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Runic Dictionary

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Úlfr Uggason (ÚlfrU)

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

Húsdrápa (Húsdr) - 12

The skald Úlfr Uggason (ÚlfrU) lived around the year 1000 in Western Iceland. Little is known about his life. According to Ldn (S 76, H 64, ÍF 1, 111) he was married to Járngerðr, the daughter of Þórarinn Grímkelsson. Njáls saga (ch. 60, ÍF 12, 152) mentions his losing a lawsuit against Ásgrímr Elliða-Grímsson. The episode told in Njáls saga (ch. 102, ÍF 12, 261-4) about Úlfr refusing a request by Þorvaldr veili ‘the Miserable’ to use force against the missionary Þangbrandr, portrays him as a cautious man. That request and Úlfr’s dismissal of it are recounted there in two lausavísur (Þveil LvV, ÚlfrU LvV; see also Kristni saga ch. 9, ÍF 15, 2, 20-1). According to Laxdœla saga (ch. 29, ÍF 5, 79-80), he must have been on good terms with Óláfr pái ‘Peacock’ and his family, for whom he composed Húsdrápa ‘House-drápa’ (c. 980), a poem celebrating the myths depicted in images within their hall at Hjarðarholt.

my abbr

Húsdrápa — ÚlfrU HúsdrIII

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2017, ‘ Úlfr Uggason, Húsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 402. <> (accessed 22 September 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12 

Skj: Ulfr Uggason: 1. Húsdrápa, 983 (AI, 136-8, BI, 128-30); stanzas (if different): 3 | 4 | 5 | 8 | 9 | 10

SkP info: III, 415

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — ÚlfrU Húsdr 6III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Úlfr Uggason, Húsdrápa 6’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 415.

Fullǫflugr lét fellir
fjall-Gauts hnefa skjalla
— ramt mein vas þat — reyni
reyrar leggs við eyra.
Víðgymnir laust Vimrar
vaðs af frônum naðri
hlusta grunn við hrǫnnum.
Hlaut innan svá minnum.

{Fullǫflugr fellir {fjall-Gauts}} lét hnefa skjalla við eyra {reyni {leggs reyrar}}; þat vas ramt mein. {Víðgymnir vaðs Vimrar} laust {grunn hlusta} af frônum naðri við hrǫnnum. Hlaut svá innan minnum.

{The most powerful killer {of the mountain-Gautr <man of the Gautar>}} [GIANT > = Þórr] let his fist slam against the ear {of the tester {of the bone of the reed}} [STONE > GIANT]; that was a mighty injury. {The Víðgymnir <giant> of the ford of Vimur <river>} [= Þórr] struck {the ground of the ears} [HEAD] off the gleaming serpent near the waves. Thus [the hall] received [decoration] inside with memorable pictures.

Mss: R(22r), Tˣ(22r), W(47), U(27v) (SnE)

Readings: [1] ‑ǫflugr: ‘‑aufligr’ Tˣ    [3] þat: so all others, om. R    [4] reyrar: so all others, ‘reyrǫz’ R;    leggs: logs Tˣ, W    [5] ‑gymnir: ‘‑gymrir’ Tˣ, W, ‘‑genrir’ U    [6] frônum: frǫmum U    [7] grunn: grun U

Editions: Skj: Ulfr Uggason, 1. Húsdrápa 6: AI, 137, BI, 129, Skald I, 72; SnE 1848-87, I, 258-9, II, 309-10, III, 18-19, SnE 1931, 96, SnE 1998, I, 17.

Context: The stanza’s two helmingar are cited successively in Skm (SnE) illustrating Þórr-kennings. After citing the stanza Snorri explains that Þórr is here called the giant of the ford of Vimur, and that Vimur is a river that Þórr waded when he went to the dwelling of Geirrøðr.

Notes: [All]: The stanza’s second helmingr is separated from the first in mss R, and W by a brief prose link (enn kvað Úlfr ‘again Úlfr said’). In ms. U, the two helmingar are given as one stanza although the initial <V> of Viðgymnir is written out in the margin, and there is a marginal <v> for vísa. Ms. U’s treatment of the two helmingar as one stanza is adopted in Skj and Skald and in the present edn. — [All]: The stanza portrays the giant’s punishment and the killing of Miðgarðsormr. Because the preceding st. 5 deals with the giant’s fear during this fishing trip, the present stanza may have been preceded by a now lost stanza depicting the cutting of the fishing-line (Marold 2000a, 293; Marold 2000b, 289). On this motif see Introduction to sts 3-6. — [2] fjall-Gauts ‘of the mountain-Gautr <man of the Gautar> [GIANT]’: A giant-kenning based on the pattern ‘people of the mountains’, in which ‘people’ is replaced by a specific ethnicity (in this case Gautar, the inhabitants of Götaland, Sweden). Comparable kennings are collected in Marold (1990a, 109-10). Although Gautr is also a name for Óðinn, it is less likely to represent the god here, because deity-names are rarely base-words in giant-kennings (see Meissner 258). — [3] reyni ‘of the tester’: This base-word is unusual in a giant-kenning, but is paralleled by gætir ‘keeper’, vǫrðr ‘guardian’ and váttr ‘witness, knower’ (see Meissner 258). — [4] leggs reyrar ‘of the bone of the reed [STONE]’: This kenning is presumably constructed according to the pattern ‘bone of the water’ or ‘bone of the land’, but it cannot be established whether reyrar ‘of the reed’ represents ‘water’ or ‘land’ here (Meissner 89-90). That reyrr may be used in the sense ‘land’ is suggested by snake-kennings with base-word þvengr ‘strap’ where reyr- ‘reed’ and sef- ‘rush’ occur as determinants in variation with terms for ‘land’ (Mogk 1880, 326; Meissner 115). (b) Frank (1978, 111) gives a completely different explanation of leggs reyrar as ‘the shaft of the twisted cord’, deriving reyrr from the weak verb reyra ‘tie, fasten, wind around’. The entire giant-kenning would then mean ‘tester (or enemy) of the fishing-line’ and would be well suited to the context because it would relate to the giant’s severing the line from which Miðgarðsormr was hanging. However, neither leggr nor reyrr is attested in the meanings assumed by Frank. — [5-8]: The second helmingr describes the killing of Miðgarðsormr as Þórr decapitates it (laust grunn hlusta af frônum naðri ‘struck the ground of the ears [HEAD] off the gleaming serpent’. Úlfr’s version of this episode differs from Gylf (SnE 2005, 45), where Hár states that in his opinion Miðgarðsormr is alive: En ek hygg hitt vera þér satt at segja at Miðgarðsormr lifir enn ok liggr í umsjá ‘And I believe that it is true to tell you that Miðgarðsormr is still alive and is lying in the sea surrounding the earth.’ He admits, however, that there are others who believe that Þórr struck the head off the serpent. Other surviving attestations of the myth (Bragi Þórr, Hym) do not explicitly say that the monster was killed. Only Ggnæv Þórr concurs with Húsdr. — [5, 6] Víðgymnir vaðs Vimrar ‘the Víðgymnir <giant> of the ford of Vimur <river> [= Þórr]’: This kenning alludes to an episode described in Eil Þdr sts 5-8 and in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 24-5). On his way to meet the giant Geirrøðr, Þórr must wade across a mighty river. Þdr 8 does not call it the Vimur, rather, the name comes from a stanza of an otherwise unknown eddic poem cited in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 25). The prose narrative and the stanza might also explain why the poet uses a giant’s name as the base-word in this Þórr-kenning. The river swells up until it reaches Þórr’s shoulders, at which point he addresses the river (loc. cit.): Vaxattu nú, Vimur, | … veiztu 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 in me just as high as the sky’. At the same time the kenning, in which Þórr appears as the ‘giant’ of the river, corresponds to the kenning pattern ‘hostile creature/enemy of sth./sby’. There is no satisfactory explanation for the name Víðgymnir, but the prose context of the Húsdr stanza indicates it is a giant’s name (SnE 1998, I, 17): Hér er hann kallaðr jǫtunn Vimrar vaðs ‘Here he is called the giant of the ford of the Vimur’. Sveinbjörn Egilsson (LP (1860): Viðgymnir) explains the word as the appellative transgressor ‘one who crosses’; cf. also SnE 1848-87, I, 258; LP: Víðgymnir. — [8] hlaut svá innan minnum ‘thus [the hall] received [decoration] inside with memorable pictures’: This clause, which reappears in st. 10/4, is the poem’s refrain (stef). It refers to the images that inspired the poem, but as it stands, it is problematic for several reasons. The subject is missing, and minnum (dat. pl.) cannot be the object of hlaut, because hljóta is construed with the acc. (see the examples in Fritzner: hljóta). Faulkes (SnE 1998, II, 313) translates the phrase as ‘come to be decorated (with)’, and notes that it is ‘probably only half the refrain, which would then have been a klofastef ‘split refrain’; the rest of the sentence, including the object, would have appeared in the last line of another (lost) stanza’. If so, the sentence can be completed as follows: ‘Thus [the hall] received [decoration] inside with memorable pictures’. Faulkes’ suggestion is plausible, and it is supported by a similar construction in Edáð BanddrI, where the finite verb occurs in position 1 of the first line but the corresponding subject is suspended until the next stef-line (cf. Note to Edáð Banddr 9/1, 2I and NN §1853A).

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