(Back to the main Havamal Analysis
page ) ( Go to the Next Stanza
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.
STANZA 8 OF THE
Auden and Taylor:
Fortunate is he who is favored in his
With praise and words of wisdom:
Evil counsel is
By those of evil heart,
Happy the one | who wins for himself
and praises fair;
Less safe by far | is the wisdom found
is hid in another's heart.
Happy is he who wins for himself
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
He has it hard, who must get these things
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
well-meant words of praise;
it's hard to know what may
in another man's mind.
He is happy,
who for himself
fame and kind words:
less sure is that
which a man
in another’s breast.
Original Old Norse:
Hinn er sćll
er sér um getur
Ódćlla er viđ ţađ
er mađur eiga skal
annars brjóstum í.
ANALYSIS OF STANZA 8
Stanza 8 and Stanza 9 are similar
structurally, and have a similar theme...but a somewhat dissimilar
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
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
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
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.
to the main
page ) ( Go to the Next Stanza