Slaying Kvasir (1920) by Franz Stassen (Source -

Kvasir was the wisest man that had ever lived and was born from the spit of the gods. He travelled the world giving sound advice to all who asked it of him, never being asked a question that he could not answer.

Fjalar and Galar – The Murderous Dwarves

While on his travels, he met two mischievous dwarves, Fjalar and Galar, who invited him into their home where they brutally murdered him. The dwarfs wanted Kvasir’s wisdom for themselves so they brewed three vats of mead by mixing his blood with honey, knowing that anyone who drank it would become a great poet or scholar; when asked by the gods where Kvasir was, the two dwarfs replied that he had choked on his own wisdom.

Fjalar and Galar apparently had a taste for murder and soon after, they drowned the giant Gillig then killed his wife by dropping a milestone on her head. However when their son, Suttung, heard what had happed he was furious. He threatened to kill the dwarfs but was persuaded to spare them when they offered to give him the brew they had made, which became known as the Mead of Inspiration. After receiving the alcohol, Suttung hid the vats beneath a mountain and appointed his daughter, Gunnlod, to guard them.

Odin’s Quest for the Mead of Inspiration

When Odin learned of Kvasir’s death and the existence of the knowledge giving drink from his trusted adviser, the decapitated head Mimir, he was furious and vowed to acquire the mead for himself. He disguised himself as an old man and made his way to the farm of Baugi, Suttung’s brother. While there, he met with the farm hands and offered to sharpen their scythes, which he did so well that each wanted to buy the whetstone that he had used. He agreed and threw it into the air, watching in amusement as the farmhands scrambled for it, killing each other in the process with their supernaturally sharpened scythes.

He then made his way to the farm house and told Baugi that his servants had all killed each other in a dispute. Odin offered to do the work they could not now do and in return, all he wanted was a sip of the Mead of Inspiration. The giant replied that while he had no control over the mead, if the old man could live up to his end of the bargain and do the work of nine men, he would help him in any way he could.

Odin wins for men the magic mead (1920) by Willy Pogany (Source - Wikipedia)

At the end of the growing season, Odin had done as he promised and Baugi reluctantly agreed to help him gain access to the mountain where the mead was hidden. He told the giant to drill a hole into the ground and after much work, Baugi claimed he had finished. To check, Odin blew into the hole and when the dust blew into his face, he knew he had been lied to. He bade his companion to keep going until the job was finished which was complied with and the next time Odin checked, the dust blew through the hole signalling the job was indeed done.

The Seduction of Gunnlod

So as to be able to fit into the hole, Odin transformed himself into a snake and made it in just in time, as the double-crossing giant tried to stab him as he slithered his way into the mountain. He then transformed again, this time into a young giant so irresistibly hansom, he knew he would be able to seduce Gunnlod, who guarded the vats of mead for her father Suttung.

His plan to seduce her worked and he promised to sleep with her for three nights if in return, she allowed him to take three sips of the mead. After the third night, Odin went to the three vats and emptied the contents of each one in three giant sips. Odin then changed his shape again, this time into an eagle and flew off towards the home of the gods, Asgard. Suttung happened to be nearby and when he learned that his daughter had been tricked, he also turned into an eagle and set off after Odin.

How Man Acquired Inspiration

The other Aesir gods set out three vats just outside their fortress in preparation for their lord’s return. Suttung realised that he was in great danger being so close to the home of the gods and tried to make a hasty retreat. However he was too late and as the sun came up and its beams touched the wings of the giant in eagle form, it turned him into stone and he crashed down to the ground. On seeing this, Odin pronounced;
"So shall it be with all Giants. If the sun shines upon them in the holy land of Asgard, the evil that is in them shall weigh them down and they be turned into stone".
When Odin made it to the vats, he regurgitated the mead into them but as he did so, some of it fell from his beak down to the dwelling of mankind, Midgard. These drops would go on to be the source of inspiration for all bad and mediocre poets and scholars amongst men. Conversely, those who are talented in these fields have had, so the legend goes, the Mead of Inspiration given to them by Odin himself.

An 18th century illustration of Odin being chased by Suttungr by
Jakob Sigurðsson (Source - Wikipedia)


McCoy, D. [Internet]. 2012. The Mead of Poetry. Available from: [Accessed October 29, 2013].

The Mead of Poetry- Its Function and Origins. [Internet]. 2013. Available from: [Accessed October 29, 2013].