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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hǫrðr Lv 1VIII (HjǪ 22)

Richard L. Harris (ed.) 2017, ‘Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis 22 (Hǫrðr/Hringr, Lausavísur 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 515.



The eighteen stanzas of this section of HjǪ occur in conversations at the court of Hundingi, the sorcerer king, whose kindly daughter, Princess Hervǫr, warns the heroes in advance of her father’s dangerous proclivities. Challenged by the king’s evil, jealous counsellor, Hástigi, they take his favoured place on the bench. They fulfill a forsending ‘dangerous mission’ imposed on them by Hundingi for winter quarters in which they fight with and kill a sacred bull, a devourer of human flesh, whose escape from its enclosure could cause the destruction of the world. Ensuing scenes follow the stereotypical heroic patterns of protagonists at a hostile and unwholesome court, leading to the death of the king and the resultant freeing of his daughter.

text and translation

Hver ertu,         þrifnust fljóða,
hýrlunduð með kinn         ok fagra lokka?
Ekkert vífa         ek leit hæverskligra
        fyr jörð ofan.

Hver ertu þrifnust fljóða, hýrlunduð með kinn ok fagra lokka? Ek leit ekkert hæverskligra vífa fyr ofan jörð.
‘Who are you, most prosperous of women, of cheerful disposition with cheek and fair locks? I have seen no woman more courteous upon the earth.

notes and context

King Hringr, who has been transformed by enchantment into Hǫrðr the swineherd, asks a beautiful lady sitting by a tower to tell them her name.

The ms. transmission of this stanza is defective on several grounds, metrical, alliterative and semantic, and most eds have made up for it by (a) resort to the later additions to papp6ˣ and (b) by fairly drastic emendation of their own. Thus most eds have deleted þrifnust fljóða ‘most prosperous of women’ (l. 2), though it occurs in all mss, and inserted papp6ˣ’s additions where the stanza is most aberrant. At issue here is, firstly, the status of the additions to papp6ˣ, discussed in the Introduction above, and the editorial practice of relying on major unwitnessed emendation, towards both of which this edn takes a reasonably conservative attitude. Skj B effectively rewrites the stanza to Finnur Jónsson’s own design, while NN §2617 offers meditations upon alternative changes to the text without coming to any conclusion and NN §3296C presents an improved but radically emended form of the stanza, which is reproduced in Skald. — [2-3]: These lines are unmetrical and do not alliterate, nor is the sense of með kinn ‘with cheek’ (l. 3) very satisfactory. Emendations here from HjǪ 1720 onwards have usually involved the deletion and/or rearrangement of some words of the mss and the incorporation of papp6ˣ’s added line ok ljósgult frón lokka ‘and the shining golden land of locks [HEAD]’ in one form or another.



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: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 16. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Hjálmþérs saga ok Ǫlvis IV 1: AII, 337, BII, 358, Skald II, 193, NN §§2617, 3296C; HjǪ 1720, 45-6, FSN 3, 489, FSGJ 4, 214, HjǪ 1970, 38, 93, 154.


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