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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to GunnLeif Merl II 24VIII (Bret 24)

[4] sás villir fira ‘that will lead men astray’: This is Gunnlaugr’s amplification of DGB, perhaps in allusion to the notion of the heron seen in Hávm 13/1-3 (NK 19): Óminnis hegri heitir, | sá er yfir ǫlðrom þrumir, | hann stelr geði guma ‘He is called the heron of forgetfulness, who hovers over the ale-feasts; he steals the wits of men’. How the heron gained this reputation is unclear (Evans 1986, 80). Dronke (1984, 54-5) notes a traditional association of this bird with vomiting and flapping around as if drunk, but it is hard to see why such behaviours would ‘lead men astray’, as required by the context in Hávm and Merl. Invective against drunkenness on Gunnlaugr’s part is seen again in II 56-7. In modern times the Black-crowned Night Heron (nátthegri, Nycticorax nycticorax) is an occasional visitor and resident in Iceland (Gunnlaugur Pétursson 2006).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Evans, David A. H., ed. 1986. Hávamál. Viking Society Text Series 7. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  3. 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.
  4. Dronke, Ursula. 1984. ‘Óminnis hegri’. In Fidjestøl et al. 1984, 53-60.
  5. Gunnlaugur Pétursson. 2006. ‘Black-crowned Night Herons in Iceland’. Birding Iceland. <>
  6. Internal references
  7. Not published: do not cite ()


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