A Study Guide 
[Index to Svipdagsmál 
The Unity of the Two Poems 
Gróugaldur and Fjölsvinnsmál
"Groa's Incantation" and "Mighty-Wise's Speech"

Translated by R.C. Alexander Prior M.D.


This ballad is one to which Grundtvig attaches peculiar interest, as being derived from two very ancient Edda poems called Grogaldr and Fiolsvinnsmal, which it connects into a consistent whole. These latter are of an allegorical and mysterious character, and have never been very satisfactorily explained. In Grogaldr a son wakes his mother from the grave, and induces her to sing to him certain runes, which should help him out of all difficulties in obtaining the wife whom his stepmother had compelled him to seek in an unknown land. In Fiolsvinnsmal a young man approaches a giant's castle. The watchman asks him who he is, and he returns a false answer. He questions the watchman as to who lives in the castle, and how to get through the gates, and to pass the hounds. He is told that the lady, to whom it belongs, is called Menglada, and of the difficulties that lie in the way of access to her, and that none but Swipdagr, to whom she is long betrothed, shall ever embrace her. He tells the watchman that he is that Swipdagr, and orders him to enquire if the lady will not welcome him. The watchman tells her

"Hark, Menglada! a man is come,
Go and gaze on the guest.

The dogs are pleased, the house unlocked itself,
So think I that it is Swipdagr."

The lady admits him and questions him as to who he is, and, being satisfied that he really is her betrothed, gives him a warm welcome, and tells him

"Long I sat on the dear hill
Looking for thee day and night;
Now occurs what I hoped, since thou art returned,
Sweet friend, to my hall."
and Swipdagr no less tenderly tells her
Passionate longing had I for thy love
And thou for my affection.
Now is it certain that we shall both
For ever live together.
From Simock's German version pp. 121 —123, and 86—90.

These two ancient poems were never suspected to have any connexion with each other, till a Norwegian critic, Mr. S. Bugge, suggested that such connexion was indicated by the present ballad, and that they originally formed parts of a single poem, which for 500 years has been divided into two, but which popular tradition has preserved entire. S. Grundtvig adopts his opinion, and it is not for a foreigner to dispute it; but it is certainly more agreeable to experience that popular tradition would confound two different stories together, than that transcribers should split a poem into two, and keep it divided, while the public voice united these parts together. Were the stories in the two Edda poems unique, we might be compelled to trace the ballad to them, but the incidents all occur in other tales, the visiting a parent's tomb in Ormand the Berm Giant No. 12. and in the Hervarar Saga. Odin's visit to Wala in the Wegtamskwida is also of the same character. The meeting with the Herdsman also has its parallel in Childe Norman No. 19. and in regard to the hero being in love with an unknown lady we have a curious coincidence in the Arabian tale of Badoura, the Chinese princess, into whose chamber Camaralzaman is conveyed by genii and carried away again, after they had become desperately enamoured of each other. The princess is put into confinement as insane, because she persists in the story, and it is not till Camaralzaman returns to her that she recovers. During her supposed madness every suitor for her hand who has failed to cure her, has been put to death.
Nearly the same train of incidents occurs still more strikingly in a Welsh tale in Lady Guest's Mabinogion Vol. II. p. 252. In this romance a young man named Kilhwch is sentenced by his stepmother to sigh for an absent unknown lady, Olwen, the daughter of Penkawr. "The youth blushed and the love of the maiden diffused itself through all his frame, although he had never seen her." His father enquired of him. "What aileth thee?" "My stepmother declared to me that I shall never have a wife, until I obtain Olwen, the daughter of Penkawr." He accordingly set out on a steed with a bridle of linked gold on its head, and a saddle of costly gold, and he bare a sword upon his thigh, a gold-hilted sword, the blade of which was of gold. The grass bent not beneath him, so light was his courser's tread. After traversing a vast open plain of three days' journey he came before a castle, and beheld a flockof sheep, which was boundless and without an end, and on the top of a mound a herdsman keeping the sheep. By his side was a shaggy mastiff &c. — p. 272. "Fear not" said Menw, "for I will cast a spell upon the dog, so that he shall injure no one." They went up to the herdsman and asked him whose were the sheep and the castle. After some riddling evasive answers, "This" said he "is the castle of Pcnkawr, and ye also, who are you?" "We are an embassy from Arthur, come to seek Olwen, the daughter of Penkawr." "Oh men" said the herdsman, "the mercy of Heaven be upon you! None who ever came hither on this quest has returned alive." The maiden Olwen was brought to the herdsman's house, and introduced to Kilhwch, who knew her as soon as he saw her, and said "Ah maiden, thou art she whom I have loved. Many a day have I loved thee." They followed her to her father's house, and slew the nine watchmen and the nine dogs without one of them barking. Her father tells Kilhwch that he must perform a number of difficulties, before he obtains her, and pass many nights without sleep.
It is unnecessary to trace the story farther. No reader can doubt that the Scandinavian tales and the Welch one are derived from a common origin, and perhaps also the Arabian one.


1861 "The Edda" Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, Vol 64, p. 192

The Grogaldr and Fiolsvinns-mál (i.e., the Charm of Groa and the Song of Allwise), which we have only as separate poems, have been recognised as parts of one original poem by means of the still living Danish ballad of 'Young Svendal," which evidently has sprung put of them by a process of modernization.

1866 Benjamin Thorpe
Edda Sæmundar, Vol. I “Mythological Index”
Groa: a mother summoned from her grave by her son. Gg. 1. Note. If the opinion of Mr. Bugge, a Norwegian critic, which is adopted by Sv. Grundtvig, is well founded, as I think it appears to be, this poem (Grougaldr) should precede the Fiolsvinnsmal, with which it seems to be connected. Much in favour of this opinion is the old Danish ballad of Young Svendal (Ungen Svendal, or Svegder) according to which it appears that the female apostrophized in the Grougaldr (Str. 3.), as “crafty woman,” is the young man’s stepmother, by or through whom he is sent on his perilous journey to Menglöd’s castle; previous to which he calls his own mother from her grave to sing to him songs of power, for his protection on the way. “But,” observes Dr. Prior, “it is certainly more agreeable to experience that popular tradition would confound two stories together, than that the transcribers should split a poem ‘into two, and keep it divided, while the public voice united those parts to ether.” See Prior’s Dan. Ballads, II. p. 328, and Lüning’s Edda, Einleitung p. 21.
Svipdag and Menglad
by John Bauer (1907)
Colorized by Guddipoland
[Index to Svipdagsmál