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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eil Þdr 3III l. 8

— the Mór


Mór (noun m.): serpent



[7-8] spenndu gaupnum ilja um Mó Endils ‘clasped the Mór <horse> of Endill <sea-king> [SHIP] with the palms of their foot-soles’: Setting foot aboard a ship is represented here by a metaphor, spenna gaupnum ‘clasp with the palms’, the interpretation of which is determined by ilja ‘of the foot-soles’ (a corrected metaphor). Gaupnum ilja ‘with the palms of their foot-soles’ is not a kenning, because it has no referent. The emendation of the prep. á (so all mss) to um is necessary here because the verb spenna in the sense ‘clasp’ is construed with the prep. um ‘around’ and not with á ‘on, onto, at’ (see Fritzner: I. spenna). — [8] Mó Endils ‘the Mór <horse> of Endill <sea-king> [SHIP]’: This edn deviates (with Kock NN §1080; Genzmer 1928, 310; Kiil 1956, 102) from other eds (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 378; Skj B; Reichardt 1948, 343) in making Endill the determinant of the horse-heiti Mór. For Mór as a horse-name, cf. Þul Hesta 3/8, Anon Þorgþ I 1/7 and Anon Kálfv 2/3. The second part of the stanza is then not about climbing mountains or wading through a river, but about Þórr and his companion boarding a ship (or wading through the sea, see below). This corresponds to the prose narratives of this myth (see Introduction above) according to which giants are approached by sea (cf. Kiil 1956, 103). On his way to Jǫtunheimar visiting Útgarðaloki, Þórr crosses a deep sea (Gylf, SnE 2005, 37), and comparable stories about underworld journeys to Geirrøðr, such as those of Thorkillus (Saxo 2005, I, 8, 14, 1-20, pp. 560-73) and Þorsteinn bæjarmagn (FSGJ IV, 329), also lead across the sea. The kenning ‘Scots of Gandvík’ in st. 2/6 above fits this pattern as well. It locates the giants, who are the target of this journey, near the White Sea, or north of it, as on the Skálholt map (see Note to st. 2/6). Numerous eds have interpreted as ‘land’. Sveinbjörn Egilsson (1851, 24) combines it with Endils to form a kenning for ‘mountain’ (‘land of the giant’). Endill is recorded exclusively as the name of a sea-king, however, and never as a giant-name; hence the kenning Endils can only mean ‘sea’ and not ‘mountain’. Kock (NN §1080) takes the kenning to mean ‘stretch of water’, i.e. the river that Þórr and his companion must wade across (so also Genzmer 1928, 310). Names of sea-kings, however, are never determinants in river-kennings (Meissner 99-100). If one wanted to keep Endils as a sea-kenning, the rest of the helmingr, namely spenndu gaupnum ilja ‘they clasped with the palms of their foot-soles’, would imply that Þórr and his companion would have walked on or perhaps waded through the sea. There are several instances where Þórr wades through water; most comparable is perhaps the end of the fishing contest in Hym st. 27 and in Gylf (SnE 2005, 45). Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 378; Skj B, followed by Reichardt 1948, 343 and Davidson 1983, 574, 578) therefore avoids a kenning, translating simply as ‘earth, heath’. He combines Endils and halla gallópnis ‘halls of the shrill-crier [MOUNTAINS]’ into a giant-kenning, and this in turn with mantælendr (emended from manntælendr) into a kenning for Þórr and his companions (on this see Note to ll. 6-7 above). In light of all these difficulties, the present edn interprets as the horse-name Mór, combined with Endils to form a ship-kenning.



case: acc.

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