Cite as: Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 8 (Ragnarr loðbrók, Lausavísur 4)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 639.
In these three stanzas Ragnarr recognises in the eye of the newborn Sigurðr, his fifth son by Kráka-Áslaug, the snake-like mark which she had indicated, during her pregnancy, would be a sign of the child’s descent from her father, Sigurðr Fáfnisbani (Ragn 1906-8, 135). Ragnarr, who had not believed that she was the daughter of this Sigurðr, now does so.
context: On learning that Ragnarr had planned to leave her
for, as he thought, the more nobly-born daughter of King Eysteinn of Sweden,
Kráka-Áslaug had prophesied that their fifth son
would be born with a snake-like mark in his eye, as proof that her parents were
the illustrious Sigurðr, slayer of the serpent Fáfnir, and Brynhildr. Ragnarr
speaks here of his newborn son.
notes: On the interpretation of this stanza offered here, see more fully McTurk (2012a). Here it is not so much the individual words as their syntactic interrelation that presents problems. As the present ed. understands it, the stanza is offering an explanation of the nickname ormr-í-auga ‘Snake-in-eye’ for Ragnarr’s son Sigurðr in terms of a piercing gaze inherited from his maternal grandfather Sigurðr Fáfnisbani. Modern suggestions as to the nickname’s explanation are: that it refers to the eye-condition known as nystagmus (Reichborn-Kjennerud 1923, 26); that it reflects the myth recorded in SnE (SnE 1998, I, 4-5) of Óðinn crawling in the form of a serpent through a narrow, eye-like opening in order to win the poetic mead (McTurk 1991b, 358-9; 2006, 685); that it reflects the archaeologically attested practice of placing images of snakes over the eyeholes on masks fitted to helmets of a kind found predominantly in Sweden and dating from the Vendel period (c. 550-800) (Marold 1998a); and that it points to the warlike characteristics of its bearer through its association with Óðinn specifically as a god of war, not least because the adj. ormfránn ‘glittering like a snake’ is applied to the eyes of prominent warriors in Old Norse poetry, and some of the names applied to Óðinn (Sváfnir, Ófnir, Grímr) are also poetic words for ‘snake’ (see Lassen 2003, 39-42, and the entries for those names in LP). — [3-4]: The question here is whether ll. 3-4 are to be understood as meaning: ‘will be very like his mother (i.e. Áslaug) and called his father’s (i.e. Ragnarr’s) son’ (with móður taken as dat. and föður as gen.), or ‘and will be considered (kallaðr ‘said to be’) a son very like his mother’s father’ (with móður taken as gen. and föður as dat., and ‘his mother’s father’ referring to Sigurðr Fáfnisbani). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) plumps for the former, simpler alternative (perhaps rather surprisingly), as does the present ed., along with Örnólfur Thorsson (Ragn 1985) and Larrington (2010, 62-3). Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 200-1), on the other hand, adopts the latter alternative, justifying the dependence of gen. móður in l. 3 on the noun föður, which is somewhat far removed from it in l. 4, by reference to Ragn 9 (see below), where gen. Brynhildar in l. 1 depends on the even more distant dóttur in l. 3.
texts: ‹Ragn 8›
editions: Skj Anonyme digte og vers [XIII]: E. 2. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ragnarssaga loðbrókar IV 1 (AII, 233-4; BII, 253); Skald II, 131, NN §3180; FSN 1, 258 (Ragn ch. 8), Ragn 1891, 193 (ch. 8), Ragn 1906-8, 136, 181, 200-1 (ch. 9), Ragn 1944, 56-7 (ch. 9), FSGJ 1, 245-6 (Ragn ch. 9), Ragn 1985, 121 (ch. 9), Ragn 2003, 30-1 (ch. 9), CPB II, 347.