Myth Monday: The Lay of Grimnir

King Hrauthung had two sons named Agnar and Geirrod. Agnar was 10 winters old, and Geirrod was 8. One day, the two boys got their lines and rowed out in their boat to do some fishing for small fish. But a strong wind came and drove them and their boat far out to sea. Their boat wrecked on a distant shore but they survived. So they walked up from the shore on this new land and came across an old peasant and his wife who let the boys stay with them through the winter. The housewife fostered Agnar while the old man fostered Geirrod and taught him wisdom. In the spring, the couple took the boys down to the shore and gave them a boat. Before they boarded, the man took Geirrod aside and spoke with him privately. Then the boys got into their boat and set sail toward home. They had a fair wind and sailed easily to their father’s place. Geirrod was at the head of the boat, and when they made it to their father’s harbor, he jumped out ahead of Agnar and pushed the boat back out into the sea saying “go where evil will have you”. The boat floated back out to see with Agnar still aboard and Geirrod went on to his father’s home. When he arrived, he was welcomed immediately, but he found out that his father had died while he was gone. Because of this, and Agnar being gone, Geirrod was made king. And he grew to be a renowned man. 

One day, some time later, Odin and Frigg sat in the high seat Hlithskjalf looking over all the worlds. Then Odin said to Frigg, “You see your foster child, Agnar there making children with a giantess in a cave, while my foster son Geirrod is King in his country”. Frigg replied saying “But Gierrod is stingy with his food when he feels too many guests have come to his hall”. Odin told her that was a lie and they made a wager on it. So Frigg sent her maid-servant, Fulla, to King Geirrod to tell him a trollman (or magician/sorcerer) was on his way to the king’s land and to beware of him so he isn’t bewitched. She also said that the way to tell it was him would be that not even the fiercest of dogs would attack him. It was only a slanderous rumor that Geirrod was not hospitable, but still he did have his men capture the man whom no dog would attack. The man wore a blue cloak and called himself Grimnir, but would not say anything else about himself no matter how much he was asked. So the king had him tortured to make him speak by having him sat between two fires. He sat there for eight days. But Geirrod had a son who was 10 winters old that he named Angar after his brother. Young Agnar went to Grimnir and gave him a full horn to drink from. He told Grimnir he knew the King was wrong to torture him like that without cause. Grimnir drank from the horn but then he fire came so close he exclaimed “The Fire is too great! It burnt my cloak even though I lift it up.” But then he continued on to address Agnar and his father. “Eight nights have I sat between fires here, and tho me no one food has offered, save only Agnar, the son of Geirrod, who alone shall rule over the land of Goths” (Thorpe). From here, Grimnir shares a list of his knowledge of the halls of the gods, and of Yggdrasil and all the creatures that live on the tree from the very top to Nidhoggr and the serpents beneath that chew at the roots. He tells how Yggdrasil is the best of the trees, and Skidbladnir the best of ships, Sleipnir the best of horses, Bifrost best of bridges, Bragi best of skallds, Habrok best of hawks, Garm best of dogs, and Brimir the best of swords. Then he tells of the creation of the world through the use of Ymir’s body. After telling all these facts, he tells them of his many names. Then he says that he has called upon all the Aesir for aid and they have received the message. Then he addresses Geirrod directly saying, “You’re drunk Geirrod. And you have lost any help you would have ever had from me and the heroes in Valhalla. Your friends have misled you”. “Thy sword-pierced body shall Ygg have soon, For thy life is ended at last” (Bellows). Then he finally tells him point blank that he is Odin. Geirrod was sitting with his sword lying across his knees half-sheathed. When he realized Grimnir was Odin he rose from his seat to cut Odin free. But his sword slipped from his hand with the hilt downwards and stumbled at the same time so that he fell onto the blade piercing him through and killed him. Then Odin Vanished and Agnar became king and ruled for a long time after. 

Discussion Thoughts: 

* Agnar was the oldest of the two sons which, by most standards, would make him the rightful heir to his father’s throne. When it was time to go home, the old man spoke with Geirrod privately. Considering what happened when they made it home, is this suggesting that he is the one who told Geirrod to get out first and push Agnar and the boat back out to sea? Also, though the tale doesn’t specifically say the couple that fostered them was Odin and Frigg in disguise starting out, it does imply this later when Odin points out “your foster son Agnar” and “My fosterling Geirrod”. Either way, with Frigg telling Odin the rumor about Geirrod being miserly and then having Fulla go tell him what he needed to hear to make him weary of Odin when he arrived, was this just to win the wager? Or was this her way of getting some form of justice for the way Agnar was cheated out of his claim to the throne? And finally, with Geirrod naming his own son after his brother, is this an indication that he felt guilt and remorse for what he had done when they were young? What are your thoughts? What else stands out in this tale that you’d like to discuss? Feel free to comment and discuss and I will respond as able. That’s all for now. See you soon. 

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