IN A FARMHOUSE IN MIDGARD, a gathering of men and women whiled away a winter evening; they talked and drank, they sewed and gossiped and sang. Then one of their number got up from his place and stepped across to the flickering fire.

well of urd“It’s time I took the chanter’s stool,” Loddfafnir said. “I’ve stood and stared into the Well of Urd, stared in silence, wondered and pondered. For a long while I listened at the door of the High One’s hall, and inside the High One’s hall. This is what I heard.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! My advice will help you if you heed it; you will prosper if You set proper store by it: never get up at night except to guard your house or relieve yourself in the outhouse.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! My advice will help you if you heed it; you will prosper if you set proper store by it: never succumb to a witch’s sweet words and soft snaring embraces. She’ll cast a spell and you’ll lose all delight in meetings and friendship with other men; you’ll hate the sight of meat; every sweetness will be sour and you’ll take to your bed, bowed down with sorrow.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! My advice will help you if you heed it: never try to seduce another man’s wife, or hope to come to secret understandings with her.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! If you have to cross mountains or fjords, make quite sure you take enough food.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! Never trust an evil man when you’re out of luck; the evil man receives good and pays out with evil. I saw a man mortally wounded by an evil woman’s words. Her flickering tongue was the cause of his death, and yet it spoke not one true word.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! If you want a friend whom you can wholly trust, foster his friendship; brambles and waving grass quickly grow on a little-trodden road.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! Find a wise man for your friend, and take note of his charms for healing.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! Never be the first to strain and break the bonds of a friendship. If you cannot tell another man your thoughts, anxiety will begin to eat at your heart.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! never waste time on a witless ape. An evil man never gives as much as he gets, whereas a good man will win you great respect by singing your praises. When one man can open his heart to another that is true friendship; nothing is worse than a liar and no true friend tells you only what you want to hear.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! Three angry words are three too many If spoken to a bad man; and the better man often comes off worse when a bad man’s sword starts talking.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! Only make those shoes and spear shafts you mean to use yourself. If a shoe fits badly or a shaft snaps, men will abuse you.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! If you know of some evil, ensure everyone knows all about it, and do not make peace with your enemies.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! To do evil brings no lasting pleasure; to do good will make you glad.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! Don’t raise your eyes when battle is raging and the sons of men are filled with frenzy. otherwise warriors may use spells to snare you.

‘”Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! If you want to win a woman’s love and enjoy her favors, make her a fair promise and then stick to it. Nobody loathes what rewards he gets.

‘”Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! I tell you to be cautious, but not fearful; above all, beware of ale, another man’s wife, and a thief’s sharp wits.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! Never mock a guest or deride a traveller. As often as not a man who sits in His own house knows next to nothing about a guest. There’s no one so perfect that he has no shortcomings, no one so wicked that he counts for nothing.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! Don’t despise the grey-haired singer, for the old are often wise. Though they hang with the hides and flap with the pelts and rock with the guts in the wind, shriveled skins frequently offer good advice.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! Don’t abuse your guest or show him the door. Be generous to a needy man. But the beam that is raised to admit every guest would have to be a strong one; put a ring over it, or your own open house will bring you to a bad end.

“Listen, Loddfafnir, and listen carefully! When you’re drinking ale. offset it with the power of earth. As earth cures ale, fire cures sicknesses and oak cures constipation; use the ear of corn against witchcraft, rye against rupture, the moon against hatred, grass against the scab and runes against a sword wound; earth absorbs floods of water.

“Now the High One has spoken in the hall — words for the good of the sons of men, accursed words for the sons of giants. Hail to the speaker and him who listens! May whoever learns them prosper because of them! Hail to those who listen”