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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to ÚlfrU Húsdr 2III

[1, 4] vári ragna ‘defender of the gods [= Heimdallr]’: For the word vári ‘defender’, see Arn Hryn 13/5II and Note there. The long vowel is ensured by the metre (long vowel in the cadence), which precludes Cöllen’s (2007, 64) suggestion of a short [a] here, as in ON varr ‘wise, knowledgeable’ or ‘cautious’. Vári ‘defender’ needs the determinant ragna ‘of the gods’ to denote Heimdallr, just like vǫrðr goða ‘defender of the gods’ in Grí 13/4 (NK 60), Lok 48/6 (NK 106) and Skm (SnE 1998, I, 19). Kuhn’s (1983, 296) alternative suggestion is vári ‘sworn companion’, probably from várar ‘oaths’. Several eds try to incorporate rein ‘strip of land’ (l. 2) into the kenning vári ragna. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: reinvári) assumes tmesis by joining rein with vári ‘defender’ (l. 4) and ragna ‘of the gods’ (l. 1), and he construes the Heimdallr-kenning ragna reinvári ‘defender of the path of gods [= Bifrǫst <bridge of the gods>]’ (cf. SnE 1848-87, III, 20-1 and Mogk 1880, 331). Kock (NN §420) rightly objects to this tmesis (with almost all subsequent eds concurring), but he nonetheless interprets ragna rein as ‘bridge of the gods’ and as the object of bregðr. Based on the idiom bregða búi ‘abandon the farm’ he takes the first helmingr to mean that ‘the defender (vári) abandoned the bridge of the gods in the fight with Loki’. In a later interpretation (NN §1952) he emends rein to reinar to achieve the Heimdallr-kenning vári reinar ragna ‘defender of the bridge of the gods’, but as de Vries (1933, 126) rightly objects, this emendation results in a hypermetrical l. 2, because elision of ‑ar and at is not possible in early dróttkvætt (see Kuhn 1936b, 138). Kock’s (NN §3214) subsequent objections to the criticism voiced by de Vries and Kuhn do not disprove their statements about the impossibility of elision, but Kock’s version has nonetheless been adopted by other scholars (e.g. Schier 1976a, 580; Cöllen 2007, 66). This metrical issue leads to a similar emendation of the mss’ ‘rein at’ to reinar, with Singasteini being taken as the dat. object of bregðr and thus not as a locative, but rather in the meaning ‘decorative stone, jewel’ (de Vries 1933, 127; Pering 1941, 210; Schjødt 1981, 62 n. 52 is critical). To sum up: Incorporation of rein into the kenning ragna vári ‘defender of the gods’ for Heimdallr leads either to tmesis (Finnur Jónsson) or to emendations which cause metrical problems (Kock; de Vries). Another objection against the interpretation of rein ragna as ‘bridge of the gods’ or ‘path of the gods [HEAVEN]’ (Ohlmarks 1937, 124) is that rein is never attested with the meanings ‘bridge’ or ‘path’ (cf. de Vries 1933, 126). Therefore the incorporation of rein into the kenning for Heimdallr is extremely problematic, and rein must be taken as the sole object of bregðr ‘remove, take away’ (see Note to l. 2 rein).


  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. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  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. 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.
  7. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  8. Kuhn, Hans (1899). 1936b. ‘Zu Ernst Albin Kocks Notationes Norrœnæ: Kritik der §§2501-10’. BGDSL 60, 133-60.
  9. Schier, Kurt. 1976a. ‘Húsdrápa 2: Heimdall, Loki und die Meerniere’. In Birkhan 1976, 577-88.
  10. Cöllen, Sebastian. 2007. ‘Der Ursprung des Feuers in nordgermanische Mythologie. Studien zu Húsdrápa 2’. ANF 122, 59-78.
  11. Mogk, Eugen. 1880. ‘Untersuchungen ueber die Gylfaginning. II: Die Quellen der Gylfaginning und ihr Verhältnis zu den sog. Eddaliedern. Anhang Ulfr Uggason’. BGDSL 7, 203-334.
  12. Ohlmarks, Åke. 1937. Heimdallr und das Horn. Heimdalls Horn und Odins Auge. Studien zur nordischen und vergleichenden Religionsgeschichte, 1. Buch (I-II). Lund: Gleerup; Copenhagen: Levin & Munksgaard.
  13. Pering, Birger. 1941. Heimdall: Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zum Verständnis der altnordischen Götterwelt. Lund: Gleerup.
  14. Schier, Kurt. 1976b. ‘Die Húsdrápa von Úlfr Uggason und die bildliche Überlieferung altnordischer Mythen’. In Guðni Kolbeinsson et al. 1976, 425-43.
  15. Schjødt, Jens Peter. 1981. ‘Om Loke endnu engang’. ANF 96, 49-86.
  16. Vries, Jan de. 1933. The Problem of Loki. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia.
  17. Internal references
  18. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  19. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa 13’ 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, pp. 198-200.
  20. Not published: do not cite ()
  21. Not published: do not cite ()


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