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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Úlfr Uggason, Húsdrápa, 2 [Vol. 3, 407]

[6] hafnýra ‘the sea-kidney [STONE]’: Most scholars agree that this is a stone-kenning, and they have pointed to such parallels as Þjóð Yt 18/6I hjarta lagar ‘heart of the water’ or Eil Þdr 16/2 fjarðepli ‘fjord-apple’ (Ohlmarks 1937, 124; Schier 1976b, 583). These stone-kennings seem not to depend on the hardness of the objects a stone is being likened to, but on their form. Yet, opinion differs about what ‘stone’ means in the present helmingr. (a) This edn understands the stone as referring to rein ‘land’ from the first helmingr, i.e. the object of Loki’s and Heimdallr’s quarrel (see Note to l. 2 rein; Schier 1976a, 583-4; Marold 2000a, 296-7; Marold 2000b, 284). This interpretation can be supported by the use of hjarta lagar ‘heart of the water’ to denote an island in Þjóð Yt 18/6I. Hence, hafnýra could refer to a rock in the sea, which would fit very well with the depiction of the quarrel as a fight between seals and one of them in the end ruling over this rock. (b) Other scholars take Snorri’s remark about Brísingamen being the object of contention to mean that hafnýra is a stone-kenning that could also refer to a jewel (Meissner 91) and hence to Brísingamen (Mogk 1880, 331; Skj BI; LP: hafnýra). In most cases they believe that both hafnýra and Singasteinn refer to the necklace. But Singasteinn cannot denote Brísingamen because of its syntactical combination with the preposition at (see Note to l. 2 at Singasteini). Heizmann (2009, 512-21) tries to show that Freyja’s Brísingamen is connected to birth and regeneration. Loki’s theft would then correspond to his role as the gods’ antagonist and the enemy of regeneration. (c) Ohlmarks (1937, 124), Pering (1941, 211) and Schier (1976a, 584) object to the interpretation of hafnýra as Brísingamen; rather, they interpret hafnýra as ‘stone’, arguing that Snorri must have borrowed the notion of a fight over this necklace from elsewhere (see Introduction to st. 2 above). (d) De Vries (1933, 129) equates hafnýra with ‘amber’. (e) Pering (1941, 217-18), followed by Tolley (1996, 83) and Cöllen (2007, 67-70), compares the term ‘sea-kidney’ with later-attested expressions such as ModNorw. sjøbønner ‘sea-beans’ or vettenyrer ‘sprite-kidneys’ which refer to a stony fruit (Pusaetha scandens) with regenerative and other beneficial properties. On this basis he takes hafnýra for a stone amulet.


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