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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Eilífr Goðrúnarson, 1. Þórsdrápa, 15 [Vol. 3, 108]

[5, 6] hofstjóri váfreiðar hreggs ‘the temple-steerer of the hovering chariot of the thunderstorm [= Þórr]’: The emendation from váfreiða gen. pl. (R, W) to váfreiðar gen. sg. can be justified by the fact that Þórr most likely had only one chariot. As Reichardt (1948, 377) observed, this Þórr-kenning is parallel to hofreginn hógreiðar ‘the temple-deity of the comfortable chariot’ (Þjóð Haustl 15/5, 6). Hógreiðar ‘of the comfortable chariot’ and váfreiðar ‘of the hovering chariot’ both refer to the thunder god’s chariot, in which he traverses the sky as depicted in Haustl. The reference to Þórr as the steerer of his thunderstorm-chariot creates a link to the first helmingr, where he overcomes the giantesses with the help of lightning. Here, as in Haustl, hof- refers to Þórr’s connection with his temple (hof; cf. lǫnd hofs Eindriða ‘the lands of the temple of Eindriði <= Þórr>’, Eskál Vell 14/2, 4I). The present interpretation of the kenning corresponds for the most part to that given by Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 395; Skj B; LP: váfreið), although he adopts ms. R’s húfstjóri as the kenning’s base-word, in which húf- is the hull of a ship. This solution affects the structure of the kenning, however, because ‘hull-steerer’ (= ship’s steerer) of the chariot’ is self-contradictory. In that respect, Reichardt’s (1948, 376-8) interpretation is superior, because it is better suited to the situation – the killing of the giantesses by the thunder god’s lightning. He interprets hofstjóri váfreyða hreggs as ‘the steerer of the temple of the hovering fin-whale of the thunderstorm (of battle) [SWORD > SHIELD > WARRIOR = Þórr]’. Other eds who take húfstjóri ‘steersman’ as the base-word of the Þórr-kenning arrive at less convincing solutions (Kock, NN §463 and Kiil 1956, 144).


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