Cite as: Hannah Burrows (ed.) 2017, ‘Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 63 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur 16)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 426.
|Hvat er þat undra, er ek úti sá
fyrir Dellings durum?
| hrafni svartara, |
skjalli hvítara, skapti réttara.
Heiðrekr konungr, hyggðu at gátu.
Hvat er undra þat, er ek sá úti fyrir durum Dellings? Horni harðara, hrafni svartara, skjalli hvítara, skapti réttara. Heiðrekr konungr, hyggðu at gátu.
What is the wonder that I saw outside before Dellingr’s doors? [It is] harder than horn, blacker than the raven, whiter than the membrane of an egg, straighter than a shaft. King Heiðrekr, think about the riddle.
Mss: 2845(71r), 281ˣ(100r), 597bˣ(50r), R715ˣ(28r) (ll. 1-7) (Heiðr)
Readings: [1-3] so R715ˣ, abbrev. as ‘hut er þ̄ u’ 2845, abbrev. as ‘hvad er þad vndre etc.’ 281ˣ, ‘hvad er þad undra fyr d d:’ corrected from ‘hvad er undra fyr d d:’ in the margin in a later hand 597bˣ  Horni: horni er R715ˣ [6-7] lines reversed 281ˣ, 597bˣ  skjalli: so 281ˣ, 597bˣ, R715ˣ, skildi 2845 [8-9] abbrev. as ‘h k̄ h a ɢā’ 2845, ‘heidr kr.’ 281ˣ, abbrev. as ‘h: Kongur: h.’ 597bˣ
Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], D. 5. Heiðreks gátur 8: AII, 222-3, BII, 241, Skald II, 125; Heiðr 1672, 147, FSN 1, 470, Heiðr 1873, 246-7, 336, Heiðr 1924, 63, 69, 135, FSGJ 2, 41, Heiðr 1960, 35; Edd. Min. 112.
Notes: [All]: Heiðrekr’s response is (Heiðr 1960, 35-6): Smækkask nú gáturnar, Gestumblindi; hvat þarf lengr yfir þessu at sitja? Þat er hrafntinna, ok skein á hana sólargeisli ‘The riddles now grow trivial, Gestumblindi; what is the need to sit longer over this? That is obsidian, and a sunbeam shines on it’. The H redaction (Heiðr 1924, 69) omits the initial comment (but cf. Heiðr 57, Note to [All]) where a similar observation is made), but adds er lá í einu húsi ‘which lay in a house’. Obsidian is a dark-coloured glassy volcanic rock; Iceland is one of the best known locations in Europe for its occurrence. It features in late antique and medieval encyclopedias, such as Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia (XXXVI, 67; Eichholz 1962, 154-6) and Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae (XVI, iv, 21: Isidore, Etym. II). There is evidence that it was used as flint during the Viking Age (Hughes and Lucas 2009, 46); cf. Heiðr 77 and 81, about flint and embers in the hearth, respectively. Obsidian forms a very sharp edge and was also used as a cutting tool (Orri Vésteinsson 2000a, 169); it may further have been used for decorative or magical purposes, though the Icelandic evidence for the latter is from as late as the C19th (Hughes and Lucas 2009, 46). — [All]: Lines 1-3 are ljóðaháttr,
4-7 málaháttr and 8-9 fornyrðislag. — : See Note to Heiðr 55/1. —  hrafni ‘than the raven’: The ON (and ModIcel.) hrafntinna
‘obsidian’ is lit. ‘raven-flint’. — [6-7]: These lines are reversed in the H-redaction mss, which ordering is favoured by Skj and Skald, but the other mss agree on the ordering retained here. Either is acceptable. —  skjalli ‘than the membrane of an egg’: Cf. Gylf (SnE 2005, 19), which says that the water in the well of the norn Urðr er svá heiligt at allir hlutir þeir sem þar koma í brunninn verða svá hvítir sem hinna sú er skjall heitir, er innan liggr við eggskurn ‘is so holy that all those things which come there into the well become as white as the membrane which is called skjall, which lies within the eggshell’; cf. also skjallhvít lilja ‘the skjall-white lily’, Árni Gd 68/2IV. Some medieval philosophers, including Martianus Capella, William of Conches and Peter Abelard, used the membrane of the egg to represent the air in ‘cosmic egg’ models of the universe (see further Dronke 1974, 79-99, 154-66). Ms. 2845 reads skildi ‘shield’; the scribe may have been thinking of shields painted white or made from a light-coloured wood, references to which are not uncommon in Old Norse poetry. Cf. e.g. sciold hvítastan ‘the whitest shield’, Akv 7/9 (NK 241); hvítra skjalda ‘white shields’, Þhorn Harkv 8/2I and Note; Sigv Nesv 9/2, 3I and Note. On painted and decorated shields see Falk (1914b, 129-32, 145-8). The sunbeam in the solution is presumably the key to resolving this paradox, that the object can be both whiter than skjall and blacker than the raven, since obsidian has reflective properties.