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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÚlfrU Húsdr 2III

Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Úlfr Uggason, Húsdrápa 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 407.

Úlfr UggasonHúsdrápa


This is the sole remaining stanza from a passage about a conflict between Heimdallr and Loki. According to Snorri, Úlfr Uggason made a lengthy composition about this episode (SnE 1998, I, 19): Úlfr Uggason kvað í Húsdrápu langa stund eptir þeiri frásǫguÚlfr Uggason composed a long section about that story in Húsdrápa’; hence there may originally have been several more stanzas devoted to this event (cf. Turville-Petre 1964, 128-9). Unfortunately we learn very little about this myth from SnE. In his discussion of kennings for Heimdallr, Snorri explains (SnE 1998, I, 19): Hann er ok tilsœkir Vágaskers ok Singasteins; þá deildi hann við Loka um Brísingamen ‘He is also a seeker of Vágasker (‘Wave-skerry’) and Singasteinn; at that time he quarrelled with Loki over Brísingamen’. He also mentions (ibid.), with reference to Húsdr, that þeir váru í sela líkjum ‘they took the form of seals’. Brísingamen ‘necklace of the Brísingar’ is Freyja’s necklace (for detailed information see Pering 1941, 212-14) and it is usually associated with the Loki-kenning girðiþjófr Brísings ‘girdle-thief of Brísingr’ in Þjóð Haustl 9/6-7 (see Note there). Snorri’s remark about Heimdallr and Loki quarrelling over the necklace Brísingamen at a place called Singasteinn and, in addition to that, the fact that Brísingamen itself is the object of various mythological speculations, has caused numerous problems for the interpretation of the stanza. Although the stanza itself is not explicitly about Brísingamen, many editors have nonetheless tried to identify Singasteinn or hafnýra or both with that necklace (see Notes to ll. 2 and 6). Scholars who have followed Snorri and assumed that the stanza is about the necklace Brísingamen have interpreted the struggle between Heimdallr and Loki variously as the theft of fire (Much 1898, 54-5; Cöllen 2007, 72-6), as a quarrel over a piece of amber (de Vries 1933, 129) or an amulet (Pering 1941, 215-20), as a myth about the setting sun (Ohlmarks 1937, 132), as a myth about the seasons (Ström 1956, 145) and as a myth about Heimdallr as the ruler of the future world (Thorvaldsen 2003, 187-9). Other scholars have found Snorri’s claim about Loki and Heimdallr quarrelling over Brísingamen speculative, which is probably correct. From Haustl he would have known Loki as the thief of Brísingamen; hence he could have introduced the necklace as the reason for the conflict. Loki is notorious as the thief among the gods in the Old Norse pantheon, and Snorri (SnE 1998, I, 20) lists the Loki-kennings þjófr jǫtna, hafrs ok Brísingamens ok Iðunnar epla ‘thief of the giants, of the ram and of Brísingamen and of the apples of Iðunn’. This may indicate that a series of structurally similar narratives existed about Loki as the thief of precious goods (de Vries 1933, 135). However, there is no direct evidence for the quarrel between Heimdallr and Loki over Brísingamen assumed by Snorri.

text and translation

Ráðgegninn bregðr ragna
rein at Singasteini
frægr við firna slœgjan
Fárbauta mǫg vári.
Móðǫflugr ræðr mœðra
mǫgr hafnýra fǫgru
(kyndik áðr) ok einnar
átta (mærðar þôttum).

{Ráðgegninn, frægr vári ragna} bregðr rein við {firna slœgjan mǫg Fárbauta} at Singasteini. {Móðǫflugr mǫgr átta mœðra ok einnar} ræðr {fǫgru hafnýra}; kyndik áðr þôttum mærðar.
‘The counsel-wise, renowned defender of the gods [= Heimdallr] takes away land from the amazingly cunning son of Fárbauti <giant> [= Loki] at Singasteinn. The courage-strong son of eight mothers and one [= Heimdallr] rules the beautiful sea-kidney [STONE]; I revealed [that] earlier in the strands of the praise-poem.

notes and context

This stanza exemplifies a kenning for Loki (þrætudolgr Heimdalar ok Skaða ‘quarrel-opponent of Heimdallr and of Skaði’) in Skm (SnE), and after it Snorri notes that Heimdallr is called ‘son of nine mothers’.



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Ulfr Uggason, 1. Húsdrápa 2: AI, 136-7, BI, 128, Skald I, 71, NN §§420, 1890, 1952, 2502C, 3214; SnE 1848-87, I, 268-9, III, 20-1, SnE 1931, 100, SnE 1998, I, 20.


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