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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Ólhelg Lv 4I

[7] Gunnr hvítinga ‘Gunnr <valkyrie> of drinking-horns [WOMAN]’: Interpretation has been hampered by the wide variety of possible meanings for the heiti hvítingr. (a) Sveinbjörn Egilsson retains the Flat reading ‘gunn huítínga’ (where the line break falls after ‘gunn’), taking Gunn hvítinga as ‘valkyrie of swords’. He explains the r-less nom. Gunn as an apocopated form (LP (1860): gunnhvítínga); see also LP (1860): hvítíngr 3, 7. (b) In this edn, gunn is emended to gunnr (i.e. the proper name Gunnr) and construed as vocative in a standard poetic address to a woman, here no doubt the inaccessible beloved. In view of the use of a valkyrie-heiti for a woman, rather than the more usual heiti for an ordinary female deity, one might be tempted by Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s interpretation of hvítinga as ‘swords’. But valkyrie-names do occur in kennings for ordinary women (Meissner 406) and the most straightforward interpretation of hvítinga in context is as ‘drinking-horns’ (cf. LP: hvítingr 2). This would evoke the traditional reception of the returning warrior by a woman bearing a horn, perhaps ironically here, since the lover is in fact being prevented from making his return and receiving a welcome. (c) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B emends to gný-hvítinga ‘clamour-fish’, which he combines with geirþorps boði (emended from boða) to obtain geirþorps hvítinga gný-boði ‘messenger of the fish of the clamour of the spear-settlement [(lit. ‘clamour-messenger of the fish of the spear-settlement’) SHIELD > SWORDS > BATTLE > WARRIOR]’, construed as a vocative (see LP: 2. boði, geirþorp, gnýhvítingr). (d) Kock (NN §1110; cf. Bjarni Einarsson 1961, 25) interprets gunnhvítinga as gen. pl. ‘of swords’, apparently governing grjóti ‘rock’, but does not explain the meaning of this phrase.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  5. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  6. LP (1860) = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1860. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis. Copenhagen: Societas Regia antiquariorum septentrionalium.
  7. Bjarni Einarsson. 1961. Skáldasögur: Um uppruna og eðli ástaskáldasagnanna fornu. Reykjavík: Bókaútgáfa Menningarsjóðs.


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