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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Þul Óðins 4III

[3] Sváfnir: Lit. ‘sleep-maker, soother’, i.e. ‘killer’, related to the weak verb svæfa/svefja ‘lull to sleep, soothe’ (cf. the sword-heiti fjǫrsváfnir ‘life-soother’, Þul Sverða 3/8). Unlike the majority of Óðinn-heiti listed here, this name is used in verse, but it has been interpreted in different ways. (a) It appears twice in Grí 34/7 and 54/7 along with the name Ofnir. In the first instance, Sváfnir and Ofnir are two mythical serpents (Þul Orma 1/3, 3/6) and in the second instance these are names for Óðinn. The fact that the names of the two serpents destroying the roots of the world-ash Yggdrasill were taken over by Óðinn could perhaps be explained by the myth of the mead of poetry, when the god turned himself into a serpent to obtain the magic drink. (b) Falk (1924, 26-7) suggests that the name may refer to Óðinn as the one who stabbed the valkyrie Sigrdrífa with a sleep-thorn (Sigrdr, prose, NK 190): Sigrdrífa feldi Hiálm-Gunnar í orrostonni. Enn Óðinn stacc hana svefnþorni í hefnd þess ‘Sigrdrífa killed Hjálm-Gunnarr in battle. But Óðinn stabbed her with a sleep-thorn in revenge for that’. (c) Alternatively, Falk (loc. cit.) proposes that the name could be a derivative from sváf, a heiti for ‘spear’ (Þul Spjóts l. 3; perhaps ‘the Swabians’ weapon’) possibly denoting ‘spear-god’ (cf. Óðinn-names with geir- as a first element, e.g. Geirǫlnir, st. 5/6 below). (d) Falk (loc. cit.) also suggests that the name could have originated from an eponym of the Suevi (the Swabians); cf. Sváfnir konungr, the ruler of Svávaland in HHj (prose, NK 140) and Swæfe in the Old English Widsith l. 22.

References

  1. Bibliography
  2. NK = Neckel, Gustav and Hans Kuhn (1899), eds. 1983. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 2 vols. I: Text. 5th edn. Heidelberg: Winter.
  3. Falk, Hjalmar. 1924. Odensheite. Skrifter utg. av Videnskapsselskapet i Kristiania. II. Hist.-filos. kl. 1924, 10. Kristiania (Oslo): Dybwad.
  4. Internal references
  5. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Sverða heiti 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 794.
  6. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Orma heiti 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 928.
  7. Not published: do not cite ()
  8. Not published: do not cite ()
  9. Not published: do not cite ()
  10. Elena Gurevich 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Spjóts heiti’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 816.

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