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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon (Vǫlsa) 13I

Wilhelm Heizmann (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Vǫlsa þáttr 13’ 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. 1104.

Anonymous LausavísurLausavísur from Vǫlsa þáttr

text and translation

Hvat er þat manna,         mér ókunnra,
er hundum gefr         heilagt blæti?
Hefi mik um hjarra         ok á hurðása,
vita ef ek borgit fæ         blætinu helga!
Legg þú niðr, Lærir,         ok lát mik eigi sjá
ok svelg eigi niðr,         sártíkin rǫg!

Hvat er þat manna, ókunnra mér, er gefr hundum heilagt blæti? Hefi mik um hjarra ok á hurðása, vita ef ek fæ borgit blætinu helga! Legg þú niðr, Lærir, ok lát mik eigi sjá ok svelg eigi niðr, rǫg sártíkin.
‘What man is that, unknown to me, who gives the holy offering to dogs? Lift me over door-hinges and onto door-beams to see if I can save the holy offering. Put [it] down, Lærir, and do not let me see [it] and do not swallow [it], perverted wound-bitch!

notes and context

Seeing Vǫlsi in the dog’s mouth, the housewife reacts with extreme agitation and speaks a stanza. After this the king throws off his disguise and reveals his identity. He instructs the farmer’s household in the true faith and converts them.

[5-6]: The reference to the housewife demanding to be lifted ‘over door-hinges and onto door-beams’ is reminiscent of part of Ibn Fadlan’s description of a Rus funerary rite (for which, see Smyser 1965, 99; Lunde and Stone 2012, 52; see Price 2002, 168, 217-19 on connections between Ibn Fadlan’s account and Vǫlsa). Here, a slave-girl who is to die and accompany her master to the other world is said to be raised three times in order to see over a type of door frame, which seems to represent the limen between the worlds of the living and the dead. With the help of this particular mantic practice, the housewife in Vǫlsa hopes to be able to save Vǫlsi (Steinsland and Vogt 1981, 103-4; Näsström 2002, 150). In Steinsland’s opinion this pushes the Völsi rite towards a vǫlva (seeress) cult. — [9-12]: The final lines are often separated off as an independent stanza by eds (Skj; Skald; Edd. Min.), producing an eight-line st. 13, as normal though not invariable in the Vǫlsa stanzas.



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], D. 4. Vers af Vǫlsaþáttr 13-14: AII, 220-1, BII, 239, Skald II, 124; Flat 1860-8, II, 335 (Vǫlsa); Guðbrandur Vigfússon 1860, 137, CPB II, 382, Edd. Min. 125-6, Schröder 1933, 83.


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