The Duel, Part 1

I present another poetic rendering of a prose tale from the lore. It is the story of the first (and probably last) giant to challenge Thor to a formal duel, and it has several things in common with the last Thor story I posted three months ago about his visit to Geirrod (part 1 and part 2). Just like that tale, Snorri presents in it prose with many details, and he also quotes from a difficult skaldic poem that mentions the story as well. (The skaldic poem is Haustlöng by Þjóðólfr of Hvinir.)

Rather than a difficult skaldic meter, I have written my retelling in 20 stanzas of my usual and more accessible fornyrðislag. The spellings have been anglicized throughout. It is well known that Odin has many different names in the lore; less well known is that Thor also has many names, although not as many as Odin, of course. The reader will see quite a few of those names in this poem. Like the previous Thor tale, I present the first half here today, and the second half will follow next Wednesday. The poem’s title is simply “The Duel.”

For saying my tale
of single combat
at Grjottunagardar,
a gift of silence
I ask from you all.
To utter my story,
I brewed my words
into Bolverk’s wine.

On swift Sleipnir
had Sigfodur rode;
Hrungnir he met
in the home of etins.
Odin boasted
that best was Sleipnir;
Hrungnir disputed,
praising Gullfaxi.

In anger he galloped,
Odin he chased.
fast he traveled
til before he knew,
the gates of the gods
he’d galloped through;
but Sleipnir was still
the swifter steed.

The Aesir bade
that burly Hrungnir
enter the hall
and have a drink.
The goblets of Thor
were given to him;
dead-drunk he got,
draining each one.

With big words then
he boasted loudly:
Valhalla he’d take
to home of etins,
then sink Asgard
and slay the gods
— except he’d filch
Freyja and Sif.

Only Freyja
would fetch him drink,
and all the ale
of the Aesir he’d have,
but bored of boasting
the band of gods
then hailed to Thor
who thundered in.

He threatened Hrungnir
with hammer raised,
in spite of Odin’s
offer of safety.
Hrungnir challenged
Hlorridi to duel
at Grjottunagardar
for greater honor.

Thor accepted
the summons and spared
the unarmed etin
an honor-less death,
for never before
had formal duel
been offered thus
to Eindridi.

At Grjottunagardar
gathered the etins:
To serve Hrungnir
as second in battle,
they made from clay
Mokkurkalfi —
enormously high
with heart of mare.

But Hrungnir had
a heart of stone;
of hard stone also
his head was made
his shield and weapon
were shaped from stone;
his spleen as well
was spawned of rocks.

To be concluded next week.

Copyright © 2013 Eirik Westcoat.
All rights reserved.

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One thought on “The Duel, Part 1

  1. Pingback: The Duel, Part 2 | Eirik Westcoat, Skald

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