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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

8. Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 68 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur, 21) — Gestumblindi [Vol. 8, 433]

[All]: Heiðrekr’s response is (Heiðr 1960, 40): Þat eru bylgjur, er svá heita ‘Those are the billows, that are so called’. The H redaction has the variant (Heiðr 1924, 72): þat eru bylgjur, er heita Ægis meyjar ‘Those are the billows, which are called Ægir’s girls’. This is the first of four riddles with the solution ‘waves’, which draw upon the mythological tradition that the waves can be personified as supernatural women, the nine daughters of the sea-being Ægir (cf. the common noun ægir ‘ocean’) and his wife Rán. The wave-maidens are named in Skm as Himinglæva ‘heaven-bright one’, Dúfa ‘dip’, Blóðughadda ‘bloody-haired one’, Hefring ‘lifting one’, Uðr ‘wave’, Hrǫnn ‘wave’, Bylgja ‘billow’, Bára ‘bore, tidal wave’, Kólga ‘cold one’ (SnE 1998, I, 36); later in Skm Snorri lists the names again, but Bára is replaced by Drǫfn ‘turbid one’ (SnE 1998, I, 95). Cf. Þul Sjóvar 4III and Note [All], from which the translations here are taken; see also Þul Waves 1III. This tradition is reflected in both skaldic and eddic poetry; see e.g. Snæbj Lv 1III, ESk Frag 17III, SnSt Ht 22III, HHund I 28-9. The wave-maidens (like their mother, Rán) are always portrayed as hostile figures.


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