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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bragi Frag 2III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Fragments 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 56.

Bragi inn gamli BoddasonFragments


This helmingr (Bragi Frag 2) is extant in several mss of SnE, including R, used here as the base ms., , W, U and B. All standard editions of Bragi’s poetry (Skj, Skald, but with less certainty SnE 1998, I, 180) include this half-stanza, numbered 20, as part of Bragi Rdr. However, there is nothing to support this inclusion, since the mythic incident alluded to is different from the other known subjects of Rdr and different also from Bragi’s other fragmentary ekphraseis. The referent of the demonstrative pronoun hinn ‘the one, that one’ which begins the helmingr, is uncertain. Based on our knowledge of Old Norse myth, there are two potential referents, Óðinn and Þórr, but it is not possible to determine with certainty which one Bragi had in mind.

Snorri Sturluson, however, seems to have assumed that the helmingr referred to the god Óðinn, as he associates the feat of hurling the giant Þjazi’s eyes into the sky, where they became two stars, with one element of the compensation the gods paid Þjazi’s daughter Skaði for killing her father. Snorri gives a lengthy narrative of Þjazi’s theft of the goddess Iðunn and the gods’ killing of the giant, followed by Skaði’s journey to Ásgarðr seeking vengeance for her father, in the introductory section of Skm (SnE 1998, I, 1-2). There he has the narrator Bragi comment: Svá er sagt at Óðinn gerði þat til yfirbóta við hana at hann tók augu Þjaza ok kastaði upp á himin ok gerði af stjǫrnur tvær ‘It is said that Óðinn did this as compensation to her: he took Þjazi’s eyes and threw them up into the sky and made two stars out of them’. Snorri depends in large part for this mythic narrative on Þjóð Haustl, which he quotes later in Skm, but there is no reference to the present incident in the extant stanzas of that poem.

Another version of the myth of how Þjazi’s eyes became stars is found in the eddic poem Hárb, a senna or exchange of invective between the gods Óðinn and Þórr. In st. 19 Þórr boasts that it was he who killed Þjazi and threw his eyes into the sky, where they are visible to all men as the greatest signs of his deeds.

text and translation

Hinn, es varp á víða
vinda ǫndurdísar
of manna sjǫt margra
munnlaug fǫður augum.

Hinn, es varp augum {fǫður {ǫndurdísar}} á {víða munnlaug vinda} of sjǫt margra manna.
‘The one who threw the eyes of the father of the ski-dís <minor female deity> [= Skaði > = Þjazi] into the wide hand-basin of winds [SKY/HEAVEN] above the dwellings of many men.

notes and context

This helmingr, introduced with the words Svá sem kvað Bragi skáld ‘Just as Bragi the poet said’, occurs in that section of Skm that exemplifies kennings for the sky (himinn).



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 20: AI, 4, BI, 4, Skald I, 3; SnE 1848-87, I, 318-19, II, 314, 526, III, 49, SnE 1931, 114, SnE 1998, I, 34.


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