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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

8. Ketils saga hœngs 27 (Forað, Lausavísur, 6) — Forað [Vol. 8, 579]

[1, 3] Flaug ok Fífu; Hremsu ‘Flaug and Fífa; Hremsa’: These, the names of Gusi(r)’s three arrows, mean ‘Flight’ (Flaug), ‘Shaft’ (Hremsa) and/or are heiti for ‘arrow’; they appear in a list of arrow-heiti, Þul Ǫrvar 1/4, 6III and 2/2III; smiði Gusis ‘Gusir’s artefacts’ also occurs in the same þula at 2/4III. The noun flaug is also used as a verbal noun referring to the flight of weapons (LP: 1. flaug), whilst Fífa ‘Arrow’ is recorded as the name of a ship in Rv Lv 8/4II. The word fífa is also found as a plant-name (Eriophorum ‘wool grass’; Heizmann 1993, 19, 43), and the use of this word as a designation for ‘arrow’ is thought to derive from the ‘feathers’ on the shaft (cf. Falk 1914b, 99; AEW, ÍO: fífa). Hremsa is used in the pl. as a common noun for ‘arrows’ ÞjóðA Sex 15/3II, and in the same stanza (15/8) the arrow-kenning gjǫld Finna ‘the tribute of the Saami’ appears, suggesting a deliberate allusion to the Gusisnautar (see Note to ÞjóðA Sex 15/8II). Similar arrow-kennings are nautar Gusis ‘Gusir’s gifts’ Refr Ferðv 5/4III and gjǫld Finns ‘the tribute of the Saami (sg.)’ Hskv Útdr 10/3II. These kennings from skalds of the C11th and C12th show that there must have been a story about Gusi(r) and his arrows, but we cannot know whether Ketill played any part in it. Falk (1914b, 99) interprets hremsa as a noun meaning ‘claw’ and adduces the verb hremsa = hremma ‘clutch’ (cf. AEW: hremsa; ÍO: 1 hremmsa; Fritzner: hremma, hremsa).


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