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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þjóð Haustl 17III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, Haustlǫng 17’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 457.

Þjóðólfr ór HviniHaustlǫng

Brátt fló bjarga gæti
— bǫnd ollu því — randa
ímunfǫlr und iljar
íss; vildu svá dísir.
Varðat hǫggs frá hǫrðum
hraundrengr þaðan lengi
trjónu trolls of rúna
tíðr fjǫllama at bíða.

{Ímunfǫlr íss randa} fló brátt und iljar {gæti bjarga}; bǫnd ollu því; dísir vildu svá. {Hraundrengr} varðat tíðr at bíða lengi þaðan fjǫllama hǫggs frá {hǫrðum of rúna {trolls trjónu}}.

{The battle-pale ice of shield-rims} [SHIELD] flew swiftly beneath the footsoles {of the guardian of the rocks} [GIANT = Hrungnir]; the gods caused that; the dísir <minor female deities> wanted [it] so. {The rock-gentleman} [GIANT = Hrungnir] was not desirous of waiting long after that for a much-battering blow from {the hard friend {of the troll of the muzzle}} [= Mjǫllnir > = Þórr].

Mss: R(24r), Tˣ(24v), W(51) (SnE)

Readings: [3] und: so all others, ok R    [5] Varðat: var þat W;    hǫrðum: hǫrðu all    [6] ‑drengr: so all others, ‑drengs R    [8] fjǫllama: ‘fiǫll lama’ W;    bíða: biðja Tˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 19-20, Skj BI, 17-18, Skald I, 11, NN §§142, 227, 1884A Anm.; SnE 1848-87, I, 280-3, III, 22, SnE 1931, 104, SnE 1998, I, 23.

Context: As for st. 14.

Notes: [All]: Unlike the prose narrative in Skm (see Context of st. 14), which provides a semi-rational explanation for Hrungnir’s standing on his shield, there is no reference to Þjálfi’s role in persuading Hrungnir to place the shield beneath his footsoles. Instead the shield seems to fly there of its own accord, and Þjóðólfr makes it clear by means of two independent intercalaries that the gods (bǫnd, l. 2) and goddesses (dísir, l. 4) caused this bizarre event to happen. — [1] gæti ‘of the guardian’: Translated as if it were gen., but grammatically a poss. dat. after iljar ‘footsoles’. — [2-3, 4] ímunfǫlr íss randa ‘the battle-pale ice of shield-rims [SHIELD]’: An unusual shield-kenning, which may refer to the shining, metal parts of the shield-rim and decorations; alternatively, the adj. ímunfǫlr ‘battle-pale’ may allude to a shield’s having lost its bright colours through being battered and slashed in many fights or be associated with the pallor of death (so Marold 1983, 172 n. 417). Kennings with the base-word íss are usually sword-kennings (cf. Meissner 152, 171). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) separates ímun ‘battle’ from fǫlr ‘pale’, and attaches it to dísir (l. 4), understanding a tmesis, ímun-dísir ‘battle-dísir’, valkyries. There is neither ms. justification for this reading, nor is it necessary on syntactical or lexical grounds. — [5-8]: There has been considerable debate among commentators about the syntax and identity of the kennings in this helmingr. One emendation, adopted by all eds, has been made for grammatical reasons, hǫrðum ‘hard’ (l. 5), to provide a m. dat. sg. adj. with of rúna ‘friend’ (l. 7), rather than the mss’ hǫrðu. Some eds (e.g. Skj B; SnE 1998) also emend all mss’ tíðr (l. 8) to tíðs ‘swift’ and construe it with hǫggs ‘blow’ (gen. after bíða ‘wait for’, l. 8). Here tíðr has been retained and taken as a m. nom. sg. adj. used predicatively with hraundrengr ‘rock-gentleman’ (l. 6), as suggested by Marold (1983, 173). The statement that the ‘rock-gentleman’ was not desirous of waiting long after that for Þórr’s coup de grace is nicely ironic. Another word that is difficult to place syntactically is fjǫllama (l. 8) and it is also difficult to ascertain this hap. leg. word’s lexical meaning. It is understood here as a cpd adj., meaning ‘much-battering’, qualifying hǫggs ‘blow’. Another view (cf. LP: fjǫrlami) is that the first element is fjǫr ‘life’, not fjǫl- ‘much’, and that the adj. means ‘life-crushing’. Skj B takes it with the kenning for Mjǫllnir, trolls trjónu fjǫllama, and glosses the whole phrase as den knusende hammer ‘the crushing hammer’. Other scholars (e.g. Wisén 1886-9, I, 11) have considered it a noun, meaning ‘life-laming’. The second element of the cpd, ‑lama, is strongly reminiscent of other descriptions of the crushing power of the mighty blows from Mjǫllnir directed at giants, in which the verb lemja ‘hit, batter, beat up’ is frequently used; cf. Vetrl Lv 1/2. — [5, 7] frá hǫrðum of rúna trolls trjónu ‘from the hard friend of the troll of the muzzle [= Mjǫllnir > = Þórr]’: The difficulty here comes in identifying the precise nature (kenning-type, meaning) of the kenning for Þórr’s hammer, Mjǫllnir. There is no difficulty in identifying Þórr as the ‘hard friend’ or confidant of the hammer, conceived of as a living, though monstrous being, since he and it are almost inseparable in Old Norse myth (see Note to st. 16/1 on of rúni). Trolls trjónu (l. 7) is another matter, however, though the context of the narrative makes it clear that this phrase must be a kenning for Mjǫllnir. As a kenning base-word, troll ‘troll, monster’ is uncommon, although Þjsk Lv 2/8V (Svarfd 6) provides a parallel in troll fetils ‘troll of the [sword-]strap [SWORD]’, the determinant being a part of the accoutrements of a sword. On this pattern, trjóna should be a part of a hammer. The noun means ‘muzzle, snout (of an animal)’, so, by metaphorical transfer, it must refer to a part of a Þórr’s hammer which can be thought of as its mouth or muzzle. Viking-Age amulets which represent Þórr’s hammer show an object with short, equal arms and a central ‘head’, which may well be the ‘muzzle’ in question (see Figures 24-7 in Perkins 2001, 120-1).


  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. 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. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  7. 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.
  8. Wisén, Theodor, ed. 1886-9. Carmina Norrœnæ: Ex reliquiis vetustioris norrœnæ poësis selecta, recognita, commentariis et glossario instructa. 2 vols. Lund: Ohlsson.
  9. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  10. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  11. Marold, Edith. 1983. Kenningkunst: Ein Beitrag zu einer Poetik der Skaldendichtung. Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte der germanischen Völker, new ser. 80. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  12. Perkins, Richard. 2001. Thor the Wind-Raiser and the Eyrarland Image. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  13. Internal references
  14. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  15. Not published: do not cite (Þjsk Lv 2V (Svarfd 6))
  16. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2017, ‘Vetrliði Sumarliðason, Lausavísa 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. 425.

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