Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 13. Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, 3. Lausavísur, 12 [Vol. 1, 231]

[3, 4] birkihind brums ‘the bark-stripping hind of the bud [GOAT]’: The agentive prefix birki- is evidently from verb birkja ‘to strip bark (with teeth)’ (Fritzner: birkja; cf. Hkr 1893-1901, IV). The animal which destroys buds and bark is normally identified as ‘goat’ (Hkr 1893-1901, IV, and Skj B; this is the sole goat-kenning in Meissner 111). Eyvindr’s comparison relates to known pastoral practice among the Saami, who practised sheep and goat husbandry in medieval and modern times. In a study of sites along the Bay of Bothnia, Broadbent (2010, 151) suggests that one type of structure, dated AD 700-1000 and usually situated near dwellings, may be a goat hut comparable to those found among the Forest Saami of Sweden; these huts ‘lack hearths but have doors and were intended to keep animals warm and safe from predators at night’. They would also have facilitated milking, generally done by women while the men spent the summer farther afield fishing, sealing, or hunting. These practices are also known further south and west, including in Norwegian coastal areas (Zachrisson 1992), where the contrast with the Scandinavian practice of transhumance, moving animals to outlying shielings during the summer, would have been striking. (The above references on Saami culture have been kindly suggested by Thomas DuBois.) For arguments that this kenning, with others in Lv 12-14, builds contrasting and shifting patterns of subsistence and livelihood (farming, fishing, hunting, gathering), see Poole 1991, 15-16.

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