Hödur’s supposed blindness



Hödur’s supposed blindness



To all that has been said of Hödur above, one statement in Gylfaginning stands in the sharpest and most irreconcilable contrast: the statement that Hödur, the warrior, dragonslayer, archer, and sportsman was blind! The uncritical manner in which Gylfaginning has previously been handled has enabled this statement to remain in mythological textbooks far too long. In order to support it, the untenable conjecture of a Danish variant of the myth, according to which Hödur was not blind, and an Icelandic- Norwegian variant, according to which he was blind, was purposed. Sufficient evidence has been given above that Hödur was not blind according to the Icelandic mythic tradition, and thus I need not add that when the skald Halvard likens Knut the great to Hödur and speaks of ―Hödur‘s sword‖ and Egil Skallagrimsson of ―Hödur‘s mail-coat,‖ such comparisons would have been impossible if those who had heard or read the song imagined a blind man as the referent of the comparison, one who could not use his weapon except under another‘s guidance.102 So how did Gylfaginning come to the conclusion that Hödur was blind?
Of Baldur‘s death and funeral pyre, Gylfaginning relates the following story, whose source shall be pointed out below:
“Once it became known to all that nothing could harm Baldur, it became a pastime for Baldur and the Aesir that he should stand up at the thingstead and all the others would either shoot at him, hew, or throw stones. But whatever one did to him, he remained unharmed, and they all thought that this was a great honor. When Loki, Laufey’s son saw this, it annoyed him that Baldur was not hurt. He went to Fensalir and Frigg and transformed himself into the guise of a woman, whom Frigg asked if she knew what the Aesir were doing at the Thing. She replied that they all shoot at Baldur without causing him injury. Frigg then said “Neither weapon nor wood harms Baldur, because I have taken oaths from them all.” “Have all things sworn an oath to spare him?” asked the woman. Frigg replied: “There is a tender sapling growing east of Valhall whose name is Mistletoe; it seemed too young to me to make an oath.”
Thereafter the woman went on her way. But Loki took Mistletoe, plucked it, and brought it to the Thing. There stood Hödur at the edge of the circle of men, since he was blind. Loki said to him: “Why don’t you shoot at Baldur?” He replied: “because I cannot see where he stands, and moreover I am without a weapon.” Loki said: “Do as the others do, and like them, show Baldur honor. I will show you where he stands. Shoot at him with this sapling!” He took Mistletoe and, under Loki’s guidance, shot it at Baldur. The missile went through Baldur and he fell dead to the ground. ...So the Aesir took Baldur’s body and bore it to the sea. Hringhorn was the name of Baldur’s ship, the biggest of all. The gods wanted to launch it into the sea in order to make Baldur’s pyre upon it; but they could not move the ship. They sent word to Jötunheim for a gyg (a giantess), named Hyrrokkin. She came, riding on a wolf with vipers for reins, and leapt off her steed. Odin ordered four beserkers to hold it, but they could not get power over the wolf, except to throw him down. Hyrrokkin went to the ship’s prow and with her first shove set it in such a pace that fire shot out from the rollers and the whole land quaked. Then Thor grew angry and gripped his hammer and would have crushed her head, if all the gods had not begged him for peace. Thereafter, Baldur’s body was brought out to the ship; but when his wife Nanna, Nep’s daughter, saw it, she collapsed from grief and died. She was carried out onto the bale, and it was ignited. As Thor stood there and hallowed the pyre with Mjöllnir, a dwarf, named Lit (Litr) leapt before his feet and Thor kicked him so that he flew into the fire and was burnt. To this funeral came many different kinds of folk. First to tell of is Odin, and with him were Frigg and the valkyries and Odin's ravens. Frey drove in a chariot pulled by the boar called Gullinbursti or Slidrugtanni. Heimdall rode on his horse Gulltop and Freyja fared with her cats. Many frost-giants were there and mountain giants too.”
The burlesque stamp that this narrative bears, even though its subject is the Germanic epic‘s most tragic event, cannot escape some readers. The narrative‘s absurdity gives it a character that contrasts most sharply with all we know of the Old Norse skaldic and narrative art. I need not point out the most puerile manner in which Gylfaginning‘s author seeks to reconcile his assumption that Hödur was blind with the mythological fact that Baldur, as a target for shots and volleys, fell before one of the weapons cast at him. For this purpose, he allows Loki to ask a ―blind‖ man why he does not shoot or throw something at the target and allows the blind man to shoot at the target under another person‘s direction! Such an explanation has demonstrated that it can satisfy a mythologist who sincerely believes in Gylfaginning, but it would undoubtedly produce laughter and ridicule if it were presented to our forefathers, who were disposed toward realism and sensitive to comedy.
Nevertheless, Gylfaginning‘s author had a heathen source for what he says. His mistake is that from beginning to end he misunderstood its nature. He imagined that the heathen song, which he ostensibly followed, contained an accurate account of the circumstances surrounding Baldur‘s death and cremation, whereas it accurately described only those circumstances that were not blended with the peculiarities of a work of art whose creator depicted episodes out of the Baldur myth and other stories of the gods in a series of symbolic-allegorical pictures. Surely, the truer the song was to the work of art‘s mode of pictorially expressing the myth and the idealistic elements found there depicted for the eye —for example the world‘s sorrow over Baldur‘s death— the more it must deviate from reality wherever the artist had to resort to symbolic-allegorical means to make the pictorial work intelligible and thus easily recognizable to its viewers.
The song in question is the Icelandic skald Ulf Uggason‘s Húsdrápa, of which some fragments sufficient as evidence have been preserved into our time.
Around the years 985-990, the magnificent Icelandic chieftain Olaf Höskuldsson held a feast at which he inaugurated a newly erected dwelling on his estate, Hjardarholt. Of this, Laxdæla Saga 29 says: ―That summer Olaf had built at Hjardarholt a larger and grander dwelling than had previously been seen. Memorable tales were depicted on the wainscoting, crossbeams and ceiling, and these were so well done that one thought the hall looked more splendid when the roof and walls were not covered with tapestries. Ulf

Uggason attended the feast and composed a poem about Olaf Höskuldsson and about the stories that were depicted in the hall, and he presented the poem at the feast. This poem was called Húsdrápa and was well composed.‖
From Skáldskaparmál103 and from fragments of the poem preserved there and in Gylfaginning104 one learns that the pictorial work represented Heimdall‘s battle with Loki when they were both in seal-guise, Thor‘s battle with the Midgard serpent in Hymir‘s boat, and episodes of the Baldur myth, among others.105
We now return to Gylfaginning‘s account of Baldur‘s death and funeral procession that has a much different appearance, depending on the preconceived ideas with which one reads them. If one assumes it is a direct account of the Baldur myth itself, the contents seem overly puerile—altogether too puerile even for a children‘s tale. If, on the other hand, one realizes that the author of Gylfaginning derived his account from Húsdrápa, and that it extolled not the myth in question, but an artwork and the artist‟s method of presenting the myths he chose to handle in pictures, then the impression of puerility vanishes, the absurdities disappear, and one gets an interesting insight into the means that the creator of the artwork at Hjardarholt chose in order to make his account intelligible and meaningful.
In order to shed light on this, the account of Baldur‘s funeral pyre may first be taken into consideration.106 Without doubt, heathen songs were composed that described Baldur‘s funeral pyre solemnly and poignantly. Among other features, it must have been sung in a poem that Odin laid the ring Draupnir on his beloved son‘s lifeless breast and whispered into his ear what no one may know. On the other hand, such a song could not possibly have depicted such a grotesque funeral procession in Baldur‘s honor as Gylfaginning describes, one in which ravens, cats, a boar, and a large host of hostile frost giants and mountain giants take part.
But the grotesqueness disappears if here we see before us a series of pictorial works in which the artist endeavors to make as clear as possible which mythic person his figure represents and which myth about them is meant through associated symbols. How he went about it on that occasion is precisely Húsdrápa‘s task to illustrate in words. In other words: Ulf Uggason‘s task was to represent a faithful copy of the artwork‘s particulars in words and extol the symbolic-allegoric elements for the guests‘ entertainment as though they were real. What is left of Húsdrápa confirms my opinion of the poem‘s nature. In itself, this poem is the most dry and wooden opus one can imagine; the intrigue and entertainment for the guests can only have lain in the skald extolling what was meant symbolically as if it were real.
When the artist wanted to make clear that one of the many figures that took part in the funeral procession was Odin, it was not enough to depict him riding the eight-footed Sleipnir, because Sleipnir had also carried another rider (Svipdag-Skirnir, Svipdag- Hermod), so he let Odin be accompanied by his ravens, which are characteristic birds for him, and by valkyries. A figure on an eight-footed horse is unmistakably Odin, if he also has ravens and mounted spear-bearing women in his company. Thus, Ulf Uggason sang that not only valkyries, but also ravens, took part in the funeral procession. That Gylfaginning‘s author gathered these features from Ulf Uggason is made clear by the following lines in Húsdrápa:
Ríðr at vilgi víðu víðfrær (en mér líða) Hroptatýr (of hapta hróðrmál) sonar báli.
―Swiftly the Far-Famed Hropta-tyr [Odin] rides to the broad pyre of his son; Through my cheeks flow songs of praise.‖107
Þar hykk sigrunni svinnum sylgs valkyrjur fylga heilags tafns ok hrafna. Hlaut innan svá minnum.
―There I think valkyries and ravens follow the wise victory-tree [Odin] to the blood of holy Baldur. With old tales the hall was painted.‖
Here both valkyries and ravens are mentioned as accompanying Odin as he rides to his son‘s pyre.
After Odin, Frigg and valkyries, one saw Frey in the row of pictures. Since he is spoken of in the myth as a remarkable rider, one would expect him to be represented on horseback in Hjardarholt‘s pictorial work.108 But all the Aesir and Vanir, with the exception of Thor, are riders,109 and to place Frey on a horse would not distinguish him sufficiently from the other gods, of which at least two, Odin and Heimdall, were depicted as riders. Probably for this reason the artist let Frey be pulled by his gold-glittering boar, which was his symbol and which clearly distinguished him as the beneficial Vana-god. When Gylfaginning says: En Freyr ók í kerru með gelti þeim er Gullinbursti heitir (―While Frey drove in a chariot pulled by a boar called Gullinbursti‖), one finds the source of this in Húsdrápa‘s lines:
Ríðr á börg til borgar böðfróðr sonar Óðins Freyr ok fólkum stýrir fyrst ok gulli byrstum
―The battle-bold Frey rides first on the golden-bristled boar to the bale-fire of Odin‘s son [Baldur] and leads the people.‖
After Frey, Heimdall came on horseback. Here, Húsdrápa is also the source:
Kostigr ríðr at kesti kynfróðs þeim er goð hlóðu hrafnfreistaðr heti Heimdallr at mög fallin.
―The lordly Heimdall rides his horse to the pyre built by the gods for the fallen son of Odin, the All-wise Raven-ruler.‖
Gylfaginning says further that when the gods would launch Baldur‘s ship, Hringhorn, on which his pyre was prepared, they were unable to do so and had to summon the giantess Hyrrokkin from Jötunheim, who came and with a shove pushed the ship out into the water with such force that the rollers on which it stood burst into flames and the earth shook. From Jötunheim, she came riding on a wolf with vipers as reins and, when she leapt off the steed, Odin had to send four berserkers in order to hold the wolf, which they were unable to do without knocking it down.
Even this is gathered from Húsdrápa, and is thus a description of one of Hjardarholt‘s artworks. Húsdrápa says:
Fullöflug lét fjalla
fram haf-Sleipnir þramma Hildr, en Hropts of gildar hjámelda mar feldu
―The very mighty Hild of the mountain [giantess] made the sea-Sleipnir [ship] roll forward, while the champions of Hropts‘s [Odin‘s] helm-fire felled her steed.‖110
Further it is said that when Hyrrokkin, with her grasp on the prow, succeeded in pushing the ship out to sea, Thor became angry and wanted to crush her head with his hammer and that when he hallowed the pyre with his hammer, a dwarf named Litr leapt in front of his feet and Thor gave him a kick, so that he flew into the fire.
The whole of this episode forms a chain of absurdities if one considers it an account of what the myth actually related about Baldur‘s funeral pyre. That one giantess was stronger than Thor and all the Aesir combined is something that a faithful heathen could never fall for. What the myth relates about Thor most definitely contradicts this. It is absurd to think that the gods would humiliate themselves by sending a message to their enemies, the giants, to solicit such help from a giantess and more absurd that Thor would want to kill her when she had done them the service they requested of her. For what reason the benevolent Thor would kick a dwarf into the fire cannot be understood, and his behavior in this instance as in the other is ill-suited for such a solemn and moving occasion, during which it was supposed to have occurred.
On the other hand, all this is explained satisfactorily once we are convinced through Húsdrápa that it is the artwork at Hjardarholt, and not the myth, that explains this behavior.
The giantess‘ name, Hyrrokkin, tells us who she is. The name, a compound of hyrr (fire) and rjúka (smoke), means the fire-smoked and is, as I demonstrated in the first volume of this work (no. 35), an epithet of the thrice-burnt in vain Gullveig-Heiðr, the myth‘s female Loki. Hyrrokkin has avenged herself on the gods by causing Baldur‘s death with Loki‘s assistance. When the artist allows her to push Baldur‘s ship out to sea, he has thereby given understandable symbolic expression to the mythic fact that, if Hyrrokkin did not exist, Hringhorn would never have been put out to sea with Baldur‘s corpse, because then Baldur would not have fallen victim to the giant world‘s treachery.
By the description, one learns what means the artist used to make clear that the giantess was Hyrrokkin. He allows her to come riding on a wolf, in order to point out that she is a giantess. But since wolves are also the steeds of other thurs-women, this was not enough. The wolf that is Hyrrokkin‘s must be the strongest and most dangerous of all, namely her son Fenrir. Therefore, he is depicted as knocked down and held by four of Odin‘s ―berserkers,‖ that is to say Aesir or einherjes. Further, the artist drew flames beneath the ship, because Hyrrokkin was burnt by the gods and Baldur‘s death was one way she extracted vengeance, as was Hringhorn‘s launching with Baldur‘s pyre on board. For greater clarification, the artist let Thor raise his hammer toward the giantess, because according to the myth Thor killed Hyrrokkin with his hammer. Compare Völuspá 27 with Thorbjörn Disarskald‘s verse in Skáldskaparmál 4, which lists Hyrrokkin among the giantesses killed by Thor.
By the ship‘s stern the artist had applied a figure that Húsdrápa called Litr and that Gylfaginning took to be a dwarf, because the name Litr appears in the dwarf-list, Völuspá 12. But, Litr, among other things, also means salmon and is used as a byname of Loki who of course appears in salmon-guise. For the same reason Hæingr, salmon, is also a byname of Loki.111 When Egil Skallagrimsson had to save his life by means of a song of praise to Erik Bloodaxe, he compares his head with Loki‘s, when it was put at stake in a wager with Sindri: Þó bólstrverð of bera þorðak maka hæings: Yet I dare offer the county‘s king a pillow-prize, corresponding to Hæing‘s (pillow-prize i.e. the head).112 As a Loki-epithet, Litr is used in a verse ascribed to Bragi skald, Skáldskaparmál 42, and has reference to Thor as he fished for both Loki and his son, the Midgard serpent:
Þá forns Litar flotna á fangbóða öngli hrökkviáll of hrokkinn hekk Völsunga drekku
―The wriggling serpent [Midgard serpent] of the Völsung‘s drink [poison] writhed, when on the hook of the foe [Thor] of old Lit‘s kin [the giants].‖113
In applying Hyrrokkin by the funeral ship‘s prow and a salmon as a symbol of Loki down by its stern the artist thus wanted to express that Hyrrokkin and Loki were the ones that actually caused Baldur‘s death and thereby brought it about that his ship with his own pyre onboard was pushed out into the sea on its rollers. That Thor is represented kicking the salmon into the fire has its explanation in that Thor was the one who dispatched Loki out of Franangr‘s falls into the cavern of subterranean fire where he lies bound until Ragnarök as revenge for his misdeeds.
However, it was Hödur‘s mistletoe arrow that killed Baldur. That Hödur acted without evil intent and only as a blind tool of Gullveig (Hyrrokkin) and Loki, the artist expressed in this manner: he had Hödur stand with his eyes closed while shooting and placed Loki beside him, directing his weapon. By this method, also used by other symbolic artists, he illustrated the mythic circumstance that Hödur was Baldur‘s handbani (actual murderer), but Loki his ráðbani (contriver of murder).
After all this, it ought to be clear how Gylfaginning‘s author came to the conclusion that Hödur was blind. Hödur‘s supposed blindness is only one of many examples of false conclusions drawn from a misunderstanding of symbolic artwork or symbolic expressions. In all literatures and among all people, the word blind not only has its original physical meaning, but also a derived intellectual meaning, and when symbolic artwork wants to refer to the later, it does so by making use of the former. One faces danger blind, if one does not know of it or wants to know nothing of it. One rushes into battle blind (cæcus ruere in certamen, Livy), when one does not weigh his powers against the opponent‘s. One acts blindly when, as the tool of another, he unintentionally injures one that he loves. In this sense, Hödur was blind when Baldur fell before his weapon, and it was this that the creator of the Hjardarholt-artwork wanted to say, when he let Hödur fire the deadly shot with his eyes closed and placed the murder‘s conscious killer, Loki, by his side.
That Loki would actually stand beside him and direct his weapon, the myth cannot have said, because from the standpoint of epic coherence it is an impossibility. The Aesir, standing around Baldur in a mannhringr (circle of people), would of course immediately have seen whom the murder‘s actual author was, whereas the epic connection demands that Loki, as cunningly as possible, hide his involvement in the death and choose Hödur to carry it out, because he previously was Baldur‘s rival for Nanna and therefore could be mistaken to entertain plans of revenge against his brother.
That hosts of rime-thurses and mountain-giants, enemies of the gods and the world according to the myth, would have been guests in Asgard when Baldur was cremated is improbable. But it is nevertheless understandable that the artwork at Hjardarholt allowed them to do so, because the artist could not express in a better way that Baldur‘s death plunged the world, including most of Jötunheim‘s inhabitants, into sorrow.
The way in which Gylfaginning misunderstood Ulf Uggason‘s description of the pictures in the hall at Hjardarholt is not an isolated occurrence. On the contrary, one can point out another incorrect statement and absurd story that arose through a misunderstanding of symbolic artwork. In the legend about the blind Longinus, one finds an apt parallel to Gylfaginning‟s tale about the blind Hödur.
The legend of Longinus is tied to the Gospel of Saint John 19:34 ―But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water flowed out.‖ From the beginning of the 5th century, there is evidence of the existence of a story, according to which the warrior was named Longinus. Perhaps the story is even older. The name also includes the centurion that commanded the soldiers and who, when he witnessed signs at Jesus‘ death, said: ―Truly he was the Son of God‖ (Matthew 27:54). In a variant of Nicodemus‘ Gospel found in Codex Mon. B. (See Thilos Codex Apocr. New Test.), it is the soldier who is called Longinus; in two other codices of the same Gospel, it is the centurion; the oldest existing codex of the apocryphal writing in question, Codex Par. A., knows nothing about Longinus at all.
Now, was it assumed from the beginning that the soldier or centurion Longinus was physically blind? By no means. The assumption that an enlisted Roman centurion or an enlisted Roman soldier could perform his tour of duty physically blind is in itself so improbable that it could not have arisen spontaneously.
In Bugge‘s ―Studier över de nordiske gude- og heltesagns oprindelse‖ p. 37, he writes: ―Det kan her være os ligegyldigt, om det fra først af kun har været forstaaet aandeligt, at Stridsmanden, som stak med Spyd, fik sit Syn ved Kristi Blod; I Middelalderen blev det ialfald almindelig tillige legemligt.‖ (―It is unimportant here if the story that the soldier who wounded Christ with a spear and gained his sight through Christ‘s blood was only understood figuratively; at any rate, in the Middle Ages, it was commonly understood in the literal sense as well.‖).
Bugge‘s statement that it was commonly presumed that Longinus was blind in the Middle Ages is not correct. Contrary evidence exists that during many centuries of the Middle Ages, it was presumed that Longinus was able to see. Evidence that one believed him to have been blind first turns up during the later part of the Crusade period. An old legend relates that when the blood and water were flowing out of Jesus‘ side, Longinus caught the fluid in a lead box. In the year 804 in Mantua, when Longinus‘ body should have disintegrated, his remains were sought and found beside the lead box cum sacro cruore.114 The narrative about this mentions nothing of Longinus‘ blindness; on the contrary, it assumes he was able to see when he stuck the spear in Jesus‘ side, because he had a lead box in order to catch the expected fluids. A poem translated from Greek to Latin, ascribed to the fourth century poet, Apollinaris Laodicenus, depicts Longinus as able to see when he makes the spear thrust and allows him to catch Jesus‘ blood with both hands and moisten his eyes with it, not to work some healing act on his eyes, but lustrationis scilicet ritu sacre (as a rite of purification). Hrabanus Maurus (856) mentions one libellus martyrii St. Longini (―Booklet of the Martyr St. Longinus‖) and its contents. Not a word there suggests that Longinus was blind and became cured by Jesus‘ blood. On the contrary, it says that when he saw the signs that happened at the savior‘s death, he believed in him. Afterward he would become a monk and suffer martyrdom in Cappadocia. The same narrative in the same words is found 50 years later in the Martyrologies of Notker, an abbot of St. Gallen. The Bollandist Acta Sanctorum rebukes him for referring to Isidorus Hispalensis115 (636) as the source of the statement that Longinus was blind. Isidorus says nothing of this. Acta Sanctorum cites two Latin manuscripts in which say that Longinus saw the signs that happened, believed in the Lord, and thereafter penetrated Jesus‘ side, shouting ―This is truly the Son of God.‖
As a result of the research into the matter, the Bollandist work says that ―the ignorance of the masses only gradually applied the spiritual blindness to the physical.‖ Baptista Mantuanus (1448-1516) says that Longinus eyes were running or inflamed (oculi lippi) and his sight weak (lumen tardum). In the realm of literature, Martinus of Troppau (―Polonus‖ 1279),116 in his first chronicle, first mentions the story that Longinus was blind and became healed through Jesus‘ blood dripping into his eyes. Through this chronicle, which was one of the most studied books in the 14th century, the story spread over the whole of Western Europe. That it arose through a misunderstanding of a symbolic artwork is the only reasonable explanation at hand. An Irish manuscript in St. Gallen from the 9th century shows Christ on the cross and the soldier who stabs him with a spear in the side. From the wound, a red zigzag line runs to the soldier‘s eyes (see Bugge ―Studier,‖ pg. 36). But from the same monastery and from the same and the following century, we have literary evidence that there was no legend known in which Longinus was physically blind. Then and long after, it was understood that a description such as the one mentioned above was symbolic and meant to say that the heathen soldier who stuck Jesus in the side had his eyes opened that Jesus was the son of God by the signs he witnessed. But there finally came a time when such symbols caused the same misunderstanding in regard to the Roman soldier as Gylfaginning‘s understanding of Ulf Uggason‘s poem caused in regard to Hödur. That a blind man used a spear or a bow in order to strike a target is in itself so improbable that it must be made intelligible in some manner. For this reason, one wrote that a soldier who had his senses intact placed a spear in Longinus‘ hands and directed him as to how he should make the thrust. It was the only explanation possible here. Thus we find the legend used in roughly the same way as Gylfaginning‘s that used a motif taken from Ulf Uggason‘s poem about the artwork at Hjardarholt. It is not impossible that the legend in this latest form was known by Gylfaginning‟s author, who was an older contemporary to Martinus of Troppau, and that it contributed to the motif taken from the heathen poem becoming misunderstood and handled as it was.

- Viktor Rydberg

Foot Notes

101 To my knowledge, this work was never published.
102 The actual kennings here are Höðr [heinlands],―Höður of sword‖ and Höðr brynju, ―Hödur of mail- coat‖ both of which simply mean ―warrior.‖ To name any god with an attribute of weapons or armor signifies a human warrior. Still it is strange to think that poets would use Hödur‘s name in such kennings if they indeed thought he was an incompetent blind man.
103 Here Rydberg is referring to the statement in Skáldskaparmál 5: ―Ulf Uggason composed a long passage in Húsdrápa based on the story of Baldur‖ (Anthony Faulkes, Edda), which indeed suggests that Snorri was not aware of the circumstances of the composition of the poem.
104 No verses of Húsdrápa are directly preserved in Gylfaginning; however, a comparison of the verses preserved in Skáldskaparmál with Snorri‘s narrative account in Gylfaginning makes it clear that Snorri had these verses in mind when he wrote the corresponding prose.
105 In an apparent reference to Húsdrápa 6, which speaks of Thor‘s fishing expedition for the Midgard serpent and which is generally understood to mean that Thor slew the Midgard serpent during the fishing expedition, Snorri writes: "But Thor threw his hammer after [the serpent], and they say that he struck off his head by the sea-bed. But I think in fact the contrary is correct to report to you that the Midgard serpent lives still and lies in the encircling sea." [Gylfaginning 48, Faulkes' translation]. Noticeably, this statement immediately precedes Snorri‘s retelling of the Baldur myth in Gylfaginning 49, lending support to Rydberg‘s supposition that Húsdrápa was the ultimate source of Snorri‘s Baldur myth and that Snorri misunderstood the nature of the poem, taking literally what was meant symbolically.
106 The surviving portion of Húsdrápa that speaks of the Baldur myth only concerns the funeral procession, thus this is the only direct evidence we have for examination.
107 The translations from Húsdrápa are modified after those of Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (1916) from Skáldskaparmál 2, 3, and 8.
108 In Lokasenna 37, Týr calls Frey the ―best of all bold riders.‖ Frey is said to ride the horse Bloodyhoof in two skaldic verses preserved in Skáldskaparmál 58.
109 Grímnismál 29, 30 which states that all the gods, presumably including Frey, ride over Bifröst daily to judge by Urd‘s well, with the exception of Thor who must wade.
110 Skáldskaparmál 49.
111 Litr ("colored") does not mean salmon, and since Rydberg provides no supporting evidence here, his claim is untenable. The name occurs as a dwarf-name in Völuspá and a Þula; as a giant's name in a kenning found in Ragnarsdrápa 18 (quoted below); and as an ox-name in a Þula. Since this and the following examples are incorrect, Loki‘s identification with Litr, while logical, is unsupported.
112 This is from the 6th verse of Arinbjarnarkviða found in chapter 80 of Egil‟s Saga, Rydberg seems to have confused the circumstances of this poem‘s composition with that of Egil‘s Höfuðlausn (Head Ransom). The modern accepted reading of this verse does not agree with his interpretation.
113 Here Litr is understood as a generic giant‘s name. The phrase in question calls Thor ―the foe of old Lit‘s kin.‖ If Rydberg is correct and Litr is a byname of Loki, who himself is a giant, this passage is the only piece of evidence left to support it.
114 ―with sacred blood.‖
115 Saint Isidore of Seville (c.560 - 636)
116 Martinus Polonus (Martinus Oppaviensis or Martin of Troppau), author of Chroniconpontificum et imperatorum, The Chronicle of Popes and Emperors.

-Viktor Rydberg’s Investigations into Germanic Mythology- Volume II

Translated by William P. Reaves in 2004

First published in: