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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Keth Lv 11VIII (Ket 16)

Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2017, ‘Ketils saga hœngs 16 (Ketill hœngr, Lausavísur 11)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 566.

Ketill hœngrLausavísur

The following twelve stanzas in ljóðaháttr and fornyrðislag (or málaháttr) comprise a senna between Ketill hœngr and a troll-woman (trollkona) named Forað, whom he meets while on a fishing expedition during a famine which has taken hold in the region of Hrafnista where he lives. According to the prose text Ketill sees the woman on a headland, where she has just come from the sea, and is as black as pitch. She glotti í móti sólu ‘grinned scornfully in the face of the sun’. The troll-woman’s name means literally ‘an inaccessible place’ or ‘a place that one cannot manage to escape from’, hence ‘danger, dangerous creature’ (LP: forað). The episode has a fairly close parallel in GrL ch. 1 (GrL 1-5).

Hvat er þat flagða,         er ek sá á fornu nesi?
At uppiverandi sólu,         er ek hefik önga eina
        leiðiligri litit.

Hvat er þat flagða, er ek sá á fornu nesi? Er ek hefik litit önga eina leiðiligri at uppiverandi sólu.

What kind of ogress is that, whom I saw on the ancient headland? I have seen not a single one more ugly while the sun is up.

Mss: 343a(56v), 471(53v) (Ket)

Readings: [2] sá: sé 471;    nesi: nesi ok glottir við guma 471    [4] er ek hefik önga eina: hefi ek önga fyrr 471

Editions: Skj AII, 282, Skj BII, 303, Skald II, 160-1, NN §2391; FSN 2, 127, FSGJ 2, 169, Anderson 1990, 52, 98, 438; Edd. Min. 80.

Context: The stanza is introduced by the words: Ketill kvað vísu ‘Ketill spoke a stanza’.

Notes: [All]: This stanza has a close parallel in GrL 1: the hero addresses the giantess or troll-woman, describes her rocky environment and says she is the ugliest thing he has ever seen. In 343a and 340ˣ this stanza consists of two long-lines and a full-line without a caesura; in 471 the stanza is entirely in ljóðaháttr, since ll. 1-2 are followed by the additional line ok glottir við guma ‘and grins at the man’, i.e. ‘at me’. Previous eds have printed the stanza with this line. In other mss the stanza is entirely in fornyrðislag and the wording of ll. 3-8 is very different from that in 343a, 471 and 340ˣ (for a text, see Edd. Min. 80 n.). In these lines the giantess is not merely described as ‘ugly’; she is said to have ‘black eyes’. On the ugliness of giants see Schulz (2004, 147-53). — [3] at uppiverandi sólu ‘while the sun is up’: This expression is a prepositional phrase which closely resembles an ablative absolute in Latin: at + p. p. in the dat. (verandi ‘being’ = pres. p. of vera ‘be’). A more lit. translation would be ‘with the sun being up’. Such constructions are more common in Old Norse prose texts, but Hárb 58/2 provides a very similar example from eddic poetry (see also the examples cited in NS §229 Anm. 2; Nygaard 1879, 207; Fritzner: at 11; ONP: at I. + dat. C. (temp.) 1). — [4] er ek hefik önga eina: This anaphoric use of the rel. particle er at the beginning of the second half-line of a long-line is typical of ljóðaháttr (cf. NK II: er; Gering 1903: es I. A. 1; LP: es 9). Here it would refer to the first half-line At uppiverandi sólu and perhaps could be rendered in conjunction with the whole sentence At … litit as: ‘While the sun is up, then (er) I have seen not a single one more ugly’.


  1. Bibliography
  2. FSN = Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1829-30. Fornaldar sögur nordrlanda. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  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. 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.
  7. NS = Nygaard, Marius. 1906. Norrøn syntax. Kristiania (Oslo): Aschehoug. Rpt. 1966.
  8. ONP = Degnbol, Helle et al., eds. 1989-. A Dictionary of Old Norse Prose / Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog. 1-. Copenhagen: The Arnamagnæan Commission.
  9. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  10. 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.
  11. Anderson, Sarah M. 1990. ‘The Textual Transmission of Two Fornaldarsögur: Ketils saga høings and Gríms saga loðinkinna’. Ph.D. thesis. Cornell University…
  12. Gering, Hugo. 1903. Vollständiges Wörterbuch zu den Liedern der Edda. Halle: Waisenhaus. Rpt. 1971. Hildesheim: Olms.
  13. Nygaard, Marius. 1879. ‘Om brugen af det saakaldte præsens particip i Oldnorsk’. ÅNOH, 203-28.
  14. Schulz, Katja. 2004. Riesen: Von Wissenshütern und Wildnisbewohnern in Edda und Saga. Skandinavistische Arbeiten 20. Heidelberg: Winter.
  15. NK II = Neckel, Gustav and Hans Kuhn (1899), eds. 1968. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 2 vols. II: Kurzes Wörterbuch. Heidelberg: Winter.
  16. Internal references
  17. 2017, ‘ Anonymous, Gríms saga loðinkinna’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 288. <> (accessed 28 September 2021)
  18. Not published: do not cite (KethVIII)
  19. Not published: do not cite ()
  20. Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2017, ‘Gríms saga loðinkinna 1 (Grímr loðinkinni, Lausavísur 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 289.

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