Voluspa Study: stanzas 25 -26

25. Then sought the gods their assembly-seats,

The holy ones, and council held,

To find who with venom the air had filled,

Or had given Oth’s bride to the giant’s brood.

26. In swelling rage then rose up Thor

Seldom he sits when he such things hears,–

And the oaths were broken, the words and bonds,

The mighty pledges between them made. 

This segment, although short, does still have a few questions and debates surrounding it. The first question is what exact event this portion is referring to. Some people assume this is just continuing on from the Vanir war and them still questioning (or seeking blame for) who started it. Though that was discussed in previous stanzas, since it does flow right into this from Gullveig and the war, it is possible that they were still at this point debating who had caused the Aesir to become greedy and kill Gullveig and the whole war starting. And if you read the other myths much, you know that it is not uncommon for the Aesir to find someone to blame when they do things that are somewhat unsavory. So there is the possibility that this is still in relation to that story. However, it also mentions the question of who gave Odin’s bride to the Jotun. There isn’t mention in relation to the war about Odin’s bride being given to the giants. Of course, there isn’t much told about the war to begin with. With that being the case, is it possible that during the war someone stole away the bride of Odin? Or is this an entirely different event altogether? One possibility is the threat of Freyja being given to the Jotun, though she never actually was given over. This has happened twice that we know of. One such case being Thor’s adventure to regain his hammer while disguised as Freyja in bride’s clothes. Another example of possibly losing Freyja is the wager made when building the wall around Asgard. The wager was if the builder could finish on time, he got the sun and Freyja. To tie it in further, when he got close to finishing the job on time, the Aesir started to assume that he was sent on purpose to do this and even blamed Loki for being the one to make the builder do this. This would also fit with the idea of the Aesir assembling to figure out who put tension in the air to send Odin’s wife to the Jotun. Another slight possibility that some people suggest is that they may be referring to Idun and her apples. This idea mainly comes from the fact that some translations say “maid” instead of bride or wife, and because Idun is the one that we do know was stolen by a giant. However, based on the line up in the previous stanzas, it does still seem as if this is likely just another event that took place during the Vanir war. Maybe the Vanir arranged the taking of the wife as a strategy against the Aesir in the war. Who knows?

The second discussion related to this segment of Voluspa is oaths being broken. We see Thor angry and in a rage, and then are told of broken oaths. There is some debate over the meaning of this section as well. For some, this is simply saying that Thor was angry about Odin’s bride being given to the Jotun and oaths and agreements being broken. That is a good possibility. Thor was known to get angry rather easily, and especially when the giants were involved. But, it should be noted that it says Thor was angry and then said oaths were broken. The wording in Thope’s translation seems to tie the broken oaths to Thor’s anger. After telling of Odin’s maid given to the Jotun, it says “There alone was Thor with anger swollen. He seldom sits, when of the like he hears. Oaths are not held sacred; nor words, nor swearing, nor binding compacts reciprocally made”. In this way, it seems to say that once things are done to make Thor that angry, all oaths and agreements go out the window. This, too, has been seen in quite a few of the myths. Again in the story of the builder and the wall, oaths were broken. After the giant lost his wager and got angry and raged, the Aesir broke their oaths and agreements and called Thor up to take him out. And there were other times that oaths were broken out of anger or restitution for a wrong done or perceived wrong. So from this standpoint, it is easy to see how this stanza could be interpreted as Thor got angry and broke oaths himself. And, of course, it could also be that broken agreements are what angered him as suggested earlier. We may never know. 

So, what do you get from these stanzas? Is the bride being sent to the Jotun part of what happened during the Vanir war, or a different event? Regardless of when it happened, which bride or maid was it? Who broke what oaths and agreements? What other questions or thoughts do you have about these stanzas? Feel free to comment your thoughts and I will respond as soon as able. That’s all for now. See you soon. 

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