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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gestumbl Heiðr 22VIII (Heiðr 69)

Hannah Burrows (ed.) 2017, ‘Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 69 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur 22)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 435.

GestumblindiHeiðreks gátur

text and translation

Hverjar eru þær meyjar,         er ganga margar saman
        at forvitni föður?
Mörgum mönnum         hafa þær at meini orðit;
        við þat munu þær sinn aldr ala.
Heiðrekr konungr,         hyggðu at gátu.

Hverjar eru þær meyjar, er ganga margar saman at forvitni föður? Þær hafa orðit mörgum mönnum at meini; þær munu ala aldr sinn við þat. Heiðrekr konungr, hyggðu at gátu.
‘Who are those girls, who go many together to the curiosity of their father? They have caused harm to many men; with that they must spend their lives. King Heiðrekr, think about the riddle.

notes and context

Heiðrekr’s response is (Heiðr 1960, 40): Þat eru Hlés brúðir, er svá heita ‘Those are Hlér’s brides, who are so called’. Hlér is given in Skm as an alternative name for Ægir (SnE 1998, I, 1), possibly reinforcing the suggestion that the relationship between Ægir and his daughters was seen as an incestuous one (see Note to Heiðr 68/3 above). On the other hand, the word brúðir may refer to women in general (see Note to Heiðr 64/1 and cf. Heiðr 71/1). The H redaction has (Heiðr 1924, 73): þetta eru bárur sem áðan ‘These are waves as before’. — [1]: This half-line also occurs in the eddic poems Vafþr 48/4 and Bdr 12/5, both of which stanzas strongly resemble Heiðr’s wave-riddles and are, as here, posed by Óðinn in disguise. On the first instance, see Note to Heiðr 67/1-2. The second instance is a good candidate for another description of waves (Bdr 12/5-6, NK 279): hveriar ro þær meyiar, | er at muni gráta | oc á himin verpa | hálsa scautom? ‘Who are those girls, who weep at desire and who cast to the sky the sheets of their necks?’. The question goes unanswered in Bdr, serving as the question that reveals Óðinn’s true identity. See further Malm (2000), Burrows (2013, 210-13) and Kommentar III, 458-60. — [1-2]: See the preceding riddle, Heiðr 68, Note to ll. 1-2. As there, the other mss are in agreement on the readings chosen here, although they are not those of the main ms. Syrgjandi ‘sorrowing’ in 2845 is extrametrical, but could have been influenced by the line edited here as Heiðr 68/2 (which follows the present stanza in 2845). — [3]: Ms. 281ˣ has here ‘ad firda før’, not in itself a meaningful line, but cf. Gestumbl Heiðr 24/3 (Heiðr 71) ok eiga eptir firði för ‘and have a journey along the fjord’, which presumably influenced the present reading. The other H-redaction ms., 597bˣ, is ambiguous, abbreviating ‘ad f f’, presumably at forvitni föður. — [6]: An almost identical line appears in Gestumbl Heiðr 30/6 (Heiðr 77), where it refers to fire waiting to be kindled in the hearth. The H redaction has l. 6 of the previous stanza, Gestumbl Heiðr 21 (Heiðr 68) (see Note). This is an acceptable variant in terms of sense, creating ambiguity in the cause and effect of the wave-maidens’ actions (Burrows 2013, 203): ‘perhaps they do not have husbands because they cause harm to men, or perhaps they cause harm to men because they do not want husbands’.



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 19: AII, 225, BII, 243-4, Skald II, 126, NN §115; Heiðr 1672, 144, FSN 1, 478, Heiðr 1873, 251-2, 340, Heiðr 1924, 72-5, 132, FSGJ 2, 46, Heiðr 1960, 40; Edd. Min. 114.


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