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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 29VIII (Bret 97)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 97 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 29)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 67.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

text and translation

‘Honum fulltingir         Fenrir sjóvar,
þeims Affríkar         útan fylgja.
Verðr kristnibrot         of kyni þjóðar;
þó munu sjalfir         síðar nøkkvi
enskir lýðir         allir skírask.

‘Fenrir sjóvar fulltingir honum, þeims Affríkar fylgja útan. Verðr kristnibrot of kyni þjóðar; þó munu sjalfir enskir lýðir allir skírask nøkkvi síðar.
‘‘The Fenrir <mythical wolf> of the sea, which Africans follow from overseas, will help it. There will be a breakdown of Christianity among the kindred of the people; yet the English people will themselves all be baptised somewhat later.

notes and context

Cf. DGB 112 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 145.45-6; cf. Wright 1988, 102, prophecy 3): Sublimabit illum aequoreus lupus, quem Affricana nemora comitabuntur. Delebitur iterum religio ‘It [the Germanic worm] will be raised by a wolf from the sea, who will be accompanied by the forests of Africa. Religion will be destroyed again’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 144). The events prophesied here are narrated in DGB XI: the Saxons call for assistance from Gormundus, the king of the Africans, who has just subdued Ireland and therefore can be called the ‘wolf from the sea’; he brings an army composed of 160,000 Africans (J. S. Eysteinsson 1953-7, 100; for text see Reeve and Wright 2007, 256-7; on Geoffrey’s sources for the story of Gormundus see Tatlock 1950, 135-8). The first sentence is absent from some mss of DGB (Reeve and Wright 2007, 145) but must have been available to Gunnlaugr. Gunnlaugr rationalises the figurative ‘the forests of Africa’ and adds the idea that despite the breakdown of religion the English will in due course be baptised, as foreshadowed in DGB XI (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 258-9; J. S. Eysteinsson 1953-7, 100) and fully narrated in Bede HE I, 23-6 and Henry of Huntingdon HA Book III.


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: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 29: AII, 25-6, BII, 29-30, Skald II, 18; Bret 1848-9, II, 48 (Bret st. 97); Hb 1892-6, 279; Merl 2012, 148-9.


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