Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Odin's Words of Wisdom from the Hávamál

Harald Haarfagres saga - vignett 3 - G. Munthe
Odin riding Sleipnir
I read bits and pieces of three different* translations of the Hávamál, but finally settled on this translation by Olive Bray as the most readable. I'm sure I'll go back and reread the Bellows translation on Sacred Texts another time, because it has a lot of notes that look interesting and enlightening, and I'm all about the learning. But for now, I thought I'd share some of the wisdom** I have gleaned for your entertainment!

Wisdom is more valuable than wealth and worth the burden of bearing it.

The more a man drinks, the less likely they are to keep their wits.

This bit I liked as it was in the translation (stanza 16):

A coward believes he will ever live
if he keep him safe from strife:
but old age leaves him not long in peace
though spears may spare his life.

Drink in moderation, speak only when you have something important to say, and go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Don't let greed rule your appetite, it's the sign of a foolish man.

No one will ever know that you aren't a wise man if you keep quiet.

Don't speak hastily or you will bring trouble upon yourself.

Don't overstay your welcome, and don't return too frequently as a guest to the same place.

Don't share your secrets too widely, or they won't be kept.

Everyone and Everything dies, but well-earned fame will live forever.

Wealth and Money are faithless friends and won't last.

Love makes wise men into fools.

Don't enter into affairs with Sorceresses.

Never seek to seduce another man's wife.

Don't speak of your misfortunes to evil men.

Don't waste your breath arguing with fools, but chat it up with the wise and good men instead.

Flatterers do not make good friends.

Don't be rude to your guests.

And last, but definitely not least, for this installment (from stanza 127):
rejoice not ever at tidings of ill,
but glad let thy soul be in good.
*This one is neat because it shows you the Old Norse next to the English, so you can kind of match up the words with their meanings. Kind of.
**Obviously, I've paraphrased quite a bit, but you can read for yourself and see the meaning is there!


  1. I love it! I want to read this, too, now. I love your paraphrasing. "Chat it up with the wise and good men." That's possibly my favorite (through your wording).

  2. It is totally worth reading, Sarah! It is totally a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same :) Just like Brynhild's advice to Sigurd!

  3. Yeah, the "chat it up" line cracked me up too!

  4. Great tips to live by!

  5. Interesting how wisdom is passed along and what we thought fairly new is actually quite old.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.


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