There’s a Hard Rain Gonna Fall (From the Prose Edda)

asgardsreien-peter-nicolai-arbo-thor-oslo-norway-1872

Asgard’s Host (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1831 – 1892)

[From the Prose Edda:] Then said Gangleri: “What tidings are to be told concerning the Weird of the Gods? Never before have I heard aught said of this.” Hárr answered: “Great tidings are to be told of it, and much. The first is this, that there shall come that winter which is called the Awful Winter: In that time snow shall drive from all quarters; frosts shall be great then, and winds sharp; there shall be no virtue in the sun. Those winters shall follow three in succession, and no summer between; but first shall come three other winters, such that over the entire world there shall be mighty battles. In that time brothers shall slay each other for greed’s sake, and none shall spare father or son in manslaughter and in incest; so it says in Völuspá:

Brothers shall strive | and slaughter each other;
Own sisters’ children | shall sin together;
Ill days among men, | many a whoredom:
An axe-age, a sword-age, | shields shall be cloven;
A wind-age, a wolf-age, | ere the world totters.

“Then shall happen what seem great tidings: The Wolf shall swallow the sun; and this shall seem to men a great harm. Then the other wolf shall seize the moon, and he also shall work great ruin; the stars shall vanish from the heavens. Then shall come to pass these tidings also: All the earth shall tremble, and the crags, so that trees shall be torn up from the earth, and the crags fall to ruin; and all fetters and bonds shall be broken and rent. Then shall Fenris-Wolf get loose; then the sea shall gush forth upon the land, because the Midgard Serpent stirs in giant wrath and advances up onto the land. Then that too shall happen, that Naglfar shall be loosened, the ship which is so named. (It is made of dead men’s nails; wherefore a warning is desirable, that if a man die with unshorn nails, that man adds much material to the ship Naglfar, which gods and men were fain to have finished late.) Yet in this sea-flood Naglfar shall float. Hrymr is the name of the giant who steers Naglfar. Fenris-Wolf shall advance with gaping mouth, and his lower jaw shall be against the earth, but the upper against heaven; he would gape yet more if there were room for it; fires blaze from his eyes and nostrils. The Midgard Serpent shall blow venom so that he shall sprinkle all the air and water; and he is very terrible, and shall be on one side of the Wolf.

“In this din shall the heaven be cloven, and the Sons of Múspell ride thence: Surtr shall ride first, and both before him and after him burning fire; his sword is exceeding good: From it radiance shines brighter than from the sun; when they ride over Bifröst, then the bridge shall break, as has been told before. The Sons of Múspell shall go forth to that field which is called Vígrídr, thither shall come Fenris-Wolf also and the Midgard Serpent; then Loki and Hrymr shall come there also, and with him all the Rime-Giants. All the champions of Hel follow Loki; and the Sons of Múspell shall have a company by themselves, and it shall be very bright. The field Vígrídr is a hundred leagues wide each way.

 “When these tidings come to pass, then shall Heimdallr rise up and blow mightily in the Gjallar-Horn, and awaken all the gods; and they shall hold council together. Then Odin shall ride to Mímir’s Well and take counsel of Mímir for himself and his host. Then the Ash of Yggdrasill shall tremble, and nothing then shall be without fear in heaven or in earth. Then shall the Æsir put on their war-weeds, and all the Champions, and advance to the field: Odin rides first with the gold helmet and a fair birnie, and his spear, which is called Gungnir. He shall go forth against Fenris-Wolf, and Thor stands forward on his other side, and can be of no avail to him, because he shall have his hands full to fight against the Midgard Serpent. Freyr shall contend with Surtr, and a hard encounter shall there be between them before Freyr falls: It is to be his death that he lacks that good sword of his, which he gave to Skírnir. Then shall the dog Garmr be loosed, which is bound before Gnipa’s Cave: he is the greatest monster; he shall do battle with Týr and each become the other’s slayer.

Thor shall put to death the Midgard Serpent, and shall stride away nine paces from that spot; then shall he fall dead to the earth, because of the venom which the Snake has blown at him. The Wolf shall swallow Odin; that shall be his ending. But straight thereafter shall Vídarr stride forth and set one foot upon the lower jaw of the Wolf: on that foot he has the shoe, materials for which have been gathering throughout all time. (They are the scraps of leather which men cut out of their shoes at toe or heel; therefore he who desires in his heart to come to the Æsir’s help should cast those scraps away.) With one hand he shall seize the Wolf’s upper jaw and tear his gullet asunder; and that is the death of the Wolf. Loki shall have battle with Heimdallr, and each shall be the slayer of the other. Then straightway shall Surtr cast fire over the earth and burn all the world; so is said in Völuspá:

High blows Heimdallr, | the horn is aloft;
Odin communes | with Mimir’s head;
Trembles Yggdrasill’s | towering Ash;
The old tree wails | when the Ettin is loosed.

What of the Æsir? | What of the Elf-folk?
All Jötunheim echoes, | the Æsir are at council;
The dwarves are groaning | before their stone doors,
Wise in rock-walls; | wit ye yet, or what?

Hrymr sails from the east, | the sea floods onward;
The monstrous Beast | twists in mighty wrath;
The Snake beats the waves, | the Eagle is screaming;
The gold-neb tears corpses, | Naglfar is loosed.

From the east sails the keel; | come now Múspell’s folk
Over the sea-waves, | and Loki steereth;
There are the warlocks | all with the Wolf,–
With them is the brother | of Býleistr faring.

Surtr fares from southward | with switch-eating flame;
On his sword shimmers | the sun of the war-gods;
The rocks are falling, | and fiends are reeling,
Heroes tread Hel-way, | heaven is cloven.

Then to the Goddess | a second grief cometh,
When Odin fares | to fight with the Wolf,
And Beli’s slayer, | the bright god, with Surtr;
There must fall | Frigg’s beloved.

Odin’s son goeth | to strife with the Wolf,–
Vídarr, speeding | to meet the slaughter-beast;
The sword in his hand | to the heart he thrusteth
Of the fiend’s offspring; avenged is his Father.

Now goeth Hlödyn’s | glorious son
Not in flight from the Serpent, | of fear unheeding;
All the earth’s offspring | must empty the homesteads,
When furiously smiteth | Midgard’s defender.

The sun shall be darkened, | earth sinks in the sea,–
Glide from the heaven | the glittering stars;
Smoke-reek rages | and reddening fire:
The high heat licks | against heaven itself.

5 thoughts on “There’s a Hard Rain Gonna Fall (From the Prose Edda)

  1. Pingback: There’s a Hard Rain Gonna Fall (From the Prose Edda) | @the_arv

  2. Everyone, be sure to read Lars Walker’s Wolf Time novel.

    Dr. Bertonneau, any chance of your reviewing Tom Shippey’s new book. Laughing Shall I Die: The Lives and Deaths of Great Vikings here? (Also Melzer’s Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing)?

    Dale Nelson

    • What with the imminent beginning of the semester (and the concomitant end of happiness and freedom), probably not in the short term. But in the long term, a few months out… who knows? I’d like to read Shippey’s book. My first degree (long story) was in Germanic and Scandinavian Languages. I studied Old West Norse with Eric Wahlgren at UCLA in the early 1970s. Wahlgren wrote a famous book debunking the authenticity of the Kensington Rune Stone. I think that the good professor was wrong but why speak ill of the dead? My reading the last few days has been erratic. I spent yesterday re-reading Philip Wylie’s When Worlds Collide for the first time in about thirty-five years. Today I put a couple of hours into D. H. Lawrence’s Apocalypse, a study of the last book of the Bible. I might be moved to write about that in the near term. We’ll see. Ragnarök – When Worlds Collide – Apocalypse: I am sensing a theme!

      • Lars Walker assumes the genuineness of the Kensignton Rune Stone in his novel Wolf Time, which all Orthosphereans should read and reread.

        Dale

  3. Pingback: There’s a Hard Rain Gonna Fall (From the Prose Edda) | Reaction Times

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