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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Gamlkan Has 64VII

[2] fetilkjóla ‘of strap-ships’: Although the ms. is very badly worn, all previous eds concur that the second element is kjósa, and they follow the 399a-bˣ copyist in reconstructing the first element as fetil. Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s emendation to fetilkjóla (1844, 33 n. 81), which provides an expected aðalhending, is adopted here, though not without reservation. The interpretation of this cpd presents considerable difficulties. It is clear from the remainder of the man-kenning herðendr ‘hardeners’ and hríðar ‘of the storm’ (ll. 3-4), that an expression for a weapon of some kind is required. Fetill designates a strap or belt, and is often used specifically of a sword-belt or a shield-strap (Fritzner: fetill). Sveinbjörn Egilsson (1844, 33 n. 81) resolves this, by a transfer of meaning (pars pro toto), as a heiti for ‘sword’. Finnur Jónsson (LP: fetilhjól) regards the ms. reading as meaningless, and emends the second element of the cpd to fetilhjól ‘strap-wheel’, a shield-heiti. Kock (NN §2114) dismisses this emendation as providing an excess of alliteration on the <h>, interpreting fetilkjóll ‘strap-ship [SHIELD]’ (ON kjóll a kind of large ship, cognate with OE ceol). This he derives from a lost myth of the ship of the Norse god Ullr, possibly involving Ullr’s use of a shield as a boat. There is no doubt that several instances of the use of the phrase ‘Ullr’s ship’ as shield-kennings are listed in SnE (1998, I, 43 (verse 143/3 Ullar kjóll attributed to Eyvindr skáldaspillir, Eyv Lv 9I), 67 (Skjǫldr er ok kallaðr skip Ullar ‘a shield is also called Ullr’s ship’) and 69 (verse 236/2 Ullar skip, probably from ÞjóðA Frag 3/2II). Whether a word for ‘ship’, without explicit reference to the god Ullr, was an acceptable element in shield-kennings remains an open question, though the cpd fetilkjóll has been understood here to fit into this pattern. Louis-Jensen (2003, 317-18) doubts whether a ship-word without reference to Ullr can give a shield-kenning. She argues that the cpd is more likely to be a sword-kenning, and proposes emendation to fetilnjóla, a cpd in which the second element -njóli (found only in compounds in ON) has the basic sense of ‘stem, stalk’.


  1. Bibliography
  2. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Louis-Jensen, Jonna. 2003. ‘Småstykker’. Opuscula 11, 316-20. BA 42. Copenhagen: Reitzel.
  6. Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1844. Fjøgur gømul kvæði. Boðsrit til að hlusta á þá opinberu yfirheyrslu í Bessastaða Skóla þann 22-29 mai 1844. Viðeyar Klaustri: prentuð af Helga Helgasyni, á kostnað Bessastaða Skóla. Bessastaðir: Helgi Helgason.
  7. Internal references
  8. Edith Marold 2017, ‘Snorra Edda (Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál)’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  9. Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Lausavísur 9’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 228.
  10. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Fragments 3’ 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. 161-2.


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