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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rloð Lv 10VIII (Ragn 27)

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 27 (Ragnarr loðbrók, Lausavísur 10)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 678.

Ragnarr loðbrókLausavísur

Gnyðja mundu grísir,
ef galtar hag vissi,
— mér er gnótt at grandi —
grafa inn rönum sínum
ok harðliga hrína;
hafa mik sogit ormar;
nú man ek nár af bragði
ok nær dýrum deyja.

Grísir mundu gnyðja, ef vissi hag galtar, grafa inn rönum sínum ok hrína harðliga; mér er gnótt at grandi; ormar hafa sogit mik; nú man ek nár af bragði ok deyja nær dýrum.

The porkers would grunt if they knew the boar’s predicament, would dig in with their snouts and squeal mightily; for me there is harm in plenty; snakes have sucked me; I’ll soon be a corpse and die in the proximity of beasts.

Mss: 1824b(72r), 147ˣ(103v) (Ragn)

Readings: [1] Gnyðja mundu grísir: ‘[…] (mu)ndu gris(ir)’(?) 147ˣ    [2] ef galtar hag vissi: ef galtar kaul hag vissi 1824b, ‘(ef) g(a)llt[…] vissi’(?) 147ˣ    [3] mér er gnótt: ‘mier (er) gnott’(?) 147ˣ;    at grandi: ‘at gradi’ 1824b, ‘[…] (g[…]di)’(?) 147ˣ    [4] grafa inn rönum sínum: ‘[…] (raunum) sin[…]’(?) 147ˣ    [5] ok harðliga hrína: ‘(og) […]ardli[…] (hrin)a’(?) 147ˣ    [6] hafa mik sogit ormar: ‘h[…]f[…] m[…] (sog)[…] orm(ar)’(?) 147ˣ    [7] man ek nár af bragði: ‘[…] (man eg) […] b(r[…]gdi)’(?) 147ˣ    [8] ok nær dýrum deyja: ‘(og […]ær) dy(rum dey)ia’(?) 147ˣ

Editions: Skj AII, 238-9, Skj BII, 258, Skald II, 134, NN §2338Fa; FSN 1, 282 (Ragn ch. 15), Ragn 1891, 211 (ch. 15), Ragn 1906-8, 159, 213 (ch. 15), Ragn 1944, 100-1 (ch. 16), FSGJ 1, 269 (Ragn ch. 15), Ragn 1985, 140 (ch. 15), Ragn 2003, 53 (ch. 15), CPB II, 350-1.

Context: Ragnarr recites this stanza just before dying in the snake-pit. After his death King Ælle, suspecting and anxious to confirm that it is Ragnarr who has been his victim, sends messengers to Ragnarr’s sons with news of his death.

Notes: [1-2]: The first two lines of this stanza are listed as an example of a proverb by Finnur Jónsson (1914, 91), as well as by Bjarni Vilhjálmsson and Óskar Halldórsson (1982, 120). Finnur Jónsson (1920, 61) and Bjarni and Óskar (ibid.) also quote the Modern Icelandic proverb Grenja mundi grís ef gölturinn væri drepinn ‘the young pig would squeal if the boar were killed’, referring to Hallgrímur Scheving (1843-7) as their source for it, and Finnur equating it with these lines in Ragn. Sölvi Sveinsson (1995, 188) also quotes it, claiming that it has its origin in these lines. This is questionable, however. Hallgrímur Scheving (1843-7, 26) does indeed record the modern proverb, but also refers to Þórð (ÍF 14, 182), where a variant of it occurs apparently conveying the same idea, though with the roles of young pig and boar reversed: Rýta mun göltrinn, ef gríssinn er drepinn ‘The boar will squeal if the young pig is slaughtered’. This is uttered by Skeggi of Miðfjǫrðr as he reluctantly agrees to join his son in an unpromising fight, though its appropriateness in context is unclear. These lines in Ragn also have a close parallel in Saxo’s account (Saxo 2015, I, ix. 4. 38, pp. 660-3) of Regnerus Lothbrog’s dying words: ‘Si sucule uerris supplicium scissent, haud dubio irruptis haris afflictum absoluere properarent’ ‘If the young pigs had only known the distress of their boar, they’d certainly break into the sty and release him from his suffering without delay’. Although chronologically possible, the influence of Saxo (c.1200) on the earlier of the two redactions of Ragn in which this stanza is preserved (i.e. the X redaction, preserved in 147) is unlikely (Sigurður Nordal 1953b, 206; see now, however, Lassen 2012). While it is not impossible that the stanza was composed early enough to have influenced the statement in Saxo, there is no reason to assume its influence, or that of either Saxo or Ragn, on Þórð, which dates from the mid C14th (ÍF 14, lv). The evidence (and Whiting’s criteria (Whiting 1931, 50) for testing the genuineness of apparent proverbs) cumulatively suggest that a pre-existing proverb underlies Ragn 27/1-2. Beck (1965, 188-89) has discussed these lines in relation to the symbolic association of the boar with princely warriors in Germanic and specifically Scandinavian tradition; cf. also Edzardi (1855-80, III, 312 n.). — [3] mér er gnótt at grandi ‘for me there is harm in plenty’: Lit. ‘for me there is a sufficiency with respect to harm’. Finnur Jónsson’s emendation (Skj B) of gnótt to góinn ‘snake’, no doubt borrrowed from Krm 27/3-4 and producing here the translation: ‘for me a snake is the cause of ruin’, is unnecessary. — [4-5]: There is no syntactic break between ll. 4 and 5 in the present interpretation of this stanza (it is unusual, but not unknown, for the syntax of a skaldic stanza to run on from one half-stanza to the next; cf. Turville-Petre 1976, xx, lx, lxvi). Some eds (see below) have adopted various arguments or emendations in order to bring about a syntactic break at the end of l. 4, and construe ll. 4-5 to refer to the snakes (ormar) of l. 6, but none of these have been persuasive. — [5] hrína ‘squeal’: This verb is understood here to refer to the young pigs of the first helmingr, and thus to form part of the syntax and sense of ll. 1-5. When applied to animals hrína indicates a high-pitched and penetrating sound (as of swine, LP: hrína; CVC: hrína A). CPB II, 351 translates the verb ‘hiss’ and makes it refer to the snakes (ormar) of l. 6, but there is no evidence that the meaning of this verb extended to noises supposed to be made by snakes. Other eds emend hrína. (a) Adopting here from Eg 23/8V the verb hváta as understood by Finnur Jónsson (1886-8, 379) in the meaning ‘thrust, stick in’, Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 213) substitutes it for hrína by emendation, and places hafa mik sogit ‘(they) have sucked me’ (l. 6) in brackets; he is followed here by Eskeland (Ragn 1944) and Ebel (Ragn 2003), and also (though with commas rather than brackets) by Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ) and Örnólfur Thorsson (Ragn 1985). Olsen’s rather awkward translation, followed by Eskeland and Örnólfur, amounts to: ‘the snakes dig their snouts in and dig hard; they have sucked me’. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), who emends gnótt ‘sufficiency’ to góinn ‘snake’ in l. 3 (see Note to l. 3, above) emends hrína in l. 5 to hroknir ‘curled, coiled’, m. nom. pl. p. p. of hrøkkva in the intransitive sense of ‘curl’. He places semi-colons at the ends of ll. 2, 4 and 6, and a comma at the end of l. 3, and his Danish translation of ll. 3-6 reads as follows: ormen er mig til fordærv; de graver sig ind med deres snabler; og de bugtede ormer har suget mig kraftig ‘the snake (sg.) is my bane; they are digging their way in with their snouts; and the coiled snakes have sucked me vigorously’. The word snabel, pl. snabler, ‘proboscis, (elephant’s) trunk’, translated here as ‘snout’, has that meaning in Danish only in colloquial usage; the expected word for a pig’s snout would be tryne, pl. tryner. While digging in with snouts is more what would be expected of pigs than of snakes (should l. 3 be taken as having future reference (‘they will dig in…’), heralding the sons’ vengeance?) , the emendation to hroknir, together with the emendation to góinn in l. 3, seems to suggest that Finnur sees ll. 4-6 as referring exclusively to the snakes, cf. LP: rani. His translation leaves some doubt in the matter, however. Kock (Skald), who gives no translation and does not emend gnótt in l. 3, otherwise adopts Finnur’s punctuation (though with full stops in place of semi-colons) and the emendation to hroknir. — [8] nær dýrum ‘in the proximity of beasts’: Various previous translations of this phrase have betrayed eds’ reluctance to accept that dýr n. ‘animal’ can refer to a snake (cf. the ormar ‘snakes’ of l. 6). It is true that in LP, Fritzner, CVC and ONP it is hard to find clear cases of dýr in the meaning ‘snake’, but Fritzner: skriðdýr, assigns skriðdýr the same meaning as skriðkvikendi ‘creeping animals’, which clearly covers reptiles, and it is surely not impossible that poetic licence would allow dýr to do so as well.


  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. 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.
  7. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  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. Finnur Jónsson. 1886a. ‘Lønskrift og lejlighedsoptegnelser fra et par islandske håndskrifter’. In Kålund et al. 1884-91, 185-94.
  11. Finnur Jónsson. 1914. ‘Oldislandske ordsprog og talemåder’. ANF 30, 61-111 and 170-217.
  12. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  13. ONP = Degnbol, Helle et al., eds. 1989-. A Dictionary of Old Norse Prose / Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog. 1-. Copenhagen: The Arnamagnæan Commission.
  14. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  15. ÍF 14 = Kjalnesinga saga. Ed. Jóhannes Halldórsson. 1959.
  16. Finnur Jónsson. 1920. Íslenskt málsháttasafn. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  17. Hallgrímur Scheving. 1843-7. Íslenzkir málshættir safnaðir, útvaldir og í stafrofsrøð færðir. Reykjavík: Boðsrit Bessastaðaskóla.
  18. Ragn 1906-8 = Olsen 1906-8, 111-222.
  19. Beck, Heinrich. 1965. Das Ebersignum im Germanischen: Ein Beitrag zur germanischen Tier-Symbolik. Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte der germanischen Völker, begründet von Bernhard Ten Brink und Wilhelm Scherer. Neue Folge, herausgegeben von Hermann Kunisch 16 (140). Berlin: de Gruyter.
  20. Edzardi, Anton, ed. 1855-80. Altdeutsche und altnordische Helden-Sagen. Uebersetzt von Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen. Stuttgart: Heitz.
  21. 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].
  22. Sigurður Nordal. 1953b. ‘Sagalitteraturen’. In Sigurður Nordal 1953a, 180-288.
  23. Sölvi Sveinsson. 1995. Íslenskir málshættir með skýringum og dæmum. Brian Pilkington teiknaði myndir. Reykjavík: Iðunn.
  24. Whiting, Bartlett Jere. 1931. ‘The Origin of the Proverb’. Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature, 47-80. Rpt. in Harris 1995, 17-50.
  25. Ragn 1985 = Örnólfur Thorsson 1985, 101-53.
  26. Ragn 1891 = 2nd edn (pp. 175-224) of Ragn as ed. in Valdimar Ásmundarson 1885-9, I.
  27. Saxo 2015 = Friis-Jensen, Karsten, ed. 2015. Saxo Grammaticus: Gesta Danorum: The History of the Danes. Trans. Peter Fisher. Oxford Medieval Texts. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.
  28. Lassen, Annette, Agneta Ney and Ármann Jakobsson, eds. 2012. The Legendary Sagas. Origins and Development. Reykjavík: University of Iceland Press.
  29. Ragn 2003 = Ebel, Uwe, ed. 2003. Ragnars saga loðbrókar. Texte des skandinavischen Mittelalters 4. Vol. II of Ebel 1997-2003.
  30. Internal references
  31. (forthcoming), ‘ Anonymous, Þórðar saga hreðu’ in Tarrin Wills, Kari Ellen Gade and Margaret Clunies Ross (eds), Poetry in Sagas of Icelanders. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 5. Turnhout: Brepols, p. . <> (accessed 25 September 2021)
  32. 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 25 September 2021)
  33. Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Krákumál 27’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 772.
  34. Not published: do not cite (Egill Lv 16V (Eg 23))
  35. Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 27 (Ragnarr loðbrók, Lausavísur 10)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 678.

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