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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon (SnE) 9III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Stanzas from Snorra Edda 9’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 519.

Anonymous LausavísurStanzas from Snorra Edda


SnE records two stanzas of an exchange between a troll-woman and the poet Bragi (Anon (SnE) 9; Bragi Troll) in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 83-4). They occur in a section detailing expressions for poetry without periphrasis (ókend setning skáldskapar). This context makes it clear that it was the second of the pair of stanzas (Bragi Troll) that was the target quotation, because it lists terms for a poet, and this is reflected by both the prose introduction (see Context) and the ms. witnesses to the stanza, as only R and C (the latter in part, from l. 4) have the troll-woman’s stanza, while R, , U, A and C have Bragi’s. Nevertheless, both internal and contextual evidence indicates that the two must have formed a pair, in which Bragi’s stanza deliberately imitates the form and content of the troll-woman’s. For further details of the tradition of verse duels between poets and supernatural beings, see Introduction to Bragi Troll. Both Bragi’s and the troll-woman’s stanzas are, appropriately to their speakers’ status as travellers, in a form of tøglag ‘journey metre’. If authentic, they are likely to be the earliest attested examples of it (cf. SnE 2007, 29-30, 35, 87-8 and Section 4 of the General Introduction in SkP I for a survey of poetry in this metre). As Lindow (2006, 23) has indicated, very few other trolls in Old Norse literature are said to compose in skaldic (as contrasted with eddic) verse-forms and the troll-woman’s is probably made deliberately less regular than Bragi’s in terms of hendingar.

text and translation

Troll kalla mik,
tungl sjǫt-Rungnis,
auðsúg jǫtuns,
élsólar bǫl,
vilsinn vǫlu,
vǫrð náfjarðar,
hvélsvelg himins.
Hvats troll nema þat?

Kalla mik troll, {tungl sjǫt-Rungnis}, {auðsúg jǫtuns}, {bǫl élsólar}, {vilsinn vǫlu}, {vǫrð {náfjarðar}}, {hvél{svelg himins}}. Hvats troll nema þat?
‘They call me troll, moon of dwelling-Rungnir [TROLL], wealth-sucker of a giant [TROLL-WOMAN], trouble of the storm-sun [TROLL], delightful company of a prophetess [TROLL-WOMAN], guardian of the corpse-fjord [GRAVE > TROLL], swallower of the wheel of the sky [(lit. ‘wheel-swallower of the sky’) SUN > TROLL]. What’s a troll if not that?

notes and context

See Introduction above. Ms. R’s text of this stanza is introduced thus: Þetta kvað Bragi hinn gamli þá er hann ók um skóg nokkvorn síð um kveld, þá stefjaði trǫllkona á hann ok spurði hverr þar fór ‘Bragi the Old spoke this when he drove through a certain forest late in the evening; then a troll-woman accosted him in poetry, and asked who went there’. The phrasal verb stefja á ‘to accost [someone] in poetry’ is considered by Almqvist (1965-74, I, 33) to be a sure sign that the encounter between Bragi and the troll-woman conformed to the same pattern of encounters between poets and supernatural powers as appears in much younger Icelandic literature and folklore.

The vocabulary of the stanza is difficult and the meanings of many words are uncertain, while the kenning in l. 7 is inverted. However, all six kennings are likely to mean ‘troll’ or ‘troll-woman’.



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 [X], II. B. 6. En troldkvinde: AI, 182, BI, 172, Skald I, 92, NN §§1095A-E, 2458; SnE 1848-87, I, 464-7, II, 590, III, 95, SnE 1931, 165 n., SnE 1998, I, 83 (SnE).


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