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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gestumbl Heiðr 20VIII (Heiðr 67)

Hannah Burrows (ed.) 2017, ‘Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 67 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur 20)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 432.

GestumblindiHeiðreks gátur

text and translation

Hverjar eru þær leikur,         er líða lönd yfir
        at forvitni föður?
Hvítan skjöld         þær um vetr bera,
        en svartan um sumar.
Heiðrekr konungr,         hyggðu at gátu.

Hverjar eru þær leikur, er líða yfir lönd at forvitni föður? Þær bera hvítan skjöld um vetr, en svartan um sumar. Heiðrekr konungr, hyggðu at gátu.
‘Who are those playmates, who move over lands to the curiosity of their father? They bear a white shield in winter, but a black one in summer. King Heiðrekr, think about the riddle.

notes and context

Heiðrekr’s response is (Heiðr 1960, 40): Þat eru rjúpur; þær eru hvítar um vetr, en svartar um sumar ‘Those are ptarmigans; they are white during winter, but black during summer’. The ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) is seasonally camouflaged, with white plumage (except for a black tail) in winter and brown in summer. — [1-3]: This question, with slight variation in each case, is asked in each of the next three riddles. — [1-2]: Cf. Vafþr 48/4-5 (NK 54) hveriar ro þær meyiar, | er líða mar yfir ‘who are those maids, who move over the sea’. The referent here is obscure, but apparently refers to benevolent spirits, three in number (Vafþr 49/4, 1), whom Boer (1922, II, 58) suggested as counterparts of the three malevolent þursa meyiar ‘giants’ girls’ of Vsp 8/6 (NK 2), who herald the onset of Ragnarǫk. See Heiðr 69, Note to l. 1 and Heiðr 70, Note to [All]. — [2]: Hyndl 42/3 (NK 295) states that at Ragnarǫk the ocean liðr lǫnd yfir ‘will pass over lands’. — [3]: See Note to Heiðr 68/3. Who the faðir ‘father’ is in the present context is unclear; the expression may be formulaic; for discussion see Burrows (2013, 206-8). — [4-5]: These lines lack alliteration. Ms. R715ˣ’s haust ‘autumn’ restores it, but makes a less good contrast with sumar ‘summer’ in line 6. Bugge (Heiðr 1873, 250 n. 5) notes that AM 738 fol, an R-redaction ms. with no independent value, reads hávetr ‘high winter’; this is adopted in Skj B and Skald.



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], D. 5. Heiðreks gátur 18: AII, 224-5, BII, 243, Skald II, 126, NN §115; Heiðr 1672, 145, FSN 1, 477, Heiðr 1873, 250, 339-40, Heiðr 1924, 71-4, 133, FSGJ 2, 45, Heiðr 1960, 40; Edd. Min. 113-14.


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