Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Riddles of Gestumblindi: Riddle 1

If you read this blog, you know I am doing some work with Hervarar saga. One of the more memorable moments in the saga is when Oðinn engages King Heiðrekr (the current possessor of the cursed sword Tyrfingr at that moment in the saga) in a riddle contest. Oðinn is disguised as Gestumblindi, a powerful lord who had refused to pay King Heiðrekr tribute. Heiðrekr's practice for resolving disputes was as follows: they must either submit to the judgment of his counsel, or best the king (who was not called "the Wise" for nothing) in a riddle-contest. Oðinn, for his own reasons (as usual) has gone to Heiðrekr disguised as Gestumblindi and engages with him as follows:

'Lord,' said Gestumblindi, 'I have come here because I wish to be reconciled with you.'
'Will you submit to the jugdment of my wise men?' answered the king.
'Are there no other ways of redeeming myself?' asked Gestumblindi.
'There are others,' said the king, 'if you think yourself able to propound riddles.'
'I have no great skill in that,' Gestumblindi replied, 'but the other way seems hard.'
'Then will you rather submit to the judgment of my counselors?' asked the king.
'I choose rather to propound riddles,' said Gestumblindi.
'That is right and fitting,' said the king.
Then said Gestumblindi:
(Trans. C. Tolkien)
For fun and practice, I'm going to be translating the riddles themselves. I'll post a riddle, then the answer to the riddle as well as the next riddle in the following post. Feel free to follow along with me and match wits with Oðinn himself.

Here's the first riddle:

Hafa vildak
þat er ek hafða í gær,
vittu, hvat þat var:
Lýða lemill,
orða tefill
ok orða upphefill.
Heiðrekr konungr,
hyggðu at gátu.

(1) I wish to have today
What I had yesterday,
Ponder what that was:
Men it mames,
Speech destroys,
And speech inspires.
Heiðrekr king,
Ponder this riddle.

Currently reading: Summa Theologiae
Current Audio Book: The Lord of the Rings
Currently translating: The Old High German Tatian

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