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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eil Þdr 20III l. 6

karms — of the wagon-cab


karmr (noun m.; °; -ar): [wagon-box]



[6] tollurr karms ‘the pole of the wagon-cab [CHARIOTEER = Þórr]’: Because tollurr is the subject of the subordinate clause, tollur (all mss) has been emended to tollurr. Tollurr is usually interpreted either as an unknown tree-name or as a word for ‘stick’; cf. ModSwed. tolle ‘shoot, scion’, MLG toll ‘twig’ (AEW: tollurr). Here it functions as the base-word in a man-kenning. Karmr has several meanings: ‘frame’, ‘vessel’, ‘container’ or ‘parapet’. There is only one certain attestation of karmr in the sense ‘wagon, cart’ (see ONP: karmr); cf. also ModNorw. karm ‘sides of a wagon-cab’ or ‘back rest on a sled’. Hence karmr could refer to a part of a wagon, and it is taken here as pars pro toto for ‘wagon’. The wagon excavated in Oseberg has a removable cab or container, and such a wagon is also depicted on the tapestry found there. Moreover, the C10th wagon-boxes found in Denmark and Sweden, which were used as coffins, are of the same shape as the Oseberg wagon (Eisenschmidt 2006, 73-8). The whole kenning means ‘charioteer’, then; this unambiguously points to the god Þórr and his attribute, the wagon pulled by two goats.



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