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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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HSt Frag 4III l. 4

Hjaðninga — of the Hjaðningar

lemma:

Hjaðningr (noun m.; °; -ar): one of the Hjaðningar

readings:

notes:

[2, 4] tróður grjóts Hjaðninga ‘poles of the stones of the Hjaðningar <Heðinn and his followers> [CORPSES > VALKYRIES]’: There have been various attempts to interpret this puzzling kenning. The problem is the phrase grjóts Hjaðninga ‘of the stones of the Hjaðningar’ (grjót is a collective noun ‘stones’). The Hjaðningar are the warriors of Heðinn, who fights a never-ending battle known as the Hjaðningavíg ‘battle of the Hjaðningar’ against Hǫgni, the father of Heðinn’s beloved (Hildr). Skm (SnE 1998, I, 72) describes how the corpses of the warriors, as well as their weapons, all turn to stone, only to come to life again in the morning and continue fighting. Three explanations for this kenning have been suggested, none of which is fully satisfactory. (a) The determinant kenning ‘stones of the Hjaðningar’ is a kenning for ‘weapons’ (SnE 1848-87, III, 73; NN §3240). Weapons, however, are not attested as determinants in traditional woman-kennings (see Meissner 413-18; cf. also the criticism in LP: grjót). (b) Kock (NN §3240) attempts to interpret the kenning as an expression for ‘valkyries’ (‘poles of weapons’). From the narrative of the slain and their weapons turning to stone, one can derive not only the meaning ‘weapon’ but also ‘the slain’ or ‘corpses’, i.e. valr. The kenning tróður grjóts Hjaðninga ‘poles of the stones of the Hjaðningar’ would then be a term for ‘valkyries’ (adopted in this edn), despite the fact that ‘weapons’ and ‘battle’ are more typical determinants of valkyrie-kennings. The problem with this interpretation (and also with the interpretation given under (a) above) is that such base-words as tróða ‘pole’, which denote a pole or a staff or similar, are not attested elsewhere in kennings for valkyries (cf. Meissner 396-8). (c) The kenning could refer to a valuable decoration or ornament (LP: Hjaðningar). Such an interpretation is supported by the legendary motif that prompted the battle between Heðinn and Hǫgni: Hildr offers, but then withdraws, a conciliatory gift, a precious ring, to her father (see SnE 1998, I, 72). According to this interpretation, then, the kenning would be a regular woman-kenning with an ornament as the determinant. That legend, however, specifically mentions a ring and not a decorative stone. Assuming that the kenning is correctly interpreted as ‘valkyrie’ (cf. Marold 1990b, 201 Anm. 35), the sense of the stanza is ‘you struggle against your luck, just like other valkyries’. This might allude to the Helgi legends, where a valkyrie (Sigrún, Sváva) acts against her lover and plots his death; Hildr also brings about a struggle between her father and her lover Heðinn. An allusion to a general hostility on the part of the valkyries toward men could be conceivable as well (cf. Þhorn Hkv 2/2-3I verar né óru þekkir inni framsóttu feimu ‘men were not pleasing to the aggressive maid’).

kennings:

grammar:

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