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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Bjarni ...ason, Fragments, 4 [Vol. 3, 24]

[1, 3, 4] œgir mœtihjóls mergheims ‘frightener of the meeting-wheel of the marrow-world [BONE > TORTURE-WHEEL > EXECUTIONER]’: Jón Helgason (1966a, 179) interpreted mœtihjól mergheims ‘the wheel meeting/opposing the bone’ as a kenning for ‘shield’ and the frightener who made use of the shield as ‘man’. This interpretation of the kenning is unconvincing; Meissner 166-76 does not list any examples of shield-kennings with bones or other body parts as determinants. The interpretation of the kenning in the present edn is based on the medieval practice of breaking people on a wheel, where the criminal’s bones were broken by striking a wheel or a hammer against his limbs (see also Anon (FoGT) 17, Note to [All]). Mœtihjól mergheims ‘the meeting-wheel of the marrow-world [BONE]’, then, is an entirely suitable kenning for ‘wheel of torture’, which, combined with the base-word œgir ‘frightener’, forms an equally fitting expression for ‘executioner’. The present interpretation is supported by Frag 5 below, in which a woman releases a tormented man ‘from above’.


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