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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Lv 5II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur 5’ 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. 169-71.

Þjóðólfr ArnórssonLausavísur

text and translation

Varp ór þrætu þorpi
Þórr smiðbelgja stórra
hvapteldingum hǫldnum
hafra kjǫts at jǫtni.
Hljóðgreipum tók húða
hrøkkviskafls af afli
glaðr við galdra smiðju
Geirrøðr síu þeiri.

{Þórr stórra smiðbelgja} varp {hvapteldingum} ór {þorpi þrætu} at {hǫldnum jǫtni kjǫts hafra}. {Glaðr Geirrøðr hrøkkviskafls húða} tók {hljóðgreipum} við {þeiri síu {smiðju galdra}} af afli.
‘The Þórr <god> of huge forge-bellows [SMITH] flung jaw-lightnings [INSULTS] from his quarrel hamlet [MOUTH] at the proud giant of goats’ flesh [TANNER]. The cheerful Geirrøðr <giant> of the curving scraper of hides [TANNER] took in with his sound-grabbers [EARS] that molten substance of the smithy of spells [MOUTH > INSULTS], powerfully.

notes and context

In a ch. about King Haraldr’s dealings with Sneglu-Halli (SnH) and other skalds, the story relates how Þjóðólfr, walking along the street with the king, overhears a row between a tanner (or cobbler, sútari in Flat) and a blacksmith. Þjóðólfr is at first affronted by the king’s demand that he compose about this, but when the king adds that to make the task more challenging he should present the antagonists as the giant Geirrøðr and the god Þórr, he recites this st.; the king is duly impressed by it and immediately commissions Lv 6. (The two sts are in reverse order in Flat and 593b.)

If the st. was truly extemporized, its royal patron was right to be impressed. The complex and innovative imagery creates parallels and oppositions between the quarrelling tanner and smith, while casting them as the antagonists in the mythical story of the god Þórr’s encounter with the giant Geirrøðr. The smith figures, appropriately, as Þórr, who in the Geirrøðr story lacks his famous hammer but has a pair of iron gloves. The story is told, cryptically, in Eilífr Goðrúnarson’s Þórsdrápa (Eil ÞdrIII), which is preserved, with prose paraphrase, in SnE (1998, I, 24-30). At its centre, Geirrøðr (supposedly in sport) throws a lump of molten iron at Þórr, who throws it back at, and through, the giant, and this is transformed into a metaphor for speech in Þjóðólfr’s skit. There is a good deal of vocabulary in common between Þjóðólfr’s Lv 5-6 and Þdr, e.g. tangar ‘tongs’ (Þdr 16/6III, with slight emendation, and Lv 6/8), afli ‘strength/forge’ (Þdr 16/7III and Lv 5/6), síu ‘molten substance’ (Þdr 18/4III and Lv 6/8) and greip ‘grabber’ (Þdr 17/8III and Lv 5/5); Greip is also the name of one of Geirrøðr’s daughters.



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: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson, 4. Lausavísur 14: AI, 380, BI, 350, Skald I, 176, NN §1140; ÍF 9, 267-8 (Snegl ch. 3), Mork 1928-32, 235, Andersson and Gade 2000, 244, 478 (MH); Fms 6, 361-2 (HSig ch. 101), Fms 12, 160; Flat 1860-8, III, 417 (MH).


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