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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eil Þdr 5III

Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Þórsdrápa 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 85.

Eilífr GoðrúnarsonÞórsdrápa

Ok gangs vanir gingu
gunnvargs himintǫrgu
fríðrar vers; til fljóða
frumseyris kom dreyra,
þás bǫlkveitir brjóta
bragðmildr Loka vildi
bræði vændr á brúði
bág Sefgrímnis mága.

Ok vanir gangs gingu {vers {gunnvargs {fríðrar himintǫrgu}}}; kom til {dreyra {frumseyris fljóða}}, þás {bragðmildr, bræði vændr bǫlkveitir Loka} vildi brjóta bág á {brúði {mága Sefgrímnis}}.

And the ones accustomed to walking went {to the sea {of the battle-wolf {of the splendid sky-shield}}} [SUN > = Fenrir > MOUNTAINS]; [he] came to {the blood {of the foremost harasser of women}} [GIANT > RIVER], when {the action-liberal, rage-familiar misfortune-destroyer of Loki} [= Þórr] wanted to open hostilities on {the bride {of the in-laws of Sefgrímnir <giant>}} [GIANTS > GIANTESS].

Mss: R(24v), Tˣ(25v), W(53) (SnE)

Readings: [1] gangs: so Tˣ, W, gagns R    [3] fríðrar: fríðar R, friðar Tˣ, W    [5] þás (‘þa er’): þá W;    ‑kveitir: so W, ‘‑kvetir’ R, ‘‑kneutir’ Tˣ    [6] ‑mildr: ‘[…]lldr’ Tˣ    [8] ‑grímnis: grísnis Tˣ, W

Editions: Skj AI, 149, Skj BI, 140, Skald I, 77, NN §§446, 2902E; SnE 1848-87, I, 292-3, III, 27-8, SnE 1931, 108, SnE 1998, I, 26.

Context: See Context to st. 1.

Notes: [1] vanir gangs ‘the ones accustomed to walking’: Þórr is a god who is frequently represented as walking, in particular when he is on his way through the land of the giants. In Hym 7, as well as in the myth of his journey to Útgarðaloki (Gylf, SnE 2005, 37), he leaves his goats behind and travels on foot to the giant’s home. A similar interpretation was considered by Kock (NN §§446, 2902E) and Reichardt (1948, 344, 346), who assume a cpd gangsvanir, which they translate as ‘accustomed to walking’, which could be a variant of gangtamr ‘ready to walk’ (describing horses in the Poetic Edda in Ghv 2/11 and Hamð 3/7). However, as Kiil (1956, 104) points out, there is no cpd with a gen. first element preceding ‑vanr that means ‘accustomed to’ anything. On that account this edn treats gangs vanir as two separate words. Furthermore, the words are written as distinct from one another in mss and W. Here, gangr is translated as ‘walking’, whereas Kiil (1956, 104-5) assumed that it had the otherwise unattested meaning ‘way, trail’. Earlier unconvincing interpretations are Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s (1851, 7), who uses the variant ‑gagns from R and combines it with gunn- to form the cpd gunngagn ‘battle-victory’ with an awkward tmesis, and Finnur Jónsson’s interpretation (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 379; Skj B), who takes gangs as a giant’s name and combines it with dreyra ‘blood’ (l. 4) to form a kenning for ‘river’; ‑vanir is then combined with gunn- (l. 2) in the cpd gunnvanir ‘battle-accustomed’, which results in a tripartite l. 1. — [2-3] gunnvargs fríðrar himintǫrgu ‘of the battle-wolf of the splendid sky-shield [SUN > = Fenrir]’: Despite repeated efforts to interpret this syntagm as a giant-kenning (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 379-80; Skj B; NN §446; Reichardt 1948, 345), there is no reason why giants should be enemies of the sun. The wolf Fenrir, on the other hand, is unambiguously said to destroy the sun in Vafþr 46/6 and 47/2 (cf. also Vsp 40 and SnE 2005, 14, where two wolves, called Skǫll and Hati, are said to pursue the sun). — [2] gunnvargs ‘of the battle-wolf’: This is not a kenning but a cpd in which the first element, gunn- ‘battle’, serves to foreground vargr ‘wolf’ as a hostile creature (NN §446; Reichardt 1948, 345; Kiil 1956, 105). Previous eds either separate gunn- from ‑vargr and connect it with a different word (Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1851, 7; Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 379; Skj B; both assuming tmesis), or they interpret gunnvargr as a sword-kenning (Guðmundur Finnbogason 1924, 175) based on a flawed comparison with the sword-kenning hjalm-Fenrir ‘helmet-Fenrir <wolf>’ (ÞBrún Lv 3/3V (Heið 8)). The latter kenning is formed according to the pattern ‘destructive creature of sth.’, however, and although vargr ‘wolf’ is used as a base-word in sword-kennings, it occurs only when ben- or und- ‘wound’ is the determinant. — [2-3] fríðrar himintǫrgu ‘of the splendid sky-shield [SUN]’: This is a sun-kenning (Meissner 103-4) and not, as Kiil (1956, 105) believes, a reference to the mythical shield Svǫl (or Svalin) that protects the earth from the sun’s burning rays (Grí 38). Fríðr ‘splendid’ is appropriate as an adj. characterising the sun, making this emendation (already in Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 379-80; Skj B) more likely than Kock’s (NN §446) and Reichardt’s (1948, 346) emendation fríðra gen. pl., which could only qualify fljóða gen. pl. ‘of women’ (l. 3). — [2-3] vers gunnvargs fríðrar himintǫrgu ‘to the sea of the battle-wolf of the splendid sky-shield [SUN > = Fenrir > MOUNTAINS]’: This kenning is based on an uncommon kenning pattern for ‘mountains, wilderness’, namely, ‘sea of the wolf’. This referent is confirmed by a kenning in the next stanza, ver gaupu ‘sea of the lynx [MOUNTAINS]’ (st. 6/4). Such kennings follow a pattern according to which ‘abode of a mountain animal’ refers to ‘mountains’. The base-word ver ‘sea’ can be explained by the occasional Austausch zwischen ganzen Vorstellungsgebieten ‘switching between complete conceptual domains’ (Meissner 33). Here, ‘land’ is replaced by ‘sea’ and vice versa; cf. þang hlíðar ‘sea-weed of the hill-slope’ for ‘forest’ (Þjóð Yt 17/11I) and vǫrr rádýris ‘wake of the roe-deer’ for ‘land’ (Sigv Frag 2/4). Davidson (1983, 580) has the same kenning, but interprets it as ‘river’, ‘the fishing-place of the brilliant heaven-targe’s (i.e. sun’s) war-wolf (i.e. giant)’. The base-word vers is in the gen., indicating direction (with gingu ‘went’; see NS §141 and Note to st. 2/8 above). — [3, 4] dreyra frumseyris fljóða ‘the blood of the foremost harasser of women [GIANT > RIVER]’: This kenning draws on the creation myth, told in Gylf (SnE 2005, 11), which describes how the gods created the world from the lifeless body of the primordial giant Ymir, whose blood became the rivers and the sea (cf. Vafþr 21/6). Any number of water-kennings refer to this myth (Meissner 99-100). Most eds emend frumseyris m. gen. sg., against all mss, to nom. frumseyrir, to create a subject for the verb kom ‘he came’ (cf. Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 380; Skj B; NN §446; Reichardt 1948, 344). This edn avoids emendation, assuming instead that the sentence has a suppressed subject (pron.). It becomes clear in the second helmingr, where Þórr is the subject, that he is the implied subject of this clause as well. Therefore kom is a sg. verb, which is surely an abrupt change from the pl. verb gingu ‘they went’. This can be explained as a switching of perspective from Þórr and Þjálfi walking through the wilderness to Þórr who wants a contest with a giantess. The giant-kenning is based on the idea that giants harm women, e.g. by abducting them or by forcing the gods to hand over goddesses (see Schulz 2004, 177-9); cf. the giant-kennings ulfr snótar ‘wolf of the woman’ in Þjóð Haustl 2/2 and þjófr Þrúðar ‘thief of Þrúðr’, for Hrungnir, in Bragi Rdr 1/3, 4 (see Note there); the threat to Gerðr in Skí 30-5 that she would be forced to live among giants and trolls; cf. also l. 3 of the Norwegian Rune poem (Anon RunVI). Kiil (1956, 106, followed by Davidson 1983, 581-2) also retains the gen. frumseyris, but he interprets the cpd as a n. noun, frumseyri, based on modern Icelandic and Norwegian lexical material (ModIcel. seyrast ‘ferment, rot’ and New Norw. søyra ‘allow to spoil’), which he takes as a reference to menstrual blood. This interpretation is doubtful, however, because ON seyra is well attested and means ‘harass, cause difficulties for sby’ (Fritzner: seyra v.). Kiil (ibid.) takes kom as an impersonal verb in the sense ‘it came’ with dreyra ‘blood’ as the dat. object. According to him, kom dreyra frumseyris fljóða means ‘(there) came the blood of the women’s (first) menstruation’. — [5, 6] bǫlkveitir Loka ‘misfortune-destroyer of Loki [= Þórr]’: This kenning refers to a group of myths in which Þórr must prevent or repair Loki’s mischief, e.g the story of the master-builder giant (Vsp 25-6; Gylf, SnE 2005, 35) and also the Geirrøðr myth told here. — [8] Sefgrímnis ‘of Sefgrímnir <giant>’: The present edn retains the reading of R and interprets it as the name of a giant. Grímnir is well attested both as a simplex and as the second element of a cpd giant-name; cf. Grímnir (Þul Jǫtna II 1/3), Aurgrímnir (Þul Jǫtna II 2/4) and Hrímgrímnir (Skí 35/1; Þul Jǫtna I 1/6 and II 1/7). Other, and more elaborate interpretations of this word (Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1851, 26; Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 381; LP: sefgrímnir; Reichardt 1948, 347) are uncertain.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  7. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  8. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  9. NS = Nygaard, Marius. 1906. Norrøn syntax. Kristiania (Oslo): Aschehoug. Rpt. 1966.
  10. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  11. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  12. Davidson, Daphne L. 1983. ‘Earl Hákon and his Poets’. D. Phil. thesis. Oxford.
  13. SnE 2005 = Snorri Sturluson. 2005. Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2nd edn. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  14. Schulz, Katja. 2004. Riesen: Von Wissenshütern und Wildnisbewohnern in Edda und Saga. Skandinavistische Arbeiten 20. Heidelberg: Winter.
  15. Finnur Jónsson. 1900b. ‘Þórsdrápa Eilífs Goðrúnarsonar’. Oversigt over det Kgl. Danske videnskabernes selskabs forhandlinger 1900, 369-410.
  16. Kiil, Vilhelm. 1956. ‘Eilífr Goðrúnarson’s Þórsdrápa’. ANF 71, 89-167.
  17. Reichardt, Konstantin. 1948. ‘Die Thórsdrápa des Eilífr Goðrúnarson: Textinterpretation’. PMLA 63, 329-91.
  18. Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 1851. Tvö brot af Haustlaung og Þórsdrápa. Reykjavík: Prentað á kostnað skólasjóðsins.
  19. Guðmundur Finnbogason. 1924. ‘Um Þórsdrápu. Nokkrar athugasemdir’. Skírnir, 172-81.
  20. Internal references
  21. Not published: do not cite (GylfIII)
  22. Not published: do not cite (Anon RunVI)
  23. Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa 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. 28.
  24. Not published: do not cite ()
  25. Not published: do not cite ()
  26. Not published: do not cite ()
  27. Not published: do not cite ()
  28. Not published: do not cite ()
  29. Not published: do not cite ()
  30. Not published: do not cite ()
  31. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2017, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, 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. 349.
  32. Not published: do not cite (ÞBrún Lv 3V (Heið 7))
  33. Not published: do not cite (ÞBrún Lv 4V (Heið 8))
  34. Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, Haustlǫng 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. 434.
  35. Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, Ynglingatal 17’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38.

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