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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

8. Friðþjófs saga ins frœkna 11 (Friðþjófr Þorsteinsson, Lausavísur, 9) — Friðþjófr [Vol. 8, 208]

[5-6] nú skal troða raunbeð Ránar ‘now I must tread the testing bed of Rán [SEA]’: The specific wording of these lines is problematic, although their general sense is clear: Friðþjófr fears that he will drown, using an image of a lover mounting his partner’s bed, which he contrasts with the situation of someone else, but not him, making love to Ingibjǫrg (ll. 7-8). The word Ránar ‘of Rán’, the sea-deity who takes to herself drowning men (cf. SnE 1998, I, 41), is present in l. 5 in the A mss 510, 568ˣ and 27ˣ, while in its place the B mss have raunar ‘in truth, in reality’, which appears to be a lectio facilior. However, l. 6 presents a further problem because the first word in 510 has a lacuna, probably of only one letter, and reads ‘ra[…] ban’, which does not correspond to the other A mss here (568ˣ has ‘ranbed’ and 27ˣ ‘rannbed’), nor to the B mss, which have a similar reading. Thus one can either read (A version) nú skal Ránar | raunbeð tróða ‘now I must tread the testing bed of Rán’ (with emendation of Ránbeð to raunbeð, as suggested by Falk (1890, 75) on the ground that the A scribes must have been influenced by their writing of ‘ran’ in the previous line) or (B version) adopt nú skal raunar | Ránbeð troða ‘now I must really tread the bed of Rán’. Both readings have their merits. The B version has the merit of not requiring emendation, but it includes the suspiciously facile raunar ‘really’. The cpd Ránbeð ‘Rán’s bed’, although not exactly paralleled elsewhere, is similar to Rv Lv 16/4II Ránheim ‘Rán’s world [SEA]’ and cf. SnH Lv 6/3II sitk at Ránar ‘I’m living at Rán’s’, supposedly uttered by the ghost of a drowned man. The readings of the A mss suggest that the first element of the cpd at the beginning of l. 6 was not Rán- but some other noun, and raunbeð ‘testing bed, dangerous bed’, as suggested by Falk and adopted in Skj B (cf. also LP: raunbeð) seems a reasonable emendation and is also adopted here. The concept of the sea and the sea-bed as Rán’s is a skaldic commonplace and appears frequently in kennings for the sea (cf. Meissner 92); here the image is explicitly sexualised and contrasted with Friðþjófr’s wished-for intercourse with Ingibjǫrg. The verb troða ‘tread’ suggests both sexual intercourse and menacing aggression, in line with similar senses in Þjóð Yt 3/6I, 20/2I and Egill Hfl 10/7-8V (Eg 43). Skald has adopted the reading of 27ˣ and some other A redaction mss, rannbeð Ránar ‘the hall-bed of Rán’. This is also a possible reading.


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