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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Reginn Lv 1VIII (Hrólf 6)

†Desmond Slay (ed.) 2017, ‘Hrólfs saga kraka 6 (Reginn, Lausavísa 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 545.



This lausavísa is attributed to Reginn, the foster-father of Hróarr and Helgi, who wishes to help the boys without falling foul of King Fróði, who is out to kill them. He manipulates a situation that leads to the burning of Fróði in his hall and confuses the king’s men, but not the king, into believing that there is no danger to them. The stanza below alerts the king to what is happening.

text and translation

Regn er úti         ok rekkar Hálfdanar
snæfir andskotar;         segið þat Fróða.
Varr sló nagla,         ok Varr höfðaði,
en Varr Vörum         varnagla sló.

Regn er úti, ok rekkar Hálfdanar, snæfir andskotar; segið Fróða þat. Varr sló nagla, ok Varr höfðaði, en Varr sló Vörum varnagla.
‘Rain is outside, and Hálfdan’s men, strong opponents; tell it to Fróði. Varr forged nails, and Varr put heads on them, and Varr forged Varr-nails for the Varrs.

notes and context

Hróarr and Helgi, guided by Reginn, return to attack Fróði’s hall. They are joined by Sævill and his men, and Reginn’s men. Reginn, divided in loyalty between his foster-sons and Fróði, speaks this punning stanza.

According to the prose text of the saga, the king’s men in the hall think the stanza refers to rain (regn l. 1) and to the king’s two smiths, both named Varr, who are making nails (ll. 5-8), but the king understands that it is a veiled warning. Thus he must understand its ‘undercover’ meaning: ‘Reginn is outside, and Hálfdan’s men, strong opponents; tell it to Fróði. A wary man hit a nail, a wary man beheaded it, and a wary man hit a wary-nail [took precautions, gave a warning] for a wary man’. To produce such a double entendre, there are puns on regn ‘rain’ and Reginn, the name of the boys’ foster-father (l. 1), and on Varr, name of the two smiths, and varr ‘wary’ (ll. 5-8). There is ambiguity of number in nagla (pl.) and ‑nagla (sg.) as well as in Vörum ‘for the Varrs’ (pl.) or ‘for Wary’ (sg., a reference to the king) (ll. 5-8). In addition, the verb höfðaði ‘put heads on [nails]’ (l. 6) probably carries the more sinister meaning of ‘beheaded’ (cf. Fritzner: hǫfða), while the expression slá varnagla ‘to hit a wary-nail, take precautions, give a warning’ overrides the surface meaning of sló varnagla ‘forged Varr-nails’; cf. Halldór Halldórsson (1954, 381; 1968-9, II, 235-6; see also LP: varnagli).



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: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 1. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Hrólfs saga kraka 6: AII, 231, BII, 250-1, Skald II, 130; Hrólf 1960, 14; Edd. Min. 62.


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