Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Anon (Vǫlsa) 4I

[4] studdr laukum ‘supported by leeks’: Real physical support cannot be meant here, since all species of allium are in themselves subject to decomposition (though see below on the preservative effects of leeks). Rather it seems more probable that leeks had been ascribed a supporting effect. This could be understood in two ways that do not necessarily exclude one another. Since Vǫlsi is a horse penis brought to erection, it might refer to the often attested use of different species of allium as aphrodisiacs (cf. Olsen 1917, IIb, 660-3; Heizmann 1992, 375, 384-5). On the other hand, according to the prose text, the severed horse penis is prepared with leeks and other herbs so that it would not decompose (suo at þar firir mætti hann æigi rottna, Flat 1860-8, II, 332), which procedure is described several times in Old Norse literature (cf. Heizmann 1992, 381-2). The assumption that the reference is to the leek’s property of hindering decomposition (ibid., 380-1) would also be favoured by ms. 292ˣ, where it says so ad þar firir matti ei remma. If we take ei for æ in the sense of ‘ever’ (‘so that he/it could thus always be strengthened’, with remma ‘to make fast, strengthen’), this offers a statement about the purpose of leeks which is consonant with the stanza.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  3. Heizmann, Wilhelm. 1992. ‘Lein(en) und Lauch in der Inschrift von Fløksand und im Vǫlsa þáttr’. In Beck et al. 1992, 365-95.
  4. Olsen, Magnus, ed. 1917. Norges indskrifter med de ældre runer. 2 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Brøgger.


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