2. King Gylfi was renowned for his wisdom and skill in magic. He beheld with astonishment that whatever the AEsir willed took place; and was at a loss whether to attribute their success to the superiority of their natural abilities, or to a power imparted to them by the mighty gods whom they worshipped. To be satisfied in this particular, he resolved to go to Asgard, and, taking upon himself the likeness of an old man, set out on his journey. But th AEsir, being too well skilled in divination not to foresee his design, prepared to receive him with various illusions. On entering the city Gylfi saw a very lofty mansion, the roof of which, as far as his eye could reach, was covered with golden shields. Thiodolf of Hvina thus alludes to Valhalla being roofed with shields.
“Warriors all care-worn,
(Stones had poured upon them),
On their backs let glisten
Valhalla’s golden shingles.”
At the entrance of the mansion Gylfi saw a man who amused himself by tossing seven small-swords in the air, and catching them as they fell, one after the other. This person having asked his name, Gylfi said that he was called Gangler, and that he came from a long journey, and begged for a night’s lodging. He asked, in his turn, to whom this mansion belonged. The other told him that it belonged to their king, and added, “But I will lead thee to him, and thou shalt thyself ask him his name.” So saying he entered the hall, and as Gylfi followed the door banged to behind him. He there saw many stately rooms crowded with people, some playing, some drinking, and others fighting with various weapons. Gangler, seeing a multitude of things, the meaning of which he could not comprehend, softly pronounced the following verse (from the Havamal, st. i.):—
“Scan every gate
Ere thou go on,
With greatest caution;
For hard to say ’tis
Where foes are sitting
In this fair mansion.”
He afterwards beheld three thrones raised one above another, with a man sitting on each of them. Upon his asking what the names of these lords might be, his guide answered: “He who sitteth on the lowest throne is a king; his name is Har (the High or Lofty One); the second is Jafnhar (i.e. equal to the High); but he who sitteth on the highest throne is called Thridi (the Third).” Har, perceiving the stranger, asked him what his errand was, adding that he should be welcome to eat and drink without cost, as were all those who remained in Hava Hall. Gangler said he desired first to ascertain whether there was any person present renowned for his wisdom.
“If thou art not the most knowing,” replied Har, “I fear thou wilt hardly return safe. But go, stand there below, and propose thy questions, here sits one who will be able to answer them.”
3. Gangler thus began his discourse:—“’Who is the first, or eldest of the gods?”