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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Y is for Yggdrasil.

N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 26 2010, 6:42am


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Y is for Yggdrasil. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Laden in heavy streams there wade
men perjured, men who have betrayed
the trust of friend; and there the coward
and wolvish murderer is devoured:
the dragon who yet Yggdrasil
gnaws at the roots there takes his fill.



That is the seventh stanza from "The Prophecy of the Sybil", the third of four previously unpublished poems that appeared last year in The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrśn, and the only one of the four (I think) of which there had been no earlier mention in the literature on Tolkien. Christopher Tolkien says this poem exists "in a single very fine decorated manuscript" with no earlier drafts.

Tolkien's twelve six-line stanzas of rhyming couplets all seem to be based on stanzas in the "Völuspį", a much longer (and unrhymed) poem from the Old Norse text called the Poetic Edda. (This is the poem from which Tolkien took many of the names of his dwarves for The Hobbit.) However, Tolkien adapts only about one fifth of the original stanzas; he reorders those stanzas to tell just the story of the world's destruction, the suffering in the land of the dead, and the world's rebirth; and he translates, or adapts, those stanzas rather loosely.

Here is the source of the stanza above, concerning the fate of those who go to Hel's land.
First in Old Norse, in the edition by Sophus Bugge:

Quote
Sį hon žar vaša
žunga strauma
menn meinsvara
ok moršvarga
ok žanns annars glepr
eyrarśnu.
Žar saug Nišhöggr
nįi framgengna,
sleit vargr vera -
vituš ér enn, eša hvat?



Now in the translation of Benjamin Thorpe:

Quote
She there saw wading
the sluggish streams
bloodthirsty men
and perjurers,
and him who the ear beguiles
of another’s wife.
There Nidhögg sucks
the corpses of the dead;
the wolf tears men.
Understand ye yet, or what?



And in the translation of Henry Adams Bellows:

Quote
I saw there wading | through rivers wild
Treacherous men | and murderers too,
And workers of ill | with the wives of men;
There Nithhogg sucked | the blood of the slain,
And the wolf tore men; | would you know yet more?



Note some changes: Tolkien omits adulterers but adds cowards. The tearing wolf is gone, but the murderers are described as "wolvish". (In this stanza, Tolkien omits the narrator, but she does appear elsewhere in his poem.) And instead of letting the name "Nišhöggr" stand, as Thorpe and Bellows do (though Ursula Dronke, in yet another translation, renders the name as "Malice Striker"), Tolkien tells us that this is the worm that ever gnaws the roots of Yggdrasil. And what is that? As visualweasel explained not long ago, Yggdrasil is the tree that contains the nine worlds, including those of gods, men, elves, giants, and so on.

What does the name "Yggdrasil" mean? Wikipedia offers several explanations, but says the most widely accepted is that it means "Odin's horse": "Ygg" (terror) is one of Odin's many names, and "drasil" means horse. Why that name? Because in a sacrificial act, Odin hung himself from the tree (but he got better), and a "gallows can be called 'the horse of the hanged'" -- I don't quite get that part.

Wait a minute: haven't we seen "drasil" somewhere else in Tolkien? Yes, just a few months ago, but nobody remarked on the meaning of the word. In Letters from Father Christmas, among the the cave art in the 1932 letter are pictures drawn by goblins, which "must be very old, because the goblin fighters are sitting on drasils: a very queer sort of dwarf 'dachshund' horse creature they used to use, but they have died out long ago" (emphasis original).

Has anyone noted the meaning of "drasil" in connection to the Father Christmas Letters before? Google says yes, in 2006 (and probably before then, too). But a few further questions: Who calls the goblin-horses "drasils" -- the goblins or Father Christmas? Does that mean that either the goblins or Father Christmas is of Norse descent? And did Tolkien mean anything by attaching the name to dog-like creatures rather than normal horses, or was he just using the term in its sense of "steed"?



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It's Tolkien Reading Day! Post your ABCs of Tolkien here. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 25 2010, 3:48am
    C is for Cerin Amroth... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 3:57am
        Wow - nicely done! NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 25 2010, 11:57am
            <Bows low> GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 1:24pm
                GREAT ELEPHANTS! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 3:27pm
                    No problem - it's a common mistake NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 25 2010, 3:53pm
                        But you did so... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 4:56pm
        A question Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 1:42am
            Yep.// Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 27 2010, 3:01am
            As Lady Elizabeth says... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 3:18am
                It *raises* the question... Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 27 2010, 4:09am
                    <chuckle> GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 5:57am
                    A good poet is aware of all levels of meaning in his work. Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 2:32pm
                        But he never tells us... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 3:56pm
                            A guess... Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 27 2010, 6:20pm
                            A good poet offers the poem not its meaning Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 6:26pm
                                (smile) GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 7:07pm
                                    Simbelmyne or Evermind in ths common tongue Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 7:16pm
                                        Thank you! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 7:21pm
                                            Yes it is about time I reread the Silmarillion. It has been a couple years.// Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 8:09pm
                                    The Heart of Elvendom on earth Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 8:03pm
                                        Am I to understand then... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 8:21pm
                                            A bit more difficult to explain Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 8:41pm
                                                Cool! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 28 2010, 1:44am
                                                The perilous realm FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 31 2010, 4:22am
                                                    Nicely said! // Voronwė_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwė_the_Faithful Mar 31 2010, 2:33pm
                                                        No. Night Wolf Apr 1 2010, 4:58pm
                Perhaps the place chose them. // Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 2:22pm
    T is for Tolkien Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 25 2010, 4:10am
        Very "British"... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 3:25pm
            British wit Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 26 2010, 1:16am
                "Frank-ness" GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 1:32am
        well... batik Send a private message to batik Mar 26 2010, 1:11am
            re: coffee Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 26 2010, 1:14am
    X is for X-Ray vision ... NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 25 2010, 4:12am
        LOL at #5 :-) // Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 25 2010, 4:16am
        Interesting question! FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 25 2010, 7:21am
        E is for Emission Theory Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Mar 25 2010, 3:46pm
            Interesting - good to know I wasn't alone... NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 25 2010, 3:54pm
        I think.... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 4:54pm
        Light of eyes White Gull Send a private message to White Gull Mar 26 2010, 2:00pm
        The answer to Smaug's powers... Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 2:05am
    P is for Peregrin Took! fairelvenlady Send a private message to fairelvenlady Mar 25 2010, 4:46am
        Give or Took... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 5:20pm
    K is for Kirith Ungol Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 25 2010, 5:32am
        corrected link Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 25 2010, 12:33pm
        Tolkien - word pictures. Istari68 Send a private message to Istari68 Mar 25 2010, 4:16pm
    "Ha, hmm, my friends, let us go for a walk!"... batik Send a private message to batik Mar 25 2010, 5:54am
        sidestepping the quiz for a comment on the word Quickbeam Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 25 2010, 1:57pm
            Wow! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 5:32pm
            My son is Rowan Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 3:15pm
        Hmmmm.... Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Mar 25 2010, 7:38pm
    T is for Thursday! sador Send a private message to sador Mar 25 2010, 6:10am
        How subversive, satirical and sharp of you SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 7:49pm
    E(ä) is for Eärendil Night Wolf Mar 25 2010, 7:15am
        Interesting SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 9:13pm
    B is for Beowulf SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 9:35am
        worthy of study Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 25 2010, 5:56pm
            I'm glad we agree! SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 9:18pm
        Scholarly... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 6:01pm
            Thank you SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 10:33pm
            Yes but don't forget... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 26 2010, 4:52am
                (laughs) GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 1:30pm
                    I have to agree FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 26 2010, 2:05pm
                        Cool stuff! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 4:14pm
                Would that be a stoat? N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 26 2010, 5:51pm
                    Whoops! FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 27 2010, 1:13am
                        Regardless of the typo SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 27 2010, 3:38am
    F is for Fėanor Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 25 2010, 10:03am
        In pity for Feanor... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 6:39pm
            Thank you! Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 25 2010, 8:05pm
    I is for Ioreth dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 25 2010, 10:15am
        I think it says a lot... Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 25 2010, 2:07pm
            Yes, a favourite SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 26 2010, 3:42am
                Intriguing idea indeed! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 1:33pm
                Concurring with GAndy dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 26 2010, 3:43pm
        Ioreth is a fun character. fairelvenlady Send a private message to fairelvenlady Mar 27 2010, 8:26pm
        A little learning... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 28 2010, 1:01am
            From a medieval history syllabus... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 28 2010, 1:51am
                my own favorite quote sevilodorf Send a private message to sevilodorf Mar 28 2010, 5:43pm
    L is for Lothórien drogo Send a private message to drogo Mar 25 2010, 10:19am
        through a high window Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 25 2010, 5:49pm
            I'd never thought about it that way Oiotįri Send a private message to Oiotįri Mar 25 2010, 9:36pm
        Nasmith, for me. Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 25 2010, 10:46pm
        Thanks for those links! Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 26 2010, 1:00am
        Middle-earth in HD... batik Send a private message to batik Mar 26 2010, 9:16pm
        I guess it depends FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 29 2010, 1:09pm
    J is for Josef Stalin Pryderi Send a private message to Pryderi Mar 25 2010, 11:36am
        It seems, SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 9:32pm
            He does seem to dislike "globalisation" doesn't he?... Pryderi Send a private message to Pryderi Mar 25 2010, 11:01pm
    'D' is for Denethor Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Mar 25 2010, 11:38am
        Denethor, son of Ecthelion GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 6:57pm
    W is for Woses! Tweezers of Thu Send a private message to Tweezers of Thu Mar 25 2010, 12:22pm
        always something new Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 26 2010, 12:20am
            Oh, yes! Even after 44 years (gasp!)... Tweezers of Thu Send a private message to Tweezers of Thu Mar 26 2010, 4:58pm
        Ack - they're everywhere! NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 26 2010, 12:24pm
            Another example! Flame-eyed Elves! Tweezers of Thu Send a private message to Tweezers of Thu Mar 26 2010, 5:36pm
    "L" is also for "Letters" Elwen Send a private message to Elwen Mar 25 2010, 1:37pm
        (Soft, benevolent smile for Frodo) GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:17pm
    O is for Olórė Mallė Oiotįri Send a private message to Oiotįri Mar 25 2010, 2:33pm
        Roverandom? GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:23pm
    R is for Rosie Rosie-with-the-ribbons Send a private message to Rosie-with-the-ribbons Mar 25 2010, 3:27pm
        (laughs) Getting two in at once? GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:29pm
            Yep Rosie-with-the-ribbons Send a private message to Rosie-with-the-ribbons Mar 26 2010, 9:23am
                Wish I had your impishness! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 4:50pm
                    Muchos gracias Rosie-with-the-ribbons Send a private message to Rosie-with-the-ribbons Mar 26 2010, 6:59pm
                        It's not too far off... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 7:14pm
                        Close enough... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 7:21pm
                    Marido Oscuro, lol... Evernight Send a private message to Evernight Mar 26 2010, 7:03pm
                        <Takes his lumps> GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 7:16pm
    G is for Gandalf Nerdanel Send a private message to Nerdanel Mar 25 2010, 6:01pm
        At a guess... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:35pm
        laughter Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 26 2010, 2:33am
    S is for Smith of Wootton Major. Evernight Send a private message to Evernight Mar 25 2010, 6:08pm
        (Daubs tears) GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:44pm
        "Why is Faery important? How important is it to you?" SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 26 2010, 4:12am
    A is for Arkenstone! entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Mar 25 2010, 6:53pm
        Because you asked... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:51pm
        It just so happens Oiotįri Send a private message to Oiotįri Mar 25 2010, 8:57pm
    Z is for Zirakzigil weaver Send a private message to weaver Mar 25 2010, 8:29pm
        "I need no map," said Gimli... N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 25 2010, 9:20pm
            Aha! More Z's! weaver Send a private message to weaver Mar 25 2010, 9:46pm
            On living rock. Pryderi Send a private message to Pryderi Mar 25 2010, 11:34pm
            Zis monument, carved into ze hillside - it is zuspicious, no? squire Send a private message to squire Mar 26 2010, 1:53am
    U is for Uolė Kśvion, the Man in the Moon Dān o’Nandor-on-Anduin Send a private message to Dān o’Nandor-on-Anduin Mar 25 2010, 10:43pm
        How charming... SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 26 2010, 2:48am
    E is for Erendis acheron Send a private message to acheron Mar 26 2010, 12:39am
        I really like this story Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 27 2010, 1:49pm
    V is for Voronwė Voronwė_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwė_the_Faithful Mar 26 2010, 2:12am
        One of the amazing things about the depth of Tolkien's writing - NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 26 2010, 12:48pm
            I remembered... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 4:55pm
    H is for Halfling! aranelthehobbit22 Send a private message to aranelthehobbit22 Mar 26 2010, 2:21am
        No worries SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 26 2010, 2:30am
    Thank you GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 2:40am
    M is for Morwen Saelind Send a private message to Saelind Mar 26 2010, 2:54am
        The saddest... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 3:18am
            M is for Morwen Saelind Send a private message to Saelind Mar 26 2010, 3:48am
    'H' is for, hip, hip, hooray, everyone! Altaira Send a private message to Altaira Mar 26 2010, 3:33am
    N is for Niggle Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo Mar 26 2010, 4:11am
        Whoops! Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo Mar 26 2010, 2:33pm
        Niggle and Tasks... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 4:33pm
    Y is for Yggdrasil. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 26 2010, 6:42am
        How did drasils turn into wargs? NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 26 2010, 3:47pm
    A is for N.E. Brigand - NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 26 2010, 12:28pm
        Seconded! sador Send a private message to sador Mar 26 2010, 12:31pm
        Thirded! entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Mar 27 2010, 12:09am
        All in favour Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 27 2010, 1:57pm
            And a big thank-you from me, too Lily Fairbairn Send a private message to Lily Fairbairn Mar 28 2010, 6:03pm
    Wow! This is great! Compa_Mighty Send a private message to Compa_Mighty Apr 4 2010, 7:52pm

 
 
 

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