Alvíss comes to Thor to claim Thor's daughter as his bride, saying that she had been promised to him earlier. Thor refuses as he had not been at home at the time, then tells Alvíss that he may take the young woman if he can correctly answer all of Thor's questions. The dwarf's replies act as an exhaustive list of the sentient mythological entities among men, Æsir, Vanir, giants, dwarves and elves. For example, the sky has the following names, according to Alvíss:
Himinn heitir með mönnum,
'Heaven' men call it,
|—Guðni Jónsson's normalized text||—Henry Adam Bellows' translation|
Alvíss succeeds, but is turned to stone when touched by the light of the rising sun. This makes it highly unusual among tales focused on Thor, as he was normally depicted as solving problems using physical force rather than his wits.
It is not known when Alvíssmál was created; analysis of its contents can point to multiple periods depending on which elements are focused upon. One theory is that the use of Thor and references to mythical beings can be assumed to reflect the culture's religious beliefs, so it would have been created no later than the 10th century before Iceland was Christianized. Another points to the presence of words found only in late skaldic poetry, which would indicate that it came from the 12th-century skaldic poetry revival.
- Jan de Vries, Altnordische Literaturgeschichte volume 2 Die Literatur von etwa 1150 bis 1300, die Spätzeit nach 1300, Grundriß der germanischen Philologie 16, 2nd ed. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1967, OCLC 715891742, pp. 110–13 (in German)
- "Alvíssmál", Rudolf Simek and Hermann Pálsson, Lexikon der altnordischen Literatur, Kröners Taschenausgabe 490 , Stuttgart: Kröner, 1987, ISBN 9783520490018, p. 9 (in German)
English translation with Old Norse
- Alvissmal The poem in the 12th Poetic Edda in the Codex Regius, broken down into 5 stanza seqments so that the Old Norse can match the English translations