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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gestumbl Heiðr 31VIII (Heiðr 78)

Hannah Burrows (ed.) 2017, ‘Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 78 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur 31)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 445.

GestumblindiHeiðreks gátur

text and translation

Hest sá ek standa;         hýddi meri,
dúði dyndil,         drap hlaun und kvið.
Ór skal draga         ok †gjöpta† at góða stund.
Heiðrekr konungr,         hyggðu at gátu.

Ek sá hest standa; hýddi meri, dúði dyndil, hlaun drap und kvið. Ór skal draga ok †gjöpta† at góða stund. Heiðrekr konungr, hyggðu at gátu.
‘I saw a stallion stand; it flogged a mare, shook the penis, buttock beat under belly. [It] shall draw out and … a good while. King Heiðrekr, think about the riddle.

notes and context

Heiðrekr’s response is (Heiðr 1960, 82): Hest þann kallar þú línvef, en skeið meri hans, en upp ok ofan skal hrista vefinn ‘You call that stallion linen cloth, and the weaver’s rod his mare, and up and down the web shall be shaken’. Tolkien (Heiðr 1960, 82 n.) points out that the solution ‘is obviously wrong: the “mare” is the web on the loom, which is alternately raised up and pressed down by the rod or slay’. In the prose following the riddle, before giving the solution Heiðrekr invites his courtiers to solve it, but they are unable to. The riddle’s obvious sexual overtones perhaps explain its omission in the R and U redactions and its textual problems in the H-redaction mss. — [5-6]: ‘Gjöpta’ l. 6 is not a known Old Norse word. Neither Skj B nor Heiðr 1960 attempt reconstruction, and the suggestions of Kock (Skald; NN §3284), Bugge (Heiðr 1873) and Edd. Min. are conjectural and not particularly satisfactory.



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. 5. Heiðreks gátur 36: AII, 228, BII, 247, Skald II, 128, NN §3284; Heiðr 1873, 258, Heiðr 1924, 78, Heiðr 1960, 81-2; Edd. Min. 118.


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