Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 28. Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, 2. Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar, 14 [Vol. 1, 420]

[2] læsíks ‘of the poison-whitefish [SNAKE = Ormr inn langi]’: The mention of a þíðan þrǫm ‘pliant rail’ suggests that læsíks refers to a ship, probably via a pun on the name of Ormr inn langi ‘the Long Serpent’, Óláfr’s ship (cf. Naðr in st. 10/1 and Note and, via a similar kenning to the present one, fiskr lyngs ‘fish of the heather [SNAKE]’ in Sigv ErfÓl 3/1; NN §477; Ohlmarks 1958, 451). The second element, síks, denotes a whitefish of the Salmonidae family, Coregonus lavaretus. The first element can be interpreted in various ways to produce a snake-kenning. (a) The usual meanings of are ‘malice, deceit, harm, poison’ (LP: 1, 2), and ‘poison-fish’ is plausible as a snake-kenning: cf. hrøkkviáll drekku Vǫlsunga ‘coiling eel of the drink of the Vǫlsungs [POISON > Miðgarðsormr]’ Bragi Þórr 5/3,4III, or ǫlunn eitrs ‘mackerel of poison [SNAKE]’ GunnHám Lv 6/5, 7V (Nj 10). (b) There is some evidence for meaning ‘land’, which could produce a standard snake-kenning of the type ‘fish of the land’ (cf. Meissner 112-14). Hár Lv 2/2, 3 has eikr læbaugs, which could mean ‘oak of the land-ring [SEA > SHIP]’ (see LP: læbaugr, and Note to st. 10/4 above on baugr; Simek 1982, 211 has an alternative explanation), and GunnlI Lv 7/5V (Gunnl 11) has ‘lesik’ or ‘lausik’, which could give læsík(r) ‘land-whitefish [SNAKE]’. According to Gunnlaugs saga (ÍF 3, 84) Gunnlaugr and Hallfreðr were shipmates and friends, and GunnlI Lv 7 was addressed to Hallfreðr. Textual variation of and láð ‘land’ occurs in Þhorn Gldr 8/8. (c) Skj B (following Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, II, 221) emends Hallfreðr’s kenning læsíks to láðsíks ‘land-whitefish’, and Gunnlaugr’s kenning to lautsíkr ‘dale-whitefish’, but emendation seems unnecessary. As to the syntactic role of the cpd, Kock (NN §477) takes læsíks with gram, i.e. ‘Ormr’s lord’, giving a simpler word order.

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