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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gestumbl Heiðr 27VIII (Heiðr 74)

Hannah Burrows (ed.) 2017, ‘Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 74 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur 27)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 441.

GestumblindiHeiðreks gátur

Hvat er þat dýra,         er Dönum hlífir,
berr blóðugt bak,         en bergr firum,
geirum mætir,         gefr líf sumum,
leggr við lófa         lík sitt guma?
Heiðrekr konungr,         hyggðu at gátu.

Hvat er þat dýra, er hlífir Dönum, berr blóðugt bak, en bergr firum, mætir geirum, gefr sumum líf, leggr lík sitt við lófa guma? Heiðrekr konungr, hyggðu at gátu.

What is that creature, that protects Danes, bears a bloody back, but saves men, meets spears, gives life to some, lays its body against the palm of a man? King Heiðrekr, think about the riddle.

Mss: 2845(71v), 281ˣ(100v), 597bˣ(50v), R715ˣ(29r-v) (ll. 1-8) (Heiðr)

Readings: [2] Dönum: danir R715ˣ;    hlífir: skemma R715ˣ    [5] geirum mætir: om. 281ˣ, 597bˣ    [6] gefr: getr R715ˣ;    sumum: so 281ˣ, 597bˣ, R715ˣ, firum 2845    [7] lófa: lofða 281ˣ, 597bˣ    [8] lík: líf 281ˣ;    guma: so R715ˣ, gumi all others    [9-10] abbrev. as ‘h k’ 2845, abbrev. as ‘heidr: kr’ 281ˣ, abbrev. as ‘h K:’ 597bˣ

Editions: Skj AII, 224, Skj BII, 243, Skald II, 126; Heiðr 1672, 150, FSN 1, 476, Heiðr 1873, 255, 339, Heiðr 1924, 72-3, 75, 138, FSGJ 2, 45, Heiðr 1960, 39; Edd. Min. 116.

Notes: [All]: Heiðrekr’s response is (Heiðr 1960, 39): Þat er skjǫldr; hann verðr opt blóðugr í bardǫgum ok hlífir vel þeim mǫnnum, er skjaldfimir eru ‘That is a shield; it often becomes bloody in battles and protects those men well who are deft with a shield’. — [1]: See Note to Heiðr 73/1. — [2] hlífir Dönum ‘protects Danes’: Ms. R715ˣ has Danir skemma ‘the Danes damage’, although in the prose solution (Heiðr 1924, 138), hann skeina Danir opt ‘the Danes scratch him often’. Either (skemma or skeina) provides an acceptable alternative. ‘Danes’ should perhaps be understood as men in general (Heiðr 1956, 81 n. to p. 45, l. 4). — [4]: Cf. Heiðr 53/4. — [6] sumum ‘some’: Preferable to 2845’s firum ‘men’ to avoid repetition from l. 4. — [8] guma ‘of a man’: Only R715ˣ has the gen. sg., which makes most sense and is adopted by most eds, as here. The other mss read gumi nom. sg., which could be construed ‘a man lays his body against its palm’. Tolkien, who adopts this reading (Heiðr 1960, 39 and n. 3), surmises that ‘R’s text means that the inner side of the shield is called its lófi (palm, i.e. hollow inner side of the hand)’, but there are no recorded instances of such a usage.


  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. Heiðr 1672 = Verelius, Olaus, ed. 1672. Hervarar Saga på Gammel Gotska. Uppsala: Curio.
  5. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  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. Heiðr 1924 = Jón Helgason, ed. 1924. Heiðreks saga. Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks konungs. SUGNL 48. Copenhagen: Jørgensen.
  8. Heiðr 1960 = Tolkien, Christopher, ed. and trans. 1960. Saga Heiðreks konungs ins vitra / The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise. Nelson Icelandic Texts. London etc.: Nelson.
  9. Heiðr 1873 = Bugge, Sophus, ed. 1873. Hervarar saga ok Heidreks. Det Norske oldskriftselskabs samlinger 17. Christiania (Oslo): Brøgger.
  10. Heiðr 1956 = Turville-Petre, Gabriel, ed. 1956. Hervarar saga ok Heidreks. Viking Society for Northern Research Text Series 2. With Notes and Glossary by G. Turville-Petre; Introduction by Christopher Tolkien. London: Viking Society for Northern Research, University College London. Rpt. 2014 with minor corrections. Exeter: Short Run Press.
  11. Internal references
  12. Hannah Burrows (ed.) 2017, ‘Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 73 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur 26)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 440.
  13. Hannah Burrows (ed.) 2017, ‘Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 53 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur 6)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 415.

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