Edda Recap: Hávamál - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Edda Recap: Hávamál

Edda Recap: Hávamál

Published September 3, 2019

Grayson Del Faro
Photos by
Lóa Hjálmtýsdóttir

In this series, I illuminate the individual poems of the Edda—that most famous, epic masterpiece of Icelandic literary tradition—with humour, vulgarity, and modern realness. If you reading this and thinking, “What the fuck is the Edda?” you should start by reading my first recap of the Edda, chock-full of helpful context and shameless attitude. Or you can just shut up and read on about the ‘Hávamál.’

The poem ‘Hávamál’ is one of the most famous from the Edda, but it doesn’t have much of a story. It’s just a very, very, very long list of advice from Óðinn, the god of wisdom. I’ll summarise it as a short list, since it’s kind of the Old Norse version of those “12 tips on how to suck a dick” lists from Cosmopolitan magazine. Only it’s more like “164 tips on how to travel, be nice, and also not be a dumb-ass.” All that said, it remains popular and quotable today because frankly, the ‘Hávamál’ does speak a few universal truths.

Here are the lessons of the ‘Hávamál’:

1. If you’re not at home, you don’t know shit. So keep your wits about you when you travel. Duh.
2. Be smart but like, don’t be a dick about it. Nobody likes a know-it-all.
3. Be careful with alcohol because it can fuck you uuuuuuup. One time I got sooooo drunk and the next day I was like, “Woah. I gotta watch myself on this shit.”
4. Don’t be greedy. Even cows know when to stop eating. I’m talking to you, Forbes’ list of The World’s Billionaires! And all you Icelandic dumbfucks in the Panama Papers! Have you learned nothing from my centuries old wisdom?
5. Be generous. To be generous is totally the best thing any person could ever hope to be in the entire known universe.
6. But also be careful who you’re generous with. There are trustworthy people and sneaky fuckin’ snakes, you know? Be generous, but also watch your back, man.
7. Don’t be fooled by money. Poverty is not a crime. Extreme wealth without generosity is a crime.
8. Never trust women. They were born to lie.
9. One time I saw this babe and I wanted to bone her. She said I should come back later and when I did there was a bitch in her bed. Not a metaphorical bitch, but an actual female dog! I mean, what the hell?
This other time, I slept with some girl just so I could sneak out in the morning with this super expensive booze she had. Talk about win-win!
11. Learn to read. It’s hard, but super useful.
12. You don’t know any magic spells? Lol. Sucks to be you.

Morals of the ‘Hávamál’: Basically, 1-7 are pretty legit and 11 is obvious. Fuck 8-10. I guess 12 is, uh, better than all that sexist garbage, at least.

For more Edda Recaps like that of ‘Hávamál,’ click here.

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