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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þul Skipa 1III

Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Skipa 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. 861.

Anonymous ÞulurSkipa heiti

Nú mun ek skýra         of skipa heiti:
ǫrk, árakló,         askr, sessrúmnir,
skeið, skúta, skip         ok Skíðblaðnir,
nór, Naglfari,         nǫkkvi, snekkja.

Nú mun ek skýra of heiti skipa: ǫrk, árakló, askr, sessrúmnir, skeið, skúta, skip ok Skíðblaðnir, nór, Naglfari, nǫkkvi, snekkja.

Now I shall explain the names of ships: ark, oar-claw, ash, roomy-seater, warship, vessel, ship and Skíðblaðnir, nór, Naglfari, rowing boat, warship.

Mss: R(43v), Tˣ(45v), C(13r), A(19v), B(9r), 744ˣ(75v-76r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] Nú: ‘[…]’ C, ‘[…]v’ B, ‘Nv’ 744ˣ;    mun ek: ‘[…]’ C, man ek A    [3] ǫrk ára‑: ‘aur kara’ C    [4] ‑rúmnir: hrungnis C, ‘rymir’ B    [5] skúta: ‘skú[…]’ C    [6] ok: om. Tˣ    [8] nǫkkvi: nǫkkvi ok A, B

Editions: Skj AI, 672, Skj BI, 668, Skald I, 332; SnE 1848-87, I, 581, II, 481, 564, 624, SnE 1931, 208, SnE 1998, I, 127.    

Notes: [3] ǫrk (f.) ‘ark’: A loanword from Lat. arca ‘chest’. ON ǫrk usually means ‘coffin, chest’, but it occurs in religious prose texts with the meaning ‘ark’ (for references, see Fritzner: örk). It seems that the implied meaning of the word in the present context is ‘the Ark’, which is suggested by the fact that this heiti occupies the initial position in the entire list of nautical terms. Otherwise ǫrk denotes a kind of boat used on the Elbe in Saxony (MLG ark; see Falk 1912, 90; SnE 1998, II, 442). — [3] árakló (f.) ‘oar-claw’: An otherwise unattested cpd from ár f. ‘oar’ and kló f. ‘claw’ (cf. klœr pl. ‘claws’ among Heiti á skipi in st. 9/6 and Note there). It is likely that the word denotes a kind of rowlock and, if so, it would belong among the heiti for parts of a ship. Faulkes (SnE 1998, II, 235) suggests that the correct form could be arakló ‘eagle-claw’ and perhaps the proper name of a particular ship. That is unlikely, however, because two short syllables in metrical positions 2-3 would render the line unmetrical. — [4] askr (m.) ‘ash’: I.e. a small ship made of ash-wood (cf. LP: askr B.2 and ESkál Vell 4/2I). There is evidence that the word denoted ‘Viking ship’ in the older Germanic languages (Falk 1912, 87; Jesch 2001a, 135-6). Cf. Ascomannos ‘Ashmen’ used synonymously with Wichingos ‘Vikings’ by Adam of Bremen (Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum; Schmeidler 1917, Book II, ch. 29), OE æsc ‘light vessel’ and æscman ‘sailor, pirate’. Askr is used several times for Hjálmarr’s and Oddr’s ship in Ǫrvar-Odds saga (e.g. ch. 13, FSN II, 206) and also as the first element in the nickname askmaðr ‘ship-man’ (Finnur Jónsson 1907, 284). — [4] sessrúmnir (m.) ‘roomy-seater’: In Gylf (SnE 2005, 25), Sessrúmnir is the name of Freyja’s hall, but as a heiti for ‘ship’ the cpd occurs only in the present þula. This fact suggests that the term had changed its referent in the þulur, perhaps owing to the reinterpretation of the first element as a nautical term, i.e. sess m. ‘bench of a boat’ (on the transformation of mythical names into heiti, see Gurevich 1992c, 42-7). — [5] skeið, skúta ‘warship, vessel’: For skeið f. ‘warship’, see Jesch (2001a, 124-6) and Falk (1912, 104-5). Skúta f. was a smaller, faster ship that could carry a sail but could also be propelled by oars (Falk 1912, 95-7). — [6] Skíðblaðnir: The name of Freyr’s ship, which the dwarfs made for him (Grí 44/3; Gylf, SnE 2005, 34, 36). The cpd probably means ‘one built of thin planks’ (so LP: Skíðblaðnir; from a cpd *skíðblað ‘piece of wood blade’ plus the suffix ‑nir; cf. Blaðnir ‘single-bit blade’, the name of a sword; Falk 1914b, 47). — [7] nór (m.): According to Falk (1912, 85), this was originally a boat made from a hollowed tree-trunk and hence the same as nǫkkvi ‘rowing boat’ (l. 8 below). Cf. New Norw. nu, nuv ‘vessel, boat’, Lat. navis ‘ship’ (ÍO: nór 1). The word occurs only in poetry (Þjóð Yt 17/10I brandnór ‘fire-ship [HOUSE]’) and as the first element in the cpd Nóatún (lit. ‘field of ships’), the name of the ocean home of the god Njǫrðr (cf. Grí 16/1). It is not possible to ascertain exactly what kind of boat this was. — [7] Naglfari: A mythical ship, lit. ‘nail-goer’, also attested as Naglfar in Vsp 50/8 and Gylf (SnE 2005, 36, 50-1). In Gylf (loc. cit.), Nagl- is interpreted as nagl m. ‘nail’ and the ship is said to have been made of dead people’s nails. The first element of the cpd is more likely to have been derived from nagli m. ‘spike’, however, referring to the seam of nails in a ship’s planking (naglar í skipi ‘nails in a ship’ = saumfǫr ‘rivet-row’). Hence, according to Lie (1954), Naglfar(i) was originally a common noun, a ship-heiti of the pars pro toto type similar to saumfǫr ‘rivet-row’ (st. 5/3 below), subsequently reinterpreted as a mythical proper name. Naglfari ‘riveted, decorated with nails or studs’ is also a sword-heiti (Þul Sverða 8/4), as well as the name of Nótt’s husband in Gylf (SnE 2005, 13). — [8] nǫkkvi, snekkja ‘rowing boat, warship’: According to Falk (1912, 85), nǫkkvi m. was originally a boat made from a hollowed tree-trunk (see Note to l. 7 above). Cf. OE naca, OS nako and OHG nahho ‘ship, boat’ (AEW: 1. nǫkkvi). A snekkja f. was a larger warship, which appears to have been somewhat smaller than a skeið ‘warship’ (l. 5 above). See Falk (1912, 102-3) and Jesch (2001a, 126-7).


  1. Bibliography
  2. FSN = Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1829-30. Fornaldar sögur nordrlanda. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  3. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  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. Gurevich, Elena A. 1992c. ‘Þulur in Skáldskaparmál: An Attempt at Skaldic Lexicology’. ANF 107, 35-52.
  8. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  9. Schmeidler, Bernhard, ed. 1917. Magistri Adami Bremensis. Hamburgische Kirchengeschichte / Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Germanicarum 2. 3rd edn. Hannover and Leipzig: Hahn.
  10. Falk, Hjalmar. 1912. Altnordisches Seewesen. Wörter und Sachen 4. Heidelberg: Winter.
  11. 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.
  12. ÍO = Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússon. 1989. Íslensk orðsifjabók. Reykjavík: Orðabók Háskólans.
  13. Falk, Hjalmar. 1914b. Altnordische Waffenkunde. Videnskapsselskapets skrifter, II. Hist.-filos. kl. 1914, 6. Kristiania (Oslo): Dybwad.
  14. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  15. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  16. Lie, Hallvard. 1954. ‘Naglfar og Naglfari’. MM, 152-61. Rpt. in Lie 1982, 332-41.
  17. Finnur Jónsson. 1907. ‘Tilnavne i den islandske oldlitteratur’. ÅNOH, 161-381.
  18. SnE 2005 = Snorri Sturluson. 2005. Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2nd edn. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  19. Internal references
  20. 2017, ‘ Anonymous, Ǫrvar-Odds saga’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 804. <> (accessed 27 September 2021)
  21. (forthcoming), ‘ Snorri Sturluson, Gylfaginning’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. . <> (accessed 27 September 2021)
  22. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Sverða heiti 8’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 804.
  23. Not published: do not cite ()
  24. Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 4’ 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. 287.
  25. Not published: do not cite ()
  26. Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, Ynglingatal 17’ 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. 38.

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