the idea that those banished
from Hel's realms of bliss die a second time, when they are
transferred across the border to Niflhel and the world of torture.
When they are overtaken by this second death they are for the second
time náir. And, as this occurs at the gates of Niflhel, it was
perfectly proper to call the gates nágrindr.

We may imagine that it is terror, despair, or rage which, at the sight
of the Na-gates, severs the bond between the damned spirit and his
Hades-body, and that the former is anxious to soar away from its
terrible destination. But however this may be, the avenging powers
have runes, which capture the fugitive, put chains on his Hades-body,
and force him to feel with it. The Sun-song, a Christian song standing
on the scarcely crossed border of heathendom, speaks of damned ones
whose breasts were risted (carved) with bloody runes, and Hávamál 157
of runes which restore consciousness to náir. Such runes are known by
Odin. If he sees in a tree a gallows-nár (virgil-nár), then he can
rist runes so that the body comes down to him and talks with him (see
No. 70):

Ef eg sé á tré uppi
váfa virgilná,
svá eg rist
og í rúnum fák,
ađ sá gengur gumi
og mćlir viđ mig.

Some of the subterranean náir have the power of motion, and are doomed
to wade in "heavy streams". Among them are perjurers, murderers, and
adulterers (Völuspá 39). Among these streams is Vadgelmir, in which
they who have slandered others find their far-reaching retribution
(Reginsmál 4). Other náir have the peculiarity which their appellation
suggests, and receive quiet and immovable, stretched on iron benches,
their punishment (see below). Saxo, who had more elaborate
descriptions of the Hades of heathendom than those which have been
handed down to our time, translated or reproduced in his accounts of
Hadding's and Gorm's journeys in the lower world the word náir with
exsanguia simulacra ["lifeless shades" - Fisher, p. 266].

That place after death with which Skirnir threatens the stubborn Gerd
is also situated within the Na-gates, but still it has another
character than Nastrond and the other abodes of torture, which are
situated below Niflhel. It would also have been unreasonable to
threaten a person who rejects a marriage proposal with those
punishments which overtake criminals and nithings. The Hades division,
which Skirnir describes as awaiting the giant-daughter, is a
subterranean Jotunheim, inhabited by deceased ancestors and kinsmen of
Gerd.

Mythology has given to the giants as well as to men a life hereafter.
As a matter of fact, mythology never destroys life. The horse which
was cremated with its master on his funeral pyre, and was buried with
him in his grave-mound, afterwards brings the hero down to Hel. When
the giant who built the Asgard wall got into conflict with the gods,
Thor's hammer sent him "down below Niflhel" (niđur undir Niflhel -
Gylfaginning 42). King Gorm saw in the lower world the giant Geirrod
and both his daughters. According to Grímnismál 31, frost-giants dwell
under one of Yggdrasil's roots - consequently in the lower world; and
Forspjallsljóđ says that hags (giantesses) and thurses (giants), náir,
dwarfs, and swarthy elves go to sleep under the world-tree's farthest
root on the north border of Jormungrund[*] (the lower world), when
Dag on a chariot sparkling with precious stones leaves the lower
world, and when Nat after her journey on the heavens has returned to
her home ( Forspjallsljóđ 24, 25). It is therefore quite in order if
we, in Skirnir's description of the realm which after death awaits the
giant-daughter offending the gods, rediscover that part of the lower
world to which the drowned primeval ancestors of the giant-maid were
relegated when Bor's sons opened the veins of Ymir's throat
(Sonatorrek 3) and then let the billows of the ocean wash clean the
rocky ground of earth, before they raised the latter from the sea and
there created the inhabitable Midgard.

* With this name of the lower world compare Gudmund-Mimir's abode á
Grund (see No. 45), and Helligrund (Heliand., 44, 22), and neowla
grund (Caedmon, 267, 1, 270, 16).

The frost-giants (rimethurses) are the primeval giants (gigantes) of
the Teutonic mythology, so called because they sprang from the frost-
being Ymir, whose feet by contact with each other begat their
progenitor, the "strange-headed" monster Thrudgelmir (Vafţrúđnismál
29, 33). Their original home in chaos was Niflheim. From the
Hvergelmir fountain there the Elivágar rivers flowed to the north and
became hoar-frost and ice, which, melted by warmth from the south,
were changed into drops of venom, which again became Ymir, called by
the giants Aurgelmir (Vafţrúđnismál 30-31; Gylfaginning 5).
Thrudgelmir begat Bergelmir countless winters before the earth was
made (Vafţrúđnismál 29; Gylfinning 7). Those members of the giant race
living in Jotunheim on the surface of the earth, whose memory goes
farthest back in time, can remember Bergelmir when he var á lúđr um
lagiđr. At least Vafthrudnir is able to do this (Vafţrúđnismál 35).

When the original giants had to abandon the fields populated by Bor's
sons (Völuspá 4), they received an abode corresponding as nearly as
possible to their first home, and, as it seems, identical with it,
excepting that Niflheim now, instead of being a part of chaos, is an
integral part of the cosmic universe, and the extreme north of its
Hades. As a Hades-realm it is also called Niflhel.

In the subterranean land with which Skirnir threatens Gerd, and which
he paints for her in appalling colours, he mentions three kinds of
beings - (1) frost-giants, the ancient race of giants; (2) demons; (3)
giants of the later race.

The frost-giants occupy together one abode, which, judging from its
epithet, hall (höll), is the largest and most important there; while
those members of the younger giant clan who are there, dwell in single
scattered abodes, called gards. [Compare the phrase jötna görđum í
(30:3) with til hrímţursa hallar (30:4).] Gerd is also there to have a
separate abode (Skírnismál 28).

Two frost-giants are mentioned by name, which shows that they are
representatives of their clan. One is named Rimgrimnir (Hrímgrímnir -
35), the other Rimnir (Hrímnir - 28).

Grimnir is one of Odin's many surnames (Grímnismál 47, and several
other places; cp. Egilsson's Lex. Poet.). Rimgrimnir means the same as
if Odin had said Rim-Odin, for Odin's many epithets could without
hesitation be used by the poets in paraphrases, even when these
referred to a giant. But the name Odin was too sacred for such a
purpose. Upon the whole the skalds seem piously to have abstained from
using that name in paraphrases, even when the latter referred to
celebrated princes and heroes. Glum Geirason [Gráfeldardrápa] is the
first known exception to the rule. He calls a king málm-Óđinn. The
above epithet places Rimgrimnir in the same relation to the frost-
giants as Odin-Grimnir sustains to the asas: it characterises him as
the race-chief and clan-head of the former, and in this respect gives
him the same place as Thrudgelmir occupies in Vafţrúđnismál. Ymir
cannot be regarded as the special clan-chief of the frost-giants,
since he is also the progenitor of other classes of beings (see
Vafţrúđnismál 33, and Völuspá 9; cp. Gylfaginning 14). But they have
other points of resemblance. Thrudgelmir is "strange-headed" in
Vafţrúđnismál; Rimgrimnir is "three-headed" in Skírnismál (31; cp.
with 35). Thus we have in one poem a "strange-headed" Thrudgelmir as
progenitor of the frost-giants; in the other poem a "three-headed"
Rimgrimnir as progenitor of the same frost-giants. The "strange-
headed" giant of the former poem, which is a somewhat indefinite or
obscure phrase, thus finds in "three-headed" of the latter poem its
further definition. To this is to be added a power which is possessed
both by Thrudgelmir and by Rimgrimnir, and also a weakness for which
both Thrudgelmir and Rimgrimnir are blamed. Thrudgelmir's father begat
children without possessing gýgjar gaman (Vafţrúđnismál 32). That
Thrudgelmir inherited this power from his strange origin and handed it
down to the clan of frost-giants, and that he also inherited the
inability to provide for the perpetuation of the race in any other
way, is evident from Alvíssmál 2. If we make a careful examination, we
find that Skirnirsmal presupposes this same positive and negative
quality in Rimgrimnir, and consequently Thrudgelmir and Rimgrimnir
must be identical.

Gerd, who tries to reject the love of the fair and blithe Vana-god,
will, according to Skirnir's threats, be punished therefore in the
lower world with the complete loss of all that is called love,
tenderness, and sympathy. Skirnir says that she either must live alone
and without a husband in the lower world, or else vegetate in a
useless cohabitation (nara) with the three-headed giant (31). The
threat is gradually emphasised to the effect that she shall be
possessed by Rimgrimnir, and this threat is made immediately after the
solemn conjuration (34) in which Skirnir invokes the inhabitants of
Niflhel and also of the regions of bliss, as witnesses, that she shall
never gladden or be gladdened by a man in the physical sense of this
word:


Heyri jötnar,
heyri hrímţursar,
synir Suttunga,
sjálfir ásliđar,[*]
hve eg fyrirbýđ,
hve eg fyrirbanna
manna glaum mani,
manna nyt mani.
Hrímgrímnir heitir ţurs,
er ţig hafa skal
fyr nágrindur neđan.
Hear ye giants,
hear, frost-giants,
sons of the Suttungs,
the asa-champions themselves,
how I forbid,
how I banish
pleasure in men from the maid,
enjoyment of men from the maid.
Rimgrimnir is the giant,
who shall possess you
down below the corpse-gates.


* With ásliđar, asa-champions, there can hardly be meant others than
the ásmegir gathered in the lower world around Baldur. This is the
only place where the word ásliđar occurs.

More plainly, it seems to me, Skirnir in speaking to Gerd could not
have expressed the negative quality of Rimgrimnir in question. Thor
also expresses himself clearly on the same subject when he meets the
dwarf Alvis carrying home a maid over whom Thor has the right of
marriage. Thor says scornfully that he thinks he discovers in Alvis
something which reminds him of the nature of thurses, although Alvis
is a dwarf and the thurses are giants, and he further defines wherein
this similarity consists: ţursa líki ţyki mér á ţér vera; erattu til
brúđar borinn: "Thurs' likeness you seem to me to have; you were not
born to have a bride". So far as the positive quality is concerned it
is evident from the fact that Rimgrimnir is the progenitor of the
frost-giants.

Descended to Niflhel, Gerd must not count on a shadow of friendship
and sympathy from her kinsmen there. It would be best for her to
confine herself in the solitary abode which there awaits her, for if
she but looks out of the gate, staring gazes shall meet her from
Rimnir and all the others down there; and she shall there be looked
upon with more hatred than Heimdall, the watchman of the gods, who is
the wise, always vigilant foe of the rimethurses and giants. But
whether she is at home or abroad, demons and tormenting spirits shall
never leave her in peace. She shall be bowed to the earth by tramar
(evil witches). Morn (a Teutonic Eumenides, the agony of the soul
personified) shall fill her with his being. The spirits of sickness -
such also dwell there; they once took an oath not to harm Baldur
(Gylfaginning 49) - shall increase her woe and the flood of her tears.
Topi (insanity), Opi (hysteria), Tjosul and Otholi (constant
restlessness), shall not leave her in peace. These spirits are also
counted as belonging to the race of thurses, and hence it is said in
the rune-song that ţurs veldr kvenna kvillu, "thurs causes sickness of
women". In this connection it should be remembered that the daughter
of Loki, the ruler of Niflhel, is also the queen of diseases. Gerd's
food shall be more loathsome to her than the poisonous serpent is to
man, and her drink shall be the most disgusting. Miserable she shall
crawl among the homes of the Hades giants, and up to a mountain top,
where Ari, a subterranean eagle-demon has his perch (doubtless the
same Ari which, according to Völuspá 50, is to join with his screeches
in Rymur's shield-song, when the Midgard-serpent writhes in giant-
rage, and the ship of death, Naglfar, gets loose). Up there she shall
sit early in the morning, and constantly turn her face in the same
direction - in the direction where Hel is situated, that is, south
over Mt. Hvergelmir, toward the subterranean regions of bliss. Toward
Hel she shall long to come in vain:

Ara ţúfu á
skaltu ár sitja,
horfa og snugga Heljar til. "On Ari's perch thou shalt early sit, turn
toward Hel, and long to get to Hel."

By the phrase snugga Heljar til, the skald has meant something far
more concrete than to "long for death". Gerd is here supposed to be
dead, and within the Na-gates. To long for death, she does not need to
crawl up to "Ari's perch". She must subject herself to these nightly
exertions, so that when it dawns in the foggy Niflhel, she may get a
glimpse of that land of bliss to which she may never come; she who
rejected a higher happiness - that of being with the gods and
possessing Frey's love.

I have been somewhat elaborate in the presentation of this description
in Skírnismál, which has not hitherto been understood. I have done so,
because it is the only evidence left to us of how life was conceived
in the fore-court of the regions of torture, Niflhel, the land
situated below Yggdrasil's northern root, beyond and below the
mountain, where the root is watered by Hvergelmir. It is plain that
the author of Skírnismál, like that of Vafţrúđnismál, Grímnismál,
Vegtamskviđa, and Ţórsdrápa (as we have already seen), has used the
word Hel in the sense of a place of bliss in the lower world. It is
also evident that with the root under which the frost-giant dwells
impossibly can be meant, as supposed by Gylfaginning, that one under
which Mimir's glorious fountain, and Mimir's grove, and all his
treasures stored for a future world, are situated.
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