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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

8. Ragnars saga loðbrókar 8 (Ragnarr loðbrók, Lausavísur, 4) — Ragnarr [Vol. 8, 639]

[5-8]: (a) The present ed., while offering an interpretation of these lines not previously proposed, agrees with all previous eds in taking ‘he’ in l. 5 as referring to Sigurðr, son of Ragnarr (as opposed to Sigurðr Fáfnisbani, who some believe is referred to in l. 4, see Note to ll. 3-4 above); with Olsen, Eskeland, Örnólfur Thorsson and Larrington (2010, 62-3) in seeing ll. 5-6 on the one hand and 7-8 on the other as forming separate clauses; and with Olsen, Ebel, and also, it seems, Örnólfur, in seeing þeim ‘(of) him’ in l. 7 as the antecedent of the rel. clause introduced by er ‘who’ in l. 8. This ed. differs from all previous eds with the possible exception of Örnólfur, however, in suggesting that þeim in l. 7 refers to Sigurðr Fáfnisbani (see McTurk 2012a). This Sigurðr is frequently referred to in Vǫls as having piercing eyes (see Vǫls 1906-8, 31, 42, 56, 80, cf. also 75), and there is ample poetic evidence to suggest that a piercing gaze was thought of as snake-like, see LP: ormfránn ‘glittering like a snake’ and cf. Vǫl 17/5-6, Fáfn 5/5, and 34/7-8. (b) Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 200-1) refers to a suggestion communicated to him by S. Bugge to the effect that the rel. particle er in l. 8 should be linked with Óðins ættar in l. 5 (rather than with þeim in l. 7) to give the following prose order: Sá mun vera heitinn yfirþáttr ættar Óðins, er annan lét svelta; ormr er í auga þeim ‘He [Sigurðr, son of Ragnarr], will be called the principal scion of the descendant of Óðinn [Sigurðr Fáfnisbani], who caused another [snake, Fáfnir] to die; there is a snake in his [Sigurðr Ragnarsson’s] eye’. This would involve understanding ætt(ar) in the sense of  ‘family member, descendant’. This interpretation seems far-fetched, however, given the proximity of the poss. dat. þeim in l. 7 and rel. particle er in l. 8. Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 201) also emends l. 8 to es ǫrn lætrat svelta ‘who will not let the eagle starve’ (as an alternative, following another suggestion of Bugge’s, to the former interpretation by Bugge of l. 8). (c) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) reads yfirbátr in l. 6 (see Note to l. 6 below), emends pret. lét to pres. lætr in l. 8, giving it future meaning, and takes the rel. particle er in l. 8 as correlating with yfirbátr, thus producing the awkward translation: ‘He, of Óðinn’s family, will be called (other people’s) superior, who will let another person die; in his eyes lies a snake.’ (d) Kock (NN §3180), perhaps rather surprisingly in view of his usual preference for the simplest possible interpretation, adopts Finnur’s text of the half-stanza, and criticises his translation only to the extent of arguing for ‘He will be called the outstripper of Óðinn’s family, who …’ in place of its opening clause. (e) The present edn’s interpretation of the half-stanza attributes the role of chief scion of the dynasty to Ragnarr’s son Sigurðr and that of ‘Snake-in-eye’ to Sigurðr Fáfnisbani. This involves no emendation. The roles might be reversed if the half-stanza were read as follows, also without emendation: þeim er ormr í auga; sá, er lét svelta annan, mun vera heitinn yfirþáttr ættar Óðins: ‘that one [Ragnarr’s son Sigurðr] has a snake in his eye; he [Sigurðr Fáfnisbani], who allowed another [snake, Fáfnir] to die, is surely reckoned the chief scion of Óðinn’s dynasty’. Here mun vera ‘is surely’ would be read as expressing likelihood rather than futurity. The prose order thus assumed would, however, be at variance with what Kock (NN §§1462, 1465) has identified as the simple, straightforward syntactic tendency of the Ragn stanzas in general.


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