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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gestumbl Heiðr 37VIII (Heiðr 84)

Hannah Burrows (ed.) 2017, ‘Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 84 (Gestumblindi, Heiðreks gátur 37)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 451.

GestumblindiHeiðreks gátur

Hvat mælti Óðinn         í eyra Baldri,
áðr hann væri á bál hafðr?

Hvat mælti Óðinn í eyra Baldri, áðr hann væri á bál hafðr?

What did Óðinn say into the ear of Baldr, before he was brought to the pyre?

Mss: 2845(72v), 281ˣ(101r), 597bˣ(51r), R715ˣ(30r) (Heiðr)

Readings: [1] Óðinn: Óðinn corrected from Óðinn í R715ˣ    [2] Baldri: Baldrs 281ˣ, 597bˣ    [3] væri: var 281ˣ, 597bˣ, ‘veri’ R715ˣ;    bál: báli 597bˣ

Editions: Skj AII, 227, Skj BII, 246, Skald II, 128, NN §3177; Heiðr 1672, 152, FSN 1, 487, Heiðr 1873, 262-3, 344, Heiðr 1924, 81, 140, FSGJ 2, 50, Heiðr 1960, 44; Edd. Min. 120.

Context: Before reciting the riddle, Gestumblindi says: segðu þat þá fyrst, ef þú ert hverjum konungi vitrari ‘say first then, if you are wiser than every king’.

Notes: [All]: Cf. Vafþr 54/4-6, in which Óðinn asks the same question (differently worded, though the present l. 3 and Vafþr 54/4 are identical) to win a wisdom contest with the giant Vafþrúðnir (NK 55): hvat mælti Óðinn | áðr á bál stigi | siálfr í eyra syni? ‘what did Óðinn himself say into the ear of his son before he ascended the pyre?’. — [All]: This question bears all the hallmarks of a ‘neck riddle’, according to Taylor’s definition (1951, 1): an ‘insoluble puzzle’ whose answer is known only to the questioner and with which the protagonist hopes to ‘save his neck’. — [All]: Skj, Skald and FSGJ, with varying levels of emendation (and conjecture, on Kock’s part), attempt to make Gestumblindi’s words of introduction to this stanza (see Context above) part of the verse, but they are not metrical. Skj B places the whole stanza in square brackets. — [3] hafðr ‘brought’: Edd. Min. gives of borinn ‘borne’, from paper mss, which produces an alliterating line; cf. áðr á bál of bar (Vsp 33/3); áðr á bál um berr (Bdr 11/7). Áðr hann væri á bál of borinn would be a metrical ljóðaháttr full line.


  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. FSN = Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1829-30. Fornaldar sögur nordrlanda. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. NK = Neckel, Gustav and Hans Kuhn (1899), eds. 1983. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 2 vols. I: Text. 5th edn. Heidelberg: Winter.
  7. Heiðr 1672 = Verelius, Olaus, ed. 1672. Hervarar Saga på Gammel Gotska. Uppsala: Curio.
  8. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  9. 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.
  10. Heiðr 1924 = Jón Helgason, ed. 1924. Heiðreks saga. Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks konungs. SUGNL 48. Copenhagen: Jørgensen.
  11. 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.
  12. Heiðr 1873 = Bugge, Sophus, ed. 1873. Hervarar saga ok Heidreks. Det Norske oldskriftselskabs samlinger 17. Christiania (Oslo): Brøgger.
  13. Internal references
  14. Not published: do not cite ()
  15. Not published: do not cite ()
  16. Not published: do not cite ()

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