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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bragi Rdr 8III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa 8’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 39.

Bragi inn gamli BoddasonRagnarsdrápa

text and translation

Ok ofþerris æða
ósk-Rôn at þat sínum
til fárhuga fœra
feðr veðr boga hugði,
þás hristi-Sif hringa
hals- in bǫls of fyllda
bar til byrjar drǫsla
-baug ørlygis draugi.

Ok {ósk-Rôn ofþerris æða} hugði fœra {veðr boga} til fárhuga feðr sínum at þat, þás {hristi-Sif hringa}, in bǫls of fyllda, bar halsbaug {draugi ørlygis} til {drǫsla byrjar}.
‘And the desiring-Rán <goddess> of the excessive drying of veins [VALKYRIE = Hildr] planned to bring the storm of bows [BATTLE] with hostile intentions against her father after that, when the shaking-Sif <goddess> of rings [VALKYRIE = Hildr], the one filled with malice, carried a neck-ring for the tree-trunk of battle [WARRIOR = Hǫgni] to the steeds of the fair wind [SHIPS].

notes and context

Rdr 8-12 are cited in Skm as a continuous sequence to illustrate why battle can be called Hjaðninga veðr eða él ‘weather or storm of the Hjaðningar’ and weapons Hjaðninga eldar eða vendir ‘fires or wands of the Hjaðningar’ (SnE 1998, I, 72-3). Before quoting Bragi’s stanzas, Snorri gives a prose account of the legend of the Hjaðningar, the followers of a king named Heðinn Hjarrandason, who abducted Hildr, daughter of King Hǫgni, when the latter was away from home. When he learnt of his loss, Hǫgni set off with his men in pursuit of Heðinn and Hildr, and found them on the island of Hoy (ON Háey) in the Orkneys. Hildr went to see her father and, in apparent atonement on Heðinn’s behalf, offered him a neck-ring (men), but also indicated that Heðinn was ready to fight. In effect, she was more enthusiastic about her father and abductor fighting than they were, and the conflict escalated to a day-long battle. At night Hildr revived all the dead by magic and the battle continued in this way day after day up to Ragnarǫk. Stanza 8 is preceded by the statement Eptir þessi sǫgu orti Bragi skáld í Ragnars drápu loðbrókar ‘Bragi the poet composed [stanzas] in the drápa of Ragnarr loðbrók based on this story’.

There are many variant versions of the legend of Hildr and the Hjaðningar in Old Norse, Old English and Middle High German, as well as in Saxo’s Gesta Danorum (Saxo 2005, I, 5, 8, 3 and 9, 1, pp. 338, 340-2). For a summary, see Clunies Ross (1973a, 110-31) and Marold (1990b). Bragi’s stanzas concentrate on the events leading up to the battle between Hǫgni and Heðinn and are focalised through his depiction of Hildr who acts, not to reconcile her father and lover, but to whet them and their men to bloody conflict. Her name (as a common noun) means ‘battle’ and she seems to embody a sexualised motivational force that leads men to fight one another, perhaps the same force that is also expressed through the conventional figure of the valkyrie.



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 8: AI, 2, BI, 2, Skald I, 1-2, NN §§1505, 2205B-D; SnE 1848-87, I, 436-7, III, 84, SnE 1931, 155, SnE 1998, I, 72-3.


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