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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Anonymous Þulur, 18. Sverða heiti, 6 [Vol. 3, 800]

[5] Kvernbiti: This is the name of a sword owned by Hákon inn góði ‘the Good’ Haraldsson, which can be translated as ‘millstone-biter’ (from kvern f. ‘handmill’ and the strong verb bíta ‘bite’). In this form it also occurs in Ágrip (ÍF 29, 10, 11), but Kvernbítr (so mss A, B and the LaufE mss) is the form used in Hkr (ÍF 26, 146, 185, 190); both variants are found in Fsk (ÍF 29, 75, 86, 90). The origin of the name is explained as follows in Hkr (ÍF 26, 146): Aðalsteinn konungr gaf Hákoni sverð þatþar hjó Hákon með kvernstein til augans. Þat var síðan kallat Kvernbítr ‘King Æthelstan gave Hákon that sword … with it Hákon split a millstone down to the centre. It was later called Millstone-biter’. The heiti does not occur in poetry (but cf. Leggbiti ‘Leg-biter’ or Leggbítr, st. 2/5 above).


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