(Back to the main Havamal Analysis page )  ( Go to the Next Stanza )

The discussion and analysis presented after these translated stanzas is our opinion.  Read the translations for yourself and our analysis, but also seek out varied sources and come to your own conclusions.


Auden and Taylor:

Fortunate is he who is favored in his lifetime
With praise and words of wisdom:
Evil counsel is often given
By those of evil heart,


Happy the one | who wins for himself
Favor and praises fair;
Less safe by far | is the wisdom found
That is hid in another's heart.


Happy is he who wins for himself
fair fame and kindly words;
but uneasy is that which a man doth own
while it lies in another's breast.


Happy is he who gets praise
and knows liking staves.
He has it hard, who must get these things
by the help of another.


Happy is he who hath won him
the love and liking of all;
for hard it is one's help to seek
from the mind of another man.


Happy is the man who hears of himself
well-meant words of praise;
it's hard to know what may be hidden
in another man's mind.


He is happy,
who for himself obtains
fame and kind words:
less sure is that
which a man must have
in another’s breast.

Original Old Norse:

Hinn er sćll
er sér um getur
lof og líknstafi.
Ódćlla er viđ ţađ
er mađur eiga skal
annars brjóstum í.


Stanza 8 and Stanza 9 are similar structurally, and have a similar theme...but a somewhat dissimilar meaning. 

As often is the case, the first two lines are fairly straight-forward and the translators have hit on basically the same interpretation.  A person is happy if they can earn fame and have a positive reputation (Gefrain).  Auden and Taylor went with "fortunate" rather than "happy," but this was probably to create alliteration between the words "fortunate" and "favored" in line one of their translation.

I say these first two lines are pretty straight-forward, because we understand that being well-known, and having a good reputation was very important among our ancestors.  They lived by a code of Honor.  Not the "personal/internal honor," as many people define honor today.  They lived by the idea that Honor was how your kin, and your community saw you...and your actions.  In a shame-culture, one's fame and good reputation were enormously important.  So, obviously the person who has done well in this regard, and earned these things for himself or herself, is going to be happy.

Lines 3 and 4 are a little more complex.  Auden and Taylor and Bellows seem to have translated these lines very simply, or at least the result of their translation comes across very simply.  "Evil counsel is often given, By those of evil heart."  I mean, it is very hard to read anything into this translation except that "those with evil hearts often give evil advice."  And from reading the other translations, especially Bray's and Chisholm's, it appears there is much more to lines 3 and 4 than that.

Chisholm's lines 3 and 4:  "He has it hard, who must get these things, by the help of another."  Bray's lines 3 and 4:  "but uneasy is that which a man doth own, while it lies in another's breast."  There are hints of this more complex meaning in a few of the other translations, but it is most clear in Chisholm's and Bray's.  Here we have a direct continuation of the message of lines 1 and 2.  It makes a man happy to earn for himself fame and a good reputation, and it is a much harder road to get these things with the help of another.  Or perhaps, it is a much harder thing to dependably get fame and praise from another.  Or, you can't know another's mind (or heart), so the fame and praise they offer you (or give you) may not be true (or good).

There is this theme here that a person must earn fame and a good reputation by their own deeds, and then they will be happy.  But, if they depend too much on the help of others (or perhaps the fawning of others), it will not go as well for them.  Your family and trusted inner circle does not (or should not) fawn over you.  They do not (or should not) offer you false praise or false fame.  If anyone finds their family or close trusted friends doing this, then they need to do something about it...because something is broken.  But, we've all had outsiders or untrustworthy people offer us false fame and false praise in order to get things from us.  It happens when were are dating people.  It happens among competing co-workers in the workplace.  It happens within organizations that are highly political.

Speaking of modern heathenry, I've seen it happen between Heathens that were not in the same kindred.  I've personally seen someone blow smoke up anothers ass to get some sort of advantage over them.  There is one particularly horrible smooth-talker that had some success with that technique actually, until he made enough mistakes that people got wise to him.  Now, he's on the fringes of things offering attacks and insults, rather than the sugary sweet compliments that used to be his manipulation of choice. 

This stanza is another example where there is a temptation to take the translation that is most simply stated, and latch onto it.  To say, oh...I get this translation right away, so that's what this stanza means.  But, I think sometime the translator that ends up with a very simple meaning has probably glossed over some of the complexities of the what is being communicated.  That is why it is helpful to look at multiple translations.

One misinterpretation of this stanza that we sometimes see, is a proposed meaning that somehow supports or puts forward the strong importance of the INDIVIDUAL.  I don't believe this stanza is suggesting the importance of the individual at all. 

The definition of living in Frith with other people, is that their successes are your successes and their failures are your failures...and this is a very reciprocal situation to be in.  It occurs within families, close-knit committed groups, and kindreds.  Mark Stinson, as an individual is really nobody.  My strength, comes from the strength of my family (with me included, of course).  My honor, comes from the honor of my family.  My accomplishments cannot and should not be separated from my family, and those that made my accomplishments possible.   And my wife, owes to our family the same connection and credit.  My children.  The other members of our kindred.  The smallest unit of division is the kin-group.

As an example, spouses are often the driving force behind the success of their husband or wife.  Advice, support, love, and simply a context for existence and living is given by each individual's family...and those around them.  At least from a heathen point of view, this would be the direction I would come at it.  Many spouses of important or high-achieving people have to be enormously strong, for they sacrifice quite a bit to be married to and living in union with the person they have married. 

Now, using a kindred's chieftain or leader as an example...more people might know that leader's name.  More people may know of what the leader espouses, what the leader has accomplished, and what the leader stands for.  The leader's Gefrain may be higher, individually than anyone else in the kindred.  But, only a selfish leader would actually believe he was solely responsible for this success.  Only a selfish leader would take that credit for himself, and not give credit where credit is due to his family and his kindred.

Having a spouse involves an oath and a bond that forms the most sacred of earthly things...the family.  For years, I was the bread-winner and my wife stayed home and raised the kids.  I achieved a lot at work.  But, my wife and I were a team.  We share the credit (and the blame) equally.  These days, she's seeing a lot of success in her professional life.  The tide has turned, as it were.  And yet, we are still a team.  We are achieving these things together, even though she is now the more successful "bread-winner."

I believe the stanza is saying, is believe in yourself.  Believe in what you can accomplish.  The idea that your family and close friends are helping you with these accomplishment is unspoken, because for our ancestors it would not need to be spoken.  Believe in the fame and praise that you rightfully earn...the fame and praise that is rightfully yours.  But, don't believe in the false praise and flattery offered by others.  Don't believe that anyone is going to give you praise and fame, without you having earned it.  At least, that's my view point on it.

( Back to the main Havamal Analysis page )  ( Go to the Next Stanza )


Copyright © 2013, 2014 - Temple of Our Heathen Gods