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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÚlfrU Húsdr 7III

Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Úlfr Uggason, Húsdrápa 7’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 417.

Úlfr UggasonHúsdrápa

Stanzas 7-11 contain a representation of the funeral of Baldr, who was fatally struck by a sprig of mistletoe (at Loki’s instigation) during play with weapons. Stanzas 7-10 describe a procession of the gods Freyr, Óðinn, Heimdallr and the valkyries, to a pyre of wood that has been built for the cremation of Baldr’s corpse. The meaning of the last stanza, which describes a giantess pushing a ship forward and Óðinn’s warriors killing a horse, is disputed. This stanza is most often explained in light of Gylf’s (SnE 2005, 46-7) version of the story, according to which the ship would not budge so that a giantess has to be summoned to push it out into the sea. She arrives, riding a wolf, which is so powerful that Óðinn’s warriors, four berserks who are supposed to hold it, have to throw it to the ground. The present edition instead interprets the scene in st. 11 in light of st. 10, namely, as the ceremonial sacrifice of a horse during the funeral.

In sts 7-11 we find different denotations for the place of Baldr’s funeral, namely, a castle or fortress (borg st. 7/1), a woodpile (kǫstr st. 8/1) a funeral pyre (bál st. 9/4) and a ship (haf-Sleipnir st. 11/2). This apparent discrepancy is easily explained, however, if the funeral pyre was built on a ship and both the ship and the pyre were then burnt. A funeral like this is mentioned by Ibn Fadlān, a tenth-century Arab envoy who wrote a detailed description of the funeral of a Rusj (?) chieftain (see Notes to st. 10).

Ríðr á bǫrg til borgar
bǫðfróðr sonar Óðins
Freyr ok folkum stýrir
fyrst inum golli byrsta.

Bǫðfróðr Freyr ríðr fyrst til borgar {sonar Óðins} á inum golli byrsta bǫrg ok stýrir folkum.

Battle-skilled Freyr <god> rides first to the funeral pyre {of the son of Óðinn <god>} [= Baldr] on the boar bristled with gold and leads the troops.

Mss: R(22r), Tˣ(22v), W(48), U(28r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] bǫrg: so all others, ‘bꜹgr’ R    [2] sonar: sonr U    [3] Freyr: ‘fr[…]’ U    [4] fyrst: fyrstr U;    inum: so U, ok all others;    byrsta (‘bysta’): so U, byrstum all others

Editions: Skj AI, 137, Skj BI, 129, Skald I, 72; SnE 1848-87, I, 264-5, II, 311, III, 19-20, SnE 1931, 98, SnE 1998, I, 19.

Context: In Skm (SnE) the helmingr is cited to illustrate Freyr’s attributes – here his boar.

Notes: [1, 4] ríðr … á inum golli byrsta bǫrg ‘rides … on the boar bristled with gold’: A boar called Gullinbusti (Gullinbursti in W) ‘Gold-bristle’ or Slíðrugtanni ‘Ugly-tooth’ is mentioned in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 18-19) as an attribute of the god Freyr; cf. Hyndl 5, 7 and 45 where Freyr’s sister Freyja rides on a boar. In Gylf’s (SnE 2005, 47) description of Baldr’s funeral, however, Freyr rides in a chariot pulled by a boar: Freyr ók í kerru með gelti þeim er Gullinbursti heitir eða Slíðrugtanni ‘Freyr drove in a chariot with the boar called Gullinbursti or Slíðrugtanni’. — [1] til borgar ‘to the funeral pyre’: Lit. ‘to the fortification’. As in Sigsk 65/6, borg ‘fortification’ refers to the raised funeral pyre here (Turville-Petre 1976, 68). — [2, 3] bǫðfróðr Freyr … stýrir folkum ‘battle-skilled Freyr … leads the troops’: Turville-Petre (1964, 175) connects Freyr’s warlike aspect with his being called iaðarr ása ‘protector of the gods’ (Lok 35/6, NK 103) and fólcvaldi goða ‘commander of the gods’ (Skí 3/2, NK 69). Cf. also the battle-kenning leikr Freys ‘the sport of Freyr’ in Þhorn Harkv 6/4I (see Note there). — [4] inum golli byrsta ‘bristled with gold’: Mss R, , W have ok golli byrstum, whereas U has inum golli bysta (‘bysta’ is the result of assimilation of -rst to -st, ANG §270.3). Since ok golli byrstum cannot be integrated in the syntax of the helmingr, the version of U has been adopted here.


  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. ANG = Noreen, Adolf. 1923. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (Laut- und Flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. 4th edn. Halle: Niemeyer. 1st edn. 1884. 5th unrev. edn. 1970. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  5. Turville-Petre, Gabriel. 1964. Myth and Religion of the North. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  6. Turville-Petre, Gabriel. 1976. Scaldic Poetry. Oxford: Clarendon.
  7. NK = Neckel, Gustav and Hans Kuhn (1899), eds. 1983. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 2 vols. I: Text. 5th edn. Heidelberg: Winter.
  8. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  9. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  10. SnE 2005 = Snorri Sturluson. 2005. Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2nd edn. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  11. Internal references
  12. Edith Marold 2017, ‘Snorra Edda (Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál)’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  13. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  14. Not published: do not cite (GylfIII)
  15. Not published: do not cite ()
  16. Not published: do not cite ()
  17. Not published: do not cite ()
  18. Not published: do not cite ()
  19. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 6’ 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. 99.

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