Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 1. Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, 1. Ynglingatal, 12 [Vol. 1, 28]

[5-6] hábrjóstr Sleipnir hǫrva ‘the high-breasted Sleipnir <horse> of flax cords [GALLOWS]’: The base-word of this kenning, Sleipnir, is explained in terms of the idiomatic expression ‘to ride the gallows’, cf. Note to st. 9/10, 11-12. As the determinant, (a) most previous eds also adopt the reading hǫrva ‘of flax cords’ based on , and Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) refers to Egill Hfl 13/7V, where hǫrvar denotes bowstrings. (b) Wadstein (1895a, 68-9), however, followed by Noreen (Yt 1925) prioritizes the reading hurfu (J2ˣ), which he interprets as gen. sg. of *hvarfa according to ANG §77.10. In explanation he refers to Swed. dialectal hurfa, horfa and Norw. korve, kverva ‘withy’, a ring of willow. This is worthy of consideration in light of the fact that it was common to use a withy in hangings (Amira 1913, 241; ‘Hängen’, HDA, 3, 1438-1460). The assumption of Åkerlund (1939, 93) that a scribe had replaced a word unknown to him with hǫrva might also support this. Strangulation with a loop of twisted branches was probably the antecedent of the later practice of hanging with a rope noose (Amira 1922, 95-6).

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