Far down in Christian times there prevailed among the Scandinavians the idea that their heathen ancestors had believed in the existence of a place of joy, from which sorrow, pain, blemishes, age, sickness, and death were excluded. This place of joy was called Ódáinsakr, the-acre-of-the-not-dead, Jörd lifanda manna, the earth of living men. It was situated not in heaven but below, either on the surface of the earth or in the lower world, but it was separated from the lands inhabited by men in such a manner that it was not impossible, but nevertheless exceeding perilous, to get there.

A saga from the fourteenth century incorporated in Flateybook, and with a few textual modifications in Fornald. Saga, iii, tells the following:

Erik, the son of a petty Norse king, one Christmas Eve, made the vow to seek out Odainsaker, and the fame of it spread over all Norway. In company with a Danish prince, who also was named Erik, he betook himself


first to Miklagard (Constantinople), where the king engaged the young men in his service, and was greatly benefited by their warlike skill. One day the king talked with the Norwegian Erik about religion, and the result was that the latter surrendered the faith of his ancestors and accepted baptism. He told his royal teacher of the vow he had taken to find Odainsaker, — “frá honum heyrdi vèr sagt a voru landi,” — and asked him if he knew where it was situated. The king believed that Odainsaker was identical with Paradise, and said it lies in the East beyond the farthest boundaries of India, but that no one was able to get there because it was enclosed by a fire-wall, which aspires to heaven itself. Still Erik was bound by his vow, and with his Danish namesake he set out on his journey, after the king had instructed them as well as he was able in regard to the way, and had given them a letter of recommendation to the authorities and princes through whose territories they had to pass. They travelled through Syria and the immense and wonderful India, and came to a dark country where the stars are seen all day long. After having traversed its deep forests, they saw when it began to grow light a river, over which there was a vaulted stone bridge. On the other side of the river there was a plain, from which came sweet fragrance. Erik conjectured that the river was the one called by the king in Miklagard Pison, and which rises in Paradise. On the stone bridge lay a dragon with wide open mouth. The Danish prince advised that they return, for he considered it impossible to conquer the dragon or to pass it. But the Norwegian Erik seized one


of his men by one hand, and rushed with his sword in the other against the dragon. They were seen to vanish between the jaws of the monster. With the other companions the Danish prince then returned by the same route as he had come, and after many years he got back to his native land.

When Erik and his fellow-countryman had been swallowed by the dragon, they thought themselves enveloped in smoke; but it was scattered, and they were unharmed, and saw before them the great plain lit up by the sun and covered with flowers. There flowed rivers of honey, the air was still, but just above the ground were felt breezes that conveyed the fragrance of the flowers. It is never dark in this country, and objects cast no shadow. Both the adventurers went far into the country in order to find, if possible, inhabited parts. But the country seemed to be uninhabited. Still they discovered a tower in the distance. They continued to travel in that direction, and on coming nearer they found that the tower was suspended in the air, without foundation or pillars. A ladder led up to it. Within the tower there was a room, carpeted with velvet, and there stood a beautiful table with delicious food in silver dishes, and wine in golden goblets. There were also splendid beds. Both the men were now convinced that they had come to Odainsaker, and they thanked God that they had reached their destination. They refreshed themselves and laid themselves to sleep. While Erik slept there came to him a beautiful lad, who called him by name, and said he was one of the angels who guarded the gates of Paradise,


and also Erik’s guardian angel, who had been at his side when he vowed to go in search of Odainsaker. He asked whether Erik wished to remain where he now was or to return home. Erik wished to return to report what he had seen. The angel informed him that Odainsaker, or jörd lifanda manna, where he now was, was not the same place as Paradise, for to the latter only spirits could come, and the land of the spirits, Paradise, was so glorious that, in comparison, Odainsaker seemed like a desert. Still, these two regions are on each other’s borders, and the river which Erik had seen has its source in Paradise. The angel permitted the two travellers to remain in Odainsaker for six days to rest themselves. Then they returned by way of Miklagard to Norway, and there Erik was called vid-förli, the far-travelled.

In regard to Erik’s genealogy, the saga states (Fornald. Saga, iii. 519) that his father’s name was Thrand, that his aunt (mother’s sister) was a certain Svanhvit, and that he belonged to the race of Thjasse’s daughter Skade. Further on in the domain of the real myth, we shall discover an Erik who belongs to Thjasse’s family, and whose mother is a swan-maid (goddess of growth). This latter Erik also succeeded in seeing Odainsaker (see Nos. 102, 103).



In the saga of Hervor, Odainsaker is mentioned, and


there without any visible addition of Christian elements. Gudmund (Godmundr) was the name of a king in Jotunheim. His home was called Grund, but the district in which it was situated was called the Glittering Plains (Glœsisvellir). He was wise and mighty, and in a heathen sense pious, and he and his men became so old that they lived many generations. Therefore, the story continues, the heathens believed that Odainsaker was situated in his country. “That place (Odainsaker) is for everyone who comes there so healthy that sickness and age depart, and no one ever dies there.”

According to the saga-author, Jotunheim is situated north from Halogaland, along the shores of Gandvík. The wise and mighty Gudmund died after he had lived half a thousand years. After his death the people worshipped him as a god, and offered sacrifices to him.

The same Gudmund is mentioned in Herrod’s and Bose’s saga as a ruler of the Glittering Plains, who was very skilful in the magic arts. The Glittering Plains are here said to be situated near Bjarmaland, just as in Thorstein Bæarmagn’s saga, in which king Gudmund’s kingdom, Glittering Plains, is a country tributary to Jotunheim, whose ruler is Geirrod.

In the history of Olaf Trygveson, as it is given in Flateybook, the following episode is incorporated. The Northman Helge Thoreson was sent on a commercial journey to the far North on the coast of Finmark, but he got lost in a great forest. There he met twelve red-clad young maidens on horseback, and the horses’ trappings shone like gold. The chief one of the maidens was


Ingeborg, the daughter of Gudmund on the Glittering Plains. The young maidens raised a splendid tent and set a table with dishes of silver and gold. Helge was invited to remain, and he stayed three days with Ingeborg. Then Gudmund’s daughters got ready to leave; but before they parted Helge received from Ingeborg two chests full of gold and silver. With these he returned to his father, but mentioned to nobody how he had obtained them. The next Yule night there came a great storm, during which two men carried Helge away, none knew whither. His sorrowing father reported this to Olaf Trygveson. The year passed. Then it happened at Yule that Helge came in to the king in the hall, and with him two strangers, who handed Olaf two gold-plated horns. They said they were gifts from Gudmund on the Glittering Plains. Olaf filled the horns with good drink and handed them to the messengers. Meanwhile he had commanded the bishop who was present to bless the drink. The result was that the heathen beings, who were Gudmund’s messengers, cast the horns away, and at the same time there was great noise and confusion in the hall. The fire was extinguished, and Gudmund’s men disappeared with Helge, after having slain three of King Olaf’s men. Another year passed. Then there came to the king two men, who brought Helge with them, and disappeared again. Helge was at that time blind. The king asked him many questions, and Helge explained that he had spent most happy days at Gudmund’s; but King Olaf’s prayers had at length made it difficult for Gudmund and his daughter to retain him, and before


his departure Ingeborg picked his eyes out, in order that Norway’s daughters should not fall in love with them. With his gifts Gudmund had intended to deceive King Olaf; but upon the whole Helge had nothing but good to report about this heathen.



Saxo, the Danish historian, also knows Gudmund. He relates (Hist. Dan., viii) that King Gorm had resolved to find a mysterious country in regard to which there were many reports in the North. Incredible treasures were preserved in that land. A certain Geruthus, known in the traditions, dwelt there, but the way thither was full of dangers and well-nigh inaccessible for mortals. They who had any knowledge of the situation of the land insisted that it was necessary to sail across the ocean surrounding the earth, leave sun and stars behind, and make a journey sub Chao, before reaching the land which is deprived of the light of day, and over whose mountains and valleys darkness broods. First there was a perilous voyage to be made, and then a journey in the lower world. With the experienced sailor Thorkillus as his guide, King Gorm left Denmark with three ships and a numerous company, sailed past Halogaland, and came, after strange adventures on his way, to Bjarmaland, situated beyond the known land of the same name, and anchored near its


coast. In this Bjarmia ulterior it is always cold; to its snow-clad fields there comes no summer warmth, through its deep wild forests flow rapid foaming rivers which well forth from the rocky recesses, and the woods are full of wild beasts, the like of which are unknown elsewhere. The inhabitants are monsters with whom it is dangerous for strangers to enter into conversation, for from unconsidered words they get power to do harm. Therefore Thorkillus was to do the talking alone for all his companions. The place for anchoring he had chosen in such a manner that they thence had the shortest journey to Geruthus. In the evening twilight the travellers saw a man of unusual size coming to meet them, and to their joy he greeted them by name. Thorkillus informed them that they should regard the coming of this man as a good omen, for he was the brother of Geruthus, Guthmundus, a friendly person and the most faithful protector in peril. When Thorkillus had explained the perpetual silence of his companions by saying that they were too bashful to enter into conversation with one whose language they did not understand, Guthmundus invited them to be his guests and led them by paths down along a river. Then they came to a place where a golden bridge was built across the river. The Danes felt a desire to cross the bridge and visit the land on the other side, but Guthmundus warned them that nature with the bed of this stream has drawn a line between the human and superhuman and mysterious, and that the ground on the other side was by a sacred order proclaimed unlawful for the feet of


mortals.* They therefore continued the march on that side of the river on which they had hitherto gone, and so came to the mysterious dwelling of Guthmundus, where a feast was spread before them, at which twelve of his sons, all of noble appearance, and as many daughters, most fair of face, waited upon them.

But the feast was a peculiar one. The Danes heeded the advice of Thorkillus not to come into too close contact with their strange table-companions or the servants, and instead of tasting the courses presented of food and drink, they ate and drank of the provisions they had taken with them from home. This they did because Thorkillus knew that mortals who accept the courtesies here offered them lose all memory of the past and remain for ever among “these non-human and dismal beings.” Danger threatened even those who were weak in reference to the enticing loveliness of the daughters of Guthmundus. He offered King Gorm a daughter in marriage. Gorm himself was prudent enough to decline the honour; but four of his men could not resist the temptation, and had to pay the penalty with the loss of their memory and with enfeebled minds.

One more trial awaited them. Guthmnundus mentioned to the king that he had a villa, and invited Gorm to accompany him thither and taste of the delicious fruits. Thorkillus, who had a talent for inventing excuses, now found one for the king’s lips. The host, though displeased with the reserve of the guests, still continued to show them friendliness, and when they expressed their desire to see

* Cujus transeundi cupidos revocavit, docens, eo alveo humana a monstrosis rerum secrevisse naturam, nec mortalibus ultra fas esse vestigiis.


the domain of Geruthus, he accompanied them all to the river, conducted them across it, and promised to wait there until they returned.

The land which they now entered was the home of terrors. They had not gone very far before they discovered before them a city, which seemed to be built of dark mists. Human heads were raised on stakes which surrounded the bulwarks of the city. Wild dogs, whose rage Thorkillus, however, knew how to calm, kept watch outside of the gates. The gates were located high up in the bulwark, and it was necessary to climb up on ladders in order to get to them. Within the city was a crowd of beings horrible to look at and to hear, and filth and rottenness and a terrible stench were everywhere. Further in was a sort of mountain-fastness. When they had reached its entrance the travellers were overpowered by its awful aspect, but Thorkillus inspired them with courage. At the same time he warned them most strictly not to touch any of the treasures that might entice their eyes. All that sight and soul can conceive as terrible and loathsome was gathered within this rocky citadel. The door-frames were covered with the soot of centuries, the walls were draped with filth, the roofs were composed of sharp stings, the floors were made of serpents encased in foulness. At the thresholds crowds of monsters acted as doorkeepers and were very noisy. On iron benches, surrounded by a hurdle-work of lead, there lay giant monsters which looked like lifeless images. Higher up in a rocky niche sat the aged Geruthus, with his body pierced and nailed to the rock, and there lay also three


women with their backs broken. Thorkillus explained that it was this Geruthus whom the god Thor had pierced with a red-hot iron; the women had also received their punishment from the same god.

When the travellers left these places of punishment they came to a place where they saw cisterns of mead (dolia) in great numbers. These were plated with seven sheets of gold, and above them hung objects of silver, round as to form, from which shot numerous braids down into the cisterns. Near by was found a gold-plated tooth of some strange animal, and near it, again, there lay an immense horn decorated with pictures and flashing with precious stones, and also an arm-ring of great size. Despite the warnings, three of Gorm’s men laid greedy hands on these works of art. But the greed got its reward. The arm-ring changed into a venomous serpent; the horn into a dragon, which killed their robbers; the tooth became a sword, which pierced the heart of him who bore it. The others who witnessed the fate of their comrades expected that they too, although innocent, should meet with some misfortune. But their anxiety seemed unfounded, and when they looked about them again they found the entrance to another treasury, which contained a wealth of immense weapons, among which was kept a royal mantle, together with a splendid head-gear and a belt, the finest work of art. Thorkillus himself could not govern his greed when he saw these robes. He took hold of the mantle, and thus gave the signal to the others to plunder. But then the building shook in its foundations; the voices of shrieking women were heard, who


asked if these robbers were longer to be tolerated; beings which hitherto had been lying as if half-dead or lifeless started up and joined other spectres who attacked the Danes. The latter would all have lost their lives had not their retreat been covered by two excellent archers whom Gorm had with him. But of the men, nearly three hundred in number, with whom the king had ventured into this part of the lower world, there remained only twenty when they finally reached the river, where Guthmundus, true to his promise, was waiting for them, and carried them in a boat to his own domain. Here he proposed to them that they should remain, but as he could not persuade them, he gave them presents and let them return to their ships in safety the same way as they had come.



Two other Danish princes have, according to Saxo, been permitted to see a subterranean world, or Odainsaker. Saxo calls the one Fjallerus, and makes him a sub-regent in Scania. The question who this Fjallerus was in the mythology is discussed in another part of this work (see No. 92). According to Saxo he was banished from the realm by King Amlethus, the son of Horvendillus, and so retired to Undensakre (Odainsaker), “a place which is unknown to our people” (Hist. Dan. iv).

The other of these two is King Hadingus (Hist. Dan. i),


the above-mentioned Hadding, son of Halfdan. One winter’s day while Hadding sat at the hearth, there rose out of the ground the form of a woman, who had her lap full of cowbanes, and showed them as if she was about to ask whether the king would like to see that part of the world where, in the midst of winter, so fresh flowers could bloom. Hadding desired this. Then she wrapped him in her mantle and carried him away down into the lower world. “The gods of the lower world,” says Saxo, “must have determined that he should be transferred living to those places, which are not to be sought until after death.” In the beginning the journey was through a territory wrapped in darkness, fogs, and mists. Then Hadding perceived that they proceeded along a path “which is daily trod by the feet of walkers.” The path led to a river, in whose rapids spears and other weapons were tossed about, and over which there was a bridge. Before reaching this river Hadding had seen from the path he travelled a region in which “a few” or “certain” (quidam), but very noble beings (proceres) were walking, dressed in beautiful frocks and purple mantles. Thence the woman brought him to a plain which glittered as in sunshine (loca aprica, translation of “The Glittering Plains”), and there grew the plants which she had shown him. This was one side of the river. On the other side there was bustle and activity. There Hadding saw two armies engaged in battle. They were, his fair guide explained to him, the souls of warriors who had fallen in battle, and now imitated the sword-games they had played on earth. Continuing their journey, they reached a place


surrounded by a wall, which was difficult to pass through or to surmount. Nor did the woman make any effort to enter there, either alone or with him: “It would not have been possible for the smallest or thinnest physical being.” They therefore returned the way they had come. But before this, and while they stood near the wall, the woman demonstrated to Hadding by an experiment that the walled place had a strange nature. She jerked the head off a cock which she had taken with her, and threw it over the wall, but the head came back to the neck of the cock, and with a distinct crow it announced “that it had regained its life and breath.”



The series of traditions above narrated in regard to Odainsaker, the Glittering Plains, and their ruler Gudmund, and also in regard to the neighbouring domains as habitations of the souls of the dead, extends, so far as the age of their recording in writing is concerned, through a period of considerable length. The latest cannot be referred to an earlier date than the fourteenth century; the oldest were put in writing toward the close of the twelfth. Saxo began working on his history between the years 1179 and 1186. Thus these literary evidences span about two centuries, and stop near the threshold of heathendom. The generation to which Saxo’s father belonged witnessed the crusade which Sigurd the Crusader made in


Eastern Smaland, in whose forests the Asa-doctrine until that time seems to have prevailed, and the Odinic religion is believed to have flourished in the more remote parts of Sweden even in Saxo’s own time.

We must still add to this series of documents one which is to carry it back another century, and even more. This document is a saga told by Adam of Bremen in De Situ Daniœ. Adam, or, perhaps, before him, his authority Adalbert (appointed archbishop in the year 1043), has turned the saga into history, and made it as credible as possible by excluding all distinctly mythical elements. And as it, doubtless for this reason, neither mentions a place which can be compared with Odainsaker or with the Glittering Plains, I have omitted it among the literary evidences above quoted. Nevertheless, it reminds us in its main features of Saxo’s account of Gorm’s journey of discovery, and its relation both to it and to the still older myth shall be shown later (see No. 94). In the form in which Adam heard the saga, its point of departure has been located in Friesland, not in Denmark. Frisian noblemen make a voyage past Norway up to the farthest limits of the Arctic Ocean, get into a darkness which the eyes scarcely can penetrate, are exposed to a maelstrom which threatens to drag them down ad Chaos, but finally come quite unexpectedly out of darkness and cold to an island which, surrounded as by a wall of high rocks, contains subterranean caverns, wherein giants lie concealed. At the entrances of the underground dwellings lay a great number of tubs and vessels of gold and other metals which “to mortals seem rare and valuable.” As much


as the adventurers could carry of these treasures they took with them and hastened to their ships. But the giants, represented by great dogs, rushed after them. One of the Frisians was overtaken and torn into pieces before the eyes of the others. The others succeeded, thanks to our Lord and to Saint Willehad, in getting safely on board their ships.


If we consider the position of the authors or recorders of these sagas in relation to the views they present in regard to Odainsaker and the Glittering Plains, then we find that they themselves, with or without reason, believe that these views are from a heathen time and of heathen origin. The saga of Erik Vidforle states that its hero had in his own native land, and in his heathen environment, heard reports about Odainsaker. The Miklagard king who instructs the prince in the doctrines of Christianity knows, on the other hand, nothing of such a country. He simply conjectures that the Odainsaker of the heathens must be the same as the Paradise of the Christians, and the saga later makes this conjecture turn out to be incorrect.

The author of Hervarar saga mentions Odainsaker as a heathen belief, and tries to give reasons why it was believed in heathen times that Odainsaker was situated within the limits of Gudmund’s kingdom, the Glittering Plains. The reason is: “Gudmund and his men became


so old that they lived through several generations (Gudmund lived five hundred years), and therefore the heathens believed that Odainsaker was situated in his domain.”

The man who compiled the legend about Helge Thoreson connects it with the history of King Olaf Trygveson, and pits this first king of Norway, who laboured for the introduction of Christianity, as a representative of the new and true doctrine against King Gudmund of the Glittering Plains as the representative of the heathen doctrine. The author would not have done this if he had not believed that the ruler of the Glittering Plains had his ancestors in heathendom.

The saga of Thorstein Bæarmagn puts Gudmund and the Glittering Plains in a tributary relation to Jotunheim and to Geirrod, the giant, well known in the mythology.

Saxo makes Gudmund Geirrod’s (Geruthus’) brother, and he believes he is discussing ancient traditions when he relates Gorm’s journey of discovery and Hadding’s journey to Jotunheim. Gorm’s reign is referred by Saxo to the period immediately following the reign of the mythical King Snö (Snow) and the emigration of the Longobardians. Hadding’s descent to the lower world occurred, according to Saxo, in an antiquity many centuries before King Snow. Hadding is, in Saxo, one of the first kings of Denmark, the grandson of Skjold, progenitor of the Skjoldungs.

The saga of Erik Vidforle makes the way to Odainsaker pass through Syria, India, and an unknown land which wants the light of the sun, and where the stars


are visible all day long. On the other side of Odainsaker, and bordering on it, lies the land of the happy spirits, Paradise.

That these last ideas have been influenced by Christianity would seem to be sufficiently clear. Nor do we find a trace of Syria, India, and Paradise as soon as we leave this saga and pass to the others, in the chain of which it forms one of the later links. All the rest agree in transferring to the uttermost North the land which must be reached before the journey can be continued to the Glittering Plains and Odainsaker. Hervarar saga says that the Glittering Plains and Odainsaker are situated north of Halogaland, in Jotunheim; Bose’s saga states that they are situated in the vicinity of Bjarmaland. The saga of Thorstein Bæarmagn says that they are a kingdom subject to Geirrod in Jotunheim. Gorm’s saga in Saxo says it is necessary to sail past Halogaland north to a Bjarmia ulterior in order to get to the kingdoms of Gudmund and Geirrod. The saga of Helge Thoreson makes its hero meet the daughters of Gudmund, the ruler of the Glittering Plains, after a voyage to Finmarken. Hadding’s saga in Saxo makes the Danish king pay a visit to the unknown but wintry cold land of the “Nitherians,” when he is invited to make a journey to the lower world. Thus the older and common view was that he who made the attempt to visit the Glittering Plains and Odainsaker must first penetrate the regions of the uttermost North, known only by hearsay.

Those of the sagas which give us more definite local descriptions in addition to this geographical information


all agree that the region which forms, as it were, a foreground to the Glittering Plains and Odainsaker is a land over which the darkness of night broods. As just indicated, Erik Vidforle’s saga claims that the stars there are visible all day long. Gorm’s saga in Saxo makes the Danish adventurers leave sun and stars behind to continue the journey sub Chao. Darkness, fogs, and mists envelop Hadding before he gets sight of the splendidly-clad proceres who dwell down there, and the shining meadows whose flowers are never visited by winter. The Frisian saga in Adam of Bremen also speaks of a gloom which must be penetrated ere one reaches the land where rich giants dwell in subterranean caverns.

Through this darkness one comes, according to the saga of Erik Vidforle, to a plain full of flowers, delicious fragrances, rivers of honey (a Biblical idea, but see Nos. 89, 123), and perpetual light. A river separates this plain from the land of the spirits.

Through the same darkness, according to Gorm’s saga, one comes to Gudmund’s Glittering Plains, where there is a pleasure-farm bearing delicious fruits, while in that Bjarmaland whence the Glittering Plains can be reached reign eternal winter and cold. A river separates the Glittering Plains from two or more other domains, of which at least one is the home of departed souls. There is a bridge of gold across the river to another region, “which separates that which is mortal from the superhuman,” and on whose soil a mortal being must not set his foot. Further on one can pass in a boat across the river to a land which is the place of punishment for the damned and a resort of ghosts.


Through the same darkness one comes, according to Hadding’s saga, to a subterranean land where flowers grow in spite of the winter which reigns on the surface of the earth. The land of flowers is separated from the Elysian fields of those fallen in battle by a river which hurls about in its eddies spears and other weapons.

These statements from different sources agree with each other in their main features. They agree that the lower world is divided into two main parts by a river, and that departed souls are found only on the farther side of the river.

The other main part on this side the river thus has another purpose than that of receiving the happy or damned souls of the dead. There dwells, according to Gorm’s saga, the giant Gudmund, with his sons and daughters. There are also the Glittering Plains, since these, according to Hervor’s, Herrod’s, Thorstein Bæarmagn’s, and Helge Thoreson’s sagas, are ruled by Gudmund.

Some of the accounts cited say that the Glittering Plains are situated in Jotunheim. This statement does not contradict the fact that they are situated in the lower world. The myths mention two Jotunheims, and hence the Eddas employ the plural form, Jotunheimar. One of the Jotunheims is located on the surface of the earth in the far North and East, separated from the Midgard inhabited by man by the uttermost sea or the Elivogs (Gylfaginning, 8). The other Jotunheim is subterranean. According to Vafthrudnismal (31), one of the roots of the world-tree extends down “to the frost-giants.”


Urd and her sisters, who guard one of the fountains of Ygdrasill’s roots, are giantesses. Mimer, who guards another fountain in the lower world, is called a giant. That part of the world which is inhabited by the goddesses of fate and by Mimer is thus inhabited by giants, and is a subterranean Jotunheim. Both these Jotunheims are connected with each other. From the upper there is a path leading to the lower. Therefore those traditions recorded in a Christian age, which we are here discussing, have referred to the Arctic Ocean and the uttermost North as the route for those who have the desire and courage to visit the giants of the lower world.

When it is said in Hadding’s saga that he on the other side of the subterranean river saw the shades of heroes fallen by the sword arrayed in line of battle and contending with each other, then this is no contradiction of the myth, according to which the heroes chosen on the battle-field come to Asgard and play their warlike games on the plains of the world of the gods.

In Völuspa (str. 24) we read that when the first “folk”-war broke out in the world, the citadel of Odin and his clan was stormed by the Vans, who broke through its bulwark and captured Asgard. In harmony with this, Saxo (Hist., i) relates that at the time when King Hadding reigned Odin was banished from his power and lived for some time in exile (see Nos. 36-41).

It is evident that no great battles can have been fought, and that there could not have been any great number of sword-fallen men, before the first great “folk”-war


broke out in the world. Otherwise this war would not have been the first. Thus Valhal has not before this war had those hosts of einherjar who later are feasted in Valfather’s hall. But as Odin, after the breaking out of this war, is banished from Valhal and Asgard, and does not return before peace is made between the Asas and Vans, then none of the einherjar chosen by him could be received in Valhal during the war. Hence it follows that the heroes fallen in this war, though chosen by Odin, must have been referred to some other place than Asgard (excepting, of course, all those chosen by the Vans, in case they chose einherjar, which is probable, for the reason that the Vanadis Freyja gets, after the reconciliation with Odin, the right to divide with him the choice of the slain). This other place can nowhere else be so appropriately looked for as in the lower world, which we know was destined to receive the souls of the dead. And as Hadding, who, according to Saxo, descended to the lower world, is, according to Saxo, the same Hadding during whose reign Odin was banished from Asgard, then it follows that the statement of the saga, making him see in the lower world those warlike games which else are practised on Asgard’s plains, far from contradicting the myth, on the contrary is a consequence of the connection of the mythical events.

The river which is mentioned in Erik Vidforle’s, Gorm’s, and Hadding’s sagas has its prototype in the mythic records. When Hermod on Sleipnir rides to the lower world (Gylfaginning, 10) he first journeys through a dark country (compare above) and then comes


to the river Gjöll, over which there is the golden bridge called the Gjallar bridge. On the other side of Gjöll is the Helgate, which leads to the realm of the dead. In Gorm’s saga the bridge across the river is also of gold, and it is forbidden mortals to cross to the other side.

A subterranean river hurling weapons in its eddies is mentioned in Völuspa, 33. In Hadding’s saga we also read of a weapon-hurling river which forms the boundary of the Elyseum of those slain by the sword.

In Vegtamskvida is mentioned an underground dog, bloody about the breast, coming from Nifelhel, the proper place of punishment. In Gorm’s saga the bulwark around the city of the damned is guarded by great dogs. The word “nifel” (nifl, the German Nebel), which forms one part of the word Nifelhel, means mist, fog. In Gorm’s saga the city in question is most like a cloud of vapour (vaporanti maxime nubi simile).

Saxo’s description of that house of torture, which is found within the city, is not unlike Völuspa’s description of that dwelling of torture called Nastrand. In Saxo the floor of the house consists of serpents wattled together, and the roof of sharp stings. In Völuspa the hall is made of serpents braided together, whose heads from above spit venom down on those dwelling there. Saxo speaks of soot a century old on the door frames; Völuspa of ljórar, air- and smoke-openings in the roof (see further Nos. 77 and 78).

Saxo himself points out that the Geruthus (Geirrod) mentioned by him, and his famous daughters, belong to the myth about the Asa-god Thor. That Geirrod after


his death is transferred to the lower world is no contradiction to the heathen belief, according to which beautiful or terrible habitations await the dead, not only of men but also of other beings. Compare Gylfaginning, ch. 42, where Thor with one blow of his Mjolner sends a giant nidr undir Nifelhel (see further, No. 60).

As Mimer’s and Urd’s fountains are found in the lower world (see Nos. 63, 93), and as Mimer is mentioned as the guardian of Heimdal’s horn and other treasures, it might be expected that these circumstances would not be forgotten in those stories from Christian times which have been cited above and found to have roots in the myths.

When in Saxo’s saga about Gorm the Danish adventurers had left the horrible city of fog, they came to another place in the lower world where the gold-plated mead-cisterns were found. The Latin word used by Saxo, which I translate with cisterns of mead, is dolium. In the classical Latin this word is used in regard to wine-cisterns of so immense a size that they were counted among the immovables, and usually were sunk in the cellar floors. They were so large that a person could live in such a cistern, and this is also reported as having happened. That the word dolium still in Saxo’s time had a similar meaning appears from a letter quoted by Du Cange, written by Saxo’s younger contemporary, Bishop Gebhard. The size is therefore no obstacle to Saxo’s using this word for a wine-cistern to mean the mead-wells in the lower world of Teutonic mythology. The question now is whether he actually did so, or whether the subterranean


dolia in question are objects in regard to which our earliest mythic records have left us in ignorance.

In Saxo’s time, and earlier, the epithets by which the mead-wells — Urd’s and Mimer’s — and their contents are mentioned in mythological songs had come to be applied also to those mead-buckets which Odin is said to have emptied in the halls of the giant Fjalar or Suttung. This application also lay near at hand, since these wells and these vessels contained the same liquor, and since it originally, as appears from the meaning of the words, was the liquor, and not the place where the liquor was kept, to which the epithets Odrœrir, Bodn, and Son applied. In Havamál (107) Odin expresses his joy that Odrœrir has passed out of the possession of the giant Fjalar and can be of use to the beings of the upper world. But if we may trust Bragar. (ch. 5), it is the drink and not the empty vessels that Odin takes with him to Valhal. On this supposition, it is the drink and not one of the vessels which in Havamál is called Odrœrir. In Havamál (140) Odin relates how he, through self-sacrifice and suffering, succeeded in getting runic songs up from the deep, and also a drink dipped out of Odrœrir. He who gives him the songs and the drink, and accordingly is the ruler of the fountain of the drink, is a man, “Bolthorn’s celebrated son.” Here again Odrærer is one of the subterranean fountains, and no doubt Mimer’s, since the one who pours out the drink is a man. But in Forspjalsljod (2) Urd’s fountain is also called Odrærer (Odhrœrir Urdar). Paraphrases for the liquor of poetry, such as “Bodn’s growing billow” (Einar Skalaglam) and “Son’s reed-grown


grass edge” (Eilif Gudrunson), point to fountains or wells, not to vessels. Meanwhile a satire was composed before the time of Saxo and Sturluson about Odin’s adventure at Fjalar’s, and the author of this song, the contents of which the Younger Edda has preserved, calls the vessels which Odin empties at the giant’s Odhrœrir, Bodn, and Són (Brogarædur, 6). Saxo, who reveals a familiarity with the genuine heathen, or supposed heathen, poems handed down to his time, may thus have seen the epithets Odrœrir, Bodn, and Són applied both to the subterranean mead-wells and to a giant’s mead-vessels. The greater reason he would have for selecting the Latin dolium to express an idea that can be accommodated to both these objects.

Over these mead-reservoirs there hang, according to Saxo’s description, round-shaped objects of silver, which in close braids drop down and are spread around the seven times gold-plated walls of the mead-cisterns.*

Over Mimer’s and Urd’s fountains hang the roots of the ash Ygdrasill, which sends its root-knots and root-threads down into their waters. But not only the rootlets sunk in the water, but also the roots from which they are suspended, partake of the waters of the fountains. The norns take daily from the water and sprinkle the stem of the tree therewith, “and the water is so holy,” says Gylfaginning (16), “that everything that is put in the well (consequently, also, all that which the norns daily sprinkle with the water) becomes as white as the

* Inde digressis dolia septem zonis aureis circumligata panduntur, quibus pensiles ex argento circuli erebros inseruerant nexus.


membrane between the egg and the egg-shell.” Also the root over Mimer’s fountain is sprinkled with its water (Völusp., Cod. R., 28), and this water, so far as its colour is concerned, seems to be of the same kind as that in Urd’s fountain, for the latter is called hvítr aurr (Völusp., 18) and the former runs in aurgum forsi upon its root of the world-tree (Völusp., 28). The adjective aurigr, which describes a quality of the water in Mimer’s fountain, is formed from the noun aurr, with which the liquid is described which waters the root over Urd’s fountain. Ygdrasill’s roots, as far up as the liquid of the wells can get to them, thus have a colour like that of “the membrane between the egg and the egg-shell,” and consequently recall both as to position, form, and colour the round-shaped objects “of silver” which, according to Saxo, hang down and are intertwined in the mead-reservoirs of the lower world.

Mimer’s fountain contains, as we know, the purest mead — the liquid of inspiration, of poetry, of wisdom, of understanding.

Near by Ygdrasil, according to Völuspa (27), Heimdal’s horn is concealed. The seeress in Völuspa knows that it is hid “beneath the hedge-o’ershadowing holy tree,”

Veit hon Heimdallar
hljod um fólgit
undir heidvönum
helgum badmi.

Near one of the mead-cisterns in the lower world


Gorm’s men see a horn ornamented with pictures and flashing with precious stones.

Among the treasures taken care of by Mimer is the world’s foremost sword and a wonderful arm-ring, smithied by the same master as made the sword (see Nos. 87, 98, 101).

Near the gorgeous horn Gorm’s men see a gold-plated tooth of an animal and an arm-ring. The animal tooth becomes a sword when it is taken into the hand.* Near by is a treasury filled with a large number of weapons and a royal robe. Mimer is known in mythology as a collector of treasures. He is therefore called Hoddmimir, Hoddropnir, Baugregin.

Thus Gorm and his men have on their journeys in the lower world seen not only Náströnd’s place of punishment in Nifelhel, but also the holy land, where Mimer reigns.

When Gorm and his men desire to cross the golden bridge and see the wonders to which it leads, Gudmund prohibits it. When they in another place farther up desire to cross the river to see what there is beyond, he consents and has them taken over in a boat. He does not deem it proper to show them the unknown land at the golden bridge, but it is within the limits of his authority to let them see the places of punishment and those regions which contain the mead-cisterns and the treasure chambers. The sagas call him the king on the Glittering Plains, and as the Glittering Plains are situated in the lower world, he must be a lower world ruler.

* The word biti = a tooth (cp. bite) becomes in the composition leggbiti, the name of a sword.


Two of the sagas, Helge Thoreson’s and Gorm’s, cast a shadow on Gudmund’s character. In the former this shadow does not produce confusion or contradiction. The saga is a legend which represents Christianity, with Olaf Trygveson as its apostle, in conflict with heathenism, represented by Gudmund. It is therefore natural that the latter cannot be presented in the most favourable light. Olaf destroys with his prayers the happiness of Gudmund’s daughter. He compels her to abandon her lover, and Gudmund, who is unable to take revenge in any other manner, tries to do so, as is the case with so many of the characters in saga and history, by treachery. This is demanded by the fundamental idea and tendency of the legend. What the author of the legend has heard about Gudmund’s character from older sagamen, or what he has read in records, he does not, however, conceal with silence, but admits that Gudmund, aside from his heathen religion and grudge toward Olaf Trygveson, was a man in whose home one might fare well and be happy.

Saxo has preserved the shadow, but in his narrative it produces the greatest contradiction. Gudmund offers fruits, drinks, and embraces in order to induce his guests to remain with him for ever, and he does it in a tempting manner and, as it seems, with conscious cunning. Nevertheless, he shows unlimited patience when the guests insult him by accepting nothing of what he offers. When he comes down to the sea-strand, where Gorm’s ships are anchored, he is greeted by the leader of the discoverers with joy, because he is “the most pious being and man’s protector in perils.” He conducts them in safety to his


castle. When a handful of them returns after the attempt to plunder the treasury of the lower world, he considers the crime sufficiently punished by the loss of life they have suffered, and takes them across the river to his own safe home; and when they, contrary to his wishes, desire to return to their native land, he loads them with gifts and sees to it that they get safely on board their ships. It follows that Saxo s sources have described Gudmund as a kind and benevolent person. Here, as in the legend about Helge Thoreson, the shadow has been thrown by younger hands upon an older background painted in bright colours.

Hervarar saga says that he was wise, mighty, in a heathen sense pious (“a great sacrificer”), and so honoured that sacrifices were offered to him, and he was worshipped as a god after death. Herrod’s saga says that he was greatly skilled in magic arts, which is another expression for heathen wisdom, for fimbul-songs, runes, and incantations.

The change for the worse which Gudmund’s character seems in part to have suffered is confirmed by a change connected with, and running parallel to it, in the conception of the forces in those things which belonged to the lower world of the Teutonic heathendom and to Gudmund’s domain. In Saxo we find an idea related to the antique Lethe myth, according to which the liquids and plants which belong to the lower world produce forgetfulness of the past. Therefore, Thorkil (Thorkillus) warns his companions not to eat or drink any of that which Gudmund offers them. In the Gudrun song (ii. 21, 22),


and elsewhere, we meet with the same idea. I shall return to this subject (see No. 50).



Is Gudmund an invention of Christian times, although he is placed in an environment which in general and in detail reflects the heathen mythology? Or is there to be found in the mythology a person who has precisely the same environment and is endowed with the same attributes and qualities?

The latter form an exceedingly strange ensemble, and can therefore easily be recognised. Ruler in the lower world, and at the same time a giant. Pious and still a giant. King in a domain to which winter cannot penetrate. Within that domain an enclosed place, whose bulwark neither sickness, nor age, nor death can surmount. It is left to his power and pleasure to give admittance to the mysterious meadows, where the mead-cisterns of the lower world are found, and where the most precious of all horns, a wonderful sword, and a splendid arm-ring are kept. Old as the hills, but yet subject to death. Honoured as if he were not a giant, but a divine being. These are the features which together characterise Gudmund, and should be found in his mythological prototype, if there is one. With these peculiar characteristics are united wisdom and wealth.


The answer to the question whether a mythical original of this picture is to be discovered will be given below. But before that we must call attention to some points in the Christian accounts cited in regard to Odainsaker.

Odainsaker is not made identical with the Glittering Plains, but is a separate place on them, or at all events within Gudmund’s domain. Thus according to Hervarar saga. The correctness of the statement is confirmed by comparison with Gorm’s and Hadding’s sagas. The former mentions, as will be remembered, a place which Gudmund does not consider himself authorised to show his guests, although they are permitted to see other mysterious places in the lower world, even the mead-fountains and treasure-chambers. To the unknown place, as to Balder’s subterranean dwelling, leads a golden bridge, which doubtless is to indicate the splendour of the place. The subterranean goddess, who is Hadding’s guide in Hades, shows him both the Glittering Fields (loca aprica) and the plains of the dead heroes, but stops with him near a wall, which is not opened for them. The domain surrounded by the wall receives nothing which has suffered death, and its very proximity seems to be enough to keep death at bay (see No. 47).

All the sagas are silent in regard to who those beings are for whom this wonderful enclosed place is intended. Its very name, Acre-of-the-not-dead (Odainsaker), and The field-of-the-living (Jörd lifanda manna), however, makes it clear that it is not intended for the souls of the dead. This Erik Vidforle’s saga is also able to state, inasmuch as it makes a definite distinction between


Odainsaker and the land of the spirits, between Odainsaker and Paradise. If human or other beings are found within the bulwark of the place, they must have come there as living beings in a physical sense; and when once there, they are protected from perishing, for diseases, age, and death are excluded.

Erik Vidforle and his companion find on their journey on Odainsaker only a single dwelling, a splendid one with two beds. Who the couple are who own this house, and seem to have placed it at the disposal of the travellers, is not stated. But in the night there came a beautiful lad to Erik. The author of the saga has made him an angel, who is on duty on the borders between Odainsaker and Paradise.

The purpose of Odainsaker is not mentioned in Erik Vidforle’s saga. There is no intelligible connection between it and the Christian environment given to it by the saga. The ecclesiastical belief knows an earthly Paradise, that which existed in the beginning and was the home of Adam and Eve, but that it is guarded by the angel with the flaming sword, or, as Erik’s saga expresses it, it is encircled by a wall of fire. In the lower world the Christian Church knows a Hades and a hell, but the path to them is through the gates of death; physically living persons, persons who have not paid tribute to death, are not found there. In the Christian group of ideas there is no place for Odainsaker. An underground place for physically living people, who are there no longer exposed to aging and death, has nothing to do in the economy of the Church. Was there occasion for it among


the ideas of the heathen eschatology? The above-quoted sagas say nothing about the purposes of Odainsaker. Here is therefore a question of importance to our subject, and one that demands an answer.



I dare say the most characteristic figure of Teutonic mythology is Mimer, the lord of the fountain which bears his name. The liquid contained in the fountain is the object of Odin’s deepest desire. He has neither authority nor power over it. Nor does he or anyone else of the gods seek to get control of it by force. Instances are mentioned showing that Odin, to get a drink from it, must subject himself to great sufferings and sacrifices (Völuspa, Cod. Reg., 28, 29; Havamál, 138-140; Gylfag., 15), and it is as a gift or a loan that he afterwards receives from Mimer the invigorating and soul-inspiring drink (Havamál, 140, 141). Over the fountain and its territory Mimer, of course, exercises unlimited control, an authority which the gods never appear to have disputed. He has a sphere of power which the gods recognise as inviolable. The domain of his rule belongs to the lower world; it is situated under one of the roots of the world-tree (Völuspa, 28, 29; Gylfag., 15), and when Odin, from the world-tree, asks for the precious mead of the fountain, he peers downward into the deep, and thence brings up the runes (nysta ec nithr,


nam ec up rúnar — Havamál, 139). Saxo’s account of the adventure of Hotherus (Hist., pp. 113-115, Müller’s ed.) shows that there was thought to be a descent to Mimer’s land in the form of a mountain cave (specus), and that this descent was, like the one to Gudmund’s domain, to be found in the uttermost North, where terrible cold reigns.

Though a giant, Mimer is the friend of the order of the world and of the gods. He, like Urd, guards the sacred ash, the world-tree (Völuspa, 28), which accordingly also bears his name and is called Mimer’s tree (Mimameidr — Fjolsvinsm, 20; meidr Mima — Fjolsv., 24). The intercourse between the Asa-father and him has been of such a nature that the expression “Mimer’s friend” (Mimsvinr — Sonatorrek, 22; Younger Edda, i. 238, 250, 602) could be used by the skalds as an epithet of Odin. Of this friendship Ynglingasaga (ch. 4) has preserved a record. It makes Mimer lose his life in his activity for the good of the gods, and makes Odin embalm his head, in order that he may always be able to get wise counsels from its lips. The song about Sigrdrifa (str. 14) represents Odin as listening to the words of truth which come from Mimer’s head. Völuspa (str. 45) predicts that Odin, when Ragnarok approaches, shall converse with Mimer’s head; and, according to Gylfaginning (56), he, immediately before the conflagration of the world, rides to Mimer’s fountain to get advice from the deep thinker for himself and his friends. The firm friendship between Alfather and this strange giant of the lower world was formed in time’s morning while Odin


was still young and undeveloped (Hav., 141), and continued until the end of the gods and the world.

Mimer is the collector of treasures. The same treasures as Gorm and his men found in the land which Gudmund let them visit are, according to mythology, in the care of Mimer. The wonderful horn (Völuspa, 28), the sword of victory, and the ring (Saxo. Hist., 113, 114; cp. Nos. 87, 97, 98, 101, 103).

In all these points the Gudmund of the middle-age sagas and Mimer of the mythology are identical. There still remains an important point. In Gudmund’s domain there is a splendid grove, an enclosed place, from which weaknesses, age, and death are banished — a Paradise of the peculiar kind, that it is not intended for the souls of the dead, but for certain lifandi menn, yet inaccessible to people in general. In the myth concerning Mimer we also find such a grove.



The grove is called after its ruler and guardian, Mimer’s or Treasure-Mimer’s grove (Mimis holt — Younger Edda, Uppsala Codex; Gylfag., 58; Hoddmimis holt — Vafthrudnism, 45, Gylfag., 58).

Gylfaginning describes the destruction of the world and its regeneration, and then relates how the earth, rising out of the sea, is furnished with human inhabitants. “During the conflagration (i Surtarloga) two


persons are concealed in Treasure-Mimer’s grove. Their names are Lif (Lif) and Leifthraser (Leifthrasir), and they feed on the morning dews. From them come so great an offspring that all the world is peopled.”

In support of its statement Gylfaginning quotes Vafthrudnersmal. This poem makes Odin and the giant Vafthrudner (Vafthrúdnir) put questions to each other, and among others Odin asks this question:

Fiolth ec for,
fiolth ec freistathac,
fiolth ec um reynda regin:
hvat lifir manna,
tha er inn mæra lithr
fimbulvetr meth firom?

“Much I have travelled, much I have tried, much I have tested the powers. What human persons shall still live when the famous fimbul-winter has been in the world?”

Vafthrudner answers:

Lif oc Leifthrasir,
enn thau leynaz muno
i holti Hoddmimis;
thau ser at mat hafa
enn thadan af aldir alaz.

“Lif and Leifthraser (are still living); they are concealed in Hodd-Mimer’s grove. They have morning dews for nourishment. Thence (from Hodd-Mimer’s grove and this human pair) are born (new) races.”

Gylfaginning says that the two human beings, Lif and Leifthraser, who become the progenitors of the races that


are to people the earth after Ragnarok, are concealed during the conflagration of the world in Hodd-Mimer’s grove. This is, beyond doubt, in accordance with mythic views. But mythologists, who have not paid sufficient attention to what Gylfaginning’s source (Vafthrudnersmal) has to say on the subject, have from the above expression drawn a conclusion which implies a complete misunderstanding of the traditions in regard to Hodd-Mimer’s grove and the human pair therein concealed. They have assumed that Lif and Leifthraser are, like all other people living at that time, inhabitants of the surface of the earth at the time when the conflagration of the world begins. They have explained Mimer’s grove to mean the world-tree, and argued that when Surt’s flames destroy all other mortals this one human pair have succeeded in climbing upon some particular branch of the world-tree, where they were protected from the destructive element. There they were supposed to live on morning dews until the end of Ragnarok, and until they could come down from their hiding-place in Ygdrasil upon the earth which has risen from the sea, and there become the progenitors of a more happy human race.

According to this interpretation, Ygdrasil was a tree whose trunk and branches could be grasped by human hands, and one or more mornings, with attendant morning dews, are assumed to have come and gone, while fire and flames enveloped all creation, and after the sun had been swallowed by the wolf and the stars had fallen from the heavens (Gylfag., 55; Völusp., 54)! And with this terrible catastrophe before their eyes, Lif and Leifthraser


are supposed to sit in perfect unconcern, eating the morning dews!

For the scientific reputation of mythical inquiry it were well if that sort of investigations were avoided when they are not made necessary by the sources themselves.

If sufficient attention had been paid to the above-cited evidence furnished by Vafthrudnersmal in this question, the misunderstanding might have been avoided, and the statement of Gylfaginning would not have been interpreted to mean that Lif and Leifthraser inhabited Mimer’s grove only during Ragnarok. For Vafthrudnersmal plainly states that this human pair are in perfect security in Mimer’s grove, while a long and terrible winter, a fimbul-winter, visits the earth and destroys its inhabitants. Not until after the end of this winter do giants and gods collect their forces for a decisive conflict on Vigrid’s plains; and when this conflict is ended, then comes the conflagration of the world, and after it the regeneration. Anent the length of the fimbul-winter, Gylfaginning (ch. 55) claims that it continued for three years “without any intervening summer.”

Consequently Lif and Leifthraser must have had their secure place of refuge in Mimer’s grove during the fimbul-winter, which precedes Ragnarok. And, accordingly, the idea that they were there only during Ragnarok, and all the strange conjectures based thereon, are unfounded. They continue to remain there while the winter rages, and during all the episodes which characterise the progress of the world towards ruin, and, finally, also, as Gylfaginning reports, during the conflagration and regeneration of the world.


Thus it is explained why the myth finds it of importance to inform us how Lif and Leifthraser support themselves during their stay in Mimer’s grove. It would not have occurred to the myth to present and answer this question had not the sojourn of the human pair in the grove continued for some length of time. Their food is the morning dew. The morning dew from Ygdrasil was, according to the mythology, a sweet and wonderful nourishment, and in the popular traditions of the Teutonic middle age the dew of the morning retained its reputation for having strange, nourishing qualities. According to the myth, it evaporates from the world-tree, which stands, ever green and blooming, over Urd’s and Mimer’s sacred fountains, and drops thence “in dales” (Völuspa, 18, 28; Gylfag., 16). And as the world-tree is sprinkled and gets its life-giving sap from these fountains, then it follows that the liquid of its morning dew is substantially the same as that of the subterranean fountains, which contain the elixir of life, wisdom, and poesy (cp. Nos. 72, 82, and elsewhere).

At what time Mimer’s grove was opened as an asylum for Lif and Leifthraser, whether this happened during or shortly before the fimbul-winter, or perchance long before it, on this point there is not a word in the passages quoted from Vafthrudnersmal. But by the following investigation the problem shall be solved.

The Teutonic mythology has not looked upon the regeneration of the world as a new creation. The life which in time’s morning developed out of chaos is not destroyed by Surt’s flames, but rescues itself, purified, for the


coming age of the world. The world-tree survives the conflagration, for it defies both edge and fire (Fjolsvinnsm, 20, 21). The Ida-plains are not annihilated. After Ragnarok, as in the beginning of time, they are the scene of the assemblings of the gods (Völuspa, 57; cp. 7). Vanaheim is not affected by the destruction, for Njord shall in aldar rauc (Vafthrudnersmal, 39) return thither “to wise Vans.” Odin’s dwellings of victory remain, and are inhabited after regeneration by Balder and Hödr (Völuspa, 59). The new sun is the daughter of the old one, and was born before Ragnarok, (Vafthr., 47), which she passes through unscathed. The ocean does not disappear in Ragnarok, for the present earth sinks beneath its surface (Völuspa, 54), and the new earth after regeneration rises from its deep (Völuspa, 55). Gods survive (Völuspa, 53, 56; Vafthr. 51; Gylfag., 58). Human beings survive, for Lif and Leifthraser are destined to become the connecting link between the present human race and the better race which is to spring therefrom. Animals and plants survive — though the animals and plants on the surface of the earth perish; but the earth risen from the sea was decorated with green, and there is not the slightest reference to a new act of creation to produce the green vegetation. Its cascades contain living beings, and over them flies the eagle in search of his prey (Völuspa, 56; see further, No. 55). A work of art from antiquity is also preserved in the new world. The game of dice, with which the gods played in their youth while they were yet free from care, is found again among the flowers on the new earth (Völuspa, 8, 58; see further, No. 55).


If the regeneration had been conceived as a new creation, a wholly new beginning of life, then the human race of the new era would also have started from a new creation of a human pair. The myth about Lif and Leifthraser would then have been unnecessary and superfluous. But the fundamental idea is that the life of the new era is to be a continuation of the present life purified and developed to perfection, and from the standpoint of this fundamental idea Lif and Leifthraser are necessary.

The idea of improvement and perfection is most clearly held forth in regard to both the physical and spiritual condition of the future world. All that is weak and evil shall be redeemed (bauls mun allz batna — Völuspa, 59). In that perfection of nature the fields unsown by men shall yield their harvests. To secure the restored world against relapse into the faults of the former, the myth applies radical measures — so radical, that the Asa majesty himself, Valfather, must retire from the scene, in order that his son, the perfectly blameless Balder, may be the centre in the assembly of the chosen gods. But the mythology would fail in its purpose if it did not apply equally radical measures in the choice and care of the human beings who are to perpetuate our race after Ragnarok; for if the progenitors have within them the seed of corruption, it will be developed in their descendants.

Has the mythology forgotten to meet this logical claim? The demand is no greater than that which is made in reference to every product of the fancy of whatever age. I do not mean to say that a logical claim


made on the mythology, or that a conclusion which may logically be drawn from the premises of the mythology, is to be considered as evidence that the claim has actually been met by the mythology, and that the mythology itself has been developed into its logical conclusion. I simply want to point out what the claim is, and in the next place I desire to investigate whether there is evidence that the claim has been honoured.

From the standpoint that there must be a logical harmony in the mythological system, it is necessary:

1. That Lif and Leifthraser when they enter their asylum, Mimer’s grove, are physically and spiritually uncorrupted persons.

2. That during their stay in Mimer’s grove they are protected against:

(a) Spiritual degradation.

(b) Physical degradation.

(c) Against everything threatening their very existence.

So far as the last point (2c) is concerned, we know already from Vafthrudnersmal that the place of refuge they received in the vicinity of those fountains, which, with never-failing veins, nourish the life of the world-tree, is approached neither by the frost of the fimbul-winter nor by the flames of Ragnarok. This claim is, therefore, met completely.

In regard to the second point (2b), the above-cited mythic traditions have preserved from the days of heathendom the memory of a grove in the subterranean domain of Gudmund-Mimer, set aside for living men, not


for the dead, and protected against sickness, aging, and death. Thus this claim is met also.

As to the third point (2a), all we know at present is that there, in the lower world, is found an enclosed place, the very one which death cannot enter, and from which even those mortals are banished by divine command who are admitted to the holy fountains and treasure chambers of the lower world, and who have been permitted to see the regions of bliss and places of punishment theme. It would therefore appear that all contact between those who dwell there and those who take part in the events of our world is cut off. The realms of Mimer and the lower world have, according to the sagas — and, as we shall see later, according to the myths themselves — now and then been opened to bold adventurers, who have seen their wonders, looked at their remarkable fountains, their plains for the amusement of the shades of heroes, and their places of punishment of the wicked. But there is one place which has been inaccessible to them, a field proclaimed inviolable by divine command (Gorm’s saga), a place surrounded by a wall, which can be entered only by such beings as can pass through the smallest crevices (Hadding’s saga).* But that this difficulty of entrance also was meant to exclude the moral evil, by which the mankind of our age is stained, is not expressly stated.

Thus we have yet to look and see whether the original documents from the heathen times contain any statements which can shed light on this subject. In regard

* Prodeuntibus murus aditu transcensuque difficilis obsistebat, quem femina (the subterranean goddess who is Hadding’s guide) nequiequam transilire conata cum ne corrugati quidem exilitate proficeret (Saxo, Hist. Dan., i, 51).


to the point (1), the question it contains as to whether the mythology conceived Lif and Leifthraser as physically and morally undefiled at the time when they entered Mimer’s grove, can only be solved if we, in the old records, can find evidence that a wise, foreseeing power opened Mimer’s grove as as asylum for them, at a time when mankind as a whole had not yet become the prey of physical and moral misery. But in that very primeval age in which time most of the events of mythology are supposed to have happened, creation had already become the victim of corruption. There was a time when the life of the gods was happiness and the joy of youthful activity; the condition of the world did not cause them anxiety, and, free from care, they amused themselves with the wonderful dice (Völuspa, 7, 8). But the golden age ended in physical and moral catastrophies. The air was mixed with treacherous evil; Freyja, the goddess of fertility and modesty, was treacherously delivered into the hands of the frost giants; on the earth the sorceress Heid (Heid) strutted about teaching the secrets of black magic, which was hostile to the gods and hurtful to man. The first great war broke out in the world (Völuspa, 21, 22, 26). The effects of this are felt down through the historical ages even to Ragnarok. The corruption of nature culminates in the fimbul-winter of the last days; the corruption of mankind has its climax in “the axe- and knife-ages.” The separation of Lif and Leifthraser from their race and confinement in Mimer’s grove must have occurred before the above catastrophies in time’s beginning, if there is to be a guarantee that the


human race of the new world is not to inherit and develop the defects and weaknesses of the present historical generations.

(Continuation of Part IV in Volume II.)