An Introduction to this website

Eilífr Gođrúnarson's ŢÓRSDRÁPA is generally thought to have been composed near the end of the 10th century, close to the edge of Heathendom's plunge into the chasm of Christianity. It may the very last Skaldic Lay to have been written in Thor's honour, celebrating the Thunderer's conquests.

Hardly anything is known about poet Eilífr, apart from the fact that he was one of the court poets of Hákon jarl.


The WWW edition, presented here, is only partially based on former editions of the poem. On the whole, these editions, particularly their conclusions, have been avoided. However, Finnur Jónsson's edition (1900), regardless of its many faults, still seems to be quite sound, and modern commentators seem to agree that it is a natural point of departure. Any editions predating Jónsson's are worthless (as he himself notes). Of these, I have only inspected Sveinbjörn Egilsson's, and come to the conclusion that it may be ignored. Viktor Rydberg's interpretations are of interest, but misguided. (However, it must be mentioned that some of Rydberg's theories concerning the Old Norse cosmography are quite valid, and important to the present interpretation.)

The 20th century doesn't offer many academic treatments of Ţórsdrápa. I have inspected Wilhelm Kiil's edition, which may be largely ignored, apart from the fact that it offers a more detailed treatment of manuscript variants than Jónsson's edition. As for more recent treatments, I have relied on Anthony Faulkes' Skáldskaparmál I-II (1998), which helpfully quotes a wealth of recent commentaries.

I am much indebted to all the sources mentioned above. All those, who have attempted to shed light on this difficult poem, are to be thanked. They have paved a narrow road, which I have followed in the present interpretation, while trying to suggest that hitherto unseen landscapes may be glimpsed on either side of a road, which may not be so narrow, after all.

The basic editions and commentaries are:

Skúli Thorlacius: Antiquitatum borealium observationes miscellaneć, VII. Copenhagen, 1801.
Sveinbjörn Egilsson: Tvö brot af Haustlaung og Ţórsdrápa, fćrđ til rétts máls, og útskýrđ međ glósum í stafrófsröđ. Reykjavík, 1851.
Finnur Jónsson: Ţórsdrápa Eilífs Gođrúnarsonar. Oversigt over d. Kgl. Danske Vid. Selskabs Forhandl., 1900, Nr. 5.
Finnur Jónsson: Den norsk-islandske Skjaldedigtning, A:I, B:I, Copenhagen, 1908.
Ernst A. Kock: Notationes Norroenae, Lunds universitets ĺrsskrift, Afd. 1, Bd. 19 ff. Lund, 1923-41.
Konstantin Reichardt: Die "Thórsdrápa" des Eilífr Gođrúnarson. PMLA, 63,2, New York, 1948.
D.L. Davidson: "Earl Hákon and his poets". Unpublished DPhil thesis, University of Oxford, 1983.
Anthony Faulkes: Edda - Skáldskaparmál, 2 vols. London, 1998.

During the early stages of this website, I had planned to include former commentators' interpretations in great detail. I soon realized that this was a mistake. The sheer volume of the material was far too great, and would have unbalanced my commentaries drastically, and made them far too lengthy. I therefore chose to refer to them only when it seemed necessary. This decision of mine has been criticized, but I can only quote Finnur Jónsson's words from his 1900 introduction:

"I det fölgende vil jeg kun tage Hensyn til disse ćldre Fortolkninger, hvor det maa anses hensigtigsmćssigt; at behandle dem alle og modbevise dem er baade unödvendigt og af liden Interesse." [Loosely translated: "In the following commentaries, I will only refer to these older interpretations, when absolutely necessary; to treat them all and refute them is both unnecessary and of little interest."]


Most interpretations of Ţórsdrápa suffer from the fact that they heavily rely upon Snorri's prose account of the myth. Various factors of Snorri's account have been taken as certain facts, and consequently the poem has been seriously misinterpreted, in order to agree with Snorri's version.

The interpretation presented here is primarily based on the poem itself, and no attempt has been made to force it to agree with Snorri's version (see Commentaries and Analogues). In my interpretation, there is no river, no Gríđarvölr. Loki has no role after the first two stanzas. There is no giantess straddling a river, making it grow with her bodily fluids. Ţórr didn't leave his hammer behind, perhaps for the simple reason that he didn't own one! Indeed, it may be suggested that the myth involved is one that explains how Ţórr came into possession of his hammer (see Commentary to 18:1-4).


STANZAS 1-4: Loki, deceitfully, urges Ţórr to travel to Geirröđr's. Loki stays behind, but Ţjálfi accompanies Ţórr. They reach the ocean, beyond which the giants reside.

STANZAS 5-10: Ţórr and Ţjálfi fearlessly cross the ocean. Ţjálfi needs to hang onto Thor, in order to avoid being drowned.

STANZAS 11-12: Having crossed the ocean, the two champions are attacked by giants, who soon retreat into Geirröđr's cavern, followed by Ţórr and Ţjálfi.

STANZAS 13-14: Ţórr is placed upon a chair, and Geirröđr's daughters attempt to crush him against the cavern's ceiling. He breaks their backs instead.

STANZAS 15-17: Geirröđr throws a molten lump of iron at Ţórr, who catches it and throws it back, killing Geirröđr.

STANZAS 18-19: Ţórr and Ţjálfi slay the rest of the giants.

Detailed treatment will be found in the Commentaries.


During the creation of this website, a number of sources have been consulted. The basic editions and commentaries have been listed above. Other works used are:

Árnason, Kristján: The Rhythms of Dróttkvćtt and Other Old Icelandic Metres (Reykjavík: University of Iceland 1991).
Björnsson, Árni (ed.): Snorra Edda (Reykjavík: Iđunn 1975).
Briem, Ólafur (ed.): Eddukvćđi (Reykjavík: Skálholt 1968).
Böđvarsson, Árni: Íslensk Orđabók [2. edition] (Reykjavík: Menningarsjóđur 1983).
Chambers English Dictionary [7. edition] (Edinburgh: Chambers 1988).
Cleasby, Richard et al.: An Icelandic-English Dictionary [2. edition] (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1957).
De Vries, Jan: Altnordisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch [3. edition] (Leiden: Brill 1977).
Egilsson, Sveinbjörn: Lexicon Poeticum (1916; revised ed. [by Finnur Jónsson] Copenhagen: Lynge 1966).
Faulkes, Anthony (ed.): Edda - Prologue and Gylfaginning (London: Viking Society for Northern Research 1988).
Faulkes, Anthony (transl.): Edda (London: J.M. Dent 1987).
Fisher, Peter (transl.): Saxo Grammaticus: The History of the Danes (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer 1979).
Gade, Kari Ellen: The Structure of Old Norse Dróttkvćtt Poetry (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1995).
Holtsmark, Anne & Jón Helgason: Edda [2. edition] (Oslo: Dreyers Forlag 1976).
Jóhannesson, Alexander: Isländisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch (Bern: Francke Verlag 1956).
Jónsson, Guđni & Bjarni Vilhjálmsson: Fornaldarsögur Norđurlanda [3 vols] (Reykjavík: Forni 1943-44).
Kellogg, Robert: A Concordance to Eddic Poetry (Michigan: Colleagues Press 1988).
La Farge, B. & J. Tucker: Glossary to the Poetic Edda (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag 1992).
Magnússon, Ásgeir Blöndal: Íslensk Orđsifjabók (Reykjavík: Orđabók Háskólans 1989).
Meissner, Rudolf: Die Kenningsr der Skalden (Bonn: Kurt Schroeder 1921).
North, Richard: The Haustlöng of Ţjóđólfr of Hvinir (Enfield Lock: Hisarlik Press 1997).
Nygaard, M.: Norrön Syntax (Oslo: Aschehoug 1906; repr. 1966).
Onions, C.T.: The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1966).
Ólason, Vésteinn (et. al.): Íslensk bókmenntasaga, I (Reykjavík: Mál & Menning 1992).
Pálsson, Heimir (ed.): Snorra Edda (Reykjavík: Mál & Menning 1984).
Pálsson, Hermann & Paul Edwards (transl.): Seven Viking Romances (London: Penguin Books 1985).
Rydberg, Viktor: Undersökningar i Germanisk Mythologi [2 vols.] (Stockholm: Bonniers 1886-1889).
Simek, Rudolf: Lexikon der Germanischen Mythologie (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag 1984).


I would like to thank Haukur Ţorgeirsson for his support, suggestions and feedback; and Nick, for his constant interest.

Reykjavík, January 1, 2000.
The Webmaster (eysteinn@islandia.is).