Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þjóð Yt 14I/7 — jǫtuns ‘of the giant’

Ok lofsæll
ór landi fló
Týs ôttungr
Tunna ríki.
En flæmingr
farra trjónu
jǫtuns eykr
á Agli rauð,
sás of austmǫrk
áðan hafði
brúna hǫrg
of borinn lengi.
En skíðlauss
Skilfinga nið
hœfis hjǫrr
til hjarta stóð.

Ok lofsæll ôttungr Týs fló ór landi ríki Tunna. En flæmingr, eykr jǫtuns, sás áðan hafði of borinn hǫrg brúna lengi of austmǫrk, rauð trjónu farra á Agli. En skíðlauss hjǫrr hœfis stóð til hjarta nið Skilfinga.

And the famous descendant of Týr <god> [= Swedish king] fled the country before the power of Tunni. And the roamer, the draught-animal of the giant [BULL], which before had long borne the cairn of the brows [HEAD] about the eastern forest, reddened its weapon of the bull [HORN] upon Egill. And the sheathless sword of the bull [HORN] stuck in the heart of the descendant of the Skilfingar [= Swedish king].


[7] eykr jǫtuns ‘the draught-animal of the giant [BULL]’: Why a bull is associated with a giant is unknown (Meissner 111; LP: eykr). Kock (NN §75) names a few myths associating bulls with giants, e.g. the myth in Bragi Frag 1III and Gylf (SnE 2005, 7) in which Gefjun turns her sons by a giant into bulls and uses them to dig up a large piece of land from Sweden and drag it into the sea, forming Zealand. A conceivable parallel to the kenning might be Þjóð Haustl 5/2, 4III hval(r) Várar þrymseilar ‘the whale of the Vár <goddess> of the bowstring [= Skaði <giantess> > OX] ’. But Þjóðólfr’s other bull-kennings are more straightforward: okhreinn ‘yoke-reindeer’ (st. 13/13) or okbjǫrn ‘yoke-bear’ (Þjóð Haustl 6/4III). From ll. 9-12 the bull appears to be no ordinary animal but perhaps one with supernatural strength that controlled the whole district and was more than a fleeting threat. The lines recall Bragi’s description of Gefjun’s giant bulls (Bragi Frag 1/5-6, 8III), Øxn bôru átta ennitungl ok fjǫgur haufuð ‘The oxen bore eight forehead-moons [EYES] and four heads’. The expression ‘to bear the head’ could be a metaphor for claiming authority over an area, cf. examples of bera hǫfuð, lit. ‘to bear the head’, in Fritzner: höfuð 1.




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