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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Leiðarvísan, 12 [Vol. 7, 151-2]

[1-2] dýnu otrs ‘of the feather-bed of the otter [GOLD]’: Skj B emends to launa otrs ‘of the reward of the otter’, presumably on the grounds that it is more in keeping with the myth of the slaying of Otr, son of Hreiðmarr and brother of Fáfnir and Reginn, which is recounted in Reg (NK 173-9), and in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 45-6). Gold-kennings alluding to this myth usually rely on the idea of ransom or payment, in that the mound of gold served as the blood-price of the slain Otr (see LP: otr). There are, however, several gold-kennings with the base-word dýna ‘pillow, feather-bed’ (LP: dýna), usually taken as a reference to the myth of Otr’s brother, Fáfnir, who took the ransom gold after slaying Hreiðmarr and, as Snorri explains: fór upp á Gnitaheiði ok gerði sér þar ból ok brásk í orms líki ok lagðisk á gullit ‘went up on to Gnita-heath and made himself a lair there and turned into a serpent and lay down on the gold’ (SnE 1998, I, 46; Faulkes 1987, 101) until his death at the hands of Sigurðr. The poet of Leið appears to have generalised this kenning-type from Fáfnir to Otr, though somewhat inappropriately in terms of the legend, for the carcass of Otr is not said to have been lying on the gold. Instead, according to both Reg (NK, 174, prose interpolation) and Skm (SnE 1998, I, 45), the pelt is first stuffed with gold, then covered by it. Although, as Kock (NN §1261) implies, it is possible that the stuffed carcass may have rested on a layer of gold before being covered, this hardly justifies the use of dýna. Otrs alliterates correctly with both án and engir (l. 1) and rhymes with hlotna (l. 2), and there is no reason to emend it on metrical grounds. In LP: Dýna, Finnur Jónsson suggested that dýnu shold be taken as gen. of Dýna, the ON name for the river Dvina, and that Dýnu otrs ‘of the otter of the Dvina’ is a ship-kenning. This is not paralleled elsewhere in the corpus, and is unconvincing.


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