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Anonymous Lausavísur (Anon)

III. 3. Stanzas from Snorra Edda (SnE) - 18

2.1: Stanzas from Snorra Edda — Anon (SnE)III

Kari Ellen Gade, Margaret Clunies Ross and Matthew Townend 2017, ‘ Anonymous, Stanzas from Snorra Edda’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 512. <> (accessed 6 July 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18 

SkP info: III, 519

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Anon (SnE) 9III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Stanzas from Snorra Edda 9’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 519.

SnE records two stanzas of an exchange between a troll-woman and the poet Bragi (Anon (SnE) 9; Bragi Troll) in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 83-4). They occur in a section detailing expressions for poetry without periphrasis (ókend setning skáldskapar). This context makes it clear that it was the second of the pair of stanzas (Bragi Troll) that was the target quotation, because it lists terms for a poet, and this is reflected by both the prose introduction (see Context) and the ms. witnesses to the stanza, as only R and C (the latter in part, from l. 4) have the troll-woman’s stanza, while R, , U, A and C have Bragi’s. Nevertheless, both internal and contextual evidence indicates that the two must have formed a pair, in which Bragi’s stanza deliberately imitates the form and content of the troll-woman’s. For further details of the tradition of verse duels between poets and supernatural beings, see Introduction to Bragi Troll. Both Bragi’s and the troll-woman’s stanzas are, appropriately to their speakers’ status as travellers, in a form of tøglag ‘journey metre’. If authentic, they are likely to be the earliest attested examples of it (cf. SnE 2007, 29-30, 35, 87-8 and Section 4 of the General Introduction in SkP I for a survey of poetry in this metre). As Lindow (2006, 23) has indicated, very few other trolls in Old Norse literature are said to compose in skaldic (as contrasted with eddic) verse-forms and the troll-woman’s is probably made deliberately less regular than Bragi’s in terms of hendingar.

Troll kalla mik,
tungl sjǫt-Rungnis,
auðsúg jǫtuns,
élsólar bǫl,
vilsinn vǫlu,
vǫrð náfjarðar,
hvélsvelg himins.
Hvats troll nema þat?

Kalla mik troll, {tungl sjǫt-Rungnis}, {auðsúg jǫtuns}, {bǫl élsólar}, {vilsinn vǫlu}, {vǫrð {náfjarðar}}, {hvél{svelg himins}}. Hvats troll nema þat?

They call me troll, {moon of dwelling-Rungnir} [TROLL], {wealth-sucker of a giant} [TROLL-WOMAN], {trouble of the storm-sun} [TROLL], {delightful company of a prophetess} [TROLL-WOMAN], {guardian {of the corpse-fjord}} [GRAVE > TROLL], {swallower {of the wheel of the sky}} [(lit. ‘wheel-swallower of the sky’) SUN > TROLL]. What’s a troll if not that?

Mss: R(36v), C(6r) (ll. 4-8) (SnE)

Readings: [2] sjǫt‑Rungnis: ‘siotrvgnnis’ R    [4] élsólar: él ek sólar C    [6] fjarðar: ‘nattfara’ C    [7] hvél‑: hleif‑ C

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [X], II. B. 6. En troldkvinde: AI, 182, BI, 172, Skald I, 92, NN §§1095A-E, 2458; SnE 1848-87, I, 464-7, II, 590, III, 95, SnE 1931, 165 n., SnE 1998, I, 83 (SnE).

Context: See Introduction above. Ms. R’s text of this stanza is introduced thus: Þetta kvað Bragi hinn gamli þá er hann ók um skóg nokkvorn síð um kveld, þá stefjaði trǫllkona á hann ok spurði hverr þar fór ‘Bragi the Old spoke this when he drove through a certain forest late in the evening; then a troll-woman accosted him in poetry, and asked who went there’. The phrasal verb stefja á ‘to accost [someone] in poetry’ is considered by Almqvist (1965-74, I, 33) to be a sure sign that the encounter between Bragi and the troll-woman conformed to the same pattern of encounters between poets and supernatural powers as appears in much younger Icelandic literature and folklore.

Notes: [All]: The vocabulary of the stanza is difficult and the meanings of many words are uncertain, while the kenning in l. 7 is inverted. However, all six kennings are likely to mean ‘troll’ or ‘troll-woman’. — [1] kalla mik troll ‘they call me troll’: There are two possible interpretations of this line, just as there are of the first line of Bragi’s response: ‘they call me troll …’, as here, where troll is the first of a series of object complements, and troll kalla mik ‘trolls call me …’. Kock (NN §1095A) expresses a strong preference for the first option, on the ground that poets, not trolls, were creators of kennings, while Skj B takes up the second interpretation. — [2] tungl sjǫt-Rungnis ‘moon of dwelling-Rungnir [TROLL]’: This is the most obscure of the kennings in the stanza. Rungnir may be a giant name, possibly a variant of the better-attested Hrungnir, the name of a giant with whom Þórr fought a duel (SnE 1998, I, 20-2). Sigrdr 15/5-6 (NK 193) names one of the places where runes are carved as á því hvéli, er snýz | undir reið Rungnis  ‘on that wheel, which turns beneath the chariot of Rungnir’. Kock (NN §1095B and Skald) emends to tungls sjǫthrungni ‘moon’s dwelling-Hrungnir’ ‘Hrungnir [i.e. destroyer] of the moon’s dwelling’ (by inversion), an allusion to the same myth as the kennings in ll. 4 and 7, in which at Ragnarǫk a wolf in the form of a troll will destroy the heavenly bodies (cf. Vsp 40/7-8 (NK 9) tungls tiúgari | í trollz hami ‘destroyer of the sun in the shape of a troll’). Another possibility is that tunglsjǫt ‘moon-dwelling’ could form a cpd, though the kenning still remains obscure. — [3] auðsúg jǫtuns ‘wealth-sucker of a giant [TROLL-WOMAN]’: Again the reference is obscure. There may be an allusion to the kenning-type ‘mouthful of giants [GOLD]’ (cf. Bragi Frag 6/2-3) and a suggestion that troll-women could somehow suck out gold from the mouths of giants (perhaps in the course of a sexual encounter) or rob them of it by some other means. The alimentary element in this kenning finds a counterpart in himins hvélsvelg ‘swallower of the wheel of the sky [SUN > TROLL]’ (l. 7), and in several of Bragi’s kennings in reply. Kock (NN §1095C and Skald) emends to auðsúð jǫtuns ‘wealth-plank of a giant [WOMAN > TROLL-WOMAN]’, thus providing a hending. — [4] bǫl élsólar ‘trouble of the storm-sun [TROLL]’: Another reference to trolls as destroyers of heavenly bodies at Ragnarǫk. Kock (NN §1095D) emends to élsalar ‘of the storm hall [SKY/HEAVEN]’. — [5] vilsinn vǫlu ‘delightful company of a prophetess [TROLL-WOMAN]’: The first word may possibly be from vílsinnr ‘difficult journey’ (cf. LP), but it is not clear how this could form the base-word of a troll-kenning. — [6] náfjarðar ‘of the corpse-fjord [GRAVE]’: Here (taking the reading of R), with Skj B and Faulkes (SnE 1998, I, 83), understood as a kenning for a grave. The cpd could also be construed as nafjarðar ‘hub-land [SHIELD]’ (cf. SnE 1998, II, 361: náfjǫrðr), though it is hard to see how this would yield a troll-kenning, or as nafjarðar < nǫf ‘brink, cliff-edge’ + jǫrð ‘earth, land’ (so NN §2458). Ms. C’s variant ‘nattfara’ could yield nôttfara ‘(guardian) of night-expeditions [TROLL-WOMAN]’, referring to the habit of such beings as active at night. — [7] himins hvélsvelg ‘swallower of the wheel of the sky [(lit. ‘wheel-swallower of the sky’) SUN > TROLL]’: Another inverted kenning referring to a troll (possibly in the shape of a wolf; cf. SnE 2005, 49) as the swallower of the sun at Ragnarǫk.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated