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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eilífr Goðrúnarson (Eil)

10th century; volume 3; ed. Edith Marold;

1. Þórsdrápa (Þdr) - 23

Skj info: Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Islandsk skjald, omkr. 1000. (AI, 148-52, BI, 139-44).

Skj poems:
1. Et digt om Hakon jarl
2. Þórsdrápa
3. Af et kristeligt digt

Hardly anything is known about the life of Eilífr Goðrúnarson (Eil). According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266, 280), he was active as a skald at the court of Hákon jarl Sigurðarson in Norway around the end of the tenth century. Some scholars have argued that a word-play in a stanza preserved in Skm (SnE) conceals the name of Hákon jarl, thus confirming the information of Skáldatal, but the present edition, following Lie (1976, 399) is sceptical of that hypothesis (see Þdr 23, Note to [All]). Eilífr’s only surviving works are the long poem Þórsdrápa (Eil Þdr, 23 stanzas) and one fragment of a Christian poem (Eil Frag).

Þórsdrápa — Eil ÞdrIII

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Þórsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 68.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23 

Skj: Eilífr Goðrúnarson: 2. Þórsdrápa (AI, 148-52, BI, 139-44); stanzas (if different): 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21

SkP info: III, 91

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Eil Þdr 8III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Þórsdrápa 8’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 91.

Harðvaxnar leit herðar
hallands of sik falla
(gatat maðr) njótr (in neytri)
njarð- (rôð fyr sér) -gjarðar.
Þverrir lét, nema þyrri
Þorns barna sér, Mǫrnar
snerriblóð, til svíra
salþaks megin vaxa.

{Njótr njarðgjarðar} leit {harðvaxnar herðar {hallands}} falla of sik; maðr gatat in neytri rôð fyr sér. {Þverrir {barna Þorns}} lét megin vaxa sér til svíra {salþaks}, nema {snerriblóð Mǫrnar} þyrri.

{The user of the strength-belt} [= Þórr] saw {the hard-grown shoulders {of the sloping-land}} [MOUNTAIN > ROCKS] fall around him; the man could not find a useful solution for himself. {The diminisher {of the children of Þorn <giant>}} [GIANTS > = Þórr] said that his strength would grow to the neck {of the roof of the earth} [SKY] unless {the rushing blood of Mǫrn <female mythical being>} [RIVER] receded.

Mss: R(24v), Tˣ(25v), W(53) (SnE)

Readings: [1] leit: sér R, lét Tˣ, W;    herðar: herðir all    [2] sik: corrected from ‘sæ’ R    [3] gatat: so Tˣ, W, ‘gatar’ R;    neytri: ‘næyti’ W    [5] Þverrir: ‘þueriur’ Tˣ;    lét: so Tˣ, W, lætr R    [6] Þorns: ‘þoms’ R, Tˣ, Þórs W    [7] snerri‑: ‘snæri’ W

Editions: Skj: Eilífr Goðrúnarson, 2. Þórsdrápa 7: AI, 149, BI, 141, Skald I, 77, NN §§449, 450; SnE 1848-87, I, 294-5, III, 29-30, SnE 1931, 108, SnE 1998, I, 27.

Context: See Context to st. 1.

Notes: [1-2] harðvaxnar herðar hallands ‘the hard-grown shoulders of the sloping-land [MOUNTAIN > ROCKS]’: This rock-kenning follows the pattern ‘bones of the earth’, i.e. the ‘shoulders’ are shoulder bones. There are two possible interpretations of halland: (a) as a cpd consisting of the adj. hallr ‘sloping’ and land ‘land’ or (b) as a cpd consisting of hallr ‘stone’ and land ‘land’. Both interpretations yield a kenning for ‘mountain’. Since halland is the determinant in a kenning for ‘stone, rocks’, it is preferable to choose option (a) i.e. halland ‘sloping-land’. The interpretation as ‘stone-land’ would duplicate the referent ‘stone’ in the kenning (‘the hard shoulders of the stone-land [MOUNTAIN > ROCKS]’) which ought to be avoided according to the rules of kenning formation (cf. hallvǫllr st. 15/2 and Note there). — [1] leit ‘saw’: The mss give the two variants sér ‘saw’ and lét ‘let’. This edn follows Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) who emends ‘let’ (, W) to leit ‘he saw’. Although lét ‘let’ could be a possible choice (NN §449 and Reichardt 1948, 352), two arguments speak against this. First of all, lét would mean either that Þórr accepted the stones falling around him or that he caused them to fall. Neither interpretation is convincing because the next clause states that he did not know what to do in this situation. Secondly, the next helmingr uses the exact same verb (lét). Sér ‘he sees’ (R) (so Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1851, 8; Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 384) is also problematic because all other verbs in the stanza are in the pret. tense. The emendation leit results in a verb for ‘see, realise’ in the pret. form. — [1] herðar ‘the shoulders’: The emendation (so Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 384; Skj B; NN §449; Reichardt 1948, 352) is necessary because herðr ‘shoulder’, a f. -stem, has the ending ‑ar in acc. pl. Faulkes (SnE 1998, II, 307) tries to avoid emendation by combining herðir ‘the hardener, promoter’ with hallands, which he interprets as ‘whetstone-land’ (ibid., 300), a kenning for ‘sword’. Herðir hallands ‘the sword-impeller’ would then be a warrior-kenning for Þórr. However, hallr is not attested in the meaning ‘whetstone’, which is always called hein. As a consequence, Faulkes (ibid., 302) is forced to interpret harðvaxnar as a noun, ‘mightily grown, swollen’, designating the rivers. — [3, 4] gatat … rôð ‘could not find … a course of action’: I.e. he could not avoid the falling rocks. For rôð ‘solution’, see LP: ráð 4. — [3] maðr ‘the man’: Because Þdr characteristically portrays Þórr and his companion as warriors and refers to them with man-kennings (see Introduction above), maðr here probably means Þórr. This makes conjectures that depart from the mss unnecessary, such as mar ‘sea’ (Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1851, 8; Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 384-5; Skj B) and meir ‘more’ (NN §449). — [3, 4] njótr njarðgjarðar ‘the user of the strength-belt [= Þórr]’: This Þórr-kenning must be understood in relation to the prose of Skm (SnE 1998, I, 24-5), according to which Loki was prevailed upon to make Þórr enter the land of giants without his hammer or belt. Gríðr, a giantess and mother of Óðinn’s son Víðarr, lends him a belt of strength (megingjǫrð) along with iron gloves and a staff. The tmesis njarð-gjarðar is unavoidable here. Mohr (1940, 220-1) suggested the cpd njarðrôð, which he took to mean ‘useful assistance’: gatat njarðrôð gjarðar ‘he had no useful assistance from the belt’. This leaves njótr without a determinant, however. The first element of the cpd, njarð-, is not attested as a simplex, but the cpd njarðláss ‘strong, unbreakable lock’ (LP) confirms that it means ‘power, strength’. Like the name of the god Njǫrðr, njarð- ‘strength’ may derive from Gmc *nerþ- (cf. also the name of the goddess Nerthus; see Tacitus, Germania 1967, 441, 450-1), which is related to OIr. nert- ‘strength’ (AEW: Njǫrðr). — [5-8]: There are two ways to interpret these lines. (a) Þverrir barna Þorns lét megin vaxa sér til svíra salþaks, nema snerriblóð Mǫrnar þyrri ‘The diminisher of the children of Þorn <giant> [GIANTS > = Þórr] said that his strength would grow to the neck of the roof of the earth [SKY] unless the rushing blood of Mǫrn <female mythical being> [RIVER] receded’. The advantages of this interpretation, which is adopted in the present edn, are that it is largely faithful to the word order of the stanza and contains no metrical violations. The river-kenning snerriblóð Mǫrnar, however, still presents a problem (see Note below). (b) Þverrir barna Mǫrnar lét megin vaxa sér til salþaks, nema snerriblóð Þorns svíra þyrri ‘the diminisher of the children of Mǫrn <female mythical being> [GIANTS > = Þórr] said that his strength would grow to the roof of the earth [SKY] unless the rushing blood of the neck of Þorn <giant> [RIVER] receded’ (so Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 385; Skj B). The indubitable advantage of the latter interpretation is that the river-kenning snerriblóð Þorns matches the widespread kenning pattern ‘blood of the giant’. However, there are two reasons to discard it. First of all, svíra ‘of the neck’ is not a necessary part of the river-kenning and placing it in that kenning forces a three-part l. 7, isolating the prep. til. Further, the way l. 6 is split up violates the metre, which requires the sentence boundary to fall before Mǫrnar. — [5-8]: The content of this helmingr is corroborated by an eddic stanza which Snorri (SnE 1998, I, 25) quotes in his narrative of the myth. According to that stanza, Þórr addresses the river directly: Vaxattu nú, Vimurveiztu ef þú vex at þá vex mér ásmegin jafnhátt upp sem himinn ‘Do not grow now, Vimur … you know that if you grow, then the power of an Áss will rise up in me just as high as the sky’. The river-name Vimur is confirmed by a Þórr-kenning in ÚlfrU Húsdr 6/5-6, Víðgymnir vaðs Vimrar ‘the Víðgymnir <giant> of the ford of Vimur <river>’ (cf. additional examples in LP: Vimur.) — [6] Þorns ‘of Þorn <giant>’: The variant reading ‘þors’ (W) could be construed as the gen. Þórs ‘of Þórr’, but it does not make sense here. The reading ‘þōs’ (R, ) could, along with the reading ‘þoms’ in R in st. 2/4, be interpreted as the gen. Þoms of an unattested giant-name Þomr (Genzmer 1934, 70). Emendation to Þorns is preferable, however, because that giant-name is attested in sts 2/4 (ms. ) and 14/2 (see Note to st. 2/4). — [6] Mǫrnar ‘of Mǫrn <female mythical being>’: It is not necessary to emend the mss’ ‘mꜹrnar’ (R), ‘maurnar’ (, W) to Marnar (so Skj B), since a and ǫ form aðalhending in the C10th. A gen. *Marnar is not attested (cf. Heusler 1903, 36, who rejects emending Mǫrnar to Marnar ). Mǫrn as a river-name (cf. Þul Á 3/3; Hfr Lv 3/3V; Bjhít Lv 19/6V; Ólsv Hákdr 1/1) is perhaps derived either from the name of the Marne, a tributary of the Seine in France, or from rivers of this name in Telemark and Agder in Norway (Clunies Ross 1978b, 302 n. 41). It is also rather common as the name of a giantess (see Þjóð Haustl 6/4 and 12/8, LP: 2. mǫrn and Note to ll. 6-7 above). — [6-7] snerriblóð Mǫrnar ‘the rushing blood of Mǫrn <female mythical being> [RIVER]’: It is clear from the context of the stanza that snerriblóð Mǫrnar must refer to the river Þórr wades across. Because Mǫrn is attested both as a river-name and as the name of a giantess (see Note to l. 6), Clunies Ross (1978b, 302 n. 41; 1981, 373) arrives at a compromise that the present edn adopts as well. She explains the duality river/giantess by assuming that Þdr maintains ‘a delicate modulation between the attribution of anthropomorphic qualities to the river itself and clear statements that one or more giantesses had been responsible for causing the stream to become turbulent’ (Clunies Ross 1981, 373). She further attributes this to an early Scandinavian thought pattern ‘which conceived rivers as essentially female features of the landscape and thus described them in terms of human female effluvia’ (ibid.). Hence, Mǫrn could be a river as well as the blood of a mythical being. Aside from the possible explanation as menstrual blood (Kiil 1956, 118; see also st. 5/4 with an interpretation different from Kiil’s), blood can also flow within the body, however, as the kenning type ‘blood of the earth [RIVER]’ (Meissner 99-100) shows. The duality between river and the blood of a mythical being is illustrated by a stanza by Þórðr Særeksson (ÞSjár Frag 4/2, 3, 4), which alludes to stormy seas as follows: en eymylvir spýtir blóði systra ‘and the island-grinder [MAELSTROM] spits out the sisters’ blood [WATER]’. These sisters are the waves, daughters of the sea-giant Ægir, and their blood is ‘water’. Ægir’s daughters exhibit precisely the same duality between a natural phenomenon (waves) and a mythical being (see Introduction above). All Indo-European peoples had river deities, i.e. rivers they regarded as deities and worshipped as such (Maringer 1974). Ganges (Indian), Achelous (Greek), Tiberius (Roman) and Rhenos (Celtic) were among the names associated with these dual entities. The river Marne is another example; its name derives from Matrona (Pokorny 1959, 701). — [7-8] til svíra salþaks ‘to the neck of the roof of the earth [SKY]’: Salþaks lit. ‘of the hall-roof’. Here the world is conceived as a building as in Vsp 4/5-8 (NK 1): sól scein sunnan | á salar steina, | þá var grund gróin | grœnom lauki ‘the sun shone from the south on the stones of the hall (i.e. the earth), then the ground was grown with green leek’ (cf. Kiil 1956, 118; Davidson 1983, 598; see also Note to Rv Lv 34/1). On the sky conceptualised as a roof, cf. Meissner 104. Svíra cannot be connected with megin ‘strength’ (l. 8) (Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1851, 8) or Þorns (l. 6) (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 384; Skj B), because either construction would leave the dangling prep. til ‘to’ and divide l. 7 into three parts (see NN §450; Reichardt 1948, 353). Svíra is difficult to interpret; in the phrase til svíra salþaks ‘to the neck of the roof of the earth’, it can perhaps be explained in light of the fact that buildings could be thought of as living beings; cf. house-kennings whose base-words are names for animals (Meissner 430). It may also have to do with the idea of the cosmos as a living being; cf. the explanation in the Prologue to SnE (SnE 2005, 1-2) of how people came to believe in an earth goddess.

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