Summary of the Lay of Grímnir: Grímnismál

King Hrauthung had two sons. The older one, Agnar, was ten years old. The younger, Geirrœth, was eight. The two brothers were rowing a boat one day trying to catch small fry when the wind blew them out to sea. During the night, they suddenly “dashed against” the land. They went ashore and found a cottage wherein they stayed during that winter. The goodwife fostered the elder brother and the goodman fostered the younger. Apart from this, the goodman also counseled Geirrœth in shrewdness. In spring he got a boat for them, led them down to the shore with his wife, and spoke secretly with Geirrœth. The wind was fair and Geirrœth was forward in the boat. When the two brothers arrived back at their father’s landing place, the younger brother jumped out, shoved the boat back to sea with Agnar still inside and said, “Now go where all trolls may take thee!” Agnar drifted out to sea. Geirrœth was warmly welcomed home. Since his father had died (and with his older brother now drifting out in the open sea…), Geirrœth was made king and he became a famous leader. One day, Óthin and Frigg were sitting in Hilthskjalf, looking out upon the world (Hilthskjalf: “Hall of Gates” or “Gate Tower” = Óthin’s seat in Valholl. Quote from “Gylfaginning” on chapter eight: “When he seats himself in the high-seat he can see all the world and the doings of every man”. In this instance, Óthin can be compared to the sun which, when high in the sky, “can see all the world and the doings of every man”.)  As they were looking at the worlds Óthin said to Frigg, “Dost thou see Agnar, thy foster son, how he begets children with an ogress in a cave? But Geirrœth, my foster son, is king in the land.” Frigg responded, “He is so grudging about his food that he lets his guests die of hunger when he thinks too many have come.” (According to Old Norse conceptions, this was a “cardinal sin” in a king.) Óthin said this was a gross lie, so they made a wager. Frigg sent her chambermaid Fulla to Geirrœth to beware lest he be bewitched by a warlock who was supposedly around the area at the time. She said the warlock could be recognized by the fact that dogs would not rush at him, so Geirrœth found the man his dogs wouldn’t set on and captured him. The “warlock” was wearing a blue cloak and said his name was Grímnir (Grímnir: “The Masked One” = Óthin. He is frequently pictured as concealing his face with a wide cowl/hood). He didn’t say anything else about himself even though he was asked. In an attempt to make Grímnir reveal more about himself, Geirrœth tortured him by setting him between two fires. Grímnir sat there for eight nights. Geirrœth’s son, a ten-year-old named Agnar after Geirrœth’s brother, went up to Grímnir, gave him a full horn to drink from and said that the king did ill to torture someone who had done no wrong. Grímnir emptied the horn, and by that time the fire had come so close to him that his cloak started to burn. Óthin thanked Agnar and said he would be king after his father. He then gave Agnar very much information about the gods, Yggdrasil, the universe et cetera. Óthin reveals his identity using many of the names people called him saying, “by one name was I not welcomed ever, since among folk I fared”. He goes on to further introduce himself and says some uncomplimentary things about his own foster son Geirrœth (Geirrœth is muddled, he’s drunk too much, his faithless friends betray him, he sent his own brother out to sea and took the crown in his place) and says the norns wish Geirrœth ill and he doesn’t have much longer left to live. Óthin then says, “come thou near if thou canst”, after which he probably vanishes. Then Geirrœth accidentally drops his sword, piercing his stomach and accidentally killing himself. His son Agnar became king and ruled in that land for a long time.

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