-About Kvasir's Origins, the Holy Mead, and Suttung-


Bragi answered: 'The beginning of it was that the gods were at war with the people known as the Vanir and they arranged for a peace-meeting between them and made a truce in this way: they both went up to a crock and spat into it. When they were going away, the gods took the truce token and would not allow it to be lost, and made of it a man. He was called Kvasir. He is so wise that nobody asks him any question he is unable to answer. He travelled far and wide over the world to teach men wisdom and came once to feast with some dwarfs, Fjalar and Galar. These called him aside for a word in private and killed him, letting his blood run into two crocks and one kettle. The kettle was called Ë­r÷rir, but the crocks were known as Sˇn and Bo­n. They mixed his blood with honey, and it became the mead which makes whoever drinks of it a poet or scholar. The dwarfs told the Ăsir that Kvasir had choked with learning, because there was no one sufficiently well informed to compete with him in knowledge.


'Then the dwarfs invited a giant called Gilling to their home with his wife, and they asked him to go out rowing on the sea with them. When they were far out, however, the dwarfs rowed on to a rock and upset the boat. Gilling could not swim and was drowned, but the dwarfs righted their craft and rowed ashore. They told his wife about this accident and she was very distressed and wept aloud. Fjalar asked her if she would be easier in her mind about it if she looked out to sea in the direction of where he had been drowned. She wanted to do this. Then he spoke with his brother Galar, telling him to climb up above the door when she was going out and let a millstone fall on to her head; he said he was tired of her wailing. Galar did so. When Gilling's son, Suttung, heard of this, he went to the dwarfs and seized them and took them out to sea and put them on to a skerry covered by the tide. They begged Suttung to spare their lives offering him as compensation for his father the precious mead, and that brought about their reconciliation. Suttung took the mead home and hid it in a place called Hnitbj÷rg and he appointed his daughter Gunnl÷­ as its guardian.


'This is why we call poetry Kvasir's blood, or dwarfs' drink: or intoxication, or some sort of liquid of Ë­r÷rir or Bo­n or Sˇn, or dwarfs' ship, because it was that mead which ransomed them from death on the skerry, or Suttung's mead or Hnitibj÷rg's sea.'


Then Ăgir spoke: 'It seems to me that to call poetry by these names obscures things. How did the Ăsir acquire Suttung's mead?'




-Ë­in Wins the Mead of Inspiration-


Bragi answered: 'The story goes that Ë­in left home once and came across nine serfs mowing hay. He asked if they would like him to sharpen their scythes and they said they would. So he took a hone from his belt and put an edge on their tools and they all thought they cut much better and wanted to buy the hone. He stipulated that the would-be purchaser should pay for it by giving a banquet. They replied they were all willing to do this and asked him to hand it over to them. He threw the hone up into the air, however, and as they all wanted to catch it, it ended with them all cutting one another's throats with their scythes.


'O­in sought lodgings for the night with Suttung's brother, a giant called Baugi. Baugi said that his affairs were in a bad way; he told him that nine of his serfs had been killed and said that he had no hope of finding any other labourers. Ë­in, giving his name as B÷lverk, offered to do the work of nine men for Baugi, and asked as wages one drink of Suttung's mead. Baugi told him that he had nothing to do with the mead, adding that Suttung was anxious to keep it under his sole control, but he professed himself willing to go along with B÷lverk to try to get hold of it. That summer B÷lverk did the work of nine men for Baugi, and when winter came he asked Baugi for his wages. Then they both went to Suttung. Baugi told his brother Suttung of his bargain with B÷lverk, but Suttung flatly refused them a single drop of mead. Then B÷lverk said to Baugi that they must try to get hold of the mead by some kind of trick. Baugi said that that was a good idea. B÷lverk then brought out the auger called Rati and said that if the auger would pierce it, Baugi was to bore a hole through the mountain. He did so. When Baugi said that the mountain had been pierced through, B÷lverk blew into the hole left by the auger but chips flew up into his face. He realized then that Baugi wanted to cheat him, and told him to bore right through. Baugi bored again, and when B÷lverk blew into the hole for the second time the chips were blown (all the way) through. Then B÷lverk changed himself into a serpent and crawled into the auger-hole. Baugi stabbed at him with the auger but missed him. B÷lverk came to where Gunrl÷­ was, and slept with her for three nights, and then she promised him three drinks of the mead. At his first drink he drank up all that was in Ë­r÷rir, at his second, Sˇn, and at his third, Bo­n - and then he had finished all the mead. Then he changed himself into an eagle and flew away at top-speed. When Suttung saw the eagle in flight, however, he also took on eagle shape and flew after him. Now when the Ăsir saw where Ë­in was flying, they put their crocks out in the courtyard, and when ˡin came inside Asgar­ he spat the mead into the crocks. It was such a close shave that Suttung did not catch him, however, that he let some fall, but no one bothered about that. Anyone who wanted could have it; we call it the poetasters' share. Ë­in gave Suttung's mead to the Ăsir and those men who can compose poetry. So we call poetry O­in's catch, Ë­in's discovery, his drink and his gift, and the drink of the Ăsir.'