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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

8. Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 73 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur, 26) — Gestumblindi [Vol. 8, 440]

[All]: Heiðrekr’s response is (Heiðr 1960, 39): Þat er húnn í hnettafli ‘That is the húnn [lit. ‘bear-cub’] in hnefatafl’. The H redaction adds (Heiðr 1924, 75): hann heitir sem bjǫrn; hann rennr þegar er honum er kastat ‘he is called the same as a bear; he runs as soon as he is cast’. On hnefatafl see Heiðr 66, Note to [All]. There is some disagreement as to whether the húnn was a playing piece or a die. Fritzner: húnn cites this example, translating terning ‘die’, but hnefatafl is not thought to have been played with dice. However, the verb kasta ‘cast’ in the solution to the H redaction seems unlikely to be used of playing pieces (and cf. verpa ‘throw’, used with húnn in Þhorn Harkv 16/4I; see also Note). If the húnn is indeed a die, the riddle may refer to the game kvátrutafl or Icelandic tables, a game similar to backgammon, rather than to hnefatafl (Helmfrid 2005, 11). On the other hand, the U redaction reads þad er tafla ‘that is a playing piece’.


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