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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þjóð Haustl 5III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, Haustlǫng 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. 439.

Þjóðólfr ór HviniHaustlǫng

Fljótt bað foldar dróttinn
Fárbauta mǫg Várar
þekkiligr með þegnum
þrymseilar hval deila.
Enn af breiðu bjóði
bragðvíss at þat lagði
ósvífrandi ása
upp þjórhluti fjóra.

{Þekkiligr dróttinn foldar} bað {mǫg Fárbauta} deila fljótt {hval {Várar þrymseilar}} með þegnum. Enn {bragðvíss ósvífrandi ása} lagði at þat fjóra þjórhluti upp af breiðu bjóði.

{The gracious lord of the earth} [= Óðinn] bade {the son of Fárbauti <giant>} [= Loki] share out quickly {the whale {of the Vár <goddess> of the bowstring}} [= Skaði > OX] among the fellows. But {the cunning unyielding opponent of the gods} [= Þjazi] thereupon snatched four ox-parts up from the broad food-board.

Mss: R(25v), Tˣ(26r), W(55) (SnE)

Readings: [2] mǫg: ‘[…]g’ W;    Várar: ‘vǫro’ R, ‘[…]ra’ Tˣ, vara W    [6] at: ‘[…]’ W    [7] ósvífrandi: ósviptandi W    [8] þjór‑: ‘þio[…]’ R, ‘þiorir’ Tˣ, ‘þor’ W;    ‑hluti: so W, ‘hlifi’ R, ‘luti’ Tˣ;    fjóra: so all others, ‘ora’ R

Editions: Skj AI, 17, Skj BI, 15, Skald I, 10, NN §§137, 227, 2504, 3037; SnE 1848-87, I, 310-11, III, 42-3, SnE 1931, 111, SnE 1998, I, 31.

Context: As for st. 1.

Notes: [All]: Lines 1-4 of this stanza recall the first helmingr of st. 4, both in subject-matter and vocabulary. The difference is that in st. 4 Þjazi is represented as disrupting the orderly sharing of food by trying to take over Óðinn’s role as leader and chief food-distributor. In st. 5/1-4 Óðinn reasserts his authority (and the kenning for Óðinn reflects this, just as that for Þjazi in st. 4/5 alerts one to his usurping of Óðinn’s role), and this forces Þjazi to snatch far more than his fair share of the ox, four parts, described in the prose narrative of Skm (SnE 1998, I, 1) as lær oxans tvau ok báða bógana ‘the ox’s two thighs and both shoulders’. — [2] mǫg Fárbauta ‘the son of Fárbauti <giant> [= Loki]’: Fárbauti is named in Gylf (SnE 2005, 26) as Loki’s giant father. The same kenning for Loki is in ÚlfrU Húsdr 2/4. — [2, 4] hval Várar þrymseilar ‘the whale of the Vár <goddess> of the bowstring [= Skaði > OX]’: None of the proposed readings of these lines are entirely satisfactory. Most eds emend the mss’ various forms to Várar, gen. sg. of the goddess name Vár, and understand the kenning Vár þrymseilar ‘the Vár of the bowstring’ (lit. ‘the Vár of the noise-band’; cf. Þul Boga 1/3, where þrymr ‘noise’ is listed as a bow-heiti) to refer to the giantess Skaði, daughter of Þjazi, who is said in Gylf (SnE 2005, 24) to live in the mountains at Þrymheimr, Þjazi’s home, where she travels around on skis with bow and arrows and shoots game (she is referred to as ǫndurgoð ‘ski-deity’ in st. 7/4). It is not entirely clear why an ox should be termed Skaði’s whale, unless to emphasise its large size and appropriateness as quarry of a giant huntress – after all the party of gods had come upon a herd of oxen in their travels through mountains and wildernesses, according to Skm. Faulkes (SnE 1998, II, 323) suggests that whales could be seen as Njǫrðr’s oxen, alluding to the mythological circumstance that Skaði was unhappily married to Njǫrðr, god of the sea, but this seems rather far-fetched. Kock (NN §137) adopts the form Vôru rather than Várar in l. 2 and, basing himself (NN §2504) on a statement in Magnús Ólafsson’s Laufás Edda (LaufE 1979, 266) which could be understood to mean that hvalr þrymseilar alone is a kenning for an ox, he construes Vôru with an emended þægiligr ‘acceptable, agreeable’ (l. 4) to mean ‘acceptable to Vár’. Marold (1983, 158-9) construes þekkiligr Vôru ‘acceptable to Vár’ with dróttinn foldar ‘lord of the earth’ (rather than the ox-kenning) and emends l. 4 to hval seilar Þryms ‘whale of the rope of Þrymr <giant> [OX]’, i.e. Þrymr’s draught animal. — [6, 7] bragðvíss ósvífrandi ása ‘the cunning unyielding opponent of the gods [= Þjazi]’: Both Holtsmark (1949, 23-4) and Marold (1983, 159-60) consider this kenning refers to Loki, not Þjazi, the latter on the ground that, as Loki was instructed to carve the ox in the first helmingr, he should be the expected subject of the second, which describes the division of the beast. This argument is not supported by the narrative of Skm (see Note to [All] above). The cpd ósvífrandi is related etymologically to the strong verb svífa ‘swing, float, hover’; cf. the adj. ósvífr ‘unyielding, bold’ (AEW: svífa).


  1. Bibliography
  2. 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.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. LaufE 1979 = Faulkes, Anthony, ed. 1979. Edda Magnúsar Ólafssonar (Laufás Edda). RSÁM 13. Vol. I of Two Versions of Snorra Edda from the 17th Century. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, 1977-9.
  6. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  7. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  8. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  9. Marold, Edith. 1983. Kenningkunst: Ein Beitrag zu einer Poetik der Skaldendichtung. Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte der germanischen Völker, new ser. 80. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  10. SnE 2005 = Snorri Sturluson. 2005. Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2nd edn. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  11. Holtsmark, Anne. 1949. ‘Myten om Idun og Tjatse i Tjodolvs Haustlǫng’. ANF 64, 1-73.
  12. Internal references
  13. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  14. Not published: do not cite (GylfIII)
  15. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Boga heiti 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. 821.
  16. Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Úlfr Uggason, Húsdrápa 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. 407.
  17. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Laufás Edda (LaufE)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].

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