Einherjar - Attestations - Prose Edda

In the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, the einherjar are introduced in chapter 20. In chapter 20, Third tells Gangleri (described as king Gylfi in disguise) that Odin is called Valföðr (Old Norse "father of the slain") "since all those who fall in battle are his adopted sons," and that Odin assigns them places in Valhalla and Vingólf where they are known as einherjar. In chapter 35, High quotes the Grímnismál valkyrie list, and says that these valkyries wait in Valhalla, and there serve drink, and look after tableware and drinking vessels in Valhalla. In addition, High says that Odin sends valkyries to every battle, that they allot death to men, and govern victory.

In chapter 38, High provides more detail about the einherjar. Gangleri says that "you say that all those men that have fallen in battle since the beginning of the world have now come to Odin in Val-hall. What has he got to offer them food? I should have thought that there must be a pretty large number there." High replies that it is true there are a pretty large number of men there, adding many more have yet to arrive, yet that "there will seem too few when the wolf comes." However, High adds that food is not a problem because there will never be too many people in Valhalla that the meat of Sæhrímnir (which he calls a boar) cannot sufficiently feed. High says that Sæhrímnir is cooked every day by the cook Andhrímnir in the pot Eldhrimnir, and is again whole every evening. High then quotes the stanza of Grímnismál mentioning the cook, meal, and container in reference.

Further into chapter 38, Gangleri asks if Odin consumes the same meals as the einherjar. High responds that Odin gives the food on his table to his two wolves Geri and Freki, and that Odin himself needs no food, for Odin gains sustenance from wine as if it were drink and meat. High then quotes another stanza from Grímnismál in reference. In chapter 39, Gangleri asks what the einherjar drink that is as plentiful as their food, and if they drink water. High responds that it is strange that Gangleri is asking if Odin, the All-Father, would invite kings, earls, and other "men of rank" to his home and give them water to drink. High says that he "swears by his faith" that many who come to Valhalla would think that he paid a high price for a drink of water if there were no better beverages there, after having died of wounds and in agony. High continues that atop Valhalla stands the goat Heiðrún, and it feeds on the foliage of the tree called Læraðr. From Heiðrún's udders flow mead that fills a vat a day. The vat is so large that all of the einherjar are able to drink to their fullness from it.

In chapter 40, Gangleri says that Valhalla must be an immense building, yet it must often be crowded around the doorways. High responds that there are plenty of doors, and that crowding doesn't occur around them. In support, High again quotes a stanza from Grímnismál. In chapter 41, Gangleri notes that there are very many people in Valhalla, and that Odin is a "very great lord when he commands such a troop". Gangleri then asks what entertainment the einherjar have when they're not drinking. High responds that every day, the einherjar get dressed and "put on war-gear and go out into the courtyard and fight each other and fall upon each other. This is their sport." High says that when dinner time arrives, the einherjar ride back to Valhalla and sit down to drink. In reference, High quotes a stanza from Grímnismál.

In chapter 51, High foretells the events of Ragnarök. After the god Heimdallr awakens all the gods by blowing his horn Gjallarhorn, they will assemble at a thing, Odin will ride to the well Mímisbrunnr and consult Mímir on behalf of himself and his people, the world tree Yggdrasil will shake, and then the Æsir and the einherjar will don their war gear. The Æsir and einherjar will ride to the field Vígríðr while Odin rides before them clad in a golden helmet, mail, and holding his spear Gungnir, and heading towards the wolf Fenrir.

In chapter 52, Gangleri asks what will happen after the heavens, earth, and all of the world are burned and the gods, einherjar and all of mankind have died, noting that he had previously been told that "everyone will live in some world or other for ever and ever." High replies with a list of locations, and then describes the re-emerging of the world after Ragnarök. The einherjar receive a final mention in the Prose Edda in chapter 2 of the book Skáldskaparmál, where a quote from the anonymous 10th century poem Eiríksmál is provided (see the Fagrskinna section below for more detail and another translation from another source):

What sort of dream is that, Odin?

I dreamed I rose up before dawn
to clear up Val-hall for slain people.
I aroused the Einheriar,
bade them get up to strew the benches,
clean the beer-cups,
the valkyries to serve wine
for the arrival of a prince.

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