The Implications of Knowledge Acquisition
in Hávamál and Sigrdrífumál
Carlos Osvaldo Rocha
Master Dissertation, 2012 (University of Iceland)
Among Eddic poems, Hávamál is considered a wisdom poem because of its visible gnomic component (st. 1-103 and st. 112-137), but didactic verses are also found in Sigrdrífumál (st. 5-37) and to a lesser extent in Reginsmál (st. 4 and 19-22) and Fáfnismál (12-15), three consecutive poems that may have constituted a single composition prefaced by Grípisspá. However, wisdom may include other kinds of knowledge, particularly in anonymous compositions with oral implications such as Eddic poems. The aim of this thesis is to show that the fragmentary all-in-one knowledge structure that is particularly present in Hávamál but also recognisable in Sigrdrífumál can be explained by their transitional nature, i.e. between the medieval literate mind and the oral cognitive structures -considering orality beyond the restricted scope of the oral-formulaic theory-, though such an idea does not confirm the explicit Latin influence suggested by some scholars. In order to understand the transitional character of these poems, both the oral-formulaic theory and the oral-written continuum theory are revisited. Hávamál and Sigrdrífumál contain a blend of ethical, esoteric and mythical knowledge as no other poem, and subsequently an epistemological survey may clarify the conceptualisations of knowledge and wisdom. Moreover, knowledge acquisition is often related to initiation rituals, an approach that addresses some of the most relevant questions in literary studies. The premise for this dissertation is that philological studies –especially those focused on Eddic wisdom poetry– and some of its questionings not only admit but demand complementary theories.