†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.
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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).
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