Dieva Odina deviņas naktis

  • Country in which the text is set
  • Featured locations
    Mordovia (Mordvinia), Russia
  • Impact

    Knuts Skujenieks' poem God Odin's nine nights refers to the Hávamál from the Poetic Edda. In Óðins Rune Song (Rúnatáls-þáttr-Óðins) from Hávamál, Odin reveals the origins of the runes. In stanzas 138 and 139 Odin (the god of poetry) voluntarily is sticking a spear through his eye and hangs in world tree for nine days and nights, all this to achieve the highest wisdom.

    Odin describes his sacrifice of himself to himself:


    I know that I hung on a windy tree

    nine long nights,

    wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,

    myself to myself,

    on that tree of which no man knows

    from where its roots run.


    No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,

    downwards I peered;

    I took up the runes, screaming I took them,

    then I fell back from there.


    The "windy tree" from which the victim hangs is often identified with the world tree Yggdrasil. The entire scene, the sacrifice of a god to himself, the execution method by hanging the victim on a tree, and the wound inflicted on the victim by a spear, is often compared to the crucifixion of Christ.

    In his poem Skujenieks turns to both himself and his contemporaries - beginning with the line "Say does a man live in Midgard ..." and putting the question: are we willing to sacrifice everything for poetry; a poetic contribution to the discussion of conscience, compromise and self-censorship as a writer that lasted practically throughout the whole time of the Soviet regime.

    In Skujenieks' poem the parallelism of Odin and the poet also refers to his stay in a Soviet camp in Mordvinia between 1962 and 1969. He has described the scenery himself as follows: "Our camp was in a lowland, a dip, in principle on a marsh-like place, and it was quite difficult in the summer. When it was hot, it was spreading a stench of swamp, and in addition there were mosquitoes and other kinds of insects. And winters were quite severe." The poems he wrote in the camp circulated among the prisoners and were translated into Russian by the dissident Yuli Daniel. Skujenieks was not allowed to publish in Soviet Latvia before 1978.

    Juris Kronbergs

  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    Icelandic 1999 Hrafn Andrés Harðarson
    Swedish 1981 Juris Kronbergs

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