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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Sigv Nesv 10I

[1] kylfur ‘stem-fittings’: This is the sole skaldic attestation of kylfa, which normally means ‘club’, as a nautical term. Jesch (2001a, 150) explains it as the highest and narrowest part of the ship’s stem, where ‘stem’ means both prow and stern (ibid., 144; but see Note on ll. 7, 8 of this stanza). The highest part of the stem stood in the way of would-be boarders but, being made of relatively slender pieces of timber, could readily be cut down so as to gain easier access (ibid., 150; cf. Christensen 1985, 158-60, 232). Most boarding and fighting seems to have taken place at either end of the ship, not amidships (Jesch 2001a, 213). The sg. variant svarta kylfu ‘black stem-fitting’ in 325V, 325VII, Flat and Tóm has been explained as an attempt to bring the stanza into closer agreement with the prose narrative (ÍF 27).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  3. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  4. Christensen, Arne Emil. 1985. ‘Boat Finds from Bryggen’. In Hagen et al. 1984-1992, I, 47-278.


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