Havamal No. 21

21. Cattle know
when to go home,
and then from grazing cease;
but a foolish man
never knows
his stomach’s measure.

This advice means that cattle knows how much it can eat, so when it feels full it ceases eating and goes home. On the other hand, an idiotic man eats all he wants until he is full but he keeps eating. Number 21 can be interpreted in two different ways:

  • A foolish man does not understand himself, so he often either overestimates or underestimates himself.
  • Unknowing to him, a foolish man is falls to his greed, which is represented by the stomach.

We can use this advice often in life. Gaining an understanding of ourselves is one of the most important things that we can do. High school serves as a testing ground for finding out what we like and how much we can take without being overwhelmed by work. So in college, we will have a better grasp of our own abilities when choosing classes and activities. Failure to learn about ourselves can certainly lead to greed, since we would not know when to stop taking. Knowing how much is too much is a crucial skill in all aspects of life, no matter if it’s in relationships, conversations, or at dinner tables.

In the play Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, Caesar also needs to heed this advice. The general trusts in his power too much and ignores all signs of trouble, which eventually leads to his murder by his own men. Of course greed also plays a role in the play, in which Caesar would not stop expanding his power. People are intimidated by his supreme leadership, while others are revolted by it. However, I doubt that the proud Caesar would follow the Viking’s advice had he heard of it.


2 thoughts on “Havamal No. 21

  1. I think that your interpretation of the Viking saying is really interesting. I certainly hope that I’ll have a better grasp of my own abilities when I’m in college. I also think that the proverb itself is profound, because it implies that as humans we sometimes have less common sense than barnyard animals, which is scary.


  2. Pingback: Comments | trachea of serendipity

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