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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Edáð Banddr 3I

[2, 4] finnsk ǫlknarrar linna setbergs: The ms. reading finnz can be disambiguated as either a noun Finns ‘of Finnr’ or a verb finnsk ‘is found’, but finnsk is preferable, since <z> in the mss normally represents normalised <sk> rather than genitive <s>. However, the syntactic and semantic relation of the string of four possessives (gen.-case setbergs, linna, -knarrar and first element ǫl) to finnsk is problematic. All the solutions proposed thus far involve poorly-attested usages and/or emendation. (a) Bjarni Aðalbjarnason (ÍF 26, followed by Hkr 1991), reads finnz as finnsk and separates the cpd ǫlknarrar into its two elements, so obtaining the clause finnsk ǫl knarrar linna setbergs, where linna setbergs is analysed as ‘snakes of the seat-shaped hill’ and interpreted as ‘dwarfs’, whose knǫrr ‘ship’ is ‘poetry’ and its ǫl ‘ale’ the ‘drink of poetry’. With the verb finnsk, this produces an utterance meaning ‘poetry is found’, i.e. ‘I am composing poetry’, which is a fitting utterance if, as seems likely, the problematic words form an intercalary clause. However, ‘snakes’ as a base-word in a kenning for ‘dwarfs’ is unparalleled and it is difficult to by-pass the standard interpretations setbergs linna ‘seat-shaped hill of snakes [GOLD]’ (cf. Meissner 237-41) and ǫlknarrar ‘ale-ship [CUP]’ (cf. Meissner 434). (b) Among the earlier eds, Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B) opts for finns rather than finnsk, taken, following Sveinbjörn Egilsson (LP (1860): Finnr), as gen. sg. of the dwarf-name Finnr. Finnur Jónsson assumes that this name can function as álfr ‘elf’ does, as a base-word in a man-kenning, in this case combining with the gold-kenning linna setbergs to form a kenning for ‘generous man’ referring to Haraldr blátǫnn Gormsson. The ǫlknǫrr ‘ale-ship’ of this lord is construed as his hall. This, however, involves the separation of prep. at from naðri sævar ‘adder of the sea [SHIP]’ (cf. Kuhn 1983, 120-2 on proclitic prepositions) and other usages which are difficult to parallel. (c) Kock (NN §552) proposes emending linna to sinna ‘travel’, mentioning the common alternation of the <l> and <s> graphs (and in fact J2x reads sinna). He tentatively interprets Finnr setbergs as ‘giant’, the giant’s ǫlknǫrr as ‘mountain’, and the mountain’s folk ‘people’ as Norwegians, whose stýrir ‘leader’ is Eiríkr. In combination this yields the sense ‘The ruler of Norway was to travel south on his dragon-ship when he was (only) a few years old’. But the element ǫl remains unexplained, and the folk in this type of kenning should be ‘giants’, not ‘Norwegians’. (d) A different approach would involve interpretation of setbergs linna as ‘gold’, ǫlknarrar as ‘cup’ and the combination of these as equivalent to the cpd gollker ‘gold vessel’ (LP: gollker). Gamall ‘old’ could be emended to the noun gaman ‘pleasure, amusement, enjoyment’, which would supply a complement of finnsk (cf. þykkja gaman ‘enjoy’: CVC, Fritzner: gaman; cf. also the ModIcel. idiom finna/finnst gaman ‘enjoy’, Jón Hilmar Jónsson 1994: gaman). The gen.-case expression for ‘gold vessel’ would then be an objective gen., specifying the source of pleasure, thus ‘pleasure of (i.e., in) the gold vessel is found’; cf. OE gomen gleobeames ‘pleasure of the joy-wood [HARP]’, Beowulf l. 2262 (Beowulf 2008, 78).


  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. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  8. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  9. Kuhn, Hans (1899). 1983. Das Dróttkvætt. Heidelberg: Winter.
  10. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  11. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  12. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  13. Beowulf 2008 = Fulk, Robert D., Robert E. Bjork and John D. Niles, eds. 2008. Klaeber’s Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. 4th rev. edn of Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, ed. Fr. Klaeber. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press.
  14. Jón Hilmar Jónsson. 1994. Orðastaður: Orðabók um íslenska málnotkun. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  15. Internal references
  16. Not published: do not cite ()


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