Cite as: Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2017, ‘Ketils saga hœngs 13 (Ketill hœngr, Lausavísur 8)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 563.
Ketill travels by ship with his son Grímr to
Finnmark to visit Grímr’s mother Hrafnhildr and her father Brúni. One day when
Grímr has been sent to fetch water he meets a troll by a river, who curses him
and attempts to capture him. Ketill puts the troll to flight by speaking this
stanza, which is in ljóðaháttr.
|Hvat er þat býsna, er ek á bjargi sé
ok gapir eldi yfir?
| hygg ek batna munu; |
líttu á ljóðvega.
Hvat er þat býsna, er ek sé á bjargi ok gapir yfir eldi? Ek hygg búsifjar okkrar munu batna; líttu á ljóðvega.
What terrible thing is that which I see on the mountain and which gapes over the fire? I think that the neighbourly relationship between us will become better; move [off] on the thoroughfares.
Mss: 343a(56r), 471(53r) (Ket)
Readings:  er ek á bjargi sé: so 471, er við berg stendr 343a  gapir: gnapir 471  hygg: hykkat 471  ljóð‑: loð‑ 471
Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 8. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ketill hœngs saga III: AII, 281, BII, 303, Skald II, 160, NN §2391, FF §45; FSN 2, 125, FSGJ 2, 167, Anderson 1990, 51, 96, 437; Edd. Min. 95.
Context: The stanza is introduced by the words: Ketill fór þá til móts
við tröllit ok kvað vísu
‘Then Ketill went to meet the troll and spoke a stanza’.
Notes: [All]: A stanza of this kind is often the beginning of a hostile verbal exchange, like that between Forað and Ketill (cf. Ket 16-27), but here no other stanzas from the encounter have been recorded. — [1-3]: The saga mentions that Ketill meets the troll near a river by a mountain, a typical environment for a troll or giant; cf. Hym 2, Grott 10 and Note to GrL 2/2, 4. The clause ‘and gapes over the fire’ may be an allusion to the sooty colour of the troll’s face (cf. the episode in StSt ch. 16, FSGJ 3, 136). In ch. 2 of the saga Ketill finds some giants sitting by a fire in a cave (FSGJ 2, 157). In GrL ch. 1 the hero, Ketill’s son Grímr, finds two giants tending a fire in a cave (FSGJ 2, 189; cf. GunnK ch. 6, ÍF 14, 360; further examples in Schulz 2004, 286-8). —  er ek sé á bjargi ‘which I see on the mountain’: The reading of 471 has been adopted
here over that of 343a because the latter is hypometrical. — [4-6]: The logical connection between the sentence Ek hygg búsifjar okkrar munu batna ‘I think that the neighbourly relationship between us two will become better’ and the command líttu ‘move [off]’ (cf. Note to l. 6 below) is evidently the following: ‘I think that things will become better between us: disappear!’ or ‘things will be better between us if you disappear’. In 471 the enclitic negative particle ‑at is added to the verb (and enclitic pron. ek) in ll. 4-5: Búsifjar okkrar | hykkat batna munu ‘I don’t think that our neighbourly relationship will become better’, and this is the reading that previous eds have preferred. Other mss (1006ˣ, 342ˣ) express the same thought in a slightly different manner: okkr hugða ek | ei muni batna | víst vinatta ‘I certainly thought that our friendship will not improve’. —  búsifjar ‘neighbourly relationship’: This word literally means ‘(good) relationships (sifjar) within a household (bú)’ and is otherwise only attested in prose texts (ONP: búsif, pl. búsifjar). Its use here is presumably ironic. —  líttu á ljóðvega ‘move [off] on the thoroughfares’: The cpd ljóðvegr is regarded as an error by Finnur Jónsson (LP: ljósvegr) and in Edd. Min. 95 n. These eds emend ljóðvega to ljósvega ‘ways of light’, a kenning for the heavens, or suggest emendation to ljósfara ‘traveller of light’, a sun-kenning. The resulting command líttu á ljósvega/ljósfara ‘look at the heavens/the sun’ would be parallel to HHj 29-30 or Alv 35, where the rising sun turns the giantess Hrímgerðr to stone (HHj, perhaps also the dwarf Alvíss in Alv) or at least puts the dwarf Alvíss to flight. In Ket the implication would be that the troll must flee before the sun rises. Rafn interprets ljóðvega not as a cpd noun but rather as a way of writing ljóð vega ‘[my] magic songs take effect’ (lit. ‘hit home’). Kock (FF §45) correctly points out that emendation is unnecessary, since the cpd ljóðvegr, although only attested here, has a close parallel in the Old Norse cpd þjóðvegr ‘highway’. He and the other previous eds all interpret the form líttu as the imp. sg. of líta ‘look’ with enclitic pron. þú (-tu); Kock sees líttu á lióðvega ‘look to the highways’ as a way of saying ‘see to it that you move on’. But it is possible that líttu is in fact the imp. sg. of the verb líða ‘move’ with enclitic þú and assimilation of [ð] to [t] (cf. the form sentu = send þú in Guðr III 6) and that is the interpretation adopted here.