Havamal – Stanza 4
Havamal – Stanza 4

Old Norse

Vatns er þörf
þeim er til verðar kemur,
þerru og þjóðlaðar,
góðs um æðis;
ef sér geta mætti,
orðs og endurþögu.

English Translations

Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Handcloths and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale

-Auden & Taylor

He craves for water, who comes for refreshment,
drying and friendly bidding,
marks of goodwill, fair fame if ’tis won,
and welcome once and again.


Water to him is needful
who for refection comes,
a towel and hospitable invitation,
a good reception;
if he can get it,
discourse and answer.


My Understanding

This is a continuation of Stanza 3, offering hospitality to a weary traveler. The translations differ a bit in meaning. The first two lines are pretty straightforward and fairly obvious, though there are some differences. Offer water and towels to the guest so that they may clean themselves, or it is possible it could mean that the water referenced was for drinking and the towels for drying. Either way, it is about being a good host.

Lines 3 & 4 also differ slightly between translations. Some insist this is a major difference, but I feel that they line up close enough. The host is to offer a courteous reception to the traveler, and then offer the traveler an opportunity to tell their tale.

Some translations imply that the traveler must earn the right to speak, but I think (and this is my opinion) that the traveler will earn the right by being courteous to the host during the previous exchanges and by telling a good story. If their story isn’t good or provides an insult to the host, the right to finish the story may be revoked at any time.

Basic Lessons

– Be hospitable to newcomers –

– Give others the opportunity to tell their story –

Have Questions?

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