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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Marm Lv 1VIII (Hálf 6)

Hubert Seelow (ed.) 2017, ‘Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka 6 (Marmennill, Lausavísur 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 310.


The following seven stanzas or part-stanzas comprise the prophetic utterances of a marmendill or marmennill ‘merman’, who is fished up from the sea by two fishermen and forced to predict King Hjǫrleifr’s fate.

Ek sé lýsa         langt suðr í haf;
vill danskr konungr         dóttur hefna.
Hann hefir úti         ótal skipa;
býðr hann Hjörleifi         hólmstefnu til.

Ek sé lýsa langt suðr í haf; danskr konungr vill hefna dóttur. Hann hefir ótal skipa úti; hann býðr Hjörleifi til hólmstefnu.

I see a glitter a long way south in the sea; a Danish king wants to avenge his daughter. He sails with countless ships; he challenges Hjǫrleifr to a duel.

Mss: 2845(33v-34r) (Hálf)

Editions: Skj AII, 257, Skj BII, 277, Skald II, 145; Hálf 1864, 9-10, Hálf 1909, 83, FSGJ 2, 102, Hálf 1981, 112, 174; Edd. Min. 90-1.

Context: Two fishermen called Handir and Hrindir catch a merman (marmendill) and bring him to King Hjǫrleifr, who entrusts him to the care of one of the women at his court. One night, when the lights had been put out, Hjǫrleifr’s wife Hildr prods her co-wife Æsa with a horn. The king slaps Hildr, but Æsa says it is the dog’s fault, so he strikes the dog. The merman laughs, and, when asked by the king why he is laughing, he replies that the king has acted foolishly, as the two he has slapped would save his life. The king asks more questions, but the merman gives no answer. Then the king says he will take him back to sea and asks the merman to tell him what he needs to know. The stanza is introduced by the words: Hann kvað, er hann fór til sjóvar … ‘He said, when he went to the sea …’.

Notes: [All]: The motif of the laughing sage is attested in a number of folklore sources (see Boberg 1966, 69 (D1318.2.1); Davíð Erlingsson 1980). Davíð Erlingsson (1980) finds both this and the motif of the otherworld spirit that pollutes waterways in Irish sources about the dealings of the hero Fergus mac Léite with the elf-people. — [1] lýsa ‘a glitter’: Lýsa is here a verb ‘glitter, gleam’ without a specified subject.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. Boberg, Inger M. 1966. Motif-Index of Early Icelandic Literature. BA 27. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  4. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  5. Edd. Min. = Heusler, Andreas and Wilhelm Ranisch, eds. 1903. Eddica Minora: Dichtungen eddischer Art aus den Fornaldarsögur und anderen Prosawerken. Dortmund: Ruhfus. Rpt. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
  6. Hálf 1981 = Seelow, Hubert, ed. 1981. Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka. RSÁM 20. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar.
  7. Davíð Erlingsson. 1980. ‘Hjörleifur kvensami og Fergus mac Léite’. Gripla 4, 198-205.
  8. Hálf 1864 = Bugge, Sophus, ed. 1864. Saga af Hálfi ok Hálfsrekkum. Norrøne Skrifter af sagnhistorisk Indhold 1. Christiania (Oslo): Det Nordiske Oldskriftselskab.
  9. Hálf 1909 = Andrews, A. Le Roy, ed. 1909. Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka. ASB 14. Halle: Niemeyer.

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