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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 51. Þórarinn loftunga, 3. Glælognskviða, 9 [Vol. 1, 875]

[10] reginnagla ‘the sacred nail’: Regin n. pl. means ‘ruling, divine powers’, especially the heathen gods, and hence regin- can function as the first element in a cpd with the sense ‘sacred, divine, god-related, mighty’; the exact connotations here are unclear. The second element here, ‑nagla, could be either acc. pl. of the strong m. noun nagl ‘nail’ or acc./dat. sg. or acc. pl. of the weak m. noun nagli, also ‘nail’ (the prep. fyr ‘before’ can take either acc. or dat., depending on meaning). There are basically three alternatives as to the cpd’s meaning: (a) If reginnagla is sg. and figuratively refers to a person, then clearly the cpd is most likely to refer to the saint: Óláfr himself (so NN §2017; Magerøy 1948, 32-6; ÍF 27). Although the determinant máls bóka ‘of the language of books [LATIN]’ could point to the clergy, the reference to petitioning Óláfr in st. 9/1 points to him. (b) If reginnagla is pl., figuratively indicating people, it most probably refers to priests or clerics; so Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B). (c) If reginnagla is pl., but through pars pro toto indicates a built structure, it could indicate the church altar or Óláfr’s shrine. The term reginnaglar occurs also in Eyrbyggja saga (ÍF 4, 8), where it refers to nails hammered into high-seat pillars in a temple: þar fyrir innan stóðu ǫndvegissúlurnar, ok váru þar í naglar; þeir hétu reginnaglar ‘inside there stood the high-seat pillars, and there were nails in them; they were called holy nails’.


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