Cite as: Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 6 (Kráka/Áslaug Sigurðardóttir, Lausavísur 4)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 635.
|Þrjár nætr skulum þessar,
ok þó saman, byggja
†hressvar† nætr í höllu,
áðr vit heilug goð blótim.
|Þó munu mein á mínum |
megi til löng of verða;
heldr ertu bráðr at byrja
þann, er bein hefir engi.
Skulum byggja þessar þrjár nætr, †hressvar† nætr, í höllu, ok þó saman, áðr vit blótim heilug goð. Þó munu mein á megi mínum of verða til löng; ertu heldr bráðr at byrja þann, er hefir engi bein.
Let us live for these three nights, … nights, in the hall, and moreover together, before the two of us sacrifice to the holy gods. Yet the harmful consequences for my son will be too long-lasting; you are rather hasty in begetting the one who has no bones.
Mss: 1824b(59r), 147(101v) (Ragn)
Readings:  þessar: ‘þes(sar)’(?) 147  ok: ‘(og)’(?) 147  †hressvar† nætr (‘hressuar nętr’): ‘huessar […]tur’ 147  áðr vit heilug goð blótim: ‘(ad)ur […] heilog (god) blotim’(?) 147  Þó: ‘þ(o)’(?) so (?) 147, þá 1824b; munu: ‘m(unu)’(?) 147; á mínum: ‘aminv’ 1824b, ‘(a) m[…]u’(?) 147  megi til löng of verða: ‘meg[…] til laung um (verda)’(?) 147  heldr ertu bráðr at byrja: ‘(h[…]lld) […] bradur at byr[…]’(?) 147  þann er bein hefir engi: ‘(þ)[…] (be[…]n) h[…]fir […]’(?) 147
Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 2. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ragnarssaga loðbrókar II 6: AII, 233, BII, 253, Skald II, 131, NN §1451; FSN 1, 250 (Ragn ch. 5), Ragn 1891, 187 (ch. 5), Ragn 1906-8, 129, 179, 198-9 (ch. 6), Ragn 1944, 40, 42-3 (ch. 6), FSGJ 1, 238 (Ragn ch. 6), Ragn 1985, 115 (ch. 6), Ragn 2003, 24 (ch. 6), CPB II, 347.
Context: Now married to Ragnarr, Kráka-Áslaug warns him on their bridal night that their failure to
postpone intercourse for three nights will lead to their son being born without bones. In the event, Ragnarr
disregards the warning, and consummates the marriage forthwith.
Notes: [All]: According to de Vries (1928a, 277, 279, 285), the motif of temporary abstention from intercourse immediately after marriage derives from a body of tradition variously reflected in what is told of the Frankish king Childeric I in Book III, ch. 12, of the anonymous C7th compilation known as the Chronicle of Fredegarius (Krusch 1888b, 1-9, 97), in Saxo’s account of King Gormr III of Denmark (Saxo 2015, I, ix. 11. 2-4, pp. 672-7), and in what is told of Sigurðr and Brynhildr in Vǫls ch. 29 (Olsen 1906-8, 68) and in Sigsk 4/1-4. De Vries (ARG I, 187) further maintains that the idea of three nights of continence just after marriage (known as the ‘nights of Tobias’ in the Middle Ages because of the reference to it in the apocryphal book of Tobias, Tobit VI. 18) has its origin in the fear in which, among some peoples, carnal relations between the sexes are held. Cf. also KormǪ Lv 41/1-4V (Korm 60), where the prose context (ÍF 8, 272-3) and the preceding stanza (KormǪ Lv 40/4V (Korm 59)) indicate that the lovers were sleeping for five nights tveim megin bríkar ‘on either side of a screen’. — [1-4]: The interpretation of these lines has been controversial, largely on account of eds’ disputed readings of the first two words of l. 3. The difficulty of interpretation thus arising is in spite of the fact that there is considerable similarity of wording, and apparently of meaning, between these lines and KormǪ Lv 41/1-4V(Korm 60), in which Kormákr Ǫgmundarson speaks of having slept with Steingerðr Þorkelsdóttir for five nights. (a) Valdimar Ásmundarson (Ragn 1891) removes vit ‘we two’ from l. 4 and substitutes it for nætr ‘nights’ in l. 1; emends þessar ‘these’ to þreyja ‘pine’ in l. 1; and replaces hressvar in l. 3 with hösvar ‘dark’, thus giving the meaning: ‘we two are to spend three dark nights pining, and yet living together, in the hall, before we sacrifice to the holy gods’. Valdimar’s italics show that hösvar was one of the readings supplied to him by Jón Þorkelsson (see the Introduction), and it is not certain whether this reading was Jón’s own idea or whether he derived it from 147, in which both Finnur Jónsson (Skj AII, 233) and Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 179, 199) thought they could read hǫsvar. It appears in any case from the most recent scrutiny of 147 that this ms. cannot supply the form hösvar (it in fact has ‘huessar’, see the Readings, above). (b) Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 198-9), acknowledging help from Finnur Jónsson and producing the same text as in Skj B, also removes vit from l. 4 and substitutes it for nætr in l. 1. He retains the reading þessar in l. 1, and in l. 3 emends 1824b’s hressvar to hvárt sér ‘each (of us) apart’, thus producing the meaning: ‘let us two live for these three nights in the hall, the two of us apart, and yet together, before we sacrifice …’. Olsen and Skj B are followed here by Eskeland (Ragn 1944), Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ), and Ebel (Ragn 2003). (c) Kock (Skald) removes nætr from l. 1 and vit from l. 4, placing vit in l. 1 after rather than before skulum. In place of hressvar in l. 3 he, too, adopts the (mis)reading hösvar (cf. (a), above). He understands ok þó in l. 2 not as adversative (‘and yet’) but rather as corroborative (‘and moreover’) (NN §§647, 1451). His understanding of ll. 1-3 is thus: ‘We two are to live for these three dark nights in the hall, and, what is more, together …’. (d) Örnólfur Thorsson (Ragn 1985) on the other hand, while also adopting the form hösvar (cf. (a), above), understands it as ‘dull, colourless’, and takes þó in l. 2 as adversative (i.e. ‘we shall spend three dull nights in the hall … and yet live/sleep together’). (e) The present ed. follows Kock in preferring the corroborative meaning of ok þó ‘and moreover’ to the adversative ‘and yet’ in l. 2. While the obscurity of l. 3 makes it difficult to establish a clear overall meaning for the first half-stanza, it does seem that the stanza as a whole is conveying in its two halves the idea of a positive-negative opposition between what is proposed in the first half and its result as envisaged in the second, and that the adversative understanding of þó ‘nevertheless’, consequently, is more appropriate at l. 5 than at l. 2. See further Notes to ll. 3 and 5-6 below. —  †hressvar† nætr ‘… nights’: The form hressvar cannot be the f. acc. pl. of the adj. hress ‘cheerful, in high spirits’, because hress is not a wa-stem adj. Another difficulty with any form of the adj. hress qualifying nætr ‘nights’ is that hress seems to be used in Old Norse only of animate beings (cf. ONP: hress). —  heilug goð ‘the holy gods’: It is not clear precisely which deities are in question here. Cf. Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 199) and de Vries (ARG I, 187). — [5-6]: (a) Valdimar Ásmundarson (Ragn 1891), evidently assuming that what is envisaged in ll. 1-3 is that the couple (albeit living together) will ‘pine’ for one another but not have intercourse (see above), emends þá munu to ella (his italics) ‘otherwise’ and mínu (formally n. dat. sg.) to mínum m. dat. sg. ‘for my (son)’, thus removing the auxiliary munu and taking verða as 3rd pers. pl. pres. rather than inf., and producing the meaning: ‘Otherwise the harmful consequences for my son … will become …’. (b) CPB and all subsequent eds make the emendation to mínum of mínu, the latter being formally n. dat. sg. but perhaps an elided form of m. dat. sg. (c) Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 199), and Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), clearly also assuming that ll. 1-3 express an intention to refrain from intercourse, give the auxiliary munu the negative ending ‑t: þá munut mein …‘then the harmful consequences will not be …’; here they are followed by Ragn 1944, FSGJ, Ragn 1985 and Ragn 2003. (d) Kock (NN §1451), on the other hand, adopts here (it would seem from 147 as tentatively read by Olsen, Ragn 1906-8, 179 n.) þó ‘(and) yet’ in place of 1824b’s þá ‘then’ in l. 5, taking this instance of þó as adversative (as opposed to the one in l. 2, see his understanding of ll. 1-3, above). Clearly assuming that intercourse is envisaged in ll. 1-3, Kock retains the positive reading munu and produces the meaning: ‘The harmful consequences … will nevertheless be …’. Kock’s understanding of these two lines is followed here, for the reasons given above, and also on the basis of a cautious assumption that 147 has þó in l. 5 as opposed to 1824b’s þá, see the Readings, above. — [7-8]: These lines present Ragnarr’s over-hasty consummation of his marriage as the cause of their son Ívarr being born without bones, and hence of his nickname beinlauss ‘Boneless’. Modern theories as to the origin of the nickname – that it reflects a misunderstanding of Lat. exosus ‘cruel’ as exos ‘boneless’; that it refers to brittle-bone disease; that it is a noa-name for the wind, suggesting perhaps that Ívarr was a skilful navigator; and that it implies sexual impotence or its opposite – are summarised in McTurk (2006, 684-5).