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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. 1. Þjóðólfr ór Hvini (biog. vol. 1), 1. Haustlǫng, 20 [Vol. 3, 461]

[3-4] it rauða hœlibǫl ryðs ‘the red boasting destruction of rust [WHETSTONE]’: That is, the red thing that can boast or glory in the fact that it destroys rust. Whetstones were used for sharpening tools and weapons, and were often worn on a man’s belt. Some, like the whetstone from Sutton Hoo in England, probably had a ceremonial function and served as symbols of royal authority (cf. Mitchell 1985). Whetstones were made from a variety of stones, including quartz, sandstone and slate, and could be of various colours. Some whetstones of dark reddish-grey banded with green are known from excavations at Hedeby and Birka (Steuer 2008), hence Hrungnir’s whetstone may have been called red because it was made from reddish stone or because it was spattered with Þórr’s blood (cf. st. 19/7-8).


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