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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. 1. Þjóðólfr ór Hvini (biog. vol. 1), 1. Haustlǫng, 5 [Vol. 3, 439]

[2, 4] hval Várar þrymseilar ‘the whale of the Vár <goddess> of the bowstring [= Skaði > OX]’: None of the proposed readings of these lines are entirely satisfactory. Most eds emend the mss’ various forms to Várar, gen. sg. of the goddess name Vár, and understand the kenning Vár þrymseilar ‘the Vár of the bowstring’ (lit. ‘the Vár of the noise-band’; cf. Þul Boga 1/3, where þrymr ‘noise’ is listed as a bow-heiti) to refer to the giantess Skaði, daughter of Þjazi, who is said in Gylf (SnE 2005, 24) to live in the mountains at Þrymheimr, Þjazi’s home, where she travels around on skis with bow and arrows and shoots game (she is referred to as ǫndurgoð ‘ski-deity’ in st. 7/4). It is not entirely clear why an ox should be termed Skaði’s whale, unless to emphasise its large size and appropriateness as quarry of a giant huntress – after all the party of gods had come upon a herd of oxen in their travels through mountains and wildernesses, according to Skm. Faulkes (SnE 1998, II, 323) suggests that whales could be seen as Njǫrðr’s oxen, alluding to the mythological circumstance that Skaði was unhappily married to Njǫrðr, god of the sea, but this seems rather far-fetched. Kock (NN §137) adopts the form Vôru rather than Várar in l. 2 and, basing himself (NN §2504) on a statement in Magnús Ólafsson’s Laufás Edda (LaufE 1979, 266) which could be understood to mean that hvalr þrymseilar alone is a kenning for an ox, he construes Vôru with an emended þægiligr ‘acceptable, agreeable’ (l. 4) to mean ‘acceptable to Vár’. Marold (1983, 158-9) construes þekkiligr Vôru ‘acceptable to Vár’ with dróttinn foldar ‘lord of the earth’ (rather than the ox-kenning) and emends l. 4 to hval seilar Þryms ‘whale of the rope of Þrymr <giant> [OX]’, i.e. Þrymr’s draught animal.


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