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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Gamli kanóki, 1. Harmsól, 64 [Vol. 7, 130-1]

[2] fetilkjóla ‘of strap-ships’: Although the ms. is very badly worn, all previous eds concur that the second element is kjósa, and they follow the 399a-bˣ copyist in reconstructing the first element as fetil. Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s emendation to fetilkjóla (1844, 33 n. 81), which provides an expected aðalhending, is adopted here, though not without reservation. The interpretation of this cpd presents considerable difficulties. It is clear from the remainder of the man-kenning herðendr ‘hardeners’ and hríðar ‘of the storm’ (ll. 3-4), that an expression for a weapon of some kind is required. Fetill designates a strap or belt, and is often used specifically of a sword-belt or a shield-strap (Fritzner: fetill). Sveinbjörn Egilsson (1844, 33 n. 81) resolves this, by a transfer of meaning (pars pro toto), as a heiti for ‘sword’. Finnur Jónsson (LP: fetilhjól) regards the ms. reading as meaningless, and emends the second element of the cpd to fetilhjól ‘strap-wheel’, a shield-heiti. Kock (NN §2114) dismisses this emendation as providing an excess of alliteration on the <h>, interpreting fetilkjóll ‘strap-ship [SHIELD]’ (ON kjóll a kind of large ship, cognate with OE ceol). This he derives from a lost myth of the ship of the Norse god Ullr, possibly involving Ullr’s use of a shield as a boat. There is no doubt that several instances of the use of the phrase ‘Ullr’s ship’ as shield-kennings are listed in SnE (1998, I, 43 (verse 143/3 Ullar kjóll attributed to Eyvindr skáldaspillir, Eyv Lv 9I), 67 (Skjǫldr er ok kallaðr skip Ullar ‘a shield is also called Ullr’s ship’) and 69 (verse 236/2 Ullar skip, probably from ÞjóðA Frag 3/2II). Whether a word for ‘ship’, without explicit reference to the god Ullr, was an acceptable element in shield-kennings remains an open question, though the cpd fetilkjóll has been understood here to fit into this pattern. Louis-Jensen (2003, 317-18) doubts whether a ship-word without reference to Ullr can give a shield-kenning. She argues that the cpd is more likely to be a sword-kenning, and proposes emendation to fetilnjóla, a cpd in which the second element -njóli (found only in compounds in ON) has the basic sense of ‘stem, stalk’.


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