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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rloð Lv 8VIII (Ragn 24)

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 24 (Ragnarr loðbrók, Lausavísur 8)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 672.

Ragnarr loðbrókLausavísur

Hvat er, þat er baugs ór björgum
brjótr heyri ek nú þjóta,
at myni Mundils máli
mars †svandr† ófni* hafna?
Þó skal ek þeira ráða,
þorn-Bil, ef goð vilja,
æ*gir* alnar leygjar
ókvíðandi bíða.

Hvat er, þat er ek, {brjótr baugs}, heyri nú þjóta ór björgum, at {máli Mundils} myni hafna †svandr† {ófni* mars}? Þó skal ek, {æ*gir* {leygjar alnar}}, ókvíðandi bíða þeira ráða, ef goð vilja, {þorn-Bil}.

What is that which I, {the breaker of a ring} [GENEROUS MAN], now hear howl from the cliffs, that {the close companion of Mundill <sea-king>} [SEAFARER] is likely to reject … {a snake of the sea} [SHIP]? Nevertheless, I, {the terrifier {of the fire of the forearm}} [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN], shall without fear bring those plans to fruition if the gods wish it, {clasp-Bil <goddess>} [WOMAN = Áslaug-Randalín].

Mss: 1824b(70v), 147(110v) (Ragn)

Readings: [1] Hvat: ‘[…] (at)’(?) 147;    þat er: so 147, þat 1824b;    baugs: ‘b(a)ugs’(?) so 147, ‘baux’ 1824b;    ór björgum: ór baugum 1824b, ‘[…](augum)’(?) 147    [2] brjótr: ‘bríot’ 1824b, ‘[…]t’ 147;    heyri ek þjóta: ‘heyri eg (n)u […]’(?) 147    [3] at myni: at menn 1824b, ‘(at) […]’ 147;    máli: om. 1824b, 147    [4] †svandr† ófni*: ‘svandr ofnir’ 1824b, ‘[…]uand[…] (ofn)[…]’(?) 147    [5] Þó skal ek þeira ráða: ‘(þo skal eg […] rrada)’(?) 147    [6] þorn‑Bil: þann bil 1824b, ‘[…]’ 147;    ef goð vilja: ‘[…]f god vilia’ 147    [7] æ*gir*: ‘ęgíls’ 1824b, ‘[…]gi(ls)’(?) 147;    alnar leygjar: ‘al[…]ar (le)[…]’(?) 147    [8] ókvíðandi bíða: ‘(okv)[…](nd) […]’(?) 147

Editions: Skj AII, 238, Skj BII, 257, Skald II, 134, NN §§2370, 3197F; FSN 1, 279 (Ragn ch. 14), Ragn 1891, 208 (ch. 14), Ragn 1906-8, 155-6, cf. 186, 211-12 (ch. 15), Ragn 1944, 94-5 (ch. 15), FSGJ 1, 266 (Ragn ch. 15), Ragn 1985, 137 (ch. 15), Ragn 2003, 50 (ch. 15); CPB II, 350.

Context: Hearing that there is much talk of his planned invasion of England, Ragnarr, speaking to Áslaug-Randalín, here answers defiantly the criticism, as he perceives it, that he is refusing to take the appropriate type of ship with him.

Notes: [All]: This stanza is full of textual difficulties and has been the locus of much discussion and emendation. It has proved impossible to avoid considerable emendation in the present edn. — [1, 2] þjóta ór björgum ‘howl from the cliffs’: Olsen (Ragn 1906-8) emended 1824b’s ór baugum ‘from rings’ to ór björgum ‘from the cliffs’ and has been followed in this by all subsequent eds. The expression þjóta ór björgum (more often þjóta annan veg í björgum ‘howl another way in the cliffs’, i.e. ‘dance to a different tune’) is an idiom that refers lit. to the howling of the wind in rocks or mountains as a means of indicating the force of common opinion. See LP, Heggstad et al. 2008: þjóta; Blakkr Lv 2/5, 8II and Note there; Kári Lv 5/5, 8V (Nj 50). — [3] myni ‘is likely to’: I.e. 3rd pers. sg. subj. of the modal auxiliary munu ‘shall, will’, denoting probable future time. This emendation of 1824b’s menn ‘men’ first appeared in print in Ragn 1906-8, 211, where Olsen attributes it to Finnur Jónsson. It appears in Skj B and is adopted (as myni/muni) by all subsequent eds. — [3] máli Mundils ‘the close companion of Mundill <sea-king> [SEAFARER]’: There is no word in either ms. after Mundils which would provide a metrical l. 3, so eds have resorted to conjectural emendation to supply one. Vigfusson and Powell (CPB), Rafn (FSN) and Valdimar Ásmundarson (Ragn 1891) retain the 1824b reading mundils, without giving it a capital <M>. While no attempt is made in CPB or by Rafn to fill out the line by emendation, Valdimar adds mara f. ‘incubus, nightmare’ after mundils, thus producing the combination mundils mara ‘sea-king’s nightmare’ (?), which makes little sense in the context. Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 211) and Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emend to meiðir mundelds ‘destroyer of hand-fire [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’ and are followed in this respect by subsequent eds. This would certainly be consistent with the kennings brjótr baugs ‘breaker of a ring [GENEROUS MAN]’ in ll. 1, 2, and æ*gir* leygjar alnar ‘terrifier of the fire of the forearm [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’ in l. 7, but the context of the stanza suggests that the speaker (Ragnarr) is concerned to emphasise his seafaring capacity at least as much as his generosity, and the kenning máli Mundils ‘close companion of Mundill <sea-king> [SEAFARER]’, proposed here, seems appropriate, as well as involving relatively little emendation. The reading Mundils (gen. of Mundill, recorded as a sea-king name in Þul Sea-kings 1/5III) has moreover the support of 147, although the name does not occur elsewhere in kennings. — [4] †svandr† ófni* mars ‘… a snake of the sea [SHIP]’:  The ms. readings here cause particular difficulty, though it seems clear that ófnir m. (cf. the 1824b reading, above) means ‘snake’, as indicated by its inclusion in Þul Orma 1/3III and by its use as a determinant in kennings for ‘gold’ (Meissner 240). Various emendations have been proposed to account for ms. ‘svandr’, but none have been convincing. (a) Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 211), taking mar- as the root of ON marr m. ‘sea’ (cf. Lat. mare, ModEngl. mere), emends to mar-sviðr ófni, seeing sviðr (= svinnr) ‘wise’ as qualifying meiðir ‘destroyer’ in the previous line (as he and others read it, see the previous Note), and interrupting the kenning marófni ‘sea-snake [(dragon-prowed) SHIP]’, a m. noun here in the dat., as the object of hafna ‘reject’, in such a way as to form an example of tmesis. In this he is followed by Eskeland (Ragn 1944) and Ebel (Ragn 2003). (b) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ), who also take svinnr/sviðr ‘wise’ as qualifying meiðir ‘destroyer’ in the previous line (cf. the second Note to l. 3, above), see the adj. rather as falling between the two elements of a two-word kenning, ófnir mars ‘snake of the sea [(dragon-prowed) SHIP]’. They thus emend to mars svinnr/sviðr ófni, with ófni in the dat. as the object of hafna ‘reject’. (c) Kock, on the other hand, takes an emended vandófni, m. dat. sg. as the object of hafna ‘reject’, and vandófnir mars as a kenning for ‘(dragon-prowed) ship’, taking ‑ófnir as meaning ‘snake’ and initially understanding the element vand- as related to vandr adj. ‘difficult, problematic’, hence ‘dangerous snake of the sea’ (NN §2370); later, however (NN §3197F), he relates this element rather to vǫndr ‘wand, stick’, hence ‘mast’, thus arriving at the literal meaning ‘a mast-snake of the sea [SHIP]’. While Kock’s reading of the text is relatively close to the ms. readings, neither of his interpretations is entirely satisfactory: parallels to the compounding of vand- meaning ‘difficult, dangerous’ with nouns of such concrete signification as ‘ship’ are hard to find, and vandófnir, if understood as ‘mast-snake’, can itself be understood as a ship-kenning, so that the apparent determinant mars ‘of the sea’ becomes redundant. Örnólfur Thorsson (Ragn 1985), adopts Kock’s text here, understanding vandófnir mars as a kenning for ‘ship’ and the second element in vandófnir as meaning ‘snake’, but leaves its first element unexplained. (d) The present ed. prefers in the circumstances to set aside the ms. reading ‘svandr’ as incomprehensible, and to take ófni* mars ‘snake of the sea’ as a kenning for ‘ship’, here in the dat. as the object of hafna ‘reject’. Cf. the kennings fjarðlinnr m. ‘fjord-serpent [SHIP]’ (Mark Lv 1/1III) and naðr sævar ‘adder of the sea [SHIP]’ (Edáð Banddr 3/3I). — [5] skal ek ‘I … shall’: All previous eds apart from those of CPB and Rafn (FSN) omit the 1st pers. pron., taking the kenning in l. 7 as the subject of the sentence and skal as 3rd rather than 1st pers. sg. There is no reason why it should be omitted, however, either syntactically or metrically: the kenning in l. 7, to be discussed below, may be taken as an appositive semantic expansion of the 1st pers. pron. (‘I, the …’), and skal ek could be normalised to skalk. — [6] þorn-Bil ‘clasp-Bil <goddess> [WOMAN = Áslaug-Randalín]’: The emendation of 1824b’s þann to þorn ‘clasp’ here is adopted by all eds save those of CPB, FSN, Ragn 1891 and Ragn 1985, all of whose retention of 1824b’s þann bil makes interpretation difficult. Bil is mentioned in SnE 2005, 30 (cf. SnE 1998, I, 114) and in þulur (Þul Ásynja 1/8III, Þul Kvenna II 3/6III) as the name of a goddess, and is well attested as the base-word in woman kennings in which the determinant is a characteristic woman’s appurtenance, see LP: 1. Bil and Turville-Petre (1976, xlix). — [7]: With most eds including Skj B, this edn emends the ms. readings (‘ęgíls’ 1824b, ‘[…]gi(ls)’(?) 147) to ægir (earlier œgir) ‘terrifier, terroriser’, taking this as the base-word in the kenning ægir leygjar alnar ‘terrifier of the fire of the (fore)arm [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’, i.e. one who ‘terrifies’ gold by breaking it up and distributing it to his followers. Vigfusson and Powell (CPB) and Rafn (FSN) normalise here to Egils, Æigils, gen. sg. of Egill, which makes little sense in the context. — [8] bíða ‘bring … to fruition’: The verb has þeira ráða ‘those plans’ in l. 5 as its object in the gen. LP: bíða indicates that bíða in this meaning is found more often with an acc. than a gen. object; where a gen. object is found, the meaning is generally ‘wait for’. However, the sense ‘experience, carry out’ seems to be indicated by the context, and is assumed here, as by Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 212) and Finnur Jónsson (Skj B).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. FSN = Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1829-30. Fornaldar sögur nordrlanda. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  7. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  8. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  9. Turville-Petre, Gabriel. 1976. Scaldic Poetry. Oxford: Clarendon.
  10. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  11. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  12. SnE 2005 = Snorri Sturluson. 2005. Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2nd edn. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  13. Ragn 1906-8 = Olsen 1906-8, 111-222.
  14. Ragn 1944 = Eskeland, Severin, ed. and trans. 1944. Soga om Ragnar Lodbrok med Kråka-kvædet. Norrøne bokverk 16. 2nd ed. Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget. [1st ed. 1914].
  15. Ragn 1985 = Örnólfur Thorsson 1985, 101-53.
  16. Ragn 1891 = 2nd edn (pp. 175-224) of Ragn as ed. in Valdimar Ásmundarson 1885-9, I.
  17. Ragn 2003 = Ebel, Uwe, ed. 2003. Ragnars saga loðbrókar. Texte des skandinavischen Mittelalters 4. Vol. II of Ebel 1997-2003.
  18. Internal references
  19. 2017, ‘ Anonymous, Ragnars saga loðbrókar’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 616. <> (accessed 18 September 2021)
  20. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Heiti for sea-kings 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 988.
  21. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Ásynja heiti 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 763.
  22. Russell Poole 2012, ‘ Eyjólfr dáðaskáld, Bandadrápa’ 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. 454. <> (accessed 18 September 2021)
  23. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Orma heiti 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 928.
  24. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Kvenna heiti ókend 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 963.
  25. Not published: do not cite (Kári Lv 5V (Nj 50))
  26. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Blakkr, Lausavísur 2’ 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. 650-1.

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