The Masks of Odin by Elsa-Brita Titchenell
Copyright © 1985 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.

Chapter 23

Allvismal

(The Lay of Allwise)

TEXT

TRANSLATOR'S NOTES

Allvis (allwise or allknowing) is a dwarf who desires to wed the daughter of Thor. Doubting that the dwarf is worthy of this union, Thor nevertheless gives him an opportunity to prove himself and subjects him to an intensive examination concerning the attitudes and vision that characterize different grades of beings which compose the world. Allvis gives satisfactory replies to all questions, but Thor keeps him talking till daybreak when the first rays of the rising sun strike him, and he turns to stone or, in some versions, blends with the mountain from which he had emerged.

Many fairy tales have this surprise ending, where a dwarf or troll turns to stone when faced with the dawn of day. Several possible interpretations present themselves. One is that the forces belonging to the night side of nature, having no business with the concerns of the day, cease from activity when light returns. Allvis, however, conveys something more than this. He is a knowledgeable dwarf, who presumes to demand union with the daughter of the god who is sustainer of life: as a human nature, he is well informed but unenlightened; he is seeking immortality on the strength of his considerable knowledge, but his "dwarf" nature is still immature and, unless inspired and receptive to the solar radiance, it cannot gain the desired union with divinity. When the neophyte faces the solar essence, the dwarf element, unfit to blend with it, "turns to stone."

Many mythologies, including the biblical, use stone or rock to symbolize dogmatic, dead-letter religion. This is exemplified by Moses drawing living water from the rock — explaining the teachings within the ritual; and later, Christianity reverted to the "rock" (petra or Peter) as the foundation of the church.

This lay is probably susceptible also of other, equally valid interpretations; it is very revealing of different viewpoints that characterize consciousnesses at various stages of awareness and comprehension — from the simple matter-standpoint of the giants, through the differing perceptions of the dwarfs and of the elves, to the overview of nature commanded by the gods.


Allvismal

1. ALLWISE: The benches are being adorned.
Now a bride shall go to her home
With great haste it seems.
No rest is awaiting at home.

2. THOR: What dastard is this? Why so pale in the face?
Did you sleep with the dead last night?
Meseems there is something thurselike about you.
You are not born for a bride.

3. ALLWISE: Allwise is my name. I live below ground
And my city lies beneath stone.
The wagon-warrior (1) I come to seek.
Let no one break his word!

4. THOR: I break it though, for I, as her father,
Have the best right to decide.
I was not home when she was promised.
I alone among gods am marriage-maker.

5. ALLWISE: Who is this fellow who says he rules
Over the fair and blessed woman?
By your bowshots far there are few who know you.
Who has borne you to golden rings?

6. THOR: Wingthor am I. I have traveled widely
And I am the son of Broadbeard. (2)
Not against my will shall you have the maiden
Or receive her troth.

7. ALLWISE: Soon shall I have your promise, though,
And receive that troth.
I would rather have than forgo
The snowwhite maiden.

8. THOR: Nor shall her love be denied to you,
Wise guest, if from every world
You can give me tidings of all
That I wish to know.

9. ALLWISE: Try me, Wingthor, in all you would ask,
See what the dwarf is good for!
I have traveled in all the nine worlds
And have learned something of all. (3)

10. THOR: Tell me, Allwise, for you must know
The fates of all the kingdoms:
What is that earth disposed for the sons
Of ages in every world?

11. ALLWISE: Men call it Earth, but the Aesir (4) Humus;
The Vans call it Ways.
Giants say Evergreen, elves name it Growth;
The aspiring name it Origin.

12. THOR: Tell me, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is the heaven, the lofty-domed,
Named in each world?

13. ALLWISE: Men call it heaven, the gods say defense,
Windmaker is he to Vaner;
The giants say upper home, elves say fair-roof,
The dripping hall is it to dwarfs.

14. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is the moon that people see
In every world?

15. ALLWISE: It is moon to men but to gods the diminisher,
Turning wheel in the house of Hel;
Giants say hastener, dwarfs call it shine;
Elves name it tally of time.

16. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is the sun that people see
In every world?

17. ALLWISE: Men call it sun but gods say the southernmost,
Dwarfs call it Dvalin's toy;
Giants say ever-glowing, elves call it fairwheel,
All transparent is it to Aesir's sons.

18. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What are the clouds that drench with rain
Named in each world?

19. ALLWISE: Men call them clouds, the gods shower-wont,
The Vans say wind river;
Giants say weatherbode, elves tempest-boder,
Hel's folk say the hiding helmet.

20. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is the wind that fares so far
In every world?

21. ALLWISE: He is wind to men, but wafter to gods,
Neigher to the highest gods (Vaner),
Howler to giants, din-maker to elves,
Whirler in the house of Hel.

22. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is that calm that shall one day come
And settle on every world?

23. ALLWISE: To men it is calm, to gods the law,
Vaner say end-of-wind;
Giants say stifling, elves a day's sleep,
Dwarfs call it end-of-being.

24. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is that sea whereon one rows
In every world?

25. ALLWISE: It is sea to men, the funnel's eye to gods,
Waves to the wise Vaner:
Eelhome to giants, to elves staff-of-law,
To dwarfs the deep sea.

26. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is the name of fire that burns for all
In every world?

27. ALLWISE: To men it is fire, to Aesir the spark that lights,
Wagon to Vaner;
Giants say gluttonous, burning to dwarfs,
The swift in Hel's house.

28. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is that forest that, shading, grows
In every world?

29. ALLWISE: He is forest to men but earth-man to gods,
To Hel he is barrow-kelp,
Fuel to giants, to elves flower-twigs,
Vaner say willow-wand.

30. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is the night, daughter of dark,
Named in each world?

31. ALLWISE: Men call her night, the gods say dark,
The highest gods say the disguiser;
Giants say unlight, elves joy-of-sleep,
Dwarfs call her dream-binder.

32. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is the harvest sown by the sons of the ages
In every world?

33. ALLWISE: Men call it grain, the gods yet-to-bear,
Vaner say growth;
Giants, food; elves the staff-of-law,
In Hel's house a heavy head.

34. THOR: Tell me then, Allwise, as you must know
The fates of all kingdoms:
What is that ale the sons of the aeons
Quaff in each world?

35. ALLWISE: To men it is ale, but with Aesir beer,
To Vaner a draught of power;
Pure law to giants, mead in Hel's house,
But festive drink to Suttung's sons.

36. THOR: In one man's breast I never saw so many staves of wisdom.
With subterfuge have I misled you;
Till daybreak, dwarf, you are still up.
Now shines the sun in the hall.


Chapter 24

Contents


FOOTNOTES:

1. Thor. (return to text)

2. Odin. (return to text)

3. This verse is missing in Codex Regius. (return to text)

4. Codex Regius has elves. (return to text)