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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl II 22VIII (Bret 22)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 22 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 22)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 155.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá II

‘En bjarnígull         býr of vélar;
leynir hann eplum         Lundúnum í.
Grefr í grundu         gǫtur háligar
fýstr til fengjar         fláráðugt dýr.

‘En bjarnígull býr of vélar; hann leynir eplum í Lundúnum. Fláráðugt dýr, fýstr til fengjar, grefr háligar gǫtur í grundu.

‘But the hedgehog will engineer contrivances; he will hide the apples in London. The treacherous beast, eager for booty, will dig lofty passages in the ground.

Mss: Hb(49v) (Bret)

Editions: Skj AII, 14, Skj BII, 14-15, Skald II, 9; Bret 1848-9, II, 22 (Bret st. 22); Hb 1892-6, 273; Merl 2012, 87-8.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 153.176-7; cf. Wright 1988, 109, prophecy 37): Occultabit infra illam hericius poma sua et subterraneas uias machinabitur ‘The hedgehog will hide his apples there and devise pathways beneath the earth’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 152). Gunnlaugr plays up the notion of the hedgehog-king’s perfidy, on lines similar to his characterisation of the fox-king (II 27-45). — [1] býr ‘will engineer’: For this sense of búa + um cf. ONP: búa um. — [3] hann ‘he’: Omitted in Skald. — [6] háligar ‘lofty’: For this tentative translation, cf. Skj B. As noted by Finnur Jónsson in LP: hôligr, the meaning of this sparsely attested adj. in context is not entirely clear. It represents Gunnlaugr’s free addition to the account in DGB. Possibly the general meaning is ‘capacious, commodious’; possibly too, however, the reading has arisen in error for hagligar ‘artful’ (Fritzner: hagligr 1; LP: hagligr 1; ONP: hagligr), whose inclusion in the text would bring out the meaning of machinabitur ‘will devise, engineer’ more fully. For háligr and hagligr as variant readings see Hbreiðm Lv 1/3II. — [7]: The idea of the hedgehog-king’s eagerness for plunder is another of Gunnlaugr’s additions.


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. ONP = Degnbol, Helle et al., eds. 1989-. A Dictionary of Old Norse Prose / Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog. 1-. Copenhagen: The Arnamagnæan Commission.
  7. Hb 1892-6 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1892-6. Hauksbók udgiven efter de Arnamagnæanske håndskrifter no. 371, 544 og 675, 4° samt forskellige papirshåndskrifter. Copenhagen: Det kongelige nordiske oldskrift-selskab.
  8. Bret 1848-9 = Jón Sigurðsson. 1848-9. ‘Trójumanna saga ok Breta sögur, efter Hauksbók, med dansk Oversættelse’. ÅNOH 1848, 3-215; 1849, 3-145.
  9. Reeve, Michael D., and Neil Wright. 2007. Geoffrey of Monmouth. The History of the Kings of Britain. An Edition and Translation of De gestis Britonum [Historia regum Britanniae]. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  10. Wright, Neil, ed. 1988. The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth. II. The First Variant Version: A Critical Edition. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.
  11. Merl 2012 = Horst, Simone, ed. 2012. Merlínússpá. Merlins Prophezeiung. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag.
  12. Internal references
  13. 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Unattributed, Breta saga’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38.
  14. Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Hallr Þórarinsson breiðmaga, Lausavísa 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 610-11.

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