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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 1. Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, 1. Ynglingatal, 7 [Vol. 1, 19]

[3] Gnô Glitnis ‘the Gná <goddess> of Glitnir <horse> [= Hel]’: Almost all interpreters of the stanza have assumed this kenning refers to Hel, the being who presides over the realm of the dead (see Note to Bjbp Jóms 34/1, 4). This assumption is favoured by the occurrence of a kenning for Hel in both of the stanza’s other two four-line units. Gná, the name of one of the Ásynjur (goddesses), occurs as the base-word in woman-kennings (Meissner 406). Glitnir means ‘the shining one’ (cf. glitra ‘glitter, shine’), and is recorded as a name of the hall of the god Forseti, which was decorated with gold and silver (Grí 15/2-3), but there are divergent views of the significance of Glitnir here. The present edn tentatively takes Glitnir to be the horse-heiti recorded in Þul Hesta 1/3III (so also Yt 1925; NN §1011; Turville-Petre 1964, 56, 226; ÍF 26). If this is correct, Gn Glitnis, interpreted as ‘the goddess of the horse’, might refer to Hel’s appearance as a mounted goddess of death. Turville-Petre (1964, 56-7) points out a fundamental association between horses and death, as indicated by numerous graves in which horses were burial objects, and by the belief that people rode horses into the realm of the dead. The motif of Death’s horse or of Death mounted is familiar from many folk tales (‘Pferd 3. Mythologisches’, HDA 6, 109). Moreover, the name Glitnir ‘the shining one’ fits the circumstance that Death traditionally rides a white horse (loc. cit.).


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