Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.



Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

Menu Search

Bragi Frag 1III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Fragments 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 54.

Bragi inn gamli BoddasonFragments


This stanza (Bragi Frag 1) is extant at the end of the first paragraph of Gylf in the R, and W redactions of SnE and in Yng in Hkr (ÍF 26, 15-16) in the mss , F, and J2ˣ. Ms. R is used here as the base ms. The stanza is explicitly attributed to Bragi in both sources; in SnE it is introduced by Svá segir Bragi skáld gamli ‘Thus says the poet Bragi the Old’, in Yng by Svá kvað Bragi inn gamli ‘Thus spoke Bragi the Old’.

Previous editors have considered this dróttkvætt stanza to be a part of Ragnarsdrápa (see Introduction to Bragi Rdr), but, though that is possible, there is no sure evidence that it was (there is, e.g., no stef and no attribution to Rdr in the prose introductions in either source). It is here presented more conservatively as a fragment of a descriptive mythological poem, along with several other fragments ascribed to Bragi.

The myth of Gefjun’s encounter with the Swedish king Gylfi and the origin of the Danish island of Sjælland as a large piece of land her oxen (her sons by a giant) ploughed away from Sweden is not known from any other Old Norse text, aside from SnE and Yng and this stanza of Bragi’s, nor is it known from extant medieval pictorial representations.

It is uncertain whether Bragi’s stanza is self-contained or part of a larger whole. It encapsulates the whole myth, emphasising Gefjun’s happy mental state, the richness of her booty, and the brute strength and effort of the oxen, who pull Sjælland (‘Denmark’s increase’) to its new location. This early reference to Denmark, apparently considered as a political and territorial whole (cf. Finnur Jónsson 1930-1, 253), may be what persuaded Snorri Sturluson to give the myth such prominence in SnE and Yng, especially as it has resonance with other early European political foundation myths based on deceptive bargains, such as Dido’s foundation of Carthage and Hengest’s claim to territory in Britain (cf. Clunies Ross 1978a; Marold 1986b, 438-40). If Bragi treated this subject in more than one stanza, the one we have is very likely introductory, but the first line opens in medias res, with mention of both Gefjun and Gylfi.

text and translation

Gefjun dró frá Gylfa
glǫð djúprǫðul ǫðla,
svát af rennirauknum
rauk, Danmarkar auka.
Bôru øxn ok átta
ennitungl, þars gingu
fyr vinjeyjar víðri
valrauf, fjǫgur haufuð.

Gefjun dró frá Gylfa, glǫð, {djúprǫðul ǫðla}, {auka Danmarkar}, svát rauk af rennirauknum. Øxn bôru {átta ennitungl} ok fjǫgur haufuð, þars gingu fyr {víðri valrauf vinjeyjar}.
‘Gefjun drew from Gylfi, glad, a deep disk of inherited land [ISLAND = Sjælland], Denmark’s addition [= Sjælland], so that steam rose from the swift-moving draught animals. The oxen bore eight forehead-moons [EYES] and four heads, where they went before the wide plunder-rift of the meadow-island [= Sjælland].

notes and context

In SnE this stanza is cited to confirm Snorri’s prose narrative of the deceptive bargain of Gefjun, a female member of the euhemerised Æsir from Troy, with King Gylfi of Sweden, who allowed her, as a reward for her entertainment (skemtun) of him, to obtain as much of Sweden as her four oxen could plough up in a day and a night. Unknown to Gylfi, these beasts were Gefjun’s sons by a giant, and she succeeded in ploughing up and removing across the sea a far larger piece of land than Gylfi had expected. It formed the Danish island of Sjælland (Zealand), and the gap it left behind in Sweden became Lake Mälaren, whose inlets are said in Gylf to correspond to the headlands of Sjælland. This etiological narrative forms a link with the Prologue, in which Gylfi is mentioned as reigning in Sweden when the Æsir migrate to Scandinavia from Troy, and motivates his visit to their hall in Gylf to find out the secret of their success. In Yng Gefjun’s visit to Gylfi is directed by Óðinn, who sends her north from Denmark to Sweden in search of land; Gylfi gave her eitt plógsland ‘one plough-land’. The deceptive bargain aspect of the myth is here suppressed. In Yng Gefjun marries Óðinn’s son Skjǫldr and thus becomes the consort of the progenitor of the Danish royal house, the Skjǫldungar.



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: Bragi enn gamli, 1. Ragnarsdrápa 13: AI, 3, BI, 3, Skald I, 2; SnE 1848-87, I, 32-3, SnE 1931, 8, SnE 2005, 7; ÍF 26, 15 (Yng ch. 5).


Log in

This service is only available to members of the relevant projects, and to purchasers of the skaldic volumes published by Brepols.
This service uses cookies. By logging in you agree to the use of cookies on your browser.


Stanza/chapter/text segment

Use the buttons at the top of the page to navigate between stanzas in a poem.

Information tab

Interactive tab

The text and translation are given here, with buttons to toggle whether the text is shown in the verse order or prose word order. Clicking on indiviudal words gives dictionary links, variant readings, kennings and notes, where relevant.

Full text tab

This is the text of the edition in a similar format to how the edition appears in the printed volumes.

Chapter/text segment

This view is also used for chapters and other text segments. Not all the headings shown are relevant to such sections.