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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Sturla Þórðarson, 3. Hrafnsmál, 7 [Vol. 2, 733-4]

[8] dalreyðar ‘of the valley-char’: Reyðr ‘char’ (Salvelinus alpinus), a fish of the salmon species (ModIcel. reyður, ModNorw røye). This cpd occurs in Anon (Sǫrl) l. 5VIII, which is composed in Haðarlag metre as well. See also ESk Øxfl 1III and ÞBrún Lv 4V. Reyðr is also a whale (see Note to Steinn Óldr 11/7), but it appears that the word originally denoted ‘char’, because it was borrowed into Saami (rav’do ‘char’) from Proto Scandinavian (*rauðiō) in that sense (see Nielsen 1908, 228). In LP: reyðr 2, both ‘whale’ and ‘char’ are listed as possible meanings of the word in the present kenning, while Meissner (p. 109; so also Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 96) takes it in the sense ‘char’. That interpretation is more likely, because the kenning clearly imitates such circumlocutions for ‘snake’ as attested in dalmiskunn fiska, i.e. miskunn dalfiska ‘the mercy of the valley-fish’ [SNAKE > SUMMER], Egill Lv 8/4V. In general, if reyðr is excluded from the list, fish-names are far more common than whale-names in snake-kennings (see Meissner 112-13). See also Note to Sturl Hákfl 2/1.


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