Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gullveig's Boast : Exeter Riddle 83

Frod wæs min fromcynn biden in burgum, siþþan bæles weard ...... wera life bewunden, fyre gefælsad. Nu me fah warað eorþan broþor,se me ærest wearð gumena to gyrne. Ic ful gearwe gemon hwa min fromcynn fruman agette eall of earde; ic him yfle ne mot, ac ic hæftnyd hwilum arære wide geond wongas. Hæbbe ic wundra fela, middangeardes mægen unlytel, ac ic miþan sceal monna gehwylcum degolfulne dom dyran cræftes, siðfæt minne. Saga hwæt ic hatte (Riddle 83, Exeter Book), "Ancient were my ancestors. I have abided in cities since the fire's ward turned me out amongst men, and I was purified by fire, when the earth's brother continued to be my foe, and became the first amongst men to afflict me. I fully remember, and well, who in the beginning of time seized all the earth from my fore-kin ; I am forbidden to cause him evil, yet I have many a time established terrible slavery around the wide earth. I have tremendous magic, not a small amount of the power of Middle Earth, but I shall conceal the secret doom from every man with my precious powers and skills, and extensive golden ornamentation. Say what I am called."

The Giant-Race is known to be extremely ancient, and cities especially are referred to as their work (entas geweorc). This suggests the protagonist of this riddle is of Giant-Kin. She speaks of being swaddled (gewunden) by the Fire's Ward, which must refer to Lodur-Surt. (But could also refer to being bound by Heimdall, or even swaddled up with Loki as a child), and purified by fire. There is one being in the mythology who was subjected to fire and three times emerged from the flames, and that is Gullveig. She speaks especially of Njord and his kin as her foes who foiled many of her plans, and then recalls with great resentment how the giants in the beginning of time were ousted from the earth by the Gods, whom she is now exiled from and forbidden to cause evil. Nevertheless, she boasts and gloats over the fact that she has reared up great distress for men in the form of slavery, which has established itself around the entire world, due to her great, magical power, which she claims holds captive a great deal of the power in Midgard. She has no intentions of revealing to people their true fates, but conceals it, obscuring their true futures with her powers and skills that are so dear to her, and by distracting men with her "abundant golden ornamentation". Seduced and dazzled, they do not see her for what she is, nor do they find their own wondrous potential. What are you called? You are called the Power of Gold, Avaricia, Usura, Invidia, Greed.

It is generally agreed by the scholars that the answer to this riddle is money, gold, metal, or ore, and they are correct, but they have not correctly discerned the mythic references concealed herein. It is impossible to refer to be encircled with fire and purified by the flames without thinking of Gullveig, who was of Giant-kin and caused terrible distress amongst mankind by fomenting folk-wars, and who is also said to have travelled amongst people deceiving their minds with great sorcery, as she brags here, casting (mis) fortunes that brought illness to many nations.

We may also read biden in burgum, siþþan bæles weard ...... wera life bewunden, fyre gefælsad as "I have abided in cities since the Fire's Ward (Heimdall) wound up amongst living men." Yes, when Heimdall came upon the waves to help men, Heid was there to corrupt them, lurking in the cities. She lay in wait for Borgar (biden in burgum). She brags that she was the cause of thralldom. She links this to her powers of magic and her ability to obscure people's true fates, by distracting them with the glitter of gold.

This poem wrapped in a riddle is a tremendous confirmation of many investigations we have pursued about Heid's character, and here we find her openly gloating about her conquests, as well as revealing some of her motivations : resentful about the replacement of giants by men as holders of the earth, she intends to weaken them so they may be more easily conquered, or to turn them into monsters themselves, who will welcome in the monsters.

ic him yfle ne mot, "I am not able to do evil to him," to Odin, who orchestrated the exile of her kin, because she herself has been exiled, for when Odin returned from his exile, he cast out all the sorcerors who had tried to take over. Thus, she is confined to the Iron Woods, but she is confident that her power over Midgard is extensive, and she is happy to have been the cause of so much poverty, brigandage, and captivity.

We know what you're called : Hyndla, which means a female-dog. I'll let my audience connect the dots.

All translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow


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