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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, 9 [Vol. 1, 22]

[3] Skjalfar ‘Skjǫlf’s’: (a) The most obvious interpretation of rôð Skjalfar, ‘the plans, decisions or actions of Skjǫlf’, would suggest that Skjǫlf (later form Skjálf) is a woman’s name, though it is otherwise only attested as a name of Freyja (Þul Ásynja 3/5III). The Yt stanza would permit the view that Skjǫlf was directly or indirectly the agent of Agni’s death, but it provides no clarity as to Skjǫlf’s identity, and the claim in Yng and in HN (2003, 76) that she was Agni’s wife cannot be proven or disproven. Numerous etymologies for the woman’s name (often associated with overall interpretations of the stanza involving myth, ritual or genealogy) have been suggested. Gade (1985b, 65-9) derives it from an Indo-European root *skel5 referring to sound or noise. Others suggest derivation from the p. n. Skjǫlf (see (b) below), perhaps as a result of a misunderstanding, or from the tribal name of the Skilfingar, which has been related to the p. n. Skjǫlf (though see Gade 1985b, 64). Noreen (1892, 215-16) suggested a starting point in the verb skjalfa ‘shiver’, hence Skjǫlf ‘the shivering one’ as a personification of the aurora borealis. (b) A p. n. is also possible, since Skjǫlf as a p. n. meaning ‘hill, rise’ (OSwed. Skialf, ONorw. Skiolf) is common in Sweden (Läffler 1894, 168-71; Brate 1913, 102-5; Björkman 1919, 170-1; and see Gade 1985b, 60-1 for a survey of the literature); the p. n. is also known in Norway (Olsen 1926, 274).


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