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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gestumbl Heiðr 17VIII (Heiðr 64)

Hannah Burrows (ed.) 2017, ‘Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 64 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur 17)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 428.

GestumblindiHeiðreks gátur

text and translation

Báru brúðir         bleikhaddaðar,
ambáttir tvær,         öl til skemmu.
Vara þat höndum horfit         né hamri klappat;
þó var fyrir eyjar útan         örðigr, sá er ker gerði.
Heiðrekr konungr,         hyggðu at gátu.

Bleikhaddaðar brúðir, tvær ambáttir, báru öl til skemmu. Vara þat horfit höndum né klappat hamri; þó var örðigr, sá er ker gerði, fyrir útan eyjar. Heiðrekr konungr, hyggðu at gátu.
‘Pale-haired brides, two handmaids, bore ale to the storehouse. It was not turned by hand nor struck by hammer; yet outside the islands was that upright one who made the keg. King Heiðrekr, think about the riddle.

notes and context

In the H redaction, before Gestumblindi speaks this riddle Heiðrekr challenges him (Heiðr 1924, 69): Eða kantu ekki á annan veg gátur upp at bera en hafa et sama upphaf at, þar sem mér virðiz þú fróðr maðr? ‘Do you not know another way to propound riddles than to have the same beginning, since I think you a wise man?’

Heiðrekr’s response is (Heiðr 1960, 36): þar fara svanbrúðir til hreiðrs síns ok verpa eggjum; skurm á eggi er eigi hǫndum gǫrt né hamri klappat, en svanr er fyrir eyjar útan ǫrðigr, sá er þær gátu eggin við ‘There female swans go to their nest and lay their eggs; the shell of the egg is not made by hands nor struck by hammer, but the swan outside the islands is upright, he with whom they produced the egg’. The H-redaction wording is quite different (and less preferable) (Heiðr 1924, 70): þat eru æðar tvær þær er eggjum verpa; eggin eru eigi gǫr með hamri eða hǫndum, en þjónostumeyjar báru ǫlit í eggskurninni ‘It is two eider-ducks who lay their eggs; the eggs are not made with hammer or hands, but the servant-girls carried the ale in the eggshell’. Female eider-ducks do not have white plumage (cf. bleikhaddaðr ‘pale-headed’ l. 2); moreover, the örðigr ‘upright [one]’ in l. 8 seems appropriate to a swan’s long neck and/or the action of a male swan guarding its territory. — Following Heiðrekr’s challenge in the H redaction (see Context), there is a move away from the Hvat er þat undra formula of the previous nine riddles. This effect is lost in the other redactions, which do not group all the undra riddles together, nor do they have the prose challenge. In this stanza, ll. 1-4 and 9-10 are fornyrðislag and 5-8 are málaháttr.



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], D. 5. Heiðreks gátur 9: AII, 223, BII, 241-2, Skald II, 125; NN §3283; Heiðr 1672, 148, FSN 1, 470-1, Heiðr 1873, 247-8, 336, Heiðr 1924, 64, 69, 137, FSGJ 2, 41, Heiðr 1960, 36; Edd. Min. 112.


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