Starting with the Völuspá, I’m working on creating a more Modernized version of the Poetic Edda loosely based off the Henry Adams Bellows translation.
I am doing this in order to increase my own understanding of the material. Since I am unable to read the text in its original language, I have to rely on translations.
This is not meant to be a scholarly project, but a personal one. So keep that in mind when you’re reading these posts.
I’m not going to introduce the poems before-hand, so here are my versions of the first 5 verses of the Völuspá.
1. I ask that the holy races listen to me,
those high and lowborn sons of Heimdall.
You’ve asked me to speak, Valfather,
and tell the stories of men from the past.
2. I still remember the ancient giants,
who’ve sheltered me throughout the years.
I knew of nine worlds nestled in Yggdrasil,
whose roots possessed an unmatched strength.
3. It’s been aeons since Ymir lived
and back then there were no waves or sand.
Earth did not yet exist, nor did the homes of the Gods–
Just the yawning void, Ginnungagap, where no grass grew.
4. But then Borr’s sons used Ymir’s body
and crafted Midgard from it-a mighty world.
The fire from Muspellheim–the sun–warmed the stones
and the ground was soon covered with greenery.
5. The sun, sister to the moon, from Muspell in the south
cast her glow over the lands of the Gods.
She didn’t yet know where she should live.
The moon didn’t yet know what strength he held,
and the stars hadn’t yet discovered their course.
There is a lot of information packed into these first 5 stanzas. The Nine Worlds and Yggdrasil are mentioned and Creation is discussed.
THE NINE WORLDS
Asgard: The World of the Aesir Gods
Vanaheim: The World of the Vanir Gods
Alfheim: The World of the Elves
Midgard: The World of Men
Jotunheim: The World of Giants
Svartalfheim: The World of Dark Elves
Nidavellir: The World of Dwarves
Muspellheim: The World of Fire (primordial)
Niflheim: The World of Ice (primordial)
I’ve seen Helheim mentioned as one of the nine realms instead of Nidavellir where others group the Dwarves and the Dark Elves together in Svartalfheim.
Hel, the Goddess of Death, rules Helheim, which is located in Niflheim. I’m more inclined to believe this than grouping Dark Elves in with Dwarves.
Yggdrasil is the Cosmic Ash that holds the 9 worlds together. It is the framework of the multiverse we live in. One of its three roots is in Asgard, the second in Jotunheim, and the third in Niflheim. I’ll talk more about Yggdrasil in a later post–it’s too significant for a paragraph or two to do it justice.
Before the world existed, there were only two realms–Muspellheim and Niflheim–and the void between them known as Ginnungagap. There were eleven rivers that flowed out of Niflheim into the Ginnungagap that congealed and thickened into ice. Soon, the entire Northern part of the Ginnungagap was frozen.
The heat from Muspellheim in the South traveled through the Ginnungagap and where the heat from Muspellheim and the ice from Niflheim met in the middle, the temperature was moderate and perfect for the quickening of life.
The heat from Muspellheim slowly melted some of the ice from Niflheim and Ymir emerged, the first of the frost giants and an androgynous being. When he slept, a male and female giant were born from the sweat of his left armpit while one of his legs fathered a son on the other.
Some more of the ice from Niflheim melted and Audhumla, the cow, emerged. Four rivers of milk flowed from her and it was from her that Ymir took sustenance, as the rime from the ice was too poisonous for him to eat. Audhumla, on the other hand, feasted on the rime.
And as she did so, she licked free the first of the Gods, Buri. Buri bore a son, Borr, who married Bestla–a giant–who in turn bore three sons–Odin, Vili, and Ve.
Odin and his brothers were disturbed by the ever-increasing population of the giants, as Ymir never stopped giving birth, and the three of them ganged up on Ymir and killed him when he was asleep. It took all of their strength and the blood from Ymir’s wounds resulted in such a flood that nearly all the Jotuns were destroyed. Only Bergelmir and his wife survived.
Odin and his brothers took Ymir’s body and used it to create Midgard. They used his blood to make the oceans, his skin to make the soil, his hair to make the vegetation, his brains to make the clouds, and his skull to make the sky. They put four Dwarves under each cardinal point (one named North, one named South, one named East, and one named West) so that Ymir’s skull would stay in place above the earth.