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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Keth Lv 2VIII (Ket 3 [a])

Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2017, ‘Ketils saga hœngs 3 (Ketill hœngr, Lausavísur 2)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 553.

Ketill hœngrLausavísur


These ten stanzas contain a hostile exchange (senna) between Ketill and the king of the Saami, Gusi, Brúni’s brother, whom Ketill meets after he departs from Brúni’s home in the spring (ch. 3, FSGJ 2, 160-4). At parting Brúni warns Ketill against travelling through the forest, where, it is implied, he may meet the hostile Gusi; Brúni instructs Ketill to follow a route he points out. Ketill, however, prefers to take a shorter route through the forest, where he is overtaken by Gusi, who is travelling with a wagon drawn by two reindeer.

Previous editions have differed in their allocation of stanzas to the two speakers, Ketill and Gusi. Both Skj and Skald have changed the sequence of Keth Lv 3 (Ket 5) and Gusi Lv 3 (Ket 6), as they are present in the mss, to conform to their idea of who speaks which stanza and in what order. Edd. Min. allocates the stanzas, as has been done here, in accordance with the sequence and designation of speakers in the mss. While the first stanza divides cleanly between Ketill (Keth Lv 2, Ket 3a) and Gusi (Gusi Lv 1, Ket 3b), the following stanza (Gusi Lv 2) runs on directly from Gusi’s self-identification, without the prose text indicating any break of speaker. Both Skj and Skald change the order of the following stanzas, placing Gusi Lv 3 (Ket 6), Hverr er á öndrum, before Keth Lv 3 (Ket 5), Hængr ek heiti. Then, following a suggestion of Edd. Min. lxxii that Gusi Lv 2 (Ket 4) and Keth Lv 3 (Ket 5) are parallel and perhaps alternative stanzas to Gusi Lv 3 (Ket 6) and Keth Lv 4 (Ket 7), they treat Keth Lv 4 (Ket 7), Hæng kalla mik, immediately after Hængr ek heiti (Ket 5) as a kind of duplicate stanza (they are both present in 343a, but Ket 6-7 are not in 471). In CPB (CPB II, 557) Gusi Lv 2 (Ket 4) is transposed to after Keth Lv 8 (Ket 13), and both stanzas are regarded as addressed by a troll to Ketill. There is no basis in the ms. tradition for this interpretation or for the transposition.

The majority of these stanzas are in fornyrðislag (or málaháttr), but Gusi Lv 2 (Ket 4) is in ljóðaháttr and fornyrðislag.

text and translation

Skríð þú af kjálka;         kyrr þu hreina;
seggr síðförull,         seg, hvattu heitir.

Skríð þú af kjálka; kyrr þu hreina; seggr síðförull, seg, hvattu heitir.
‘Slide from the sledge; calm the reindeer; man travelling late, say what your name is.

notes and context

The first four lines of this stanza (Ket 3a) are introduced by the words: Ketill kvaddi hann með vísu ‘Ketill addressed him with a stanza’. Between lines 1-4 and 5-8 the mss indicate that Gusi is the speaker of the latter part of the stanza (Ket 3b) by the remark: sá svarar ‘that [man] answers’ (343a) or sá sagði ‘that [man] said’ (471).

The request that a stranger reveal his name and identity is conventional in both mythic and heroic poetry; cf. Fáfn 1-2.



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. 8. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ketill hœngs saga II 1/1-4: AII, 279, BII, 301, Skald II, 159, FF §16; FSN 2, 119, FSGJ 2, 160, Anderson 1990, 48, 91, 433; Edd. Min. 77.


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