My thoughts on The Wanderer’s Hávamál #Norsevember

From the good folks at Spells & SpaceshipsNorsevember is a reading event in which we talk about, recommend, read and review Norse inspired books! Use the hashtag #Norsevember so others taking part can find your posts easier and we can include and retweet your stuff for the event!

How could I not take part in this? I’ve been assigned a longship, which I’ve entitled Alba Gu Brath, and I’m ready to set sail. Now… let’s get to raiding.

My first stop is The Wanderer’s Havamal, newly translated by Old Norse Specialist and youtube phenom, Dr. Jackson Crawford.

From the Amazon description: The Wanderer’s Hávamál features Jackson Crawford’s complete, carefully revised English translation of the Old Norse poem Hávamál, newly annotated for this volume, together with facing original Old Norse text sourced directly from the Codex Regius manuscript.

Rounding out the volume are Crawford’s classic Cowboy Hávamál and translations of other related texts central to understanding the character, wisdom, and mysteries of Óðinn (Odin). Portable and reader-friendly, it makes an ideal companion for both lovers of Old Norse mythology and those new to the wisdom of this central Eddic poem wherever they may find themselves.

Hávamál, or ‘Words of the High One’, is certainly the most important work contained in the Poetic Edda. It represents a glimpse into the cultural mores of an ancient people whose way of life is largely lost to the annals of time.

Jackson Crawford has delivered a fresh translation that breathes new life into these matters of Norse ethics and ettiquette.

Let’s take a look. Here is the first stanza of Gestaþáttr:

Gattir allar,
aþr gangi fram,
vm scoðaz scyli,
vm scygnaz scyli;
þviat ouist er at vita,
hvar ovinir sitia
a fleti fyr

The Bellows translation of the first stanza reads:

Within the gates before a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within.

Now, let’s compare that to Crawford:

At every doorway
before you enter,
you should look around,
you should take a good look around —
for you never know
where your enemies
might be seated within.

I believe that Crawford has delivered the definitive translation of the Hávamál, not only because of his linguistic skillset, but because of his understanding of poetry. The Norse were talented wordsmiths and Crawford admirably maintains the integrity of the verse throughout.

I am no linguist, but I do appreciate the rhythm of words and I find that The Wanderer’s Hávamál, which is marked with erudite commentary, is infused with the purest essence of the Northmens’ intent.

As for the book itself, Hackett has done the work proud. I purchased the hardcover edition, and the craftsmanship and design is flawless. It immediately became one of my most treasured books and I recommend it without question.

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