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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, 14 [Vol. 1, 31]

[7] eykr jǫtuns ‘the draught-animal of the giant [BULL]’: Why a bull is associated with a giant is unknown (Meissner 111; LP: eykr). Kock (NN §75) names a few myths associating bulls with giants, e.g. the myth in Bragi Frag 1III and Gylf (SnE 2005, 7) in which Gefjun turns her sons by a giant into bulls and uses them to dig up a large piece of land from Sweden and drag it into the sea, forming Zealand. A conceivable parallel to the kenning might be Þjóð Haustl 5/2, 4III hval(r) Várar þrymseilar ‘the whale of the Vár <goddess> of the bowstring [= Skaði <giantess> > OX] ’. But Þjóðólfr’s other bull-kennings are more straightforward: okhreinn ‘yoke-reindeer’ (st. 13/13) or okbjǫrn ‘yoke-bear’ (Þjóð Haustl 6/4III). From ll. 9-12 the bull appears to be no ordinary animal but perhaps one with supernatural strength that controlled the whole district and was more than a fleeting threat. The lines recall Bragi’s description of Gefjun’s giant bulls (Bragi Frag 1/5-6, 8III), Øxn bôru átta ennitungl ok fjǫgur haufuð ‘The oxen bore eight forehead-moons [EYES] and four heads’. The expression ‘to bear the head’ could be a metaphor for claiming authority over an area, cf. examples of bera hǫfuð, lit. ‘to bear the head’, in Fritzner: höfuð 1.


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