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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Eilífr Goðrúnarson, 1. Þórsdrápa, 5 [Vol. 3, 85]

[3, 4] dreyra frumseyris fljóða ‘the blood of the foremost harasser of women [GIANT > RIVER]’: This kenning draws on the creation myth, told in Gylf (SnE 2005, 11), which describes how the gods created the world from the lifeless body of the primordial giant Ymir, whose blood became the rivers and the sea (cf. Vafþr 21/6). Any number of water-kennings refer to this myth (Meissner 99-100). Most eds emend frumseyris m. gen. sg., against all mss, to nom. frumseyrir, to create a subject for the verb kom ‘he came’ (cf. Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 380; Skj B; NN §446; Reichardt 1948, 344). This edn avoids emendation, assuming instead that the sentence has a suppressed subject (pron.). It becomes clear in the second helmingr, where Þórr is the subject, that he is the implied subject of this clause as well. Therefore kom is a sg. verb, which is surely an abrupt change from the pl. verb gingu ‘they went’. This can be explained as a switching of perspective from Þórr and Þjálfi walking through the wilderness to Þórr who wants a contest with a giantess. The giant-kenning is based on the idea that giants harm women, e.g. by abducting them or by forcing the gods to hand over goddesses (see Schulz 2004, 177-9); cf. the giant-kennings ulfr snótar ‘wolf of the woman’ in Þjóð Haustl 2/2 and þjófr Þrúðar ‘thief of Þrúðr’, for Hrungnir, in Bragi Rdr 1/3, 4 (see Note there); the threat to Gerðr in Skí 30-5 that she would be forced to live among giants and trolls; cf. also l. 3 of the Norwegian Rune poem (Anon RunVI). Kiil (1956, 106, followed by Davidson 1983, 581-2) also retains the gen. frumseyris, but he interprets the cpd as a n. noun, frumseyri, based on modern Icelandic and Norwegian lexical material (ModIcel. seyrast ‘ferment, rot’ and New Norw. søyra ‘allow to spoil’), which he takes as a reference to menstrual blood. This interpretation is doubtful, however, because ON seyra is well attested and means ‘harass, cause difficulties for sby’ (Fritzner: seyra v.). Kiil (ibid.) takes kom as an impersonal verb in the sense ‘it came’ with dreyra ‘blood’ as the dat. object. According to him, kom dreyra frumseyris fljóða means ‘(there) came the blood of the women’s (first) menstruation’.


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