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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Keth Lv 8VIII (Ket 13)

Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2017, ‘Ketils saga hœngs 13 (Ketill hœngr, Lausavísur 8)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 563.

Ketill hœngrLausavísur


Ketill travels by ship with his son Grímr to Finnmark to visit Grímr’s mother Hrafnhildr and her father Brúni. One day when Grímr has been sent to fetch water he meets a troll by a river, who curses him and attempts to capture him. Ketill puts the troll to flight by speaking this stanza, which is in ljóðaháttr.

text and translation

Hvat er þat býsna,         er ek á bjargi sé
        ok gapir eldi yfir?
Búsifjar okkrar         hygg ek batna munu;
        líttu á ljóðvega.

Hvat er þat býsna, er ek sé á bjargi ok gapir yfir eldi? Ek hygg búsifjar okkrar munu batna; líttu á ljóðvega.
‘What terrible thing is that which I see on the mountain and which gapes over the fire? I think that the neighbourly relationship between us will become better; move [off] on the thoroughfares.

notes and context

The stanza is introduced by the words: Ketill fór þá til móts við tröllit ok kvað vísu ‘Then Ketill went to meet the troll and spoke a stanza’.

A stanza of this kind is often the beginning of a hostile verbal exchange, like that between Forað and Ketill (cf. Ket 16-27), but here no other stanzas from the encounter have been recorded. — [1-3]: The saga mentions that Ketill meets the troll near a river by a mountain, a typical environment for a troll or giant; cf. Hym 2, Grott 10 and Note to GrL 2/2, 4. The clause ‘and gapes over the fire’ may be an allusion to the sooty colour of the troll’s face (cf. the episode in StSt ch. 16, FSGJ 3, 136). In ch. 2 of the saga Ketill finds some giants sitting by a fire in a cave (FSGJ 2, 157). In GrL ch. 1 the hero, Ketill’s son Grímr, finds two giants tending a fire in a cave (FSGJ 2, 189; cf. GunnK ch. 6, ÍF 14, 360; further examples in Schulz 2004, 286-8). — [4-6]: The logical connection between the sentence Ek hygg búsifjar okkrar munu batna ‘I think that the neighbourly relationship between us two will become better’ and the command líttu ‘move [off]’ (cf. Note to l. 6 below) is evidently the following: ‘I think that things will become better between us: disappear!’ or ‘things will be better between us if you disappear’. In 471 the enclitic negative particle ‑at is added to the verb (and enclitic pron. ek) in ll. 4-5: Búsifjar okkrar | hykkat batna munu ‘I don’t think that our neighbourly relationship will become better’, and this is the reading that previous eds have preferred. Other mss (1006ˣ, 342ˣ) express the same thought in a slightly different manner: okkr hugða ek | ei muni batna | víst vinatta ‘I certainly thought that our friendship will not improve’.



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. 8. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ketill hœngs saga III: AII, 281, BII, 303, Skald II, 160, NN §2391, FF §45; FSN 2, 125, FSGJ 2, 167, Anderson 1990, 51, 96, 437; Edd. Min. 95.


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