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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Þjóð Yt 3I

[5, 7] trollkund Grímhildr líðs ‘the troll-descended Grímhildr of strong drink [WOMAN]’: Grímhildr can be interpreted (a) as an appellative or (b) as a proper name, either of a legendary heroine or of a sorceress. (a) Because Grímhildr is written with lower case <g> in and Fˣ but only in J2ˣ with a capital letter, it has been explained by some scholars as a cpd of two nouns: grím- translated as ‘night’ (cf. LP: gríma 4) and ‑hildr as ‘valkyrie’ (cf. LP: hildr 2). Within this general approach there have been various specific theories. (i) In light of the prose context of Hkr, which links Vanlandi’s death to a mara (a mythical being, cf. Note to l. 12), several sources (Falk 1889c, 264; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Yng 1912; LP: grím-Hildr; Hkr 1991) assume the cpd to be a kenning ‘hostile creature of the night [NIGHTMARE]’. However, the cpd is not plausible as a kenning since it appears to be a unique coinage, rather than conforming to known semantic-structural patterns. Further, kennings with a base-word meaning ‘hostile creature’ always denote something hostile to the accompanying gen., e.g. a ‘dog (or wolf) of the trees [FIRE]’ damages the trees and a ‘house-enemy [FIRE]’ damages the house. (ii) The primary meaning of gríma, a kind of cowl, helmet or head-covering, inspired a further interpretation of grímhildr as a woman-kenning ‘Hildr of the hood’ (Yt 1925). However, the expected compounding form would be not grím- but grímu-, as in grímumaðr ‘a hooded man’ or grímueiðr ‘an oath against a grímumaðr’ (Fritzner: grímueiðr, grímumaðr). (b) Grímhildr is therefore interpreted in this edn as a proper name linked to the word líðs, with a long vowel, which is n. gen. sg. ‘of strong drink’. The result is a normal woman-kenning of the type ‘heroine/troll-woman of strong drink’. The name Grímhildr could refer to a figure from the Nibelung legend (Marold 1983, 116-17).


  1. Bibliography
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  5. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  6. Marold, Edith. 1983. Kenningkunst: Ein Beitrag zu einer Poetik der Skaldendichtung. Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte der germanischen Völker, new ser. 80. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  7. Falk, Hjalmar. 1889c. ‘Med hvilken ret kaldes skaldesproget kunstigt? 1. Homonymiens rolle. 2. De saakaldte halfkenningar. 3. Personnavnes indflydelse paa mands- og kvindekenningar. 4. Oversigt over det poetiske udtryks udvikling’. ANF 5, 245-77.
  8. Yng 1912 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912. Ynglingasaga. Copenhagen: Gad.
  9. Yt 1925 = Noreen, Adolf, ed. 1925. Ynglingatal: Text, översättning och kommentar. Stockholm: Lagerström.
  10. Internal references
  11. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].


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