Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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SnH Lv 11II

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sneglu-Halli, Lausavísur 11’ 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. 331-2.


Sýr es ávallt;
hefr saurugt allt
hestr Þjóðolfs erðr;
hanns dróttins serðr.

Sýr es ávallt; hestr Þjóðolfs hefr erðr allt saurugt; hanns serðr dróttins.

There is always a sow; Þjóðólfr’s horse has a completely filthy prick; he is a master-fucker.

Mss: Flat(208rb) (Flat); 563aˣ(20)

Readings: [1] Sýr: so 563aˣ, Dýr Flat;    es (‘er’): om. 563aˣ    [2] saurugt allt: sauruga ást 563aˣ    [3] Þjóðolfs erðr: ‘þerdur’ 563aˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 390, Skj BI, 360, Skald I, 180, NN §2528; ÍF 9, 294-5 (Snegl ch. 10), Flat 1860-8, III, 428 (Snegl).

Context: Halli’s adversary, the poet Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA), has presented King Haraldr with the gift of a fat Icel. horse. Haraldr goes up to it, and Halli is standing there looking at the horse, which has its phallus unsheathed. He comments on the sight with this helmingr.

Notes: [All]: The metre is runhent ‘end-rhymed’. — [1] sýr es ávallt ‘there is always a sow’: The l. is difficult to interpret. Flat has dýr ‘animal’, which leaves the l. without alliteration and must be a scribal error. If the 563aˣ variant is kept, the l. implies ‘there is always a sow (i.e. a female beast) at hand’, suggesting that Þjóðólfr had been used as a female by his stallion. Sýr could also be a pun on the nickname of Haraldr’s father, Sigurðr sýr ‘Sow’ (cf. a similar allusion in Mgóði Lv 1 above; see also Hjǫrtr Lv 1-3), and then, indirectly, a reference to Haraldr himself (see Note to l. 4 below). Skj B emends to saurr ‘filth, semen’, and Kock (NN §2528) proposes the adj. súrr ‘sour, bitter, unfriendly’, which he translates as blöt, rinnande ‘soft, runny’ (a meaning which is unattested). — [4] serðr dróttins ‘master-fucker’: Lit. ‘master’s fucker’. All earlier eds treat this as a cpd dróttinserðr, which is translated as ‘having been used sexually by the master’. However, the p. p. of the strong verb serða ‘use sexually’ is sorðinn, and the only possible cpd which could denote ‘having been used sexually by the master’ is dróttinsorðinn. Serðr dróttins ‘a master-fucker’ (so both mss) implies that it was the horse and not the master who was the aggressor. Serðr must be a nomen agentis, similar to brjótr ‘breaker, destroyer, conqueror’ (from brjóta ‘break’; see LP: brjótr), njótr ‘user, enjoyer, owner’ (from njóta ‘use, enjoy, own’; see LP: njótr), vinnr ‘performer, achiever’ (from vinna ‘perform, achieve’; see SnE 1998 I, 40, II, 427). It seems that Halli’s insult, which was certainly on the surface directed at Þjóðólfr, was indeed double-edged. Halli implies indirectly that Þjóðólfr, the master of the horse, was also a serðr dróttins (the cl. hanns serðr dróttins ‘he is a master-fucker’ could be applied to Þjóðólfr as well as to the horse), who had used his dróttinn, i.e. Haraldr, as a woman. This interpretation is also in keeping with the current reading and interpretation of l. 1 (see the Note to l. 1 above). For similar allusions in the prose of Snegl, see the verbal exchange between Halli and Haraldr at the beginning of the þáttr (see ÍF 9, 263-6; Andersson and Gade 2000, 243-4).


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. 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.
  6. Andersson, Theodore M. and Kari Ellen Gade, trans. 2000. Morkinskinna: The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030-1157). Islandica 51. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  7. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  8. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  9. ÍF 9 = Eyfirðinga sǫgur. Ed. Jónas Kristjánsson. 1956.
  10. Internal references
  11. Not published: do not cite (SneglII)
  12. Diana Whaley 2009, ‘(Biography of) Þjóðólfr Arnórsson’ 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. 57-176.
  13. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Hjǫrtr, Lausavísur 1’ 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. 344-6.

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