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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 2 December 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, 417

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — ÚlfrU Húsdr 7III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Úlfr Uggason, Húsdrápa 7’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 417.

Stanzas 7-11 contain a representation of the funeral of Baldr, who was fatally struck by a sprig of mistletoe (at Loki’s instigation) during play with weapons. Stanzas 7-10 describe a procession of the gods Freyr, Óðinn, Heimdallr and the valkyries, to a pyre of wood that has been built for the cremation of Baldr’s corpse. The meaning of the last stanza, which describes a giantess pushing a ship forward and Óðinn’s warriors killing a horse, is disputed. This stanza is most often explained in light of Gylf’s (SnE 2005, 46-7) version of the story, according to which the ship would not budge so that a giantess has to be summoned to push it out into the sea. She arrives, riding a wolf, which is so powerful that Óðinn’s warriors, four berserks who are supposed to hold it, have to throw it to the ground. The present edition instead interprets the scene in st. 11 in light of st. 10, namely, as the ceremonial sacrifice of a horse during the funeral.

In sts 7-11 we find different denotations for the place of Baldr’s funeral, namely, a castle or fortress (borg st. 7/1), a woodpile (kǫstr st. 8/1) a funeral pyre (bál st. 9/4) and a ship (haf-Sleipnir st. 11/2). This apparent discrepancy is easily explained, however, if the funeral pyre was built on a ship and both the ship and the pyre were then burnt. A funeral like this is mentioned by Ibn Fadlān, a tenth-century Arab envoy who wrote a detailed description of the funeral of a Rusj (?) chieftain (see Notes to st. 10).

Ríðr á bǫrg til borgar
bǫðfróðr sonar Óðins
Freyr ok folkum stýrir
fyrst inum golli byrsta.

Bǫðfróðr Freyr ríðr fyrst til borgar {sonar Óðins} á inum golli byrsta bǫrg ok stýrir folkum.

Battle-skilled Freyr <god> rides first to the funeral pyre {of the son of Óðinn <god>} [= Baldr] on the boar bristled with gold and leads the troops.

Mss: R(22r), Tˣ(22v), W(48), U(28r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] bǫrg: so all others, ‘bꜹgr’ R    [2] sonar: sonr U    [3] Freyr: ‘fr[…]’ U    [4] fyrst: fyrstr U;    inum: so U, ok all others;    byrsta (‘bysta’): so U, byrstum all others

Editions: Skj: Ulfr Uggason, 1. Húsdrápa 7: AI, 137, BI, 129, Skald I, 72; SnE 1848-87, I, 264-5, II, 311, III, 19-20, SnE 1931, 98, SnE 1998, I, 19.

Context: In Skm (SnE) the helmingr is cited to illustrate Freyr’s attributes – here his boar.

Notes: [1, 4] ríðr … á inum golli byrsta bǫrg ‘rides … on the boar bristled with gold’: A boar called Gullinbusti (Gullinbursti in W) ‘Gold-bristle’ or Slíðrugtanni ‘Ugly-tooth’ is mentioned in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 18-19) as an attribute of the god Freyr; cf. Hyndl 5, 7 and 45 where Freyr’s sister Freyja rides on a boar. In Gylf’s (SnE 2005, 47) description of Baldr’s funeral, however, Freyr rides in a chariot pulled by a boar: Freyr ók í kerru með gelti þeim er Gullinbursti heitir eða Slíðrugtanni ‘Freyr drove in a chariot with the boar called Gullinbursti or Slíðrugtanni’. — [1] til borgar ‘to the funeral pyre’: Lit. ‘to the fortification’. As in Sigsk 65/6, borg ‘fortification’ refers to the raised funeral pyre here (Turville-Petre 1976, 68). — [2, 3] bǫðfróðr Freyr … stýrir folkum ‘battle-skilled Freyr … leads the troops’: Turville-Petre (1964, 175) connects Freyr’s warlike aspect with his being called iaðarr ása ‘protector of the gods’ (Lok 35/6, NK 103) and fólcvaldi goða ‘commander of the gods’ (Skí 3/2, NK 69). Cf. also the battle-kenning leikr Freys ‘the sport of Freyr’ in Þhorn Harkv 6/4I (see Note there). — [4] inum golli byrsta ‘bristled with gold’: Mss R, , W have ok golli byrstum, whereas U has inum golli bysta (‘bysta’ is the result of assimilation of -rst to -st, ANG §270.3). Since ok golli byrstum cannot be integrated in the syntax of the helmingr, the version of U has been adopted here.

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