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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon (Vǫlsa) 13I

Wilhelm Heizmann (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Vǫlsa þáttr 13’ 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. 1104.

Anonymous LausavísurLausavísur from Vǫlsa þáttr

Hvat er þat manna,         mér ókunnra,
er hundum gefr         heilagt blæti?
Hefi mik um hjarra         ok á hurðása,
vita ef ek borgit fæ         blætinu helga!
Legg þú niðr, Lærir,         ok lát mik eigi sjá
ok svelg eigi niðr,         sártíkin rǫg!

Hvat er þat manna, ókunnra mér, er gefr hundum heilagt blæti? Hefi mik um hjarra ok á hurðása, vita ef ek fæ borgit blætinu helga! Legg þú niðr, Lærir, ok lát mik eigi sjá ok svelg eigi niðr, rǫg sártíkin.

What man is that, unknown to me, who gives the holy offering to dogs? Lift me over door-hinges and onto door-beams to see if I can save the holy offering. Put [it] down, Lærir, and do not let me see [it] and do not swallow [it], perverted wound-bitch!

Mss: Flat(122ra-b) (Flat); 292ˣ(55v) (Vǫlsa)

Readings: [5] Hefi mik: Hefig mig 292ˣ    [6] á: um 292ˣ    [9] Lærir: ‘l[…]’ Flat, ‘Ler’ 292ˣ

Editions: Skj AII, 220-1, Skj BII, 239, Skald II, 124; Flat 1860-8, II, 335 (Vǫlsa); Guðbrandur Vigfússon 1860, 137, CPB II, 382, Edd. Min. 125-6, Schröder 1933, 83.

Context: Seeing Vǫlsi in the dog’s mouth, the housewife reacts with extreme agitation and speaks a stanza. After this the king throws off his disguise and reveals his identity. He instructs the farmer’s household in the true faith and converts them.

Notes: [5-6]: The reference to the housewife demanding to be lifted ‘over door-hinges and onto door-beams’ is reminiscent of part of Ibn Fadlan’s description of a Rus funerary rite (for which, see Smyser 1965, 99; Lunde and Stone 2012, 52; see Price 2002, 168, 217-19 on connections between Ibn Fadlan’s account and Vǫlsa). Here, a slave-girl who is to die and accompany her master to the other world is said to be raised three times in order to see over a type of door frame, which seems to represent the limen between the worlds of the living and the dead. With the help of this particular mantic practice, the housewife in Vǫlsa hopes to be able to save Vǫlsi (Steinsland and Vogt 1981, 103-4; Näsström 2002, 150). In Steinsland’s opinion this pushes the Völsi rite towards a vǫlva (seeress) cult. — [6] á ‘on’: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and Kock (Skald) emend this to of ‘over’. — [8] blætinu helga ‘the holy offering’: Heusler and Ranisch (Edd. Min.) emend this to blœti helgu, without the article, for metrical reasons. — [9-12]: The final lines are often separated off as an independent stanza by eds (Skj; Skald; Edd. Min.), producing an eight-line st. 13, as normal though not invariable in the Vǫlsa stanzas. — [9] Lærir: A suggestive proper name, related to lær ‘thigh’; cf. st. 2/8 innan læra ‘between the thighs’. Only the initial ‘l’ is now distinct in Flat, but 292ˣ has ‘Ler’, and the prose has Lærir (Flat(121vb); Flat 1860-8, II, 332). The eds of the stanza in Flat 1860-8 (II, 335) and Skj B read Lerir. — [10] lát mik eigi sjá ‘do not let me see [it]’: Heusler and Ranisch (Edd. Min.) suggest that eigi should be omitted or it should be emended to eiga by leaving out sjá; thus the phrase would read ‘let me see’ or ‘let me have’. — [12] rǫg sártíkin ‘perverted wound-bitch’: Sártík f. is a hap. leg., with suffixed def. art -in. The word sár ‘wound, pain’ might refer both to the housewife, who is deeply hurt by seeing Vǫlsi in the dog’s mouth, and to Vǫlsi itself. Rǫg is f. nom. sg. of ragr, a term of extreme abuse normally applied to men to imply cowardice or passive homosexuality.


  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. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Näsström, Britt-Mari. 2002. Blot: Tro och offer i det förkristna norden. Stockholm: Norstedts Förlag.
  8. Schröder, Franz Rolf. 1933. Quellenbuch zur germanischen Religionsgeschichte. Trübners philologische Bibliothek 14. Berlin and Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter.
  9. Steinsland, Gro and Kari Vogt. 1981. ‘“Aukinn ertu Uolse ok vpp vm tekinn”. En religionshistorisk analyse av Vǫlsa þáttr i Flateyjarbók’. ANF 96, 87-106.
  10. Smyser, H. M. 1965. ‘Ibn Fadlān’s Account of the Rūs, with some Commentary and some Allusions to Beowulf’. In Bessinger et al. 1965, 92-119.
  11. Price, Neil. 2002. The Viking Way: Religion and War in Late Iron Age Scandinavia. Aun 31. Uppsala: Dept. of Archaeology and Ancient History.
  12. Internal references
  13. Not published: do not cite (VǫlsaI)

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