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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

8. Ketils saga hœngs 33 (Ketill hœngr, Lausavísur, 19) — Ketill [Vol. 8, 585]

[1-3] ek gørða aldrigi blóta Óðin; þó hefik lifat lengi ‘I have never sacrificed to Óðinn; yet I have lived a long time’: Here Ketill characterises himself as one of those pagans who do not worship the gods and who – as is the case in this saga – are contrasted with evil men who are zealous in offering sacrifices (cf. Lönnroth 1969, 16-17). A parallel is the contrast between Hrólfr kraki ‘Pole-ladder’, who ‘never worshipped idols’ and who has a particular aversion to Óðinn, and his enemy, King Aðils of Uppsala, who is a zealous worshipper of heathen deities (Hrólf chs 42 and 48, FSGJ 1, 84, 95); a further example of this contrast is Ǫrvar-Oddr and Ingjaldr (Ǫrv ch. 1, FSGJ 2, 205; cf. Weber 1981, 477-80, 483-8). Ketill’s statement that he has lived a long time, although he has never worshipped Óðinn, implies that he does not need Óðinn’s protection. The following statement that Framarr will fall in battle before he does implies that Óðinn’s protection is ineffectual. In Ket 41 the defeated Framarr admits that Óðinn is untrustworthy. Yng ch. 25 describes at length how King Aunn obtains a promise from Óðinn that he will live a long time by successively sacrificing his ten sons to Óðinn, one son every tenth year. The description begins with a statement which includes the phrase blét til langlífis sér ‘sacrificed in order to obtain a long life’ (ÍF 26, 48). The result is that Aunn lives an inordinately long time, although he is repeatedly defeated in battle. In the case of Ketill and in view of the preceding stanza, in which Bǫðvarr states that Óðinn gave Framarr victory, it seems likely that Ketill’s statement that he has never sacrificed to Óðinn implies that he never sacrificed to the god in order to obtain victory in battle.


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