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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hjþ Lv 5VIII (HjǪ 11)

Richard L. Harris (ed.) 2017, ‘Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis 11 (Hjálmþér Ingason, Lausavísur 5)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 503.

Hjálmþér IngasonLausavísur

In the passage of the saga (Ch. 12 in FSGJ) where these stanzas are located, Hjálmþér, Ǫlvir and Hǫrðr meet and contend with a number of sea-ogresses. Later Hǫrðr obtains several items from their cave that prove useful during the heroes’ subsequent confrontation at the court of King Hundingi in their quest for his daughter Hervǫr.

Hvert er þat bákn,         er í bjargi sitr
        ok sér of konungs …?
Enga veit ek þér         ámátligri
        alna fyrir jörð ofan.

Hvert bákn er þat, er sitr í bjargi ok sér of … konungs? Ek veit enga alna ámátligri þér fyrir ofan jörð.

Who is that monster who sits on the rock and looks down on the king’s …? I know no female born more loathsome than you on the face of the earth.

Mss: 109a IIIˣ(269v), papp6ˣ(50r), ÍBR5ˣ(90) (HjǪ)

Readings: [1] er: om. papp6ˣ;    bákn: barn ÍBR5ˣ    [3] of: so ÍBR5ˣ, af 109a IIIˣ, papp6ˣ;    konungs: konung ÍBR5ˣ;    …: all    [4] þér: om. papp6ˣ    [6] alna: alda all

Editions: Skj AII, 335, Skj BII, 355, Skald II, 192, NN §2614; HjǪ 1720, 35, FSN 3, 480, FSGJ 4, 205, HjǪ 1970, 30, 87, 145.

Context: Noticing a huge sea-ogress, Ýma, standing in the middle of a high mountain, Hjálmþér asks her name challengingly. 

Notes: [1] bákn ‘monster’: This is the sense both here and in Anon (Vǫlsa) 12/8I, where the noun is used of the embalmed horse’s penis, Vǫlsi. Elsewhere the term is only recorded in the cpd sigrbákn ‘victory beacon’ (ÍF 23, 243; Andersson and Gade 2000, 440), where the context clearly indicates its status as a foreign expression. Here the basic sense of bákn is ‘beacon, signal’, as in other Germanic languages (cf. AEW, Fritzner: bákn; cf. OE bēacen ‘sign, portent’). The simplex is not recorded in ONP, though the verb bákna ‘give a sign’ is probably related. Ms. ÍBR5ˣ’s reading barn ‘child’ is not recorded in Skj A, but appears firm, though interpretation depends on the mark of abbreviation used for the middle two letters. Barn is inappropriate in context, unless used ironically. — [3] : There is no lacuna in any of the mss but l. 3 is hypometrical as it stands and obviously requires a monosyllabic noun alliterating on <s> or <k> to fill the gap. Most eds have supplied sveit ‘company’ (so Skj B, Skald and FSGJ; cf. NN §2614). — [6] alna ‘born’: All mss have alda ‘of men’, gen. pl. of ǫld ‘humans, men’. This would produce a possible meaning, though slightly awkward, viz. Ek veit enga alda fyr jörð ofan ámátligri þér ‘I know no female among people on the face of the earth more loathsome than you’. Earlier eds (HjǪ 1720, FSN) retain alda, while Skj B, Skald and FSGJ have alna.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj A = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15a. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. A: Tekst efter håndskrifterne. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1967. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  4. FSN = Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1829-30. Fornaldar sögur nordrlanda. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  5. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  7. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. ONP = Degnbol, Helle et al., eds. 1989-. A Dictionary of Old Norse Prose / Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog. 1-. Copenhagen: The Arnamagnæan Commission.
  11. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  12. ÍF 23-4 = Morkinskinna. Ed. Ármann Jakobsson and Þórður Ingi Guðjónsson. 2009.
  13. HjǪ 1720 = Peringskiöld, Johann, ed. 1720. Hialmters och Olvers saga, Handlande om trenne Konungar i Manahem eller Sverige, Inge, Hialmter, och Inge, samt Olver Jarl och om theras uthresor til Grekeland och Arabien. Stockholm: Horn.
  14. HjǪ 1970 = Harris, Richard L., ed. 1970. ‘Hjálmþérs saga: A Scientific Edition’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Iowa.
  15. Internal references
  16. Wilhelm Heizmann (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Vǫlsa þáttr 12’ 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. 1103.

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