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The Saga of Hervor and King Heidrek the Wise

11. The Riddles of Gestumblindi

There was a man called Gestumblindi, powerful and a great enemy of King Heidrek. The king sent him word, that he should come and settle things with him, if he wanted to keep his life. Gestumblindi was not a very wise man, and because he knows that he would be incapable of exchanging words with the king, and because he also knows that he doesn't stand much chance submitting to the judgement of the wise-men--as they have plenty against him--he follows the course of sacrificing to Odin for help and asks him to look into his case and promises him many presents.

Late one evening there is a knock at the door and Gestumblindi goes to the threshold and sees that a man has come. He asks the man his name, and the stranger calls himself Gestumblindi, and said that they should swap clothes--and so they do. The master goes away and hides and the stranger comes in and everyone thinks that he's Gestumblindi, and the night passes.

The next day, this Gestumblindi makes his way to meet the king. And he greeted the king warmly. The king was silent.

“Lord,” he says, “I have come here to settle with you.”

Then the king answers, “Will you take the verdict of my wise-men?”

He says, “Isn't there any other way out?”

The king replied, “There is another, if you think you're up to asking riddles.”

Gestumblindi says, “I won't be much good at that. But then the other choice is also tough.”

“Would you rather,” says the king, “accept the verdict of my wise-men?”

“I think,” says Gestumblindi, “I'd rather ask riddles.”

“Fair enough,” says the king.

Then Gestumblindi said:

“I want to have
what I had yesterday--
work out what that was:
the mind-whacker,
the word-thwarter
and word up-raiser.
King Heidrek,
guess my riddle.”

The king says, “Good riddle, Gestumblindi--I've got it. Bring him ale. That smites many wits, and many are more gabby when the ale takes hold. And some it ties their tongues so they don't get a word out.”

Then said Gestumblindi:

“From home I went,
from home I made my way,
I saw a road of roads,
and a road under them,
and a road over them,
and a road on all sides.
King Heidrek,
guess my riddle.”

The king says, “Good riddle, Gestumblindi--I've got it. You went on a bridge across a river, and the road of the river was below you and birds flew over your head and on either side, and that was their road.”

Then said Gestumblindi:

“What is that drink
I drank yesterday?
It wasn't wine or water;
not ale either
nor any food,
yet I left released from thirst.
Heidrek King,
think on that.”

“Good riddle, Gestumblindi--I've got it. You lay in the shade and dew had fallen on the grass, and so your thirst was cooled and quenched, but if you're the Gestumblindi I thought you were then you're smarter than I imagined, because I've heard that your words lacked wit, but now they're turning wiser.”

“I'll probably run out soon,” says Gestumblindi, “but still I'd like you to listen to one more.”

Then said Gestumblindi:

“Who is that shrill one,
who rides a hard road,
has fared that way before.
He kisses hard
who has two mouths
and goes only on gold.
Heidrek King,
think on that.”

“Good riddle Gestumblindi--I've got it. It's a hammer, which is used for working gold. It shouts out loud when it hits the hard anvil, and that is its road.”

Then said Gestumblindi:

“What is that wonder
I saw outside
before the Doors of Day?
Two lifeless ones,
lacking breath;
they boiled the leak of wounds.
King Heidrek,
guess my riddle.”

“Good riddle, Gestumblindi--I've got it. It's bellows. They have no wind, unless it's blown into them. And they are as dead as any other manmade object, but by means of them may be made a sword or any other thing. But these are crafty riddles for a man like you to be asking. You're not much of a one with words.”

Then said Gestumblindi:

“What is that wonder
I saw outside
before the Doors of Day?
Eight feet it has
and four eyes
and bears knees above its belly.
King Heidrek,
guess my riddle.”

The king said, “Your hat hangs low and you certainly look down more than most other men, and your thoughts conjure a monster of the earth. But it's a spider.”

Then said Gestumblindi:

“What is that wonder
I saw outside
before the Doors of Day?
Its head directed
down to hell,
feet flap sunward.
King Heidrek,
guess my riddle.”

“Good riddle, Gestumblindi--I've got it. It's a leak. Its head is stuck in the earth, and it sprouts up as it grows.”

Then said Gestumblindi:

“What is that wonder
I saw outside
before the Doors of Day?
Harder than horn,
blacker than raven,
whiter than egg-white,
straighter than shaft of spear?
King Heidrek,
guess my riddle.”

Heidrek said, “Now we're scraping the barrel, Gestumblindi. What's the point in sitting any longer at this? It's obsidian, and the shine on it a sunbeam. And can't you think of any other way to begin a riddle? And there was me thinking you were a wise man.”

Gestumblindi said, “He who has a little sword must look to his limbs. I'm not too smart, but still, I'd like to ask another.

“White-haired women,
servants two,
bore ale-tub to the larder.
No hand turned it
nor hammer beat it.
But there, outside the islands,
the upright one who made it.
King Heidrek,
guess my riddle.”

“Good riddle, Gestumblindi--I've got it. There go swans to their nest to lay eggs. The shell of an egg is not turned by hands or shaped by hammers, and a swan is upright outside the islands. Swan is the answer, along with egg.”

Then said Gestumblindi:

“Who are those troll-wives,
on the great mountain,
woman begets with woman,
a girl with a girl
till she gets a son.
But that's not to say they're women…
King Heidrek,
guess my riddle.”

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