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Myths, legends, and heroes: essays on Old Norse and Old English literature in honour of John McKinnell
 9780802099471, 0802099475

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Myths, Legends, and Heroes E s s ay s o n Old N ors e and Old Engl ish L i t e rat u r e in Honour of Jo hn McKinn ell

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Myths, Legends, and Heroes Essays on Ol d No rse and Ol d Englis h Literatur e in Honour of John McKinnell

Edited by Daniel Anlezark

Univ ersity of Toronto Pr ess Toronto  Buffalo  London

© University of Toronto Press 2011 Toronto  Buffalo  London Printed in Canada ISBN 978-0-8020-9947-1

Printed on acid-free, 100% post-consumer recycled paper with vegetable-based inks.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Myths, legends, and heroes : essays on Old Norse and Old English literature in honour of John McKinnell / edited by Daniel Anlezark. (Toronto Old Norse and Icelandic studies) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8020-9947-1 1. Old Norse literature – History and criticism.  2. English literature – Old English, ca. 450–1100 – History and criticism.  3. Mythology, Norse, in literature. I. McKinnell, John II. Anlezark, Daniel, 1966– III. Series: Toronto Old Norse and Icelandic studies PT7114.5.M35M98 2011   839.609   C2011-900045-8

University of Toronto Press gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto in the publication of this book. University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial assistance to its publishing program of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund for its publishing activities.


Abbreviations  vii Introduction  3 TRANSFORMING PAGANISM The Norse Gods in England and the Isle of Man  11 j udith jesch, university of nottingham Elves and Exorcism: Runic and Other Lead Amulets in Medieval Popular Religion  25 rudolf simek, university of bonn Images of Norse Cosmology  53 m argaret clunies ross, university of sydney USING POETRY Meeting the Other: The Cases of Draumr Þorsteins Síðu-Hallssonar and Kumlbúa þáttr  77 john lindow, university of california, berkeley Risking One’s Head: Vafþrúðnismál and the Mythic Power of Poetry  91 alison finlay, birkbeck college, london Snorra Edda as Menippean Satire  109 rory m c turk, university of leeds

vi  Contents

LITERARY HISTORIES Kings, Bishops, and Laws: The Old Norse–Icelandic Version of 1 Maccabees  133 david ashurst, university of durham Grendel’s Reign of Terror: From History to Vernacular Epic  148 helen damico, university of new mexico

MOTIFS AND THEMES Sibling Drama: Laterality in the Heroic Poems of the Edda  169 carolyne larrington, st john’s college, oxford Burning Walnuts: An International Motif in the Kings’ Sagas  188 joyce hill, university of leeds A Just and Riding God: Christ’s Movement in The Descent into Hell  206 maria elena ruggerini, universita’ di cagliari All at Sea: Beowulf’s Marvellous Swimming  225 daniel anlezark, university of sydney Bibliography  243 Index  269


EETS Early English Text Society NM Neuphilologische Mitteilungen PG Patrologia Greca, ed. Jacques-Paul Migne, 161 vols. (Paris, 1857–86) PL Patrologia Latina, ed. Jacques-Paul Migne, 221 vols. (Paris, 1844–64) os Original Series ss Supplementary Series

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Myth s, Legends, and H ero es

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The essays in this volume are dedicated to Professor John McKinnell, who for many years was a member of the English department of the University of Durham in the northeast of England. John’s teaching and research interests are wide-ranging, and have included Old Norse, Old English, Middle Scots, and medieval drama, to name only a few. This collection is designed to acknowledge John’s contribution to research in one area in particular – the myths, legends, and storytelling traditions of the northwestern shore of Europe in the early Middle Ages. Many of this volume’s essays, by a range of scholars who are specialists in the field of Old Norse–Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon studies, focus in various ways on encounters with the ‘other,’ taking as their general starting point John’s recent magisterial monograph Meeting the Other in Norse Myth and Legend (2005). The first three studies examine how Old Norse–Icelandic religion and cosmology were transformed and reshaped, from early encounters with Christianity in the context of settlement in Anglo-Saxon England, through medieval popular religion in Scandinavia, to modern attempts to re-engage with the early Scandinavian perception of the universe. Three essays take up the subject of poetic self-consciousness in different ways, as later writers encounter and adapt the earlier Norse poetic inheritance. The next two essays discuss genre in a different way, and explore the encounters between different peoples of different historical moments through the literary appropriation of history: Anglo-Scandinavian history in Beowulf, and biblical history in Icelandic saga. The last four essays focus on three different motifs and themes, some related to folktale, some from other sources, which are found in Old Norse and Old English literature, from sibling rivalry to burning walnuts. The first three essays, by Judith Jesch, Rudolf Simek, and Margaret Clunies Ross, present three moments of a historical continuum, focused on the translation and transmission of pre-Christian Scandinavian religion and myth into

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new cultural contexts. Jesch surveys and discusses the material remains that point to the practice of Scandinavian pagan religion in England, taking as her starting point John McKinnell’s long-standing interest in the relationship between surviving sculpture and mythological poetry. The sculpture raises the question: are these myths and their inscription in stone a vehicle of cultural memory and identity, or do they indicate religious orientation? Are they evidence for pagan beliefs and practices among Scandinavian settlers in the British Isles? The Gosforth Cross and other sculpture sharing its iconography suggest cultural memory and acculturation to Christianity. Jesch, however, suggests that the sculpture must not be viewed in isolation, but rather beside other evidence, such as grave-goods, indicating ‘knowledge of, interest in, adherence to, or worship of, the members of the Scandinavian pantheon.’ As she notes, the conversion of Viking settlers to Christianity is largely hidden from history, but focus on the conversion has meant there has been little consideration of the paganism of these migrants to England. Her essay offers a preliminary exploration of the residual paganism of the settlers, and its relationship to later evidence for the process of conversion. Rudolf Simek also considers the material evidence of grave-goods, beside a range of manuscript texts, which reveal the continuity of pre-Christian beliefs into the Christian period, especially in the power of elves to cause illness and harm. Simek is concerned with lead amulets, but ranges widely, comparing prayer books, such as the AngloSaxon Book of Cerne, and medieval medical collections that include charms against elves. The apparent fusion of identity between elves and devils in the popular imagination makes it difficult to determine where distinctions between the two might lie, a problem further compounded by the fact that many texts move easily from describing these malevolent spirits in the singular to the plural. In his study of lead amulets and their inscriptions, Simek discusses how in later medieval Scandinavia encounters with the other of the spirit world continued to be a source of anxiety which sought solutions in certain types of magical objects and formulae. The diffuse character of Scandinavian pre-Christian religion, and the fragmentary nature of its surviving records, were problems encountered by the earliest modern scholars who attempted to understand and explain how early Scandinavians imagined their cosmos. Margaret Clunies Ross teases out the history of modern representations and perceptions of a religious and cosmological system which its original adherents had never sought to systematize. Clunies Ross points out that modern concepts and representations of the cosmos often emphasize the spatial and relational through the visual; any early Scandinavian interpretations of the cosmos in these terms can only be reconstructed using records that do not always share this emphasis. Her essay

Introduction  5

traces the history of a widespread and popular modern visual representation of the Norse cosmos – centred on the tree Yggdrasill – to the creative interpretations of Finnur Magnússon (1781–1847). Even though Magnússon’s comparative and highly speculative interpretations of Norse mythology aroused the strong criticism of his contemporaries, his visualization of the pre-Christian cosmos has gained a quasi-canonical status in teaching and popular culture. John Lindow specifically takes up the theme of John’s Meeting the Other, focusing on meetings with ‘others’ in Draumr Þorsteins Síðu-Hallssonar and Kumlbúa þáttr (the tale of the mound-dweller), two texts set in medieval Iceland, one just after the Conversion and the other some centuries later. Both texts offer a meeting between the Christian present and the pagan past. In the visions of each text, a human meets with the ‘other’ in a dream; in both episodes the dream encounters include the performance of verse. Draumr Þorsteins tells of a man to whom dream women, apparently his fylgjur, deliver in vain verse warnings of an impending ambush. Kumlbúa þáttr presents an encounter with physical relics and an apparition from the pre-Christian past. In both encounters the verses are included not simply as ornament or to provide narrative detail; indeed, in Draumr Þorsteins the verses almost appear to be unnecessary. The dream women of Draumr Þorsteins use the old form of skaldic poetry, replete with difficult kennings and obscure language – their verse is as antiquated as their cultural role, and they offer no protection. In Kumlbúa þáttr the protagonist caps the verse of the warrior who appears from the grave, in the process invoking Bragi’s paradigmatic verse-capping exchange with the troll-woman. The preChristian past had to be kept in its place, as it threatened to erupt in the landscape, and both texts show the peculiar power of poetry in medieval Iceland in containing this eruption. Alison Finlay investigates the ways in which Vafþrúðnismál provides a mythic model for the hofuðlausn story told of Egill Skalla-Grímsson and other poets. The question-and-answer format of the eddic poem is unlike the forced production of a poem at the bidding of an offended ruler, but the association of Odin with poetry, as well as with wisdom, sketches a parallel between the god’s powers and the life-saving verses that poets produce to ransom their own heads in similarly hostile halls. Finlay surveys the widespread mythic symbolism of heads – often disembodied – which could have oracular powers. As she notes, the metonymic use of ‘head’ for ‘life’ is common in Old Norse verse and prose, and the recurrence of the ‘head ransom’ type of episode suggests a folktale motif. Finlay suggests that development of such stories could also have stimulated the importation of the myth of the wise head of Mímir, perhaps from Celtic analogues.

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Rory McTurk approaches the place of some poetry in the Old Norse–Icelandic tradition from a modern theoretical point of view. His essay persuasively invites a reassessment of the genre of Snorri’s Edda against the background of the debate on the nature and meaning of Menippean satire, drawing attention to the parallels and relationship between the Edda and Weinbrot’s four modes of Menippean satire. Perhaps the most significant is the way in which Menippean satire assumes the generic characteristics of the literary works against which it is directed, and thus often allies itself with the genre of ars poetica. The next two essays explore literary appropriation from quite a different perspective. David Ashurst analyses aspects of the Old Norse–Icelandic translation of 1 Maccabees which forms part of Gyðinga saga (The Saga of the Jews), showing that the treatment of many details of the Vulgate text exhibits a coherent and complex attitude towards political and ecclesiastical questions important in the relationship between Icelanders and the Norwegian crown in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The translator (or redactor), who might have been Brandr Jónsson, takes care to omit anything that suggests dishonour to kings, a sensitive topic in the years following 1262. Equally sensitive was the subject of the rights of landowners to fight in defence of family property; the translation also retains assertions of a people’s rights against a tyrant. Ashurst notes the translator’s interest in preserving traditional laws of separate nations, while acknowledging the need to adjust these for the benefit of the people. As Ashurst notes, most of these ideas are unsurprising in a European context in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but the translator’s renderings reveal a desire to relate the text to local conditions. The relationship between past and present events developed in representations of history is taken up by Helen Damico in her essay on Beowulf and its connections with historical narrative. Damico takes as her starting point Diana Whaley’s study of Snorri Sturluson’s restructuring of received materials in Heimskringla, where she points to the illusory aspect of Snorri’s historical works, characterized as ‘imaginative historiography,’ a hybrid form blending fact and fiction. The role of the historian includes a contradiction, as the act of composition undermines factual accuracy when presenting an individual interpretation of historical issues and events, reconfiguring them into a narrative line. Damico suggests that the essential fictionality of historical writing is not restricted to biographical sagas, but infiltrates all historical genres. Her discussion is focused on major historical events that may have been contemporary with the Beowulf poet’s culture, and which are more certainly contemporary with the poem’s sole manuscript copy. She proposes that the Beowulf poet, as well as adapting and transmitting works of mythology and legend, may also have imaginatively reinterpreted and transformed historical events into poetic form, in

Introduction  7

particular in ‘Grendel’s Reign of Terror.’ The historical reference point for her discussion is the Danish attacks on England in the early eleventh century, as treated first by twelfth-century Anglo-Norman historians and the Chronicler of the C-text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Her essay is not just about the dating of the poem, but rather about the function of literature and fictionality in relation to history in the early Middle Ages, and offers a challenge to the way modern readers approach Beowulf. The following four essays discuss the use and adaptation of specific motifs in Northern literature. Carolyne Larrington, drawing on theoretical insights of psychoanalysis, focuses on the generally neglected sibling relationships found in Old Norse literature. This common folklore motif is attested by the proverb ‘Bare is the back without a brother,’ found both in Grettis saga and the Old English Maxims I. Larrington notes that in recent years psychoanalytic and psychological attention has turned its focus on the sibling, previously overlooked in favour of the master paradigm of the parent/child triangle promoted by Freud. Focusing on eddic poetry and Volsunga saga, Larrington examines the ways in which the lateral family relations of brothers and sisters dominate the heroic verse of the Poetic Edda, in marked contrast to the vertical, genealogical models that generally inform Icelandic sagas. She points out that the insights of folkpsychology offer models that are in accord with the theoretical discussions such as those of Juliet Mitchell, sharing the understanding of sibling relationships as exhibiting the tensions between competition and profound loyalty. The endless feuding in heroic poetry may reflect historical circumstance and a common concern of popular storytelling, but this does not account for the obsessive concentration on sibling and affinal relationships in Old Norse legendary literature. Joyce Hill discusses the literary and folktale connections of an episode in Morkinskinna. When Sigurðr Jórsalafari visits Constantinople during his travels, he prepares a feast for the Emperor and Empress by burning walnuts as fuel. The use of nuts as fuel is a widespread folktale motif, as Gaston Paris noted long ago. Hill offers a close examination of the treatment of the motif in the kings’ sagas and related literature, discussing both its immediate context and its relationship to the wider tradition, demonstrating the ways in which the Morkinskinna raconteur sharpens the anecdote and realizes the potential of the motif in contributing to Sigurðr’s prestige before the Greek Emperor. While other examples of the motif, such as in the Old French romance of Aymeri de Narbonne, reveal a crude form of pride and luxury, the strength of Morkinskinna’s account of ‘burning nuts’ is in its demonstration of Sigurðr’s status and indifference to wealth. The final two essays focus on two Old English texts and their Old Norse connections. Maria Elena Ruggerini explores the use of a unique Old English verb – oþridan – in the Exeter Book poem The Descent into Hell. The poet

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describes Christ as ‘riding’ to hell to liberate its captive saints. The meaning of the hapax legomenon is far from clear, given the usual sense imparted by the prefix oþ-, which suggests movement away. The only other early medieval representation of Christ riding to hell is found in the Old Norse prose account in Niðrstigningarsaga, which Ruggerini argues is unrelated to the Descent version. The Old English poem appears to be indebted to a variant version of Theodulf’s hymn Gloria laus et honor, used in the Palm Sunday procession in Anglo-Saxon England, and a network of typological associations which drew parallels between Christ’s triumphant ride into Jerusalem and the ‘Harrowing of Hell.’ Scholars have shown how the Exeter Book Descent uses the liturgies of Baptism and Holy Saturday, and the suggestion that other aspects of the Holy Week liturgy have influenced the poet conform to previous scholarship on his thematic interests. Daniel Anlezark explores the relationship between Beowulf and other characters in Old Norse and Old English literature who display aquatic prowess. In three problematic episodes the hero of Beowulf swims, dives, or rows in and across great bodies of water. In the first of these accounts, Beowulf defends himself against the verbal attacks of Hrothgar’s thyle Unferth in terms that leave the modern reader confused about whether the hero was swimming or rowing in his contest with Breca. In the second, Beowulf dives into the lake, or perhaps inlet of the sea, occupied by Grendel’s mother. In a final episode, the narrator recalls Beowulf’s return from Frisia and the conflict that saw the death of his royal uncle. Anlezark argues that the poet’s telling of all three episodes deliberately muddies the waters, carefully portraying a superlative hero whose fame and strength are associated with the sea, but one who is very much human in his weakness. Similarities between Beowulf and the great sea traveller ‘Wulf’ referred to in the Old English poem Solomon and Saturn II point to a complex, but probably irrecoverable, relationship between the two characters, grounded in a folk tradition which venerated swimming heroes. These essays honour John and his contribution to our understanding of Old Norse–Icelandic literature and its place in the literary history of Europe. They explore in a variety of ways the encounters with the other within and around this literary tradition. Most of the essays employ the traditional tools of criticism and scholarship to provide new understandings of, and insights into, the early literature and society of Scandinavia and its near neighbours. Some essays use more recent theory: McTurk, Larrington, and Damico in particular draw on recent critical methodologies to extend the boundaries of scholarship on Old Norse–Icelandic literature in different, at times controversial, ways. It is hoped that all serve as a worthy tribute to a life dedicated to bringing to a generation of students and colleagues a passion for the myths, legends, and heroes of the ancient North.


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The Norse Gods in England and the Isle of Man ju d i t h j e s ch

One of the memorable experiences of my undergraduate career at the University of Durham was reading Voluspá in John McKinnell’s Old Norse class. Not an obvious text for beginners, perhaps, but one that caught the imagination. It introduced us, all at once, to the most dramatic bits of Norse mythology, to the emergence of Christianity in the North, to poetic forms and structures, and to the significance of manuscript variation. It also presented us with some highly obscure and puzzling language, and textual cruces with which we struggled even though it was clear from the reading list that better minds than ours had also failed to solve them. An additional point of fascination was that this very Icelandic poem (according, at any rate, to Sigurður Nordal, whose edition we were using in John’s translation)1 had close iconographical analogues on England’s most splendid tenth-century monument, the Gosforth Cross. In an attempt to provide a context for this interesting conjunction, John later published a survey of the ‘mythological’ and ‘legendary subjects’ of Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture, producing a harvest that was not negligible.2 Including ‘doubtful or hybrid cases,’ he identified ten distinct mythological subjects and two legendary ones, depicted on seventeen different pieces of sculpture from northern England. John’s particular interest in these subjects was in whether or not they provided evidence for the knowledge of eddic poetry in England and he was fairly confident that they did: ‘The sculptures clearly imply that some myths and heroic tales were sufficiently familiar in northern England in the Viking Age to be recognized from a few symbolic motifs, and this familiarity with whole stories cannot have been supplied by the graphic images themselves. It seems overwhelmingly probable that the sculptors and those who commissioned and saw their work knew these stories chiefly in the form of poetry, the medium which could most easily preserve the memory and recitation of them.’3

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The hypothesis of poetry as a carrier of ‘these stories’ raises the interesting question of the status of Norse mythology in Anglo-Scandinavian England. Certainly it was present, but was it a vehicle of cultural memory, an expression of cultural identity independent of or at least not directly indicating religious orientation? Or can it be taken as evidence for pagan beliefs? The very obviously Christian contexts of the Gosforth Cross and most other sculpture with this iconography would seem to suggest the former, and most commentators have preferred to see the sculpture in the context of Christian mission, or Scandinavian acculturation. Thus, Lilla Kopár argues that the sculptures represent typology, or figurative thinking, in what she calls ‘a process of integration which was facilitated by cultural convergence,’ i.e., the gradual Christianization of the new settlers.4 Other scholars see in the sculpture the triumph of Christianity over paganism. Richard Bailey has proclaimed the Gosforth cross to be a product of sophisticated theological thinking using the monastic skill of ruminatio.5 The ultimate meaning of the cross for him is as a representation of ‘conversion from a pagan world’ and he sees the Gosforth cross as Christian, not syncretic, as does John McKinnell (‘an exemplary use of heathen material to enforce a predetermined Christian message’).6 The sculptures with Scandinavian mythological scenes have also sometimes been interpreted as teaching devices, to explain the new religion with motifs and narratives familiar to the newly converted Scandinavians.7 But all of these interpretations assume the dominance of Christianity. The exception is David Stocker, who has seen in the sculpture of Northumbria the ‘flowering of a hybrid religion which had characteristics of both paganism and Christianity.’8 What has been relatively little discussed is the possible pagan context of these images or, more specifically, the extent to which the mythological references on sculpture can be linked with other evidence indicating knowledge of, interest in, adherence to, or worship of the members of the Scandinavian pantheon. In a previous paper I considered the largely poetical uses of Norse mythology in England at a time (mainly the eleventh century) and in contexts which were already Christian.9 The preservation of stories and poems about the Norse gods in Icelandic manuscripts and clearly Christian contexts complicates our understanding of Scandinavian paganism. There is no doubt that some aspects of paganism were acceptable in the Christian period, not only in Iceland but also, as I tried to show, in eleventh-century England. This makes it very difficult to penetrate beyond these Christian uses to discover an authentic and practised paganism, and to determine the balance of religions in the tenth century, the period to which most of the mythological sculpture has been assigned. The conversion of Viking settlers in England to Christianity remains an obscure process, despite much scholarly discussion, and its timescale is debatable.

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Undoubtedly both the thoroughness and the chronology of the process varied in different parts of the country and in different social and political circumstances.10 This scholarly focus on the conversion process has meant that there has been relatively little consideration of the settlers as pagans. How pagan were they? Did they hold pagan beliefs and practise cult activities brought from the Scandinavian homelands, or were these attenuated by the migration process? Is it possible to identify significant differences between Viking settlers of Danish origin and those of ultimately Norwegian origin (who in most cases seem to have had a long period of activity in the Irish Sea area before settling in England)? Was paganism paradoxically, if temporarily, strengthened by its encounters with Christianity? Any migration causes dislocations which may particularly affect language, religion, and identities. Migrant communities do not and cannot simply replicate the homeland, and the nature, extent, and practice of Scandinavian paganism in England require further detailed elucidation. This paper represents a preliminary foray into the question, considering both archaeological and onomastic evidence before relating them to that of the sculpture. As I have suggested elsewhere, the search for Norse paganism needs to begin with an attempt simply to assemble and assess whatever evidence there might be for the worship of the Scandinavian gods or the practice of the Scandinavian religion, with as close a focus on source-criticism as possible.11 Thus the current paper seeks mainly to outline the parameters of future study rather than to come to any hard and fast conclusions. Some evidence from the Isle of Man is included here rather than in my earlier paper on Scotland: the island’s geographical location and important corpus of sculpture make for obvious links and parallels with northwest England, even if its linguistic and political circumstances were rather different. The evidence, other than the sculpture, comes largely from archaeology and onomastics. Though there needs to be some brief consideration of English sources that mention Scandinavian paganism, my concern is primarily with the evidence that can be associated with the settlers themselves, that may represent their world-view and not that of an Anglo-Saxon intelligentsia, either forced to accommodate them or prone to demonizing them from a safe distance. Some of the sources which indicate Anglo-Saxon knowledge of Norse gods have been investigated by Matthew Townend, who shows that both the lay chronicler Æthelweard, writing in Latin, and the clerical authors Ælfric and Wulfstan, writing in Old English, had some knowledge of the Norse gods.12 In particular, Æthelweard seems to have known living traditions of the gods Viðarr and Baldr ‘through Scandinavian contact.’13 Ælfric, and Wulfstan following him, mention the Scandinavian gods in the context of their classical equivalents, but in a way that suggests ‘the vitality of the traditions with which

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Anglo-Saxon churchmen like Ælfric were coming into contact.’14 Townend further shows that Ælfric knew the names of at least three gods in their Old Norse forms: Þórr, Óðinn, and Frigg.15 A category of evidence commonly associated with Scandinavian paganism is that of the furnished, or ‘pagan,’ burials. Such burials are not particularly numerous, though this may simply be an accident of preservation, as suggested by a flurry of recent discoveries: the ‘Viking woman’ at Adwick-le-Street, near Doncaster, found in 2001, and the cemetery containing probably two women and four men found at Cumwhitton in Cumbria in 2004 and not yet published, though widely reported in the press at the time.16 ‘Pagan’ burials known before these have usefully been surveyed by Ben Edwards for the northwest of England, David Wilson for the Isle of Man, and James Graham-Campbell for the central and southern Danelaw.17 The latter concluded that the ‘database for pagan Scandinavian burial of Viking-age date from the central and southern Danelaw (and points south) … is limited in scope, and much of it is surrounded by uncertainty.’18 This uncertainty is largely because many of these are antiquarian discoveries with fragmentary finds and minimal contextual information, and this also applies to most of the burials in the northwest. Recently there has been a broader survey by Redmond, considering the ‘Viking burials’ of the North of England in the context of such burials elsewhere in Britain and Ireland.19 Archaeologists often emphasize that the contrast between furnished and unfurnished burial is not necessarily, or not only, between ‘pagan’ and ‘Christian,’ but can also be a matter of social, regional, or chronological variation and that ‘there are serious problems attendant on making direct connections between religious belief and burial practice.’20 Redmond’s category of ‘Viking burial’ includes those in Christian locations or with some Christian elements and she concludes that ‘the manner of deposition is entirely dependent on the socio-cultural circumstances surrounding those performing the funerary rites.’21 The major exception to this indeterminacy is the large Viking barrow cemetery at Ingleby in Derbyshire, which has been described as showing ‘a clear commitment to paganism,’ while Wilson sees the Balladoole burial in the Isle of Man as ‘an expression of propaganda for the old religion.’22 However, for the purposes of the present study, the issue is not so much whether the burials should be classified as ‘pagan’ or not, but rather that, even if they are, they shed very little light on the narrower topic being investigated here, namely the knowledge of, interest in, adherence to, or worship of the members of the Scandinavian pantheon in England. An exception is that of the Repton burial with a Thor’s hammer pendant, which is discussed below. The Cumwhitton burials were found as a result of metal-detecting activities, and such activities have brought to light other new evidence which might ­reveal

The Norse Gods in England and the Isle of Man  15

something about Scandinavian paganism. The remarkable success of the Portable Antiquities Scheme ( and the diligence of metaldetectorists mean that the number of Thor’s hammer pendants known from England has increased dramatically in recent years, while a number of other objects have surfaced which may also shed light on pagan beliefs. Possibly analogous to the pendants are the tenth-century Northumbrian coins with a hammer symbol on them. The evidence of both place- and personal names also needs to be considered. Here, too, the evidence is growing, as the emerging volumes of the English Place-Name Survey present more names and nameforms for consideration. The overall picture, however, continues to show a general paucity of place-names that allude directly to Scandinavian pagan beliefs or practices, and some recent work has reduced this small number even further (see below). Personal names are a complex but underutilized resource for the understanding of Scandinavian beliefs. While overall patterns in name-giving can be an indicator of religious belief, it is an axiom in onomastics that people are not generally named directly after gods, at least in pagan Scandinavia. Some god-names do, however, combine with other elements to form dithematic names, and so names in Þór- or ‑þórr are ubiquitous throughout Scandinavia and the Viking world. This and some other Scandinavian name-elements used in the commonest names once had religious significance, but the continuance of these names long after the conversion to Christianity suggests that their etymological associations with the gods were not especially significant or even known. While no one of these sources provides a large amount of evidence, it is significant that there is a range of evidence from a variety of sources. The patterns that emerge from this variety are of interest, and may be more suggestive than the limited messages we can extract from individual types of evidence.

Odin A distinctive hill in North Yorkshire known as Roseberry Topping provides plausible evidence for the knowledge or even worship of Odin in a Scandinavian part of England.23 The earliest recorded form of this place-name, from 1119, is Othenesberg, from Old Norse Óðinsberg ‘hill of Odin.’24 Both Ælfric and Wulfstan (discussed above) note that the worshippers of Mercury/Odin brought him offerings on high mountains.25 The name is conceivably a Scandinavianization of an earlier English name (cf. Woodnesborough in Kent). However, there is no evidence for this in the forms, and its location in an area with many Scandinavian names rather suggests an originally Scandinavian name. Thus, Smith notes of

16  Judith Jesch

the three nearby place-names called Ingleby ‘farm of the English’ that they ‘denote isolated survivals of English inhabitants amid a prevailing Scandinavian population.’26 It may be significant that there is a place close by called Upsall.27 While this is a common enough Scandinavian farm-name of a descriptive type (denoting a building in a high place), it is much less common in Britain and the parallel with Uppsala in Sweden, a known cult-site, is suggestive. It may even be named after the Swedish site.28 Also suggestive is that another Upsall, a little further away, is adjacent to a place called Hesketh, deriving from Old Norse hestaskeið ‘horse-track,’ usually assumed to be a race-track, but given the connection between Odin and horses, possibly of religious significance.29 This overall pattern may not be significant, not least because we do not know if these names were once contemporary, but it is undoubtedly suggestive. Among the Scandinavian-type objects discovered by metal detectorists in recent years are several which have been said to represent valkyries or related imagery.30 The finds come from Lincolnshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk, and their form varies. Two are figures with spear and shield which have been assumed to be female because of their trailing skirts; another shows a figure in a trailing skirt facing a mounted rider, with iconographic parallels to similar scenes on Gotland picture stones; there is another which just depicts a mounted rider. This variation in the iconography militates against a single interpretation for all such figures, and the skirted figures may well be male, as there are plenty of depictions of warriors in long tunics. Nevertheless, they do seem to form an iconographically related group, and the imagery does suggest at least a more general Odinic connection. The association of horses with Odinic beliefs may further be reflected in some of the Manx burials. Knock y Doonee contains both a horse-harness and a horse, Balladoole contains a variety of riding-equipment, and Ballateare has cremated horse-bones in its cappings.31 Wilson sees such burials as ‘symbolic of travel to, and in, the next world … the wherewithal to ride to Valhalla’ and finds that such beliefs may also be alluded to in the riders depicted on some Manx stones.32 Ballateare also contained two spearheads, while Cronk Moar had one spearhead, but with no identifiable horse bones or ‑trappings. Guðrún Nordal has drawn attention to Icelandic burials containing both a horse and a spear, and has argued that they may be evidence of Odinic beliefs when found together.33 More speculatively, an amulet found near Stamford Bridge in 2007 may have an Odinic reference. It is a cast copper alloy mount, described as ‘in the form of a Viking man’s head [wearing] a helmet which features two curved horns.’34 The object has some resemblance to the ‘weapon dancer’ figurines which Neil Price, following earlier scholars, has interpreted as an image of

The Norse Gods in England and the Isle of Man  17

Odin. Price further suggests that their ‘horns’ are in fact stylized birds, thus probably Odin’s ravens Hugin and Munin.35 The Stamford Bridge mount is a head only and so it lacks the weapons that the other figures are holding, but its ‘horns’ or birds are similar to theirs.

Thor’s Hammer In his work on crosses and crucifixes, Jörn Staecker noted only two Thor’s hammer pendants from England (those from Whitby and Repton) and one from Ireland, although there were further English examples known at the time:36 a silver pendant found in the Cuerdale hoard in 1840 beside the River Ribble in Lancashire;37 a punch-decorated silver pendant found near Carlisle and acquired by the British Museum in 1990;38 a gold alloy pendant from South Lopham, Norfolk;39 and a silver pendant from Sibton, Suffolk.40 Also of interest is the pendant from Goldsborough, North Yorkshire, which has the form of a cross, upside-down, so that ‘[i]t must be presumed that this cross is a Christian symbol, perhaps slightly confused in its design with the pagan Thor’s hammer.’41 Since Staecker wrote, the list has been augmented by new finds, mostly the result of metal-detecting activities. At the time of writing, Norwich Castle Museum alone possesses seven Thor’s hammer pendants, the most recent find having reached the museum on 24 November 2008.42 The following is a list of those which I have been able to track down in the Treasure Annual Reports, and other sources, but there are undoubtedly more: • Silver fragment of a decorated hammer pendant, found in 1998 at Leconfield, East Yorkshire.43 • Surlingham, Norfolk.44 • Silver, undecorated double-headed hammer pendant, found before 2001 at an uncertain location in Essex.45 • Silver, undecorated double-headed hammer pendant, found in 1991 at Wetwang, East Yorkshire.46 • Silver double-headed hammer pendant with incised edge and filigreedecorated gold panel, found in 2003 at Great Witchingham, Norfolk.47 • Copper alloy part of folding balance, possibly reused as a Thor’s hammer pendant, found in 2004 in North Yorkshire.48 • Lead Thor’s hammer from Torksey.49 • 2007 find of Thor’s hammer by Colchester Treasure Hunting.50 • 2008 find of Thor’s hammer near Longtown, Cumbria.51

18  Judith Jesch

A hammer symbol is also found on at least thirty-two coins from Norse York.52 The majority of these coins have a St Peter legend and a sword on the obverse, and the hammer symbol on the reverse. Just as students of Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture argue for its syncretic origins, so Gareth Williams sees the York coins as ‘a deliberate element of religious syncretism in the conversion process’ on the grounds that Thor defended the gods with his hammer just as St Peter defended Christ with a sword in Gethsemane.53 However, other interpretations should not yet be ruled out, as some of the coins have a different legend on the obverse, including at least three with the name of Sihtric Caoch, ruler of York 921–7, with a sword, while there is one coin of Ragnall, ruler of York 919–21, with a bow and arrow image on the obverse. The function of the Thor’s hammer symbol is much debated. In a wide-ranging study of those examples known at the time (predominantly in Scandinavia), Wamers noted that the earliest examples of amulets are from the early ninth century, though the majority are from the tenth and eleventh centuries, and that 75 per cent of them come from hoards and 10 per cent from burials.54 Although only a minority of the finds are from graves, Wamers notes that these suggest that the amulets were more likely to have been worn by women than men.55 The evidence from the British Isles is, however, too slight to determine a gender preference. The one Scottish example does indeed come from a female grave, while the one English example from a grave is from a male one at Repton. The latter demonstrates that not all combinations of pagan and Christian features need be syncretistic: it hardly suggests respect for Christian practice, despite being in the churchyard. The grave-goods other than the Thor’s hammer are extensive and distinctive, and the burial (and one adjacent to it) are covered by a stone setting which includes decorated fragments of a broken Anglo-Saxon cross-shaft.56 Nevertheless, Richards argues that this was the grave of ‘someone for whom the options were being kept open.’57 The majority of finds of Thor’s hammers are single, loose finds, with no gendered, or indeed any other, social or religious context. If it were the case that these amulets were predominantly worn by women, this would have a significant impact on our understanding of the Scandinavian settlement of the Danelaw, when considered together with the other Anglo-Scandinavian metalwork from the Danelaw, most of which consists of women’s dress fittings.58 Wamers’s conclusion about the significance of the Thor’s hammer symbol is that it is entirely analogous to the cross, and he claims that the hammer is an example of a typological interpretatio Christiana that is common throughout the Middle Ages, in which Thor prefigures Christ, drawing an analogy with the sculpture from Gosforth. In Wamers’s interpretation, Thor, as the theologically most ‘harmless’ god, could most easily be incorporated into ‘die christliche Heilsgeschichte, die auch die heidnische Zeit mit einbeziehen mußte.’59 This

The Norse Gods in England and the Isle of Man  19

interpretation is hard to square with the evidence of the Christian Anglo-Saxon authors mentioned above, for whom there appears to have been no distinction between Thor and Odin, both equally heathen, and it may be that more detailed study of the amulets will come up with a different understanding of their significance in Anglo-Scandinavian England. There may appear to be support for Wamers’s argument in the resurgence of Thor in personal nomenclature. From the eleventh century onwards, there are a number of examples of men with the name Þór, Thor, or Tor in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Norfolk, and Durham (and possibly in other areas which have not yet  been surveyed).60 However, Insley interprets this name as ‘an A[nglo‑] Scand[inavian] short form of names in Þor-, Þur- and -þórr’ and also rejects previous suggestions that the god-name occurs in field- and minor names in England – these are most likely to contain the Anglo-Scandinavian personal name already discussed, or forms of the name Þórir.61 Insley’s derivation of the name, and its chronological and geographical distribution, both suggest that the families who called their children Thor did not perceive it to have any connection with the heathen god, even in a Christianized form. However, even Insley admits that one of the Durham examples, in which a man named Thor is said to have the alternative name of Siward, arose either because the monks persuaded him to take a more neutral name, or because Siward was his baptismal name.62 An engraved, copper-alloy metalworker’s die found in Oswestry in Shrop­ shire, hardly the most Scandinavian part of England, has been suggested to represent the giantess Hyrrokkin, known primarily from the account of Baldr’s funeral in Snorra Edda but probably also from a rune stone in Skåne.63 Unlike amulets and dress fittings, this object is less likely to have had significance for its owner’s religious identity when originally made. The die was subsequently converted into a pendant, in such a way that there is minimal disruption to the image, so presumably at a time when the latter still had some significance. If the identification is correct, the object is at the least evidence for knowledge of Norse mythological narratives and it accords with Æthelweard’s evidence that the god Baldr was known, as noted above. Its later use as a pendant may suggest the owner’s broader identification with a culture which valued objects of a similar style or type, rather than any specific reference to a mythological narrative.

Places of Worship Archaeologists have not yet found evidence for the places in which the Norse gods might have been worshipped in England, which is hardly surprising, since the nature and location of cult sites is still a matter of debate in Scandinavia and

20  Judith Jesch

Iceland, too. Any evidence must therefore come from place-names. Apart from Roseberry Topping, already discussed, David Parsons has in a recent article noted only three other places which have been suggested as putative pagan Norse cult sites, and dismissed one of them, Ellough in Suffolk.64 Although the other two suggestions are not discussed by him in detail, their religious significance is also doubtful. Thoresway (earliest form Toreswe in Domesday) in the North Riding of Lincolnshire, previously interpreted as containing the Old Norse personal name Þórir and the Old English element weg ‘road,’ was reinterpreted by Cameron and Insley as ‘a heathen name … “the shrine dedicated to Thor.”’65 If this interpretation is correct, then the spellings suggest that the name has been transmitted through the medium of English, since both the oldest form and the majority of the other early forms represent the genitive ending of the first element as -es, i.e., as in Old English. However, the preponderance of these forms might suggest that the older interpretation is right and that they represent an Old Norse genitive form Þóris-. In Westmorland, Hoff (earliest form Hofes in 1158–66) is thought to derive from Old Norse hof ‘temple, heathen temple, sanctuary.’66 The earliest form is explained as a plural (though again this would be an English, not an Old Norse, plural) referring to two settlements with this name, and it is noted that a mile away is ‘an extensive wood’ called Hoff Lunn which may derive from the ‘lund or grove offering sanctuary in Viking times.’67 The element lund occurs reasonably frequently in English place-names, though distinguishing those examples where it simply means ‘grove, wood’ from those where it may have (pagan) religious significance is difficult.68 The evidence presented above, especially when taken together, shows that several of the Norse gods and their main attributes, and some mythological figures, were known throughout England in the Viking Age. Predictably, the most plentiful evidence is for the popular god Thor, but there are also considerable indications that Odin, the god of war, was known and revered. It is of interest to compare this pattern with that of the sculpture, where these two gods are not so prominent. Thor is unambiguously referred to only once on the Gosforth Fishing Stone, and Odin is more alluded to (in the various representations of Ragnarǫk) than depicted, while at the same time there is a whole range of other mythological reference in the sculpture, as outlined by McKinnell. Odin also occurs once on the Kirk Andreas stone from the Isle of Man in the context of Ragnarǫk and again in an interesting juxtaposition with Christian imagery which Wilson has termed ‘exegetic.’69 Female figures with trailing skirts are found on two Manx crosses and have parallels with the ‘valkyrie’ figures discussed above, though Wilson is inclined to accept Neil Price’s recent interpretation of them as peripatetic sorceresses.70

The Norse Gods in England and the Isle of Man  21

The patterns that emerge from the evidence taken as a whole suggest that actual worship of, or adherence to, the Norse gods was confined to the two most important ones, Odin and his son Thor.71 The mythological sculpture in Christian contexts and the literary and other evidence, however, indicate that the broader pantheon was also known, presumably in the form of stories about them in verse (as argued by McKinnell) or prose. It is clear that the Norse pantheon played significant roles in both belief and culture, so that we do not have to assume that all the members of this pantheon were the objects of cult practices, or that all evidence for the members of this pantheon indicates religious belief. It is likely that, in Viking Age England at least, people knew to direct their attentions to the most powerful gods, those who could actually do something for them, while the remainder of the gods were mostly good for telling stories and poems about their adventures. The more limited and possibly localized nature of these other gods may have meant that their divine force did not survive the process of migration. Their adventures, however, as well as some of the adventures of Odin and Thor, were remembered and could be incorporated into Christian iconographic contexts, along with the adventures of legendary human heroes such as Sigurd, not discussed here but very well represented in the sculpture of England and the Isle of Man. Whether these iconographic contexts indicate acculturation, assimilation, or a hybrid religion is a topic certainly worthy of further discussion.

NOTES 1 Nordal, ed., Völuspá. 2 McKinnell, ‘Eddic Poetry’; also McKinnell, ‘Norse Mythology and Northumbria.’ 3 McKinnell, ‘Eddic Poetry,’ 330. 4 Kopár, Gods and Settlers. I am grateful to Dr Kopár for allowing me to see her work in advance of publication. Her book will have a much fuller account of mythological scenes on sculpture than is possible here. 5 Bailey, ‘Scandinavian Myth,’ 20. 6 McKinnell, ‘Norse Mythology,’ 335. 7 Abrams, ‘History and Archaeology,’ 122. 8 Stocker, ‘Monuments and Merchants,’ 195. 9 Jesch, ‘Scandinavians and “Cultural Paganism,”’ 55–68. 10 Abrams, ‘The Conversion of the Danelaw,’ 31–44. 11 Jesch, ‘The Norse Gods in Scotland.’ 12 Townend, Language and History, 121–43. 13 Ibid., 123–7.

22  Judith Jesch 14 Ibid., 135. 15 Ibid., 139–43. 16 Speed and Rogers, ‘A Burial of a Viking Woman.’ 17 Edwards, ‘Vikings in North-West England,’ 43–9; Edwards, Vikings in North West England, 8–24; Wilson, Vikings, 25–46; Graham-Campbell, ‘Pagan Scandinavian Burial.’ 18 Ibid., 118. 19 Redmond, Viking Burial in the North of England, 92–126 and Appendix 5. 20 Hadley, ‘Viking and Native,’ 67–9; Hadley, The Vikings in England, 237–71. 21 Redmond, Viking Burial, 126. 22 Richards et al., ‘Excavations at the Viking Barrow Cemetery,’ 46; Wilson, Vikings, 46. 23 Joe Cornish’s photographs in Pearce, ed., Roseberry Topping, provide a very good sense of the numinosity of this extraordinary eminence. 24 Smith, North Riding, 164. 25 to heagum beorgum him brohtan onsæg[ed]nysse (Ælfric)/to heagum beorgum him brohton oft mistlice loflac (Wulfstan), both cited in Townend, Language and History, 129–31. 26 Smith, North Riding, 167. 27 Ibid., 158. 28 Fellows-Jensen, ‘Cultic Place-Names,’ 265–6. 29 Ibid., 198, 200. Although Fellows-Jensen, Scandinavian Settlement, 92, is inclined to see such names as referring to ‘stretches of land at boundaries that were either used for grazing or left unexploited,’ an earlier study by Atkin, ‘Viking RaceCourses?’ finds a close correlation between such names and Roman roads and suggests that they were both boundaries and race-courses, indeed that they were meeting-places for people from neighbouring districts at which activities such as horse-racing could take place. 30 Margeson, ‘Viking Settlement in Norfolk,’ 50–1; Leahy and Paterson, ‘New Light,’ 192; Treasure Report 2002, 54–6; Portable Antiquities Report 2003/04, 40, 58. 31 Wilson, Vikings, 37, 41–4. 32 Ibid., 44, 61. 33 Nordal, ‘Odinsdyrkelse,’ 149–50. 34 Ref. no. YORYM-024D31 at 35 Price, Viking Way, 385–8. 36 Staecker, Rex regum, 565–6. There is also currently only one known from Scotland; see Graham-Campbell and Batey, Vikings in Scotland, 128, 146–9. It is illustrated (without identification as a Thor’s hammer) in Hedges, Brochs of Orkney, 119.

The Norse Gods in England and the Isle of Man  23 37 Hawkins, ‘An Account,’ 129–30. 38 The object can be traced in the searchable database of the British Museum’s collections at 39 Margeson, ‘Viking Settlement,’ 51. 40 Ibid.; West, Corpus, 94, 244. 41 Wilson, ‘An Unpublished Fragment.’ 42 Information kindly provided by Tim Pestell of the museum. 43 Treasure Report 1998–1999, 52. 44 Referred to briefly in Treasure Report 2002, 57. Tim Pestell kindly informs me that this was acquired by Norwich Castle Museum in 1999. 45 Treasure Report 2002, 56–8. 46 Ibid., 58. 47 Treasure Report 2003, 74–5, fig. 98. A similar one, said to be from Norfolk but without further information, is depicted in Mills, Saxon and Viking, 73. 48 Treasure Report 2004, 92, fig. 137.5. 49 Referred to in Portable Antiquities Report 2005/6, 73, but I have not been able to track down any further information. 50 51 Information kindly provided by Tim Pestell. 52 According to the database of the Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds http:// 53 Williams, ‘Kingship,’ 198. 54 Wamers, ‘Hammer und Kreuz,’ 84. 55 Ibid., 87. 56 Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle, ‘Repton,’ 60–5. 57 Richards et al., ‘Excavations,’ 102. 58 Leahy and Paterson, ‘New Light,’ 189. This material is currently the subject of doctoral research by Jane Kershaw, Oxford University. 59 Wamers, ‘Hammer und Kreuz,’ 98–100. 60 Fellows-Jensen, Scandinavian Personal Names, 295–6; Insley, Scandinavian Personal Names, 390–1; both with further references; for Durham see now Insley with Rollason, ‘Scandinavian Names,’ 239. 61 Insley, Scandinavian Personal Names, 390–1, 413. 62 Insley, ‘Personal Names,’ 90. 63 Portable Antiquities Report 2005/6 , 70, 91–2. 64 Parsons, ‘Ellough.’ 65 Cameron et al., Lincolnshire, 150–1. 66 Smith, Westmorland, 97–9. Fellows-Jensen, Settlement Names in the North-West, 53, notes that in Scandinavia ‘[t]he element does not necessarily have a religious significance.’

24  Judith Jesch 67 Smith, Westmorland, 97–9. For an example of the name-element lund in a clearly cultic context (confirmed by a runic inscription) in Sweden, see Brink, ‘Law,’ 107. 68 A selection of examples can be found in Smith, Place-Name Elements, 27–8. 69 Wilson, Vikings, 81. 70 Ibid., 84–5; Price, Viking Way, 112–16. 71 A similar conclusion (though with a slightly wider range of gods) is reached for Scandinavia on the basis of toponymic evidence alone by Brink, ‘Old Norse Religion.’

Elves and Exorcism: Runic and Other Lead Amulets in Medieval Popular Religion r u d o l f s i m ek

When John McKinnell and I worked together on our Runes, Magic and Religion (RMR) in Durham and Bonn,1 among the most striking documents of the use of runes in medieval popular religion were the lead tablets conjuring up elves or other demons. Unfortunately for us at the time, only two of these lead amulets were actually executed in runes, namely the Odense lead tablet calling on Khorda, Inkhorda, and Khordai, and the Blæsinge lead tablet conjuring seven named sisters, while all the others were written in Latin script and therefore did not warrant inclusion in a book on runes and magic. Our enthusiasm for these little windows into the medieval mind was such that we included – against all our rules for the book – two sources with parallels, namely the Schleswig lead amulet among the sources of the sator-formula and the text of Carmen Buranum no. 54 as evidence for the naming of Gordin, Ingordin, and Ingordan. The only thing that remained for us to do at the time was to refer the reader to a recent article published by our third collaborator, Klaus Düwel, who had assembled in 2001 all the Scandinavian amulets in lead and in wood, and had extensively dealt with the evidence,2 whether elves were mentioned or not. In his article, Düwel had started off with the Scandinavian examples of the satorformula which can, in eight runic instances, be found on wooden, silver, and lead objects, as well as two non-runic cases on the Schleswig lead tablet and in an Old Norse medical miscellany.3 His starting point had been the newly found Schleswig lead tablet, and so he continued with the textual parallels to this lead tablet, including all of the eight items to be dealt with below, with a short excursus on the names Khorda, Inkhorda, and Khordai,4 and the use of lead in amulets.5 He then went on to assemble evidence for both runic lead amulets and lead crosses from Scandinavia. The article also includes an interesting but unfortunately brief excursus by H.-U. Boesche on the origins of the magic word agla.6

26 Rudolf Simek

The only questions Düwel could not expand on in this already very long article were, firstly, the origins of the sator-formula, a topic which had already been dealt with in the same volume by C. Gastgeber and H. Harrauer,7 as well as previously by U. Horak and C. Gastgeber;8 secondly, the role of elves as demons, as spirits of illness in medieval times; and thirdly, the origins of the various Christian formulae employed on these amulets. These Christian formulae include the invocations Christus regnat, Christus vincit, Christus imperat found on several lead amulets (and one made from copper),9 the formula Ecce crucem domini, fugite partes adversae, vicit leo de tribu Iuda, radix David, again found on lead amulets and crosses,10 as well as the frequent invocation of the Trinity and several groups of saints on all sorts of amulets. In my considerations below, I shall try to fill in some of those gaps by looking at these invocations as well as at the role of demons on medieval amulets as the cause of illness, but before this, I shall take a closer look at the relationship between the texts on various amulets and their occasionally occurring manuscript counterparts.

The Schleswig Amulet Of the many amulets found in Southern Scandinavia and North Germany, only five mention the actual supernatural being or beings invoked or banned for the protection of a (sometimes named) human subject. Of these five amulets, only three expressly talk about elves. These are the Schleswig lead tablet, the Romdrup lead strip, and the Halberstadt lead amulet, all of which mention elves either in the plural or the singular. The Schleswig lead amulet is dated loosely to the eleventh or twelfth century,11 and was found in the old town of Schleswig without any detailed indications of its original use. The lead sheet of 144 mm x 54/59 mm had been folded up, written side inward, into a little ‘packet’ of roughly 40 x 30 mm. The reconstructed text reads: A: sator arepo tenet opera rotas B: sator arepo tenet opera rotas C1: + Initiu(m) s(an)c(t)i eu(an)g(e)lii s(e)c(un)d(u)m Ioh(anne)m. In pricipio erat v(er)bu(m) et hoc C2: v(er)b(u)m initio caret e(t) sine fine manet. I(n) no(m)i(n)e d(omi)ni n(ost) ri Iesu Chr(ist)i C3: c(on)iuro vos demones sive albes ac om(ne)s pestes om(n)iu(m) infirmitatu(m) ac C4: om(ne)s int(er)iectiones in unicum d(eu)m patre(m) om(n)ip(otente)m ac Ie(su)m Chr(istu)m filiu(m) eius

Elves and Exorcism  27 C5: ac sp(iritu)m s(an)c(tu)m, ut n(on) noceatis famulo d(e)i neq(ue) in die nec i(n) nocte C6: nec (i)n ullis horis. Ecce cruce(m) + d(omi)ni, fugite partes adv(er)s(ae), vic(it) leo C7: (de t)ribu Iuda, radix D(av)id, am(en). Cru(x) † benedicat me n(omen) am(en) C8: Crux + Chr(is)ti p(ro)tegat, crux Chr(ist)i erua(t) me n(omen) a diabolo ac om(n)ib(us) mal(i)s am(en).

The translation (given in RMR) is: C1: The beginning of the Holy Gospel according to John. In the beginning was the Word and this C2: Word has no beginning and remains without end. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ C3: I conjure you, demons and elves, and all the infections of all illnesses, and C4: all obstructions, by the one God, the almighty Father and his Son Jesus Christ C5: and the Holy Spirit, that you may not harm this [male] servant of God by day or by night, C6: nor at any hours. See the Cross + of Christ! Flee, you hostile forces! The lion C7: of Judah’s tribe has triumphed, the root of David. Amen. May the Cross bless me, N., Amen. C8: May Christ’s + cross protect, may Christ’s cross deliver me, N., from the devil and from all evils, Amen.12

It should be noted that the two copies of the sator-formula were inscribed on the outside of the folded-up lead sheet, and therefore – as they fit the ‘parcel’ exactly – must have been added after it had been folded up. The formula was not executed in the normal way by writing the words in a square that allows it to be read in every direction, but by following the side of the square with the first four words and adding the fifth word rotas inside, the remaining space being filled with four crosses; it may be deduced from this that the writer knew that the sator-formula had to be executed as a word-square, but had never seen this and followed his own inspiration in how to achieve this:


Schleswig amulet: OP¯A ROTAS SATOR AREPO

Normal Sator-square: SATOR AR E P O T E N E T O P E RA ROTAS

28 Rudolf Simek

Gastgeber and Harrauer, on the other hand, considered this type of execution deliberate and interpreted it a sort of locking charm.13 As the sator-formula has been dealt with before,14 and lines C1–C2 are roughly the beginning of the Gospel according to John and thus clearly invoke the power of the Word, I shall concentrate on lines C3–C8, where demones sive albes ac omnes pestes omnium infirmitatum ac omnes interiectiones are conjured up to protect the owner of the amulet. After the invocation of the Trinity the actual activator of the formula runs thus: Ecce crucem + domini, fugite partes adversae, vicit leo de tribu Iuda, radix David, amen. Finally, a protective blessing is added by a triple invocation of the Cross and the statement that this should protect the (anonymous) bearer from the devil and from all evils: Crux † benedicat me nomen amen. Crux + Christi protegat, crux Christi eruat me nomen a diabolo ac omnibus malis amen. An amusing detail in the inscription on this lead tablet is that whoever wrote it copied a formula that had meant the name of the bearer to be inserted, but this was not understood by the actual (possibly clerical) executor and thus nomen (‘N.N.’) has been copied dutifully from the exemplar it came from. This is in my opinion another strong indication (apart from the messed-up sator-square) that the executor of the amulet had very little idea of what he was doing and was most likely not even able to read Latin.15

The Romdrup Lead Strip The second amulet mentioning elves is the Romdrup lead strip, a narrow lead strip discovered in 1952 within the altar (that is, in the place for the relics within the altar slab) of Romdrup church (southeast of Aalborg), which was finished around 1200.16 The lead strip of about 81 x 21 mm is only 0.5 mm thick and was wrapped round three tiny parcels of relics wrapped in silk. The whole parcel including the lead strip was found inside a small lead reliquary. This lead amulet had not been buried with a former owner, but was reused to hold the relics together. The outside of the lead strip (when wrapped round the relics) contained ten short lines of writing, six of them only made up by three crosses each, the remainder reading: A: † adonay † D: A & ω F: emmanuel I: † agla †

Elves and Exorcism  29

However, the inside contains a much longer text of six lines in a smaller and  quite different hand, running across the strip, with the following Latin inscription: A: † In nomine patris † et filii † et spiritus sancti amen † adiuro uos eluos uel B: eluas aut demones per patrem et filium et spiritum sanctum ut non noceatis huic famuC: lo dei nicholao in oculis nec in capite neque in ulla compagine membrorum set in D: habitat in eis uirtus christi altissimi amen † christus uincit † christus regnat † christus imperat E: † christus hos oculos cum capite et ceteris membris benedicat † in nomine patris † F: et filii † et spiritus sancti amen ††† †a†g†l†a† († In the name of the Father † and the Son † and the Holy Spirit, Amen. + I conjure you, elves [masc.] or elves [fem.] and demons by the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, that you may not harm this [male] servant of God Nicholas in the eyes nor in the head nor in his members, but rather that the power of Christ may inhabit him. Amen. † Christ conquers † Christ rules † Christ reigns † Christ bless these eyes together with the head and other members † In the name of the Father † and the Son † and the Holy Spirit, Amen †a†g†l†a†)

Nicholas, who is mentioned in the invocation, is the person meant to have profited from the amulet, but seeing that it was not found in a grave, but rather inside the altar, it is unlikely that the inner inscription of the strip was intended to refer to the relics. The nature of the invocation, namely asking for the health of Nicholas’s eyes, makes it probable that either: a) Nicholas owned both the relics and the amulet as well as having some connection with the building of Romdrup church, to which he dedicated both; or b) the charm had lost its original function and was re-used – without reference to the invocation on the inside – in the ritual deposition of the relics at the dedication of the church. That Nicholas should be the writer of the charm himself, as Christiansen supposed,17 seems far fetched on the grounds that such amulets were normally executed by clerics for clients,18 and the execution of such an amulet was conducted, as the number of crosses indicate, according to an elaborate ritual. As the very purpose of the amulet is the protection of the eyes (together with the head and the rest of the body) from illness, it seems unlikely that there is a direct connection between the inner inscription and its final use. The Romdrup

30 Rudolf Simek

incantation is particularly interesting because of its invocation of both male and female elves: eluos uel eluas aut demones, obviously equating both types with demons, which, however, are not distinguished by gender. A distinction of male and female elves is otherwise not attested in incantations or amulets, but it could be asked whether the formula Adiuoro uos elphos elphorum gordin. ingordin found in an Uppsala manuscript of German origin (Codex Upsaliensis C 222 of the Gemma animae by Honorius Augustodunensis, c. 1300) is not ultimately related.

The Halberstadt Lead Tablet The Halberstadt lead tablet (Germany, dated 1142) is the third amulet that invokes elves, or rather, an elf, here called Alber. It was found in 1980–4 during excavations next to the south wall of the Liebfrauenkirche, dated to c. 1150 by archaeological stratigraphy, and to 1142 by the inscription on the tablet itself. The skeleton in grave 106 was not well preserved because of subsequent burials above, but the body was identified as that of an eight-year-old child; the folded lead tablet was the only grave find. When folded, the lead parcel (bearing the imprint of textiles on the outside) measures only 27 x 43 mm, but unfolded it turned out to be a lead sheet of c. 138 x 85 mm, and thus not dissimilar in size to the Schleswig amulet. The reconstructed text runs as follows (with ligatures expanded, punctuation added, and letters filled in wherever obvious): † In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti et in nomine nostri iesu christi. Adiuro te alber, qui uocaberis diabolus satanas, per patrem et filium et spiritum sanctum et per omnes angelos et arcangelos per xii apostolos et per xii prophetas et per xxiiii seniores et per cclxiiii milia Innocentium: non habeas potestatem [in i]sta […] dere aut [istum] amicum dei TADO. Ne nocere possis non in die neque in nocte non in […]su neque non bibenda neque manducando n[…] in stan[…]sam que sequendo […]nib loco […]lis neque in […] olere (?) nec animam condem[…]. Coniuro te […]m sancte marie […] ad illum [noce]re non possis [.. i]n an[no] mcxlii [do]mini † († In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I conjure you, Alber, who are called devil (or) Satan, through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, through all angels and archangels, through the 12 apostles and the 12 prophets, the 24 elders and 264,000 innocents: That you may not have power over ….. this friend of God TADO. So that you may not be able to harm him by day nor by

Elves and Exorcism  31 night nor by … nor drinking nor eating …. …. I conjure you in the name of Saint Mary that you may not be able to do harm. In the year of the Lord 1142 †.)

Unfortunately, more than two whole lines are virtually illegible because of the folds in the lead, making it difficult to reconstruct the original formula. At first sight, the Alber19 named here may look like a personal name, but it is quite obviously a synonym for ‘devil’ or ‘Satan,’ and we also have parallels elsewhere for the singular in such invocations (see below). The Halberstadt text also provides an example of the invocation of the various choirs of angels and groups of saints so frequently found in medieval benedictions, invocations, and exorcisms,20 but not in the iudicia (of the ordeal) and, strangely enough, not on any of the Scandinavian amulets. The only element worth commenting on in this list of saints is the number of the 264,000 innocents, which normally should read 144,000 (12 x 12 x 1000);21 this is, however, probably only a scribal error with cclxiiii milia written instead of cxliiii milia.22 The same tabulation and enumeration of saints occurs in the Uppsala codex cited above. The formula then used against the demons to prevent them from harming the named human subject is also repeatedly found, but not necessarily in the same words as in the Halberstadt formula: they may harm him ‘not by day nor by night, neither awake nor asleep, nor in any place.’23 A similar form may be assumed for the damaged and mostly illegible part of the Halberstadt inscription, with the added (readable) provision ‘neither drinking nor eating.’ Two more texts conjuring up demons must be named as closely related to the above named amulets, namely the Blæsinge lead tablet and the above named Codex Upsaliensis C 222, with a text copied on the free page at the end on fol. 97v, which has a double invocation of elves, both times naming the Gordin and Ingordin (or similar). Düwel24 has pointed out the similarity of the formula to benediction formulas elsewhere,25 as well as the similarity of the second part of the text to the Carmen Buranum no. 54, which also names three demons (?) called Gordan, Ingordin, and Ingordan:26 Jinitium sancti euangelij secundum iohannem. Jn principio erat uerbum … hoc erat in principio apud deum etc. Adiuro uos elphos elphorum gordin. ingordin. Cord’i et in­gordin. gord’i per patrem et filium et spiritum sanctum. per sanctam mariam matrem domini nostri iesu christi. per omnes uirtutes celorum. per angelos et archangelos. per tronos et dominationes. per

[Benedictio aquae, cf. Franz II 383, in slightly different order, cf also Franz II 374:] adiuro uos per patrem et filium et spiritum sanctum … per Mariam matrem domini nostri Iesu Christi … … et per omnes angelos at archangelos et per omnes sanctos dei …

32 Rudolf Simek principatus et potestates. per prophetas et patriarchas. per apostolos. per martyres et confessores. per uirgines et continentes. et per omnes sanctos dei qui sunt super celum et sub celo. ut non noceatis huic famulo/famule .N. dei. Coniuro uos elphos gord’i et ingordin. per nomen domini terribile. per tremendam diem iudicij eterni supplicij. per eum qui ducturus est uos in infernum saluaturus in eternum. per nomen admirabile et ineffabile. per tres magos pharaonis et per reges salomonis. caspar. melchior. balthasar. per regem dauid qui saul sedauit. cum iubilauit uosque fugauit. uos attestor uos contestor per mandatum domini. ne celetis quem soletis uos uexare hominem ut appareatis et post discedatis ne uas corrumpatis christianitatis atestor contestor per nomen mirabile et ineffabile. Nila. Sada. manucadi. lernustrabel. +”27

et per principatus et potestates, dominationes et virtutes, per thronos … et per XII apostolos et per XII prophetas et per omnes sanctos dei martires, confessores, uirgines, … [Carmen Buranum 54, in slightly different order:] uos coniuro Gordan, Ingordin et Ingordan … per tremendum diem iudicii eterne suplicii … qui ducturus est uos in infernum saluaturus est, nos in eternum … per nomen mirabile atque ineffabile … per tres magos Caspar, Melchior et Balthasar, per regum Dauid, qui Saul sedauit, cum iubilauit uosque fugauit … Vos attestor, uos contestor per mandatum Domini, ne celetis, quem soletis uos uexare hominem, ut conpareatis et post discedatis …28

(Beginning of the Gospel according to John. In the beginning was the Word and it was with God. I conjure you elves of elves, gordin. ingordin. Cord’i et ingordin. gord’i by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, by Holy Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, by all powers of heaven, by angels and archangels, thrones and dominations, powers and principalities, prophets and patriarchs, martyrs and confessors, virgins and celibates, and all of God’s saints, both above and below the heavens, that you may not harm this servant of God N. I conjure you elves gord’i et ingordin by God’s terrible name, by the terrible Day of Judgment to the eternal punishment, through him that will lead you into hell and save us in eternity, through the adorable and unspeakable name, through the three magi of Pharaoh and through the kings of Solomon, through Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, through king David who calmed Saul by rejoicing and putting you to flight. I witness and testify against you in God’s mandate, do not hide which human you are used to torment, so that you become apparent and then disappear, so that you do not corrupt a container of Christianity: I witness and testify through the wonderful and unspeakable name. Nila. Sada. manucadi. lemustrabel. +.)29

As far as the elphos elphorum is concerned, one could ask if it is really correct as it stands, or whether it is not to be traced back to an actual *elphos aut elphas, thus corresponding to elves in two genders, as on the Romdrup lead

Elves and Exorcism  33

strip. The text otherwise was obviously not on an amulet, but was intended as the exemplar of amulets, as is shown by N. instead of concrete names and the superscript -e above the final letter of famulo, which allowed a copyist to insert the name and the correct ending (if he was competent in Latin, unlike the writer of the Schleswig amulet discussed earlier).30 In its use of the elf-names like Gordin and Ingordin, the Uppsala text not only relates to Carmen Buranum no. 54, but also to the Odense lead tablet, where three similar names are called upon, but not in a proper conjuring formula as in the examples quoted so far.31 Otherwise, the Uppsala text consists of the beginning of the Gospel according to John, an invocation of seven (out of nine) choirs of angels as well as seven groups of saints, and some other authorities and the nomen domini terribile in the second part of the text with a part repetition of Coniuro uos elphos gord’i et ingordin.

The Odense and Blæsinge Lead Amulets These names are also mentioned in the more enigmatic Odense lead amulet, measuring only 72 x 35 mm, found folded up in the graveyard of St Knud’s church. Its date is uncertain, but it belongs to the period between 1075 and 1300. The reconstructed text reads:32 A: B: C: D: E: F: G: H:

+ (u)nguensine pr(i)nsin(e)sal kotolon anakristi anapisti (k)ard(ia)r nardiar ipodiar. Kristus vincit, Kristus regnet, Kristus imperat. Kristus ab omni malo me, asam, liberet. Krux Kristi sit super me, asam, hic et ubique. + khorda + inkhorda + khordai + agla + Sanguis Kristi signet me +

(+ [u]nguensine pr[i]nsin[e]sal kotolon anakristi anapisti [k]ard[ia]r nardiar ipodiar. Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules. May Christ from all evil ­liberate me, Åsa. May the cross of Christ be over me, Åsa, here and everywhere. + khorda + inkhorda + khordai + agla + May the blood of Christ sign me (with the sign of the cross). )

Apart from the enigmatic beginning (which might represent a garbled Greek formula), and the demonic names Khorda, Inkhorda, and Khordai, the inscription is in correct Latin. The final item to contain an invocation of elves, even though they are not

34 Rudolf Simek

called elves here, is the Blæsinge lead amulet from Zealand in Denmark found in 1983. This has much in common with the Schleswig lead tablet, but does not expressly call on elves, but rather on Seven (named) Sisters. It can only be very roughly dated to the Middle Ages because it was found in a former settlement area, with pottery shards from the twelfth and several coins from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. It is relatively large, measuring c. 120 x 37 mm when unfolded, and bears a long and detailed runic inscription inside, amounting to c. 440 runes. It is thus the longest runic inscription in Latin to be found in Denmark.33 In normalized transcription it reads: + Coniuro vos, septem sorores … Elffrica (?), Affricea, Soria, Affoca, Affricala. Coniuro vos et contestor per Patrem et Filium et Spiritum Sanctum, ut non noceatis [i]stam famulum Dei, neque in oculis, neque in membris, neque in medullis, nec in ullo comp [ag]ine membrorum eius, ut inhabitat in te virtus Christi altissimi. Ecce crucem Domini, fugite partes adversae, vicit leo de tribu Juda, radix David. In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, amen. ++ Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat, Christus liberat +, Christus te (et?) benedicat, ab omni malo defendat. agla. Pater noster +. (+ I conjure you, seven sisters … Elffrica (?), Affricea, Soria, Affoca, Affricala. I conjure you and invoke (you?) through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, that you may not harm this servant of God, neither in the eyes nor in the limbs nor in the marrow nor in any joints of the limbs, (but) that the power of the most high Christ may inhabit you. See the Cross of Christ! Flee, you hostile forces! The lion of Judah’s tribe has conquered, the root of David. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. ++ Christ conquers, Christ rules, Christ reigns, Christ liberates, + May Christ bless you, and protect you from all evil. agla. Our Father. +)

The amulet contains several interesting sections of text, but the initial invocation of seven sisters is the most fascinating; it replaces the demones sive albes of the Schleswig amulet, and also went on originally to name the seven sisters, which we must assume – through the parallels of the formulae – to be demons or elves. The amulet also contains the formula Ecce Crucem and the line Christus vincit, and finally the magic word agla. What it lacks, compared with the above text, is any direct mention of ‘elves,’ and we may thus ask how it is related to the other texts in meaning and original intention. It may be noted in passing that the invocation Christus regnat, Christus vincit, Christus imperat – quite possibly as the ‘activator’ of the actual benediction or invocation noted on the amulets – is found not only on four amulets

Elves and Exorcism  35

from southern Scandinavia, namely Odense, Kävlinge, Boge, and Blæsinge,34 but also repeatedly in medieval invocations contained in manuscripts (see the Codex Vaticanus Latinus 510, 168r, quoted below, which contains several instances of the formula).35 Within invocations, the line obviously has the function of stressing the actual text, but it should be mentioned that this is not the most normal use of the formula in the Middle Ages, where it occurs repeatedly in liturgical texts and elsewhere. In its liturgical context it seems to have a place as the final, thrice repeated invocation of Christ in litanies, such as the Carolingianera All Saints Litany preserved in the Vatican manuscript:36 Sancti angeli, orate pro me. | Sancti archangeli, orate pro me. | Sancti throni, orate pro me. | Sanctae dominationes, orate pro me. | Sancti principates, orate pro me. | Sanctae potestates,orate pro me. | Sanctae virtutes, orate pro me. | Sanctae cherubim, orate pro me. | Sanctae seraphim, orate pro me. | Omnes patriarchae, orate pro me. | Omnes prophetae, orate pro me. | Omnes evangelistae, orate pro me. | Omnes apostoli, orate pro me. | Omnes martyres, orate pro me. | Omnes confessores, orate pro me. | Omnes sanctorum, orate pro me. … Propitius esto, Libera nos Domine. ter. | Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata | mundi, Christe audi nos. | Kyrie eleison, ter. | Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat, ter.| illius, quales volueris, tulo juva. | Exaudi Christe. (Holy angels, pray for me. Holy archangels, pray for me. Holy thrones, pray for me. Holy dominations, pray for me. Holy principalities, pray for me. Holy powers, pray for me. Holy virtues, pray for me. Holy cherubim, pray for me. Holy seraphim, pray for me. All patriarchs, pray for me. All prophets, pray for me. All evangelists, pray for me. All apostles, pray for me. All martyrs, pray for me. All confessors, pray for me. All saints, pray for me. … This should be favourable. Deliver us Lord. Thrice. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, Christ hear us. Kyrie eleison, thrice. Christ conquers, Christ rules, Christ reigns, thrice. He, whatsoever you want, may you help him! Hear us, Christ!)

Here, as on the amulets and similar invocations, it has the function of emphasis, but because of the age of the ninth-century litany it must have reached the invocation from there; this is also indicated by the list of classes of saints given in the litany above, which was repeatedly taken up on the longer invocations (see below). The second, and much younger, use may be less indicative of the origin of the formula but gives us an interesting glimpse of the practical use of it: it was the battle-cry of Christian crusaders in the Holy Land, and is frequently quoted as such by contemporary historians of the crusades, such as Fulcher of Chartres

36 Rudolf Simek

(1059–1127) in his Historia Hierosolymitana ch. 31,37 Radulfus of Caen (c. 1080–1130) in his Gesta Tancredi in Expeditione Jerosolymitana (ch. 40)38 or Lisiardus of Tours († 1168) in the Historia Hierosolymitana (1105).39 As these battle-cries used during the First Crusade are more or less contemporary with our amulets and invocations (most of which are dated to the eleventh and twelfth centuries), we may deduce that the line Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat was intended as a Christian battle-cry against the forces of evil, whether the ‘heathens’ of the Near East, or the demonic forces of the hellish kingdom. The litanies provide an apt source for this slogan. The closeness of the Blæsinge amulet text to the others discussed earlier invites the question whether the septem sorores Elffrica (?), Affricea, Soria, Affoca, Affricala ought to be considered as elves or not. For that reason we ought to investigate their role on this and other amulets and invocations, as well as the function of elves within the framework of amulet use. I know of no other case where the seven sisters are conjured up on an amulet, but there are a few cases where they are mentioned in medieval manuscript benedictions and invocations, which provide further details. Düwel refers to Stoklund for copies of invocations also naming septem sorores,40 printed by Franz as early as 1909.41 The most detailed, from the Codex Vaticanus Latinus 235 (c. 1000), reads: Coniuro uos, frigores et febres – VII sorores sunt – siue meridianas, siue nocturnas, siue cotidianas, siue secundarias, siue tercianas, siue quartanas, siue siluanas, siue iudeas, siue hebreas, uel qualicunque genere sitis, adiuro uos per patrem …, ut non habeatis licentiam nocere huic famulo dei nec in die nec in nocte, nec uigilanti nec dormienti, nec in ullis locis. (I conjure you, shivers and fevers – who are seven sisters – like the midday ones, the nightly, the daily, the bi-daily, the three-daily, the four-daily, the wood fevers, the Jewish fevers, the Hebrew fevers, or whatever sort you are: I conjure you through the Father … so that you may not have leave to harm this servant of God by day or night, neither waking nor sleeping, nor in any place.)

The long incantation continues: Epistula contra frigores. In nomine de patris … Coniuro uos frigores, VII sorores, una dicitur klkb, alia rfstklkb, tertia fbgblkb, quarta sxbfpgllkb, quinta frkcb, sexta kxlkcb, septima kgncb; coniuro uos, de quacunque natione estis, per patrem et filium et spiritum sanctum … per has omnes inuocationes, coniuro uos, frigores et febres, ut non habeatis ullam licentiam, nocere huic famulo dei N. nec eum

Elves and Exorcism  37 fatigare, sed redeatis, unde uenistis, nec potestatem habeatis nec locum in isto famulo dei amen. (Letter against shivers. In the name of the Father […] I conjure you shivers, seven sisters, the first one called klkb, the other rfstklkb, the third fbgblkb, the fourth sxbfpgllkb, the fifth frkcb, the sixth kxlkcb, the seventh kgncb: I conjure you, of whatever origin you are, through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit … through these invocations I conjure you, shivers and fevers, so that you do not have leave to harm the servant of Christ N. nor torture him, but return to where you came from, so that you have no power nor a place in this servant of God. Amen.)

From this more detailed account we are able to fill in the unreadable gaps on the Blæsinge lead tablet which must have referred to those frigores et febres (shivers and fevers) mentioned in both versions in this manuscript, which clearly predates the tablet; the reference to an epistula here as well as in more detail in the benediction of the Book of Cerne (quoted below, ut refugiatur) may suggest that this particular incantation should have been used in a ‘letter’ – an amulet which could be carried on the body – rather than the lengthy invocations found in the codex. While the prayer in the Book of Cerne could easily fit onto an amulet, either of lead or parchment, this seems most unlikely for the text in the Codex Vaticanus Latinus 235.42

The Seven Sisters and the Elves From the detailed description, however, we learn some facts about the seven sisters that are not obvious from the Blæsinge amulet: 1. The seven sisters are types of fevers and are individually named, even though their names have been coded, but neither the names nor their numbers bear any direct relationship to the nine types of fevers enumerated; 2. The seven sisters are of varying, although uncertain origin (the text says ‘nation,’ which refers to geographical direction rather than ethnicity); 3. The aim of the invocation is twofold, firstly to deprive the sisters of their power to harm and secondly to send them back to where they came from. These Seven Sisters are called Elffrica (?), Affricea, Soria, Affoca, Affricala, ?, and ? on the Blæsinge amulet, but written in ‘secret’ writing as klkb, rfstklkb, fbgblkb, sxbfpgllkb, frkcb, kxlkcb, kgncbwe in the Vatican manuscript. The coded script can be deciphered here through the rather  simple code used to hide their names, either as43 Ilia, Restilia, Fagalia, Subfogalia (recte Subfogllia), Frica, Iulia, Ignea (recte: Ignca), by replacing

38 Rudolf Simek

each vowel with its preceding letter; or as Ikia, Persimia, Eafakia, Ruaeofkkia, Epiba, Iukibia, Ifm(o?)ba, if every letter is replaced by its preceding letter.44 As at least two of the names, Elffrica/Eafakia and Ruaeofkkia/Affoca, apparently render more sense in the second method of deciphering, it is possible that the writer of the Blæsinge tablet used the same (but possibly wrong) method of deciphering names in his exemplar. However, a fifteenth-century Danish formula calls them Illia, Reptilia, Folia, Suffugalia, Affrica, Filica, Loena vel Igne, considerably closer to the first decoding.45 Wherever these names originate, the Seven Sisters may certainly be identified as seven fever-demons; this is confirmed by the fact that they are named and enumerated, which is typical for illnesses. As the first incantation in the Vatican manuscripts names all sorts of fevers, there is no reason to believe that either the incantations or the Blæsinge amulet are specifically aimed at malaria, as Stoklund and Düwel suggest,46 although malaria was known in medieval Northern Europe47 simply because of the much warmer climate then.48 As we have seen above, the number of types of fevers named in incantations may vary, but the number of demons or elves inducing them stays constant at seven. The reason for a fixed number of seven demons may derive from the biblical statement that Jesus had driven out seven demons from the body of Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2: de qua septem daemonia exierant). As this statement became proverbially linked with Mary Magdalene in the Middle Ages, seven demons became canonical. The Venerable Bede drew parallels between these seven demons and seven virtues and vices (In evangeliam S. Lucae),49 and by the High Middle Ages demons were regularly counted as seven, as in Peter Abelard’s Penetecost hymn (1079–142; no. 52):50 Adventu sancti Spiritus, | Nostri cordis altaria | Ornans Deus virtutibus, | Tu tibi templa dedica | Illa septemformi, quam habet, gratia, | Contra septem illa daemonia | Cujus dona bona sunt omnia (By the coming of the Holy Spirit, altars of our heart, God, decorated by virtues, you dedicated the temple to yourself, those sevenfold graces which he has – against those seven demons – whose gifts are all good). It is possible that this very number has also attracted the association with the Seven Sleepers. The legendary Seven Sleepers (whose status as saints was celebrated on 27 July) were considered to be efficacious when invoked for good sleep – as legend had them sleeping from c. 250 AD to 446 AD – but also against fevers. Their names – Maximinianus, Malchus, Martinianus, Constantinus, Dionisius, Iohannes, Serapion – were sometimes listed fully in medieval benedictions against fevers.51 However, there is no reason to assume that belief in the Septem dormientes plays any role against demons in the amuletic charms and formulae dealt with here.52 The Seven Sleepers were invoked in different charms to induce (healthy) sleep for suffering patients and thus to further their convalescence.53

Elves and Exorcism  39

An incantation against fevers of even greater length than those noted above is contained in the Codex Vaticanus Latinus 510 (fol. 168r), dating from the twelfth century and probably originating in the French Premonstratensian Abbey of Clairefontaine in Picardy.54 It is far too long ever to have been used on an amulet, but shows how extremely detailed incantation formulae could be, recalling the attempt to obtain a guarantee of peace from all earthly and heavenly beings in some formulaic texts in pagan Germanic mythology.55 This benediction invokes not only angels and saints, but also all groups of clerics, biblical figures, and apostles, as well as the heavenly bodies, the four rivers of paradise, and in chapter 52 the names of God: Coniuro vos febres per deum patrem omnipotentem et per omnia [nomina] sua. Eloy, Evangelista, Sabaoth, Ely, Adonay, Tetragramaton, Immutabilis, Eternus, Christus, Messias, Soter, Emmanuel, Dominus, Unigenitus, Alpha et O, principium et finis, [ver]bu[m],56 Stella / fulgens, Lux, Sol, Oriens, Fons, Mercator, Letitia, Sponsus, Zelos, Phebos, Karos, Fons, Agazas, On, Bonus, Incorporeus, Perfectus, Creator, Fixus, Homo husyon, Veritas, Vita, Ymago, Forma, Agitus, Immaculatus, Altissimus, Admirabilis, Figura, Virtus, Sapientia, Pax, Pacientia, Humilitas, Splendor, Agyos, Kyrr[i]os, per omnia nomia sua adiuro vos febres, et non habeatis potestam super hunc famulum dei .N.57

It also contains several instances of the invocation of the Trinity and the formula Christus vincit. It does not name the fever-demons either, but it does, on the next page (fol. 168v), give a list of the various types of fevers (as found elsewhere), though here prominence is given to recurrent types of fevers or malaria: † In nomine domini nostri Jhesus Christi coniuro uos febres cotidianas, biduanas, triduanas, quartanas, quintanas, sextanas, septanas, octavas, nonas usque ad nonam graduationem, ut non habeatis potestatem super hunc famulum dei N.N.58 († In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I conjure you daily fevers, bi-daily fevers, three-daily fevers, […] nine-daily fevers, up to the ninth graduation, so that you may not have power over this servant of God N.N.)

Apart from these recurrent fevers, no other types are mentioned, and thus it seems fully justified that Schmid called this a benediction for malaria, although the term benediction does not fit the apotropaeic formula. We may note the difference in application of the Blæsinge amulet, which names a much wider variety of fevers and is far less specific about recurrent ones, so that we should talk about a general fever-averting amulet, and not one against malaria only.

40 Rudolf Simek

There is not space here for a full treatment of the role of elves/aelf- in Old and Middle English, but it may be noted that there are several instances in OE where elves (or an elf) are considered responsible for illness or pain. However, it is impossible to identify the exact role of elves, or even to establish which illnesses they cause. Thus, a prescription given for a horse with internal pain recorded in Bald’s Leechbook II (fol. 106r) ends with a reference to only the possibility of an elf having caused it:59 Gif hors ofscoten sie. Nim þonne þæt seax þe þæt hæfte sie fealo hryþeres horn & sien .III. ærene næglas on. … Þis þu scealt don. genim ane girde sleah on þæt bæc þonne biþ þæt hors hal. & awrit on þæs seaxes horne þas word. Benedicite omnia opera domini dominum. Sy þæt ylfa þe him sie þis him mæg to bote. (If a horse is badly pained. Take then a dagger whose haft is of fallow-ox’s horn and in which there are three brass nails. … This shall you do: take a staff; strike it on the back; then the horse will be well. And write/inscribe on the dagger’s handle these words: bless all the works of the Lord of lords. Should it be ælfe’s, which is on it [the horse], this will do as a remedy for it [the horse].)60

Alaric Hall has produced a great deal of evidence for the belief in Anglo-Saxon England during the later Middle Ages that elves were the perpetrators of illnesses; the so-called Leechbook III discusses the terms ælf-siden ‘elf-magic,’ ælf-adle ‘elf-illness’ (a general term), and ælf-sogoða, which Hall translates as ‘internal pain caused by elves.’61 However, this might simply refer to ‘illness,’ corresponding to the most common MHG term for illness, suhtin.62 Finally, there is the more cryptic ælf-cynne ‘type of ælf,’ though in Leechbook III it clearly stands for a type of illnesses induced by an ælf. Interestingly, in one remedy given in Leechbook III, ælfcynne63 is grouped together with nihtgengan, literally ‘night-walking,’64 and wæterælfadle ‘a watery type of elf-induced illness,’ identified by Hall correctly as chickenpox or measles.65 The big question is whether these vague labels are meant to denote specific illnesses, or whether they are largely intended as generic terms for illnesses associated with demonic influences. Hall mostly inclines towards the former, but claims that there is a tendency to associate ‘internal pains’ and ‘shooting pains’ with these sicknesses.66 It may be noted, though, that fefercynne ‘type of fever’67 is used in Bald’s Leechbook I much in the same way as ælfcynne in Leechbook III; this, at least, is a hint that demonic fevers were associated with elves in the AngloSaxon world as well. Skin diseases such as chickenpox were certainly seen as a type of fever in the Middle Ages.68 As far as I can ascertain, there is only one text which expressly combines reference to elves with an illness other than fever: a charm preserved in British

Elves and Exorcism  41

Library Sloane 2584 (fols. 73v–74r). It uses the Scandinavian form elphos:69 Coniuro vos demones et latrones, elphos et morbum caducum vt non habeatis potestatem nocere hunc famulum dei .N. (I conjure you demons and robbers, elves and epilepsy, so that you don’t have power to harm this servant of God N.). As epilepsy (morbus caducus) was considered a mental illness, the connection to elves may derive from the obsession associated with them; the latrones, on the other hand, could be explained in a twofold way: either as elves stealing children in the night, or else by the German term Kinderräuber for eclampsia infantium, the spastic attacks associated with various childhood illnesses, which caused the death of many children.70

Amulets and Exorcism We have seen that the formula Ecce crucem domini, fugite partes adversae, uicit leo de tribu Iuda, radix David was employed both on the Schleswig and the Blæsinge lead amulets, in both cases immediately after the actual conjuring of the demons, and in both cases before the final blessing. This line is also found on a quite different type of Christian amulet, the Madla lead cross from Rogaland in Norway (c. 1300).71 This is a cross about 150 mm high, and its original span would have been c. 90 mm. This cross and several other rune crosses in Scandinavia fit in well with the medieval custom adopted especially in England and France from the eleventh to the thirteenth century of placing a hand-sized leaden cross on the deceased’s chest in a grave.72 The reconstructed text reads: A: Ecce crucem Domini, fugite partes adverse, vicit leo de tribu Juda, radix David B: Quatuor grana inpentalum quo[d] f[r]on[te tuli]t Aaron. Jesus Christus [recte: quod fronte tulit Aaron [….] quatuor gramis in pectalon’] C: Markus Mattheus Lukas Iohannes D: Tetragrammaton. A[l]pha et O (See the Cross of the Lord, flee, hostile powers! The lion of Judah’s tribe has triumphed, the root of David. Four letters [= Tetragrammaton = JHVH, for Jahweh] which Aaron has from his (priestly) head-gear. Jesus Christus. Mark, Matthew, Luke, John. Tetragrammaton (= JHVH). Alpha et O(mega))

B is difficult to read and to interpret, but Gjerløw73 tried to identify it as a rearrangement of two verses of the early medieval hymn Deus pater piissime (verses 165 and 167), which was sung on Trinity Sunday and consists of long

42 Rudolf Simek

lists of names for God; in RMR, John and I followed this interpretation.74 However, in the light of the list of names of God found in the Vatican incantation, we might wonder if the use of the text on the Madla cross has really come from the Deus pater piisime directly, or whether the hymn was exploited for lists of names of God in formulaic uses for incantations, of which the Madla cross would be a very short example, beside the long one in Codex Vaticanus Latinus 510. The line Ecce crucem domini, fugite partes adversae, uicit leo de tribu Iuda, radix David itself quotes an antiphon of the Cross which derives the phrase about the ‘lion of Judah’ in Rev. 5:5; its use in the antiphon, however, is not the reason for quoting it here. It seems to be a common element of weather incantations,75 used to strengthen the formula by actually showing the cross to the demons (the storm clouds?) and calling on them to take flight in the face of it. It is found frequently in manuscripts from the tenth and eleventh centuries; the formula was also taken over by the final formal version of the Rituale Romanum in 1614 and is still preserved in the Rituale as part of the official exorcism formula, introducing the actual exorcism by showing the cross. (V: Ecce Crucem Domini, fugite, partes adversae. (R: Vicit Leo de tribu Juda, radix David. (V: Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos. (R: Quemadmodum speravimus in te. Exorciamus te, omnis immunde spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis legio, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica.76 (V: See the Cross of Christ! Flee, you hostile forces! (R: The lion of Judah’s tribe has triumphed, the root of David. (V: Let your mercy rest on us, Lord, (R: In whatever way we have trusted in you. We exorcise you, all you unclean spirits, you powers of Satan, all temptation of the hellish adversary, all of the devilish legion, community and sect.)

The formula Ecce crucem was so common in medieval exorcisms as the activator of the actual exorcism that it was naturally included in the official early modern exorcism formula. Despite the examples quoted by Franz, we need not necessarily assume that the Blæsinge amulet, in addition to banning fever-demons, also tried to invoke weather-demons, but rather that this part of the formula was taken over as extra support from either weather incantations or exorcism formulae.

Elves and Exorcism  43

A final problem to be addressed is the use of the singular in the Halberstadt amulet, as opposed to a plural of elves or demons on all the other texts discussed. What could be interpreted at first sight as a personal name, when placed beside similar charms, must be interpreted, however, as ‘devil.’ It should be noted, though, that there is plentiful evidence in early medieval incantations that demons can be referred to in the plural and singular within the same formulae. Hall has pointed out that Ælf occurs as a simplex in British Library Royal 2 A. XX (the Royal Prayerbook; fol. 45v), in an oratio. The Royal Prayerbook is one of four similar early Anglo-Saxon prayerbooks,77 dating from the late eighth or early ninth century, and originating in West Mercia, probably in or near Worcester.78 One of these, the Book of Cerne,79 contains a blessing, followed by a (slightly garbled) transliteration of a passage in Greek, and then an exorcism: Adiuro te satanae diabulus alfae per d(eu)m uiuum ac uerum et per trementem diem iudicii ut refugiatur ab homine illo qui abeat hunc aepist(ulam) scriptum secum in nomine patris et filii et sp(iritu)s s(an)c(t)i. (I conjure you, Satan, devil, elves, through the living and true God and through the quaking day of judgment, that he is put to flight from that person who carries this letter written with him, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.)80

Hall argues that as the ‘ending of aelfae cannot plausibly derive from Old English, so it must represent a Latinisation inspired by the genitive singular ending of Satanae, with which aelfae must be in apposition. This being so, -ae need not be considered a feminisation, despite its feminine association in Latin. As written, aelfae here is integral to the text and unrelated to the tenth-century Old English glosses in the manuscript … The prayer includes no other vernacular words, and Satan’s name was surely too well-known in Anglo-Saxon culture to require glossing. Aelfae is not a gloss, therefore, but the evidence for its meaning is its equivalence with Satanae.’81 Neither the actual reading nor the (possible) grammatical construction, however, is as straightforward as it may have looked to Hall: firstly, in the manuscript the endings are now hardly distinguishable at all,82 and secondly, even if Kuypers’s reading was correct, the form aepistulam in the following line shows that -ae need not be the genitive, but in all likelihood stands for the vocative, which is to be expected in all these formulae, even if neither spelling nor grammar is quite correct here (as Satan is undeclinable, and diabolus is certainly not the correct vocative). This exorcism formula was published by

44 Rudolf Simek

Franz in 1909,83 and he was able to identify the (garbled) Greek words Eulogum, patera, caeyo, caeagion, pneuma, caenym, caeia, caeiseonas, nenon, amin as a version of the doxology Ε’υλογοῦμεν πατέρα καἰ υἱὀν καἰ ἅγιον πνεῦμα καἰ νῦν καἰ ἀεἰ εἰς αἰὡνας αἰὡνων ἀμῄν, equivalent to the Latin doxology Gloria Patri, etc.84 A similar, vernacular MHG incantation, known as the Munich Nachtsegen – found in a fourteenth-century manuscript – after naming various supernatural beings, has as its central part a section on elvish spirits:85 Ir sult won hinnen gangen, | Alb vnde elbelin | Ir sult nich leng bliben hin | Albes svestir vn(d) vatir | Ir sult uz varen obir de(m) gatir | Albes mutir trute vn(d) mar | Ir sult uz zu de virste vare | Noc mich dy mare druch | Noc mich dy trute zciche | Noc mich dy mare rite | Noc mich dy mare bescrite | Alb mit diner crummen nasen | Ich vorbihte dir aneblasen | Ich vorbite dir alb ruche | Cruchen vn(de) anehucchen | Albes kind ir wihtelin sin (alb, and elbelin [little alb], you shall go away and stay no longer. Alb’s sister and father, you shall go out over the gate; alb’s mother, trute and mar, you shall go out by the roof-ridge! Let the mar not oppress me, let the trute not pull me, let the mar not ride me, let the mar not mount me! Alb with your crooked nose, I forbid you to blow on [people], I forbid you Alb to deal with me, to croak and blow [at someone]. Alb’s children, you, his gnomes)86

Parts of this charm are so close to some of the Latin incantations that we can virtually supply the (fictitious) Latin equivalents from the many Latin benedictions known from the Middle Ages: Revertite,87 Alber aut daemones,88 nec moreris hic,89 sorores90 …. recede (de corpore).91 The list of clearly elf-related supernatural beings is also to be found in MHG penitentials from Silesia where the penitent is asked whether he has put trust in huldin ader an dy trewme ader an wechtelchin ander an dy maren ader an dy alben ader an dy weysin frawen ([have you believed] in the Huldin or in dreams or in Wichtelin or in the Maren or in the Alben or in the Wise Women).92 The intention here is quite different from the Nachtsegen, but it shows that the author of the penitential was well versed in the various types of demons in folk belief and their vernacular terminology. It is noteworthy that in the Nachtsegen the elves mentioned come both in the singular and the plural. Cyril Edwards has noted that ‘The “Nachtsegen” refers to elbelin in the plural, but alp in the singular,’ which he compares to Heinrich von Morungen manuscripts, which ‘yield a choice between elbe in the singular (MSS B and C) and the plural elben (A). The feminine singular elbe is only attested here.’93 But the Nachtsegen also tells us about a wide spectrum of elfin beings,94 of malicious spirits, which I prefer to interpret as being more or less

Elves and Exorcism  45

synonymous with the alb/elbelin of the first line, and not listing differentiated beings. We hear of albes svestir vn vatir, albes mutir, a mar and a trute, and also of several partly obscure activities associated with these demons: druhen, zcihen, ríten, bescriten, aneblasen, cruchen, and anehucchen. Grienberger, the first editor of the Nachtsegen, despite some strange explanations, has noted that out of these seven verbs, at least aneblasen and anehucchen have the same meaning, namely ‘to breathe at, to blow at’: this would refer to the belief that elves and demons (as well as witches and sorcerers) could bewitch you not only by looking, but also by breathing. This reveals an attitude slightly different from the AngloSaxon folk belief, where the ælfa gescot ‘lumbago’ points to the ‘shooting’ by elves. This question has been extensively discussed by Hall,95 but I find it difficult to believe that elves, because of this term, should only be responsible for ‘shooting’ (i.e., ‘stabbing’) pains, as most of the material I have assembled clearly points to them as fever-demons. As far as the demonic beings in the Nachtsegen are concerned, we should again consider the Carmen Buranum no. 54 where the omnes genus demoniorum (which is title of this carmen) are listed in the various stanzas, but not without reference to their leader: Omnis creatura fantasmatum que corroboratis principatum serpentis,96 where the ‘serpent’ is the devil. Edwards reaches similar conclusions regarding MHG vernacular literature, arguing there is no real distinction in the function of the Alp (sg.) and the elben (pl.): ‘In MHG both der alp (singular) and die elben are linked with deception, in a phrase that occurs so often it would appear to be proverbial: “die elben / der alp trieget mich” (the elves/elf are/is deceiving me).’97 These last instances seem to have no direct connection with the elves as demons causing fever or other illnesses; rather, they stand for the demonic forces as such, and therefore we can assume that citations of both elf/Alp/Alber, etc. (sg.) and elves, etc. (pl.) simply refer to ‘Satan and his demons.’ It may be assumed, therefore, that this Alber/Satan/devil is the leader of the alfar/elves/daemones. The apotropeic use of lead in amulets has been extensively dealt with by Düwel in his article on the Schleswig amulet.98 It must be asked, however, in the light of the evidence above, what the purpose of amulets with inscribed charms actually was. Lead tablets in graves occurred in the Mediterranean countries from the third century BC to the third century AD, and also from early Christian times in Western Europe.99 These tablets normally bore the name of the dead, a pious wish, and perhaps a date. The reason for the use of lead in these tablets may have been simply the fact that lead is extremely durable and also easily incised with a short text. However, from the sixth century a tendency appears either to extend protection to the dead, or else to use lead tablets as apotropeic amulets. One such tablet was found in Tragurium (Trogir) in Dalmatia and bears a relatively long text covering both sides, denouncing an

46 Rudolf Simek

unclean spirit in the name of Jesus: In nom(ine) d(omi)ni Ieso Cri(s)ti denontio tibi, immondissime spirete tartaruce (In the name of Jesus Christ I denounce you, most evil spirit of hell)100 and consequently (side B) banishing him beyond the Jordan, quem tran(si)re non potuisti ‘which you have no power to cross.’ The formula and the wording are different from our medieval amulets, but the purpose must have been the same: to keep off evil spirits, demons of illnesses, and other inflictions such as madness, storms, and fires. However, there is a greater difference between such a general leaden charm averting the powers of evil from the dead and our medieval elf-charms: the leaden crosses spreading from Western Europe to Norway after the eleventh century must have shared such a general intention, as their use seems to have been limited to grave-goods.101 The other leaden charms, however, must have been carried by their owners during their lifetimes, as there would not have been much point protecting a dead person from fever or epilepsy. It is not necessarily surprising that we have a larger number of incantations from manuscripts than from leaden charms: the manuscripts served – as is shown by the insertion of ‘.N.’ rather than a specific name – as the exemplars for actual charms, whether they were executed as ‘letters’ on parchment (for which we currently have only secondary evidence) or else as little sheets of lead, as in the amulets. There are only subtle differences between the charms used against fever-demons and weather-demons.102 The formulae used in fever charms, fever incantations, and weather charms are nearly identical. While Koch still believed that the formula coniuro te or adiuro te was only rarely used in benedictions and was only used in those formulae accompanying the ordeal,103 we can see that this is the standard formula for exorcisms and conjurations of malignant spirits, like the ones responsible for fevers and other illnesses, as well as for storms. It should be noted, however, that no weather charm inscribed on lead has been found to date. This is tied to the fact that our charms normally come from graves as the personal possession of their owners, and weather charms would not have been carried permanently, but rather associated (and read) in connection with buildings.104 Demons and elves, which were obviously considered more or less synonymous and were parts of the turba demonorum, the ‘multitude of demons’ in the train of Satan, were invoked in the course of averting various evils, but mainly those associated with illnesses, particularly fevers, including recurrent fevers such as malaria. When inscribed in lead, we can almost be certain that such a fever incantation was intended, even if the actual illness or the Seven Sisters are not mentioned directly. The text from the Uppsala C 222 has, in the margin, the instruction contra elphos hoc in plumbo scribe (against Elves, write this in lead),105 and so reveals a clear belief in the particular effectiveness of such

Elves and Exorcism  47

leaden charms. The Halberstadt amulet is probably the only case where the close relationship of its wording to fever incantations on parchment allows a more specific interpretation than that. The fact that the amulet was meant to keep the fever from the owner, who died aged at the age of eight (perhaps of these fevers), serves to indicate the desperation and anxiety behind the use of these amulets and their incantations.

NOTES 1 McKinnell and Simek, Runes, Magic and Religion. 2 Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 227–302 3 Ibid., 228–49; McKinnell and Simek, Runes, Magic and Religion, items V 9 and V 10. 4 Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 249–52. 5 Ibid., 242–56. 6 Ibid., 289–90. 7 Gastgeber and Harrauer, ‘Ein christliches Bleiamulett,’ 207–26. 8 Horak and Gastgeber, ‘Zwei Beispiele.’ 9 McKinnell and Simek, Runes, Magic and Religion, items X 1 (Odense), Z 15 (Kävlinge), Z 16 (Boge) and Z 18 (Blæsinge). 10 Ibid., items Z 18 (Blæsinge) and Z 21 (Madla) (pp. 184–8). 11 Gastgeber and Harrauer, ‘Ein christliches Bleiamulett,’ 214. 12 This transcription in McKinnell and Simek, Runes, Magic and Religion, V 9, 153f, follows Gastgeber and Harrauer, ‘Ein christliches Bleiamulett,’ 217f, and Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 228–51. 13 Gastgeber and Harrauer, ‘Ein christliches Bleiamulett,’ 210 14 Ibid.; Horak and Gastgeber, ‘Zwei Beispiele.’ 15 Gastgeber and Harrauer, ‘Ein christliches Bleiamulett,’ 216, however, think that because of the Greek letters used in the abbreviations for ‘Christ,’ the writer had ‘considerable expertise.’ 16 Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 239. 17 Christiansen, ‘To gejstlige Typer.’ 18 Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.430, quoting a text from 1387, De incantationibus et tricis, complaining about priests and monks writing magic words and signs on wafers, apple slices, and parchments as well as producing amulets. Flint, The Rise of Magic, 245–8, describes the attempts by popes and penitentiaries to quench the clerics’ habit of producing and using amulets. 19 Homonymic MHG alber (poplar) may be safely ruled out as an etymological explanation on semantic grounds.

48 Rudolf Simek 20 E.g., Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.587, for an exorcism in the name of angelorum sanctorum, patriarchum et profetarum, apostulorum, martirum et confessorum et omiumque sanctorum; see also II.482, 596. 21 Cf. Koch, ‘Das Beschwörungstäfelchen,’ 41; 264,000 would be 12 x 22 x 1000, but as 22 is not one of the symbolically important numbers, this seems less likely than the corruption. 22 Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 292. 23 Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.483: nec in die nec in nocte, nec uigilandi nec dormienti, nec in ullis locis. 24 Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 248. 25 He quotes a benediction of water before an ordeal (Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.383), but this is by no means the only benediction with such a full list of invoked saints; see Franz, II.482, 483, 588. 26 Gjerløw, ‘Notes on the Book of Cerne,’ 21–2. 27 Ibid., 21. 28 Per nomen mirabile / atque ineffabile / Dei tetragrammaton, / ut expaveatis / et perhorreatis, / vos exorcizo, / Larve, / Fauni, / Manes, / Nymphe, / Sirene, / Adryades, / Satyri, / Incubi, / Penates, / ut cito abeatis, / chaos / incolatis, / ne vas corrumpatis / christianitatis. Compare the close comparison of texts conducted by Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 249f. 29 German translation in Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 248f. 30 ‘Jeder Zauberspruch ist ein hypothetisches Amulet.’ Schwab, ‘Sizilianische Schnitzel,’ 293, goes on to state that every apotropeic charm, once written down, changes into a matrix, which can be copied and used as protection. 31 Gjerløw, ‘Notes on the Book of Cerne,’ 23, quotes several Norwegian eighteenthand nineteenth-century manuscript occurances for a demon called Cordi or Chordi. 32 Cf. McKinnell and Simek, Runes, Magic and Religion, X 1, p. 159f. 33 Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 242–7; the following edition and translation is from McKinnell and Simek, Runes, Magic and Religion, Z 18, 184–6. 34 McKinnell and Simek, Runes, Magic and Religion, items X 1 (Odense), Z 15 (Kävlinge), Z 16 (Boge) and Z 18 (Blæsinge); see also Gustavson, ‘Christus regnat.’ 35 More examples in Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.96, and passim. 36 PL 139:887. 37 PL 155:886 and Fulcheri Carnotensis Historia, ed. Hagenmeyer. 38 PL 155:521 39 PL 174:1589–1634, 1611. 40 Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 243; Stoklund, ‘Runefund,’ 207f. 41 Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.483, from Codex Vaticanus Latinus 235, fols. 44–5.

Elves and Exorcism  49 42 For the question about the effect of texts and books in healing magic, see Düwel, ‘Ein Buch.’ 43 As was suggested by Liestøl and Johnsen, Norges Innskrifter, 243. 44 My interpretation. 45 Ohrt, Danmarks Trylleformler, II.1143. 46 Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 243; Stoklund, ‘Runefund,’ 204–7. 47 Cf. Liestøl and Johnsen, Norges Innskrifter, 77. 48 Cf. Behringer, Kuturgeschichte des Klimas, 108. 49 Cf. PL 92:428f. 50 PL 178:1797f. 51 Cf. Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.480; Storms, Anglo-Saxon Magic, 278. These are their names in the Latin tradition, which was introduced to Western Europe by Gregory of Tours (c. 538–594); their names in the older Greek legends were Iamvlichos, Martinianos, Dionysios, Antoninos, Konstantinos, Exakustodianos, and Maximianos. 52 As Liestøl and Johnsen, Norges Innskrifter, seems to assume. 53 Cf. Storms, Anglo-Saxon Magic, 278: no. 38: Domino Ieso Christo, qui somno deditus in mare a discipulis tuis excitari voluisti, per intercessionem sanctorum septem dormientem, quorum corpora in monte Celion requiescat, fac dormire hunc famulum tuum N., ut convalescent a somno quem amisit tibi et sancte genetrici tue MARIE sanctisque martyribus tuis et omnibus sanctis tuis grates referat. Qui vivis et regnas; from ms Royal 2 A XX, f. 52 (s. xi; emphasis added). Admittedly, in the two following charms the Seven Sleepers are expressly invoked Contra febres (no. 39) and Contra frigora (no. 40, Storms 278f), but the text of no. 38 quoted here explains sufficiently just why they were invoked against the fevers: not to drive away the fever-demons, but to induce healthy sleep. 54 Schmid, ‘Malariabenediktionen,’ 206f. 55 Cf. Simek, Lexikon, s.v. Urfehdebann and Balder. 56 Judging from the many names of God in the medieval hymn Deus pater piissime (see Gjerløw, ‘Deus pater Piissime,’ esp. 91), verbum in line 234 seems the most likely to replace the unintelligible letters in the last line of Codex Vaticanus Latinus 510, 168r, although patibulum ‘cross-beam’ might be possible in view of the fact that it occurs repeatedly in Deus pater piissime (line 156, 175). 57 After Schmid, ‘Malariabenediktionen,’ 207f., but reproducing the manuscript spellings more faithfully than he does; for similar lists of God’s names, see Olsan, Latin Charms, 128f. 58 Schmid, ‘Malariabenediktionen,’ 208. 59 Hall, Elves, 108. 60 Text and translation taken from Hall, Elves, 108f.

50 Rudolf Simek 61 Without referring to its etymology, Holthausen, Wörterbuch, relates sogeða to sūgan, ON sog ‘Saugen.’ 62 Cf. Kluge, Etymologisches Wörterbuch, 762 s.v. Sucht 1. 63 Hall, Elves, 126–9. 64 Ibid., 113; despite the obvious surface meaning, it is far from likely that a kind of sleep-walking is meant, rather a type of illness that causes pains or ‘movement’ by night. 65 Ibid., 116ff. 66 Ibid., 109. 67 Ibid., 123; the parallel meaning is not noted by Hall. 68 Höfler, Krankheitsnamen-Buch, 139. 69 Olsan, ‘Latin Charms,’ 133. 70 Höfler, Krankheitsnamen-Buch, 494. 71 Cf. McKinnell and Simek, Runes, Magic and Religion, Z 21, 187f. 72 Ehrentraut, ‘Bleierne Inschrifttafeln,’ 13. 73 Gjerløw, ‘Deus pater Piissime,’ 108f.; Ertl, ‘Runen und Latein,’ 368f.; Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 278; Nordby, ‘Nyfunn,’ 13–16. 74 McKinnell and Simek, Runes, Magic and Religion, Z 21, 187. 75 Cf., e.g., Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.80, 82, 87, 92, 94. 76 Quoted here from Collectio Rituum, 466. 77 Hall, Elves, 79. 78 Ibid. 79 Kuypers, ed., Book of Cerne. 80 Ibid., 221. 81 Hall, Elves, 79. 82 Cf. the microfiche edition, Doane, ed., MS BL Ms Royal 2 A. XX, fol. 45v. 83 Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.578n2; Birch, Book of Nunnaminster. 84 The use of garbled Greek words, which nonetheless show that the author associated a certain meaning with them, should not be confused with the magic ephesia grammata, although to an illiterate user of the amulet the Greek words may well have had that effect. 85 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 615, 127r. 86 See Hall, ‘The Meanings of Elf and Elves,’ 125. 87 Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.589. 88 Compare the Halberstadt and Romdrup amulets. 89 Cf. Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.614. 90 Ibid., II.483, and the Blæsinge lead amulet. 91 Cf. ibid., II.591, 613, 614, etc. 92 Breslau Univ. Lib. Cod. IV Q. 38; see Pietsch, ‘Kleine Beiträge,’ 186.

Elves and Exorcism  51 93 Edwards, ‘Heinrich von Morungen,’ 16. 94 Holzmann, ‘“Ich beswer dich,”’ 27. 95 Hall, Elves, 170f. 96 Vollmann, ed., Carmina Burana, 162. 97 Edwards, ‘Heinrich von Morungen,’ 17; the quotation is from Herbort von Fritzlar, Trojanerkrieg, J 29. Edwards (ibid.) goes on to explain the Alp/elben as the cause of illness: ‘elbisch as both adjective and noun refer to mental illness, des geistes betrucnisse, hallucinations. Physical disease is also associated with elves. Malus malannus, a disease against which there is an OHG charm, is glossed by alpe. In the Anglo-Saxon charms of the leech-books, the word ælf is, similarly, the name of a disease, or possibly a disease-causing spirit to be cast out.’ This explanation, despite the gloss, cannot be right. Eis has been able to show that the malus malannus (OHG suam ‘fungus’) mentioned in the following OHG charm is to be identified with nasal or pharyngal adenoids: Contra malum malannum / Cum ­minimo digito circumdare locum debes, ubi apparebit, his verbis: / Ih bimuniun dih, suam, pî gode iouh pî Christe, / Tunc fac crucem per medium † et dic: / Daz tu nieweder ni gituo noh tolc noh tôt houpit / Item adiuro te per patrem et filium et spiritum sanctum, ut amplius non crescas, sed arescas. (Against the malus malannus: With the little finger you have to go around the place, where it appears, with these words: ‘I adjure you, fungus, by God and by Christ.’ Then make the cross through the middle † and say: ‘That you make neither wound nor dead head.’ Similarly, I adjure you through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, that you may not grow bigger, but dry up.) See Eis, ‘Erklärung,’ 109–16. Note the detailed (Latin) instruction in how to perform the (German) incantation, which is also found in many other charms; see Schwab, ‘Sizilianische Schnitzel,’ 268, 277. 98 See Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 252–5. 99 Ehrentraut, ‘Bleierne Inschrifttafeln,’ 12. 100 Zangemeister and Hirschfeld, eds., Inscriptiones trium Galliarum et Germaniorum latinae, 961; see Ehrentraut, ‘Bleierne Inschrifttafeln.’ 101 For the distinction made by Thomas Aquinas between the two types, see Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 253f. 102 Several are listed by Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.74–104, but compare the following for a wording very close to the fever-charms: Coniuro te, demon et satanas; per illum te coniuro, qui dexteram suam in cruce posuit; per petrem et filium et spiritum // sanctum te coniuro; per angelum Michahelem, per angelum Gabrihelem, per angelum Raphahelem te coniuro; per Marcum, per ­Matheum, per Lucam, per Iohannem te coniuro, ut non habeas potestatem in isto loco uel in isto uico nocere nec damnum facere nec tempestatem admittere nec pluuiam ualentissimam iacere (in mss Munich Clm 17.027 and Clm 22.040, see

52 Rudolf Simek Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.80–1); and: Coniuro te, demon, per deum uiuum, per deum uerum, per deum sanctum,per deum omnipotentem, per dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, per spiritum sanctum et per trinitatem inseparabilem, ut redeas ad locum desertum, ubi nullus labor est nec ullus hominum inhabitet; per deum uiuum, per deum uerum, per deum sanctum, per deum, qui te creauit de aqua, tu in aqua reuertere. […], Sator arepo tenet opera rotas. † Crux est uerum signum. † Crux est reparacio † per hoc signum crucis fuge demon † Regia nosaan et gyran. Ayos otheos iskyros, Christe, domine deus. Per ista sancta nomina dei adiuro uos, demones et omnes tempestates ac incantatores, ut sic deficiatis, sicut deficit fumen. † Sator arepo tenet opera rotas. † Undenam cecro, alpha et o sit nobis salus, defensio atque protectio. Amen. (from Munich Clm 21.004; Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, II.95). 103 Koch, ‘Das Beschwörungstäfelchen,’ 40: ‘lediglich in ein paar wenigen Fällen, besonders in den einzelnen Beschwörungstexten bei Gottesurteilen, taucht der Terminus “adiuro te” auf.’ But as adiuro te and coniuro te seem to be used synonymously on all the lead amulets named above and were actually interchangeable, his statement is blatantly wrong. 104 For a blessing of a building (rather than an actual invocation), see the Kävlinge lead plate from Scania; McKinnell, and Simek, Runes, Magic and Religion, Z 15 (p. 182). 105 See Gjerløw, ‘Deus pater Piissime,’ 21; Düwel, ‘Mittelalterliche Amulette,’ 252; Düwel, Runenkunde, 171.

Images of Norse Cosmology m a r g a r e t clunies ross

The search for the conceptual bases of Old Norse pre-Christian cosmology has been an important but difficult enterprise in Norse mythological studies over the last two centuries. The difficulties stem in part from the fact that the conceptual ideas of the early Scandinavian peoples, which gave rise to the sometimes detailed descriptions of the Nordic world picture in Icelandic texts like the Elder Edda poems and Snorri Sturluson’s Edda, cannot be directly accessed by the modern inquirer, but must be largely inferred from medieval written evidence. Further, that written evidence is expressed in words, whereas the underlying concepts have spatial and relational dimensions. To modern ways of thinking, but not necessarily to medieval minds, spatial and relational concepts are usually expressed in and through a visual medium, through pictorial images, signs, diagrams, and connecting lines, rather than in words alone. But, for the most part, words are all that have survived of pre-Christian Norse ideas of cosmology, and even they are often cryptic or expressive of a symbolism that in itself requires interpretation. At issue also are the gaps and inconsistencies in the textual record that has come down to us. The question of the extent to which one can expect consistency and comprehensiveness from an originally oral mythological corpus that was not necessarily intended to be systematic or explicit must be taken into consideration when trying to reconstruct an overarching cosmology for Norse myth. In fact, when one examines the medieval textual evidence, it is clear that there are many missing details that one might expect in a comprehensive cos­ mology and, where information is available, the various sources are sometimes inconsistent. This situation is to be expected of the sources we have for two main reasons. The first is that almost without exception these sources were written down some considerable time after their contents ceased to be vital parts of a system of religious belief. The second, and more fundamental, is that

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pre-Christian Scandinavian religion is unlikely to have been what has been called a ‘doctrinal’ mode of religiosity, whose beliefs were codified as a received body of doctrines that could be consistently expressed through both myth and ritual across large communities of believers. On the contrary, the evidence we have from archaeology and place-names, as well as from literary texts, points to many diversified communities of belief within Scandinavia and a probable crystallization of religiosity in a variety of memorable iconic images, some of which achieved written expression in Old Norse texts.1 From a historical perspective, the two most significant periods of scholarly engagement with the conceptual bases of Old Norse cosmology have been the early nineteenth century and the last three decades of the twentieth, continuing up to the present time. As we shall see, these two periods of engagement have produced rather different results. The second period can be seen to have begun with Eleazar Meletinskij’s two-part study of Scandinavian mythology as a system from 1973–4. Indeed, a number of issues raised by modern scholars in this second period are still under discussion and refinement, including the mythic semantics of the two axes of cosmological orientation, vertical versus horizontal and north-south versus east-west, that most now accept as inherent in the Old Norse mythological world-picture2 and the extent to which archaeology and place-name study can refine or complicate the picture.3 Another live issue, to which the dedicatee of the present volume has made an outstanding contribution,4 is the extent to which Old Norse mythic cosmography and cosmology is a largely indigenous, pre-Christian creation, or one that has been significantly influenced by Christian ideas. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Europeans generally experienced both a renewed interest in classical antiquities and, at the same time, a desire to give a similar level of attention to the antiquities of their own forefathers, as expressed through literature and myth and to some extent as visible in the archaeological record. In the field of the visual arts, European painters and sculptors expressed their new-found interest in their ethnic roots very much in terms of the conventions of the classical and Renaissance art with which they were much better acquainted. On study trips to Italy and other parts of southern Europe, artists like Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) and Nicolai Abildgaard (1743–1809) could see and imitate the physical remains of the classical world. Even though they were inspired by the new editions and translation of eddic poetry and Snorri’s Edda that were becoming more easily available to the reading public,5 they had virtually no plastic equivalents to draw upon for images of Norse myth, aside from runic inscriptions and non-representational designs. Most of the relatively few pictorial representations of pre-Christian Scandinavian myth from the Viking Age and earlier that we now know, such as the grave-goods from the Oseberg ship-burial or the Gotland picture stones,

Images of Norse Cosmology  55

were either completely unknown or known to relatively few. Contemporary representations of cosmology, which involve a more abstract process than the visualization of individual myths and their protagonists, did not exist.6 Thus there were virtually no indigenous models of plastic representations of Norse mythology or cosmology for these artists to draw on, so it is no surprise that the visual images of figures and events from Norse myth that they created are so heavily influenced by classical models. Inevitably perhaps, the question arose of how useful Old Norse myth really was to practitioners or patrons of the fine arts, if no suitable models existed to inspire them. The Icelandic antiquarian Finnur Magnússon (1781–1847),7 who had been living for some time in Copenhagen during the second and third decades of the nineteenth century, had been involved in just such a polemic directed against him by the brothers G.L. and Torkel Baden8 as a consequence of some lectures he had given on early Scandinavian material culture at the Academy of Art in Copenhagen, which he repeated in Stockholm. These lectures were published in Danish as Bidrag til nordisk Archæologie (1820) and in Swedish as Foreläsningar öfva Nordiska Archaeologien (1822). They are a wide-ranging and very well informed conspectus of information then known relating to early Scandinavian material culture, and include considerations of buildings and building structures (halls, houses, temples) and three types of the plastic arts that Finnur claimed were practised in early Scandinavia: painting; sculpture and carving; and weaving and tapestry work. Although Finnur measures the Scandinavian material throughout against the classical arts, which sometimes leads him to make some rather absurd claims, these lectures certainly demonstrate his awareness of the importance of the material and the visual in early Norse culture. This was an interest that is manifest in several of his other works, which are the main subject of this investigation. About the same time Finnur was preparing both a Danish translation of the Elder Edda poems, published in 1821–3, and an extensive commentary on Norse mythology, which started its life as a lecture series delivered at the University of Copenhagen, beginning in 1815, under the initial patronage of Johan von Bülow, and later with royal support. This developed into a fourvolume interpretative exposition of Norse mythology and its conceptual basis entitled Eddalæren og dens oprindelse, published in the years 1824–6. One of Finnur’s main aims, outlined in the prefaces to volumes 3 and 4, was to show the reader in diagrammatic fashion how closely the Norse cosmological system paralleled those of better-known world religions, particularly those of the ancient Greeks, the Persians, and the Indians. To this end he included a fold-out diagram of the Norse and these other cosmologies compared, which was inserted into the endpapers of volume 3 of Eddalæren (1825). He mentioned in  the Preface to volume 3 that, ‘for the sake of greater clarity’ (for större

56  Margaret Clunies Ross

Tydeligheds Skyld), he had had ‘two coloured engravings’ (tvende colorerede Kobbere) made for the express purpose of ‘representing our Nordic forefathers’ various most important representations of the foundation and establishment of the world in a fairly graphic mode’ (for at fremstille vore nordiske Forfædres forskjellige vigtigste Forestillinger om Verdens Bygning og Indretning paa en nogenlunde anskuelig Maade).9 He indicated that he had himself first produced drawings as the basis for these images (Tegninger bleve först udkastede af mig), which were presumably later executed by a professional draughtsman.10 The coloured engravings were included bound into the endpapers of volume 4 and they were two in number, the first entitled Verdenstræet Yggdrasill (The World Tree Yggdrasill), the second De ni Verdener (The Nine Worlds). These images, especially the former, were to have a significant influence on later interpreters of Norse cosmology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Even in his own day, Finnur Magnússon’s comparative and highly speculative interpretations of Norse mythology aroused strong criticism, particularly from rival mythographers such as Grundtvig and Jakob Grimm,11 though their own interpretations were often just as speculative. More recent evaluations of Finnur’s work have been equally damning. In his biography of Finnur, Jón Helgason dismisses most of his output, except for Grønlands historiske Mindesmærker (1838–45), citing ‘his lack of critical judgment’ (hans mangel på kritik).12 Ironically, however, and in spite of his lack of critical judgment, Finnur had a great and long-lasting influence upon Norse cosmological scholarship, and especially upon more popular understandings of the subject. This came about through his imaginative visual representations of the cosmology, which were an innovation in their day, as he himself recognized,13 that filled a gap and enabled the reading public, artists and scholars alike, to give spatial and relational expression to the written texts upon which they had up to then built their understanding of Norse cosmology. The written texts in question included three poems of the Elder Edda that treated cosmology (Voluspá, Grímnismál, and Vafþrúðnismál) and the Gylfaginning section of Snorri’s Edda. As we shall see, Finnur’s understanding of Norse cosmology included some basic errors, but these did not seriously affect the popularity of his model.

Finnur Magnússon and the Edinburgh Circle: Walter Calverley Trevelyan and Robert Jamieson It may be considered surprising that two pieces of archival evidence for the development of Finnur Magnússon’s plan for the visual expression of Norse cosmology lie unknown to scholarship, as far as I am aware, in English libraries.

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These, together with the evidence provided by published and unpublished correspondence, demonstrate Finnur’s close connection with British antiquarians of the early nineteenth century. There was a lively scholarly intercourse between British, mostly Scottish, antiquarians, scholars, and natural scientists living in Edinburgh in the first three decades of the nineteenth century and several learned Icelanders who were interested in similar subjects and had visited Edinburgh or had lived there for a time.14 This interaction began in the late 1780s, with the visit of Grímur Thorkelin to Britain,15 and continued up to at least the late 1820s, if not later. Finnur Magnússon had made a brief visit to Edinburgh in the summer of 1812, en route from Iceland to Copenhagen. There he appears to have met a number of the Edinburgh antiquarian circle, including the ballad scholars Walter Scott and Robert Jamieson and the publisher Archibald Constable, all of whose interests included the influence of Scandinavian upon Scottish literature and history.16 Although Finnur did not visit Edinburgh again, he kept up his correspondence with his friends there, and they exchanged letters and books. The two works discussed below are witness to Finnur’s ongoing communication with two of the group, Walter Trevelyan and Robert Jamieson.17

Society of Antiquaries of London ms 289: Cosmography Society of Antiquaries ms 289 consists of four introductory pages and four coloured drawings on folios 1–4, together with a fold-out diagram of comparative cosmology.18 It bears the handwritten title Old-Nordisk Cosmographie efter de eddiske Myther. It was presented to the Society of Antiquaries by one of its fellows, Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan, on 31 March 1870.19 Aside from the subject-matter of the four drawings and the key to interpreting them on fol. ivr, the manuscript can be positively identified as the work of Finnur Magnússon by a printed table of signs of the zodiac with supposed Norse mythological equivalents pasted onto fol. i. The table is geared to an annual cycle beginning on 22 November 1820 and, at the foot of the last column, refers the reader to min systematiske Eddalære (my systematic Eddalære) for parallels with Egyptian, Greek, and Asiatic mythic calendars. Exactly this table was printed on an unnumbered leaf inserted between pages 148 and 149 of the first volume of Finnur Magnússon’s Den Ældre Edda (1821). The hand of ms 289 is also identifiable as Finnur’s, if it is compared with specimens of his handwriting elsewhere, including in the British Library item discussed below. The terminus ante quem is obviously the publication date, 1821, of the first volume of Den Ældre Edda, and the evidence of the Preface to volume 3 of Eddalæren would suggest a date of composition of the illustrations in 1824 or 1825.

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The four coloured drawings (plates 1–4) are unattributed, but they may well be the Tegninger Finnur mentioned having produced himself as models for the engraver who developed the representations of Yggdrasill and the Nine Worlds. The drawings, in black ink, are all colour-coded and also coded alphanumerically by means of two handwritten tables on fol. ivr. The first table assigns a letter of the alphabet to each significant location, in Finnur’s view, within the Norse mythological world. Thus A is the World Tree, Yggdrasill, B is the well Hvergelmir, C Mímir’s well, D Urðr’s well, E the rainbow bridge Bifrǫst, F Gjallarbrú, G the river Gjǫll, H Élivágar, I Nástrǫnd, K Útgarðr, L Gimlé, and M the gods’ home Ásgarðr. The second table assigns numbers to each of the nine worlds Finnur considered constituted the Norse cosmos: 1 is the world of light elves, 2 the world of Muspell, 3 the world of the gods, 4 the world of the Vanir, 5 the world of humans, 6 that of giants, 7 the world of the dark elves, 8 the world of Hel, and 9 Niflheimr. To anticipate the more detailed analysis of these drawings and the images in the British Library booklet later in this chapter, plates 1 and 4 represent Finnur’s view of Norse cosmology using the longestablished idiom of rota or wheel maps. These were the normal means of indicating the Ptolemaic model of the cosmos that was standard in the Middle Ages and was still known in the eighteenth century. It is possible that Finnur Magnússon was familiar with such circular maps either from medieval Icelandic manuscripts or from early printed books that he may have seen during his youth in Iceland or as a young man in Denmark. Plates 2 and 3 develop an incipiently three-dimensional model of the World Tree and its relations, by means of branches or roots (Finnur seems uncertain of their identity), with the Nine Worlds. The published illustration of Verdenstræet Yggdrasill appears to have been developed from these two plates, while De ni verdener seems to be specially indebted to plate 4. The man who presented ms 289 to the Society of Antiquaries, Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan (1797–1879), was a member of the Edinburgh circle from 1820, when he moved to Edinburgh after graduating from Oxford in order to further his scientific interests. Although these were mainly in geology and natural history, they seem to have extended to the study of Northern culture more generally. He is mentioned several times in letters from Robert Jamieson to Finnur Magnússon in late 1822 as trying to promote ‘a Prospectus of a most curious and valuable collection you [Finnur] had made relative to British History,’ something Jamieson promised to do himself both in Edinburgh and London.20 It is a plausible hypothesis that both Society of Antiquaries ms 289 and the British Library pamphlet (shelfmark 4505 e 35), to which I now turn, were Finnur Magnússon’s gifts to Trevelyan and Jamieson in gratitude for the help they provided, or attempted to provide, for his historical work, whatever it was.

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British Library 4505 e 35 This item is a small quarto booklet with red cardboard covers. On the front cover has been pasted a printed title, Oldnordisk Verdensbetragtning Fremstilt ved Finn Magnusen (Old Nordic world-view produced by Finn Magnusen). Inside, a letter from Finnur Magnússon to Robert Jamieson, in Latin and dated 1814, has been stuck into a booklet of five leaves. The first leaf bears the following dedication in a hand identical with that of the Society of Antiquaries manuscript:21 The mythologic Cosmography of the ancient northern peoples. – &c.    to Mr. Robert Jamieson in Edinburgh, as a token of esteem and gratitude       from    his most obliged and       sincere friend       Finn Magnúson Copenhagen, November 7th    1825

Robert Jamieson (1772–1844) is better known than Trevelyan in the field of Northern antiquities.22 He was a Scottish ballad collector and antiquary with substantial interests in Scandinavian, particularly Danish, literature. Like Sir Walter Scott, he drew on both oral and written sources for his Popular Ballads and Songs of 1806 and argued for a close relationship between Scottish and Danish ballad traditions. From 1809 to 1843 Jamieson was assistant to the depute-clerk-register in the General Register House, Edinburgh. The main part of the British Library booklet comprises three gilt-edged leaves of thin card, each bearing an image. The first (plate 5) is entitled Verdenstræet Yggdrasill and corresponds to the image of the World Tree bound into the endpapers of volume 4 of Eddalæren; the second (plate 6) is De ni Verdener and corresponds, though not precisely, to the image of the nine worlds in the endpapers of volume 4 of Eddalæren,23 while the third image is a diagram of five circular representations of Norse, Greek, Persian, and Indian cosmography, designed to point up their similarities (plate 7). This diagram corresponds to a hand-drawn prototype on fol. 5 of the Society of Antiquaries manuscript and to a fold-out page inserted into the endpapers of volume 3 of Eddalæren, as has been mentioned already. Given the slight differences ­between the British Library booklet’s version of De ni Verdener and that

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Image Not Available

1. Society of Antiquaries of London ms 289, fol. 1r: Untitled diagram 1 of Old Norse cosmology.

Image Not Available

2. Society of Antiquaries of London ms 289, fol. 2r: Untitled diagram 2 of Old Norse cosmology.

Images of Norse Cosmology  61

Image Not Available

3. Society of Antiquaries of London ms 289, fol. 3r: Untitled diagram 3 of Old Norse cosmology.

Image Not Available

4. Society of Antiquaries of London ms 289, fol. 4r: Untitled diagram 4 of Old Norse cosmology.

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p­ ublished in Eddalæren, it is possible that Finnur Magnússon sent Jamieson a set of illustrations that was eventually discarded as the basis of the version that appeared in print. Alternatively, and perhaps more plausibly, he may have had several sets of slightly different illustrations prepared by the engraver, Bagge, the discards of which he later used as gifts to send to friends and colleagues.

Analysis of the Finnur Magnússon Images Although Finnur Magnússon’s theories and presuppositions clearly got in the way of a visual representation of Norse cosmology that was accurate in all particulars, the images he developed himself and later commissioned from a professional draughtsman have had an enduring influence, both direct and indirect, on the general modern understanding of this subject. In particular, they have influenced scholars’ and the general reader’s ability to imagine the cosmological information available in Old Icelandic texts transferred to visual representations incorporating a spatial and relational dimension. Simply by attempting to identify the topography of Old Norse myth in relation to the various inhabitants of the mythological world, Finnur had to place these elements in some kind of spatial relationship represented visually. Like the classicizing efforts of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century artists to represent Norse myth in images, Finnur Magnússon first turned to entirely conventional forms for his representations of Norse cosmology. This is clear from the evidence of Society of Antiquaries ms 289. As mentioned, his model was the common rota or wheel map known and used in Europe for the depiction of the universe since at least the De natura rerum of Isidore of Seville (d. 636), in manuscripts of which a rota diagram was often included.24 This circular, diagrammatic model of the cosmos was originally used to depict the Ptolemaic system of the universe with eight spheres, but it was capable of adaptation to other cosmic models. Finnur adapted it to what he considered the salient features of the Norse cosmic model based on nine worlds.25 Rota maps usually had a symbolic or representational depiction of the earth at their centre, sometimes using a T (= terra) drawn into a circle.26 Finnur replaces this with an A (possibly reminiscent of the Latin arbor ‘tree’ or Old Norse askr ‘ash’), which stands in his symbolic system for Yggdrasill, the World Ash Tree, the axis mundi of Norse cosmology. In plate 1 it is represented by a black dot and the letter A within the innermost circle, where we also find the legend (B), an indication that Yggdrasill’s root must be sought at the well called Hvergelmir, which is said in Gylfaginning to be in the middle of Niflheimr.27 This dark realm is depicted on plates 2–4 as a black circle at the

Images of Norse Cosmology  63

bottom of the rota and at the base of the tree. In plate 1 Finnur seems to suggest the comprehensive reach of the World Tree to all worlds of the cosmos by repeating the designation A beside K (representing Útgarðr) in the outermost concentric circle, beyond the ocean encircled by the World Serpent, Miðgarðsormr, designated by a dotted double line and a serpentine head at the top of the circle. The cardinal directions, north, south, east, and west, are indicated around the rota’s perimeter. Plate 4, the other wheel diagram, is clearly modelled on those depictions of the universe that include an additional one to three concentric circles beyond the firmament to represent the spiritual heavens.28 Thus, following this model, Finnur locates the light or fiery realms of the light elves (1) and Muspell (2) beyond the firmament, over which beams the radiance of Gimlé (L), the dwelling of virtuous men after Ragnarǫk and a hall ‘fairer than the sun, roofed with gold.’29 Appropriately, Gimlé is coloured yellow in Finnur’s diagram, the world of the light elves pale blue, and that of Muspell red and yellow. The other two diagrams (2 and 3) in Society of Antiquaries ms 289, although based on the conventional circular projection, have departed from it in that they emphasize the vertical axis of Norse cosmology, based again on Yggdrasill as core, more than the horizontal, though that is partially still present. Here also the importance of the vertical dimension is highlighted by being represented at least incipiently in a realistic mode in the form of a tree with branches and twigs. Here is the basis for Finnur’s transformation of the flat, two-dimensional rota into a prototype for the illustration of Yggdrasill that appeared in Eddalæren. For some unknown reason, he chose to understand the three roots of Yggdrasill, clearly so designated in Norse sources, as stems or branches. In defiance of what the texts say, plates 2 and 3 depict the sites of Mímir’s well (C), Urðr’s well (D), and Hvergelmir (B) as located at the ends of three branches or trunks, not roots, and this feature is repeated in Verdenstræet Yggdrasill in Eddalæren. Another idiosyncratic detail, which has its counterpart in the diagrams of other religious cosmologies (plate 7), is that Yggdrasill’s central trunk emerges, like a volcano erupting, from the crater-like summit of a stepped hill, which is made up of Ásgarðr, Vánaheimr, Mannheimr, and Jótunheimr (3, 4, 5 and 6) in descending order.

The Afterlife of an Image Finnur Magnússon’s image of Yggdrasill, though not that of the Nine Worlds, had its life and influence greatly prolonged by being reproduced in the third edition (1847) of Bishop Percy’s Northern Antiquities, originally published in 1770.

64  Margaret Clunies Ross

Throughout the nineteenth century, and indeed well into the twentieth, this was the most popular introduction to Norse mythology in the English-speaking world. The third edition, published in the series Bohn’s Antiquarian Library, contained a great deal of additional material that brought it up to date for mid-­ nineteenth-century readers.30 This included a number of critical and explanatory notes on Norse mythology by the editor, I.A. Blackwell, and, as a frontispiece, Finnur Magnússon’s Yggdrasill illustration, copied from Eddalæren (1847, 492, note).31 Blackwell adopted an extremely critical attitude to Finnur’s ideas, which he characterized as ‘the most groundless assumptions imaginable … ascribed to that theorizing mania, which it is much to be regretted that a writer of Finn Magnusen’s learning should be so apt to indulge in.’32 In spite of his criticisms, however, he gave Finnur’s Yggdrasill pride of place in Northern Antiquities, where it has arguably influenced many readers’ mental images of Norse cosmology, in part because it had few competitors, in part because the image itself, though inaccurate in some key respects, is undeniably striking. In the years since Finnur introduced illustrations of Norse cosmology into his Eddalæren, most popular writers on Norse myth and website creators have tended to include illustrations of cosmology in their expositions, and in many cases these have been derived from Finnur’s Yggdrasill image. Quite recently, on a visit to the Snorrastofa at Reykholt in Iceland, I saw an unattributed image, which clearly derives from Finnur’s Yggdrasill, as part of a wall illustration of Norse mythology, and there are many others, including the ‘Gothonic Cosmography’ illustration (figure 8) in Brian Branston’s Gods of the North.33 Even when a different model has been used,34 one can still justly attribute to Finnur the fundamental idea of using visual images and diagrams to illustrate the subject. A great many university students of Old Norse–Icelandic in the English-speaking world will have encountered another graphic representation of Norse cosmology in E.V. Gordon’s An Introduction to Old Norse, first published in 1927 and issued by A.R. Taylor in 1957 in a revised second edition that is still in print. On page 196 of the second edition, facing various notes on extracts from Snorri’s Edda, is an unattributed ‘Diagram illustrating Norse cosmography.’ The archives of Oxford University Press hold no information on the authorship of this diagram,35 but I think the influence of Finnur Magnússon’s Yggdrasill can be perceived in it, although some of his conceptual mistakes have been corrected (plate 8). Finnur’s depiction of the three stems has been redrawn correctly as three roots. This has created a problem for the artist, however, because the flat disk of the earth in Finnur’s image has then to be lowered in order to give the roots a surface to penetrate. Hence the major detail of the earth’s surface, comprising the mountains of Útgarðr surrounding the circular surface (as in Finnur’s image), now boast four small figures holding a higher

Images of Norse Cosmology  65

Image Not Available

5. Finnur Magnússon, Oldnordisk Verdensbetragtning, Verdenstræet Yggdrasill, British Library shelfmark 4505 e 35, fol. 2r.

66  Margaret Clunies Ross

Image Not Available

6. Finnur Magnússon, Oldnordisk Verdensbetragtning, De ni Verdener, British Library shelfmark 4505 e 35, fol. 3r.

Image Not Available

7. Finnur Magnússon, Oldnordisk Verdensbetragtning, untitled comparative cosmological diagrams, British Library shelfmark 4505 e 35, fol. 4r.

68  Margaret Clunies Ross

Image Not Available

8. ‘Diagram illustrating Norse cosmography’ in E.V. Gordon, An Introduction to Old Norse, 2nd ed. rev. A.R. Taylor, p. 196.

Images of Norse Cosmology  69

circle aloft. These figures obviously represent the four dwarves Austri, Vestri, Norðri, and Suðri, whose names refer to the four cardinal directions, and who, according to Snorri in Gylfaginning, hold the sky aloft.36 These details are not represented in Finnur’s illustrations. The artist has also removed the pyramidal structure of worlds from which Yggdrasill emerges in the Finnur Magnússon image and has adjusted the location of the rainbow bridge Bifrǫst, to make it emerge from a central well (Urðr’s well) and end on one of the mountains topped by a dwarf.37 The root of Yggdrasill that reaches to Hel is clearly drawn far below the circular world. This artist was arguably more interested in depicting the menagerie of animals inhabiting Yggdrasill than in expressing the spatial relationships of Norse cosmology: a disproportionately large dragon Níðhǫggr gnaws at the Hel-directed root, Ratatǫskr the squirrel and an eagle inhabit Yggdrasill’s branches, and on either side of the diagram the figure of a wolf pursues the sun and the moon.38 In the nearly two hundred years since the publication of Finnur Magnússon’s Verdenstræet Yggdrasill and De ni Verdener it has become very common for writers on Old Norse myth to introduce images and diagrams of Norse cosmology into their work in order to express their particular interpretations of the spatial concepts underlying the world referred to in medieval Icelandic texts. Many of these images can be traced, directly or indirectly, to Finnur’s work. On the whole, these illustrations have been more used in books or other media intended for a popular audience than for a scholarly one,39 and in many cases the illustrations, usually unattributed, are likely to have been prepared by artists or draughtsmen without much knowledge of Norse mythology beyond what was made available to them for the purpose of producing the images. Further, the illustrations suffer both from the preconceptions of their originators, and from the difficulty inherent in producing a single visual representation of often conflicting information in the sources. Probably for these reasons, the latter in particular, the more sophisticated recent studies of Norse cosmology mentioned at the beginning of this chapter have largely operated without the use of diagrams or visual representations of Norse cosmology. Scholars such as Meletinskij, Schjødt, and Lindow have been more interested in analysing the various properties of the vertical and horizontal axes of the Norse cosmos and the semantic meanings each axis conveys than in visualizing, situating, and categorizing the mythic world’s component parts. Nevertheless, for all the inaccuracies of the visual images, which seem to have been initiated by Finnur Magnússon in the early nineteenth century, they have proved remarkably persistent in representations of Norse cosmology intended for a wide audience, and have probably also influenced the way in which most people who have thought about the subject at all imagine the pre-Christian Scandinavian cosmos.

70  Margaret Clunies Ross NOTES 1 I draw here on the helpful distinction made by Whitehouse, Arguments and Icons, between ‘doctrinal’ and ‘imagistic’ modes of religiosity. He defines the latter (1) as ‘the tendency, within certain small-scale or regionally fragmented ritual traditions and cults, for revelations to be transmitted through sporadic collective action, evoking multivocal iconic imagery, encoded in memory as distinct episodes, and producing highly cohesive and particularistic social ties.’ For the evidence of place-names, see Brink, ‘How Uniform Was the Old Norse Religion?’ 2 See Hastrup, Culture and History, 50–69, 136–54; Schjødt, ‘Horizontale und vertikale Achsen’ and ‘Kosmologimodeller’; Lindow, ‘Social Semantics.’ 3 See Andrén et al., Ordning mot kaos. 4 McKinnell, Both One and Many. 5 For details, see Clunies Ross, Norse Muse, 105–66 and 180–3. Translations of versions of Snorra Edda had been available for some time, beginning with Resén’s Icelandic-Latin-Danish text of 1665, but the three-volume Copenhagen edition of the Elder Edda was not published in full until 1828, the first and second parts coming out in 1787 and 1818 respectively. 6 It has been argued recently, by Andrén, Ordning mot kaos, that a stone ring-fort on the island of Öland might have been intended to represent Old Norse cosmology, but such hypotheses were not current in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. 7 Finnur is often referred to under the Danicized name of Finn Magnusen, as he spent most of his life in Denmark. He was a member of a distinguished Icelandic intellectual family; his mother’s father was Bishop Finnur Jónsson, while his father was Magnús Ólafsson, Iceland’s last lawman, and his father’s brother was the poet Eggert Ólafsson. For a biography, see Jón Helgason, ‘Magnússon, Finnur.’ 8 See Jón Helgason, ‘Magnússon, Finnur,’ 365. 9 Finnur Magnússon, Eddalæren, III.iv. Translations are mine, unless otherwise indicated. 10 The legend ‘Bagge sc.’ appears below the Yggdrasill image in Eddalæren volume 4. 11 Grundtvig, Nordens Mythologi, 230–2, and Jakob Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, 757. 12 Jón Helgason, ‘Magnússon, Finnur,’ 365–7. 13 Finnur Magnússon, Eddalæren (1825), v–vi. 14 Cowan, Icelandic Studies; Harvey Wood, ‘Letters to an Antiquary’; Wawn, The Anglo Man; Hansen, ‘A Wandering Minstrel.’ 15 See Kiernan, ‘Thorkelin’s Trip.’ 16 Evidence for Finnur’s meeting with Jamieson is contained in a letter of 1812 from Jamieson to Finnur Magnússon (Hansen, ‘A Wandering Minstrel,’ no. 44, II.206).

Images of Norse Cosmology  71 17 Neither of these items, the first a manuscript, the second technically a printed booklet, was part of Finnur’s large collection of Icelandic manuscripts, which he sold to the British Museum, the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, and the Bodleian Library, Oxford, towards the end of his life to alleviate his financial hardship. 18 For a description of the manuscript, see Willetts, Catalogue, 153. I owe my knowledge of this manuscript, which set me off on my research for this study, to my son Alfred Hiatt, who drew my attention to its description in the Willetts catalogue. Later, when searching the British Library’s online catalogue, I came across the booklet of images Finnur sent to Robert Jamieson. This serendipitous discovery confirmed me in the view that the Society of Antiquaries manuscript was also the work of Finnur Magnússon. 19 Fol. ii and Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries 1867–70, 462. 20 Hansen, ‘A Wandering Minstrel,’ no. 64, II.262. It is uncertain what this work was, so it is not known whether Trevelyan and Jamieson had any success promoting it in Britain. For the letters, see Hansen, ‘A Wandering Minstrel,’ nos. 64 and 65, II.261–7. 21 The Society of Antiquaries catalogue does not ascribe the manuscript to any author and gives its provenance as Norwegian, for no obvious reason. The language throughout is Danish, except for fol. ii’s record of Trevelyan’s presentation, which is in English. The Society’s Proceedings (1867–70, 460–1) list a number of other items by Finnur Magnússon among the works Trevelyan presented on the same occasion. 22 See Morrell, ‘Trevelyan’; see Bayne, rev. Harvey Wood, ‘Jamieson, Robert.’ 23 The written lists of the names of the nine worlds below the illustration have not been reproduced in the version in Eddalæren. There is also a spelling error, ‘Hvergemler’ instead of ‘Hvergelmer.’ 24 See Isidore, De natura rerum XXIII, in Fontaine, ed. and trans., Isidore de Séville: Traité de la nature, 256–60, the rota being reproduced on p. 260. See further on medieval cosmology Grant, Planets, Stars and Orbs. I am greatly indebted to my University of Sydney colleague David Juste for the Isidore reference and to Professor Rudolf Simek, of the University of Bonn, for his comments on the images from ms Soc. Ant. 289 and the British Library pamphlet, and for identifying plates 1 and 4 as dependent on a rota model. His study of medieval cosmology, Heaven and Earth in the Middle Ages, includes many illustrations of rota diagrams. 25 Finnur’s representation of nine worlds depends on several passages in Old Icelandic texts. In the opinion of modern historians of religion, the number nine is not necessarily to be taken literally but is an indication of completeness; cf. Voluspá 2/5 nío man ec heima ‘I remember nine worlds,’ Neckel-Kuhn 1983, 1; ok þaðan í Niflhel, þat er niðr í inn níunda heim (and from there into Niflhel, that is down in the ninth world; Gylfaginning, ed. Faulkes, 9).

72  Margaret Clunies Ross 26 See Simek, Heaven and Earth, 8–9. 27 Gylfaginning, ed. Faulkes, 9. 28 ‘According to medieval opinion, the crystalline heaven (often identified with the primum mobile), an empyrean heaven (empyreum) and then finally God or the primum movens were to be found outside the firmament’; Simek, Heaven and Earth, 10. 29 Sólo fegra, | gulli þacþan Voluspá 64/2–3, Edda, ed. Neckel-Kuhn, 15. 30 The third edition was published by H.G. Bohn in 1847, reprinted in 1859, and republished by George Bell and Sons in 1878, 1882, and 1909. 31 [Percy], Northern Antiquites, 3rd ed., 492, note. The identity of I.A. Blackwell has recently been the subject of an article by Sigrún Pálsdóttir, ‘Northern Antiquities.’ It seems that I.A. Blackwell was actually Joseph Andrew Blackwell (1798–1886), a British diplomat and agent of the British government in Hungary. It is not clear what motivated his foray into Icelandic studies, nor how he acquired his knowledge of the subject. Sigrún speculates that it may have been financial need that motivated him. 32 See [Percy], Northern Antiquities, 3rd ed., 506. 33 Branston, Gods, vi, claims that ‘All the drawings in this book were executed by the author.’ Notwithstanding this declaration, a comparison between his figure 8 ‘The Worlds in the Tree,’ Finnur Magnusson’s Yggdrasill illustration, and the illustration in Gordon’s An Introduction to Old Norse (see below) reveals that Branston’s figure is a synthesis of both these earlier illustrations. His ‘mandala’ image of the northern cosmos (Gods, 74, figure 9) has some similarities to Finnur Magnússon’s unpublished rota diagrams, but that is probably coincidental. 34 As by Brink, ‘Mytologiska rum,’ 297. 35 I am grateful to Dr Martin Maw, archivist at Oxford University Press, for this information. He wrote (email of 22 June 2007): ‘The diagram of Norse cosmography was never criticised, so far as I can tell – but neither was its artist noted.’ 36 Gylfaginning, ed. Faulkes, 12. 37 There is some uncertainty in the medieval sources about where Bifrǫst begins and ends. In Gylfaginning, it is said that the bridge stretches between heaven and earth (ed. Faulkes, 15), and this is consistent with the evidence of eddic poetry (Grímnis­mál 44/6, Fáfnismál 15/4) that the bridge is strongly associated with the gods. One end of Bifrǫst is at Urðr’s well, and it is here that the gods hold their assembly (ed. Faulkes, 17); this passage indicates that Urðr’s well is also in heaven, but other associations of this well with fate suggest it has a chthonic role and location. Clearly the illustrators had some difficulty reconciling the various pieces of information about Bifrǫst and Urðr’s well available to them from the Old Norse mythological texts.

Images of Norse Cosmology  73 38 Strictly speaking, the two wolves pursuing the sun and the moon are not cosmological but eschatological motifs. I am uncertain when they first appeared in cosmological illustrations. They are present in the Snorrastofa and Branston illustrations, mentioned above. 39 Exceptions here are the work of the anthropologist Kirsten Hastrup, Culture and History, who uses diagrams and maps in her analysis of spatial categories and social groups, and the papers by the various contributors, most of them archaeologists, to Andrén et al., Ordning mot kaos, as well as a recent article by Wanner, ‘Off-Center.’

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Meeting the Other: The Cases of Draumr Þorsteins Síðu-Hallssonar and Kumlbúa þáttr jo h n l i n d ow

In his book Meeting the Other, John McKinnell established a set of patterns in narratives involving cross-gender encounters between members of the world of gods and men and members of the other world in myth and legend of the North. One of the basic premises of the work, set forth in the opening pages, implicit in the nature of the readings offered throughout the work, and repeated in the ‘Afterword,’ is that ‘Most Norse myths and legends appear in texts which in their present form were probably composed and certainly written down by Christians. These poets, saga-writers and scribes had certainly no intention of upholding or preserving heathen religion for its own sake. The texts must therefore have continued to seem useful in Christian medieval Iceland.’1 The uses McKinnell proposes for most of the patterns are essentially psychological, and such a position is certainly plausible. In the following comments I would like to focus on meetings with others in two texts set in medieval Iceland, one just after the Conversion and the other a few centuries later. These offer meetings, too, with that pagan past which informs the narratives and patterns McKinnell investigates. Kumlbúa þáttr (the tale of the mound-dweller) and Draumr Þorsteins SíðuHallssonar are the titles editors give to two very short texts preserved in Vatnshyrna (now known only from surviving paper copies), and ‘PseudoVatnshyrna’ (AM 564a, 4to), a sister manuscript.2 Following a marginalium to AM 564c, 4to, a copy of Vatnshyrna, they are known as tvær drauma vitranir (two dream visions).3 In each of the visions, a human meets with the other in a dream, and the texts are further joined by the performance of verse during the dreams. Draumr Þorsteins tells of a man to whom dream women, apparently his fylgjur, deliver verse warnings of an impending ambush, in vain, and Kumlbúa þáttr involves an encounter with physical and apparitional artifacts of the preChristian past. Vatnshyrna was probably a commission for Jón Hákonarson of

78  John Lindow

Viðidalstunga in Húnavatnssysla in northern Iceland, undertaken just after Flateyjarbók was finished for him, that is, in 1391–5.4 Pseudo-Vatnshyrna seems to be a product of northern Iceland as well; John McKinnell identifies two other fragments as belonging to it, AM 445b and AM 445c.5 Both Vatnshyrna and PseudoVatnshyrna suggest an interest in Settlement period Iceland, and the supernatural is important not only in the draumvitranir but also in many other texts.6

Draumr Þorsteins Draumr Þorsteins Síðu-Hallssonar is set at Svínafell, a farmstead in Hornafjörður in southeast Iceland. The plot is simple to describe. Þorsteinn, the eponymous hero of a somewhat fragmentary saga which itself is rich in dreams that are attributed to Þorsteinn’s enemy, Þorhaddr, has gelded a slave, Gilli. On three successive nights, dream women come to Þorsteinn and warn him of an impending attack. The slave eludes the searches for him, and on the fourth night he sneaks into the house where Þorsteinn and his wife Yngvildr are visiting and indeed kills him; Yngvildr has the slave put to death. Insofar as the þáttr has occasioned comment, it is neither the dream women nor their verses that have attracted attention, but rather the castrated slave. He is the only castrated slave in medieval Icelandic sources, and also, since the text is set around or just after 1050, the latest slave to be mentioned.7 The dream women of Draumr Þorsteins would appear to be Þorsteinn’s fylgjur. Although that is never made explicit in the text, in which they are simply called konur and draumkonur, those terms are in fact regularly used of fylgjur.8 The issue would appear to be settled by the exchange between the third dream woman and Þorsteinn, before she speaks her verse:9 ‘Hvert skulum vér þá hverfa eptir þinn dag, Þorsteinn?’ sagði hon. Hann svarar: ‘Til Magnúss, sonar míns,’ sagði hann. ‘Litla stund munum vér þar mega vera,’ sagði hon ok kvað þá vísu. (‘Where shall we turn after your day, Þorsteinn?’ she said. He answers: ‘To my son Magnús,’ he said. ‘We will not be long there,’ she said, and recited this verse.) Fylgjur are meant to stay with families. As Jón Jóhannesson points out in a footnote to this passage, her remark presumably means that Magnús would not survive his father for long,10 although we might also perhaps imagine that the fylgja institution is weakening as Christianity takes increasing hold. McKinnell might read these dream ladies as benign mother figures, like the helpful giantesses he discusses,11 and, further, Gísli’s good and bad dream women or the duelling dísir in Þriðranda þáttr ok Þorhalls might be seen as part of the split identified in the symbolic use of fairy tale characters by Bengt Holbek,12 although the fit is far from perfect. However, my goal here is to

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elucidate this meeting with the dream other and the one in Kumlbúa þáttr, and especially the role of the verses. The first thing to say about the verses in Draumr Þorsteins is that they appear to be unnecessary. Þorsteinn’s dream begins not with a verse but with a chorus from the three women:13 ‘Vaki þú, Þorsteinn,’ sogðu þær. ‘Gilli, þræll þinn, vill svíkja þik fyrir þat, er þú lézt gelda hann, ok er þetta ekki lygi. Láttu drepa hann,’ sogðu þær. (‘Wake up, Þorsteinn,’ they said. ‘Your thrall Gilli wants to betray you because you gelded him, and that’s no lie. Have him killed,’ they said.) Only after this direct message, which is fully sufficient from a performative point of view, does the first dream woman speak her verse. And yet, the verses make the situation soguligt, and they are memorable in their form; each uses a repeated last line. The verse of the first dream woman is as follows. Allskorpu hefr orpit ævin-Hildr með lævi fyr herðundum hurðar heinar ægis beini. Gumnun stendr fyr gamni Gerðr með brugðnu sverði. Villat enn með ollu eykvæn Heðins þeyja – eykvæn Heðins þeyja.

I accept the emendation of þeyjar to þeyja,14 and guess at the last clause. Otherwise I generally follow Ernst Albin Kock, here and in the following verses as well:15 ‘The life-Hildr [=norn] has thrown a very hard bone of the sea [=stone] with deceit at the hardener of the door of the whetsone [door of the whetstone = sword; its hardener = warrior, man]. Gerðr [=the woman, the norn] stands with a drawn sword in the way of his happiness. The eternal woman of Heðin [=Hildr, the norn of line 2] does not yet wish at all to soften [lit. thaw].’ There is no preface to the verse of the second dream woman, who speaks it when she comes into Þorsteinn’s dream, having replaced the previous speaker as the first in line. However, she adds something else, a tag to the repeated last line: Framm gekk dóms, at dómi dómspakr, hinns log rakti. Unni guð þess, er inni óþekð skyli slekkja, áðr fébringju fengi

80  John Lindow fangsæl Dvalins hanga Baldr, sá er blóðs of eldi, biðkvæn und lok, riðvar – biðkvæn und lok, riðvar

The stanza is challenging. To deal with the repeated dóm-, I read at dómi as ‘for a judgment’ and follow the usual idea that gekk dóms means gekk til dóms. I have accepted the emendation of óþekk to óþekð. In the second helmingr, I follow Kock’s emendations to fébringju and riðvar: ‘Forward to a judgment went the one wise in judgment, who interpreted the law for [to obtain?] a judgment. May god grant that unpleasantness should end inside, before the booty-rich waiting woman of Dvalinn of the hanged [Dvalinn of the hanged = Óðinn; his waiting woman = Jörð, Earth, here the grave, perhaps rich in grave-goods?] gets the Baldr of money chest [= wealthy man], who shakes the fire of blood, at the end.’ The repeated line is biðkvæn, und lok riðvar, biðkvæn, und lok riðvar (the awaiting woman, at the end, the awaiting woman, at the end). While we may have little confidence in riðvar, the obvious point is a woman awaiting (biðkvæn) an ending, and the ending in question is that of the life of Þorsteinn. This at least requires no penetration of skaldic syntax, for the dream woman tells us so; she tags the verse with ævi þinnar, Þorsteinn (of your life, Þorsteinn). Containing as it does six syllables with a troche at the end, this utterance scans like a line of dróttkvætt, perhaps even, although the stress makes it unlikely, with skothending (þinnar … Þorsteinn). The sentence does not, however, connect to the repeated last line of the stanza through either alliteration or rhyme. The third dream woman, when she comes to the front of the line and gets to address Þorsteinn, has both a spoken exchange with him before she speaks her verse and a tag to that verse. The dream ladies have seemingly given up, since this is the point when they ask whom they should guard next: Flug-Vorna sitr fjornis fákund, meginunda hvoss, of hoggnum visa, hjalma Guðr at jalmi, þeim er enda fyr enda andþings, of sjot banda, þat mun ógurligt – ægis – óx skymáni – tóku – óx skymáni – tóku.

Here is another difficult verse. I mostly follow Kock in the first helmingr; Jón Jóhannesson makes sense of hvoss (sharp) by reading the kenning as ‘ax,’ but

Meeting the Other  81

there are women in the other verses, and it makes sense for dream women to use woman-kennings to indicate Þorsteinn’s fate: ‘The flying Vorna [= valkyrie] of great wounds, known to few, sits over the fallen leader, the Guðr of helmets [= valkyrie] in battle, sharp [=brave], [the leader] for whom formerly the end of the meeting [outcome?] of terror [death] they took – that will be dreadful. The sky-moon waxed over the abode of the gods.’ The repeated line of this final dream woman is óx skymáni – tóku, óx skymáni – tóku (the cloud moon grew, they took, the cloud moon grew, they took). Again the parts of the line look back and forward. The first part back goes back to of banda sjot (over the abode of the gods) in line 6, which is foreboding if beyond contemporary powers of explanation. The verb tóku is highly problematic. Following Kock, I have tried to understand it first within the twenty-four syllables of the helmingr. However, the dream woman’s tag lífit frá þér, Þorstein (your life, Þorsteinn) – which again scans as a line of dróttkvætt with less improbable skothending (þér … Þorsteinn) but has no metrical connection to the last line of the stanza – offers a second object. There is a progression in the tags. The first dream woman uses none, and at that point there may still be a chance that Þorsteinn can save himself. The second dream woman’s ævi þinnar is a tag to lok: end of your life. The third dream woman’s lifit frá þér tags to tóku and adds the issue of agency. The plural verb eliminates the slave Gilli from consideration for the subject, so most scholars fall back on the norns, at whose roles the first two dream women gesture from time to time. If the first helmingr has two different valkyries or norns, perhaps they are subject.

Kumlbúa þáttr Kumlbúa þáttr is set on the Reykjanes peninsula that juts into the eastern end of Breiðafjörður in western Iceland, in the end of the twelfth century or the beginning of the thirteenth and thus a half-century or so after Draumr Þorsteins is set. It may be briefly summarized as follows. On his way home late one evening, a certain Þorsteinn Þorvarðsson comes across a pagan burial mound. He finds bones and a sword and takes the sword, intending to return it next morning. That night a large man with a pole-ax appears in Þorsteinn’s dream and berates him for taking the sword and threatens him. Seeing his troubled sleep, Þorsteinn’s wife Helga awakens him, but when he falls asleep again, things are worse: the dream man recites a threatening verse. But Þorsteinn caps it with a verse of his own, and the dream man desists. On the following day Þorsteinn looks for the grave mound but cannot find it. He tells his wife and other people about the encounter.

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I begin with the end of the story. When Þorsteinn tells his wife and others about the encounter, he is performing what folklorists, following Carl Wilhelm von Sydow, call a memorate: a first-hand account of a supernatural experience.16 Lauri Honko drew attention to the empirical nature of such encounters and explored a theory to explain them.17 Broadly speaking, Honko’s theory focuses on three aspects of supernatural experience: the state of the individual, a simple if psychological explanation of the experience itself, and the cultural factors that shape the interpretation of what happened. Specifically, Honko argued that individuals under stress, often from the violation of some norm, are prone to supernatural experience; that supernatural experiences occur in less than optimal perceptual conditions when one perceptive stimulus is complemented by the mind; and that one sees what one expects to see, subject to negotiation with the community afterward. It is not my purpose here to discuss memorates or Honko’s theory, but I would like to point out that this theory helps make some sense of the opening paragraph of the þáttr, which I have omitted from my plot summary, as does everyone else who summarizes this little plot. Here is the opening in full:18 Þorsteinn Þorvarðsson, mágr Þorfinns ábóta, er átti Helgu Þorgeirsdóttur, systur ábóta, hann fíflðisk at Steinvoru, konu Hoskulds mágsefnis; hann átti við henni barn eitt. (Þorsteinn Þorvardsson, the brother-in-law of Abbot Þorfinnr, who was married to Helga Þorgeirsdóttir, the sister of the abbot, fooled around with Steinvor, the wife of Hoskuldr mágsefni. He had a child with her.) So, Þorsteinn encountered the pagan grave when he was returning to his marital bed after fooling around with another woman. His wife was the sister of the abbot of the Benedictine house at Helgafell, and thus Þorsteinn’s philandering took place in a fairly rare space in medieval Iceland in which the demands of the Church for fidelity would conflict with actual practice; the contemporary sagas and other texts make it perfectly clear that marital fidelity and female chastity were basically issues only for the Church and for those men powerful enough to be able to control their women.19 One of the paper manuscripts adds this: Ok er Þorvarðr varð þess varr, ávítaði hann son sinn (and when Þorvarðr found out about this he rebuked his son).20 Although it could be argued that this sentence is the insertion of a copyist with early modern thoughts about marriage, all manuscripts, including the vellum Pseudo-Vatnshyrna, agree in calling the sexual relationship with Steinvor Þorsteinn’s órar, the semantic range of which seems to cover everything from pranks to folly to madness, with more of the latter than the former. Þorsteinn may be besotted with Steinvor, or the author may regard cheating on an abbot’s sister as the height of folly, but however we read the situation, it would seem that Þorsteinn might well have been feeling a certain amount of stress when, late in the evening, he came upon the grave mound. There the perceptual conditions

Meeting the Other  83

were presumably poor, since it was late in the evening. We do not know what time of year it was, but the next morning it grew light, according to the text, so it was presumably dark or at least dim when Þorsteinn had his vision of the mound, and this agrees with the fact that the text says he groped about beneath his feet and found there the bones of the man and a sword. If we take the text to be the reflection of a memorate – a first-hand account of a supernatural experience – we may be able to trace it into the legend that our text clearly reflects. Þorsteinn finally told of his experience to his wife and other people. It seems not unlikely that his brother-in-law Abbot Þorfinnr was one of those people, and this would bring the experience inside the abbey walls. There some priest or brother probably wrote it down towards the end of the thirteenth century,21 or at all events during Þorfinnr’s tenure as abbot from 1188 until 1216.22 Certainly there are indications of a clerical hand, besides the interest in Helga’s brother. Þorsteinn and Helga only go to bed after compline is sung, and it would seem likely that the canonical hours were better kept in monasteries than in Icelandic farmhouses. The verses have no kennings using the names of pagan gods, and the prose style feels slightly learned to me (e.g., use of the verb hlyða, the noun phrase syn kynlig). But wherever the text was written down, it reveals the characteristic medieval Icelandic concern with the sudden physical presence of the pagan past in the Christian present. The dream man is from the pagan past not only because he is buried in a mound with weapons rather than in a churchyard without grave-goods, but also because he carries a pole-ax. The principle use of such an ax was to chop down trees, something the original settlers of Iceland took such good care of that no one thereafter had to think much about it. Pagan graves and those interred in them must have been real problems in the first decades and centuries of Christianity in Iceland. Although Christian reburial was an obvious choice during the Conversion period, the comparative evidence seems to suggest that the impetus was reburial within the family or clan.23 Long after the Conversion, with the bones of an unknown deceased, the safest thing to do was perhaps to avoid them; to grope about within them was probably not a good idea, and part of the tension of the text results from what Þorsteinn takes and leaves behind. He takes a sword, an actual token of the pagan past, and leaves behind all the bones, rather than reburying them. Anyone reading or hearing the text in the Middle Ages, or for that matter any time thereafter, would know that to take a single bone would have been a particularly bad choice, as any number of legends show. The dead want all their bones intact and will invade the world of the living to get them back. Even speech acts can be dangerous. According to one Icelandic legend from the nineteenth ­century a farm girl saw a big bone and said: ‘I’d like to have kissed that man

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living.’ Needless to say, the corpse shows up and demands a kiss. In one version she kisses him and all is well; in another she dares not do so and goes forever mad.24 Such legends are common in Iceland and turn up elsewhere all over the North as well. Þorsteinn took a sword, not a bone, and that should presumably make matters less dangerous for him. Grágás has provisions on theft and searches for stolen property, but a sword in a mound is a special problem, and indeed Þorsteinn intends to return the sword the next day. But I think this sword is dangerous precisely because it is a physical token of the pagan past, brought into a Christian household just before compline is sung. When Þorsteinn will not return the sword directly, the dream man escalates his challenge into the realm of verse. Now the dream man is not asking for the return of his sword; rather he is boasting of his prowess in battle, which we may surely take as a thinly veiled threat. Þorsteinn can no longer meet the challenge by returning the sword; now he must speak a verse to cap that of the dream man. Versecapping is an old and still vigorous Icelandic tradition running from krafta­ skáld – powerful skalds whose semi-ecstatic performances lived on in Icelandic oral tradition down into recent times – through adaptations to such media as bulletin boards on which poets would place verses capping ones previously put there and now even to the internet, where verse-capping occurs on chatboards in real time.25 However, for Kumlbúa þáttr I believe that we can locate a mythic or at least temporal precedent. According to Snorri Sturluson’s Skáldskaparmál, part of his Edda, Bragi Boddason the Old, usually regarded as the first skald, once met a troll-woman in the woods. She challenged him with a verse saying basically ‘I’m a troll,’ with a list of troll kennings. He countered with a verse saying basically ‘I’m a poet,’ with a list of poet kennings. I’m quite certain he won this encounter, since he ended up in Valholl with Óðinn, and the trollwoman has as far as I know never been heard from since. Indeed, trolls are almost never heard from in the dróttkvætt form, and for that reason I have argued that Bragi’s encounter with the troll-woman had cosmic consequences.26 Bragi saved not only his own skin, but also the poetic form of gods and men. I have said that the episode of Bragi and the troll-woman provides mythic or temporal precedence, but we could also say, speaking more broadly, that both are variants of a medieval Icelandic legend type in which a supernatural being challenges a human with a verse, which the human caps by repeating it in variant form. Bragi’s verse is technically slightly better than that of the troll-woman – for example, he uses more full rhymes than she does – and I believe that Þorsteinn’s is technically more complex than that of the dream man, since it has more kennings and, like Bragi’s response to the troll-woman, also has more full rhymes. Specifically, Þorsteinn replaces the skothendingar (half-rhymes)

Meeting the Other  85

expected in lines 3 and 7 with aðalhendingar (full rhymes), thus ending each helmingr with a set of full rhymes. But there are advantages of content as well. Here we see the verse-capping clearly. Dream man: Branda rauðk í blóði borðspjóts með hlyn forðum; reyndak hvatt í hrotta hreggi skilfings eggjar; fellu menn, en manna morð óx af því, forðum; enn emk samr at semja sama leik við þik, namni. Þorsteinn: Þora munk reiðr at rjóða randa skóð í blóði, hvargi’s rekks með rekkum ríðr flugdreki slíðra; áðr gafk ornum fœðu, undgjóðs sendiflóði; fyrr skal hogg við hoggvi, hjaldrstœrir, þér gjalda.

With one exception, this text follows that of Þorhallur Vilmundarson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson,27 which has the virtue of following the manuscripts.28 I depart from their text in line 6 of Þorsteinn’s stanza, where they follow an emendation enshrined in Finnur Jónsson’s canonical edition but rejected by Ernst Albin Kock;29 I follow Kock’s reading in the following translation, along with Guðni Jónsson’s reading of borðspjóts,30 taken up by Þorhallur Vilmundarson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson: Dream man: I formerly reddened blades in blood with the maple of the board of the spear [shield; its maple = warrior]; much I tested sword’s edges in the storm of swords [battle]; men fell formerly, and the murder of men grew from it; I am ready to play the same game with you, namesake. Þorsteinn: Angry, I will dare to redden shields’ harmers [swords] in blood, wherever a warrior’s flying dragon of scabbards [sword] rides among warriors; I formerly gave food to eagles with the river sent to the wound bird [raven; its river = blood]; I will repay you blow for blow.

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The dream man’s stanza consists of paired lines, the first three of which boast of success in battle; in the fourth he says ‘I will play the same game with you, namesake.’ Þorsteinn does not take this bait. His verse has the same structure of paired lines boasting about battle, and in the fourth verse he says, ‘I’ll pay you back blow for blow.’ He never acknowledges sharing a name with the old pagan, and he does not flinch. By successfully capping the dream man’s verse, Þorsteinn saves his own skin. He returns the ghost to the pagan past so successfully that by the next morning the grave mound has been erased from the landscape. Thus he simultaneously eliminates the threat to his own person and cleanses the landscape of a trace of the pagan past. Apparently, too, he gets to keep the sword, and although we learn nothing about it, in analogous recent legends, humans sometimes get to keep a token of their encounter with the supernatural other, most famously, perhaps, in the migratory legend bearing the tag ‘The Drinking Cup Stolen from the Fairies.’31 Here there are of course numerous analogous legends involving the laying of troublesome ghosts. The issue of the namesake is striking. Within the cloister walls we could expect people to know of the anecdote about Óláfr Haraldsson digri (the fat), later Óláfr the saint, and his remark about his ancestor and namesake Óláfr Haraldsson digrbeinn (thick bone), later Óláfr Geirstaðaálfr (spirit of Geirstaðir). This Óláfr was a son of Harald Fairhair, so he was a participant in the struggles that ensued following the death of his father, who had united Norway into a single kingdom. Óláfr digrbeinn became Óláfr Geirstaðaálfr when he was interred in a mound at Geirstaðir in Vestfold, that is, along the west coast of the Oslo fjord, some time in the mid-tenth century. The story in question is told in the longer and later versions of the Saga of St Olaf, for example in Flateyjarbók, in what may be one of the passages from Styrmir.32 It follows directly on the episode in which a visitor named Gestr asks Óláfr to identify himself with a pagan king and is ultimately revealed to be Óðinn: Þat er sagt, eitthvert sinn, at einn hirðmaðr, sá er eigi er nefndr, spurði Ólaf kon­ ung, þá er hann reið með hirð sína hjá hauginum Ólafs Geirstaðaálfs: ‘Seg mér, herra, ef þér váruð hér heygðir.’ Konungrinn svarar honum ‘Aldri hafði önd mín tvá líkami, ok eigi mun hon hafa, eigi nú ok eigi á upprisudeginum, ok ef ek segða annat, þá er eigi almennilig trúa rétt í mér.’ Þá mælti hirðmaðrinn: ‘Þat hafa menn sagt, þá er þér kómuð fyrr til þessa staðar, at þér hefðið svá mælt: ‘Hér várum ok hér fórum.’ Konungrinn svarar: ‘Þetta hefi ek aldri mælt, ok aldri mun ek þetta mæla.’ Ok komst konungrinn við mjök í haugnum ok laust þegar hestinn sporum ok flýði sem skjótast þann staðinn. Ok var þat auðfundit, at Ólafr konungr vildi þessa villu ok vantrú með öllu eyða ok af má, því at guðs leynda dóma vissi hann fullkomliga fyrirboðit vera at forvitnast framar en vili Jesu Christi stendr til þá ljósa at gera.33

Meeting the Other  87 (It is said that once a certain unnamed retainer asked Óláfr while he was riding with his retinue past the grave mound of Óláfr Geirstaðaálfr: ‘Tell me, Sire, whether you were buried here in the mound.’ The king answers him: ‘My soul never had two bodies and never will, not now or on the day of resurrection, and if I were to say otherwise, I would not be of the proper faith.’ Then the retainer said: ‘People say that you have said: “we were here and travelled here.”’ The king answers: ‘I have never said that and I never will.’ And the king was extremely upset with the mound and kicked his horse with his spurs and got away from that place as quickly as possible. And it was clear that King Óláfr wished to destroy completely that false belief, because he knew that it was forbidden to inquire into God’s hidden judgments before the will of Jesus Christ arises to make them clear.)

Evidently part of the connection between the two kings, besides the identical names and the connection with Vestfold, was their body type: Óláfr Guðrúnarson Geirstaðaálfr was also known as Óláfr digrbeinn, parallel to Óláfr Haraldsson digri, and the legends of the two kings did become intertwined, at least in the written traditions we have. The episode at the mound could be understood in various ways – Vera Henriksen, for example, thought that Óláfr Haraldsson may actually have considered himself to be Óláfr Guðrúnarson reincarnated34 – but it certainly seems to be an argument against the idea of reincarnation, and a site for a learned medieval author to juxtapose what he thought were pagan conceptions with Christian ones. What makes it especially relevant to Kumlbúa þáttr is the sword that Óláfr Haraldsson is said to have inherited from Óláfr Geirstaðaálfr. This too is set forth most clearly in a passage possibly also from Styrmir’s hand. Óláfr sees something gleaming in a chest that his mother Ásta opens, and he asks what it is. It a sword he is to inherit from his namesake Óláfr Geirstðarálfr, and his mother gives it to him. His stepfather Hrani is irritated when the boy drags the expensive sword over the floor, and the rest of the episode is about Hrani’s attempt to retrieve the sword from the boy without making him cry, as his mother stipulates. Hrani tries three times and gives up after the third try; Óláfr gets to keep his sword. The episode shows either the singlemindedness or the stubbornness of the saint-to-be, depending on one’s point of view. Here I would just note that Þorsteinn in Kumlbúa þáttr also gets to keep his sword. The case is similar with Þorsteinn. The dream man represents or suggests a pagan Þorsteinn who went before this one, just as a pagan Iceland went before the Christian one in which the community at Helgafell and the surrounding farms lived, and just as a pagan king Óláfr went before the great Christian king Óláfr. That past had to be kept in its place. It threatened to erupt in the landscape, as it did at Geirstaðir in Norway and now in Reykjanes on Breiðafjorður. In both cases a speech act was required to keep the past at bay. King Óláfr did

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it with a firm denial; Þorsteinn’s story had a different paradigm and required verse-capping. Before leaving St Óláfr and his namesake Óláfr Geirstaðaálfr I would like to mention one other episode associated with the earlier Óláfr. According to many texts, he foresaw in a dream a deadly illness that would take him and other important men, and he ordered the survivors to put them into the mound at Geirstaðir and inter them in it. He then said this, according to Flateyjarbók. Við þat vara ek menn alla, at eigi taki þau ráð er sumir menn, þeir er blóta þá menn andaða, er þeim þótti sér traust at, meðan lifði, fyrir því at ek ætla dauða menn ekki mega til gagns. Svá kann ok verða, at af stundu eru þeir trylldir, er áðr váru blótaðir. Ætla ek hínar sömu illar vættir stundum sýnast gagn gera í því, en stundum mein. Mjök uggi ek, at hallæri komi á land, efter er vér erum heygðir, en þó munu vér því næst blótaðir ok síðan trylldir, en vér munum þó hvárigu valda. (I warn all people not to take up the customs that some men have had, of sacrificing to dead men whom they relied upon while they were living. For I do not believe that the dead can be of any use. It may be that they turn into trolls after a while, those who have been the object of sacrifice. I believe that such evil beings sometimes help and sometimes harm. I greatly fear that prosperity will fail after we are placed in the mound, and thereafter made the object of sacrifice and subsequently into a troll, and we are responsible for neither.)

Although other texts put it differently, in essence we have here a theory covering the origin of trolls, put into the mouth of a pagan Norwegian and recorded in a late fourteenth-century Icelandic manuscript: trolls are the pagan dead to whom people once sacrificed. In the complex of Kumlbúa þáttr – and I feel that it is relevant here given the likelihood of the text’s having been written down in a monastery where little about St Óláfr would be unknown – the dream-­ Þorsteinn, namesake of the man who had the supernatural experience and quite possibly an ancestor, must once have been an important person. Pagan prac­ tices empowered him to appear and do good or harm, and the tension of Kumlbúa þáttr revolves around the question of what he may do to the Christian Þorsteinn. In the end he does no harm, and he goes quietly away and takes his grave mound with him. But had things turned out differently, was there a danger that the later Þorsteinn might himself have been in danger of turning into a troll? The two þættir, placed contiguously in two manuscripts filled with materials about Iceland’s past, complement one another. Draumr Þorsteins looks at the end of an era, with its final slave and, more importantly, its dream women. They use the old cultural form of skaldic poetry, replete with difficult kennings

Meeting the Other  89

and obscure language. Their goal is to protect, and the point I wish to stress is that they do not, or cannot. As Christianity arrives with its new paradigms, the old fylgjur are simply no longer capable of providing the protection once attributed to them. In searching for a gelded slave at the advice of dream women, Þorsteinn Síðu-Hallssonar was in effect searching for a chimera. Kumlbúa þáttr, short as it is, combines some very paradigmatic elements. Its original memorate status shows that it takes up matters that were on people’s minds, and its invocation of Bragi’s paradigmatic verse-capping exchange with the troll-woman shows the peculiar power of poetry in medieval Iceland. But most of all, the story invokes images of the patron saint of the North. All this is done to grapple with the great problem of medieval Iceland: its pagan past. That past was present in people’s memories, in their genealogies, in their names, in their dreams, in their poetry, and in their landscape. It simply had to be confronted, in ways both straightforward and oblique. Þorsteinn and the monks at Helgafell may have been worried about his cheating on the Abbot’s sister, but everyone was worried about the trolls in the landscape and the pagan past. I end with the  namesakes. There are three here, Þorsteinn Síðu-Hallssonar, Þorsteinn Þorvarðsson, and the old pagan Þorsteinn. The latter two evoke a pattern of movement from paganism to Christianity. Taken together, the two texts suggest perhaps the way out that Þorsteinn Síðu-Hallssonar did not use. Rather than relying on old forms, he might have embraced new ones, perhaps, in this light, the intercession of a saint.

NOTES 1 McKinnell, Meeting the Other, 233. 2 Kumlbúa þáttr is known in manuscripts as þáttr af Þorsteini Þorvarðssonar or, more to the point, Draumr Þorsteins Þorvarðssonar; see Þorhallur Vilmundarson, ‘Formáli,’ in Vilmundarson and Vilhjálmsson, eds., Harðar saga, ccxi. 3 age=icelandic, accessed 23 December 2005 and 22 December 2008. 4 Karlsson, ‘Um Vatnshyrnu.’ 5 McKinnell, ‘Reconstruction.’ 6 Besides Kumlbúa þáttr and Draumr Þorsteins Síðu-Hallssonar, Vatnshyrna must once have contained Flóamanna saga, Laxdœla saga, Hœnsa-Þóris saga, Vatnsdœla saga, Eyrbyggja saga, Kjalnesinga saga, Króka-Refs saga, Störnu-Odds draumr, Bergbúa þáttr. Including the two other pieces discovered by McKinnell, Pseudo-Vatnshyrna included, besides Kumlbúa þáttr and Draumr Þorsteins, Bárðar saga and Þórðar saga hreðu, Bergbúa þáttr, and Víga-Glúms saga,

90  John Lindow ­Ögmundar þáttr dytts, Harðar saga Grímkelssonar, the Melabók redaction of Landnámabók, Flóamanna saga, Eyrbyggja saga, Gísla saga, and Víga-Glúms saga. For a summary see McKinnell, ‘Vatnshyrna,’ in Pulsiano et al., ed., Medieval Scandinavia, 689–90. 7 Foote, ‘Þrælahald á Íslandi,’ 59; Karras, Slavery and Society, 208, fn. 89. The psychoanalyst and anthropologist George Devereux also discovered the text and interested himself in the motif of castration: ‘Self-Blinding’; ‘Anxieties.’ 8 Mundel, Fylgjemotiva. 9 Jóhannesson, ed., Austfirðinga sögur, 324–5. 10 Ibid., 325n1. 11 McKinnell, Meeting the Other, 181–96. 12 Holbek, Fairy Tales, 436–7. 13 Jóhannesson, ed., Austfirðinga sögur, 325. 14 Ibid., 323. 15 Kock, Skaldediktning, II.120; Kock, Notationes norrœnæ, arts. 1437–41. 16 von Sydow, ‘Kategorien,’ in Volkskundliche Gaben. 17 Honko, ‘Memorates.’ 18 Vilmundarson and Vilhjálmsson, eds., Harðar saga, 453. 19 Jochens, Women in Old Norse Society, 38–9 20 Vilmundarson and Vilhjálmsson, eds., Harðar saga, 453. 21 Vígfússon, ed., Bárðar saga, viii. 22 Jónsson, Den oldnorske, II.758–9. 23 Geary, Living with the Dead, 38–9. 24 Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintyri, ed. Árnason, Böðvarsson, and Vilhjálmsson, II.233–4. 25 Merrill Kaplan, ‘Capping Verses in Cyberspace: Textuality and Performance on an Icelandic Chatboard,’ paper presented at the American Folklore Society Annual Meeting, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 18–22 October 2006. 26 Lindow, ‘Narrative Worlds,’ 21–5. 27 Vilmundarson and Vilhjálmsson, eds., Harðar saga, 454–5. 28 Or at least as Finnur Jónsson read them; Jónsson, Skjaldedigtning, BII, 213. 29 Jónsson, Skjaldedigtning, AII, 230; Kock, Notationes, art. 2595. 30 Jónsson, Breiðfirðinga sögur, 2182–3. 31 Christiansen, Migratory Legends, type no. 6045, 168–77. 32 Nordal, Om Olaf, 97–132. 33 Flateyjarbók, ed. Nordal, II.219. 34 Henriksen, Hellig Olav, 51–2.

Risking One’s Head: Vafþrúðnismál and the Mythic Power of Poetry a l i s o n f i n lay

The title Hofuðlausn (‘Head-Ransom’) is best known as the name of the poem which, according to his saga, Egill Skalla-Grímsson composed in a single night to save his skin at the court of his arch-enemy, King Eiríkr blóðøx of York, in the mid-tenth century. Several further instances of the theme of a poet composing a poem to win his life from a hostile ruler, in some cases accompanied by vestiges of a poem called Hofuðlausn, qualify the story to be called, as John Hines has put it, ‘a minor but recurrent literary scene’ of saga literature.1 The story clearly had value for saga writers as a means of dramatizing the often problematic relationship between poet and patron, and passing under scrutiny the kinds of cultural value invested in the praise poem, objectified by the theme as an artefact of great – indeed, life-saving – potency. A further layer of significance in the story, which may help to explain the resonance it had with authors of narratives about poets and rulers, is the way in which it echoes another kind of ‘head-ransom’ – that fought out in the verbal duel between Óðinn and the giant Vafþrúðnir in the eddic poem Vafþrúðnismál. Like Eiríkr’s hall in York, the scene is the hostile hall of the giant; it is true of Egill as it is of the guest in the giant’s hall that Út þú né komir órom hollom frá, / nema þú inn snotrari sér (You will not escape from my halls unless you are the wiser; Vafþrúðnismál 7), 2 and, the preliminary questions out of the way and the wisdom contest begun in earnest, the giant stipulates that the stakes are to be the heads of the two contestants: hofði veðia við scolom hollo í, / gestr, um geðspeki (We two, guest, shall wager our heads over wisdom in the hall).3 The nature of the wisdom contest in Vafþrúðnismál has been contested by scholars. Most would now dissent from Sigurður Nordal’s view, expressed in 1923, that ‘the poem is a jumble of odd fragments of erudition without any proper organisation, and no attempt is made to trace the causal connection of events.’ Nordal also saw the poem’s frame story as entirely divorced from the

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content it enclosed: ‘The framework of Vafþrúðnismál is an independent tale and in no way fused with the matter of the poem.’4 But the poem still suffers by comparison with what is felt to be the more deeply conceived world-view represented in Voluspá: ‘Voluspá suggests that when [Óðinn] wanted to hear the whole story, rather than answers to quiz questions, he went directly to a volva.’5 Interpretation is hindered by the absence of background information, whether in the poem itself, a prose introduction such as that provided for many poems in the Edda, or analogues in other texts, to motivate Óðinn’s quest to seek out from the giant mythical lore which – as has frequently been pointed out – must already be known to him; as Ármann Jakobsson has remarked, ‘the poem is not obscure in itself, but perhaps it has been made so by a loss of context.’6 In an important contribution, John McKinnell has analysed the structure and ideology of Vafþrúðnismál and argued convincingly that its particular theme, articulated in the playing out of the relationship between god and giant, is the relationship between wisdom and Fate: ‘Óðinn should be seen, not as trying to discover what Fate holds in store – for if he did not know that already he would be unable to ask the questions – but as testing whether Fate is as immutable as it seems … This is no naïve victory of god over demon, but a mutual tragedy, in which Óðinn’s triumph over Vafþrúðnir and the latter’s death serve only to show that the victor is as much trapped and doomed as his victim.’7 McKinnell and others also see a differentiation between the kinds of wisdom commanded by god and giant, despite the poem’s formulaic presentation: ‘Óðinn … is interested in origins rather than mere names, and … it emerges that for him, as probably for the poet, origins and endings are intimately related, so that one cannot understand the one without the other. There is thus a clear distinction between Óðinn’s wisdom and the giant’s mere information.’8 In this paper I shall investigate the ways in which Vafþrúðnismál provides a mythic model for the hofuðlausn story told of Egill Skalla-Grímsson and other poets. The question-and-answer format of the eddic poem, with both participants interrogated and measuring their wits, is of course rather unlike the forced production of a poem at the bidding of an offended ruler, but the association of Óðinn with poetry as well as with wisdom sketches a parallel between the god’s powers and the life-saving verses the poets are able to produce. More specific is the setting of the poem in the giant’s hostile hall. This draws on a widespread narrative element, characterized by Machan as the ritual of entrance in Norse literature. That is, many diverse texts employ an episode wherein an unexpected and unknown guest arrives in a hall and provides the inhabitants with information or engages them in a question and answer

Risking One’s Head  93 ­exchange … Such a pattern appears in Nornagests þáttr … in Gylfaginning … and in numerous episodes in the sagas … This ritual of entrance, which also occurs when Beowulf arrives at Heorot, could well be a response to an unknown visitor in a preliterate culture, where guests and news of the outside world would be far more out of the ordinary than they are in an electronic or even a print culture.9

The ‘ritual of entrance’ theme is used frequently in sagas and þættir to narrate the introductions of poets (usually Icelandic) at the courts of rulers abroad, and aptly dramatizes the function of these stories in legitimizing the authority of the poet as an authoritative witness to the king’s capabilities and deeds; the hofuðlausn theme, with courtly superciliousness and reserve towards the outsider replaced by murderous rage, can be seen as an exaggeration of this traditional model.

Wagering Heads The most specific link between Vafþrúðnismál and the hofuðlausn theme is the reference in both to the wagering of heads. This emphasis is appropriate both to the contest of wisdom and the production of poetry, in that the head can be seen as the seat of wisdom, and of the faculties of memory and speech. It is also the locus of poetic composition, a fact emphasized by the author of Egils saga in his telling of the Hofuðlausn story; and indeed, the emphasis is already present, with baroque elaboration, in Egill’s own verse account of his encounter with the king. The effect is almost that of dismemberment, calling to mind another mythological head in which wisdom is said to reside, that of Mímir. According to Snorri’s account in Ynglinga saga, Mímir was one of the hostages sent by the Æsir to the Vanir at the conclusion of their war: Fengu Vanir sína ina ágæztu menn, Njǫrð inn auðga ok son hans, Frey, en Æsir þar í mót þann, er Hœnir hét, ok kǫlluðu hann allvel til hǫfðingja fallin. Hann var mikill maðr ok inn vænsti. Með honum sendu Æsir þann, er Mímir hét, inn vitrasti maðr, en Vanir fengu þar í mót þann, er spakastr var í þeira flokki. Sá hét Kvasir. En er Hœnir kom í Vanaheim, þá var hann þegar hǫfðingi gǫrr. Mímir kenndi honum ráð ǫll. En er Hœnir var staddr á þingum eða stefnum, svá at Mímir var eigi nær, ok kœmi nǫkkur vandamál fyrir hann, þá svaraði hann æ inu sama: ‘ráði aðrir,’ kvað hann. Þá grunaði Vani, at Æsir myndi hafa falsat þá í mannaskiptinu. Þá tóku þeir Mími ok hálshjoggu ok sendu hǫfuðit Ásum. Óðinn tók hǫfuðit ok smurði urtum þeim, er eigi mátti fúna, ok kvað þar yfir galdra ok magnaði svá, at þat mælti við hann ok sagði honum marga leynda hluti.10

94 Alison Finlay (The Vanir put forward their outstanding men, Njǫrðr the wealthy and his son Freyr, and the Æsir in return the one called Hœnir, and they claimed that he was very suitable to be a chieftain. He was a large and most handsome man. With him the Æsir sent the one called Mímir, a very wise man, and in return the Vanir put forward the wisest in their company. He was called Kvasir. But when Hœnir came to Vanaheimr he was at once made a chieftain. Mímir always told him what to do. But when Hœnir was placed at a council or meeting where Mímir was not nearby, and if any difficulty came before him, he always answered the same way: ‘Let others decide.’ Then the Vanir suspected that the Æsir had cheated them in the exchange of men. Then they took Mímir and decapitated him and sent the head to the Æsir. Óðinn took the head and smeared it with herbs that prevented it from decaying, and spoke spells over it and enchanted it so that it spoke to him and told him many secret things.)

The story of Mímir’s preserved head is found only in Ynglinga saga, and it has been suggested that it was Snorri’s invention, perhaps elaborating the reference to Óðinn’s consultation with Míms hofuð as one of the portents of Ragnarok.11 It may have been inspired by the numerous references to severed heads, and their connotations of wisdom, in Celtic mythology, associated by scholars with the so-called head cult of pre-Christian Celtic religion: ‘A most important aspect of Celtic religion was the head cult … The Celts were head-hunters … To the Celts the head was the most important part of the body, symbolizing the divine power, and they venerated the head as the source of all the attributes they most admired.’12 Stories of the severed head as a source of wisdom are also found in classical mythology; most relevant to the association of the head with poetry and divine inspiration is a version of the story of Orpheus, who ‘was killed and ripped apart by the Mainads. According to one version of the myth, his head was laid to rest in a cave at Antissa and continued to prophesy day and night until Apollo made an end to it. In another version, his head became an oracle on the island of Lesbos.’13 The ideology of the inherence of wisdom in the severed head seems to have been transferred into the many accounts of cephalophoric saints such as St Denis, patron saint of Paris, who, according to legend, miraculously preached while carrying his head in his hands on the journey from his execution on Montmartre to his burial place.14 Beatrice White points to the twelfth-century poem de Bello Troiano by Joseph of Exeter as an example of the transferral of the trope of the talking severed head from classical to medieval sources.15 Egill’s Hofuðlausn, a drápa tvítug or formal poem of twenty stanzas with, in this case, two refrains, is normally included in editions of Egils saga in the context of the story of its composition, although the poem itself probably did not

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form part of the saga’s original text. It survives only in the defective Wolfenbüttel manuscript of Egils saga from the mid- to late fourteenth century, and in a fragment of another manuscript of the same class. The Wolfenbüttel manuscript introduces the poem under the name by which it is now known: Hér hefr Hofuðlausn (Here begins Hofuðlausn). In the Möðruvallabók version, which probably represents the more original text of the saga, the poem is unnamed as well as unquoted, although the word is used in another of Egill’s long poems, Arinbjarnarkviða. This memorial poem in honour of Egill’s loyal friend Arinbjǫrn, who had interceded for him at Eiríkr’s court, alludes to the encounter of poet and king. What remains of this poem is recorded in Möðruvallabók, though not in the context in which it is now placed by editors of the saga: it is badly preserved on a page after the end of the saga text, and survives nowhere else. If this poem is genuinely Egill’s work, as many scholars believe, this passage is a contemporary testimony in the words of the poet himself to the truth of his encounter with Eiríkr. It may seem strange that the author of the saga should have told this anecdote about the composition of Hofuðlausn without actually including the text of the poem, and Bjarni Einarsson has suggested that it was omitted by the author of the exemplar from which Möðruvallabók descends because the poem was not available to him at the time of writing.16 But the omission follows the usual convention in the sagas of poets, the largely fictional and entertaining life-stories of Icelandic poets such as Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld and Gunnlaugr ormstunga, which contain many lausavísur (occasional verses) but usually omit the actual texts of longer praise poems. Besides his role as troubled and lovestruck poet in his saga, Hallfreðr in particular had another persona as a historically attested court poet whose verses are mined as a source and cited for authentication in the sagas of the kings of Norway. The poets’ sagas often refer to the composition of a formal praise poem, sometimes one known and cited elsewhere, but usually only cite the beginning or perhaps the refrain as a sample. A conventional generic demarcation apparently decreed that, although the nature and circumstances of poetic composition were proper elements in the narrative of the poets’ sagas, the poems themselves belonged elsewhere. Thus these historical poems are usually preserved only in dismembered and incomplete form in the historical texts for which they provide evidence.

Transmission The survival of Egill’s Hofuðlausn apparently independently of the saga until it was incorporated into the later Wolfenbüttel text in the fourteenth century

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raises questions about the nature of the oral preservation of poetic texts, about which there is little direct evidence. There has been some critical scepticism about the genuineness of Egill’s poem; while Arinbjarnarkviða is evidence that some such encounter took place, there is nothing in the content of Hofuðlausn itself to link it very specifically to its context, and some apparent contradiction. The very first lines of the poem, for instance, suggest that the poet had arrived at a ruler’s court with a ready-prepared poem: vestr fórk of ver, en ek Viðris ber munstrandar mar, … hlóðk mærðar hlut míns knarrar skut.17 (I travelled west across the sea; I carry the sea of Viðrir’s [= Óðinn’s] mind-shore [= poetry] … I loaded the stern of my ship with a cargo of praise.)

This corresponds to a stock situation in the poets’ sagas, kings’ sagas, and þættir in which a poet arrives at court from abroad, usually from Iceland, hoping to win the lord’s favour with a flattering recitation, and often has some difficulty in achieving a hearing. The imagery of poetry as a cargo, likely to have mercantile value, alludes to the poet’s motivation, since these were semi-­ professional poets, offering the lasting memorial of the praise poem in return for tangible reward, in the shape of valuable rings, weapons, or even merchant ships. Egils saga presents an elaboration of this scenario; the hero has landed in Eiríkr’s hostile territory unintentionally (or only by the intention of the malevolent witch-queen Gunnhildr, who has created the storm that causes him to be shipwrecked on her shore), and the poem is created as an overnight impromptu in order to buy the poet’s life. Egill grumbles when called upon to compose the poem, ekki hefi ek við því búizk at yrkja lof um Eirík konung (I have not come prepared to compose praise of King Eiríkr).18 But the poem’s first lines suggest that he has in fact arrived with a poem he has prepared earlier, or that is the impression he chooses to convey. The term mærð (praise) emphasizes eulogy, rather than poetic production in general. The lack of fit between the poem and its context, and its unusual end-rhymed form, have encouraged suspicion that the poem was not in fact by Egill; Bjarni Einarsson comments, ‘Needless to say, the introduction of end-rhyme as early as the late tenth century is difficult to believe’;19 Jón Helgason attempted to use linguistic evidence to establish a twelfth-century date for the poem.20 Both

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these scholars assumed that the poem was a secondary creation devised to fit the narrative context of the saga, though if the poem were designed specifically for the context we would expect the discrepancy in content to be ironed out. Jón Helgason, though, gave a degree of credence to the saga’s narrative of the composition of the poem. There are problems with the historicity of this, too, since while there undoubtedly was an Eric who reigned in York, and some evidence supporting his identification with Eiríkr Bloodaxe, son of the founder of the Norwegian dynasty Haraldr Finehair, the saga writer definitely blundered in making Eiríkr a subordinate king to Æthelstan of Wessex, who died in 939, too early to have taken the exiled Eiríkr under his wing in 948, the date estimated by the saga’s editor for the encounter of Egill and Eiríkr.21

Analogues Analogues to the story of Egill’s escape from his predicament are not far to seek, since the author of Egils saga does us the favour of including an example in his own text. After Egill has appeared before the king, whose son he has killed, and the king has been persuaded to let him live overnight, since to kill him at night would be a níðingsverk or shameful deed, Egill’s friend and kinsman Arinbjǫrn advises him to spend the night composing a poem of praise to recite to the king in the morning, citing a parallel case:22 Svá gerði Bragi, frændi minn, þá er hann varð fyrir reiði Bjarnar Svíakonungs, at hann orti drápu tvítuga um hann eina nótt ok þá þar fyrir hofuð sitt (That’s what my kinsman Bragi did when he incurred the anger of King Bjǫrn of the Swedes: he composed a drápa of twenty stanzas in one night, and received his head [i.e., his life] in exchange). Arinbjǫrn’s ancestor Bragi Boddason – his great-grandfather on his mother’s side – is a shadowy figure, the earliest skaldic poet whose verses survive. He is said in Skáldatal, a thirteenth-century catalogue of poets, to have composed for the semi-legendary Bjǫrn of Haugi; but according to Skáldatal it was another of Bjǫrn’s poets of whom a head-ransom story was told: Erpr lútandi vá víg i véum ok var ætlaðr til dráps. Hann orti drápu um Saur konungshund ok þá höfuð sitt fyrir (Erpr lútandi committed a killing in a holy place and was condemned to death. He composed a drápa in honour of the king’s dog Saurr [mud, excrement] and received his head in exchange).23 The substitution in Egils saga of Bragi for the even more obscure Erpr may be significant. We cannot recover the significance of the anecdote in Skáldatal about Erpr lútandi (about whom nothing else is known); the offence of a killing violating a sacred space convincingly suggests a life-threatening situation, but the hofuðlausn itself more light-heartedly recalls challenges set by kings to

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showcase the poetic ingenuity of their poets, such as that imposed by Haraldr harðráði on Þjóðólfr Arnórsson to record the quarrel of a tanner and a blacksmith, representing them as legendary and mythological characters.24 Bragi, by contrast, has a special status in the hierarchy of Norse poets: though there may have been earlier exponents of the complex dróttkvætt metre associated with the skalds, Bragi seems to have been identified with its emergence, to the point where, as Roberta Frank says, ‘Bragi’s reputation was such that thirteenth-­ century euhemerism conferred his name on the Norse god of poetry.’25 Offering Bragi as a role model to Egill not only claims for the latter a legitimate status as court poet, but also universalizes the hofuðlausn story as a time-honoured occupational hazard of such poets. All the ingredients are in this short allusion: the hostility between potential patron and poet, which the poet must overcome; the status of poetry as a unit of exchange with a commercial value, and attached to this, the measuring of a poem’s value by its length and degree of formality; and the identification of the poet’s head with his life – a conventional metaphor, but one with specific meaning for a poet whose head it is that produces the lifesaving verse. The metonymic use of ‘head’ for ‘life’ is common elsewhere in Old Norse verse and prose. In Hávamál, significantly, it is used with reference to Óðinn, and specifically to his acquisition of the mead of poetry: svá hætta ec hofði til ‘thus I risked my head for it.’26 In another, somewhat knockabout, mythological context, Loki vefjaði hofði ‘wagered his head’ with the dwarf Brokkr, whom he challenges to produce gifts for the gods; although Loki loses the wager, he saves his life by arguing that the dwarf átti hofuð en eigi hálsinn ‘owned the head but not the neck.’27 It also finds its way into the metaphorical language of skaldic poetry, as in a verse by Sighvatr Þórðarson contrasting Óláfr helgi with two Scottish kings who have submitted to Knútr:28 Hafa allframir jǫfrar út sín hǫfuð Knúti fœrð ór Fífi norðan, friðkaup vas þat, miðju. Seldi Ǫ´ leifr aldri, opt vá sigr, enn digri haus í heimi þvísa, hann, engum svá manni. (Mighty rulers have brought their heads to Knútr from the north, from the middle of Fife; that was a purchase of peace. Óláfr the Stout never gave any man his skull thus in this world; he often won victory.)

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and, with the specific sense of ransoming the head after a defeat in battle, in a verse of Einarr Skúlason:29 Hraustr gaf hræskúfs nistir / hofuð sitt fromum jofri (The bold nourisher of carrion-birds [warrior] gave the bold ruler his head). Although the word hofuðlausn is not used in the Egils saga episode, either in the poem itself or the prose text (except in the introduction of the poem in the Wolfenbüttel manuscript), it is adumbrated in the episode by references to Egill’s head; on first finding himself on Eiríkr’s territory he plans to leynask ok fara hulðu hofði (conceal himself and travel with head hidden) until persuaded by his friend and kinsman Arinbjǫrn to fœra Eiríki konungi hofuð þitt (put your head [= life] in King Eiríkr’s hands). Most explicitly, after the recitation of the poem, it is alluded to in Eiríkr’s ek gef þér nú hofuð þitt at sinni (I grant you your head [= life] for the present),30 no less than in Egill’s rueful verse in response:31 Erumka leitt, þótt ljótr séi, hjalma klett af hilmi þiggja; hvar’s sás gat af gǫfuglyndum œðri gjǫf allvalds syni? (I am not unwilling, ugly though it be, to accept the helmet-crag [= head] from the king; where is the man who has received a greater gift from the generous-minded son of a mighty king?)

This comically self-deprecating reference to the apparently unlovely prize, which yet represents life itself, fittingly rounds off the whole ironic episode. In a second verse in more conventional metre, Egill reports his narrow escape to King Athelstan, elaborating further the motif of the head as physical object: with the help of his kinsman’s (Arinbjǫrn’s) courage, he succeeds in keeping his svartbrúnum sjónum (black-brown eyes) and regaining control of his áttgofguðum Ála hattar arfstóli (noble hereditary seat of Áli’s hat [= helmet]; 194). Nine stanzas of Arinbjarnarkviða – more than a third of what survives of the poem – are devoted to a narrative of Egill’s dangerous encounter with Eiríkr blóðøx in York. This is justified in the context of praise of Arinbjǫrn by the emphasis on his faithful friendship to the poet during this episode; yet it sits oddly within the poem’s otherwise general catalogue of references to generosity and skill in warfare. The poem survives, corrupt and battered, in a single

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manuscript, so we can never know its original form.32 It may be that in its ­surviving association with (though not within) the text of Egils saga, the part of the poem that concentrates on Egill’s persona as a poet has been favoured. These stanzas validate in general terms the saga’s account of the composition of Hofuðlausn, though the prose author or earlier tradition may have improved upon the poet’s equivocal situation and his feat in insincere improvisation. For Arinbjarnarkviða, like the opening lines of Hofuðlausn itself, suggests that the poet set out purposefully in order to attempt a reconciliation with the king, rather than washing up unintentionally (or only by the intention of Gunnhildr) on his hostile shores:33 Hafðak endr Ynglings burar, ríks konungs, reiði fengna; drók djarfhǫtt of døkkva skǫr, létk hersi heim of sóttan. (I had once incurred the anger of a descendant of the Ynglings, a powerful king; I drew a bold hood over my dark hair, paid a visit to the ruler at home.)

The mention in Arinbjarnarkviða of Egill’s døkkva skor (dark hair) may have helped to inspire a series of references throughout the saga, both in verse and prose, that amounts to an obsession with Egill’s appearance. If we are right in accepting the attribution of Arinbjarnarkviða to Egill himself, this allusion testifies that the poet’s dark colouring was a matter of historical fact. But as a literary fact, the image of the poet’s strongly marked appearance is used throughout the saga for a number of symbolic and practical effects, and may well have percolated from traditions about Egill into the other poets’ sagas, whose heroes are often said to be dark, ugly, or of rugged appearance. Reference to Egill’s dark and ugly head is used at different times throughout the saga to indicate his individuality, his savage temperament, his poetic articulateness, his inheritance from a dark supernatural strain linking his family with Óðinn, his morose brooding. This emphasis on Egill’s appearance – especially his head – may represent an elaboration, probably built up incrementally as traditions about the hero evolved, of the conceit developed in Arinbjarnarkviða around the idea of hofuðlausn (head-ransom). The word hofuðlausn is used in the sequence in Arinbjarnarkviða that narrates the (literally) head-to-head confrontation between Egill and Eiríkr.

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Both antagonists are represented almost as disembodied heads, the king by his terrifyingly glittering gaze:34 Vasa þat tunglskin tryggt at líta né ógnlaust Eiríks bráa, þás ormfránn ennimáni skein allvalds œgigeislum. (That moonshine from Eiríkr’s brows was not safe to look at, nor without terror, when the ruler’s brow-moon [= eye] shone, serpent-glittering, with terrible beams.)

and the poet in still more dislocated form by a collection of features which combine to make up his head, its ugliness stressed again:35 Né hamfagrt hǫlðum þótti skaldfé mitt at skata húsum, þás ulfgrátt við Yggjar miði hattar staup at hilmi þák. Við því tók, en tvau fylgðu søkk sámleit síðra brúna ok sá muðr, es mína bar hǫfuðlausn fyr hilmis kné. Þars tannfjǫlð með tungu þák ok hlertjǫld hlustum gǫfguð,

102 Alison Finlay en sú gjǫf golli betri hróðugs konungs of heitin vas. (Men did not find my poet’s payment in the generous man’s hall fair to look at, when I received in exchange for Yggr’s mead [= poetry] a wolf-grey hat-stump [= head]. I accepted it, and with it went two dark-coloured gems of the wide brows [= eyes], and that mouth which carried my head-ransom before the king’s knee, where I received a crowd of teeth, with a tongue, and ear-tents endowed with hearing; but the glorious king’s gift was considered better than gold.)

While the suggestion of dismemberment does convey ‘the real danger of death and decapitation,’ as Carolyne Larrington has said,36 the conceit is founded on parody of the convention of describing in verse the precious gift for which the donor is to be thanked. The closest analogue is perhaps the genre of shield drápa, in which a poet thanks a donor for the gift of a shield; Egill is said in the saga to have composed two of these.37 The ugliness of the head is rhetorically necessary to point the contrast with more conventionally praised gifts: the precious ring or ornamented shield. Egill’s parodic conceit, once known, could have been repeated in the verses, probably of later origin, which are used to round off the prose narrative of the encounter in York. It is characteristic of the use of thematic repetition in the structure of Egils saga that the ‘ugly head’ motif is further developed and bound up with other themes in the saga. Yet ironically, the idea of Egill’s ugliness, together with the rugged appearance often attributed to other poets, may have developed under the stimulus of the poetic joke of the Arinbjarnarkviða. The joke of the poet’s head as dubious prize for poetry is repeated in one version of another hofuðlausn story, this one told about the poet Óttarr svarti at the court of St Óláfr Haraldsson, probably about 1023. This story is unquestionably older than Egils saga, since part of it appears in one of the surviving fragments of the oldest saga of St Óláfr, believed to have been written at the end of the twelfth century, though the surviving fragments date from about 1225.38 The joke about the ugliness of the head, though, is found only in later, more expansive versions of the anecdote, such as that added to the saga of St Óláfr in Flateyjarbók, and said there to be taken from the now lost saga of St Óláfr by Styrmir Kárason, which was probably written about 1220.39 In this version the king’s own words identify the poem as a ‘head-ransom’: Þat mun ráð, Óttarr, at þú þiggir höfuð þitt í þessu sinni fyrir drápuna (It is advisable, Óttarr, that you should receive your head on this occasion in exchange for the drápa). The

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poet’s reply is reminiscent of Egill’s joke about his ugly head: Þessi gjöf þykki mér allgóð, herra, þótt höfuðit sé ekki fagrt (This seems to me a very fine gift, lord, although it is not a beautiful head). This version, too, is explicit in naming the poem: Sjá drápa er kölluð Höfuðlausn, er Óttarr orti um Ólaf konung, fyrir því at Óttarr þá höfuð sitt frá bana at kvæðislaunum (The poem which Óttarr composed about King Óláfr is called Hofuðlausn, because Óttarr received his head when he was about to be killed, as payment for the poem).40 Odd Nordland, in his book about the hofuðlausn theme, argues that Styrmir borrowed these elements from the narration in Egils saga, which therefore must have been composed before Styrmir’s saga.41 The argument is not conclusive, since the theme is already elaborated in Egill’s verses, which must surely have existed before the writing of the saga. Óttarr’s hofuðlausn differs from Egill’s in that the offence for which he is in jeopardy, as well as his rescue, relates to the composition of poetry. He is said to have composed a mansongsdrápa ‘love poem’ about the king’s wife Ástríðr, daughter of the King of Sweden, whom Óttarr had previously served. The genre of mansongr is impossible to recover. The Icelandic law code Grágás includes provisions against the composing of love poetry, which is held to dishonour the woman’s husband or family: Ef maðr yrki mansong um konu ok varðar skóggang (If a man composes a love-verse about a woman, then the penalty is full outlawry).42 Perhaps because of stringent legal penalties, examples of love poetry, and certainly anything as formal as a mansongsdrápa, are difficult to find. It is certainly difficult to believe that Óttarr’s love poem is anything other than a fiction, a device to ensure the hostility of King Óláfr which the poet must overcome in this narrative. The story in fact establishes a sharp dichotomy between the fictional Óttarr as love poet, and his status as recorder of historical witness to the life of St Óláfr. Heimskringla and other historical texts preserve most of the twenty-odd surviving stanzas of Óttarr’s drápa, which now goes by the name of Hofuðlausn although there is no allusion in the stanzas that survive to any indiscretion on the poet’s part with King Óláfr’s queen, or to the probably fictitious account of the poem’s composition. Óttarr’s reputation as an authentic source of material about the king’s life is attested by the reference to him in one version of the Prologue to the Separate Saga of St Óláfr:43 Bók þessa hefi ek látit rita eptir því sem segir í kvæðum þeira Sigvats ok Óttars svarta, er jafnan váru með Óláfi konungi ok sá ok heyrðu þessi tíðendi (I have had this book written according to what is said in the poems of Sighvatr and of Óttarr svarti, who were always with King Óláfr and saw and heard these events.) The poet Sighvatr, mentioned here, also has a role in Óttarr’s hofuðlausn story. Described in Styrmir’s account as Óttarr’s friend, but elsewhere identified as his uncle, he plays the part equivalent to that of Arinbjǫrn in Egils saga,

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a­ dvising the poet how to retrieve the situation. Sighvatr advises him to emend the poem, at snúum sumum ærendum ok fællum or sum (we must change some stanzas and leave some out). The poet does this, according to the oldest version of the saga, while hidden in Sighvatr’s house before meeting the king; or in the Flateyjarbók version, during three nights incarcerated by the king in a myrkva­ stofa, a dark room. Although Sighvatr’s advice suggests emendation of the poem as it stands, what Óttarr in fact does, when called upon to recite the incriminating poem before the king, is to do so, but to follow it without a break with a second poem, a legitimate praise poem for the king for which the king is obliged to reward him, not only with his life but also with a gold ring. The strategy of the two poets is interesting. Sighvatr’s advice, in the shorter, earlier versions, relates apparently only to the cleaning up of the love poem; his criticism that it of mjok er ort seems to mean that it is too complex rather than that there is too much of it. This may suggest that its damaging potential lies in ambiguity, a problem that apparently underlies some of the proscriptions against potentially libellous poetry in the laws, which refer to lof þat er hann yrkir til háðungar (that praise which is composed in order to insult).44 Overlaid on this revision, though, and emphasized in Sighvatr’s advice in the Flateyjarbók version, is the addition of a separate poem in praise of the king, which Óttarr recites immediately after the offending one. The citation of the first line of the second poem, Hlýð, manngofugr, minni, a conventional beginning for a praise poem, confirms that this is an entirely separate poem. A poet appearing at a hostile court has no opening to present the offering that, according to court convention, demands a reward from the king: Óttarr solves this problem by ushering in his praise on the back of the recitation of the offensive poem which the king has demanded as a prelude to his condemnation. And not only does the recitation of the praise poem earn the poet the reward of his head, and a gold ring in addition, but the context also turns the ambivalent love poem from a beheading matter into a tribute demanding further reward: the queen bestows a finger ring on the poet as well, ek vilja launa mitt lof sem þér yðvart (I want to reward my praise as you have yours). Yet a third poem in the corpus is referred to as hofuðlausn, from a story told about another eleventh-century poet, Þórarinn loftunga. In this case as in that of Óttarr, the offence lies in a poem already composed, and the story, as told in Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla, turns on the difference between two poetic forms: the formal drápa and the looser flokkr, or verse sequence.45 According to Heimskringla, Þórarinn comes to King Knútr inn ríki with a flokkr he has composed; without hearing it, the king is enraged to hear that he is only considered worthy of a dræplingr or ‘little drápa’ and orders the poet to reappear the following day with a drápa or be hanged for his disrespect. Þórarinn

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converts his poem overnight by adding some stanzas and lines, and working in a refrain, which the saga quotes: Knútr verr grund sem gætir / Gríklands himinríki (Knútr guards the land as the guardian of Greece [i.e., Christ] guards heaven). Unlike Óttarr’s, this poem is acknowledged in Heimskringla under the name Hofuðlausn, although only this two-line stef survives. The story is amusingly elaborated in the later Knýtlinga saga, where Þórarinn assumes that his informal poem will be acceptable to the king because of its brevity:46 ‘Herra,’ segir hann, ‘enn vil ek biðja at þér heyrið kvæði mitt, ok mun yðr þat skomm dvol vera, því at þat eru fár vísur’ (‘Sire,’ he says, ‘I want to ask you again to listen to my poem, and it will not detain you long, for there are few verses in it’). This naivety seems unconvincing when the saga goes to some lengths to stress that Þórarinn is an experienced traveller to kings’ courts who has, according to Knýtlinga saga, opt flutt mál sitt fyrir hofðingjum. The stories of both Óttarr and Þórarinn are told by way of introduction of the poets to a ruler whom previously they have not served. In both cases, although the stories seem patently fictional, and are told in a more light-hearted register than the serious historical context in which they are placed, they introduce a relationship between poet and king in which historically reliable verses by the poet are used by historians as source material and evidence for their historical accounts. These stories seem to be creating, within the historical text, a context in which the nature, purposes, and reliability of these verse sources can be questioned. On the one hand, contrasts between different kinds of poem are set up; the status of drápa as opposed to flokkr is asserted, then undercut as it becomes clear that the one can relatively easily be converted into the other; the story of Óttarr sets up a polarity between the legitimate praise poem and less respectable kinds of verse such as the love poem, and makes the point that the reception of a poem can be altered depending on the context in which it is performed; the salacious poem on Óláfr’s queen is much less offensive when immediately followed and cancelled out by the politically correct poem in praise of the king. The story of Egill’s Hofuðlausn is set in a saga which, though it deals at some length with the relationship of the poet hero with kings, is less concerned with issues of historicity than with the personality of the poet himself and his relationship with his craft. No other poet’s saga develops the identification of the poet with the patron of poetry, the god Óðinn, so personally and specifically.47 Like the other great set-piece in the saga, the composition of Sonatorrek, Egill’s lament for the death of his sons, the story of the Hofuðlausn makes claims for the life-saving power of poetic composition. Yet this power does not reside in the quality of the verse itself: this is clear from the king’s rather tepid praise for its performance rather than its content – Bezta er kvæðit fram flutt48

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– and the fact that the text of the poem seems never to have been included in the saga. Rather, Egill’s achievement, with the help of Arinbjǫrn’s manoeuvrings and his own overnight feat of composition, is to achieve hljóð – a hearing of his poem, after which etiquette dictates a reward from the king. In this respect the situation is parallel to that of Vafþrúðnismál, where Óðinn’s achievement is not so much the acquisition of information, for he must already know the answers to the questions he poses, but to establish himself as ‘a worthy challenger in a wisdom contest,’49 after which his victory, by posing a question to which only he can know the answer, is only a matter of time. In both cases the story focuses on a ritual contest between the rival powers of god and giant on the one hand, king and poet on the other. The poet is aligned with Óðinn by his winning through by means of mental agility, from a situation of apparently certain death. It is unnecessary to argue for any direct influence from Vafþrúðnismál on Egils saga, for the elaboration of the metaphor of the placing of the head before the ruler, and his returning it to the poet, is already well under way in Egill’s own Arinbjarnarkviða. If Vafþrúðnismál is correctly dated to the tenth century,50 it could be later than Egill’s poem, which the saga context places in about 965. But as has been seen, the concept of veðja hofði occurs elsewhere. As Machan has pointed out, Vafþrúðnismál draws widely on earlier oral traditions, including folklore motifs.51 It is more satisfactory to see both as part of a continuing tradition. In the later manifestations of the story – its development in the thirteenth-century prose retelling of Egils saga as well as the stories told about eleventh-century and other later poets – it is likely that the main inspiration was Egill’s own vivid verse narration. The development of such stories could also have stimulated the importation of the myth of the wise head of Mímir, perhaps from Celtic analogues. But an added stimulus, reinforcing the status claimed by poets for the origin of their craft in Óðinn himself, could well have been the mythic confrontation outlined in Vafþrúðnismál, in which the god himself wagered his head against a deadly enemy.

NOTES 1 Hines, ‘Egill’s Hofuðlausn,’ 87. 2 Vafþrúðnismál 7. Quotations from Vafþrúðnismál are from the edition by Neckel. Translations are mine, unless otherwise indicated. The ms reading comir is often emended to cømr to give the sense as translated here, but Machan notes that the subjunctive form also makes sense, rendering the giant’s words as a threat: ‘May you not escape.’ He cites the parallel of Gylfi’s entry into the hall of Hár, Jafnhár,

Risking One’s Head  107 and Þriði, possibly modelled on Vaþrúðnismál, where a subjunctive form is used: Hár segir at hann komi eigi heill út nema hann sé fróðari ‘Hár says that he might not come out sound unless he be the wiser’ (Gylfaginning, ch. 2, cited in Machan, ed., Vafþrúðnismál, 76). This is inconclusive, however, since the subjunctive could simply be generated by the context of indirect speech. 3 Vafþrúðnismál 19. 4 Nordal, ‘Three Essays,’ trans. Benedikz and McKinnell, 103, 104. 5 Quinn, ‘Dialogue,’ 256. 6 Jakobsson, ‘A Contest,’ 264. 7 McKinnell, Both One and Many, 102–3. 8 Ibid., 95. 9 Machan, ed., Vafþrúðnismál 37–8. 10 Heimskringla I.12–13. 11 Voluspa 46. Gylfaginning refers to Hœnir, but not Mímir, as a hostage (Gylf. 23); in the opinion of Ursula Dronke, ‘this rather poor story may well be a fabrication of Snorri’s own’ (Poetic Edda, II.136). She refers to Indian and Celtic traditions of the potency of severed heads (137). Elsewhere Mímir is called the guardian of a well of wisdom under the roots of Yggdrasill; Mímir acquires his wisdom by drinking from the well (Gylf. 17; Voluspá 28). 12 Bord, Sacred Waters, 16. Of significance for the possibility that Snorri’s story is based on a Celtic original is the association of the Celtic head cult with wells and springs. The existence of the cult is contested on archaeological grounds by Hutton, Pagan Religions, 194–5. 13 Oosten, War of the Gods, 94. 14 Such stories are particularly popular in relation to French saints, and many cannot be found in sources older than the late thirteenth-century Golden Legend; an earlier example is that of St Edmund of East Anglia, whose severed head is said to call out to those searching for his body in the Vita of Abbo of Fleury (985–7 AD). 15 White, ‘Persistent Paradox,’ 123. 16 Bjarni Einarsson, ‘Egill Skalla-Grímsson,’ 154. 17 Finnur Jónsson emends míns knarrar to hugknarrar (of the ship of thought) and elsewhere to munknarrar ‘of the ship of the mind’ (Skjaldedigtning, ed. Jónsson, B: I, 31). Either reading suggests the interpretation that ‘loading the ship of the mind with a cargo of praise’ is a metaphor for the composition of the poem, irrespective of where this took place. Sigurður Nordal, however, defends the unemended reading, with the suggestion that Egill is stretching the truth in order to flatter Eiríkr: ‘Whether or not Egill composed Hofuðlausn in Jórvik, it was most sensible to imply that the poem was composed before he got into Eiríkr’s power’ (Egils saga, ed. Nordal, 185, note to verse). 18 Egils saga 182.

108 Alison Finlay 19 Bjarni Einarsson, ‘Egill Skalla-Grímsson,’ 154. 20 Helgason, ‘Höfuðlausnarhjal.’ 21 Egils saga, ed. Nordal, xxxvi–xlvii. 22 Egils saga 182. 23 Skáldatal 339, in Snorri, Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. 24 Sneglu-Halla þáttr; Flateyjarbók IV.202–3 25 Frank, Court Poetry, 22. 26 Hávamál verse 106, in Neckel and Kuhn, ed., Edda. 27 Skáldskaparmál I.42–3. 28 Heimskringla II.225. 29 Heimskringla III.327. 30 Egils saga 178, 179, 193. 31 Egils saga 193–4. 32 Like Egill’s other long poems, Arinbjarnarkviða is not incorporated in the saga text of Möðruvallabók, which follows the conventional introduction ok er þetta upphaf at (and this is the beginning of it) with a space left for a single stanza; the text of the poem survives, poorly preserved, in a different hand after the end of the saga. The other manuscripts omit the poem altogether (Egils saga, ed. Nordal, 257–8, note 2). 33 Arinbjarnarkviða 3; Egils saga 258–9. 34 Arinbjarnarkviða 5; Egils saga 259. 35 Arinbjarnarkviða 7–9; Egils saga 260–1. 36 Larrington, ‘Egill’s Longer Poems,’ 52. 37 Egils saga 272–3, 275–6. 38 Otte brudstykker af den ældste saga, ed. Storm, 7. 39 Flateyjarbók IV, ed. Nordal, 1. 40 Flateyjarbók IV.7. 41 Nordland, Hofuðlausn, 72. 42 Grágás 1879.184. 43 Heimskringla II.421. 44 Grágás 1852.183. 45 Heimskringla II.307–8. 46 Danakonunga sogur 125. 47 See Finlay, ‘Pouring Óðinn’s Mead,’ 90–3. 48 Egils saga 193. 49 McKinnell, Both One and Many, 94. 50 Ibid., 87–8. 51 Ruggerini, ‘Stylistic and Typological,’ 142–3, includes Egill’s hofuðlausn among other examples of ‘wisdom contest’ in Old Norse parallel to Vafþrúðnismál, noting folktale analogues.

Snorra Edda as Menippean Satire r o r y m c t u rk

What exactly is Menippean satire? The fullest accounts of it known to me are those of Mikhail Bakhtin,1 Northrop Frye,2 Julia Kristeva,3 F. Anne Payne,4 Carter Kaplan,5 and Howard D. Weinbrot;6 Morton W. Bloomfield also provides a summary account which is of particular relevance to medieval literature.7 As far as I know, it has been discussed in relation to Old Norse–Icelandic literature only by Franz Rolf Schröder (with reference to the eddic poem Lokasenna)8 and by Carl Phelpstead (with reference to the kings’ sagas).9 I shall make use of Schröder’s discussion below, in showing, among other things, how Menippean satire came to be so named. Phelpstead identifies a dialogic element in the sagas of royal saints and argues, with the help of Bakhtin, that this shows the influence of Menippean satire in a form transmitted and modified by early Christian literature. His account of Menippean satire itself is relatively brief, however, and consists largely of an exposition of Bakhtin’s views on the subject, something which I venture to offer myself in part of what follows. I shall therefore not make use of his book here, but would recommend it as a valuable countercheck to what I say about Bakhtin in particular.

Mikhail Bakhtin According to Bakhtin, Menippean satire, which emerged when the genre of Socratic dialogue was in a state of decline, descends partly from that genre, and partly from folk tradition as manifested in the ancient concept of carnival, by which, Bakhtin claims, the Socratic dialogue was itself influenced. The concept of carnival will be discussed below. The main characteristics of the Socratic dialogue, as Bakhtin sees them, are, firstly, the idea that truth is not monologic but dialogic, i.e., not ready-made or the exclusive possession of any

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individual, but the result of dialogic interaction between people; secondly, syncrisis and anacrisis, the former involving the juxtaposition of various points of view on a specific topic and the latter the goading of an interlocutor into expressing his opinion thoroughly; thirdly, dialogue in which each participant is an ideologist;10 fourthly, the relatively rare tendency of the dialogue’s plot situation to combine with anacrisis in provoking discussion, as in Plato’s Apology and Phaedo, where the impending death of Socrates stimulates discussion of death and the afterlife; and fifthly, the organic combination of an idea advanced in the dialogue with the person who advances it, so that the dialogic testing of the idea is simultaneously the testing of the person who represents it.11 I would pause here to note that Snorri’s Edda has in common with Socratic dialogue, as Bakhtin describes it, the fact that, in Gylfaginning, the plot situation or framing story in which Gylfi’s dialogue with the Æsir takes place is what actually provokes the dialogue: on his arrival at Ásgarðr, their stronghold in Scandinavia, the Æsir tell him that he will not leave unharmed unless he can prove himself wiser than they. This leads him to ask them the questions which in turn lead to their replies, thus producing the dialogue of which Gylfaginning largely consists, and which places Gylfi in the situation of having to ask questions that will either be sufficiently searching to prove himself wiser than the Æsir (so that he is both testing them and being tested), or will at least postpone whatever penalty they may have in store for him.12 As for carnival, Bakhtin describes this, somewhat obscurely, as ‘syncretic pageantry of a ritualistic sort’ (his italics).13 His mention of ritual calls to mind the typical rite of passage as described by Arnold van Gennep14 and Jean La Fontaine,15 involving three stages: first, separation; second, the liminal or marginal stage; and third, integration. Carnival, as Bakhtin describes it, corresponds in many ways to the second of these three stages, the liminal, at which the initiand undergoing the rite, who has been separated at its first stage from the life he had lived until then, passes through a topsy-turvy state in which the norms of life as previously experienced by him are turned upside down, and with which he has to grapple successfully before being reintegrated, at the third and final stage, into the society from which he had been separated at the first stage, and which he now re-enters as a person changed and enhanced by his experience of the rite. It should, however, be emphasized that in Bakhtin’s account of carnival the initiand is not an individual, but the whole of society. Everyone participates in carnival, the proper place for which, consequently, is the town or village square. It involves a suspension of social differences which makes for free and familiar contact among people and for behaviour that would seem eccentric and inappropriate in a non-carnival context. It combines the sacred with the profane, the lofty with the low, and the wise with the stupid. It

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gives rein to obscenity and the parodying of sacred texts, and eschews abstract thoughts in favour of carnivalistic acts, most notably the mock crowning and subsequent decrowning of the carnival king, the function of which is to express in concrete (rather than abstract) form the pathos of shifts and changes, of death and renewal. Bakhtin further emphasizes the ambivalent nature of carnival, as manifested in its dualistic images, which exemplify either contrast (high/low) or similarity (doubles/twins) or the reversal of accepted practice (clothes worn inside out, etc.); in its characteristic image of fire, which is ambivalent in symbolizing both the destruction and the renewal of the world; in its element of laughter, which, with its ironic and spontaneously joyful tendencies, parallels death and rebirth respectively; and in its related element of parody, the ambivalence of which is apparent in its juxtaposing of opposites – as in, for example, the choice of a slave or jester for the role of king in the ritual act of crowning and decrowning.16 As for the element of obscenity in carnival, such obscenity as there is in Snorri’s Edda will be briefly considered below, in the context of Payne’s identification of ‘obscenity without pornography’ as a characteristic of Menippean satire. More will also be said below, in the context of Kaplan’s view of Menippean satire, of the tendency in Gylfaginning for the pagan religion to be described in Christian terms, a feature reminiscent of the parodying of sacred texts that Bakhtin sees as characteristic of carnival. Here it may be noted that the story in Gylfaginning of how the gods amuse themselves by casting weapons at the god Baldr, who is immune to all weapons except mistletoe, and is in fact slain by a sprig of mistletoe at the instigation of the god Loki, but will return to life after Ragnarǫk, may be viewed in terms of Bakhtin’s idea of carnival being characterized by the mock crowning and decrowning of a king, symbolizing death and renewal. Baldr is neither a fool nor a jester, it is true, nor indeed a king, but his name may well mean ‘lord,’ and he is described as the ‘best’ (beztr) of the Æsir in thought and word and deed (vitrastr Ásanna ok fegrst talaðr ok líknsamastr ‘the wisest of the Æsir, the most beautifully spoken, and the most merciful’):17 the element of burlesque in the tragicomic account of his death in Gylfaginning is surely consistent with the spirit of carnival as Bakhtin describes it. It may further be noted that the image of fire, seen by Bakhtin as symbolizing in carnival the destruction and renewal of the world, is prominent in Gylfaginning in its accounts of the world’s creation and destruction, which present the former in terms of how life arose from the merging of cold and hot coming from Niflheimr and Muspell respectively, and the latter as involving the burning of the entire world by the fire demon Surtr.18 From Bakhtin’s numbered list of what he sees as the fourteen ‘basic characteristics’ of Menippean satire I select those five which seem to me most ­relevant

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here: (6) ‘a three-planed construction,’ making possible the movement of the action from earth to heaven and to the underworld; (9) ‘scandal scenes and eccentric behaviour’; (12) ‘a wide use of inserted genres’; (13) a ‘multi-styled and multi-toned’ character, reinforced by the presence of the inserted genres; and (14) a concern with current and topical issues, so that the effect is one of ‘a Diary of a Writer.’19 The ‘scandal scenes’ of item 9 may be taken together with the element of obscenity in Menippean satire, to be considered below. The three ‘planes’ of item 6, as Bakhtin seems to understand the concept, i.e., as the three main settings in which the action of Menippean satire takes place, are arguably paralleled in Gylfaginning by the three places named Ásgarðr: firstly Old Ásgarðr or Troy, where the human Æsir lived before journeying to Scandinavia, and to which they refer retrospectively; secondly the Scandinavian Ásgarðr, where they settle in Scandinavia, and where Gylfi visits them; and thirdly what might be called the heavenly Ásgarðr, the abode of the divine Æsir, the gods whom the human Æsir worship and whom they describe to Gylfi.20 An even closer parallel to Bakhtin’s trio of heaven, the underworld, and earth may be found in the story in Gylfaginning of Baldr, where, firstly, consternation is caused in the heavenly Ásgarðr by Baldr’s death; secondly, Óðinn’s son Hermóðr is sent to Hel, the abode of the dead, to beg for Baldr’s return to life; and thirdly, all creatures of the earth are subsequently requested to weep for Baldr in order to make this possible.21 As for the ‘wide use of inserted genres’ of item 12, there is no doubt at all that this is a dominant characteristic of the prose Edda as a whole. It has been described as ‘a remarkable anthology of early poetry,’22 a description amply justified by the extensive quotations it gives, in Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál respectively, of eddic and skaldic poetry, the two major genres of Old Norse–Icelandic poetry, and also by its third part, Háttatal, which consists of a poem composed by Snorri himself, set within the framework of a prose commentary, and illustrating various metrical and rhetorical forms. It is arguable that Snorri is also illustrating, most notably in Gylfaginning but also in Skáldskaparmál, the relatively short type of Icelandic prose narrative known as þáttr, as I have tried to show elsewhere.23 This parading of various genres imparts to Snorri’s Edda a multiplicity of styles and tones that seems to qualify it, under the heading of item 13 at least, as an example of Menippean satire as Bakhtin understands it. I postpone for the moment discussion of how far it is concerned with current and topical issues, but will note that it may be regarded as something of ‘a writer’s diary’ (cf. item 14) to the extent that it may reflect a progressive experimentation on Snorri’s part with various literary forms, not least framed narrative. This is particularly likely if, as has been argued, its prologue and its three main parts, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál, and Háttatal, are

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seen as having been composed in the reverse of the order just listed (that is, the reverse of the order in which they appear in the work’s most fully preserved form, 24 and in which they appear in modern editions).

Northrop Frye Northrop Frye sees Menippean satire as one of the four major forms of prose fiction (the others being the novel, the autobiographical confession, and the romance). According to Frye, Menippean satire deals less with people as such than with their mental attitudes. It treats its characters – whom Frye presents as most often either eccentric or reprehensible in some way – not so much in terms of their social behaviour as in terms of their occupational approaches to life. It resembles the autobiographical confession in its capacity to accommodate abstract ideas, and differs from the novel in its characterization, which is more stylized than naturalistic, presenting people as mouthpieces of the ideas they represent. Whereas the novelist sees evil and folly as social diseases, the Menippean satirist sees them as diseases of the intellect, and a constant theme of Menippean satire is the ridicule of philosophical pedantry. With its intellectual bent and interest in caricature it differs from romance, which is primarily concerned with the exploits of heroes (though it resembles romance in having a loose-jointed narrative form); it differs also from the picaresque novel in having less interest than the latter in the structure of society. In its most concentrated form it presents a vision of the world in terms of a single intellectual pattern, as in Utopian fiction, in ways that to a reader brought up on the novelcentred concept of fiction may seem to involve violent dislocations in the customary logic of narrative.25 This last point of Frye’s may be readily accepted by modern readers brought up on ‘the novel-centred concept of fiction’ who encounter Snorri’s Edda for the first time, and also, perhaps, by modern readers who first encounter it after reading a number of Icelandic family sagas. This is not to say that the genres of novel and family saga should necessarily be equated,26 but there is no doubt that they have in common a far greater element of realism than is found in the narrative parts of Snorri’s Edda. In Skáldskaparmál in particular, moreover, ‘violent dislocations’ in what to a reader of family sagas would seem ‘the customary logic of narrative’ undoubtedly take place. It begins with an account of how a certain Ægir, a magician from one of the Danish islands, visits what is apparently the heavenly Ásgarðr, where he is entertained by the gods at a banquet and learns about some of their exploits in the course of a question-andanswer dialogue between himself and the god Bragi which at first sight seems

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comparable to Gylfi’s dialogue with the human Æsir in Gylfaginning. However, whereas Gylfi’s dialogue, which takes up most of Gylfaginning, is clearly and consistently sustained, leaving virtually no doubt at any stage as to who is speaking to whom, Ægir’s dialogue with Bragi in Skáldskaparmál is mysteriously abandoned and then resumed only briefly, giving way before and after its brief resumption to narrative and expository passages of which some are attributed to the answering party in an anonymous question-and-answer dialogue in which the unnamed speakers do not seem to be identical with Ægir and Bragi, since they are referred to in the third person, and at one stage seem to be spoken at a time later than that at which the Ægir/Bragi dialogue took place: the anonymous answering party relates that, in return for the banquet which formed the setting for that dialogue, Ægir invited the gods to another banquet at which Loki misbehaved. This intermittent anonymous dialogue is itself abandoned before the end of Skáldskaparmál, which concludes with a lengthy series of lists of poetic appellations; at this stage it can hardly be called a ­narrative work.27 Háttatal, a more exclusively expository work than Skáldskaparmál, also makes use of an anonymous question-and answer dialogue, though considerably less bewilderingly: its first and second sentence constitute a question and an answer respectively, and the dialogue continues anonymously, somewhat in the manner of a catechism, until it is altogether abandoned about a quarter of the way through the work.28 The fact that I can use the word ‘work’ for each of these parts of Snorri’s Edda, which seem to have been composed at different stages of Snorri’s career, as well as for his Edda as a whole, of course underlines the latter’s lack of the kind of unity that might be expected of a family saga. If the perfect family saga is one of which, as A.U. Bååth thought, the author seems to have had the last line in mind when he wrote the first,29 then this is emphatically not true of Snorri’s Edda. Frye continues his account as follows: understanding the Latin word satura in its sense of ‘hash,’ i.e., food composed of various ingredients, he sees satire, in respect of attitude, as a mixture of fantasy and morality, while acknowledging that, in respect of form, it may be either one or the other. Among Menippean satires, considered in respect of form, Lewis Carroll’s Alice books are examples of the purely fantastic type, while the purely moral type is exemplified by literary treatments of the idea of Utopia. Other elements of which Menippean satire is a mixture are prose and verse; it survives as primarily a prose form, with incidental verse as a recurrent feature, though the reverse may have been the case at the earliest stages of its development. In its shorter forms it usually consists of a dialogue or colloquy, in which a conflict of ideas rather than of character provides the dramatic interest; in its longer forms the setting is a banquet or a symposium, with a relatively large number of speakers. Its ­tendency is not

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i­nvariably or exclusively satirical; purely fanciful or moral discussions may fall within its scope. Whereas the novelist shows his exuberance by an exhaustive analysis of either human relationships or social phenomena, the Menippean satirist does so by piling up a mass of erudition, either by way of illustrating his theme or with a view to paying back his pedantic target in kind. Hence the encyclopedic tendency of Menippean satire, evident in its creative treatment of exhaustive erudition. These considerations lead Frye to cite Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy as the greatest example of Menippean satire in English before Swift, and to adopt from it the term anatomy, understood by Frye as meaning here ‘dissection’ or ‘analysis,’ for the literary form under discussion, in place of the cumbersome and perhaps misleading term ‘Menippean satire.’30 Enough has been said above to show that, among the features listed by Frye as characteristic of Menippean satire, Snorri’s Edda has the mixture of prose and verse, the dialogue form, and the banquet setting. Its encyclopedic tendency is apparent in its proliferation of quotations and lists illustrating the circumlocutory poetic expressions known as kennings and the non-periphrastic poetic terms known as heiti, and its ‘creative treatment of exhaustive erudition’ is especially evident not only in its prose accounts of myths and legends of which knowledge is necessary for an understanding of poetic language, but also in the poem Háttatal, composed by Snorri for the purpose of illustrating metrical and rhetorical forms. It may be noted here that Margaret Clunies Ross has argued persuasively for Snorri’s partial indebtedness, in his Edda, to the medieval genre of encyclopedic writing.31 In its prose analyses of poetic metre and diction, most especially in Skáldskaparmál and Háttatal, moreover, Snorri’s Edda shows the dissecting, anatomizing tendency identified by Frye as characteristic of Menippean satire. It is worth noting also that, in Frye’s view at least, the tendency of the anatomy (as he prefers to call Menippean satire) is not invariably or exclusively satirical.

Morton Bloomfield Bloomfield’s relatively brief account of Menippean satire (as one of the genres drawn on by Langland in Piers Plowman) shows (and acknowledges) the influence of Frye in referring to it as ‘the encyclopedic satire or anatomy’; he emphasizes its encyclopedic nature in maintaining that, as a literary form, it ‘seems loose and … merely a bag to stuff anything into.’ He also mentions its use of ‘alternating prose and poetry (prosimetrum)’ as characteristic of the genre in its older manifestations, before prose alone came to serve its functions. He gives rather more emphasis than Frye to the role of the protagonist,

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describing the latter as ‘a figure, somewhat foolish or at the least ingenuous,’ who ‘is chosen to pass through various, often ridiculous situations for the purpose of satire on current events, foibles, or sins.’ ‘Sometimes,’ says Bloomfield, ‘the hero is successful in spite of himself and wins out over more powerful forces, a victory that produces an ironical situation’; more often ‘he conquers by sheer persistence,’ though the extent of his role differs considerably from one example of the genre to another.32 Apart from the heroes of individual myths and legends that are narrated in Snorri’s Edda, the only figure that can seriously be regarded as a protagonist of the work viewed as a whole is Gylfi, and then only in the context of Gylfaginning.33 Gylfi certainly shows ‘persistence’ in the questions he asks the three human Æsir with whom he engages in dialogue, namely Hár, Jafnhár, and Þriði; the reasons for this – to prove himself wiser than they or at least to save his own skin – have been touched on above. Whether he is truly ‘foolish’ or ‘ingenuous’ is a question; his interlocutors certainly comment on his ignorance and lack of intelligence,34 as they also do on his persistence.35 There is, however, a case for saying that it is he who defeats them in the end, even though he is cheated of his victory by the sudden disappearance of the Æsir when they find they cannot answer any more of his questions. It emerges at the end of Gylfaginning (‘The tricking of Gylfi’) that their purpose had been to trick him into believing that they and the gods they were telling him about were identical, so that he would pass this belief on to his subjects; but it is arguable that they have not convinced him of this by the time he returns to his kingdom, and that he will not necessarily promulgate this belief there. If so, then he has tricked them at least as much as they have tricked him – a situation reflected in the title Gylfaginning, which can mean both ‘the tricking by Gylfi’ and ‘the tricking of Gylfi’36 – and if he has indeed been ingenuous in asking his questions, then he has tricked them ‘in spite of himself,’ i.e., without fully realizing what he was doing, and so producing ‘an ironical situation’ of the kind envisaged by Bloomfield. A less ambiguous example of a naive protagonist in Gylfaginning is the god Þórr as he appears in the story told to Gylfi by Þriði on the second level of narrative, about how Þórr, in the contests in which he was invited to take part at the home of the giant Útgarðaloki, was tricked by the giant into failing to recognize that his opponents in these contests, with whom he had so little success in competing, were in fact none other than the sea, the world serpent, and old age.37

Other Formulations Julia Kristeva’s article, published in 1966 and written as an exposition and elaboration of Bakhtin’s ideas at a time when they were relatively little known,

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is extraordinarily difficult to summarize, and indeed to understand: the English and Icelandic translations of the original French, though heroic in their attempts at accuracy, are of little help in following its argument.38 Her apparent confusion of the Menippean satirist Lucian (Fr. Lucien; a writer in Greek living in the second century AD) with the Roman poet Lucan (39–65 AD; Fr. Lucain),39 who has virtually nothing to do with Menippean satire, does not inspire confidence. Her most useful contribution to the present discussion is arguably her almost casual reference, which she does not develop, to Roman Jakobson’s notion of the twofold character of language.40 Jakobson, tightening up Saussure’s earlier distinction between syntagmatic and associative relations in language, distinguished between combinative and selective relations; these have come to be known as, respectively, syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations.41 The syntagmatic relation is most simply illustrated by the relationship of contiguity between words in a sentence (i.e., one word juxtaposed with another), whereas the paradigmatic relation, again in its simplest form, involves the potential substitution of one word for another. For instance, near the beginning of Gylfaginning we find, with reference to Gylfi, the sentence: Hann byrjaði ferð sína til Ásgarðs (He began his journey to Ásgarðr). Here the linear, sequential relationship between the words of the sentence as it stands is syntagmatic. Reading the opening sentences of Skáldskaparmál, we also find, with reference to Ægir, the sentence: Hann gerði ferð sína til Ásgarðs (He made his journey to Ásgarðr), in which the interrelationship of the words is also syntagmatic, but which shows, when compared with the first of these two sentences, that in that sentence the past tense verb form gerði ‘made’ could theoretically be substituted for byrjaði ‘began’ (with a slight change of meaning, it is true), just as byrjaði could be substituted for gerði in the second sentence. The relationship between these two verb forms is thus a paradigmatic relationship, a relationship of potential substitution. Now kennings and heiti are, of course, poetic substitutes for words used in prose and ordinary speech, and part of the purpose of Snorri’s Edda seems to have been to explain the terms that form the elements in kennings by giving prose accounts of the myths that supply these terms. An example is the prose account given in the anonymous dialogue in Skáldskaparmál of the compound word otrgjold (otter-payment) as a kenning for gull (gold). The story told is that Loki, journeying with two other gods, killed an otter which turned out to be the son of one Hreiðmarr, who demanded that in compensation for the killing the gods should fill and cover the otter-skin with gold.42 The relationship between the words in each of the sentences in this account, and indeed between the sentences and between the events of the story they tell, is syntagmatic, whereas the relationship between the words otrgjold and gull is paradigmatic. In each of the lists of heiti (i.e., of non-periphrastic poetic terms) at the end of Skáldskaparmál, moreover, the relationship between

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the words listed is paradigmatic. Snorri’s Edda is thus, among other things, a study in the interrelationship of the syntagmatic and paradigmatic axes of language, an aspect of it which serves to particularize the nature of its encyclopedic tendency, noticed by Frye as a characteristic of Menippean satire. F. Anne Payne, who has clearly read Frye and Bloomfield as well as Bakhtin, adds seven characteristics of Menippean satire to Bakhtin’s list of fourteen, referred to above. From the items on her list, numbered 15–21, I select the following three: (15) a frequent use of dialogue between two stereotyped characters speaking from different levels of perception, one of them a know-it-all who is free of the restrictions faced by ordinary human beings and the other a puzzled human sufferer of such restrictions whose outlook differs from that of his interlocutor, to whom, however, he is forced to listen, like it or not. Sometimes it is the know-it-all who is the protagonist; sometimes the human sufferer. (16) Frequent use of a dialogue in which one of the characters is involved in an endless quest, while his interlocutor comments on his activities, and in some sense helps him. The very idea of the endless quest coming to an end is invariably subject to satirical treatment. (21) Obscenity without pornography.43 It is noteworthy here, with reference to items 15 and 16, that Gylfi’s questioning of the Æsir in Gylfaginning is potentially ‘endless’ in the sense that, if he cannot exhaust their store of knowledge, he will have to go on questioning them indefinitely in order to postpone the unspecified penalty with which they have threatened him, and that the account of how the questioning comes to an end – with the Æsir vanishing because they cannot cope with any more questions – is certainly ironic, if not necessarily ‘satirical,’ in that it raises doubts about any claims to ‘know-it-all’ status that the Æsir may have had, and, arguably at least, hints at the possibility of Gylfi having such claims.44 As for item 21, ‘obscenity without pornography’ (cf. Bakhtin’s item 9, ‘scandal scenes,’ noted above), obvious examples of this in Snorri’s Edda are the accounts in Skáldskaparmál of how Loki succeeds in reducing to laughter the giant Þjazi’s daughter, Skaði, by disporting himself before her with a she-goat tied to him by a cord with one end round its beard and the other round his testicles, and of how Þórr is impeded in crossing the river Vimur on his way to the abode of the giant Geirrøðr by a surge of water coming from between the legs of the giant’s daughter.45 Carter Kaplan, who has clearly read Bakhtin, Frye, and Payne,46 sees Menip­ pean satire as serving the purposes of analytical philosophy as propounded by Ludwig Wittgenstein, insofar as it provides a context for the close analysis and critical unmasking of ‘intellectual mythology.’ By the latter, Kaplan seems to mean what Wittgenstein called ‘the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language,’ a process against which, according to Wittgenstein, it is the task of

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philosophy to struggle (Philosophical Investigations §109, quoted by Kaplan).47 Menippean satire, in Kaplan’s view, engages in this struggle by means of ‘critical synoptics,’ that is, ‘the use of literary storytelling … to set up a scenario in which a variety of propositions can be explored and analyzed,’48 and does so in ways introduced by Kaplan under the three headings of philosophy, theology, and postmodernism.49 Philosophically, Menippean satire is ‘an activity of contextual identification and linguistic clarification’;50 theologically, its tendency is towards apophatic theology, or theology by negation, whereby, for example, God is described in terms of what He is not, rather than of what He might be; and in its postmodern aspect, which according to Kaplan is apparent in ancient as well as recent texts, it accommodates the legacy of the past by presenting it in a relatively unfamiliar light, and with an ironic acknowledgment, where relevant, of its hackneyed character, thus producing what Kaplan calls ‘a shock of the old,’ or of the familiar, rather than of the new.51 If one takes, as a simple example of a kenning, Ymis blóð (Ymir’s blood), given in Skáldskaparmál as a roundabout poetic expression for the sea,52 and considers it in relation to the myth recounted in Gylfaginning of how the sea was created from the blood of the giant Ymir, killed by the gods,53 one can see how kennings might come to be regarded as instances of ‘intellectual mythology’ in more than one sense, particularly if one bears in mind that many kennings are a great deal more complex and obscure than this. In making use of ‘literary storytelling’ to explain such terms, Snorri’s Edda is providing them with ‘contextual identification and linguistic clarification,’ in a manner apparently consistent with what Kaplan calls ‘critical synoptics.’ It may also be noted that Gylfaginning in particular is ‘apophatic’ in its approach to the pagan religion in describing it (mainly through the mouths of the Æsir) in terms of what it is emphatically not, i.e., Christianity. The trio of Hár, Jafnhár, and Þriði, for instance, is reminiscent of the Holy Trinity; the twelve names and viceroys of Óðinn recall the twelve apostles; Þriði’s account of the soul and the afterlife is apparently in line with Christian doctrine, and so on.54 The reason for this, according to Anne Holtsmark, is that Snorri was striving after a ‘contrastive association’ of paganism with Christianity, so that poets reading his work as a manual of instruction would be simultaneously reminded of their own Christianity and of the essentially pagan nature of the mythology on which they would need to draw for much of their imagery.55 Howard D. Weinbrot criticizes Bakhtin, Frye, and Payne for the excessive breadth, as he sees it, of their accounts of Menippean satire. He treats Bakhtin as a successor to Frye in the sense that Bakhtin’s account did not become known to Western readers until well after Frye’s was published. Bakhtin, he claims, ‘even surpasses Frye in creating a baggy genre into which almost any

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work can be made to fit.’ He narrows down the scope of Menippean satire, excluding from it many of the works that Bakhtin and Frye list among its examples.56 While acknowledging that Menippean satire may be either ‘severe’ or ‘moderate,’ that is, destructively or constructively critical, respectively, in its approach, he nevertheless stresses more than either Bakhtin or Frye the seriousness of the genre, and its specifically satirical function, characterizing the genre itself as ‘unsentimental,’ and its usual target as ‘a dangerous or threatening false orthodoxy.’ He further claims that it may use one or more of four devices or modes. These are, firstly, the additive mode, or satire by addition, which ‘enlarges a main text with new generally smaller texts that further characterize a dangerous world’; this mode may show itself in the relationship between different parts of an individual text and/or between texts that initially give the impression of being independent works, but which cumulatively reveal themselves as parts of an omnibus volume; secondly, the generic mode, or satire by genre, in which (as I understand it) Menippean satire assumes some of the generic characteristics of the literary work or works against which its satire is directed, and in doing so allies itself, to a greater or lesser extent, with the genre of ars poetica, in comparing not only different ways of handling a genre, but also different genres;57 thirdly, annotative satire, or satire by annotation, in which ‘text, subtext, and peripheral matter work together’ in such a way as ‘further to darken the already dark text,’ which in the process may blend ‘prose and poetry, notes and text, front matter and concluding matter’ and ‘multiple voices’; and fourthly, incursive satire, or satire by incursion, in which ‘a dramatic change of voice,’ expressing ‘a false orthodoxy that needs refutation by a superior truth,’ invades the text, makes its mark, and then recedes. ‘In some cases,’ Weinbrot emphasizes, ‘two or more of these Menippean modes may appear in the same work.’58 Still leaving aside for the moment whatever satirical purpose, dark or otherwise, Snorri’s Edda may have (and bearing in mind that, in Frye’s view at least, Menippean satire does not always have to be satirical!), I would note four features of the work that seem to me to correspond respectively to Weinbrot’s four modes. Firstly, there is the additive character of the prose Edda, the relatively loose unity of which, noted above, gives the impression of one part of the work having been added to another almost as an afterthought, or as a result of mature consideration, rather than of the whole work having been planned in advance. The fact that there is disagreement among scholars as to the order in which its  parts were composed tends to reinforce this impression.59 Secondly, on the generic front, there is no doubt at all that, as its very title may suggest,60 Snorri’s Edda is an ars poetica, illustrating different genres and, in the case of skaldic poetry at least, different ways of handling a genre. Gylfaginning and

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Skáldskaparmál may each be seen as an exercise, moreover (the former more successful than the latter), in integrating short prose narratives into a relatively long one; and the likely influence on Snorri’s Edda of the medieval encyclopedic genre, noted above, may be recalled in this context. Thirdly, the annotative character of Snorri’s Edda is apparent in the way in which individual stanzas are introduced and commented on in the prose text of Háttatal, and in which, in Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál, the verse quotations serve as footnotes or appendices to the prose accounts of myths and legends. As for Weinbrot’s fourth mode, the incursive mode, the pagan religion as expounded by the Æsir in Gylfaginning is certainly ‘a false orthodoxy that needs refutation by a superior truth,’ that is, by Christianity, and if its introduction into the text can hardly be described as involving ‘a dramatic change of voice,’ the sudden disappearance of the Æsir near the end of Gylfaginning, which arguably signals a defeat of what they have been expounding,61 is surely a dramatic turn of events. It must be admitted, though, that the eddic poem Lokasenna is on the face of it a more convincing example than Snorri’s Edda of incursive satire as Weinbrot describes it. This poem, consisting of a dialogue among the gods and preserved with a prose introduction and epilogue, describes the god Loki arriving at a banquet of the gods, hosted by Ægir, and accusing them of various moral crimes, until he is finally silenced and dismissed by the god Þórr.62 If John McKinnell is right in claiming that the accusations are mostly just and intended to hasten the coming of Ragnarǫk,63 the end of the world according to pagan religious belief, then Loki is here the representative of what, in Weinbrot’s terms, is certainly a ‘dangerous’ and ‘threatening’ orthodoxy, if not (in terms of that belief) a ‘false’ one.

Menippus to Snorri In arguing for the possible influence of Menippean satire on Lokasenna, Schröder briefly outlines the origins of the genre, seeing it as marking a change from Socratic dialogue (exemplified by Plato’s Symposium) in portraying the dialogue as taking place in Olympus, the home of the gods, and thus providing a setting for the exposure of religious questions to criticism and ridicule. The innovator here was Menippus, from Gadara in Palestine, writing in the third century BC; it is of course he after whom the genre is named.64 Apart from a few fragments preserved as quotations by later writers, none of his works survive, though his influence is clear from the satirical writings of his imitators, not least the Apocolocyntosis, or ‘Gourdification of Claudius,’ written in Latin by the Roman writer Seneca the Younger (?4 BC–65 AD);65 The Assembly of

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the Gods, written in Greek by Lucian of Samosata, a writer of Syrian origin living in the second century AD;66 and The Caesars, written in Greek by the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate (332–63 AD).67 In Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis, which is in prose but contains passages of verse, the Emperor Claudius goes after death to heaven, where a debate among the gods finally disqualifies him from deification. In Lucian’s Assembly of the Gods, which is entirely in prose, but which, according to Schröder, comes closest of the three works under discussion to the essence of Menippean satire,68 the god Momus complains, at an assembly of the gods, that there are too many half-mortals, foreign deities, deified humans, and abstract entities among their number, and forces a ruling that those who cannot prove their divine status should not be allowed to enter heaven. In Julian’s The Caesars, a prose work which contains verse passages and has as its setting a banquet at which gods and deceased earthly rulers are present, the emperor Constantine, among others, is encouraged to choose his own guardian from among the gods, and finds this difficult until he is taken into the presence of Jesus, who is presented here as living with Incontinence. The work ends with Julian, speaking briefly in the first person, telling how he, Julian, was exhorted by Hermes to follow Mithras in this life and to adopt him as a guardian god after death. According to Schröder, who is here following Josef Martin, the presence of Jesus and Mithras at the end of the work reveals it as a satire at the expense of Momus’s advocacy, in Lucian’s Assembly of the Gods, of the exclusion of foreign gods from the Olympian elite.69 After mentioning in general terms the likelihood of oral and written information being brought to Scandinavia by Icelanders and Danes who studied in France and England between the late eleventh and early thirteenth centuries, and the route by way of Byzantium and Russia as a channel for the transmission of knowledge of Greek literature to Scandinavia, Schröder fastens on the writings and teachings of Adelhart of Bath (c.1090–c.1170), whose works evidently bear witness to his reading of Lucian, as a basis on which knowledge of Menippean satire could have been conveyed to Scandinavia by Icelanders and Norwegians studying in England and France in the twelfth century, thus making possible (in Schröder’s view) its influence on Lokasenna.70 One problem with this argument – which it is only fair to say is offered very tentatively – is that it involves a much later dating of Lokasenna, i.e., to the (late) twelfth century, than many scholars would be prepared to accept: Joseph Harris indeed gives good reasons of his own and of other scholars for preferring a date of around the time of Iceland’s conversion, i.e., c. 1000, for the poem’s composition.71 This is not the place to argue for or against the validity of Schröder’s argument in relation to Lokasenna, but if his tentative account of how knowledge of Menippean satire could have reached Iceland may be accepted, then

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the works of Snorri Sturluson (1178/9–1241) place no chronological problem, at least, in the way of an argument for its influence on the prose Edda, Snorri’s work which he is likely to have begun in or soon after 1220.72 It may further be pointed out that the preoccupations of the three classical works adduced by Schröder in support of his argument are rather different from those of Lokasenna and, in one respect at least, relatively close to those of Snorri’s Edda. The three classical works are concerned in one way or another with relations between gods and men, and the first two of them, Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis and Lucian’s Assembly, deal with the question of how far human beings deserve to become gods, or are entitled to pass themselves off as such. Lokasenna, on the other hand, consists, as we have seen, of a dialogue in which Loki, whom Schröder would no doubt see as a kind of Momus-figure, accuses the gods of various crimes. The crimes in question, however, have very little to do with the relations between gods and humans (an exception being the unjust awarding of victory in battle to warriors, of which Loki accuses Óðinn in stanza 22),73 and, far from involving the elevation of humans to divine status, show the gods themselves in all too human a light, as Ursula Dronke has noted.74 Here Lokasenna differs from Snorri’s Edda, which, with its accounts in Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál of how the human Æsir seek to pass themselves off as divine, is very much concerned, and critically engaged, with the question of how human beings can come to be regarded as gods.75 If Snorri did indeed become aware of Lucian’s work before or while working on his prose Edda, it is surely this aspect of it that is likely to have caught his interest. As for the more formal characteristics of the various works in question, Lokasenna certainly shares with all three classical works the element of sustained dialogue, and in its preserved form, where it has a prose introduction and epilogue, has in common with Seneca’s and Julian’s works a combined use of prose and verse; it also shares with Julian’s Caesars the setting at a banquet. It is at the same time no less noteworthy that Snorri’s Edda shares all these features with the classical works, with its use of dialogue, fully sustained in Gylfaginning and present also in Skáldskaparmál and Háttatal; with its frequent verse quotation, used in all three parts of the work to supplement information given in the prose and to illustrate verse forms; and with the banquet setting of the opening of Skáldskaparmál. There is at least a case for saying that Schröder’s observations are better suited to arguing for the influence of classical Menippean satire on Snorri’s prose Edda than they are for arguing for its influence on Lokasenna. On the other hand, the fact that Snorri clearly knew Lokasenna should not be ignored: he quotes parts of it in Gylfaginning and seems to have been influenced by it in the account in Skáldskaparmál, referred to above, of how Ægir repaid the gods in kind for being a guest at their banquet.76

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If it may be accepted that enough evidence has been assembled here for regarding Snorri’s Edda as an example of Menippean satire, tentatively at least, and if we find it necessary (as Frye might not) to look for a target for its satire, we may ask, finally, what is it satirizing? I would suggest that one preocupation of the work which might provide a kind of answer to this question is the genre of the Icelandic family saga. I say ‘a kind of answer’ since it is possible that, at the time of the prose Edda’s completion, there were as yet no family sagas in existence; this would have been the case if Jónas Kristjánsson is right in suggesting that Snorri himself initiated the writing of family sagas by composing Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar in the last years of his life, after completing the greater part, at least, of the prose Edda.77 If so, then such evidence as the Edda seems to offer for an interest in family sagas would deserve consideration as evidence of Snorri preparing himself for writing the first Icelandic family saga. If, on the other hand, credence is given to Theodore M. Andersson’s more recent view that a number of family sagas were already in existence at the time of the composition of Egils saga, which Andersson acknowledges could have been written by Snorri,78 then it may be argued that Snorri’s Edda is, among many other things, a commentary on the genre of family saga in its early thirteenthcentury manifestations. If the Edda is to be seen as satirical in this literary, generic sense, then the satire is either anticipatory in relation to the possible pitfalls of a type of saga that had not yet been written, but which Snorri was going to write, or reflective of failings, potential or otherwise, perceived by Snorri in examples of the genre already in existence. There is a great deal more that could be said about this than I shall have space to say here, but a few points may be made. Magnus Magnusson has said of the prose Edda, ‘It is not a saga, as such,’79 and there is a case for saying that it is apophatic not only in the theological sense indicated above, but also in a literary sense, in that it comes close to defining a family saga in terms of what it is not. We have already noticed its relative lack of unity and of realism, and we may note here its use of framed narrative, found in its most developed form in Gylfaginning, where Gylfi’s dialogue with the Æsir constitutes a frame for the various stories they tell him. Framed narrative is a form that, as Peter Foote has noted, failed in general to appeal to Icelandic saga authors,80 and it is not found in the family sagas in anything like the overarching structural role that it has in Gylfaginning. It is possible that Snorri is hinting at the limitations of this kind of framed narrative in Skáldskaparmál, where the illogicalities in the use of dialogue, noted above, may have been, in Faulkes’s words, ‘deliberately intended as a joke’ at the expense of the framing story.81 The function of framed narrative in Gylfaginning seems to be to bring together in a relatively long prose narrative a number of relatively short prose narratives of þáttr-type, and

Snorra Edda as Menippean Satire  125

it is noteworthy that much of the framing narrative is in the form of external analepsis (flashback) and prolepsis (flashforward). These narrative devices, dealing in Gylfaginning with the creation and end of the world respectively, are ‘external’ in the sense that they refer to events that are external in time to the framing story of Gylfi’s encounter with the Æsir, since the events in question happen long before and long after the beginning and end, respectively, of that encounter.82 Now it has been suggested that the family sagas have their origin in a tendency to bring together, in relatively long, written prose form, relatively short prose narratives of þáttr-type that were previously performed orally,83 a suggestion which helps to explain, among other things, the extensive use in the family sagas of analepsis and prolepsis, which function as binding devices, reminding the audience of what has already happened in the story and giving an idea of what is to follow. In the family sagas, however, these devices appear as examples of framed narrative only to the extent that they often occur in passages of conversation between characters, where they take the form of retrospective and prophetic statements, sometimes, though by no means always, involving accounts of dreams;84 there is no question of an overarching narrative frame of the kind found in Gylfaginning. They are, moreover, as is consistent with their binding function, most often internal rather than external in their references to the past and future; they refer for the most part to events that take place within the period of time primarily covered by the narrative.85 In this respect they differ markedly from their counterparts in Gylfaginning. A simple example in Egils saga of combined analepsis and prolepsis is Kveldúlfr’s speech in ch. 19 to his son Þórólfr, in which he reminds Þórólfr of his warning to him in ch. 6 (itself an example of prolepsis) against becoming a retainer of King Haraldr hárfagri, and prophesies that he, Kveldúlfr, will outlive Þórólfr, as turns out to be true in chs. 22–4.86 Snorri’s Edda also differs strikingly from the family sagas in its treatment of the supernatural. In Gylfaginning we are told in advance of the optical illusions supernaturally prepared by the Æsir, as part of the process of tricking Gylfi, before his arrival at Ásgarðr, so that any sense of mystery that we might share with Gylfi in relation to what happens to him after his arrival is lessened. In Þriði’s account of Þórr’s visit to the castle of Útgarðaloki, where Þórr, too, is the victim of optical illusions, magically prepared in advance by Útgarðaloki, we do share Þórr’s bewilderment at what happens to him, it is true, since the illusions are not explained, either to Þórr or to us, until after his visit is over. They are still explained, however, so that the mystery of what Þórr has been experiencing is cleared up, as much for us as for him. It would be rash to generalize about the family sagas in this respect, but the evidence of sagas in which supernatural incidents are frequent (such as Eyrbyggja saga and Njáls saga)87

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points to a tendency in the family sagas to narrate such incidents so much in terms of the perceptions and reactions of those who experience them, and with so little narratorial explanation of how they came to occur, that a genuine sense of mystery is conveyed, often to the extent that the reader is left in doubt whether the events in question occurred otherwise than in the minds of those who are stated to have experienced them. This is arguably the case even with the account in ch. 35 of Grettis saga of Grettir’s fight with Glámr, for all its concrete detail.88 Once again Egils saga provides a simple example, with its account in ch. 59 of how Egill’s friend Arinbjörn, sitting by a window at which a swallow had been twittering, sees a mysterious, shape-changing figure, a hamhleypa (very possibly Queen Gunnhildr in disguise, though this is never stated).89 Finally, it has also been noted above that in Snorri’s Edda, and most especially in Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál, verse quotations tend to have the function of footnotes or appendices to the prose text; their function is, if not always, most often explanatory or illustrative. This is relatively rarely the case in the family sagas, where, as Bjarni Einarsson has shown, verse passages, in those sagas where they occur, are for the most part integrated into the narrative in such a way as to form part of the action,90 a feature noticed by Sigurður Nordal, significantly in the present context, as characteristic of Egils saga.91 In this respect also, Snorri’s Edda and the family sagas seem to show virtually opposite approaches. Snorri’s Edda, I would suggest, may thus be seen as an exercise in how not to write an Icelandic family saga, and in this sense as an example, in Weinbrot’s terms, of moderate Menippean satire by genre. But whether or not it was influenced by classical Menippean satire in the way that Schröder suggests Lokasenna may have been, Snorri’s Edda is, I would claim, a Menippean satire in several other senses as well, as I hope the present study may have shown. Many of the ingredients are there: the elements of Socratic dialogue and carnival; the impression given of additive composition, such as might be expected of a writer’s diary; the encyclopedic predilection for lists and illustrative examples; the anatomizing analysis of different forms of poetic expression; the combination of verse and prose; the placing of a protagonist in a testing situation; and the occasional touch of non-pornographic obscenity. All these features of Snorri’s Edda, and others indicated above, suggest to me its candidacy for serious consideration as an example of Menippean satire.

NOTES 1 Bakhtin, Problems, 112–22. This book is translated from the much-expanded second edition, published in Russian in 1963, of a book first published, also in

Snorra Edda as Menippean Satire  127 Russian, in 1929. Since the book appeared in its original form long before Northrop Frye’s Anatomy (first published 1957), it has been treated before Frye’s book in the present article, even though it was virtually unknown in the West until after the appearance of the second edition. See Bakhtin, Problems, vii–ix, xxix–xxx, and cf. Weinbrot, Menippean Satire, 12. 2 Frye, Anatomy, 308–12. 3 Kristeva, ‘Word, Dialogue, and Novel.’ 4 Payne, Chaucer, 3–11. 5 Kaplan, Critical Synoptics, 19–76. 6 Weinbrot, Menippean Satire. 7 Bloomfield, Piers Plowman, 23. 8 Schröder, ‘Das Symposion.’ 9 Phelpstead, Holy Vikings, 216–22. 10 Bakhtin, Problems, 92–3, distinguishes between ‘the usual ideological approach,’ which involves assembling separate thoughts into a system, and ‘Dostoevsky’s form-shaping ideology,’ which ‘knows neither the separate thought nor systemic unity,’ and sees thoughts as inextricably bound up with personalities. The ideologists of the Socratic dialogue, as Bakhtin presents them, seem to fall somewhere between these two conceptions of ideology. Cf. Bakhtin, Problems, 111–12. 11 Ibid., 109–12. 12 Reference may be made to Faulkes’s translation of the entire prose Edda, and to his edition of the Prologue and Gylfaginning, Edda, ed. Faulkes. 13 Bakhtin, Problems, 122. 14 van Gennep, Rites of Passage, vii–viii, 10–11. 15 La Fontaine, Initiation, 24–7. 16 Bakhtin, Problems, 122–32. 17 Edda: Prologue, ed. Faulkes, 23. On Baldr’s name, see 164; for the account of his death, see 45–9. 18 Ibid., 9–10, 49–53. 19 Bakhtin, Problems, 112–22. 20 For references, see under Ásgarðr in the index of names in Edda: Prologue, ed. Faulkes, 163. 21 Ibid., 46–8. 22 Jónas Kristjánsson, Eddas and Sagas, 178. 23 McTurk, Chaucer, 22–3. 24 That is, the Codex Regius (GkS 2367 4to), described by Faulkes in relation to other manuscripts of Snorri’s Edda; see Edda: Prologue, ed. Faulkes, xxix–xxxiii. The argument that the parts of the Edda were composed in the reverse of the order in which they are preserved here has been tentatively advanced by Faulkes in Edda, trans. (1997), xi–xiii. On the possible significance of this in the context of Snorri’s writing career, see McTurk, Chaucer, 22–3.

128 Rory McTurk 25 Frye, Anatomy, 308–10. 26 Here I would recall a lecture entitled ‘Saga Characteristics, or Why Sagas Are Not Bad Novels,’ given by Fredrik J. Heinemann at the University of Leeds on 7 March 1998, and unfortunately not published. His main points were: (1) novels belong to the world of print, whereas sagas are products of oral culture; (2) novels are written by named authors; sagas are anonymous; (3) novels have observable beginnings; sagas simply confront us with their presence; and (4) novels have dates; sagas have none. Further: (i) novels have many different types of narrator, sagas only one; (ii) characters in novels are rounded; saga characters are static and opaque; (iii) novels particularize scenes; saga scenes are formulaic. 27 See Edda: Skáldskaparmál, ed. Faulkes, I. The Ægir/Bragi dialogue takes up pp. 1–5 and is resumed on 20–5. The account of Ægir’s banquet is on 40–1. The last question in the anonymous dialogue is on 99. 28 See Edda: Háttatal, ed. Faulkes. The last question is asked on 15. 29 Bååth’s frequently cited view that Njáls saga was a saga of this type is to be found in Bååth, Studier, 159. See further Lönnroth, ‘Structuralist Approaches,’ 63–4. On the order in which the parts of Snorri’s Edda may have been composed, see note 24 above and note 59 below. 30 Frye, Anatomy, 310–12. On the origin of the term ‘Menippean,’ see the discussion of Schröder’s arguments, below. 31 Clunies Ross, Skáldskaparmál, 151–73. 32 Bloomfield, Piers Plowman, 23. For the acknowledgment of Frye, see 182n11. 33 Ægir certainly gives the impression initially of being the protagonist of Skáldskaparmál, but soon fades out as such. Cf. note 27, above. 34 Snorri, Edda: Prologue, ed. Faulkes, 15, 44. 35 Ibid., 37, 54. 36 McTurk, ‘Fooling Gylfi.’ 37 Edda: Prologue, ed. Faulkes, 37–43. 38 See Kristeva, ‘Word,’ and Kristeva, ‘Orð, tvíröddun og skáldsaga.’ 39 Kristeva, Séméiotiké, 103, 104. 40 Ibid., 87–8. This view of Jakobson’s is readily accessible in Jakobson and Halle, Fundamentals, 72–6, 90–6. 41 See Jackson, Poverty, 75–7. 42 Snorri, Edda: Skáldskaparmál I.45–6. 43 Payne, Chaucer, 9–11. 44 Snorri, Edda: Prologue, 54–5. Cf. McTurk, ‘Fooling Gylfi,’ 6–11. 45 Snorri, Edda: Skáldskaparmál I.2, 25. 46 Kaplan, Critical Synoptics, 48–51. 47 Ibid., 59. 48 Ibid., 75–6.

Snorra Edda as Menippean Satire  129 49 Ibid., 21–44. 50 Ibid., 30. 51 Ibid., 44; cf. 30. 52 Snorri, Edda: Skáldskaparmál I.36. 53 Snorri, Edda: Prologue 10–12. 54 Ibid., 8–9, 15. 55 Holtsmark, Studier, 14–15, 22–6, 58–9. 56 Weinbrot, Menippean Satire, 11–16; 309n20; 12; 15. He excludes, for example, Apuleius’s Golden Ass, Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, all four of which were regarded by Frye, and the first two by Bakhtin, as examples of the genre. See Weinbrot, Menippean Satire, 7–11. 57 Ibid., 6, 110; 110; 6; 6; 115–21; 166; 6–7, 46–7, 110–11, 229–30. This is how I have interpreted p. 6: ‘Menippean satire by genre sets a work against its own approximate genre, like an art of poetry,’ and his treatment of the generic mode. His main example is Pope’s Essay on Criticism as a Menippean response to Boileau’s Art poëtique. 58 Weinbrot, Menippean Satire, xii; 7; 270; xii; 295; 17. 59 In contrast to Faulkes (in Snorri, Edda, trans. (1987), see note 24, above), Clunies Ross, Skáldskaparmál, 138, inclines to the view that Gylfaginning was composed before Skáldskaparmál. 60 See Clunies Ross, Skáldskaparmál, 9. 61 McTurk, ‘Fooling Gylfi,’ 6–11. 62 For the text of Lokasenna, see Neckel, ed., Edda, 96–110. 63 McKinnell, ‘Motivation in Lokasenna.’ 64 Schröder, ‘Das Symposion,’ 13–22. 65 Seneca, Apocolocyntosis. 66 See Lucian, A Selection, 54–67. 67 See Julian, Works, ed. and trans. Wright, II.341–415. 68 Schröder, ‘Das Symposion,’ 17. 69 Ibid., 16–17. 70 Ibid., 22–9. 71 Harris, ‘Eddic Poetry,’ 97–100; McKinnell, ‘Motivation,’ 260–1, however, inclines towards ‘a relatively late date.’ 72 Snorri, Edda: Prologue, xiii, xv. 73 Another possible exception is the laying by the goddess Gefjun of her thigh over a certain sveinn inn hvíti (‘pale lad’) in return for a jewel he had given her; see Neckel, ed., Edda, 100, st. 20. McKinnell, ‘Motivation,’ 242–3, has argued convincingly, however, that the ‘lad’ in question is the god Bragi. 74 See The Poetic Edda, Volume II, ed. Dronke, 350.

130 Rory McTurk 75 On Snorri’s subtle use in the prose Edda of euhemerism (the idea that gods are in origin deified humans), see Orton, ‘Pagan Myth,’ 308–11. 76 Edda: Prologue, ed. Faulkes, 21, 63; Edda: Skáldskaparmál, ed. Faulkes, I, 40–1; cf. xix. 77 Jónas Kristjánsson, ‘Var Snorri.’ 78 Andersson, Growth, 108–18. The five family sagas which Andersson regards as likely to have been written before Egils saga are those treated in his third chapter (60–85): Víga-Glúms saga, Reykdœla saga, Fóstbrœðra saga, Heiðarvíga saga, and Gísla saga Súrssonar. 79 Magnus Magnusson, Iceland Saga, 193. 80 Foote, ‘Saints’ Lives and Sagas,’ 85–6. 81 See Edda: Skáldskaparmál, ed. Faulkes, I.xx. 82 I have borrowed the terms ‘analepsis’ and ‘prolepsis,’ and the terms ‘external’ and ‘internal’ as applied to them, from Genette, Narrative Discourse, 40, 49–50, 68–9. 83 See Clover, ‘Icelandic Family Sagas,’ 290–4. 84 Accounts of prophetic dreams are prominent in Laxdœla saga and Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu, for example, where they undoubtedly have a binding function, while Njáls saga includes accounts of retrocognitive as well as precognitive dreams; see McTurk, ‘The Supernatural.’ 85 By ‘the period of time primarily covered by the narrative’ I mean the period of time covered by what Genette, Narrative Discourse, 48, calls the ‘first narrative’; that is, the period of (story) time departed from by the narrator to make room for analepses and prolepses. 86 See Egils saga, ed. Nordal, 49, 14–15, 51–62. 87 On Njáls saga in this connection, see McTurk, ‘The Supernatural.’ On Eyrbyggja saga, see McTurk, ‘The Treatment.’ 88 See Grettis saga, ed. Jónsson, 119–21. Emphasis is laid here on what Grettir heard (heyrði Grettir), on what he saw (sá Grettir), on what seemed to him (sýndisk honum) to be happening, and on what he said about the event afterwards (svá hefir Grettir sagt sjálfr); it is narrated very much in terms of his perceptions and reactions. 89 See Egils saga, ed. Nordal, 182–3. 90 Bjarni Einarsson, ‘On the Rôle.’ 91 See Egils saga, ed. Nordal, lxxv.


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Kings, Bishops, and Laws: The Old Norse–Icelandic Version of 1 Maccabees d av i d a s h urst

My objective here is to analyse aspects of the Old Norse–Icelandic translation of 1 Maccabees that is contained in Gyðinga saga (‘The Saga of the Jews’), and to show that the details of sacred history as represented in the Vulgate text have been altered in ways that exhibit coherent though complex attitudes towards political and ecclesiastical questions that were important to Icelanders and Norwegians in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In particular I shall discuss the translation’s attitudes towards kings, law, defence, the selection of leaders both secular and religious, and the role of Rome.1 It is no part of my intention to draw hard and fast conclusions about the relationship between the saga and its historical context. Even if it were desirable to draw such conclusions it would not be possible for several reasons, the first of which is that we do not possess the saga in its original form, a fact that can be determined by analysis of the manuscripts. The main manuscript (A), which is complete, is AM 226 fol. This is Icelandic and was probably copied in the 1360s, perhaps in the Augustinian house at Helgafell.2 Manuscript B, AM 655 4to XXV, which consists of only one leaf, was probably copied in the first quarter of the fourteenth century; it is believed to be the oldest extant manuscript fragment of the saga. Manuscript C, AM 238 fol. XVII, consists of two leaves and was probably copied in the early part of the fourteenth century; it is likely to be slightly younger than B. The B and C fragments have no material in common, but both offer somewhat fuller renderings of the Latin text than that found in A, so A is presumably a thinned version of the Old Norse original. A discussion of the political and ecclesiastical drift of the saga as we have it, nevertheless, is justifiable in its own right and is to some extent prompted by the context of the work in the A manuscript, which contains versions of the following items. First comes Stjórn (fols. 1–110r), which is a paraphrase of the books of the Old Testament from Genesis to 2 Kings; its title, which means

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‘government,’ points to its nature as a collection that offers an account of the creation of the world, a set of divine ordinances for the regulation of society, and what is in effect a political history of the Hebrews up to the time of the Babylonian exile.3 The second item is Rómverja saga (‘The Saga of the Romans,’ fols. 110r–29r), an account of Roman history based on Sallust and Lucan and including the emergence of Julius Caesar as emperor.4 Third comes Alexanders saga (‘The Saga of Alexander the Great,’ fols. 129r–46v), which offers a very fine paraphrase of Walter of Châtillon’s twelfth-century Latin epic, the Alexandreis, and thus gives an account of the rise and sudden fall of Alexander as the supposed emperor of the entire world; as mentioned below, it is attributed to the same thirteenth-century Icelander as Gyðinga saga.5 Last comes Gyðinga saga itself (fols. 146v–58r).6 This falls into three parts. The first (chs. 1–21 in A) is the section based on 1 Maccabees, with some interpolated material from 2 Maccabees and a little from Petrus Comestor’s Historia scholastica; it tells of the opposition of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers to the rule of various kings in the lines of Alexander’s successors. Part two (chs. 21–32) is based principally on the Historia scholastica and tells the history of Judea from the death of Simon, the brother of Judas, to the rise and decline of the dynasty of Herod, including how the land came to be under Roman rule. Part three (chs. 33–8) is based on a Historia apocrypha that relates the supposed life of Pontius Pilate and includes details of how the emperor of Rome was brought to a certain reverence for Christ. On the basis of the above summary it can be seen that the works in manuscript A share an interest in the theme of government in general and of empire in particular; given, furthermore, that the Roman empire, foreshadowed in certain ways by that of Alexander as treated in Alexanders saga, plays a pivotal role in preparing the foundations for the Catholic Church (as discussed below), it can also be seen that sacred history is a concern throughout the manuscript compilation. It could reasonably be said, in fact, that manuscript A is much preoccupied with the shifting and often ambiguous relationships between communities of faith and the powers, both friendly and inimical, that govern them. Gyðinga saga makes an important contribution to this subject and demands to be studied in such terms as these. The second reason why it is impossible, however, to draw hard and fast conclusions about the relationship between the saga’s historical context and its political thinking is that we cannot be completely certain of the date and provenance of the original version. On the question of authorship, nevertheless, we have some useful leads, for in manuscript A Gyðinga saga ends with the following attribution:7

Kings, Bishops, and Laws  135 Þessa bok færdi hínn heilagi Jeronimus prestr or ebresku maali ok i latínu. Enn or latínu. ok í norrænu sneri brandr prestr ions son. er sidan var byskup at holum. ok sua alexandro magno. eptir bodi virduligs herra. herra Magnusar kongs. sonar hakonar kongs gamla. (The holy priest Jerome translated this book from the Hebrew tongue into Latin. And the priest Brandr Jónsson, who was subsequently bishop of Hólar, rendered it from Latin into Norse – and similarly the saga of Alexander the Great – in accordance with the bidding of the noble lord King Magnús, son of King Hákon the Old.)

It should be noted that if this ascription is to be interpreted strictly it can refer only to the part of the saga derived from the Vulgate – which is one reason among several why that part is the object of the present study, another being that the authority of Scripture puts this section on a somewhat different footing from the rest. The confusion over what the ascription refers to, however, casts doubt on its validity; but recent scholarship has been inclined to accept Brandr’s authorship, tentatively, on the grounds that strong evidence would be needed if we were to reject outright a claim made in a codex copied less than a century after the man’s death and possibly in a community where his work would have been remembered.8 Nothing in the discussion below assumes that Brandr Jónsson definitely wrote the first part of Gyðinga saga at the behest of the King Magnús of Norway, and nothing is adduced as evidence that he did so, but the possibility is especially thought-provoking because of the role Brandr played in the secular and ecclesiastical politics of Iceland, both internal and in relation to the Norwegian crown, in the last decades of the Icelandic commonwealth. He was a leading member of the powerful Icelandic family of the Svínfellingar and seems to have acted frequently as a conciliator between warring factions within the country; but in negotiations with Norway he sided with the king and was instrumental in bringing the men of eastern Iceland into submission to the royal power.9 Born c. 1200, he went abroad for the first time in 1232 and had become a priest by 1238, when he stood in for the Norwegian bishop of the Icelandic diocese of Skálholt. In 1247 he was appointed abbot of the Augustinian house at Þykkvabær, where he became an outstanding teacher. He was chosen to be bishop of the Icelandic diocese of Hólar in 1262 and went to Norway that summer to receive consecration. After spending Christmas in Trondheim with King Hákon and his son King Magnús (they were kings simultaneously), Brandr was consecrated in March 1263. Thus he became the first Icelander for

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several decades to hold an Icelandic bishopric. After returning to Iceland, he died in May 1264.10 In the same period, 1262 to 1264, the Icelandic commonwealth fell under Norwegian rule as the chieftains swore allegiance to the Norwegian kings. Respect for kings is one of the crucial matters to be found in the fine detail of the saga. Since Gyðinga saga in the A manuscript follows Alexanders saga, the opening section of 1 Maccabees, summarizing the career of Alexander the Great, is omitted. In consequence the detail that Alexander interfecit reges terrae (slew the kings of the earth; 1 Macc 1:2)11 is also omitted. In the rest of the saga, however, remarks of this kind, which could be taken as insulting to kings, have regularly been suppressed. In the passage (1 Macc 3:1–9) that praises Judas Maccabeus in terms somewhat reminiscent of the comments on Alexander, for example, the statement that exacerbabat reges multos (he grieved many kings) is omitted (Gs 20, 1 Macc 3:7). This passage concerning Judas is in any case heavily abbreviated, which could account for the omission, but a similar passage praising Judas’s brother Simon (1 Macc 14:4–15) is largely preserved in Gyðinga saga (99–100), and in this passage the Vulgate’s remark that reges contriti sunt in diebus illis ‘kings were discomfited in those days’ (1 Macc 14:13) is likewise omitted. On a somewhat different point, when Tryphon kills young Antiochus, makes himself king et fecit plagam magnam in terra (and brought great evil on the land), the final remark is omitted in both A and B texts (Gs 96, 1 Macc 13:32), the implication being that the author or redactor of the saga may have felt uneasy about criticizing a king, even a bad one. A passage quoting a supposed letter written by the Romans (1 Macc 15:16–21), which commands kings to behave well and not to trouble the Jews, however, is preserved (Gs 104); but the word used in the Old Norse texts is hofðingi (‘chief, leader, ruler’) rather than konungr (unambiguously ‘king’), where 1 Macc 15:19 has rex (‘king,’ here in the dative plural form regibus). Even in this case, therefore, the special dignity of kings as opposed to other rulers has been preserved. It is clear, however, that a special place is being given to the Romans, who at this time were republicans (like the Icelanders prior to 1262, one might say) but were nevertheless the precursors of the Roman church, as discussed below. An earlier passage extolling the Romans and their empire (1 Macc 8:1–16) emphasizes their republican nature by making much of the fact that they do not have over them anyone who wears a crown (Gs 60, 1 Macc 8:14–16); it is especially significant for our understanding of the saga’s attitude towards kings that even in this notably republican passage the phrases praising the Romans for defeating people wherever they go are retained while those stating that they make and break kings are absent (see Gs 60 in both A and C texts, and 1 Macc 8:13).

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There is also a significant passage that relates kingship to law. It states that the law of the Jews was observed and enforced in the days of Mattathias, the father of Judas Maccabeus (1 Macc 2), and remarks that the Assideans, the followers of Mattathias, obtinuerunt legem de manibus regum (recovered the law out of the hands of kings; 1 Macc 2:48). In the saga this is replaced with (Gs 18): Reisa nu logín Rikuliga. ok hefna vsídu hermanna (Now they apply the law strictly and take vengeance for the immorality of men of war). A hermaðr is a warrior, though poetically it can mean a prince or king; so again the obvious word for king has been avoided and has been replaced by a wider concept. The idea of snatching back the law from the influence of warriors or kings has also been abolished in this text. One can see the possible relevance of this fact to King Magnús, known as lagabœtir (the law-reformer), who after Brandr Jónsson’s day re-established Icelandic law on a completely new basis oriented towards the Norwegian state and crown, with fines payable to the king for homicide, and so on, replacing the feud-based system: the change went so deep that it is reasonable to say that although Iceland became subject to the Norwegian crown in the 1260s, ‘the real breach with the Free State period was marked by new law-books, Járnsíða introduced in 1271 and Jónsbók in 1281.’12 Járnsíða in particular proved unpopular and took two years to receive ratification from the Icelandic General Assembly.13 A redactor in this period or later would have had ample reason to suppress a sentence that commends people for rebelliously rejecting the interference of kings in legal matters. In Brandr’s own time, furthermore, the possibility that a king might impose his laws on Iceland in the event of a Norwegian takeover was very much a live issue: at the General Assembly in the summer of 1262 – the season in which Brandr went to Norway for his consecration – when Icelanders from several sectors agreed to accept the Norwegian king as their lord, their submission was offered only on condition that the king would let them ‘enjoy peace and the Icelandic laws.’14 Jón Jóhannesson has argued that this clause in the agreement did not mean that the Norwegian king could not change Icelandic laws if the Icelanders ratified his edicts;15 no doubt this was so, as the event proved, but the changes brought in by Magnús were hardly true to the spirit of the agreement the Icelanders thought they were making in 1262, as the subsequent opposition to Járnsíða shows. It is clear, therefore, that if he had anything to do with Gyðinga saga Brandr would have had good reason to drop from the translation a specific phrase that could only stir up mutual distrust between the Icelanders and the Norwegian kings. The idea of the evils of a body of law imposed by kings, especially foreign ones, is nevertheless the starting point of 1 Maccabees and of Gyðinga saga, and the subject as a whole is by no means avoided despite the evident wariness,

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just discussed, about the idea of seizing back the initiative from kings. When King Antiochus decrees that his subjects are to be one people with one law throughout his empire, it is this that provokes the rebellion of the Assideans (Gs 7, 1 Macc 1). Antiochus tampers in particular with the Jews’ sacred law, their ritual law, commanding them among other things to sacrifice pigs and to remain uncircumcised (Gs 7, 1 Macc 1:44–51). The writers of Gyðinga saga and 1 Maccabees, however, seem to have more in mind than just ritual law. In the Old Norse text (Gs 15–16) Mattathias says: Ok þo at allar þiodir hlydi Antiocho … ok fyrir lati log sinn ok sid. þa skal ek alldri ne minir synir … láta log fedra vaRa (Although all nations obey Antiochus … and forsake their law and customs, my sons and I shall never … forsake the laws of our fathers). The implication here is that even gentile law should be preserved by those whose fathers invented it. This idea is already present in the corresponding passage in the Vulgate (1 Macc 2:19–20), where it is assumed that the law of the Jews is the law of God and is therefore especially precious and in need of conservation; despite this assumption, however, there is still an implication that the laws of other peoples ought to be conserved, even if those peoples foolishly or cravenly abandon them. Hence there is here a certain level of respect for the diversity of different peoples’ laws, and a concomitant affirmation of the right of every people to keep its own laws. This affirmation is not spelled out overtly and so would not have risked offending the Norwegian king as the remark about taking back the law out of the hands of kings might have; but it would serve as a hint about what the royal policy towards law-making should be. Despite these considerations, there is also in both the Latin and the Old Norse texts a contrary implication that a people’s law is for the good of the people and can be changed for their benefit, even if it is also the law of God. This is shown by the decision taken by the Jews to fight on the Sabbath (Gs 17, 1 Macc 2:41). Up to this point the Assideans, in their piety, had observed the law of the Sabbath strictly and had refused to bear arms on that day, with the result that they had suffered a massacre. Their decision to fight on the Sabbath and hence, effectively, to change the law was enough of an issue in the Middle Ages for the translator or redactor of Gyðinga saga to add a comment not found in the Vulgate, which he does by putting into the mouth of Mattathias the statement (Gs 17) that æigi ero log sett moti hialp manna edr lifi. helldr at hlifa lifínu (the law is not established contrary to the benefit or life of men – rather to protect life). Here, incidentally, the rhyme on hlífa and lífinu, as the words appear in their normalized spelling, should probably be taken to indicate that this sentence is being offered as a quotable quote. Whatever the particular source for this maxim may be – it must descend ultimately from Jesus’ saying that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27) – the

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point is that Gyðinga saga endorses the decision of the Jews and hence implies that people have the right to change their own law, even, paradoxically, the very law that they are fighting to preserve. But in doing so it also establishes the slightly different principle that a body of law can be changed (by whomsoever) if the changes are beneficial; and this would no doubt have been a comforting thought to Magnús or his officials and successors. In both the Vulgate and the Gyðinga saga texts, however, the concept of defence against the interference of despotic kings is not limited to the matter of protecting a nation’s traditional laws. The Assideans, in 1 Macc 3:43, urge each other to wage war on the following terms: pugnemus pro populo nostro, et sanctis nostris (let us fight for our people and our sanctuary). Here the rendering of the last two words, literally ‘our holy things,’ follows that of the Douay-Rheims translation and the Authorised Version; Gyðinga saga too understands the phrase as referring to the concept of place but makes a very interesting adjustment, for it says of the Assideans (23–4) that þeir heímtaz nu saman. ok uilia med ongu moti vpp gefaz. helldr beriaz fyrir folk sítt. ok odal (they now gather together and will by no means give in but will fight for their people and ancestral property). Hence the Vulgate’s concept of fighting a holy war for possession of a holy site has been replaced with the non-religious concept of fighting for retention of family land. The Old Norse text makes perfect sense on its own terms, and taken at face value it need assert nothing more than the basic expectation that people will resist attempts to dispossess them of their worldly goods; but seen against the background of the Vulgate text, which could easily have been rendered exactly as it stands, the substitution is surely significant. In this connection it must be noted that according to thirteenth-century Icelandic writers it was precisely the fact that Haraldr hárfagri, the ninth-century Norwegian king, was taking possession of ancestral lands in Norway that made the Icelanders’ ancestors emigrate from that county and establish what became the Icelandic commonwealth, as we are told most famously in the following passage from Egils saga:16 Haraldr konungr eignaðisk í hverju fylki óðul ǫll ok allt land, byggt ok óbyggt, ok jafnvel sjóinn ok vǫtnin, ok skyldu allir búendr vera hans leiglendingar, svá þeir er á mǫrkina ortu ok saltkarlarnir ok allir veiðimenn, bæði á sjó ok landi, þá váru allir þeir honum lýðskyldir. En af þessi áþján flýðu margir menn af landi á brott, ok byggðusk þá margar auðnir víða … Ok í þann tíma fannsk Ísland. (In every district King Haraldr gained possession of all the ancestral estates and all the land, settled and uninhabited, and even the sea and lakes, and all the farmers had to be his tenants, also they who worked in the forests, and the

140 David Ashurst salt-producers, and all the fishermen and hunters, both on sea and land, were all then his subjects. And because of this tyranny many people fled away from the land and then settled many uninhabited areas far and wide … And at that time Iceland was discovered.)

The use of the term óðal in Gyðinga saga, therefore, rather elegantly and unobtrusively links the Assideans’ defiance of ancient kings with the Icelanders’ own founding legend. In place of a religious obligation to guard a holy site it puts the right of a farmer to hold on to his land, and it does so in terms that prompt an observant reader to draw parallels between a king of Norway and the enemies of Judas Maccabeus. As presented in 1 Maccabees and Gyðinga saga, the selection of the Jewish war leaders – the words used in the saga (Gs 65) are hertogi and hofðingi – takes place swiftly, easily, and naturally from among the sons of Mattathias, with the implied or stated consent of those willing to follow them: Mattathias himself simply ‘rose up’ (Gs 14, 1 Macc 2:1); shortly before his demise, he tells his sons that Judas Maccabeus is the one of their number who should lead them in battle (Gs 19, 1 Macc 2:66), after which the succession takes place without further ado. The friends of Judas, upon his death, approach Jonathan to be their general (Gs 65, 1 Macc 9:28–30); and when Jonathan is captured, Simon offers himself as military commander in his place and is acclaimed as such by the people (Gs 92, 1 Macc 13:3–9). With no more elaborate a process the Jews manage to acquire highly effective captains able to lead the defence against powerful opposing forces, including, on one occasion (1 Macc 6:30), an army able to field a hundred thousand infantry, twenty thousand cavalry, and thirty-two elephants.17 That contemporary audiences of the saga would take such numbers quite literally on the basis of Scriptural authority, and would honour the Jewish leaders all the more for their courage and skill in undertaking a fight despite the odds, is demonstrated by a passage in Alexanders saga, where the author (possibly the same man as the author of Gyðinga saga, as mentioned above) has just described the vast army of Alexander’s enemy, King Darius, and justifies his account by saying that anyone who thinks it exaggerated should look at the Book of Maccabees: oc ventir mek at hann mone finna þar sagt at Antiochus Serkia konungr hafðe með ser til Iorsalalanz .c. þusunda fotgongo liðs. oc .xx. þusunder riddera þa er hann etlaðiz at sigra Iudam Machabeum er þa var með brøðrom sinom haufðinge yfir Gyðenga folke

Kings, Bishops, and Laws  141 (And I expect that he will find it written there that Antiochus, the king of the Persians, took with him to Judea a hundred thousand infantry and twenty thousand cavalry when he intended to defeat Judas Maccabeus, who at that time, with his brothers, was leader of the Jewish people.)18

Admiration for the military successes of Judas and his brothers is of course a given in 1 Maccabees, and it comes through untempered in Gyðinga saga, not only in the overall argument but in the details that the author or redactor has chosen to preserve in this abridged paraphrase of the Vulgate text. Sometimes the nature and extent of this admiration may take the modern reader by surprise. When the people of Ephron have refused to let Judas and his men pass through the city in peace, for example, and Judas has had the place sacked, its women taken into bondage, and all its males killed, the saga displays a certain grim relish for the fact by following 1 Macc 5:51 in noting that by this point matti aa daudum monnum ganga eptir allri borginní (it was possible to walk through the whole city on dead men, Gs 36). Though the choice of military leaders appears to be simple and natural in the saga and its source, the selection of a High Priest is a more fraught subject, for it is one that raises the issue of the ambiguous roles of kings in relation to religious leaders and their office. The potential relevance of this subject to the Icelandic church, which prior to Brandr’s consecration as bishop of Hólar had been forced to accept Norwegian bishops for several decades, is all the more obvious in the saga, since here, as also in Stjórn and Alexanders saga, the usual term for High Priest is biskup (literally ‘bishop’), although sometimes the term yfirkennimaðr (literally ‘over-priest’) is used. 1 Maccabees 7:5 says that a certain Alcimus desired to become High Priest, but the writer of Gyðinga saga knows from 2 Maccabees 14 that Alcimus had in fact already been High Priest and that he was reappointed by King Demetrius. The saga follows the details as they appear in 2 Maccabees, noting that Alcimus belonged to the line of Aaron (Gs 52) and saying that Judas Maccabeus drove him from the office of High Priest þuiat hann var meiri vín konganna. enn landz manna (because he was a greater friend of the kings than of the people of the land, Gs 51). There is no immediate source for this last remark, which is not in 1 or 2 Maccabees. It is clearly the view of the saga writer or redactor, therefore, that bishops should not be too closely associated with kings. One of the functions of kings in both Gyðinga saga and 1 Maccabees, nevertheless, is to appoint High Priests or to set royal approval on them. They have this function, in fact, even if they are bad kings or pagans. Thus, for example, King Alexander, after the death of Judas Maccabeus, salutes Jonathan, Judas’s

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brother, as his own brother and makes him High Priest (Gs 71, 1 Macc 10:18– 20): Af varu kongligu ualldi setium ver þik yfir kenní mann. þinnar þiodar. ok hertoga (By our royal authority we appoint you High Priest and duke of your people). Jonathan then puts on the vestments that Alexander sends him, including a golden crown and a mitre; the latter article is not found in the Vulgate text (1 Macc 10:20 mentions only the crown) but serves to emphasize the connection with a Christian bishop. Following this addition, the saga then adds a further comment not found in 1 Maccabees (Gs 71): ok var jonathas þann dag skipadr byskup ok hertogi yfir israels folk (And Jonathan was on that day invested as High Priest and duke over the people of Israel). It is clear that we are to be impressed by this state of affairs. In 1 Maccabees it is in fact at a later point (1 Macc 10:65) that King Alexander makes Jonathan a dux (duke, commander), although he had already appointed him as High Priest; at the same time he officially enrolls him in the list of his principal friends. At this point the saga, in the A and C versions (Gs 76–7), omits these details; instead it picks this moment to declare that when Jonathan returned to Jerusalem he wore purple, a crown, a ring, and a gold pin (the trappings of a king) but did not have the title of king (Gs 77). After the death of Jonathan, his brother Simon takes over and a similar pattern is repeated, though with important developments. When Simon is addressed by King Demetrius as High Priest and the friend of kings (1 Macc 13:36), the A text again omits the appellation ‘friend of kings,’ but this time the expression is found in the B text (Gs 96–7). Clearly, therefore, despite the conclusion of the previous paragraph in this discussion, it is not always bad for a High Priest, or indeed for a Christian bishop, to be a king’s friend if he is a greater friend to his people (though the A redactor presumably disapproved). If one wished to draw a parallel with Icelandic history it would not be difficult to do so, for Brandr Jónsson had been notable for his efforts to mediate between the warring chieftains as the commonwealth drew towards its end, as mentioned above, and had in this respect been a good friend to his people, but by gaining the friendship of the Norwegian kings he was able to secure a bishopric for himself and hence for his countrymen. A further point to be made here is that Gyðinga saga appears to disapprove of the reappointment of High Priests, or their confirmation in the office, by kings. When the Vulgate says King Demetrius confirmed Jonathan as High Priest (1 Macc 11:27), this is omitted in the saga (Gs 83). Similarly when the Vulgate says that young King Antiochus, Demetrius’s enemy, confirmed Jonathan as High Priest (1 Macc 11:57), the saga again omits this although it says that Antiochus sent Jonathan a gold pin and a cup along with offers of friendship (Gs 85). It seems likely, therefore, that the translator or redactor was

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against repeated confirmations of High Priesthood. In this connection it should also be mentioned that Gyðinga saga contains the following interjection in the narrative voice (Gs 80; not in the Vulgate, where it would come at the end of 1 Macc 10): Nu hof gud sua a lopt. tign jonathe. fyrst þa hann mitru. ok byskups tign. af Alexandro. þa coronu. purpuram ok gulldalk af íj. kongum Alexandro. ok tholomeo (Now God so elevated the status of Jonathan that he first received a mitre and the title of High Priest (‘bishop’) from Alexander, then a crown, purple robes, and a gold pin from two kings, Alexander and Ptolemy). The significant details here are that only the initial appointment to the High Priest’s office is mentioned and that kings are useful, even if they are ungodly foreigners, for glorifying the High Priest under the direction of God. It remains to discuss the role of Rome in the scheme of things presented by the saga. Whereas in the Vulgate text first Jonathan and then Simon enter into diplomatic relations with both the Romans and the Spartans, Gyðinga saga (see 87–8 and 100–1) makes substantial cuts by omitting the Spartan material, which is found in 1 Macc 12:5–23 and 14:16–23. These omissions may have been motivated in part by the fact that the material is strictly redundant in that the people of Sparta do nothing except express goodwill, and this goodwill strikes the modern reader as absurd in that it depends on a claim that the Spartans, like the Jews, are descended from Abraham (1 Macc 12:21). Whatever the motivation for the cuts may have been, however, their effect is to foreground the interventions of the Romans. In Gyðinga saga as a whole, including the later sections that are not based on biblical texts, the Roman imperium functions as an ambiguous pagan precursor of the Christian power that stands behind the Roman Church, or even as a precursor of the Church itself: the saga states, for example, that the emperor Tiberius, having been healed of a malady by the sight of Christ’s face on the cloth shown to him by St Veronica (201), asked the Senate to enroll Jesus among the gods, in connection with which the narrator remarks that just as no one can now be added to the list of saints without the authority of the pope in Rome, so in those days no one could be added to the list of gods without the authority of the Romans (202). As Einar Ól. Sveinsson observed, furthermore, ‘From the Roman Empire it [the Church] inherited the idea of a universal empire, as well as the will and the ability to conquer, organise, and rule.’19 This is the idea underlying the fact that the narrator of Gyðinga saga takes the trouble to note that the emperor Augustus died when he hafdi haft eínualldz Riki. yfir ollum heímínum. l. ok víj. aar (had held sole power over the entire world for fifty-seven years, 170). The same idea figures prominently in Veraldar saga (‘The History of the World’), an Icelandic work that stems originally from the late twelfth century and is extant in eleven manuscripts or fragments,20 which says of Augustus after the death of Mark

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Anthony: þaðan fra varð Avgvstvs ein keisari yfir ollv veralldar riki. hann setti frið vm allan heim ok let rita allra manna nofn (From that time onwards Augustus became sole emperor over all the kingdom of the world. He established peace throughout the whole earth and had the names of all people written down).21 Both Gyðinga saga and Veraldar saga in these passages fall into line with an orthodox theological notion current in the Middle Ages, which saw world hegemony ordained for Rome because the early period of its empire coincided with the Incarnation of Christ, whose spiritual rule in the form of the supposedly Catholic (i.e., universal) Church would also centre on Rome. According to this way of thinking the pax Romana instituted by Augustus and mentioned by Veraldar saga therefore marks the birth of Christ as the prince of  peace, which occurred in the very period when Augustus was taking his census.22 The imperial aspirations of Rome at the time when it was a still a republic are noted and heartily endorsed in 1 Macc 8:1–13, which Gyðinga saga (59– 60, A-text) paraphrases briefly: [Judas Maccabeus] hugsar at Romueriar ero menn Rikaztir i heímínum. ok þeir briota allt vndir sik huar sem þeir fara. ok þeir hallda sítt Riki med þeirri sam þyckt. at engín þeirra ofundadi aNan (Judas thinks that the Romans are the most powerful people in the world, and they conquer everything wherever they go. And they maintain their dominion with such concord that none of them envies another). It is on the basis of this optimistic preview of the pax Romana that Judas draws the Romans into the first alliance with his people: til þess at þeir tæki af þeim vfrid girkia (so that they might take away from them the hostility of the Greeks; Gs 61, A-text; but note that in place of vfridr the C-text has vfrelsi ‘tyranny,’ which is closer in meaning to the Vulgate’s iugum Graecorum, ‘yoke of the Greeks,’ in 1 Macc 8:18). The pact that the Romans make with Judas is what ultimately leads to their diplomatic relations with Simon. In 1 Maccabees 14:24–45 we are told that on Mount Zion are displayed tablets with a long inscription in praise of Simon, stating ambiguously that either the Roman people or Simon’s own made him the High Priest and ruler of the Jews. The ambiguity stems from the word populus in 1 Macc 14:35: Et vidit populus actum Simonis, et gloriam quam cogitabat facere genti suae, et posuerunt eum ducem suum, et principem sacerdotem (And the people saw the acts of Simon and the glory that he was intending to create for his nation, and they appointed him their leader and High Priest). Here populus would most easily mean the Jews, who were said in 1 Macc 13:8 (Gs 92) to have hailed Simon as their leader in place of Judas and Jonathan, the former of whom was never High Priest; but it could refer back to the populus Romanus of verse 24, itself corrupt in the Vulgate text. In Gyðinga saga (100–2), however, the account is much compressed and amounts to an

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unequivocal statement that Roman authority bestowed legitimacy on Simon as Jonathan’s successor in the roles of priest and warlord: Ok er þetta spyrz til Roma borgar. at Jonathas er drepinn. enn Símon brodir hans komíN i stadínn. þa senda þeir nu ord til hans. ok vilia bínda med hann sinn felag skap. Simon tok þi val. ok sendir Romuerium einn skiolld af gulli geruan. Enn þeir gefa honum frealst Rikit. allt af ǫllu judea. æuínliga. ok senda honum koronu ok purpura. anulum ok gull dalk. ok allan kongs bunað. ok setia hann yfir kenni maN. ok hertoga allz folksíns. Ok var þetta allt skrifat gull stǫfum. ok vpp fest í Salomons musteri ollum til aa syndar. (And when it is heard in Rome that Jonathan has been killed and his brother Simon has taken his place, they send word to him and wish to enter an alliance with him. Simon responded positively and sends the Romans a shield made of gold. But they give him freely the whole realm of all Judea in perpetuity and send him a crown and purple clothing, a signet ring and a gold pin and all the regalia of a king, and they appoint him as High Priest and commander of all the people. And all this was inscribed in golden letters and hung up in the Temple of Solomon for everyone to see.)

By this point in the narrative, in fact, King Demetrius has already written to Simon addressing him as High Priest and saluting the elders and people of the Jews (Gs 96, 1 Macc 13:36), implying that Simon had adopted the priestly status with the consent of his nation. The letter could be taken, as on earlier occasions, as giving the necessary royal approval of Simon’s election, but in that case the author or redactor of Gyðinga saga is for once willing to let the appointment be reconfirmed by the authority of Rome, or perhaps views the Roman pronouncement as an action that invalidates and supersedes that of Demetrius. Either way, the importance of Rome in the scheme of things is clear: it takes priority over kings. There is ample evidence to show that there are coherent patterns of adaptation in the section of Gyðinga saga based on 1 Maccabees, and that certain attitudes towards political and ecclesiastical issues relevant to Iceland in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries stand revealed. First among these is a notable wariness about writing anything that might be taken to dishonour kings. This wariness would have been relevant irrespective of whether the omissions that indicate it stem from Brandr Jónsson in the thirteenth century or are the work of a redactor at a time when Iceland had already come under the Norwegian crown. Secondly, there is an observable keenness to preserve the traditional laws of each separate people, but at the same time a recognition that traditional

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laws could be adjusted at need and for the benefit of the people. This would have been highly relevant to Iceland in Brandr’s day, when the preservation of Icelandic law was part of the original deal between the Icelanders and the Norwegian kings at the time when the Icelandic chieftains submitted to Norway – a deal that King Magnús effectively broke by promulgating a new code that changed the entire status of Icelandic law to one conceived in terms of criminal offences against the state and crown. It would still have been relevant in the time of the new law, however, for the king and his representatives would have been able to claim that the legal changes were beneficial (as indeed they were for many ordinary Icelanders). Thirdly, despite the wariness about condemning kings, the saga asserts the rights of landowners to fight in defence of their family property, and does so in terms that intersect with the Icelanders’ belief that their ancestors founded the Icelandic commonwealth in response to the actions of a tyrannical king. Fourthly, a bishop must not be a greater friend of kings than of the people of the land, but he could be a friend to both, as Brandr certainly was. Finally, religious leaders are ideally to be chosen initially by their own people, as were Jonathan and Simon, and then confirmed (but not reconfirmed) in their office by kings, over whom the authority of Rome in any case takes precedence. Most of these ideas were standard in European countries in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but their working out in detail and with care in Gyðinga saga points to specific local conditions. Whoever was responsible for the saga as it has come down to us had definite views on these subjects, and although it is not certain that Brandr Jónsson had a hand in the matter, these views would have been of ongoing concern to him and to others of his nation in the times while his memory was still alive.

NOTES 1 The text here is based on a paper of the same title given in December 2007, at John McKinnell’s invitation, as part of a series organized by the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Durham University, in which it was the last to be presented before John’s retirement. A shorter and more rudimentary form of the paper had been tried out in September 2007 at the conference on Early Medieval Religion in Life and Literature, at the University of Rzeszow, and has appeared in the conference proceedings. The present version substantially extends and deepens the argument. 2 For a full account of the manuscripts see the analysis in the authoritative edition, Gyðinga saga, ed. Wolf, xiii–lxxxii, which has been followed here. See also Würth, Antikenroman, 83–6. I have mentioned only those manuscripts that are significant for the part of Gyðinga saga derived from the Vulgate.

Kings, Bishops, and Laws  147 3 See Kirby, Bible Translation. 4 See Würth, Antikenroman, 13–37. 5 Ibid., 100–18. 6 Ibid., 82–99. 7 Gyðinga saga, ed. Wolf (hereafter Gs), 219. Translations from Old Norse are mine. 8 Ibid., lxxxiii–lxxxiv; and see Würth, Antikenroman, 98–9. 9 Einar Ól Sveinsson, Age of Sturlungs, 129 and 18. 10 Gyðinga saga, ed. Wolf, lxxxiv–lxxxv, gives a fuller account of these details. See also Tryggvi Þórhallsson, ‘Brandur Jónsson.’ 11 Biblia sacra, ed. Colunga and Turrado; all translations from the Vulgate are mine, but the Douay-Rheims version has been consulted at 12 Sandvik and Sigurðsson, ‘Laws,’ 227. 13 Ibid. 14 Jón Jóhannesson, Old Icelandic Commonwealth, 282. 15 Ibid., 284. 16 Egils saga, ed. Einarsson, 5. 17 The extant version of this passage in Gyðinga saga preserves these numbers of infantry and cavalry but gives the number of elephants as ‘íx. c.’ (Gs 46). 18 Alexanders saga, ed. Jónsson, 23. 19 Einar Ól Sveinsson, Age of Sturlungs, 105. 20 Würth, Antikenroman, 173–7. 21 Veraldar saga, ed. Benediktsson, 50. 22 See Luke 2:1–14 and the discussion in Cary, Medieval Alexander, 104–5.

Grendel’s Reign of Terror: From History to Vernacular Epic h e l e n d a m ico

In her recent study of Snorri Sturluson’s artistry in restructuring received materials in the Kings’ Sagas collected in Heimskringla, Diana Whaley demonstrates the illusory aspect of Snorri’s historical works, which she aptly characterizes as ‘imaginative historiography,’ a hybrid form that blends fact (reality) and fiction (myth).1 For Whaley, the act of composition itself undermines factual accuracy in that the historian, because he is presenting an individual interpretation of a complex series of historical issues and events, must reconfigure them arbitrarily into a narrative line, employing principles of unity, causality, and embellishment, principles inherent in the creation of imaginative literature.2 The essential fictionality of historical writing is not restricted to biographical sagas like the Heimskringla narratives, if we were to classify them as such, but rather may be said to infiltrate all historical genres, a point of view central to Hayden White’s assessment of historical writings.3 It is at the core of eleventh-century political history, as Elizabeth M. Tyler has argued her discussions on the relationship between historiography, poetry, and history in eleventh-century England, especially in the Encomium Emmae Reginae, where, she argues, the historian’s appropriation of the Aeneid narrative in recording his contemporary history comes close to moving historical text into the realm of fiction.4 The interrelationship among the ‘facts’ of history and their ‘imaginative’ representation can also been seen in eleventh- and twelfth-century Anglo-Saxon and AngloNorman chronicles, as will be discussed below. But artful manipulation of the facts in the creation of a hybridic historiofictive narrative is not limited to historical works, for the manipulation of ‘facts’ into epic description has been a time-honoured practice of epic poets as well. Joseph Duggan and Suzanne Fleishman have argued for the basic historicity of medieval vernacular epic, claiming that the reconfiguration of contemporary factual events and figures has been, in fact, practised by poets of secular

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vernacular epic.5 In his typological study of poetic appropriations of historical elements in the Romance vernacular epic, Duggan demonstrates the poets’ employment of conventional rhetorical alterations to transform history into vernacular epic, which he characterizes as ‘popular historiography.’ Rhetorical alterations – such as manipulating principles of chronology and place, reshaping character relationships, introducing fictive figures, and encoding character identity – represent the tools of the trade of the poets of Germanic vernacular epic as well, as is self-consciously illustrated by the Beowulf poet in his description of Hrothgar’s scop forging a figural relationship between a hero from the legendary past and one from the poem’s present as he creates Beowulf’s panegyric (867b-77a):6        Hwilum cyninges þegn, guma gilphlæden,    gidda gemyndig, se ðe ealfela    ealdgesegena worn gemunde,    word oþer fand soðe gebunden;    secg eft ongan sið Beowulfes    snyuttrum styrian, ond on sped wrecan    spel gerade, wordum wrixlan;    welhwylc gecwæð, þæt he fram Sigemunde[s]    secgan hyrde ellendædum,    uncuþes fela, Wælsinges gewin (At times, a thane of the king, a man laden with speeches, bearing songs in his mind, who could call to mind many, a great many, of the old sagas, devised new words, artfully joined; in turn, the man began to recite [a song about] Beowulf’s adventure, and successfully declaim, to inter-exchange with words, the appropriate tale; he related everything he had heard about Sigemund’s valorous deeds, many an unknown struggle of the Wælsing.)

Beowulf’s superhuman act of purging Heorot of Grendel’s tyranny serves as a prompt script for the scop’s intricate composition of a fresh narrative wherein he conflates two legendary traditions,7 and whereby Beowulf not only is raised to but surpasses the level of the most striking hero of the Germanic legendary past. In documenting the compositional technique of Hrothgar’s scop, the Beowulf poet provides a blueprint of his own eclectic and allusive compositional style. The Anglo-Saxon epic poet, like Snorri and the Romance vernacular poets, employs the narrative devices – compression, substitution, skilful manipulation of character – common to poet and historian alike who

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would recount ‘real’ or ‘fictive’ events, or the free, imaginative interplay between the two. It is characteristic of the Beowulf poet’s narrative skill, as Andy Orchard has recently concluded, to bring together ‘disparate traditions’ from a variety of mythological, legendary, religious, and secular materials and recast them into an original work.8 All of these sources are identifiable as works from the poet’s past. In the discussion that follows, I wish to look at historical events of major importance that may have been contemporary with the Beowulf poet’s culture.9 I propose that the Beowulf poet, in addition to adapting and transmitting works of mythology and legend in his vernacular epic, may also have imaginatively reinterpreted and transformed what we may consider chief contemporary events into poetic form, in particular into Fitt II of Beowulf, which Klaeber has characterized as Grendel’s Reign of Terror.10 My historical point of reference for the discussion will be the Danish attacks on England in the early eleventh century, as treated first by twelfth-century Anglo-Norman historians and then by the contemporary Chronicler of the C-text of the AngloSaxon Chronicle,11 who himself shows signs of moving from what Cecily Clark has described as a ‘restrictive’ annalistic style to the more rhetorically expansive and syntactically complex style of the historian.12

Imaginative Historiography The twelfth-century Anglo-Norman chroniclers, who by keeping a chronological organization in their examinations and re-evaluations of the AngloSaxon past convey a seeming reliability to fact, find themselves subject to literary principles that at times ease their narrative towards a type of fictionality.13 Henry of Huntingdon’s self-conscious disclosure of his compositional trait of compression and authorial selection at the close of Book V of his Historia Anglorum would be one illustration of Whaley’s and White’s arguments on literary principles affecting historical writing: ‘According to my usual practice of giving a simplified explanation, an ordered summary of the abbreviated high points narrated in this book will now be carefully laid before the reader.’14 Henry’s narration in Book VI of the History centres on the events that led to the fall of Æthelred’s England to the Danes, which to his mind led to the Norman invasion and takeover of England,15 and in doing so, makes free use of rhetorical devices normally associated with literature. He will encapsulate, compress, summarize, reorder, and finally select what in his judgment are the ‘high points’ of his historical reportage. Though following closely the Cand E-texts of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,16 he readily uses rhetorical figures not found in his sources: England ‘shook like a reed-bed struck by the ­quivering

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west wind,’ Henry’s simile with its heightened diction to characterize the response of the English people to Svein Forkbeard’s devastation as he swept through England, is one such example; the personification of Svein’s military tactics as his ‘three companions – plunder, burning, and killing’ is another.17 Stark antithetical characterization of the leaders is a third: Æthelred ‘increases in pride and faithlessness’ (in superbiam elatus et perfidiam prolatus), yet is shaken by ‘sorrow and confusion’ in defeat (cum mesticia et confusione), while Svein rises ‘very powerful’ (fortissimus) and ‘very audacious’ (audacissimus), the man ‘for whom God had destined the kingdom of England’ (cui Deus regnum Anglie destinauerat).18 Likewise, John of Worcester’s historical prose depicting the Danish sweep across England may be said to betray devices of fictionality. He freely offers personal assessments of personages (the people mustered for a surprise attack are ineffective or cowardly; Eadric Streona is ‘crafty and treacherous’; Svein, a ‘tyrant,’ called by misnomer a ‘king’); he colours his reader’s response by metaphorically rendering Svein’s army sweeping through Wessex with the ‘bacchanalian fury of wild beasts’; and his meshing of sources into a fresh narrative could be said to fall into the category of narrative devices and modes of representation more common to fiction than fact.19 But it is William of Malmesbury who seems most literarily ambitious as he interweaves a wide range of sources – oral history, hagiography, prophecy, annals, letters – with creative and expansive abandon in his narration of the Danish takeover of Anglo-Saxon England in the early eleventh century, when the Danish forces were ‘always sprouting out of Denmark like a hydra’s head,’ while Æthelred ‘lay yawning.’20 Some years ago in ‘The Declining Reputation of Æthelred the Unready,’ Simon Keynes examined William’s singular reinterpretation of the Chronicler’s commentary on the events of Æthelred’s reign in the C-text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Keynes illustrates the means by which the pro-Norman William refashions the C-Chronicler’s criticism of specific events in Æthelred’s reign into a more all-inclusive and expansive condemnation of the king’s thirty-­sevenyear rule,21 during which William ironically describes Æthelred as having occupied rather than ruled the kingdom.22 In contrast to William’s vituperative narrative against English stupidity, mismanagement, and mistiming of military offensives and his unrelenting censure of (and perhaps disgust with) Æthelred stand the unique style and tone of the C-Chronicler’s entries – objective in recording the events, yet not without expressions of subdued pity, anger, and frustration at the ineptitude of the king’s and his councillors’ leadership.23 Nor is his annalistic commentary covering the years 983–1017 lacking a plethora of poetic devices (assonance, rhyme, alliteration, kenning) and rhetorical figures (antithesis, shifts of perspective), as Keynes elaborately argues and as will be

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discussed further below. Thus William’s use of this major source, as well as the numerous major and miscellaneous sources for that critical period in English history at his command, led Keynes to conclude that as he wrote his account of Æthelred’s reign, the ‘source which exerted the most decisive influence on William was undoubtedly his own fertile imagination.’24 Keynes’s examination of the C-text Chronicler’s choices in recording events of the Danish incursions into England, especially those between roughly 1003 and 1016, reveals a voice of articulate objectivity blended with a distinctive personal involvement.25 His discussion centres on establishing single authorship, time of composition, and singularity of style for the years 983–1016, placing the Chronicler’s composition at about 1017 (although he extends the latter date to 1023), with provenance in London. Although the Chronicler uses exemplars for recording the earlier events in Æthelred’s reign (and these, Keynes asserts, are historically accurate), the material dealing with the Danish invasions reflects a more personal contemporary response to acts that culminated in the fall of Anglo-Saxon England to the Danish Cnut, in a narrative style more literary than historical, a characteristic common to the C-, D-, E-, and F- versions of these years.26 The Chronicler selectively records events of Ælthelred’s reign, excising information dealing with administrative, ecclesiastical and Anglo-Continental affairs, a selectivity that, in Keynes’s view, mars the C-Chronicle as an ultimate source,27 though it brings it closer to historioliterary text. Instead, the C-Chronicler retains a singular ‘telescopic’ view focused on the regularity of the Danish attacks, which he sharply contrasts with the passivity and ineffectiveness of the English response.28 This focalization on the rapidity of the intruder’s attacks and the almost paralytic response of the English, Keynes demonstrates, culminates in a depiction of the Danes as striding about the land ‘as they pleased’29 while Ælthelred assembled with his councillors to draw up ill-chosen strategies. In addition, Keynes points to the Chronicler’s abandonment of the usual ‘laconic’ annalistic style for a more complex phrasal construction and wide-ranging vocabulary and his adaptation of rhetorical devices (‘rhyme, alliteration and repetition … and antithesis’), vestiges of literary rather than historical narrative. At times, the Chronicler invests Danish activity with language more common to heroic poetry (his use of kennings, as one instance)30 than to annalistic prose; at the same time, the Chronicler continually represents the ravaging of the land as the ‘working of evil,’ which, Keynes suggests, might cast light on the Chronicler’s own complex feelings of regret and frustration at the fall of Ælthelred’s England to the Danes.31 The prose entries covering the years 1003–16 understandably were of some political significance, codifying as they did the invasion and subsequent

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ravaging of Anglo-Saxon England by Svein Forkbeard, Thorkell the Tall, and Cnut, and its eventual final conquest by Cnut. So trenchant was the memory of the land’s devastation that a back-reference to the period appears in one of the Chronicle’s six canonical poems – The Death of Alfred (1036, C- and D-versions) – some twenty years later,32 as the 1036 Chronicler compares the barbarities of 103633 to those perpetrated by the Danes ‘when they came [to this land] and made peace here’ (syþþan Dene comon and her frið namon), a remark that might be said to hold something of an ironic cast when one considers the devastation that preceded the peace-making. It would not be entirely unreasonable for an epic poet, caught up with the ruthlessness and inhumanity of the Danes’ method of making peace, to transform and crystallize Svein and his ‘bacchanalian’ troops ranging over England into the monstrous Grendel. For the 1003 Chronicler’s complex attitude towards and singular rhetorical presentation of the events of Ælthelred’s England during the 1003–16 period suggest a turn of mind and a rhetorical stance and narrative tone similar to those that characterize the Beowulf poet’s engaged yet detached narrative of Grendel’s attacks on Heorot. The poet’s involved objectivity, punctuated with bursts of frustration in the gnomic passages; his frequent shifts in perspective; his bent towards phrasal, structural, and thematic antithesis; his chronological framing and treatment of events; and his depiction of character are somewhat like the Chronicler’s as he, too, retrospectively telescopes the events of a twelve-year period that culminate in the rise of a feond on helle (enemy from hell, 101b) to the status of a healðegn (hall-thane, 142a) and half-ruler of Heorot. If one approaches the Beowulfian episode from a socio-political milieu perspective, one may be led to suspect that Grendel’s reign of terror, his planned nocturnal attacks on Hrothgar’s hall and the mære (illustrious) king’s continual ineffective responses might be an epic manifestation of the time when, as the 1036 Chronicler tells us and the Chronicler writing between 1016 and 1023 strikingly brings to life, the Dene comon and her frið namon.34

Grendel’s Reign of Terror and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Klaeber’s title for the episode that dramatizes Grendel’s raids on Heorot predicates a type of sovereignty, an exertion of royal rule over the Danes, tyrannical as it was, throughout a lengthy period of time – some twelve years, the poet tells us. Klaeber was seemingly uncomfortable in accepting the raids on Heorot as being fundamentally derived from a folktale narrative, as the episode had been and continues to be traditionally labelled, although he admitted their general relation to the fabulous mode.35 Grendel’s raids, he noted, were unlike

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those of the trolls in folktales, for folktale versions came in doublets whereas in Beowulf there were many in succession,36 and, one could add, they extended continuously over a dozen years rather than the usual two. Moreover, the tonal ambiguity of the poet’s judgments, his concentration on the psychology and emotions of the character,37 and his moral commentary upon and frustration at the unravelling of events distinguished the episode as dynamic and complex in its construction, the antithesis of the elemental linearity of a folktale. Rather, Klaeber suggested that one look to the historical features of the episode, by which I assume Klaeber meant those of legendary history,38 but which I suggest might be the more contemporaneously relevant socio-political climate of the poet’s culture, as Roberta Frank has often noted.39 For what I find remarkable in reading the C-Chronicler’s account of the Danish attacks on England between 1003 and 1016 is a certain turn of mind, a parallelism in treatment, tone, and shifting of narrative perspective that suggests that the Beowulf poet’s depiction of Grendel’s Reign of Terror may be his own imaginative version of the Danish forces sweeping through England with the ‘bacchanalian fury of wild beasts.’ The whole of Fitt II (115–88) is given over to the narrative of Grendel’s guðcræft (war-strength) that terrorizes the Danes. In the scenic organization of the narrative, the attacks comprise the dark episode in the past history of Heorot, for they pre-date the introduction of Beowulf: the acts of war perpetrated by the grimma gæst (fierce guest/spirit) which the prince comes to avenge are foreshadowed in the passage that functions as a prelude to Grendel’s reign (99a–105): Swa ða drihtguman    dreamum lifdon, eadiglice,    oð ðæt an ongan fyrene fre(m)man    feond on helle; wæs se grimma gæst   Grendel haten, mære mearcstapa,    se þe moras heold, fen ond fæsten;    fifelcynnes eard wonsæli wer    weardode hwile (Thus the warriors lived in joy, blessed-like, until a certain one began to perform evils, an enemy from Hell. That fierce guest/spirit was named Grendel, illustrious boundary-stalker who ruled the moors, fens, and strongholds; a man of black-joy, he occupied for a time the region of the monsters)

The antithetical placement of the unsuspecting drihtguman (noble warriors) living in blessed joy and the dark joyless man, the feond on helle (enemy from

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hell), who will wreak fyrene (evils) upon them, serves as an anticipatory summary of the documented deeds – the antithesis between heroic delight and inexplicable cruelty – graphically depicted in Fitt II that culminate in Grendel’s nocturnal domination of Heorot. The poet’s deliberate depiction of Grendel as an … feond, an unidentified and formless enemy, here and elsewhere,40 incomprehensible in nature, who had possession of and ranged over large expanses of land, might be said to be an apt description of the amorphous and unspecified nature of the harrying Danish army as it swept at will through every corner of England in the early years of the eleventh century, ‘marching through and decimating even the wild fens’ of East Anglia (ge fyrðon on þa wildan fennas hi ferdon [1010]) until the land lay in waste and its people slain and mutilated (144–54): Swa rixode    ond wið rihte wan ana wið eallum,    oð þæt idel stod husa selest.    Wæs seo hwil micel; twelf wintra tid    torn geþolode wine Scyldinga,    weana gehwelcne, sidra sorga;    forðam [secgum] wearð, ylda bearnum    undyrne cuð gyddum geomore,    þætte Grendel wan hwile wið Hroþgar,    heteniðas wæg, fyrene ond fæhðe    fela missera, singale sæce;    sibbe ne wolde (Thus [Grendel] ruled and fought against rightfulness, one alone against all, until the best of houses stood uselessly empty. The time was interminable. The friendly-lord of the Scyldings endured afflictions, every misery, all conceivable agonies for twelve winters. Thus, it was patently revealed to men through plaintive song that Grendel battled against Hrothgar for a time; waged hostile combat, sinful crime and feud, continual battle for many a half-year. He desired no peace.)

The poet’s condensation of Grendel’s attacks upon the Danes is evocative of the C-Chronicler’s telescopic rendering of the Danish incursion into England during those dozen years or so at the beginning of the eleventh century. Although Svein’s harrying of England began at the end of the final decade of the tenth century, the concerted political effort for the invasion and conquest of England took place from 1003 with the destruction of Exeter to 1016 with the division of England, placing Cnut in control of Mercia and Edmund Ironside of Wessex.41

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The time-span of a dozen years that appears simultaneously in the annals and the poem may, of course, be a happenstance, yet it is remarkable that both Chronicler and poet are deeply, and, one might say, emotionally preoccupied with the brutality and devastation inflicted upon a nation by a fierce enemy for a period of a dozen years. Second, the poet’s sensitivity towards Hrothgar, caught in a web of hostile afflictions from which he is unable to extricate himself or his people, misfortunes he has come to accept as the norm, is similar to the Chronicler’s rendering of Æthelred, whom he treats, as Keynes points out, with sympathy and respect.42 Æthelred geheold his rice mid myclum swince and earfoðnessum þa hwile ðe his líf wæs (ruled his kingdom with great toil and many tribulations for the time allotted to his life); he retained the loyalty of his people, who upon the death of Svein invited him back to England from Normandy, declaring þæt him nan hlaford leofra nære þonne hiora gecynda hlaford (that no lord was more beloved to them than the lord of their own race), despite the bungling strategies and ineffectual responses to the Danish attacks. This preference of subjects for their natural king above all other princes reported by the Chronicler is likewise a theme touched upon by the poet; it serves as a light ironic prelude to the panegyric extemporaneously composed in praise of Beowulf’s defeat of Grendel, a feat which one might suppose stands in stark contrast to Hrothgar’s paralytic actions (856b–63):     Ðær wæs Beowulfes mærðo mæned;    monig oft gecwæð, þætte suð ne norð    be sæm tweonum ofer eormengrund    oþer nænig under swegles begong    selra nære rondhæbbendra,    rices wyrðra. – Ne hie huru winedrihten    wiht ne logon, glædne Hroðgar,    ac þæt wæs god cyning. – (Beowulf’s glorious deed was chanted there; many said repeatedly that north or south between the two seas, throughout the spacious earth, no other shield-bearer under the expanse of the sky would ever be more worthy of a kingdom. Nor did they indeed in any way find fault with (blame) their friendly lord, gracious Hrothgar; on the contrary he was a good king.)

The comparative insertion equating the aged king to Beowulf seems gratuitous here. Hrothgar’s endurance under Grendel’s tormenting attacks has been more than sympathetically treated; plaintive songs about Hrothgar’s afflictions had circulated among men (149b–54a), lamenting the heteniðas (hostile combat),

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the fyrene (evils), and the singale sæce (continuous battle) which Grendel waged against Hrothgar for fela missera (many a half-year). Hrothgar’s afflictions were no less than Æthelred’s tribulations during the uninterrupted Danish onrush through England during those last twelve years to grasp the kingdom for the Danish king. Nonetheless, the poet’s affirmation of Hrothgar as king at this point in the narrative cannot be viewed as anything other than ambiguous, for it implicitly points to the king’s deficiencies, inadequacies that are more pointedly dramatized by his reaction to Grendel’s first attack. After Grendel’s first onslaught on Heorot, during which he plundered thirty thanes, the disposition of which is not revealed until 1579b–84a (at the exact moment Beowulf decapitates Grendel’s corpse), the poet portrays Hrothgar as cowed by the ferocity of the enemy’s attack, impelled to inactivity and sorrow instead of gathering forces and waging a counterattack. The inappropriateness of his response as helm Scyldinga (protector of the Scyldings) is made ironically more striking as it is antithetically juxtaposed with the immediacy of Grendel’s second attack (129b–37):        Mære þeodon, æþeling ærgod,    unbliðe sæt, þolode ðryðswyð,    þegnsorge dreah, syðþan hie þæs laðan    last sceawedon, wergan gastes;    wæs þæt gewin to strang, lað ond longsum!   Næs it lengra fyrst, ac ymbe ane niht    eft gefremede morðbeala mare    ond no mearn fore, fæhðe ond fyrene;    wæs to fæst on þam. (The illustrious king, a prince of eternal goodness, sat in sorrow, the mighty one suffered, he endured the distress at the loss of thanes, when they showed him the tracks of the loathsome one, of the accursed spirit/guest. That battle had been too strong, too loathsome and long-lasting. No longer a time passed, but around the following night that he [Grendel] again performed greater slaughters and, as before, he did not mourn the feud and evil deeds; he was too resolved on them.)

The portrayal of Hrothgar is at once critical of his grievous betrayal of trust as helm Scyldinga and compassionately sympathetic, a complex of reactive responses characteristic of the C-text Chronicler’s rendering of the daunted English king. The poet’s shift in focus to comment on the intensity, savagery, and length of the attacks – to strang, lað, longsum, to fæst – and the regularity of the fæhðe ond fyrene is a feature of the C-text Chronicler as well. His

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c­ ontinuous description of the Danish attacks as the ‘working of evil,’ noted above, for instance, is consonant with the poet’s depiction of Grendel’s acts throughout the poem as fyrene. Further, Grendel’s relentlessness in executing his campaign of terror is a characteristic of the advancing troops of 1006, which dydon eal swa hi ær gewuna wæron, heregodon and bærndon and slogon swa swa hi ferdon (did just as they had been in the habit of doing – they harried and burned and massacred as they carried on), just as the ineffectiveness of the English plans of attack is also characteristic of the Danes under Hrothgar: Ac hit naht ne beheold þe ma ðe hit oftor ær dide, ac for eallum þissum se here ferde swa he sylf wolde (but it [the English force] could hold back nothing at all any more than it often previously had done, but on the contrary in spite of all this, the harrying army carried on just as it itself desired).43 Hrothgar’s warriors, likewise, make a travesty of their heroic plans of counterattack. With a bravado induced by beer, they utter hollow boasts to attack the enemy with the ‘terror of battle swords,’ only to have their encounter with Grendel turn the mead hall into a ‘hall of warriors shining with gore’ (480–8): Ful oft gebeotedon    beore druncne ofer ealowæge    oretmecgas, þæt hie in beorsele    bidan woldon Grendles guþe    mid gryrum ecga. Ðonne wæs þeos medoheal    on morgentid, drihtsele dreorfah,    þonne dæg lixte, eal bencþelu    blode bestymed, heall heorudreore;    ahte ic holdra þy læs, deorre duguðe,    þe þa deað fornam. (Quite often, my champions, emboldened by beer, would vow over ale-cup that they wanted to remain in the beer-hall, to wait for Grendel’s attack with the terror of battle-swords. Then in the morning, when the day lightened, was this mead-hall [turned into] a hall of warriors shining with gore, all the floor-planks and benches steaming with blood, a hall stained with the gore of battle. I possessed less beloved daring retainers, whom death then destroyed.)

The emotional space that informs the Beowulf passage is characterized by both compassion and irony, for the onerous disgrace that tinges the warriors’ actions is softened by Hrothgar’s disclosure of them to Beowulf in a type of confession. The use of oretmecgas in this instance, which elsewhere in the poem is used to characterize Beowulf and his chosen champions (332, 363), is a case in point, for not only is it suggestive of Hrothgar’s inaccurate assessment of his

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men and their own ineffectiveness, but, at the same time, it provides a view of a monarch standing in the midst of a ravaged kingdom. Still other resemblances between the annalistic narrative of the Danish takeover of England and Grendel’s reign of terror suggest that the poet and the annalist may be engaged with the same historical event. The delineation of the annalistic and the Beowulfian witan is one such example. The C-Chronicler’s portrayal of the ineffectiveness of Æthelred’s witan in negotiating peace settlements or in planning strategies of attacks or counterattacks appears as a leitmotiv in the Chronicler’s account, as in this example from 1006: Agan se cyning þa georne to smeagenne wið his witan hwæt him eallum rædlicust þuhte þæt mon ðissum earde gebeorghan mihte (The king then began to deliberate earnestly with his counsellors for some plan that seemed most expedient to them, that might effectively defend this land). The results of these deliberations were the payment of gafol, which neither in 1006 nor in other years effected a truce or held the enemy at bay, but rather inflamed it.44 Or this example, from 1010: Þonne bead man eallan witan to cynge, and man sceolde þonne rædan, hu man þisne eard werian sceolde. Ac þeah mon þonne hwæt rædde, þæt ne stod furðon ænne monað (All the counsellors were then summoned to the king, and they were obliged to devise a plan how they should defend this land. But on the contrary, although they planned something then, the plan did not continue for even a single month). A similar obtuse indecision and futility of martial action colour the depiction of Hrothgar’s counsellors, his witan of high-ranking nobles, twice touched on with light irony by the Beowulf poet (171b–4):         Monig oft gesæt rice to rune;    ræd eahtedon, hwæt swiðferðum    selest wære wið færgryrum    to gefremmanne. (Many high-ranking [lords] often sat in council; they deliberated about [their] counsel, about what might be best done by the brave-hearted ones against the terror caused by the sudden onslaughts.)

Their deliberations were ill-founded, it seems, at least in their expectations of tribute, as the Beowulf poet describes the folly of their expectations in bargaining for peace with Grendel (154b–61a):        sibbe ne wolde wið manna hwone    mægenes Deniga, feorhbealo feorran,    fea þingian,

160  Helen Damico ne þær nænig witena    wenan þorfte beorhtre bote    to banan folmum; (ac se) æglæca    ehtende wæs, deorc deaþscua,    duguþe ond geoguþe, seomade ond syrede; (He [Grendel] desired no peace-pact with any man of the Danish military force, no termination to the deadly evil; [nor did he desire] to settle on a tribute; none of the counsellors there had need to expect bright compensation at the hands of the killer; but on the contrary the monster-warrior, the dark death-shadow, kept on persecuting, ambushing, and devouring the troops, young and old.)

The expectation by Hrothgar’s witan of tribute from the enemy reverses the position of those engaged in bargaining for peace in the Chronicle and stands as an ironic exaggeration of the miscalculations by Æthelred’s witan in negotiating peace settlements by means of tribute, which indeed did not hold back the enemy, but rather further induced it to plague and ravage the English people. Finally, the Chronicler’s report on the cowardice of the Anglo-Saxons45 is likewise dramatized in the Beowulfian poem, in which Hrothgar’s warriors, those who are to guard Heorot, are subtly and ironically characterized as cowardly, as they choose to find a ‘roomier place’ of rest far from the hall when warned by signs (literally, beacons, from gebeacnod; 138–43): Þa wæs eaðfynde    þe him elles hwær gerumlicor    ræste [sohte], bed æfter burum,    ða him gebeacnod wæs, gesægd soðlice    sweotolan tacne healðegnes hete;    heold hyne syðþan fyr and fæstor    se þæm feond ætwand. (Then [he] was easily found, he who sought a roomier resting place elsewhere, a bed among the [outlying] buildings when it was shown to him, by a clear sign [that] shone like a beacon, the hate of the hall-thane. Then he held himself far and more securely, he who fled the enemy.)

This type of controlled irony characterizes the Chronicler’s entries for 1003–9, especially that of 1006, as he records the empty boasts and anti-heroic actions of Englishmen who fled the Danish troops, which, in contrast, always announced themselves by atendon hiora herebeacen swa hi ferdon (lighting their war-beacons as they went).46 The use of beacon in both accounts, of course,

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may be coincidental, yet in both, as noun and verb, it is the ‘sign’ of the enemy. Its appearance among the other stylistic similarities is provocative, as is the similarity between the Beowulf poet’s continuous characterization of Grendel’s onslaughts on Heorot as fyrene ‘evils’ and the Chronicler’s characterization of the Danish armies’ acts of ravaging as the ‘workings of evil.’47 And one is led to conjecture that the unnamed distress that the zealous spirit/stranger (ellengæst, 86a) impatiently suffered for a long time (earfoðlice/ þrage geþolode, 86b-87a) may well be the need for satisfaction of a fæhðe, the intensity of which may have been as immoderate as that which incited Svein to attack Exeter and Norwich in 1003, as revenge for the murder of his sister Gunnhildr and her husband Palling, victims of the St Brice’s massacre in April 1002, a barbarous act against the Danes in the Danelaw ordered by Æthelred.

Conclusion The sympathy of the 1016 Chronicler rests with the defeated house of Æthelred, although he cannot but recognize the rise of the heroic figure of Cnut as the king who must mould out of the rubble what would become a new AngloDanish realm. Without question, the first two-thirds of Beowulf are riveted on the process by which Heorot can shake off Grendel’s dark reign over the sincfage sel (jewel-decorated hall, 167a) and emerge once again as the best of houses, filled with joy and loud song. With the arrival of Beowulf and his subsequent cleansing of Heorot of the Grendel-kin, the possibility of the restoration of a harmonious kingdom presents itself. The allusion is self-­evident. Not for a moment do I suggest that the pro-Scandinavian Beowulf poet was composing a vernacular epic on the fall of the house of Æthelred, although his compassion for the faulty king and for his tormented people permeates the first two-thirds of Beowulf. The narrative scheme of Beowulf is broader in its po­ litical context. I do, however, suggest that in addition to the anonymous C-Chronicler’s ‘remarkably vivid impression of … the incursions and later invasions of the Danes,’ to quote Keynes,48 the Beowulfian episode of Grendel’s Reign of Terror found in Cotton Vitellius A.xv could very well represent another account of the struggles of war-torn England in the early eleventh century, historically cryptic as it may be. The immediate difficulty that arises has to do with the issue of dating, even though the dates I have been discussing fall within the late scribal datings of the manuscript, proposed by David Dumville as falling between AD 997 and AD 1013 and by Kevin Kiernan (on paleographic and codicological grounds) as post-AD 1016.49 The hand of Scribe A inscribing the first two-thirds of

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Beowulf, within which Grendel’s Reign of Terror lies, is clearly an eleventhcentury Anglo-Carolingian hand, later than that of Scribe B, one of Dumville’s and Kiernan’s points of agreement (among other larger disagreements),50 although the date-range within the century has not been established. A related issue is one that concerns the poet’s source: was the poet, like the Chronicler, an eyewitness to the barbarities inflicted upon England or did he have access to a secondhand oral or written account, like the Chronicle itself, for example? If the former, then the composition of Beowulf could fall within the second decade of the eleventh century; if the latter, then the composition of Beowulf might be extended further into the third and fourth decades of the eleventh century. The former seems unlikely, for the poet is distanced from the events, reflecting upon and transcending the horror though moved by it. It would be a welcome resolution to the difficulty of dating if we knew whether the poet were personalizing the archetypal patterns associated with war, complete with its accompanying barbarisms, strategic blunders, incompetent leadership, and betrayals, or if he were dramatizing an alternative period of Danish invasions; Anglo-Saxon England was not lacking in them from the ninth century on – Alfred’s battles against the invading Danes, for example. But although the author of the Alfredian accounts, like the C-Chronicler of Æthelred’s reign, eases his narrative close to history by using rhetorical embellishments and complex syntactical techniques in recording the Danish invasions of 891–6,51 the striking combination of narrative elements that we find in the C-Chronicler’s account and in the poet’s rendering of Grendel’s Reign of Terror are lacking in the Alfredian struggles; in particular Alfred’s impressive political and military leadership contrasts with Æthelred’s and Hrothgar’s inadequacy. I would be thus led to conclude that Grendel’s Reign of Terror and the C-Chronicler’s account of the terror of the Danes stand as signposts to other historio-literary confluences of historical ‘fact’ and imaginative ‘craft’ that may be discovered in Beowulf that would render it an eleventh-century allegorical socio-political document in epic verse.

NOTES 1 Whaley, Heimskringla, esp. chs. 5 and 6, 83–143, at 113. 2 Ibid., 127–9. 3 See White, Tropics of Discourse, esp. ‘Interpretation in History,’ ‘The Historical Text as Literary Artifact,’ ‘Historicism, History, and the Figurative Imagination,’ and ‘The Fictions of Factual Representation’; and his Introduction, ‘The Poetics of History,’ in his Metahistory. 4 Tyler, ‘Fictions of Family,’ 155–8, 165; see also her ‘Talking about History.’

Grendel’s Reign of Terror  163 5 Duggan, ‘Medieval Epic’; Fleishman, ‘On the Representation,’ 281, 291–4. 6 Edition cited is Beowulf, ed. Klaeber, 3rd ed. Translations are mine, unless otherwise indicated. 7 See Klaeber’s notes to lines 875–900 on 159–61; also Klaeber’s Beowulf, ed. Fulk et al., 166–8. 8 Orchard, Critical Companion, esp. chs. 4 and 5, at 168. 9 For arguments dealing with the contemporaneity of the Beowulf poet with the ­culture of the tenth and eleventh centuries, see Frank’s seminal articles, ‘Sense of History’; ‘Skaldic Verse’; and her ‘King Cnut’; see also my Beowulf and the ­Grendel-Kin, forthcoming. 10 Klaeber, ed., Beowulf, esp. 132; Klaeber’s Beowulf, ed. Fulk et al., 123. 11 I undertake a full discussion of the comparative treatment of the Danish attacks in Book II of the pro-Anglo-Danish Encomium Emmae Reginae and in Beowulf in ch. 2 of Beowulf and the Grendel-Kin. 12 Clark, ‘The Narrative Mode,’ 216–30, at 216. Clark contrasts the style of the early ninth- and tenth-century entries, which she describes as ‘restrictive’ and ‘artificial,’ with that of the entries from the late tenth century to the beginning of Cnut’s reign, characterized by complexity of syntax, rhetorical figures and patterning, tone and diction, and the emergence of the personality of the Chronicler. A similar complexity and richness of style characterizes the entries after Cnut’s death that record the events of the reigns of Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut. 13 I will comment on three Anglo-Norman historians: Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum, hereafter HHHA; Chronicle of John of Worcester, II, hereafter JWChron; quotes at 454–5 [1004], 472–3 [1013], 474–5 [1013]; and William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum, hereafter WMGRA. Unless otherwise noted, all references to, quotations from, and translations of these works will use these editions. See Ashdown, English and Norse Documents, who sees the development from early Anglo-Saxon to later Anglo-Norman annalistic writing as reflective of a movement towards the Norse method (at 18). 14 HHHA, 330–1: More autem solito, lux apertionis exordinata adbreuiatione genita, perstrictis huius libri summitatibus, lectori diligenter anteponenda est. 15 HHHA, 338–9, vi.1. 16 On Henry’s sources, see Plummer, Two of the Saxon Chronicles, II, lv–lviii; see also Keynes, ‘Declining Reputation,’ 238–9; for Henry’s rhetorical practices and his use of sources, see Page, ‘A Most Vile People,’ 14–20. 17 HHHA, 342–3, vi.3: quem semper comitabantur tres socie, predatio, cumbustio, occisio, frenduit omnis Anglia et commota est uelut harundinetum zephiro uibrante collisum. 18 HHHA, 340–5, vi.2 and vi.3. 19 JWChron; on John’s Commentary on the people, at 454–5 [1004]: At illi uel non audebant uel iussa perficere negligebant; quotes at 456–7: Dolosus et perfidus

164  Helen Damico Edricus Streona; 474–5 [1013]: si iure queat rex uocari, qui fere cuncta tirannice faciebat. … Suanus tirannus; 472–3 [1013]: et rabie ferina debachantibus. Except for the account of Svein in the Encomium, the Danish king is almost exclusively presented in a negative light, possibly as a result of early German assessments of him as an evil and pagan king; for a corrective, see Sawyer, ‘Swein Forkbeard.’ 20 WMGRA, II.165.4–5, 272–3: nam semper, ut hidrae capitibus, hostibus ex Danemarkia pullulantibus nusquam caueri poterat. See also later under II.165.7 on Æthelred’s inactivity and lack of leadership which William records throughout. 21 Keynes, ‘Declining Reputation,’ 227–53; esp. 236–9. Keynes discusses the period from 978 to 1017, but he focuses on the years 983–1016. 22 WMGRA, II.164.1, 268–9. 23 Keynes does not make the comparison, although this is implied; the difference of voice, tone, and style particular to the two historical accounts is inescapable. 24 Keynes, ‘Declining Reputation,’ 238. 25 In addition to Keynes’s discussion of the uniqueness of the C-Chronicler’s style and tone, to which I am indebted, see Ashdown, English and Norse Documents, 14–18; Clark, ‘Narrative Mode,’ 224–30. For a discussion of the C-text’s characteristics for the years 976–82 and 983–1022, see O’Keeffe, ed., Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, lxii–lxviii. I use the Ashdown edition of the C-Chronicle, English and Norse Documents, 38–70, for references to and quotations of the text. 26 For variances in the versions, see Clark, ‘Narrative Mode,’ 230–3. 27 Keynes, ‘Declining Reputation,’ 236. 28 Ibid., 233. 29 Ibid., 245n17, identifies ten instances of the formula ‘swa … swa *hi … wolde (on)’: 994, 998, 999, 1001, 1006, 1009, 1010 (twice), 1011, 1013, suggestive of the Danish troops’ mastery over the land; see also Ashdown, English and Norse Documents, 15n1; and Clark, ‘Narrative Mode,’ 229. 30 The first, yðhengestas ‘sea horses’ (1003), refers to Svein’s sea vessels that await him after his sacking of Exeter and Salisbury: þær he wiste his yðhengestas (where he knew his ships were [waiting]). The second refers to Svein’s heated battle with Ulfcytel in East Anglia (1004): hi sylfe sædon þæt hi næfre wursan handplegan on Angelcynne ne gemitton, þonne Ulfcytel him tobrohte (they themselves said that they never experienced ‘fiercer hand-to-hand fighting’ [Page’s translation] than was extended to them by Ulfcytel); Page, ‘A Most Vile People,’ 26–8, at 27; see also Clark, ‘Narrative Mode,’ 229, where she associates the latter with Beowulf’s wrestling match with Grendel (Beowulf 718–19a), although the kenning is not found in the poem. 31 The entry for 1013 holds the last of nine appearances of the idea of evil as the causative factor in the harrying of England, sometimes expressed by the formula ‘mæst (*) yfel worhton’; again, it is Svein’s troops who worhton þæt mæst yfel ðe

Grendel’s Reign of Terror  165 æfre æni here gedon meahte (worked the greatest evil that any army had the power to inflict). The other eight are at 993, 994 (twice), 997, 1001, 1002, 1009, and 1011; Keynes, ‘Declining Reputation,’ 231, 245n16. 32 These are traditionally identified as The Battle of Brunanburh (937, in versions ABCD of ASC), The Capture of the Five Boroughs (942, in ABCD), The ­Coronation of Edgar (973, in ABC), The Death of Edgar (975, ABC), The Death of Alfred (1036, CD), The Death of Edward (1065, CD). See Bredehoft, Textual Histories, esp. 72–118, for a discussion of these and the additional Chronicle entries which Plummer printed as verse; Bredehoft identifies thirty-six poetic passages in seventeen poems (78–9). 33 Inclusive of these is the assassination of Alfred atheling, Æthelred and Emma’s son, at the orders of his stepbrother, Harold Harefoot, alleged son of Cnut and Ælfgifu of Northampton, and half-ruler of England. 34 I follow Keynes’s dating for the composition of this section of the C-Chronicle, ‘Declining Reputation,’ 231. 35 Klaeber, ed., Beowulf, esp., xivn1, and passim. There is extensive critical literature on the folkloric elements in the Grendel episodes, and extending into their relationship to Icelandic material, in Klaeber’s edition (xiii–xxix); see most recently Klaeber’s Beowulf, ed. Fulk et al., xxxvi–li. 36 Klaeber’s Beowulf, ed. Fulk et al., 124n135f. 37 Several essays have dealt with the poet’s psychological treatment of Grendel, among which is Lapidge, ‘Beowulf.’ 38 Klaeber’s Beowulf, ed. Fulk et al., xivn1. 39 See above, note 9; Frank’s subsequent articles deal consistently with the contemporaneity of the poem. 40 This is an attribute readily repeated; see, e.g., lines 101, 143, 164, 439, 725, 748, 984, 1276. 41 ASC, s.a. 994; s.a. 1016. For a discussion of the Danish incursions and the English response, see Williams, Æthelred the Unready, esp. chs. 3–7; and Howard, Swein Forkbeard’s Invasions, 99–123. 42 Keynes, ‘Declining Reputation,’ 236. 43 This, from 1006, is one of the many examples of the C-Chronicler’s comments on the English military preparations; see Clark, who sees heregodon and bærndon and slogon swa swa hi ferdon as key words used to emphasize the barbarity and ‘mastery’ of the Danes (s.a. 1001, 1003, 1004, 1009, 1010), 229–30. 44 For the payments of tribute, beginning at ten thousand pounds in 991 and increasing steadily to the annual contribution of seventy-two thousand pounds in 1017, see Clark, ‘Narrative Mode,’ 229; and Keynes, ‘Heregeld.’ 45 ASC, s.a. 1006, 1010, 1016. 46 Keynes, ‘Declining Reputation,’ 234.

166  Helen Damico 47 Ibid., 231, 245n16. 48 Ibid., 229. 49 Dumville, ‘Beowulf Come Lately,’ 63; and his ‘The Beowulf-Manuscript,’ 22; ­Kiernan, Beowulf and the Beowulf Manuscript, passim. Both Dumville and Kiernan adhere to Neil Ker’s dating of the manuscript (975–1025); for a summary of their positions see Orchard, Companion to Beowulf, 19–22. For arguments voiced from various disciplinary approaches for dates of composition ranging from the eighth to the eleventh centuries, see Bjork and Obermeier, ‘Date, Provenance,’ 13–34; see also the Introduction in my Beowulf and the Grendel-Kin. 50 Dumville, ‘Beowulf Come Lately,’ 55–6; Kiernan, Beowulf and the Beowulf Manuscript, ‘Re-Visions,’ xvii–xxi. 51 Clark, ‘Narrative Mode,’ 221–4.


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Sibling Drama: Laterality in the Heroic Poems of the Edda c a r o ly n e larrington

Given its impact in a number of other literary domains, including Old English, psychoanalytical and psychological theory has been surprisingly under-­utilized in the study of Norse literature.1 Russell Poole makes use of psychologically inflected insights in a recent article on Grettis saga, while in 2007 Torfi Tulinius gave a paper informed by Freud to the Viking Society in London.2 John McKinnell has, however, consistently employed insights from Jungian psychology in his fruitful and illuminating studies of Norse myth and mythological poetry, most notably in his work on Þrymskvíða and in Meeting the Other.3 John has shown how the universal patterns which psychoanalytic theory assumes underlie human cultural expression can be uncovered across Old Norse mythological material. In this essay I shall, in part, use the theoretical insights of psychoanalyst Juliet Mitchell and the observations of psychologists to analyse the ways in which lateral, rather than vertical, family relations dominate the heroic poetry of the Poetic Edda, in marked contrast to the genealogical models familiar from the sagas of Icelanders. In the narratives of the heroic poems every character operates as a brother or sister within a sibling group, including those who seem to be added later in compositional history. This extraordinary, even excessive, focus on siblings is a constant in the surviving heroic poems, apart from those concerned with Sigurðr’s youth, and consequently it leaves its mark on Volsunga saga, a text to which I shall occasionally refer.4 I shall argue that the heroic poems of the Poetic Edda have been compiled in accordance with a chiastic principle, the lacuna notwithstanding, and that the ordering of the poems yields a systematic exploration of sibling and affinal relationships in a gender and power politics which puts the interests of the clan group above considerations of individual happiness and personal honour.5

170  Carolyne Larrington

Sibling Drama as Family Drama Just as in Greek and Shakespearean tragedy – where although whole kingdoms are at stake, the plot focuses on events within a family group – so too in eddic heroic poetry the focus is largely on dramatic events occurring within the family. The atmosphere in these poems is notably claustrophobic, particularly in the poems concerned with the killing of Sigurðr and its multiple aftermaths. The characters are all closely related to one another and unlike Helgakviða Hundingsbana (hereafter HH) I, where the action broadens out into large panoramic battle-scenes, flytings, and sea-journeys, where male heroic activity is projected against a grand canvas of landscapes, the Gjúkungar poems take place in halls or in bedchambers, scenes which include a very limited number of protagonists. The court and retinue, ever-present in Beowulf for example, are rendered almost invisible; their opinion about the unfolding events remains unvoiced. Like the medieval European ballads with which they have much in common, the poems tend to conform to Olrik’s Law of Two to a Scene; they achieve their intimacy and intense concentration on family relationships through dialogue, in particular through the performance of repetitive speech acts.6 The heroic poems may usefully be characterized as ‘sibling drama,’ a label calqued on ‘family drama,’ ordinarily regarded as a critical/psychoanalytical term reserved for tragedy. In its archetypal form the family drama centres on a son’s resolution – or failed resolution – of the Œdipus complex, focusing on parent-child relationships. Vertical relations are seen as crucial, an emphasis which accords with the interest in genealogy and lineage in the Íslendingasogur; by contrast, the heroic poems – the three Helgi poems and most markedly the poems centring on Sigurðr, Guðrún, and her offspring – attend to lateral relations: those between brothers, sisters, and affines, i.e., in-laws (or, in the Helgi poems, frustrated affines in form of the rejected suitor who allies himself with the valkyrie’s brother). In psychoanalytic theory the sibling bond is structured differently from the Œdipal relationship; it is not the three-sided relationship of mother, father, and child. Sibling ties form a dense and complex web, for the child may have more than one sibling, and once the protagonist, or the protagonist’s sibling, is married, a series of doublings complicate the already ambivalent feelings present from childhood in the sibling connection. Psychoanalytic and psychological attention has recently begun to focus on the sibling, much neglected hitherto in favour of the master paradigm of the parent/child triangle. Developmental psychology has been interested in childhood sibling relations for a long time, in particular how the transitions for the older child at the birth of a sibling are negotiated. More recent studies have investigated the significance of sibling bonds throughout the life cycle, for the

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sibling relationship usually begins earlier and/or lasts longer than the bond with parents, spouse, and child.7 Cross-cultural psychological findings also highlight the different paradigms for sibling relationships existing in other contemporary cultures, often comparable with earlier versions of Western cultures. Thus, as Thomas Weisner notes: ‘Siblings always matter. How siblings should relate to each other, what to call them, and what resources they are to have and share is important to all cultures. These matters are not left culturally undefined.’8 The heroic poems are different in type from the great tragedies of Western tradition, yet they are fundamentally family dramas: their characters stand in archetypal though complex relation to one another. Modern psychological research is only now beginning to catch up with the universal folk understanding of family psychology which the poems analyse and reflect.9

‘It comes down to love and hate, doesn’t it?’10 Traditional narrative – folktale, ballad, legend – is full of sibling relationships, most typically considered as rivalrous. Brothers compete with one another for success in an adventure (with the youngest brother typically succeeding); sisters contend for the desirable match (again with a bias towards the youngest’s success). These archetypal patterns directed initial psychological research on siblings towards consideration of birth order effects – what it might mean to be the younger brother or older sister and how this might affect relatively stable characteristics such as intelligence and personality.11 In psychoanalytic theory the parent-child relationship remains absolutely central for Freud and his successors. Sibling rivalries are understood as generated by competition for the mother’s attention once the new baby has arrived, and thereafter, for Freud at any rate, are more or less ignored. Juliet Mitchell’s book, Mad Men and Medusas (2000), closely followed by Siblings: Sex and Violence (2003), compellingly redirected attention back to the sibling. ‘Once resurrected, siblings come out of their hiding-places and are everywhere noticeable,’ she observes.12 Mitchell, and psychologists such as Judy Dunn and Carol Kendrick, have noted how the toddler reacts to the arrival of the new sibling, both with rage and jealousy, ‘feeling[s] of envy, primitive and horrible,’ but also with intense love, interest, and loyalty.13 The sibling is the first person to whom the child relates as a social being, with whom it works out how to play, to negotiate sharing possessions, how to relate to the parents, and it forms shifting and strategic alliances with all members of the sibling group. The sibling relationship is thus characterized as ambivalent from the outset. Mitchell’s main observations about the sibling relationship are threefold: she

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notes the intensity and ambivalences of sibling relationship, that ‘the adored sibling, who is loved with all the urgency of the child’s narcissism is also loathed as its replacement.’14 Secondly, she emphasizes the persistence of such relationships into adulthood and, most importantly, the projection of the sibling bond on to spouses, affines, and peers.15 Thirdly, as the first social relationship is the sibling one, it sets the pattern for other social relations. The folk-psychology model for same-sex siblings chimes with Mitchell’s threefold paradigm: thus the relationship is one of competition, but also of profound loyalty: ‘Bare is the back without a brother’ is a proverb attested both in Grettis saga, and the Old English Maxims I.16 Sisters are capable of vicious rivalry, behaving like Goneril and Regan, or Cinderella’s (step)sisters. Yet sisters are also ready to make sacrifices for each other’s happiness – as in the resolution of Marie de France’s Lai Le Freine, for example.17 Less clearly stereotyped are sister-brother relationships: an older sister is nurturing.18 Brothers are usually protective of their sister’s honour; the phenomenon of sibling so-called honour killing is relatively rare in medieval literature, for the taboo against killing a woman tends to redirect the violence towards the suitor or seducer.19 Profound feelings of loyalty often exist between brother and sister which the marriage of the sister does nothing to alter, but there may also be jealousies over power and rank, complicated by women’s inferior social status, repressed or acted-out incestuous desires, and murderous hatred. The ballad tradition highlights the last two elements; incest is committed, either knowingly or unknowingly, and the sister loses her life, or the marriage of the sister without the consultation of the brother leads him to murder her.20 Love and hatred, sex and violence, and ambivalent emotional states oscillating between the two extremes are thus generated by the complexities of sameness (membership of the sibling cohort) and difference (related to gender, birth order, legitimacy, and differential distribution of natural attributes) which the sibling negotiates.

The Sons of Sigmundr The first and third poems in manuscript order in the heroic part of the Poetic Edda are concerned with Helgi Sigmundarson, whose elder half-brother Sinfjǫtli appears as a secondary character. Sinfjǫtli is himself the product of brother-sister incest, but this fact is effaced perhaps as scandalous in the Helgi poems. Stiúpr vartu Siggeirs (you were Siggeir’s stepson) is the only reference made to his problematic parentage, voiced by Guðmundr in the flyting scene.21 Though Guðmundr levels a number of charges against Sinfjǫtli, the truth of

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which is confirmed by Volsunga saga, the incest seems to be literally unspeakable.22 In the prose Frá dauða Sinfjotla Helgi is given a younger brother Hámundr of whom we hear no more in the Edda.23 Even as an infant Helgi achieves instant paternal recognition and support, in marked contrast with Sinfjǫtli, who had to be tested by his father; as a young man Helgi is effortlessly superior in warrior skills. In the two Helgi poems Sinfjǫtli makes a good, loyal brother, perhaps trying to undo the murderous fraternal relationships in his troubled past; that he is shamefully vulnerable to charges of (half-)brotherkilling is emphasized in the flyting in HHI, where Guðmundr recurs twice to Sinfjǫtli’s fratricide.24 In VS Sinfjǫtli has no qualms (lét sér ekki feilask) about killing his two younger half-brothers to silence them and to provoke their father, identifying in them, both literally and psychologically, in Mitchell’s terms, ‘the threat … posed by the new baby who stands in our place.’25 His insouciance contrasts with Sigmundr’s immediate identification of them as sister’s sons, standing therefore in a privileged relationship to him: Eigi vil ek drepa born þín, þótt þau hafi sagt til mín (I will not kill your children, even if they have given me away), he says to Signý.26 Helgi successfully enters maturity by winning Sigrún as his bride, but at the cost of killing the bride’s father, her suitor, and most – but, mistakenly, not all – of his affines. It is precisely this entry into the world of the sibling – the world of lateral relations – that brings about Helgi’s death, as related in Helgakviða Hundingsbana II. Helgi is killed by his own brother-in-law Dagr, who breaks the oaths which had previously secured the affinal relationship. There is a clear change in focus between the good brotherly loyalty modelled by Helgi and Sinfjǫtli in HHI (very much truncated in HHII) and the problematizing of sibling and affinal relations in HHII. In the latter poem, the ego or centre is no longer Helgi, with his straightforwardly loyal brother and potentially difficult brother-in-law, but Sigrún, whose relationships span her beloved spouse, her many dead brothers and father, and Dagr, the oathbreaker. When Dagr announces to his sister that he has killed Helgi, she responds by cursing him; one speech act (the oath) triggers another. Dagr is appalled by Sigrún’s action, saying that she must be mad to rupture sibling bonds in this way: Œr ertu, systir, oc ervita / er þú brœðr þínom biðr forscapa (mad you are, sister, and out of your wits, when you invoke an evil fate for your brother).27 No role is available for a good sibling in this poem; as Cicerelli notes for non-industrial societies, brother-sister relations are foregrounded when marital arrangements are at stake, otherwise adult brother-sister intimacy takes a back seat to fraternal social or economic action.28 Another dimension of sibling relations is explored in the conclusion of Helgakviða Hjorvarðzsonar – the poem which separates HHI and HHII, in

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which the archetypal forebear of Helgi Sigmundarson is the protagonist. Helgi Hjǫrvarðzson faces a fatal duel against Álfr, the son of his grandfather’s killer, the son of his mother’s thwarted suitor, and thus in a sense his brother manqué, the man who might have occupied the place he now has. It is at this point that Helgi discovers that his own brother Heðinn has sworn – and now bitterly regrets – an oath to take Helgi’s valkyrie bride Sváva as his own. Though this does not ultimately matter to Helgi, since Álfr will kill him, Heðinn’s vow is strikingly emblematic of the fraternal ambivalence and rivalry which the heroic poems explore so well. So Mitchell notes of siblings, ‘one wants what the other person wants and mimes that person’s desires.’29 Heðinn’s relapse into nursery envy, wanting what his brother has and acting to get it, miming rather than truly experiencing desire for Sváva, is motivated by the appearance of a disturbing female figure, a troll-woman (trollkono) riding a wolf, whose sexual overtures Heðinn rejects: Heðinn fór einn saman heim ór scógi iólaaptan oc fann trollkono; sú reið vargi oc hafði orma at taumom, oc bauð fylgð sína Heðni. ‘Nei’, sagði hann. (Heðinn came home alone from the forest on Yule-evening and met a troll-woman; she was riding a wolf and had snakes for reins, and offered Heðinn her companionship. ‘No,’ he said.)30 This female is identified by Helgi as his fylgja – we might note the pun on fylgð and fylgja here. Heðinn fails to respond to her as an erotic figure, redirecting his sexual desire away from her towards his brother’s erotic object, acting out his subconscious jealousy and resentment of his successful sibling. The fylgja, perhaps aware that Helgi is doomed, arranges for the continuation of the clan via a union between Heðinn and Sváva. While Helgi is wonderfully forgiving of his brother, Sváva’s response to the exchange of brothers is harder to read: Mælt hafða ec þat í munarheimi … myndiga ec lostig at liðinn fylki / iofur ókunnan armi veria (This I declared in the world of love [or: Munarheim, a place-name] … I would not willingly, if the warleader were killed, wrap my arms around an unknown prince), she comments.31 Whether her lover’s brother qualifies as a known prince is not clear; the poem relates neither whether Sváva is mollified by Heðinn’s vow to avenge Helgi, nor whether his mission is successful. Can siblings be so easily interchangeable? Dunn argues that self-other differentiation is an important outcome of childhood sibling relations; that the brother or sister is like me, but not me, requires psychological engagement. Equally, as we shall see below, the idea of sexual relations with the brother’s wife is both attractive and repulsive in many early societies; legislated both for and against, the putting of the self in the brother’s place engenders psychological turmoil.32 Helgi Sigmundarson’s main heroic feat before becoming embroiled in the affinal world is the killing of King Hundingr, and several of his sons: four of them in HHI and II. These brothers multiply nightmarishly: some of them ­survive to

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kill Sigmundr – presumably Lyngvi and his three brothers, later killed by Sigurðr. The sons of Hundingr – eight by this account – act as a loyal group, fighting and dying together in a multi-generational, and initially obscurely motivated, feud with Sigmundr and his offspring.33 The Ylfingar, descendants of the Wolf, not the Dog, eventually gain the upper hand over Hundingr’s clan when Sigurðr exterminates the last of them in revenge for the slaying of Sigmundr.34 It is significant for their good fraternal relations that the sons of Sigmundr are born at near-generational intervals apart. They do not engage in fraternal rivalry and have limited opportunities to express brotherly loyalty. Sinfjǫtli supports his brother, as noted above, in the battle against Granmarr and his sons, though his presence in this battle may in part be attributed to the advantages of employing him in a flyting as a character of whom a number of traditional flyting insults are apparently literally true. Sinfjǫtli himself has an unacknowledgeable mother within the heroic poems; his half-brother’s mother will eventually kill him in revenge for the death of her own brother (Frá dauða Sinfjotla). While Helgi is a legitimate son, blessed by the norns and honoured by his father, Sinfjǫtli is not. Yet he remains loyal, and, according to VS, fights willingly under his fifteen-year-old brother. The Helgi poems pattern for us multiple variations in fraternal and affinal relationships; brothers-in-law cannot be valued as brothers, since their oaths are not to be trusted; the true brother stands by his (half-)brother in battle and does not begrudge him his eminence. In HHj, one brother allows sibling envy temporarily to get the better of him, but he repents, admits his error, and receives his brother’s forgiveness (sacaz eigi þú! – do not concern yourself!).35 Thus Heðinn is able to offer himself humbly to Sváva, though whether the imperative to avenge the lost brother will snatch another bridegroom from the valkyrie remains unresolved. As the Helgi poems model a strong fraternal relationship, despite the fact that Helgi and Sinfjǫtli are sons of a different mother, so at the end of the Codex Regius the heroes of Hamðismál, Guðrún’s sons, will fall by their failure to resolve their sibling relationship with Erpr, inn sundrmœðri, policing the ‘pathologies of the borderline’ as Mitchell characterizes this violence.36 That the sundrmóðir, the different mother, is herself a source of threat to her stepson is borne out by Sinfjǫtli’s fate; nevertheless, the idealized family model suggests that the stepbrother can, and should be permitted to, take on the role of the full brother in terms of fraternal support.37 The sister in the Helgi stories has less marked a role to play than the brother. Following a pattern established by her own husband’s sister Signý in VS, Borghildr elects to put loyalty to her brother above harmonious relations with her husband’s kin-group by her vengeful murder of Sinfjǫtli, even though she has accepted compensation for her brother’s death.38 Sigrún’s demand to be

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allowed to choose her own husband rather than the ally of her brothers suggests that she wishes to renegotiate and risk her relationships with her male kin, rather than be forced to accept the spouse they approve of; her furious reaction to her husband’s death is characterized as insane (œr) by her brother, who seems to have expected that Sigrún would accept his offer of compensation for Helgi (HHII 35). Sigmundr’s last, posthumous son, Sigurðr, grows up without siblings to learn from. Thus he greatly needs the admonition of Sigrdrífa, the final and most telling in her series of gnomic stanzas, that friends are not to be trusted: þú við illo sér / hvern veg at vinom (beware evil from your friends in every direction).39 His father dead before his birth, his stepfather and mother apparently failing to produce children on their own account, Sigurðr has no direct experience of the treacheries and passions of siblings, and seems alienated from his kin, styling himself inn móðurlausi mogr (the motherless boy) when he addresses Fáfnir.40 His introduction to fraternal relationships is scarcely a happy one as he becomes embroiled in the feud between Reginn, his fosterfather, and Reginn’s brother Fáfnir the dragon, whom he kills as Reginn’s proxy. Only after Fáfnir has been killed by Sigurðr does Reginn begin to meditate on the fact that his foster-son has killed his brother: bróður minn hefir þú beniaðan / oc veld ec þó siálfr sumo (my brother you have wounded and yet I caused it in part myself), he says thoughtfully, crystallizing the ambivalence of fraternality, ‘love replacing hate … the “life drive” flooding in to mitigate the death drive’ as Mitchell characterizes this switch.41 This realization is foregrounded in VS where Reginn repeats it twice, evincing different kinds of affect: anxiety and rage.42 Reginn’s repetition and emotional display offer a clear warning to Sigurðr, even before the intervention of the sisterly igðor, that his foster-father will soon feel impelled to take revenge for his brother. Once Sigurðr reaches the court of Gjúki, he seems very pleased (according to VS, for this part of the narrative falls within the lacuna in the Codex Regius) to acquire at a stroke a whole tribe of affines and to stay there with his new family, instead of claiming Sigmundr’s kingdom and asserting his own independence.43 The Gjukungar are glad to have him: Sigurðr is inducted into the clan through the effects of the óminnisol (ale of forgetfulness) and the will of Grímhildr: Þinn faðir skal vera Gjúki konungr, en ek móðir, brœðr þínir Gunnarr ok Hogni ok allir er eiða vinnið (King Gjúki shall be your father, and I your mother … Gunnarr and Hǫgni your brothers and all who take the oaths).44 When the marriage with Guðrún is contracted, the new fraternal relationship is cemented: Þeir sverjask nú í brœðralag, sem þeir sé sambornir brœðr (they now swore to be brothers as if born of the same parents).45 In a later conversation with Brynhildr, when sibling/affinal relations are already in

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crisis, Sigurðr tellingly and wistfully remarks ok unða ek því þó at vér várum oll saman (and yet I was glad that we were all together).46 In Freud’s scanty references to the sibling relationship, ‘sexuality and murderousness are prominent,’ comments Mitchell.47 Sinfjǫtli’s fratricide, incest between Signý and Sigmundr – the extremes of sibling relationships belong to the generation before the heroic poems of the Poetic Edda begin. The sons of Sigmundr, and Helgi’s archetypal forebear, Helgi Hjǫrvarðzson, model a broadly positive range of sibling behaviours which prepare the audience of the Edda for the extremes of the sibling/affinal relationships in the poems which occur after the lacuna, a psychological obsessiveness with the sibling bond well understood by the manuscript’s compiler.

Guðrún and Her Brothers Following the Helgi poems and the lacuna is an account of three different affinal or affinally motivated killings. Put baldly: first, brothers kill their sister’s husband; next, brothers are killed by their sister’s husband; finally, a husband is killed by a sister on account of her brothers. Guðrún, Gunnarr, and Hǫgni share a sibling bond which is tested up to and beyond breaking point. In Atlamál Guðrún recalls the siblings’ childhood: brought up together í eino húsi (in one house). None of them was fostered out like Sigurðr and Brynhildr; they enjoyed exemplary closeness, symbolized by the conventional topos of fighting side by side. Alin við up vórum    í eino húsi lécom leic margan    oc í lundi óxom, gœddi ocr Grímildr    gulli oc hálsmeniom; bana mundo mér brœðra     bœta aldregi né vinna þess ecci,    at mér vel þicci. (We were brought up in one house, we played many games and grew up in the grove, Grímhildr enriched us with gold and neck-rings; the slaying of my brothers I can never be compensated for nor can it be brought about that it should seem good to me.)48

Even after Guðrún’s marriage to Sigurðr all four went raiding together, each commanding a ship.49 This account of sibling solidarity is idealized for Atli’s benefit and tinged with nostalgia; but it is also confirmed in Guðrúnarkviða II, unna ec vel brœðrum / unz mic Giúki gulli reifði … gaf Sigurði (I loved my

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brothers well until Giúki adorned me with gold, gave me to Sigurðr).50 Thanks to the lacuna, we only see Guðrún’s sibling relations when they are beyond repair. In the Edda Gunnarr and Hǫgni’s initial reception of Sigurðr has been lost. VS suggests that it is the maternal will that lies behind the alliance and Gjúki falls in with it, even to the point of assenting to Grímhildr’s suggestion that normal considerations about bride-price should be waived, and a dowry handed over instead.51 Gunnarr too is enthusiastic about bringing Sigurðr into the family. When trouble flares up, Hǫgni is a strong advocate of keeping oaths to Sigurðr, pointing out that they will never get another brother-in-law like him: Er oss ok mikit traust at honum … ok slíkan mág fám vér aldri, ok hygg at hversu gott væri ef vér ættim slíkan mág ok systursonu (And he’s a great asset to us … never again shall we get a brother-in-law like him, and think how fine it would [be] if we had a brother-in-law like him and nephews, too).52 Hǫgni anticipates the siring of a fine breed of nephews who would ride with their father and uncles to the Þing, a politically rather than militarily motivated ideal of kin-group expansion which is picked up by Sigurðr in his dying words in Sigurðarkviða in skamma: Ríðra þeim síðan þótt siau alir, / systor sonr, slícr at þing (There will not ride with them afterwards, though seven might have been raised, such a sister’s son to the assembly).53 After the marriages, at the beginning of Sigsk, the affinal relationship is strong. Once the brothers determine to break their oath – indirectly, by employing their younger brother Guttormr – the references to fraternality are frequent, forming an ironic and proleptic refrain. So in Sg 25 Sigurðr tells Guðrún not to grieve: þér bræðr lífa (your brothers are alive). Gunnarr angrily says that Brynhildr deserves to see her own brother killed: fyr augom þér Atla hiøggim (we should kill Atli before your eyes), while Brynhildr retorts that it’s Atli who’ll be doing the killing.54 Neither in the poems nor in VS is there evidence of concern for Guðrún’s feelings or position on the part of Gunnarr and Hǫgni. In Gkv II her viewpoint is registered (since she herself is speaking the poem), but her grief and rage are ignored in the kin-group’s frantic need to appease Atli.55 Guðrún’s enduring alienation from her kin is reflected in the embroidery she undertakes in Hálfr’s Danish hall; if the Sigarr depicted here is the opponent of Hámundr’s sons from VS, she signals her identification with her dead husband’s lineage by embroidering their history, not that of her own family.56 Grímhildr attempts to bring about reconciliation between the siblings with a stately and formal procession to fetch her daughter home and the payment of compensation, but Guðrún now clearly foresees the death of her brothers if she is forced to marry Atli, a marriage he demands as recompense for his sister’s death. One sister may easily be traded for another, especially if, as Glendinning

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argues, possession of Sigurðr’s treasure is Atli’s prime reason for wanting to marry his widow.57 A partial exception to the general rule that there are no true fratricides in the heroic poetry is Gunnarr’s insistence that Atli must kill Hǫgni before he will reveal the whereabouts of Sigurðr’s treasure hoard in Akv.58 Gunnarr’s complex motives are not readily explained by fraternal hostility, since he and Hǫgni have exhibited a close bond until now; although Hǫgni disputed the advisability of killing Sigurðr, both brothers eventually procured Guttormr to do the deed. The motif is nevertheless unusual; often brothers vie to die before one another, so that they do not have to witness the death of someone they love.59 Gunnarr stoically takes the responsibility of witnessing the brother’s death upon himself and his demand shapes for Hǫgni an exemplarily heroic death: Hló þá Hogni, er til hiarta scáro / qvicqvan kumblasmið (Hǫgni laughed then as they cut to his heart, the living smith of scars).60 Nor are the deaths of Gunnarr and Hǫgni at Atli’s hands the end of the brother-slaying. Guðrún’s killing of her sons in Akv and Am could be read as the projection of the sister’s unresolved hostility towards her brothers onto another set of brothers. Erpr and Eitill function as substitutes for the brothers who are, and thanks to the patriarchal politics of the kin-group have always been, beyond her reach. This doubling of fraternal pairs repeats itself with Hamðir and Sorli, sent by Guðrún on a suicide mission to avenge their sister Svanhildr. Hamðir shows himself all too clearly aware of this patterning when he rehearses the history of Guðrún’s earlier children: Atla þóttiz þú stríða at Erps morði / oc at Eitils aldrlagi … þat var þér enn verra (Atli you intended to harm by Erpr’s killing and by Eitill’s death; that was worse for you). In Guðrúnarhvot he wryly observes that, had these (half-)brothers lived, they would have provided substantial support for the revenge mission.61 In the light of the brothers’ subsequent refusal to acknowledge the second Erpr as kin, the comment is heavily ironic.62 The Gjúkungar and Atli poems establish a strong pattern of affinal rivalry conducted across the bodies of sisters, both living and dead. Hamðir and Sǫrli complete the pattern, as they die trying to kill their (half-)sister’s husband. Hm plays insistently on relationships reiterated from earlier in the cycle: brothers, sons, a sister, and even a sister’s son. Yet most prominent in the poem is the powerful, metaphorical examination of what constitutes a brother; the interrogation of what fleshly ties, symbolized riddlingly as a hand or foot holdgróin, imply for fraternal loyalty and solidarity: ‘the human body becomes an image of active brotherhood.’63 Where the Helgi poems set up a model of ideal fraternal relations, the Codex Regius comes to an end with Hamðir and Sǫrli’s poignant and belated realization that a half-brother whom they characterized as

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a hornungr (bastard) is a good enough brother in the affinal conflict. Naming Erpr as bróðir occarr inn boðfrœcni (our brave brother), Hamðir ‘recognises wholeheartedly Erpr’s brotherhood to Sǫrli and himself and thereby effects dramatic reconciliation.’64

Sisterliness Guðrún’s solidarity with her brothers, despite their treatment of Sigurðr, as has long been recognized, models an earlier clan rather than spousal loyalty.65 The death of her brothers is doubly avenged through the murder of Atli and his sons. Brother-sister intimacy is shown as powerful: Atli seems not to get over the loss of his sister, kendi hann Giúcungom vold um andlát Brynhildar (he strongly blamed the Gjúkungs for Brynhildr’s death), even though he is indirectly responsible, having bullied her into the marriage in the first place.66 This intimacy is asymmetrical in its effects; a sister’s welfare always takes second place to honour-system considerations, while a brother’s does not. It is debatable whether Hamðir and Sǫrli accept the premise of Guðrún’s rhetorical appeal: that they are obliged to avenge their sister’s murder. What spurs the young men into action is her challenge to their manliness and her ‘reproach that they have lost the pre-eminence of their royal forebears.’67 Both Brynhildr and Guðrún have a number of ineffectual and conventional sisters, who serve as foils. Oddrún is the exception; her appearance as Brynhildr’s sister bolts another female role, that of healer, onto the Buðli clan, providing further motivation for Atli’s already over-determined murder of Gunnarr – his wife’s brother, his sister’s widower, and his other sister’s lover – ostensibly to get his hands on Sigurðr’s gold; an aim which he fails to accomplish. Oddrún’s own account of her childhood expectations echoes the polarization found in VS and in Helreið Brynhildar of Buðli’s daughters into two types: shield-maidens and marriageable daughters. Judy Quinn has emphasized the tensions between loyalties to spouses and to sibling bonds in Oddrúnargrátr, arguing that ‘the eddic taste for the tragedy that results from the conflicting impuses of individual desire and sibling loyalty generated new poems out of an old tradition.’68 Oddrún now ‘owns’ the sisters’ history, now that Brynhildr is dead and cannot frame her own narrative; Apter notes how intensely sisters, as contrasted with brothers, feel the need to retell their sibling histories, inflecting their narratives according to their own priorities.69 Brynhildr’s experience of sisterliness, whether differentiating herself from Oddrún and Bekkhildr, or forming a solid phalanx with the shield-maiden sisters she recalls in Helr, does not extend to Guðrún. What seems originally to

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have been a friendly relationship is damaged by Brynhildr’s prophetic power when she foretells Guðrún’s marital future.70 The friendship finally founders on the women’s rivalry over status vicariously derived from their husbands, dramatized in the quarrel at the river.71 Subsequently, Brynhildr’s only concession to the notion of sisterhood comes in Sg when she suggests that Guðrún’s status as sister to all involved demands that she join Brynhildr on her death pyre. Brynhildr admits that Guðrún has a right to consider Sigurðr as her frumverr just as she herself does: Sœmri væri Guðrún    systir occor, frumver sínom    fylgia dauðom, ef henni gæfi    góðra ráð, eða ætti hon hug    oss um lícan. (It would be more fitting for Guðrún our sister to follow her husband in death, if one were to give her good counsel, or if she had a spirit like mine.)72

Neckel and Kuhn retain the manuscript reading: occor (our) in l. 2, often emended to yccor (your). The distinction is important: Brynhildr has consistently refused to regard herself as part of the clan, as Sigurðr so cheerfully does; only in death does she speak to define Guðrún as a sister, a fellow victim of the treacherous Gjúkungar males, seeking to coerce Guðrún into acceptance of her own unrelenting ideology of erotic loyalty. Her evocation of solidarity is fleeting, however, undone by the sneer of the final line.73

Fictive Relations In addition to the real sibling relations maintained through shared blood-ties in the heroic poems, there is a strong impulse towards the creation of fictive siblinghood, produced rhetorically by metaphor or brought into existence through a speech-act: usually oath-taking. The fictive relationship is signalled by a recurrent trope which tries to set up, by means of a simile, a kinship which can never survive the realities of gender politics.74 This is the formulation: svá sem minn [family member] sé (as if X were my [family member]). It is twice used of Brynhildr and Sigurðr’s behaviour in the three nights they sleep together. In Grp 41 Sigurðr is told that he will lie with Brynhildr sem þinn móðir sé (as if she were your mother); in Helr 12 Brynhildr recalls that she and Sigurðr slept together, sem hann sé minn bróðir borinn (as if he were my brother born). In Od. 11 Borgný tries to evoke her past intimacy with Oddrún as a cousinly

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relationship, sem vit brœðrum tveim of bornar værim (as if we were born of two brothers): a bond which Oddrún rejects because of Borgný’s previous spiteful and hypocritical remarks about Oddrún’s morals. We saw above how the narrator of VS uses this trope, sem þeir sé sambornir brœðr (as if they were brothers born), when Grímhildr inducts Sigurðr, the motherless and fatherless boy as he styles himself in Faf 2, into her family. Guðrún too says accusingly to Brynhildr, who blames Grímhildr for the catastrophic deception of Sigurðr, hon er til þín sem til dóttur sinnar (she treats you like her daughter), a relationship which Brynhildr refuses, as she does all other relationships with the Gjúkungar clan.75 These fictive ties, whether signalled by this wishful trope asserting a rhetorical kin-relation which cannot be maintained, or created by the swearing of oaths between affines, by Sigrún’s brother Dagr, Gunnarr and Hǫgni, and finally Atli, founder on the inevitable tensions of the affinal bond.76 Revenge, rivalry for status, and sexual jealousy all come into play. The sister–wife, mediator of the failed relationship, invokes the consequences of the broken oath; to be foresworn is to become vulnerable to another speech-act, the curse, called down by Sigrún upon her brother and by Oddrún upon Atli’s mother (presumably her mother too): hon skyli morna (may she wither away).77 Guðrún’s terrible revelation to Atli (sagði níð) in Akv 36–7 has the force of a curse, diluted into the unedifying interchanges of the marital squabble in Am. Brynhildr publicly shames Gunnarr, reminding him how illa launat (badly rewarded) Sigurðr was for the oath of blood-brotherhood he and Gunnarr swore, especially since, by placing the sword between Brynhildr and himself, Sigurðr kept the promise he made to Gunnarr.78 The women summon up powerful words against the men who sunder the word-made bond. For men, only blood counts in the world of the heroic poetry; it does not have to be much blood – not full-sibling status for example – but it can be relied upon to trump the husband-wife tie. The situation is more complicated for women, torn between the blood-demands of the birth family and the new bonds forged in the marriage bed and child-bed. There are no fratricides in the heroic poetry of the Edda (only what could pass for traditional flyting insult in reference to Sinfjǫtli’s past) and no incest (Signý and Sigmundr’s scandalous parenting is passed over). The Gjúkungar repress or project elsewhere those extremes of the sibling relationship which belong to Sigurðr’s lineage. Jealousies, passions, and hatreds are projected away from the sibling onto the affines, and are reflected back from them. Brother-pairs substitute for other brothers, reduplicating the pattern of affinal violence set against fraternal loyalty, and, as ever, this is conducted through and over the bodies of women. The sibling drama of the eddic heroic poems

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teases out and dramatizes sibling relations in a large-scale chiastic structure. Strong brotherly loyalty and love, even overcoming the desire of one brother for another’s betrothed, is countered at the end of the manuscript by brothers who refuse to admit a half-brother to their cohort. The fragmentary poems about Sigurðr among the Gjúkungar, in which brothers murder their affine to the helpless distress of a sister, are mirrored by the Atli poems in which the affine murders the brothers, and pays the price at the hands of an avenging sister. Fraternal loyalty (even in the curious form of Gunnarr’s incitement of Hǫgni’s murder by Atli), sibling solidarity, and profound love are all evidenced, along with self-interest and jealousy. Mitchell’s argument that the most dramatic aspects of sibling rivalry are repressed within the immediate sibling group, but find free play in relations with affines, is supported by the foregrounding of sexual desire, greed for treasure, and competition for honour and status in the larger family groups of Sigmundr’s sons, their forerunner Helgi Hjǫrvarðzson, and the children of Gjúki, of Buðli, and of Guðrún. The endless feuding in the heroic poetry has been regarded as reflective of historical circumstance, of a particular type of social organization and honour-driven ideology, but the excessive and significant concentration on sibling and affinal relationships here signals an obsession which speaks to a more universal understanding of the tensions lying at the heart of the Western nuclear and extended family group.

NOTES 1 E.g., Earl, Thinking about Beowulf. 2 Poole, ‘Myth, Psychology, and Society’; Tulinius, ‘Psychoanalysis and the Sagas,’ lecture given at the Viking Society for Northern Research, University College ­London, 9 November 2007. See also Tulinius, ‘Spegilskrift Dulvitundarinnar,’ in Skáldið í Skriftinni. 3 McKinnell, ‘Myth as Therapy’; Meeting the Other. 4 The heroic poems of the Edda are preserved in a single manuscript, the Codex ­Regius (GKS 2365 4to) c. 1270, though they also exist in numerous late paper versions. A substantial lacuna in the manuscript leaves some poems in a fragmentary condition. Volsunga saga (hereafter VS), which contains much of the same material as the heroic poems and some verses from them, is preserved in a single vellum, NGS 1824 b 4to. See Saga of the Völsungs, ed. and trans. Grimstad. For discussion of analogues and sources, see also Saga of the Volsungs, ed. and trans. Finch, ­ ix–xiii, xxxviiii. For full discussion of the relationship between VS and the eddic poems, see von See et al., eds., Edda Kommentar IV, 120, 161–2.

184  Carolyne Larrington 5 See Clark, ‘Undermining,’ and Clark, ‘Kin-Slaying,’ for recent discussion of the relationships between the heroic poems and the mythological poetry preceding them in the manuscript. 6 Olrik, ‘Epische Gesetze.’ 7 Bank and Kahn, ‘Sibling Loyalties.’ 8 Weisner, ‘Comparing Sibling Relationships,’ 14. 9 ‘It is ironic that laymen more than family experts acknowledge the importance of the sibling bond, and that artists more than researchers have succeeded in capturing its essence.’ Pfouts, ‘Sibling Relationship,’ 200. 10 Dunn and Kendrick, Siblings, 208. 11 For example, Sutton-Smith and Rosenberg, The Sibling; Jackson, ‘Ambivalence.’ 12 Mitchell, Mad Men, 24. 13 Apter, Sister Knot, 6; Dunn and Kendrick, Siblings; Bank and Kahn, ‘Sibling Loyalties,’ 251. 14 Mitchell, Siblings, 10. 15 ‘In a world where siblings … flourish, we can see their importance not only in themselves but for all lateral relationships.’ Mitchell, Siblings, 225. See also Apter, Sister Knot, 179. 16 Grettis saga, ed. Jónsson, 260; Shippey, ed., Poems of Wisdom, 72–3. 17 Marie de France, Lais, ed. Ewart. 18 Cf. AT 451 ‘Maiden Who Seeks Her Brothers’ in Uther, ed., Types of International Folktales, 267–8. 19 Cf. the series of killings committed by Gísli in Gísla saga; Gísli kills at least two suitors of his sister Þórdís in the Norwegian prelude to the main saga, and finally kills her husband, Þórgrímr, in Iceland, Gísla saga, ed. Loth. For discussion of variation in names and treatment of the suitors and the love-triangle in the saga see Lethbridge, ‘Narrative Variation,’ 82–4; 122–6; 136–8. 20 English and Scottish Popular Ballads, ed. Child, nos. 11, 16, 50. 21 Edda citations from Neckel and Kuhn, Edda; HHI 411. Translations are mine, unless otherwise indicated. 22 See Edda-Kommentar, IV.280–325 for detailed analysis of the flyting and its insults; Grimstad, Saga of the Völsungs, 30, 33, 41 suggests that the infringement of the incest-taboo is so serious that Signý cannot survive it; it motivates her suicide. See also Tulinius, ‘Fornaldarsaga och ideologi,’ esp. 77–8. All citations from Saga of the Volsungs, ed. Finch. 23 It is likely that a separate cycle of legends about him existed: a Hámundr and his sons, Haki and Hagbarðr, are adduced as heroic exemplars in Guðrún and ­Brynhildr’s discussion in VS 45. Here Sigarr is said to have captured one of Haki and Hagbarðr’s sisters and burnt another one in a lost story; see p. 178 above. A

Sibling Drama  185 rather different story, similarly centred on affinal and sibling relations, is told about Hagbarðr in Saxo Grammaticus, 212–19. 24 HHI 367–8; 415–8. 25 Mitchell, Siblings, xv. 26 VS, 12; see on this kin-tie, Garbáty, ‘Uncle-Nephew.’ 27 HHII 341–4. The phrase is also used of Loki by Gefjon in Ls 21, and Oddrún by Borgný in Oddr 11. Both Loki and Oddrún breach a quasi-sibling relationship, an observation I owe to Judy Quinn. 28 Cicerelli, Sibling Relationships, 74. Cicerelli, 62, notes that marriage becomes a crisis point in sibling relations if the spouse is not liked by the sibling group. 29 Mitchell, Mad Men, 25. 30 HHj 30 prose. 31 HHj 421–3, 5–8. 32 Mitchell, Siblings, 29; Apter, Sister Knot, 110 discusses ‘borderwork,’ the psychological differentiation which needs to be done to assure the sibling that ‘I am me, not you.’ See Héritier, Les deux sœurs, 93–144. 33 See Edda-Kommentar IV, 214–16 for discussion of Hundingr, whose name is widely evidenced elsewhere in Germanic legend. Here it is noted that Hundingr is not a pejorative name, unlike Hǫðbroddr, whom Sigrún alleges to have the temperament of a kitten (kattar son) HHI 186. 34 For the interchangeability of Ylfingar and Vǫlsungar, see Edda-Kommentar IV, 187–8. 35 HHj 331. 36 ‘Social groups not constructed along the apparent binary of reproduction rely on managing the violence unleashed by the trauma of threatened replication,’ Mitchell, Siblings, 31. 37 See Brodeur and Brady, ‘Sundrmœðri – Sammœðra’ and Larrington, ‘Stjúpmœðrasögur.’ 38 For Borghildr’s perversion of the norms for women as cup-givers, see Schulman, ‘“A Guest Is in the Hall”,’ esp. 223–4 and Tulinius, ‘Fornaldarsaga och ideologi,’ 76. 39 vinom completed from paper manuscripts; Sd 372–3. 40 Fm 23. 41 Fm 251–4; Mitchell, Siblings, 29. 42 VS 33. 43 Gottzmann, ‘Legendary History,’ 8, argues that Sigurðr’s willingness to throw in his lot with the Gjúkungar, rather than seeking to reinstate Vǫlsung power, ‘squanders the sanctity of kingship which had been bestowed on him (by the mended sword) in that he subordinates himself to another family.’ 44 VS 47.

186  Carolyne Larrington 45 46 47 48 49

VS 47. VS 56. Mitchell, Mad Men, 81. Am 72. Am 98. Atlamál evokes a very large number of dysfunctional affinal relationships, and one functional one: Kostbera’s brother Orkningr loyally accompanies his brothers-in-law on their doomed journey (st. 28). Elsewhere in the poem Gunnarr, Hǫgni, and Guðrún kill two of Atli’s brothers (st. 52); Atli blames the trio for Brynhildr’s death (st. 53); Atli is alleged by Guðrún to have killed her mother and cousin (st. 54). Moreover, according to VS 73, Guðrún made her mother-in-law’s life a misery. See Andersson, ‘Did the Poet,’ for an assessment of the traditions about Atli and Guðrún’s kin-alliance. Mitchell also notes sibling solidarity as expressed through ‘ganging up’ to offer violence towards other lateral groups, Siblings, 103. 50 GðrII 14–6, 8. 51 VS 47; Cronan, ‘A Reading,’ notes Grímhildr’s enthusiasm for contracting powerful alliances through Guðrún’s marriages. See also Jochens, Women in Old Norse Society, 24–5 for the unusualness of the bride’s family soliciting the groom. 52 VS 57. 53 Sg 271–4. 54 Sg 323–4; Sg 335–8. 55 GðrII 14–16. For widely differing views of Guðrún’s reluctant acquiescence in the plan to marry her off to Atli, see Glendinning, ‘Guðrúnarqviða Forna,’ and Cronan, ‘A Reading.’ 56 The identity of the Sigarr and Siggeir depicted in Guðrún’s embroidery is uncertain (see Cronan, ‘A Reading,’ 179–80), but, given the reference to Sigmundr in st. 16, the narratives depicted are likely to belong to his generation and milieu. See also note 23 above. 57 Glendinning, ‘Guðrúnarqviða Forna,’ 266–8. 58 In Akv only; in Am the heart-excision plan is Atli’s idea. 59 E.g., Kolbeinn mælti til Gizurar, er hann kom út, ‘Þat vilda ek, at þú létir mik fyrr höggva en Þórð, bróður minn’ (Kolbeinn said to Gizurr when he came out, ‘I would like you to have me killed before Þórðr, my brother’), Sturlunga saga, ed. Jóhannesson, Finnbogason, and Eldjárn, I. 437. 60 Akv 241–3. 61 Hm 81–4; Ghv 55–8; see Clark, ‘Undermining,’ 177. 62 For a comparison of step-relations in the late heroic poems and Ragnars saga loðbrókar, see Larrington, ‘Stjúpmœðrasǫgur.’ 63 Poetic Edda I, ed. Dronke, 179. 64 Hm 283; Brodeur and Brady, ‘Sundrmœðri – Sammœðra,’ 136.

Sibling Drama  187 65 See Vestergaard, ‘Continuity and Change,’ 122; Jochens, Images of Women, 151–5, and Grimstad and Wakefield, ‘Monstrous Mates.’ 66 Dráp Niflunga; Sg 36–7. 67 Ghv 3; Poetic Edda, I, ed. Dronke, 183. For Guðrún’s privileging of her daughter’s posthumous honour over her sons’ lives, see Jochens, Images of Women, 147. 68 Quinn, ‘Endless Triangles,’ 326. 69 Apter, Sister Knot, 222. 70 VS 46. 71 VS 50. 72 Sg 61. 73 Apter, Sister Knot, 189 discusses female friendship, hostility, and the patterns shared with sister-relations. 74 The exception (in VS 22) is Álfr’s claim to Hjördís that she might have trusted him with her true identity as he would have treated her sem vit værim eins konungs börn bæði (as if we were both born of one king) – a claim which does not have to be put to the test. 75 VS 52. 76 On oath-breaking in VS see Tulinius, ‘Fornaldarsaga och ideologi,’ 83–4. 77 Od 324 and see Quinn, ‘Endless Triangles’: ‘the ignoble act of the unnamed mother of Atli – disowned by her daughter, loathed and cursed by her,’ 324. 78 Brot 17–18.

Burning Walnuts: An International Motif in the Kings’ Sagas joyc e h i l l

In the Morkinskinna account of Sigurðr Jórsalafari’s travels there is a curious episode during his visit to Constantinople when, in preparing a feast for the Emperor and Empress, Sigurðr makes the necessary fire by the improbable means of burning walnuts.1 Marianne Kalinke has drawn attention to the dramatic quality of the Morkinskinna narrative and to the way in which the interaction of persons and events is captured for us by vividly realized monologue, dialogue, and anecdote.2 The ‘burning walnuts’ episode is one of these striking anecdotes. As Kalinke notes, with reference to a study by Gaston Paris published in 1880,3 it is a folklore motif which occurs in other European literatures.4 The purpose of this contribution to John McKinnell’s festschrift is to make a closer examination of this motif, both in its immediate context and in relation to the wider tradition, in order to see more clearly how it was deployed by the Morkinskinna raconteur and how incisive he was in sharpening the anecdote and thus fully realizing its potential in contributing to Sigurðr’s prestige. We need first to place the episode in the context of the entire visit to Constantinople as narrated in Morkinskinna and to compare it with other Icelandic versions in order to highlight the distinctive features of the Morkinskinna text. For this purpose the touchstones will be Fagrskinna5 and Heimskringla.6 Morkinskinna is noteworthy as being the earliest known collection of the kings’ sagas. The manuscript dates from c. 1275, but the text is thought to have been compiled c. 1220 or perhaps a little earlier. We cannot be sure what textual interventions may have taken place in the course of transmission during the thirteenth century, but it should be emphasized that the present study is concerned with the treatment of part of the Sigurðr narrative in the extant manuscript: the question of whether any given element of Sigurðr’s visit to Constantinople was in the original or is a thirteenth-century elaboration is not directly relevant here. Fagrskinna, which is notably inferior to Morkinskinna

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in literary merit, was probably written c. 1220–30. The two medieval vellum manuscripts were destroyed in a fire in Copenhagen in 1728, and the text is now known from various paper copies that had previously been made. The older manuscript, of which a fragment still survives, was probably from the mid-thirteenth century, with the younger being from the first half of the fourteenth. There appears to be little difference between them, except for the fact that there were evidently lacunae in the thirteenth-century manuscript. Even though the first modern edition in 1847 was of the virtually complete fourteenthcentury text, the older redaction is now preferred, with supplementation from the younger version where necessary to make good the lacunae. The version of the kings’ sagas in Heimskringla is attributed to Snorri Sturluson (1178/9– 1241). Snorri probably worked on this collection during the last two decades of his life, producing a text that is more sophisticated than that in Fargskinna, and more restrained than that in Morkinskinna. As with Fagrskinna, we are dependent on paper copies made before the Copenhagen fire, when the earliest manuscripts of Snorri’s text were largely destroyed.7 The manuscripts fall into two classes, known as the Kringla (K) and Jöfraskinna (J) groups, or sometimes the x and y group respectively. It is the K-tradition that is thought to be the closest to Snorri’s original, and it is this which is consequently the basis of modern editions. The three sets of kings’ sagas are interrelated: Fagrskinna drew upon Morkinskinna, and Heimskringla drew upon them both, although it is easier to demonstrate Snorri’s use of Morkinskinna than of Fagrskinna. It is, however, necessary to bear in mind that the interrelationship actually lies with manuscripts that are anterior to those to which we now have witness, and that these earlier manuscripts may have differed in some details from Morkinskinna, Fagrskinna, and Heimskringla as we now know them. The following comparison between these versions’ treatment of Sigurðr’s visit to Constantinople is further complicated by the fact that there is a lacuna in Morkinskinna as Sigurðr arrives, and a lacuna in Fagrskinna for the end of the visit, but it will nevertheless be immediately evident from the summaries below that Morkinskinna’s account is the fullest and most imaginative of the three.

The Visit to Constantinople As Narrated in Morkinskinna8 [Sigurðr’s arrival and entry into the city: lacuna in manuscript9] 1. The manuscript resumes just as the description of the entry into the city comes to an end. It is clear, however, from the first few words at the point where the text resumes that Morkinskinna originally included the story of

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how Sigurðr has his horses shod with golden shoes, arranges it so that one of them is cast off as he enters the city, and directs his men to ride on, disregarding it. 2. When Sigurðr and his men are seated in the hall, the Emperor, through the agency of two messengers, offers a succession of lavish gifts: a) large purses of gold and silver; b) great chests filled with gold; c) chests heaped to the brim with the most precious red-gold, to which, just before these gifts are dispatched to Sigurðr, the Emperor personally adds two gold rings. Sigurðr disregards the purses of gold and silver and tells his men to divide the contents among themselves. To the second gift he pays some modest attention, commenting that this is a gift from a mighty king, although, as in the first instance, he orders his men to divide the gifts among themselves. His response to the third gift is to ignore the chests of red-gold but to accept the two rings that had been added by the Emperor. He stands, puts these on, and makes a speech of thanks to the Emperor, improbably in Greek, after which he himself divides the treasure equitably among his men. Following this, Sigurðr and Kirialax occupy the same elevated seating. 3. The Emperor then asks Sigurðr whether he would like to receive six ‘skippund’10 of gold or would rather have the Emperor arrange entertainments in the hippodrome.11 Sigurðr chooses the entertainments, which, it is noted, will not cost any less than the amount of gold offered. 4. Sigurðr invites the Emperor to a feast, which is to be as sumptuous as the status of the Emperor merits. Advance inquiries are made in the city as to whether there will be enough wood for the preparation of the feast. The men are assured that an abundance is brought into the city every day. When they actually need the wood, however, they are told that it has all been sold. Sigurðr thereupon instructs his men to obtain walnuts instead, since these will serve just as well as wood. All goes well, and the banquet is a great success. The Emperor and Empress subsequently send men to find out what had been used for firewood. The men report back that they had found a building filled with walnuts, and that it was walnuts that had been used. It then transpires that the shortage of wood had been contrived by the Empress as a test, which she judges Sigurðr to have passed with flying colours: Vist er sia konvungr storlyndr oc mon fatt til spara sins soma þvi at engi viþr logar betre en þetta.12 5. Sigurðr prepares to leave Constantinople, and gives the Emperor: a) the great figurehead from the king’s ship, which is set up in St Peter’s Church;

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b) all his ships. 6. The Emperor gives Sigurðr many horses and provides guides for his journey.

The Visit to Constantinople As Narrated in Fagrskinna13 1. Sigurðr approaches Constantinople with his ships’ sails set fore and aft so that the rich fabric from which they are made can be admired by those on either shore.14 2. Sigurðr enters through the Golden Gate,15 which the Emperor had ordered to be opened for him. 3. The Emperor has costly materials strewn along the way. Sigurðr orders his men to disregard this, and so they walk over the cloth and leave it lying on the ground. 4. When Sigurðr has entered his hall, the Emperor asks him whether he would prefer to have entertainments arranged in the hippodrome or receive the equivalent value of gold, specified as six ‘skippund.’ Sigurðr chooses the entertainments. [The lacuna in the manuscript begins at this point and resumes only when Sigurðr is back in Norway.]

The Visit to Constantinople As Narrated in Heimskringla16 1. Sigurðr prepares for sailing into Constantinople by waiting off Engilsnes17 for two weeks for a side wind so that his sails can be arranged fore and aft and no part of the crew is restricted to sight of the plain side of the sail-cloth. 2. When he eventually sails into Constantinople, the people on land18 can see into the bights of the sails; further, the sails are so close together that they seem to form a single wall or enclosure (garðr). 3. Sigurðr enters the city through the Golden Gate, which the Emperor had ordered to be opened for him. It is explained that this gate is opened for the Emperor when he returns to the city after a long absence, or when he returns from a victorious campaign. 4. The Emperor has costly materials strewn along the entire way from the Golden Gate to the Laktjarnir.19 Sigurðr instructs his men to disregard the cloth, and so they ride over it (clearly indicating that they are on horseback), and they leave it lying on the ground.

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5. After Sigurðr and his men have been in the hall for a while, the Emperor sends men to ask whether he would like to receive six ‘skippund’ of gold or would rather have the Emperor arrange entertainments in the hippodrome. Sigurðr chooses the entertainments, which, it is noted, will not cost any less than the amount of gold offered. 6. Sigurðr prepares to leave Constantinople, and gives the Emperor: a) all his ships; b) the gold-adorned figureheads from the king’s ship, which are set up in St Peter’s Church. 7. The Emperor gives Sigurðr many horses and provides guides for his journey. As is evident from these summaries, the earliest stages of Sigurðr’s arrival in Constantinople are missing from the Morkinskinna manuscript. It is clear, however, from both Fagrskinna and Heimskringla, that the purpose of the arrival scenes is to make a pre-emptive demonstration of Sigurðr’s prestige as he draws near to his encounter with a ruler of such extraordinary high status and wealth as Kirialax, who in history, as Alexios I Komnenos, emperor from 1081 to 1118, was an extremely effective ruler, famed for restoring the fortunes of the Byzantine Empire after its disastrous defeat by the Seljuks at Mantzikert in 1071. Although the fundamentals of the narrative are the same in Fagrskinna and Heimskringla, it is the Heimskringla version that is the more vividly realized. According to Snorri, the initial reason for Sigurðr setting the sails fore and aft is to make them more visible to his own men, even though this requires a two-week delay at Engilsnes; their increased visibility for those on shore is thus an incidental advantage, rather than a planned display to gain the admiration of the Byzantines; and although both Fagrskinna and Heimskringla refer to the Emperor’s opening of the Golden Gate, it is only in the Heimskringla narrative that we have the explanation that the gate is normally opened only for the Emperor, and even then under very special circumstances. The test of the strewn cloth comes next in both Fagrskinna and Heimskringla, but again Snorri’s account is the more vivid, since Sigurðr and his men are said to ride over the rich cloth, which is described as being laid down for the whole distance from the Golden Gate to the palace – particularities that are not provided in Fagrskinna. When the Morkinskinna lacuna comes to an end, this account of Sigurðr’s visit is evidently part way through an arrival secene in which the hero, having had his horse shod with golden shoes, arranges it so that one is cast and is then ignored by him and his men. Neither Fagrskinna nor Heimskringla has this episode, and so its occurrence in Morkinskinna must be seen as a means of

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increasing the dramatization of Sigurðr’s prestige at the point of arrival. In light of this and of the substantial elaboration in Morkinskinna for the later stages of the visit, it would be reasonable to suppose that the lacuna will have included some version of the arrival episodes found in the other two accounts: the arranging of the sails and the spurning of the rich cloth strewn along the way by the Emperor.20 If that is so, then Morkinskinna would have matched the scene in which Sigurðr and his men ignore the riches represented by what the Emperor has strewn on the ground with another, simultaneous episode, initiated by Sigurðr, in which they also ignore the riches represented by Sigurðr’s ‘lost’ horseshoe. At the same time, both rulers would demonstrate that they have riches to expend in lavish gestures. The underlying parallelism of the two episodes would dramatize Sigurðr’s prestige and, above all, his equality of standing with the Emperor. As we shall see below,21 the narrative elements deployed here are folktale or romance motifs that occur elsewhere, sometimes in texts that also use the Burning Walnuts episode. Following immediately upon Sigurðr’s arrival, Fagrskinna and Heimskringla relate the Emperor’s offer of six ship-pounds of gold or entertainments in the hippodrome. This is clearly another prestige test, which Sigurðr passes by choosing the glorious but transient entertainments rather than the riches. An account of the entertainments follows. Morkinskinna has this episode in full also, but only after Sigurðr has successfully passed three other tests within the Emperor’s hall. These additional tests are not in Heimskringla, and were probably never in Fagrskinna either since the lacuna in Fagrskinna begins after the offer of the gold or entertainments and continues until Sigurðr is back in Norway, whereas what we have in Morkinskinna are clearly further initial tests, preceding the actual meeting of Sigurðr and Kirialax.22 In providing Sigurðr with additional tests at this point, the Morkinskinna raconteur deploys a pattern common in folktale: namely, the triadic pattern of the escalating challenges. Sigurðr is offered treasure of increasing size and status: purses of gold and silver; chests of gold; and chests of purpvragull, i.e., superior purple-gold or red-gold, to which is added a personal donation by the Emperor of two gold rings. Sigurðr’s response likewise escalates: on the first occasion he ignores the gift and simply tells his men to divide it among themselves; on the second he acknowledges the status of the sender before ordering his men to divide it among themselves (which in fact, in the light of his comment, enhances the graciousness of his generosity); and on the third occasion he accepts the two gold rings that are the personal addition of the Emperor, before making sure that the main treasure goes to his men, although in this instance Sigurðr sees to the equitable distribution himself. Not only do we have two escalating triads in parallel – the offerings and the responses – but in each

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case, as often in this narrative pattern, the climactic third event in the sequence breaks the pattern as well as continuing it. Here, the break is achieved by the Emperor’s gesture in adding the two rings and by Sigurðr’s personal acceptance of these; the continuity is embodied in the growing value of the wealth offered and by its division among Sigurðr’s followers. The triad gives a dramatic demonstration of Sigurðr’s prestige, pride, and lordly honour, with the break in the pattern in the third instance emphasizing that he is not himself attracted by the Emperor’s great wealth, but by his more personal and relatively modest gift. It is at this point in Morkinskinna that there is the offer of gold or entertainments in the hippodrome. In all three manuscripts attention is drawn to the extravagance of Sigurðr’s choice by pointing out that the gold (which would, of course, be a more durable gift) is of equal value to the expenditure on the entertainments. The Heimskringla account then moves directly to Sigurðr’s departure, with its associated final gift-exchange. Morkinskinna, by contrast, presents a further dramatic anecdote in which, as we see in the summary above, Sigurðr offers a banquet to his imperial hosts and burns walnuts when firewood is found to be lacking. This, it turns out, was a test set by the Empress. Thereafter, Morkinskinna and Heimskringla are in agreement: Sigurðr, as he leaves, gives the Emperor all his ships and the gold-adorned figurehead (Morkinskinna) or figureheads (Heimskringla) from his own vessel, subsequently set up in St Peter’s Church, and the Emperor in return gives Sigurðr horses and guides for his overland journey home.23 As Kalinke points out, there is another incident in the kings’ sagas in which walnuts are burned when firewood is lacking.24 Haraldr Harðráði wishes to consecrate a church in Constantinople to St Óláfr, but the Emperor Michael does not want this to happen, and so, in an attempt to block the festivities, he forbids the sale of firewood. He subsequently allows the consecration to take place after all, whereupon he discovers that Haraldr has in any case pressed on with laying the cooking fires by the expedient of using the wreckage of ships, turfs, and walnuts.25 The episode demonstrates Haraldr’s independence and quick wit, which enhances the hero’s status. But it is not as well motivated or as well integrated as the burning walnuts episode is in the saga of Sigurðr. In Haraldr’s case the burning of walnuts is the incidental result of a ban which is not a test but is, rather, a practical step taken by the Emperor to put a dampener on Haraldr’s intentions to consecrate a particular church; furthermore the extravagance in burning walnuts is by no means as emphatic, since there are other more normal sources of fuel listed alongside these. In Sigurðr’s case, by contrast, the nature of the test is clear-cut; it provides consistent reinforcement of the presentation of the hero, which has been built up throughout Morkinskinna’s

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elaboration of the visit to Constantinople as an extended sequence of tests; and the scene is unambiguously and extraordinarily extravagant: the hero’s reaction to the report of the lack of firewood is suitably cavalier, only walnuts are burned, and even when inquiry is made after the banquet is over, the Empress’s men find a building filled with walnuts, so that there was evidently no practical limit to the amount that Sigurðr was prepared to burn. As far as I am aware, these are the only two instances of burning walnuts in Old Icelandic literature. The burning walnuts episode does not form part of the Sigurðr narrative in Heimskringla, despite what seems to be the case from the translations of Laing and Monsen,26 and neither Heimskringla nor Fagrskinna tells the story of Haraldr using walnuts for fuel.27

Continental Analogues When Gaston Paris demonstrated that the burning of nuts is a motif in European literature, the focus of his attention was the Old French romance of Aymeri de Narbonne, dating from c. 1220. The circumstances of this nut-burning episode are as follows:28 1. Aymeri, wishing to marry, sends an envoy of knights to seek the hand of the daughter of the King of Lombardy on his behalf. En route they defeat a rival party and take possession of their immense riches. 2. When they arrive at Pavia (Lombardy) the king invites them to eat at his table during their stay, but they refuse on the grounds that they have enough riches to be able to take care of themselves. 3. The king reacts by ordering the merchants to raise their prices, but the envoys of Aymeri, being so rich, nonetheless buy whatever they wish. 4. The king then forbids the people to sell them firewood for cooking, but they overcome this difficulty by purchasing a huge supply of nuts and of ‘hanaps,’ a large goblet, specified here as being made from ‘madre,’ a type of veined wood. 5. With this unusual firewood, they make a huge fire that mounts high into the sky and even threatens to set the surroundings alight. They put on a splendid feast, serving everyone who wishes to partake. 6. The king, somewhat cowed by their behaviour, then receives them at the palace, where they successfully negotiate for the hand of the king’s daughter on behalf of Aymeri. Within the palace they had folded their rich mantles in order to sit on them, but, when they are ready to depart, they leave the mantles on the ground. Attendants rush after them to point out

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that they have forgotten to take their mantles with them, but they reply that knights do not carry their seats with them – and so the mantles are left behind. The tone of this passage is very different from the confrontation between Sigurðr and the Emperor in the visit to Constantinople, since the envoys are overbearing and their actions are motivated by pride in the extreme wealth that they have won from the rival group. Furthermore, it is a confrontation for the practical purpose of winning the princess’s hand. The nut-burning also differs from the Sigurðr narrative in not being a test. In this respect it is the Morkinskinna narration of the Haraldr episode that is closer, since the burning of walnuts in that instance is also the result of a ban. Yet, at the same time, we can see that the motif has as its purpose the demonstration of quick wits and independence, and aristocratic pride. The same is true of the scene with the mantles, which, in common with the poem’s nut-burning, is also not conceived of as a test. To this may be compared the scenes in the Sigurðr narrative where the hero and his men spurn the rich cloth strewn on the ground by the Emperor, and the golden horseshoe that has been cast. The strength of Morkinskinna’s treatment of these episodes is that they successfully dramatize status rather than a more crude form of pride; imaginatively present Sigurðr’s equality of honour with that of the Emperor, in which riches are simultaneously both a marker of standing and, paradoxically, something that can be spurned; and create a satisfying test-sequence which unites all of the episodes in the visit. There is another analogue in the slightly earlier Anglo-Norman Roman de Rou or Geste des Normanz, written by the Jerseyman Wace between c. 1160 and the mid-1170s.29 This, as we shall see, is all the more striking in that the nut-burning scene occurs in close juxtaposition both with the mantle episode (as in Aymeri de Narbonne), and with the casting of golden horseshoes. The incidents form part of the narrative of the pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre of Duke Robert I of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror: 1. After travelling to Rome, Duke Robert is conducted through the Emperor’s lands with great honour. He has his mule shod in gold, and directs his barons that no one is to pick up the gold when it falls from the hooves. 2. He passes through Constantinople and visits the Emperor, where, according to the fashion of the place, as the Geste explains, he places his mantle on the ground and sits down without it. He does not deign to pick up the mantle when he departs and, when it is offered to him by one of the Greeks, he replies that he does not carry his seat with him.

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3. Each of the Normans does likewise, and the Duke then gives them mantles which are even more splendid. Wace remarks that this was considered to be a noble act on his part. 4. The Emperor orders that the Duke is to be honoured by receiving from him a large amount of his money as long as he is in the city, but the Duke replies that he does not need this since he has plenty of money and wishes to live off this as long as he is a pilgrim. He says, however, that if he comes back, he will accept provisions and other gifts from the Emperor. 5. The Emperor then sends out an edict to the merchants to prevent the Duke and his men from obtaining the firewood that he needs to cook his food. 6. The Duke overcomes this by buying all the nuts that he can find, and cooks all his food with them; and indeed is more lavish than usual in what he prepares precisely because he lacked firewood. 7. The Emperor laughs at this and declares to his men that the Duke is a very courtly man (curteis), that he should now do whatever he wants, and that the Emperor will never deny him anything. 8. Because of the nobility of the Normans, who made seats out of their mantles, the Emperor has seating made all around the palace hall. Previously everyone who wanted to be seated had used the floor. 9. Robert then prepares to continue his journey to Jerusalem, although he falls ill and so is carried out of Constantinople on a litter. The text goes on to describe how he reaches the Holy Sepulchre but dies on his return journey, being poisoned in Nicaea, where he is buried. Here also the nut-burning episode is caused by a ban, but the tenor of the whole passage is much closer to the Sigurðr narrative than it is to the analogous passage in Aymeri de Narbonne, since the purpose of the various dramatic scenes is to enhance the honour of the hero figure and to establish his equality with the Emperor. In contrast with Morkinskinna, the shoe-casting episode is not structurally motivated by being set up in parallel to an action on the part of the Emperor – indeed it takes place as he rides through the Emperor’s realms, before the arrival in Constantinople – but the purport is the same as in the Icelandic text: the shoe-casting episode follows a passing reference to the honour shown to Robert on his journey and it is clearly meant to be a demonstration of his entitlement to that honour. Nonetheless, Wace’s exploitation of the motif lacks the incisiveness of the dramatic realization and structural integration that characterizes the use of the episode in Morkinskinna. As for the burning of the nuts, the episode in the Geste turns out to have been a proof, if not originally a test, of Robert’s admirable qualities, demonstrating ingenuity,

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i­ndependence, lavishness, and generosity of spirit, and the Emperor passes judgment on his standing as a man of knightly virtue. The similarity to the scene in Morkinskinna is obvious although, as noted previously, this is articulated as a test; it does not simply become one de facto.30 The modern editor of Wace reaches no firm conclusion about the ultimate origins of the motifs either of the golden horseshoe or the burning of nuts, although he speculates that they might have originated in Byzantium, been transmitted to Scandinavia by returning members of the Varangian Guard, and thence to Normandy.31 There is, however, no evidence to support this supposition, and in the case of Wace Holden is certain that the immediate source is an augmentation to a Norman chronicle in Latin, known to him as the Interpolation S. Étienne de Caen, where a similar narrative is presented.32 There are, however, some differences in motivation and reaction: 1. It is directly stated that the reason for Duke Robert’s shoe-casting episode is to disprove the Greeks’ customary accusation that the French were greedy for gold. The Greeks are described as being duly amazed that a people who formerly used to rob and steal gold from one another and from other people now neglect and even despise their own gold. 2. Instead of the mantle episode, Robert displays his status by sitting next to the Emperor without being asked to do so. The Emperor asks if he is Robert, king of the French,33 to which Duke Robert replies that he is not, but that he is one of the most distinguished of the princes and magnates of the French, and that he has made the visit to the Emperor in order to see the relics in Constantinople and to avoid being blamed for journeying through Asia without asking the Emperor’s permission. 3. The Emperor directs that the Duke shall be provided with food for as long as he wishes to stay in the city. He also offers gifts of gold, precious clothes, and very desirable vessels; Robert declines. The reason stated in the text is that Robert wishes to guard against the disgrace of beggary and want. 4. The Emperor interprets this as contempt and forbids them to buy or sell in the town, anticipating that they would be driven by want to seek his support. 5. The Duke’s servants report to him that they are not able to use the shops or the markets. He instantly orders them to use the shells of nuts to make the fire needed for cooking their food. These nutshells are expressly described as being abundantly available for fuel. Two types are mentioned: the shells of almonds and of a less precisely specified nut or nut-kernel: amigdalorum et nucleorum operimenta.

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6. The Emperor is moved by compassion to relent and gives permission for the French to buy and sell as much as they wish. The French thereupon show themselves to be skilled in every enterprise and unsurpassed in cunning. There is no further information about the visit to Constantinople. The remainder of the journey to Jerusalem is not described and the visit to the Holy Land is dealt with extremely briefly in very general terms. What then follows is a short account of Duke Robert’s death at Nicaea on the return journey, together with a brief eulogy. This sequence of anecdotes about Duke Robert is found in the Gesta Normannorum Ducum, begun by William of Jumièges in the 1050s, when he revised, abbreviated, and updated Dudo of Saint-Quentin’s De moribus et actis primorum Normannorum and added accounts of the reigns of Dukes Richard II, Richard III, Robert I, and William II. This initially took the chronicle into the 1060s, although William subsequently added the conquest of England, taking the narrative up to c. 1070. The chronicle was later revised, updated, and extended by many authors, notable among whom was Orderic Vitalis and Robert of Torigni in the early twelfth century. But not all of the redactors are known by name, and the author of the anecdotes of Robert’s visit to Constantinople is one who is anonymous. This passage was not his only addition to the chronicle: he also provided one anecdote to illustrate the generosity of Duke Richard II, two anecdotes about the generosity of Duke Robert I, placed earlier in his career, before he left for the Holy Land, and an account of the final days of King William and the division of his inheritance. It was once thought that this unnamed author was a monk of St Stephen’s Abbey in Caen, which explains the designation of his additions as the Interpolation S. Étienne de Caen. However, this has recently been shown to be highly unlikely, and this body of material is now known simply as Redaction B.34 The visit of Duke Robert I to the Holy Land and his death on the return journey at Nicaea in 1035 are well attested but, as Elisabeth van Houts has convincingly demonstrated,35 he did not visit Constantinople, and the events that are supposed to have taken place there, as related in slightly different ways in Redaction B of the Gesta Normannorum Ducum and in Wace’s Roman de Rou or Geste des Normanz, are pure fiction, exploiting legendary motifs. Van Houts suggests that this fiction had its origins probably in the last quarter of the eleventh century in Normandy and certainly not later than about 1125.36 This means that its account of the burning of nuts is the earliest. It is only in subsequent treatments of the motif that the story becomes a demonstration and then a test of the high standing of the visitor. In Redaction B the burning of the nuts results in the Emperor’s compassion rather

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than admiration, and there is no hint of the imaginative use of the motif in Morkinskinna, in which the visitor burns the nuts in order not to fail in his intention to entertain the Emperor and Empress – an act in which Sigurðr offers reciprocal hospitality, signalling his equal worth and high prestige. It should be noted that in the Gesta Normannorum Ducum there is no sense that material used for the fire constitutes any kind of extraordinary display. It is stated that Robert used the shells of nuts, which are said to be freely available as fuel. The implication of the Emperor’s resulting compassion for the French is that they are a poor substitute for normal fuel, not that their use is an extraordinary display of extravagance. There is possibly a touch of the exotic in the fact that almond-shells are specified, although this is a chronicle from France/ Normandy, within the growing area for almonds: they originated perhaps in the Levant but are common in the Mediterranean basin and the domesticated variety can ripen as far north as the British Isles. The other type of nutshell used by Robert is not specified. Despite van Houts’s translation of nucleorum as ‘walnuts,’ perhaps under the influence of other versions of this motif, nucleus simply means ‘nut,’ or, more precisely, ‘nut-kernel.’ Neither Aymeri de Narbonne nor the Geste des Normanz / Roman de Rou in their versions of this motif specifies that the nuts used are walnuts, although, as we have seen, they are so specified in both of the Icelandic occurrences. In Aymeri de Narbonne they are variously referred to as groses noiz (line 2220) and noiz jauges (line 2246), both of which mean no more than ‘large nuts,’ although Demaison, in his glossary, having translated the latter as grosses noix, cites the modern German Wallnuss, perhaps influenced by his knowledge of the Scandinavian specific.37 Wace simply refers to them as nuiz (line 3104). In both of these versions, however, it seems to be the case that actual nuts were burned. This is already an extravagance, and a notable development from the detail in the Gesta Normannorum Ducum. But, as Riant observed, in the Scandinavian context their specification as walnuts defines their burning as the quintessence of lavishness38 – all the more effective, then, as an expression of prestige in the Sigurðr version in Morkinskinna, which is the only instance I have come across where there is a superabundance still remaining after the banquet has been held. The common walnut, or juglans regia, originating in Persia, but found also in southeast Europe including the Balkans, was an appropriately exotic object from a Scandinavian point of view for an event that was supposed to have taken place in Constantinople in both the sagas of Haraldr and Sigurðr, and if it was known also to be edible, then its use for fuel would have emphasized the extravagance even more. It would appear that there are no other instances in medieval literature where the type of nut is specified. But the study by Gaston Paris makes it abundantly clear that the motif of the burning of nuts was a very popular one.39 The story

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is always one that is told of kings and princes or their proxies, and the motivation is always pride. The location varies, but there is at least one other account that takes place in Constantinople, according to the narrative of a certain Berthold, monk of the monastery of the Holy Cross at Donauwerth.40 The story goes that the Emperor Conrad II sent an embassy to Constantine IX in Constantinople in 1027, the members of which were the Bishop of Strasbourg and a Swabian lord, Mangold de Werde (who subsequently founded the monastery of the Holy Cross, which explains why Berthold told the story c. 1120 when the relic of the cross was translated). As in some of the other narratives examined above, the embassy asserts its independence on arriving in Constantinople and as a result the Emperor prevents them buying firewood. They overcome this by burning nuts instead; and they demonstrate their independence, wealth, and pride by having several horses shod with golden shoes, which they then arrange to cast along the way, of course to be ignored by the riders. More usually, the nut-burning episode occurs separately from the motifs of the abandoned mantles or the casting of the golden horseshoe(s). But the trigger for all of the instances cited by Paris and Demaison is a ban on the purchase of firewood in retaliation for the visitors’ initial rejection of hospitality. Nevertheless, Wace is not the only author using this narrative framework to have concluded with a formal judgment on the quality of the hero. In his case, as noted above,41 the burning of walnuts leads to Robert of Normandy being judged favourably by the Emperor as a man who is supremely curteis – a man true to his noble standing. In the case of the Weltchronik written by the thirteenth-century Viennese chronicler Enenkel, Leopold VI of Austria visits the German Emperor Frederick II to seek the hand of the Emperor’s daughter, refuses the Emperor’s hospitality because he has sufficient red-gold of his own, and then resorts to burning nuts when the Emperor bans the purchase of firewood. Leopold’s ingenuity is reported to the Emperor, who declares him to be a man without equal. Leopold then visits the court, where the Emperor asks him who had taught him this trick. Leopold replies that his own wisdom was sufficient, making the episode in this instance principally a story of quickwitted independence rather than of extreme extravagance. Indeed, after the nuts are collected, it is the nutshells that are used for the fire (as in the Gesta Normannorum Ducum), for the practical reason that they burn best of all.42 The motif is known in France, Normandy, Bavaria, Austria, and England, as well as in Scandinavia. But Morkinskinna is unique in reconceptualizing it as a test and in setting the context of a series of well-fashioned anecdotes – each of them tests in their own way – which together build up the prestige of the

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Scandinavian hero as he encounters the most dazzling ruler of his day. Given the effectiveness of the burning walnuts episode in Morkinskinna and its significance in the narrative, it is surprising that it was not included in the section on tests (Section H) in Boberg’s Motif-Index of Early Icelandic Literature. It certainly merits inclusion in the revision that is currently under way.

NOTES 1 Morkinskinna, ed. Jónsson. 2 Kalinke, ‘Sigurðar Saga.’ 3 Paris, ‘Sur un Épisode.’ 4 Kalinke, ‘Sigurðar Saga,’ 159. 5 Ágrip, ed. Einarsson. 6 Snorri, Heimskringla, I-III ed. Aðalbjarnarson. The saga which tells the story of Sigurðr Jórsalafari is in vol. III, with the title Magnússona saga. 7 For the manuscripts and Snorri’s sources, see Whaley, Heimskringla, chapters 3 and 4 respectively. 8 Morkinskinna, ed. Jónsson, 348–51. 9 In the translation of Morkinskinna by Andersson and Gade, the lacuna is made good by importing text from Fríssbók (Codex Frisianus), a manuscript from c. 1325: Andersson and Gade, Morkinskinna, 320–3. Fríssbók contains the first and third part of Heimskringla and Hákonar saga Hákonsarsonar by Sturla Þórðarson. As Ólafur Halldórsson notes, ‘In the text of most of the third part of Heimskringla, i.e., from Magnúss saga góða to Haraldssona saga, Fríssbók contains a series of interpolations drawn from a redaction of Morkinskinna older than the existing one’; Ólafur Halldórsson, ‘Fríssbók,’ 222. This is the part that includes the narrative of Sigurðr Jórsalafari. The Fríssbók insertion in the Andersson and Gade begins at the point when Sigurðr is still in the western Mediterranean. The account of his approach to and arrival in Constantinople (pp. 322–3) is very close to the Heimskringla text, as summarized below, pp. 191–2. It includes the wait at Engilsnes in order to set the sails advantageously, the visibility of the sails to those on the shore, the closeness of the sails which makes them seem like a single wall of sail, the opening of the Golden Gate, the comment on the special use of this Gate, the Emperor’s strewing of the cloth all the way to Laktjarnir, noted as being his grandest residence, and the studied way in which Sigurðr and his men ignore the riches. In addition, the insertion provides the beginning of the shoe-casting episode. 10 Laing notes that the weight of a ‘skippund’ varied in the different parts of Norway from about 290 lbs to 360 lbs; Snorri, Heimskringla, trans. Laing, 285. However, ‘six skippund’ in this context is simply meant to indicate an enormous weight of gold.

Burning Walnuts  203 11 The vast hippodrome in Constantinople was never used solely for horse or chariot racing. It was also the venue for various games and spectacles, as in this saga narrative: see Herrin, Byzantium, 180–1. 12 Morkinskinna, ed. Jónsson, 351, lines 10–12. 13 Ágrip, ed. Einarsson, 319–20. 14 The fact that the sails can be seen from either shore suggests that the ships are envisaged as sailing into the principal harbour, the Golden Horn. However, this is on the wrong side of the city for riding in through the Golden Gate. 15 The Golden Gate is at the southernmost tip of the Walls of Theodosius where they meet the Sea of Marmara. If Sigurðr were already in one of the city’s harbours (the Golden Horn, as the narrative seems to imply, or even the Harbour of Theodosius or the Harbour of Sophia), it is difficult to see why he would then ‘enter’ the city through a gate past which he must already have sailed, and which in any case served the land approach. But the narrative is more concerned with Sigurðr’s prestige than with what might actually have happened. Historically, it is highly unlikely that the Byzantines would have opened the Golden Gate for Sigurðr. For a map of medieval Constantinople, see Herrin, Byzantium, 363. 16 Snorri, Heimskringla, ed. Aðalbjarnarson, III.252–4. 17 In the account of Nikulás of Þverá’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Engilsnes is without doubt the southern tip of the easternmost promontory of the Peloponnese (Akra Maléa, also known as Cap San’Angelo): see Hill, ‘From Rome to Jerusalem,’ 185–6. But this is too far west for Sigurðr, as it is also for Rǫgnvaldr in Orkneyinga saga, who similarly waits at Engilsnes before sailing into Constantinople. Blöndal suggests that the reference in both sagas is to the Gallipoli peninsula, which is geographically more plausible; Blöndal, Varangians, 137, 156. 18 By contrast with Fagrskinna, ‘land’ is in the singular, although this does not necessarily rule out the narrow inlet of the famed Golden Horn. 19 The Blachernai Palace was situated at the northwest corner of the Theodosian Walls. The distance from the Golden Gate to this Palace was thus the full length of these walls (5,630 metres). Alexios I Komnenos decided to make the Blachernai Palace his principal residence, and in the twelfth century it became established as the centre of the court in preference to The Great Palace, which Constantine had set up in 330. The Great Palace, near the hippodrome and Hagia Sophia, nevertheless still remained in use. See Herrin, Byzantium, 183, for Alexios’s decision, and 363 for a map. 20 See note 9 above. 21 Pp. 195–207. 22 What purport to be translations of Heimskringla by Laing (first published in 1844) and by Monsen (published 1932) include all the episodes associated with Sigurðr’s arrival: the wait at Engilsnes for the favourable arrangement of the sails, the

204  Joyce Hill a­ pproach with the crowded sails which look like a wall, the entry through the Golden Gate, the strewn cloth, the casting of the golden horseshoe, the Emperor’s three offerings of gold, the choice of gold or entertainment in the hippodrome, and the burning walnuts episode. In fact, both worked from versions of the kings’ sagas that were medieval conflations principally of Morkinskinna and Heimskringla, since the printed editions of the kings’ sagas then available were textually less discriminating than the authoritative editions of today, where careful distinction is made between the various manuscript recensions, and where what is presented to us as Snorri’s text is the version deemed closest to his original. Thus, Hollander’s 1964 translations of Heimskringla follows the now standard edition, Snorri, Heimskringla, ed. Aðalbjarnarson, which is the basis of the summary provided above, pp. 191–2. Hollander’s translation consequently does not include the shoecasting episode, the emperor’s three offers of gold, or the walnut-burning scene. Compare Snorri, Heimskringla Part Two, trans. Laing, 284–7; Monsen, ed. and trans., Heimskringla or the Lives of the Norse Kings, 612–15; and Hollander, trans., Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway, 697–8. On the complexities of the Heimskringla manuscript tradition and the resulting problems with editions and translations, see briefly Whaley, Heimskringla, 41–52. More extensively, see Louis-Jensen, ed., Hulda, and Louis-Jensen, Kongesagastudier. 23 In Andersson and Gade, trans., Morkinskinna, 509, the concordance of Morkinskinna and Heimskringla is incomplete. It is noted that Heimskringla omits the walnut-burning episode, but it is not noted that it also omits the shoe-casting scene and the Emperor’s triple offering of gold before he and Sigurðr meet. 24 Kalinke, ‘Sigurðar Saga,’ 158. 25 Morkinskinna, ed. Jónsson, 66. 26 See above, note 22. 27 In Fagrskinna and Heimskringla St Óláfr appears to Haraldr, and a church dedicated to him is subsequently built, but it is not clear that the initiative is that of Haraldr or that the Emperor attempted to hinder the plan, and there is no walnutburning scene: see Ágrip, ed. Einarsson, 234–7, and Snorri, Heimskringla, ed. Aðalbjarnarson, 85–9. 28 Demaison, ed., Aymeri de Narbonne, lines 2063–2667; For the study by Paris, see note 3 above. 29 Holden, ed., Le Roman de Rou I, lines 3059–3132. There is a modern translation, Burgess, History of the Norman People. 30 Louis, referring to the Scandinavian analogues in his discussion of Wace, asserts that Sigurðr burnt walnuts as a consequence of refusing the hospitality of the Emperor; Louis, ‘A propos du pèlerinage,’ 396. But this is far from being the case. The episode is entirely recast in Morkinskinna, with Sigurðr having recourse to burning walnuts in order to fulfil his offer of hospitality to the Emperor and

Burning Walnuts  205 ­Empress, who had previously treated him to lavish entertainments – the tone for the whole visit having been emphatically established as one of mutual admiration. 31 Holden, ed., Le Roman de Rou III.139. 32 Ibid. The summary that follows is based on van Houts, ed. and trans., Gesta Normannorum II, 82–4, with facing translation 83–5. 33 Robert II (‘le Pieux’) had died in 1031 and had been succeeded by Henri I. Duke Robert made his journey to Jerusalem in 1035. 34 Van Houts, ed. and trans., Gesta Normannorum, vol. I, devotes most of her introduction to the development of the Gesta. For Redaction B, see lxi–lxv. 35 Van Houts, ‘Normandy and Byzantium.’ 36 Ibid., 559. She also points out in this article (545) that this date also makes Redaction B the earliest recorded account of the story of the casting of the golden horseshoe. 37 Demaison, ed., Aymeri de Narbonne II.232. 38 Riant, Expéditions et pèlerinages, 210n2. 39 Paris, ‘Sur un Épisode.’ 40 Demaison, ed., Aymeri de Narbonne I.clxxxiii–clxxxiv. 41 See p. 197. 42 Demaison, ed., Aymeri de Narbonne I.clxxxvi–clxxxviii.

A Just and Riding God: Christ’s Movement in The Descent into Hell m a r i a e l e na ruggerini

Et aves quem iussit super terra omnes in illa hora Deum conlaudant: et tunc animae iustorum qui in infernum erant in ipsa resurreccione liberavit quia mane surrexit. The Bobbio Missal1

The subject of Christ’s descent into hell to free the righteous of the Old Testament – commonly called the Harrowing of Hell, following a usage first attested in Middle English2 – has been much treated since the first centuries of Christianity. Although only hinted at obscurely in scattered passages of the Holy Scriptures, its authenticity was never seriously questioned and the exegetical tradition soon adopted it as a fundamental episode in salvation history, foreshadowing the Last Judgment and the entrance of the just into the heavenly kingdom. The episode quickly found its way into iconography, while poets developed its dramatic character, adding details of plot and psychology. Indeed, it became a favourite subject of early medieval drama.3 Although not obviously subsumed within the theme of the Apocalypse4 – given that it occurs between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection or, as some commentators would have it, following the Resurrection or at the Ascension5 – the Harrowing was looked upon by Old English writers as connected to (even sometimes as belonging to the same theological dimension as) the Apocalypse.6 One obvious reason for this was that the liberation of Old Testament figures accomplished in the Harrowing is the first act of God’s final judgment, the conclusion of which will culminate in the Second Coming. In other words, these writers understood the Harrowing as the first ‘journey-mission’ of Christ as Judge.7 Furthermore, the widespread belief among early Christians that the last days would soon come would have negated any modern sense of a large

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temporal chasm between the Harrowing and Doomsday. In addition, the Harrowing was understood as typologically related to the Last Judgment in commentaries by Augustine, Gregory, Jerome, and Bede.8 This relationship – as well as parallels between these events and Palm Sunday9 – were also incorporated into Old English Easter homilies: for instance, a mixture of Harrowing lore and Apocalypse material is at the core of the Blickling Homily for Easter Day,10 which presents the Harrowing as a revelation of God’s will to extend the fruits of Christ’s victory over death to people of past, present, and future times.11 Christ’s Resurrection and victorious journey to hell are presented together as examples of active Christian spiritual behaviour,12 and as a promise of the possibility of salvation through God’s providential design.13 Indeed, in this same homiletic tradition, the Harrowing is often followed or preceded – in a defiance of chronological time that is common in Old English poetry as well – by an account of the end of the world.14 The idea of a divine rescue mission to a lower region is rooted in Jewish eschatology,15 where it is described in suggestive allusions. In Isaiah 45:2, for instance, the Lord says, ‘I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron’;16 Psalm 107:14 reads, ‘He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.’17 New Testament accounts are less obscure, but not significantly so: I Peter refers to Christ ‘coming’– veniens – ‘unto the spirits in prison’; only twice does the New Testament speak of an actual descent, expressed through the verb descendere (descendet in abyssum, Romans 10:7; descendit in inferiores partes terrae, Ephesians 4:9). This basic conception of a descent into hell was enlarged upon in the early Christian era, primarily in apocryphal writings. The Church officially adopted the descendit ad inferos formula in the Sirmian Creed of 359, after which the Church Fathers began discussing the descent explicitly in their commentaries. Old English poetic accounts of the Harrowing fall into two categories: those directly derived from the second part of the so-called Gospel of Nicodemus – a work of enormous influence on medieval theology, liturgy, art, and literature – and those which apparently were not.18 These latter renderings were more original in both their perspective and their language, though they were not free of the influence of earlier sources. They will be the primary focus of this essay, beginning with works that treat the Harrowing peripherally and then turning to a poem that presents the episode as its main subject, The Descent into Hell in the Exeter Book.19 From both a dramatic and a liturgical point of view, the pivotal moments in the story of the Harrowing have less to do with Christ’s actual descent than with his breaking of hell’s gates, binding of the devils, and departure with the righteous. It is not surprising, then, that in the short accounts of the episode in the poems Elene, Christ II, The Panther, and Riddle 55,20

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there are no verbs of movement, and attention is restricted to these events. The short description of the Harrowing in Guthlac II focuses solely on the ascent out of hell,21 as does a metrical rendering of the Creed.22 Other Old English narratives refer to the Harrowing in more detail, but without mentioning the actual descent. In Christ I, for instance, it is described as fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy that the Ordainer’s son would siþe gesecan (make a journey) to the abyss, where the righteous captives awaited the time when bearn godes cwome (God’s son would come).23 The emphasis is on the attitude of the participants rather than the movement itself. On Christ’s part, what is conveyed is his willingness to perform the journey; on that of the prisoners, it is their eagerness to be rescued, as seen in the rapid succession of the three verbs cuman (come), hider gesecan (visit here), and heonan cyrran (depart from here). Similarly, in Christ III, a personified hell acknowledges that se scyppend cwom (the Creator came),24 after which the poet describes the elation of those released.25 In this same category falls the brief recollection of the Harrowing at the end of The Dream of the Rood: Se sunu wæs sigorfæst on þam siðfate, / … þa he mid manigeo com, / gasta weorode, on godes rice (The Son was victorious in that expedition / … when he came with a multitude / the host of souls, to God’s kingdom).26 Its reference to Christ’s journey includes no verb, the only movement depicted being Christ’s ascension with the blessed spirits. Christ and Satan is more interesting from the perspective of the descent.27 The section on the Harrowing (378–511) begins in hell, where Christ’s coming is perceived through the sound of hell’s doors being broken. The terrified devils infer from this their peril: nu þes storm becom, / þegen mid þreate, þeoden engla (now the storm has come, / the Lord with his followers, the king of angels, 385–6); and Christ intends uppe heonan / sawla lædan (to lead up from here / the souls, 395–6). At this point the poet turns to the idea of Christ’s descent in more dispassionate terms: Hwearf þa to helle ([Christ] then turned into hell, 398). When Christ overcomes his enemies at daybreak, a loud angelic sound is heard – þa se egsa becom (when the terror came, 404) – echoing the noise that began the account. Eve pleads for rescue and reminds Christ that he had promised, through one of his servants, to helwarum ham gelihtan (429), which can be translated either as ‘illuminate’ or ‘visit’ ‘the home for the benefit of the hell-dwellers.’ This use of gelihtan – with its double meanings, both fitting in context – is reminiscent of the use of gefælsian (‘visit’ or ‘purify’), referring to the Incarnation, in Christ I,28 and sheds light on the typological character of the Harrowing as the first redemptive act of Christ. There is also a third reference to the arrival of Christ in terms of sound – se dyne becom (the din arrived, 464) – as a herald of Christ’s destruction of hell’s gate.

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In this group of poems – with one exception – the verb cuman (with its variant becuman) is used to describe Christ’s arrival in hell, while his travels to and from are described as a ‘visit to’ and ‘departure from.’29 The exception is the use of the less general verb hweorfan (‘turn or plunge into’) in line 398 of Christ and Satan – which is a larger exception than at first may seem. As a general rule, hweorfan is never applied to angels’ flight in Old English poetry, but only to the disordered flight of devils30 and other evil creatures.31 Yet here in line 398 it is employed to describe Christ’s journey to the underworld. This apparent violation of lexical convention32 makes sense in the context of the poem’s oft-noted rhetorical device of using iteration to create parallels by contrast. In line 189 – prior to the use of the verb to describe Christ’s descent – the formula hwearf þa to helle (he then turned into hell) is used to describe Lucifer’s confinement by God. This contrast of similar movements – one a result of eternal damnation, the other opening the possibility of ultimate salvation – creates a meaningful echo.33 The Exeter Book poem known most commonly as The Descent into Hell34 comprises two sections. The first, set on earth, is quite short, and relates the arrival of the grieving Marys at the Sepulchre. The second, set in hell, begins with John the Baptist welcoming Christ, describes Christ’s arrival in hell, then returns to the Baptist’s greeting.35 After this come four apostrophes – to Gabriel, to Mary, to Jerusalem, and to the river Jordan. The poem ends with a prayer for Baptism, in terms articulating its necessity for salvation.36 It has often been assumed – on the basis of a seeming lack of coherence – that Descent as we have it is fragmentary,37 and perhaps lacking its original beginning. What has been called its ‘enigmatic quality’ also derives from the fact that it does not offer a traditional and sequential account of the Harrowing – such as that found, for instance, in the Gospel of Nicodemus, which was well known in Anglo-Saxon England.38 Descent’s most obvious narrative departure from tradition is the absence from it of Christ’s antagonists, Satan and the devils, and of Satan’s debate with the personification of death.39 Lacking the customary epic battle between the heroic harrower and hell’s jailers, the poem portrays, as Jessica Brantley has written, a ‘remarkably peaceful vision of divine triumph.’40 In lieu of the swift and heroic movements that characterize the Gospel of Nicodemus, what we find in Descent is a static spiritual tableau.41 However, this should not necessarily be interpreted either as a failure on the part of the Descent poet or as the result of alterations in the process of transmission. More likely it stems from a distinct perspective on the part of the poet, who consciously chose to portray the Harrowing in a way less concerned with heroics than with a typological and liturgical understanding of the episode in an apocalyptic context.

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This view is clearly at odds with the once prevailing scholarly consensus that the poem portrayed the Harrowing as a military exploit in the best Germanic warrior tradition. There is admittedly a strong case to be made for this interpretation, based especially on a literal reading of lines 33–51, which contains martial expressions like reþust ealra cyninga (the fiercest of all kings) and þære burge þrym … reafian (to plunder … the power of the city), and in which Christ himself refers to hild (battle), helmberend (helmet-wearers, warriors), and byrnwigend (men in armour). But one must consider the context of these words: Christ’s point is that he has no need of warriors or weapons, and that his victory over death will be instantaneous. As for reþust ealra cyninga, it is true that the adjective reþe often signifies ‘fierce’; e.g., in Christ and Satan 103, referring to the damned in hell;42 Andreas 139, describing the cruel Mermedonians;43 and Juliana 140, characterizing the disordered fury of the martyr’s father against his daughter.44 However, in poetic contexts where it applies to God, reþe always bears the meaning ‘stern in judgment’;45 e.g., in Genesis 1376, where it is coupled with the adjective strang ‘strong’ in the image of God commanding the flood;46 Christ II 825, depicting God arriving on Judgment Day as reðe ond ryhtwis (stern and righteous);47 and Christ III 1527, describing the same scene with stronger emphasis (reðe ond meahtig, / yrre ond egesful; stern and mighty, / angry and awesome).48 In Descent, then, reþe seems designed less to evoke the heroic tradition than to draw a comparison between the harrowing Christ – passing his first liberating judgment on the prisoners in hell – and the arbiter of Doomsday. He is not here the fiercest of kings, but the most just.

Christ’s ‘Riding’ This understanding has implications for the interpretation of other elements of the poem. Gary Aho interprets line 40 – cyning in oþrad (the King ‘rode in’) – as representing a Germanic chieftain mounted on a stallion and ‘filled with the passion of revenge.’49 Aho notes that this image is unique across both Latin and vernacular accounts of the Harrowing,50 and calls attention to the only available parallel: a passage of the Old Norse prose account, Niðrstigningarsaga (‘The saga of the Descent’),51 in which a leader appears at hell’s entrance riding a white horse, his eyes blazing and a crown on his head, followed by a troop of heavenly riders.52 Aho rightly connects this image to Revelation 19:11–17,53 but does not take the parallel any further, and suggests the rider in the saga should not be identified as Christ.54 In a subsequent article he has revised this opinion regarding the figure’s identity without discussing the implications of

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the riding Christ.55 The use of the verb oþridan in the Exeter Descent may suggest a variety of reflexes, either as a remnant of a ritualistic or mythological reality (in Old Norse mythology, gods or their messengers ride to the remote abodes of Hel, and the opposing armies at Ragnarǫk are led by Óðinn and Surtr on steeds),56 or as part of a political ceremonial (with royal receptions at town gates).57 The focus here, however, will be on the theological significance of the riding Christ at the gate of hell. Before addressing the translation and interpretation of this verb in line 40, it is important to note that the passing image of a riding Christ in Descent differs from the more elaborate description in Niðrstigningarsaga. In the latter, a close rendering of Revelation 19:11–17 is embedded in the narrative with only one minor adaptation,58 so that a strong connection is established between the binding of Satan at the Harrowing and confinement in the deep pit of the Apocalypse. Conversely, in Descent, Christ’s solitary visit59 to the netherworld and the lack of any verbal or martial exchange with the devils shifts the focus from the punishment and grieving of the devils to the imminent rescue of the righteous. It portrays effortless glory and a calm triumph, enlivened only when a multitude of patriarchs, prophets, and holy men and women crowds around to celebrate the Saviour’s arrival, a scene obviously reminiscent of the biblical account of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem – also riding – before the Passion.60 The language of Descent cleverly combines allusion and precision. If the reader experiences occasional difficulty in comprehending the action, it stems mainly from the author’s use of non-specific nouns and pronouns – ‘I’ and ‘we,’ ‘a band of men,’ ‘hero’ and ‘heroes,’ and ‘the leader of the citizens.’ However, on a formal level, the poem is anything but obscure, and from this perspective there is no reason to doubt that the verb oþridan in line 40 means ‘to ride on a horse,’ signifying that Christ ‘rode into hell on a horse’ after stopping at hell’s gates.61 There is no reason, that is, why one should ignore the verb’s surface meaning and translate it in the more neutral way – ‘Christ entered in’ – as is sometimes done.62 It was of course necessary for Christian poets to exercise their imaginations when depicting apocalyptic events such as the Harrowing, these events being beyond human understanding. On the other hand, patristic commentary provided them with hermeneutic tools so that they exercised their creativity within defined boundaries. Poets’ freedom lay primarily in their ability to choose which elements of a narrative source to incorporate in their verse, which to amplify, and which to pass over. Thus the idea that the Descent poet would use a verb of riding gratuitously, without the support of a source, seems dubious – especially given that the alliteration of line 40 is already achieved in the use of the word cyning. He would not have risked creating a divergent ‘apocryphal iconography’ of a riding Christ’s descent into

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hell unattested ­elsewhere. A more plausible explanation for the use of oþridan in the poem is that, rather than intending literally to describe the mode of Christ’s entrance into hell, the poet intended it to signify or amplify the Harrowing’s broader teleological meaning. Problems remain attendant to the verb oþridan, which is not attested elsewhere in Old English. Other verbs of movement prefixed with oþ- occur with the general meaning of ‘escape’ or ‘flight,’ as illustrated by the verbs oþrowan ‘to row off,’ oþswimman ‘to escape by swimming,’ and oþwindan ‘to flee,’ in the entries for the years 897 and 917 of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.63 Several oþ- verbs also appear uniquely within single poems and convey the meaning of ‘escaping or leaving (with or without aid)’:64 e.g., oþscufan ‘to move away’ and oþfleon ‘to fly away’ (The Phoenix 168 and 347); 65 and oþfaran and oþgan ‘to flee’ (Exodus 6466 and Beowulf 2934,67 respectively). It is therefore puzzling to find the verb oþridan – implying literally a movement away – used to describe Christ’s entrance into hell. One cannot simply rule out the possibility that the verb in the extant version of Descent is the result of corruption at some point in the transmission of the text, even though similar b-half lines beginning with the word cyning often end with a prefixed verb in the past tense.68 An alternative explanation, however, is that oþridan represents a new coinage, perhaps modelled on the Latin adequitare (to ride  ‘towards’; but also: ‘along,’ ‘around,’ ‘among’), a meaning which would fit well in this context, since the preposition oþ means ‘as far as,’69 and corresponds well to the Latin ad-.70 Furthermore, the verb is used in connection with ‘military camps’ (castra), and with commanders riding along a defensive wall (uallum) or by a gate (porta).71 This hypothesis invites the identification of a source, which I will discuss below. But it is also possible to take the verb simply to mean ‘to ride off (into)’ – perhaps implying riding away from the defensive citadel (ceaster) at hell’s entrance72 and into the deeper part of hell,73 which is elsewhere specified as helle grund (the bottom of hell) – if we wish to retain the more common meaning of the prefix.74 In addition to riding, the Christ of Descent explicitly precludes the idea of accompanying troops in his expedition ‘to vanquish and destroy the walls of hell’ (34–5).75 The resultant image of a solitary rider differs significantly from the best-known Apocalyptic parallel in Revelation 19. Christ’s redeeming attitude, rather than any martial quality, is suggested through the use of two almost synonymous verbs, stressing an urgency that is not temporal, but rather conveys the mystery of Christ’s providential love for mankind. In the first of these, Christ is described as hastening to his journey (fysde hine þa to fore, 33), and in the second as quickly advancing into hell (forð onette, 41). Seen in the context of the general lack of specificity concerning Christ’s actual movements during the Harrowing in other poetic sources, these two verbs beg notice and

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interpretation. They seem to adhere to a formulaic pattern employed in connection with other divine redemptive acts. In The Dream of the Rood 34, for instance, the Saviour is perceived by the Rood as ‘hastening’ to climb the cross in great zeal (efstan elne mycle); and in Christ II 475, he is depicted at the Ascension as ‘hurrying … to his Father’s kingdom’ (gefysed … to fæder rice).76 These parallels lend support to the idea that the portrayal of a riding Christ in Descent was not necessarily directly inspired by the martial imagery of Revelation 19.77 Descent presents the image of a victorious Ruler riding into the enemy’s conquered stronghold78 by employing words such as weallas (walls), burg (fortified place), burggeatum (town-gates), ceaster (fortification), and oþridan – words not otherwise associated with accounts of the Harrowing.79 Furthermore, the action depicted in lines 33–42 has little in common with typical scenes of this kind. In rapid succession we are given two contrasting images: first of a King who is impatient to storm (forbrecan and forbygan, ‘to break down and destroy’) a citadel, then of a King who intends to (and does) achieve his goal without troops and without violence. The double use of the epithet ‘King’ in close order (at lines 36 and 40) alludes to the biblical epithet ‘King of Kings,’ while the sudden and silent ‘falling down’ of hell’s ‘locks and bolts’ – as if in simple obedience – bestows on the scene a liturgical colouring that is reminiscent of the account of the Incarnation in Christ I, wherein Christ is portrayed as uniquely able to þæs ceasterhilde clustor onlucan (unlock the citadel’s [i.e., the Virgin Mary’s] bolts) without breaking them. This idea of a miraculous passage through a locked entrance was a well-established metaphor for God’s salvific power.80 Unlike the Harrowing depicted in Christ and Satan – in which the cries and lamentations of the devils evoke drama and terror – the Descent poet’s account is marked by a total absence from the scene of Christ’s defeated adversaries or any feature of hell’s landscape. Instead, a crowd of righteous captives – referred to as wræccan (exiles) – throng around him, ‘competing with each other in order to get a better glimpse of that victorious Son’ (hwylc hyra þæt sigebearn geseon moste, 42–3). Recalling the descriptions of joy in the ‘two Jerusalems’ – one heavenly, the other earthly – at Christ’s Last Judgment depicted in Cynewulf’s Christ II,81 this scene in Descent typologically evokes a kind of third Jerusalem, however paradoxically.

‘Entrance’ Liturgies These lines in Descent echo a liturgy that was connected in Anglo-Saxon England with both the Ascension and the Harrowing: the so-called liturgy of

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entrance. This liturgy pertains to the theology of glory, centring on Christ’s triumphant return to his kingdom with the ‘wondrous spoils’ or ‘glorious souls,’ a topic incorporated in nearly all Latin Ascension hymns composed before the twelfth century.82 As noted at the outset, that the poet’s perception that the Descent was connected typologically to the Ascension and Judgment Day is unsurprising. Bede and Cynewulf both move easily in their writings between the Ascension and the Harrowing, following their patristic sources.83 Gregory of Nyssa’s well-known sermon on the Ascension combines Christ’s Descent and Ascension through a double use of Psalm 24 (‘For the solemn entry of Christ into the temple’). In this homily, angels twice address Christ – first as he descends to the lower world, again when he returns to heaven – with the Psalmist’s words: Attollite portas, principes, vestras, et elevamini, portae aeternales, et introibit rex gloriae. Quis est iste rex gloriae? Dominus fortis et potens, dominus potens in proelio (Lift up your head, O ye gates and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battles).84 Here we find all the major elements of the Exeter Book’s Harrowing: martial vocabulary, the opening of the gates, and the entrance of the ‘King of glory’ – an epithet paralleled in the compound wuldorgiefa (giver of glory) at line 42 of Descent and consistently used in homiletic passages discussing the Harrowing. Christ’s arrivals in the two Jerusalems, each attended by the receipt of kingly honours, is also central to Palm Sunday’s liturgy. Blickling Homily VI (‘For Palm Sunday’) describes in detail the acclamation of the multitude as Christ arrives in the city upon the foal of an ass, explaining that the Jews were celebrating Christ’s victory over death and the devil that had been achieved through the resurrection of Lazarus.85 Not so predictably, the sermon then equates this to Christ’s victory upon descending into hell and freeing the captive souls. Indeed, the procession of people preceding Christ as he approaches Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is interpreted as containing those freed during the Harrowing, and the people walking after him to represent those born after his Ascension, who must now await his Second Coming. This concern with the redemption of all humanity, at different stages of the history of Christ and of the world, provides an explanation for the particular importance attached to the Harrowing in Old English homilies and poems. It is referred to as well in another Blickling Homily, the seventh, ‘For Easter Day,’86 in which the elements of the Harrowing are essentially the same as in Descent,87 but for the fact that there is an actual ‘breaking into pieces’ of hell’s gates and their bolts. This breaking is recounted twice, in close order and almost verbatim, though the homilist is careful to indicate that it was accomplished spiritually rather than physically. In Ælfric’s sermon for Palm Sunday,88 the focus is on recounting and interpreting Christ’s

A Just and Riding God  215

entry into Jerusalem. Ælfric uses the verb ridan89 – a specific verb of movement of a type not employed in the Gospels,90 and so generally avoided in commentaries – and heralds the fact that Christ chose not to mount a ‘proud steed.’ This lesson is also contained in Ælfric’s account of the rescue of the true Cross from the Persians in his sermon ‘The Exaltation of the Holy Cross’: when Heraclius attempts to return the cross to Jerusalem while riding a royal horse, the gate remains closed.91 Only after heeding the warning of an angel that he must display repentance and humility to gain access to the city does he find that toeodon ða stanas and geopenode þæt get (the stones parted, and the gate opened itself),92 an image reminiscent of the ‘falling down’ of the locks and bolts of hell’s gates in Descent. The final piece of evidence to consider is a distinctive feature of the Palm Sunday ritual as performed in Anglo-Saxon England – the commemorative procession – and in particular its locally prescribed epilogue.93 This tradition is known from tenth- and eleventh-century witnesses; in particular, the Canterbury Benedictional of 103094 provides a detailed insight into how the Palm Sunday procession was choreographed, with its accompanying prayers and hymns.95 Following the morning Mass, participants walked in procession to another church – possibly outside the city’s gates – while singing antiphons. Upon their arrival, palm fronds or other branches were consecrated using words in which Christ’s Incarnation and role as king and saviour were praised. The procession then set out on its return journey, with additional participants joining in along the way. Meanwhile, a group of children was sent ahead to wait, behind the church’s closed doors, for Christ’s symbolic arrival.96 Christ himself was not physically represented in the procession, though in later times a host, a cross, or a gospel book was carried along to represent his presence. The Regularis Concordia also specifies that when the procession arrived at the church there was a dramatic dialogue between the children within and the crowd outside.97 This dialogue consisted of an alternate singing of the ninth-century hymn Gloria laus et honor – composed by Theodulph, Bishop of Orléans, and based on Psalm 2498 – with the children as the chanters and the crowd as the chorus. At the hymn’s conclusion, the subdeacon would strike the door with the staff of the cross, whereupon the door would be opened and the procession would enter. Gloria laus et honor praises Christ the Saviour, hails him as ‘King of Israel,’ and closes with a hosanna to the ‘pious and righteous’ King, redeemer of mankind. However, a significant deviation from the standard text of the hymn is found in the version attested in the Canterbury Benedictional, where new verses have been added. One of these asks: Quis rex hic equitat, cui gloria redditur ista?99 (Who is this king who comes riding here, to whom glory is due? Emphasis added). This verse, like Theodulf’s hymn, is derived from

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Psalm 24:8. However, the psalm simply asks ‘Who is this king of glory?,’ while the Hymnal adds the detail of Christ’s riding entrance. The Canterbury version goes on to recount that this king from heaven’s heights suffered death of his own will, ‘buying the world’ with his blood and returning to his home with ‘his Father’s herd.’100 It is impossible to demonstrate conclusively that the Descent poet borrowed the riding verb from this or any other version of Gloria laus et honor; however, the hymn was certainly well known and widely used, and had a key role in the Palm Sunday ritual. Furthermore, the hymn indicates a liturgical understanding and tradition in which the image of a riding Christ played a role of some importance – not, again, due to any martial connotations such as the homilists warned against, but for evoking among waiting believers a reassuring image of triumph and salvation that would lighten the darkness at the Passion’s end. Typological associations between the Palm Sunday entrance and the Harrowing developed in patristic commentary may also have played a part. Other scholars have gone far in establishing the extent to which the Exeter Book Descent draws upon the liturgies of Baptism and of Holy Saturday.101 There has been little said or written, however, about the Harrowing section proper, and nothing whatsoever about the role of the Palm Sunday liturgy as a possible source for its linguistic and theological inspiration. Given this evidence, the further influence of the Liturgy of Holy Week, suggested by use of the verb oþridan, would come as no surprise.

NOTES 1 Ad matutinas (Lowe, ed., Bobbio Missal, 181): ‘And all the birds which he commanded over the earth in that hour [of Christ’s Resurrection] praise God altogether; that is when, with his Resurrection, he freed the souls of the righteous who were in hell, because he rose in the morning.’ (Translations, unless otherwise specified, are my own.) 2 The noun hergung is employed, however, in this sense in Old English homiletic prose: Ælfric’s Dominica Pascae refers to hælendes hergung (the Saviour’s harrowing; Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies I, ed. Clemoes, 306) and Blickling Homily VII to his hergunga on helle (his harrowing of hell; ed. Morris, 83). Also attested is the verbal phrase helle bereafian (to plunder hell; Blickling Homily VI, ed. Morris, 67 and Blickling Homily VII, ibid., 87). 3 Middle English treatments of the story (in Ludus Coventriae, Harrowing of Hell, Devils’ Parliament, Death and Life, and Piers Plowman) are dramatic and mirror ‘changing doctrines on the Redemption’ (Marx, ‘Harrowing of Hell,’ 341).

A Just and Riding God  217 4 An earlier version of this study was read at the Conference ‘Judgement and Apocalypse: Aspects and Approaches,’ Lincoln College, Oxford, 13–14 April 2007. 5 The issue of the ‘inversion of paschal events’ – which is relevant to the main subject of this study – is extensively discussed in Izydorczyk, ‘The Inversion of Paschal Events.’ Bede, in his hymn on the Ascension (Hurst, ed., ‘In Resurrectione Domini,’ in Bedae Venerabilis Opera Rhythmica. CCSL 122, 417–18), goes so far as to combine the procession of the just out of hell with Christ’s Ascension (Campbell, ‘To Hell and Back,’ 127). 6 More generally, the Harrowing can be described as ‘a corner-stone of medieval eschatology’ (Shippey, Poems of Wisdom, 37). 7 The Descent’s connection to Doomsday is fully investigated in Tamburr, The Harrowing of Hell, including a description of the iconography of the frieze on the west façade of Lincoln Cathedral, which ‘relies on the providential function of the Descent’ (69). 8 See Campbell, ‘To Hell and Back,’ 123 and 136. The rising of the dead following the Crucifixion and at the Harrowing can be seen as a prelude to the general resurrection at Doomsday. This typical medieval perspective, by which events taking place at the time of Christ’s Passion are placed beside or made to overlap with eschatological features of the last days, helps explain the apparent confusion which characterizes, e.g., the section of the poem Christ III recounting the Passion and the vision concluding The Dream of the Rood. An analysis of the literary implications of this non-linear view of history in Old English poetry can be found in Earl, ‘Prophecy and Parable.’ 9 E.g., in Sic et Non (PL 178:1469), Abelard cites Pope Gregory’s interpretation of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as symbolizing the justification by faith of the Old Testament patriarchs (Turner, ‘“Descendit ad Inferos,”’180). 10 Campbell, ‘To Hell and Back,’ 138. 11 Dominica Pascha; Morris, ed., Blickling Homilies, 82–96; Swanton, trans., AngloSaxon Prose, 63–9. 12 The idea that the Lord ‘arose from his Passion and the bonds of his death and from the shackles of hell’s darkness’ (aras … æfter his þrowunga, & efter þæm bendum his deaþes, & æfter þæm clammum helle þeostra; Morris, ed., Blickling Homilies, 83) so that mankind would follow his example (mancynne to bysene; ibid.) is presented by the homilist as key to understanding the Harrowing. He also places the canonical Passion and Resurrection and the apocryphal Harrowing on equivalent levels of theological truth by applying the same verb to the two risings. 13 A further reason for using the Harrowing episode in sermons may be that the story of Christ’s binding and casting of Lucifer into the deepest part of hell underlines the shift from a heathen netherworld of shadows to a severe place of punishment for condemned sinners.

218  Maria Elena Ruggerini 14 Earl, ‘Prophecy and Parable.’ 15 Derrett traces the motif to Plato – who in his Phaedo suggests that souls in the netherworld could be released through the compassion of their earthly victims (Derrett and Duncan, ‘He Descended into Hell,’ 235) – but considers the Buddhist myth of Avalokitesvara (a Bodhisattva venerated as the personification of mercy and popular by the first century, said to have descended into the netherworld Avici to free the souls therein; ibid., 241) as a possible source for Jewish allusions to the descent (ibid., 245). Kroll argues that the original idea of the Descent is probably Babylonian, originating when Persian dualism was superimposed upon native religious conceptions, transforming the underworld into a place inhabited by evil creatures and needing to be conquered by the gods (Kroll, Gott und Hölle, 205–61). 16 Portas aereas conteram, / et vectes ferreos confringam. Echoes of this doublet, emphasizing the action of ‘breaking,’ exist in several Old English Harrowing accounts, e.g., an anonymous Homily for Easter (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 162 F, of the eleventh century): þa isenan forescyttelsas he tobræc and towearp (the iron bars he broke and shattered; Lees, ‘Theme and Echo,’ 119); lines 34–5 of Descent: wolde heofona helm helle weallas / forbrecan ond forbygan (the Protector of the heavens wanted the walls of hell / to vanquish and destroy); lines 379–80 and 465–6 of Christ and Satan: þa he duru in helle / bræc and begde (when he broke and abased / the doors in hell), and þa he helle duru / forbræc and forbegde (when he hell’s doors / utterly broke and abased), and Solomon and Saturn 71–2 (see below note 80). In the Middle English poem The Gospel of Nicodemus (1402–5 [Harley text]; ed. Hulme), the twofold consequence of Christ’s arrival is depicted somewhat less awesomely in that it follows from Christ violently striking the gates: þan Ihesus strake so fast, / þe yhates in sonder yhede / And Iren bandes all brast (then Jesus struck so fiercely, / that the gates went into pieces / and the iron bars were all shattered). 17 In Odes of Solomon 42, 11, Christ proclaims that Sheol (i.e., hell) saw him and was shattered, and that Death ejected him along with many inhabitants, who, perceiving that death could not touch him, ran towards him, pleading to be brought ‘out from the bonds of darkness’ (Charlesworth, ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 771). 18 There is no scholarly consensus on the origin and transmission of this apocryphon, to whose popularity over four hundred manuscripts testify. Hall usefully summarizes the textual history of the Euangelium Nicodemi, the general name by which its two parts – Acta or Gesta Pilati and Descensus ad Inferos, composed in Greek independently and at different times – are known after they were joined together in Latin manuscripts (‘The Euangelium Nichodemi,’ 37–46). 19 An analysis of the various treatments of the Harrowing in vernacular poetry can be found in Campbell, ‘To Hell and Back,’ 143–58 (also in White, The Descent of Christ into Hell, 140–230 and Collett, The Gospel of Nicodemus, 108–24).

A Just and Riding God  219 20 Elene 181–2 and 902–10; Christ II 558–85 and 730–6; The Panther 58–61; Riddle 55, 6–7. All references to the Exeter Book are to the edition by Krapp and Dobbie. 21 Guthlac B 1104. 22 The Creed 30–2; Dobbie, ed., Minor Poems, 79. 23 Christ I 140–63. 24 Christ III 1160. 25 The allusions to the Descent in the three Christ poems are one of the proofs produced by Kirkland to support his view that Cynewulf is likely the author of the Exeter Descent (A Study of ‘The Harrowing of Hell,’ 15), an opinion which has gained no consensus. 26 Dream of the Rood, 150–2. The reference to the Harrowing is not certain, and the poet may be alluding merely to Christ’s return to heaven. For a summary of different views on this passage, see Brzezinski, ‘The Harrowing of Hell,’ 253–5. 27 Krapp, ed., Junius Manuscript, 147–51. 28 Krapp and Dobbie, eds., Exeter Book, 12. 29 An unusual retrospective reference to Christ’s movements during his Descent is offered in the homily De descensu Christi ad inferos (Oxford, Bodleian Library Junius 121, fols. 148v–54v), which recounts that he ascended to heaven syððan he hæfde geondfaren þa ðystru and ða gemæro (after he had moved around the darkness and the boundaries; ed. Luiselli Fadda, 100). 30 In line 340 of Christ and Satan, hweorfan is used to describe the restless movement of the devils in hell, caused by incessant heat which torments them ufan and utan (from up above and from outside, line 341). 31 Ruggerini, ‘Il volo degli angeli,’ 427–8. 32 If not intentionally symbolic, the use of hweorfan in this context may also be explained by the composite linguistic facies of the passage, which weaves short disjointed descriptions of the event (stressing acoustic and visual features of Christ’s arrival, as perceived by the frightened devils) before rendering a straightforward narration through the use of that verb, signalling a ‘twist’ in the action. Hweorfan is also used in a gloss to a Latin hymn to mark the opposite movement (outwards from hell): sigefæst he gehwerfde of helle, corresponding to victor redit [Christ] de barathro [i.e., hell] (Milfull, ed., Hymns, 285). 33 Sleeth supports the view that this iteration is intended to tie the two descents by contrast, one the result of an inflicted punishment and the other a free act of divine caritas (Studies in Christ and Satan, 18–19). 34 Krapp and Dobbie, eds., Exeter Book, 219–23. 35 The present study is not concerned with the question of whether John the Baptist resumes the speech (see Crotty, ‘The Exeter Harrowing of Hell,’ 357–8) or another character. Some suggest it is Adam (e.g., see Dobbie, Minor Poems, lxii); Garde suggests that John the Baptist and King David speak antiphonally in the final

220  Maria Elena Ruggerini ­section (Garde, Old English Poetry, 128); Anderson makes the more far-fetched suggestion that the speaker of the last twenty lines is ‘the liturgical celebrant of the solemn Holy Saturday baptism’ (‘Dual Voices,’ 638). 36 See Izydorczy, ‘Inversion of Paschal Events,’ 445. 37 See Kirkland, A Study of ‘The Harrowing of Hell,’ 5. Trask, on the other hand, considers the poem ‘an admirable unity’ (Trask, ‘Descent into Hell,’ 434). 38 Three Old English translations exist in manuscripts from the eleventh and twelfth centuries: Cambridge, University Library Ii. 2.11 (ed. by Hulme [1898, 471–515]; also by Crawford [1927] and Allen [1968]); BL Cotton Vitellius A. XV (a variant text of the preceding one; printed by Hulme [1898, 473–515]); and BL Cotton Vespasian D. XIV (printed by Hulme [1904: 591–610] and Warner [Warner 1917, 77–88]). The most recent edition of the Old English Gospel of Nicodemus is by Cross (Two Old English Apocrypha, 133–247), who takes the Cambridge, University Library Ii 2.11 manuscript as the base text. The influence of the apocryphal gospel is also widely traceable in Latin liturgical texts and Old English homilies. On this, see Collett, Gospel of Nicodemus, 56–124. 39 In the Old English version of the Apocryphal Harrowing, Satan’s antagonist is not the male Inferus of the Latin source, but a vivid female character called seo hell (Cross, Two Old English Apocrypha, 213), in accordance with the female gender of the noun in Old English. In the preserved Old Norse versions of the Gospel of Nicodemus, hell is personified in the neuter as þat helviti, a name meaning ‘hell’s torment’ (see Niðrstigningarsaga IV.3–5, in Unger, ed., Heilagra manna sögur, 18–20); while in Bartholomeus saga postola, the guardian of hell is referred to as Hel drottning (Queen Hel; Bell, ‘Hel Our Queen,’ 264), following the Latin source (mortem, quae regina nostra est [death, who is our Queen; ibid., 266]), in which the personification accords with the gender of the name (the feminine mors). 40 Brantley, ‘The Utrecht Psalter,’ 45. 41 Ibid., 46. 42 Krapp, ed. Junius Manuscript, 139. Similarly, hell’s tormenting worms are described as reðe wyrmas (fierce worms) in Soul and Body I 112 and Soul and Body II 106. The adjective is also used three times in Beowulf: in the first, Grendel is depicted as grim ond grædig … / reoc ond reþe (savage and voracious … / violent and fierce, 121–2); in the second, it is employed to describe the monster and the hero wrestling, reþe renweardas (furious guardians of the hall, 770); and in the third, it reflects the heroic conception of the ‘fierce warrior’ as embodied by Beowulf on the verge of revenging Grendel’s crimes against Heorot: He him þæs lean forgeald, / reþe cempa (He paid him [Grendel] back, the fierce champion, 1584–5). 43 Krapp, ed., Vercelli Book, 7. 44 Krapp and Dobbie, eds., Exeter Book, 117.

A Just and Riding God  221 45 In the passage of Genesis A describing God’s punishment for man’s arrogance in building the tower of Babel, divine judgment is accompanied by a powerful wrath, expressed by the compound reðemod (full of wrath, 1684) as distinct from the simple adjective. The adjectives egesful and yrre, rather than reþe, convey the idea of divine wrath in poetry. 46 Krapp, ed., Junius Manuscript, 43. 47 Krapp and Dobbie, eds. Exeter Book, 26. 48 Also, in Juliana 704, God the King is said to be reðe (stern) in the imminence of the final judgment, which parallels the formulation in Soul and Body II 92: ðonne reþe bið / dryhten æt dome (then the Lord will be / stern in his judgment). And in The Lord’s Prayer II 63, the Lord is defined as reðe and rihtwis (stern and righteous). 49 Aho, A Comparison of Treatments of Christ’s Harrowing, 35. Christ’s entrance into hell is defined as ‘harsh militancy.’ 50 James E. Anderson is of the opinion that the drypoint drawing (upside down) of a horseman in the bottom margin of fol. 123a of the Exeter Book – where The Husband’s Message is transcribed – represents ‘that same victorious horseman who has already ridden past the burst gates of hell (The Descent into Hell 40) and who appears again in Rev. 19:11.’ This would also, Anderson asserts, solve the geryne (secret) embedded in the rune portion of The Husband’s Message with the solution ‘the faithful and true Bridegroom’ (Two Literary Riddles, 162). 51 This is an early work of the twelfth century, attested in manuscripts of the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries (in Unger, ed., Heilagra manna sögur, II, 1–20). 52 The Vulgate describes these riders as exercitus qui sunt in caelo (Revelation 19:14), which medieval commentators interpreted either as a band of angels or an army of saints, the leader being Christ. 53 In Western medieval art, the iconography of a riding Christ is always connected to the Apocalypse, as in some illuminations of the Trier, Cambrai, and Bamberg Apocalypses. One early fresco portraying this subject remains, in the vault of the eleventh-century crypt of the Auxerre Cathedral (Denny, ‘A Romanesque Fresco’). In Near Eastern art, it is St Michael and his angels, together with the military saints, who are sometimes portrayed on horseback. On the origin and diffusion of this rare iconography, see Ruggerini, ‘Sulle orme di San Michele a cavallo,’ 313–15. 54 Aho, A Comparison of Treatments of Christ’s Harrowing, 162. 55 Aho, ‘Niðrstigningarsaga,’ 153. He describes ‘the celestial cavalry and its leader, Christ.’ 56 In Snorri’s account (Gylfaginning, ed. Faulkes, chs. 49 and 51). 57 Kantorowicz (‘The “King’s Advent”’) has studied the liturgical reception accorded, in the Carolingian period, to kings or high dignitaries on their arrival at the gates of a city. As can be inferred by the various Ordines ad regem suscipiendi, the

222  Maria Elena Ruggerini arrival always takes place on horseback and seems to be modelled on the Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (ibid., 207–9), a connection relevant for the present study. 58 In the Latin sources upon which the saga likely drew, the command to lift the gates is uttered by a non-specific, powerful voice, whereas in the saga it is the voice of ‘the holy angels’ (i.e., the heavenly troop accompanying Christ; Unger, ed., Heilagra manna sögur, 4). 59 In the description of the Harrowing in Christ II 558–74, the phrasing hilde gefremede … Anes meahtum (He did war … with his own might only) registers the same idea of solitary war-making. 60 Wræccan þrungon, / hwylc hyra þæt sygebearn geseon moste (The exiles pressed forward, / [competing in] which of them could catch sight of the victorious Son). 61 Anderson translates the half line 40b as ‘The King rode up inside’ (Two Literary Riddles, 213). 62 As in Bradley, Anglo-Saxon Poetry, 393. 63 See Plummer, Two of the Saxon Chronicles, 90, 91, and 99. 64 In the Paris Psalter, the verb oþlædan is used twice: in beseeching God’s aid (Alys me and oðlæd laþum wætrum [Deliver me and take me away from the hostile waters], Psalm 143:12) and in reference to his liberation of the Israelites (he Israhelas ealle oðlædde / of Ægyptum [… He took away all the Israelites / out of Egypt], Psalm 135:11). It is employed twice as well in a metrical charm (‘For Theft of Cattle,’ 5 and 10), where it appears in close proximity to three other oþ-verbs: two of like meaning (‘to lead/take/drive away’: oþferian, at lines 4, 11, and 18, oþehtian, at line 19) and oþhealdan ‘to hold’ (12). This incantatory repetition of oþ-verbs intensifies the evocation of thieves and of stealing in a way to render the charm more effective. 65 Krapp and Dobbie, eds., Exeter Book, 98, 103. 66 Krapp, ed., Junius Manuscript, 92. 67 Dobbie, ed., Beowulf and Judith, 90. 68 Cf. the following examples: cyning ut gewat (The Battle of Brunanburh 35); cyning inne gebond (Christ II 732); cyning selfa onfeng (Meters of Boethius, Meter 1, 32); and, with a different subject, Widia ut forlet (Waldere II 9). 69 Also, the Latin verb can take the preposition in (see Livy, Ab urbe condita, XXXV, 35: in dextrum cornu ad suos adequitandi [riding along the right wing towards his men]. 70 It should be noted, however, that the verbal prefix oþ- means ‘from; away’ and is analogous to æt- (cf. the variants oþberstan/ætberstan ‘to break away’). ­Constructions similar to that in line 40 of Descent are: Þa ætarn he ut (Then he ran away outside; The Old English Genesis, 39.12 [in Crawford, ed., The Old English Version of the Heptateuch, 178]), translating the Latin: Qui … fugit, et egressus est foras (And he ran away and went out), and hider ut ætbær (carried [it] away here; Beowulf 3092); also Forð near ætstop (He stepped forward nearer;

A Just and Riding God  223 Beowulf 745), and hit mon ut oþbrude (it [the treasure] was rescued and brought outside; Bately, ed., Old English Orosius VI. 5). 71 For examples of adequitare with the dative castris, see Tacitus, Annales VI.6 and Florus, Epitome de Tito Livio II.20; for examples with the dative uallo, see Livy, Ab urbe condita IX.22 and Frontinus, Strategemata 2.5.23. In Pliny’s Naturalis Historia XV.76, Hannibal is described riding by a town’s gate (portae Collinae adequitans). 72 In the Old English version of the Gospels, the words usque in infernum descendens (Matthew 11:23) – referring to the punishment awaiting the unrepentant city of Capernaum – are translated þu nyþer færst oþ helle (you will descend as far as hell; Liuzza, ed., Old English Gospels, 23). Though not referring here to the Harrowing, the link between the preposition oþ and the noun hell may be useful for the interpretation of line 40 of Descent. 73 In a Homily on the Harrowing, written in the margins of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41 (fols. 295–301; text in Hulme, ‘The Old English Gospel of Nicodemus,’ 610–14), it is recounted that Christ arrived in Hell and then, after breaking the locks of the gate, stag furður in þa helle (went further into hell; at 611). 74 E.g., in Soul and Body II 97–8, the soul of the sinner at Judgment Day is said to ‘hasten on its way / seek the bottom of hell’ (feran on way, / secan helle grund). 75 Wolde … helle weallas / forbrecan ond forbygan. 76 Krapp and Dobbie, eds., Exeter Book, 16. 77 Anderson takes the image of a riding Christ as a metaphor of his ‘lordly might,’ compared with the ‘manly strength of his marchers,’ whose ‘front man’ (burgwarena ord) is John the Baptist; see Anderson, Two Literary Riddles, 119–20. 78 Krapp and Dobbie, eds., Exeter Book, 220. 79 On the other hand, the same elements appear in the Virgilian description of Ades (Aeneid VI.820–30): moenia lata … triplici circumdata muro (a large city … surrounded by threefold walls); porta ingens solidoque adamante columnae (a huge gate and adamantine columns); stat ferrea turris ad auras (an iron tower raises up towards the sky). 80 Shippey writes: ‘The poet’s only aim is to suggest power, the kind of power which destroys locks and barriers without a touch … which admits no difference between intention … and result’ (Poems of Wisdom, 40). There is a magic quality in the sudden breaking of the bolts that is reminiscent of the effects of God’s word in the poetic dialogue Solomon and Saturn at 68–74; here the poet states specifically that the Pater Noster can break the bonds of the souls kept in fetters under the earth, using, to this effect, a pair of verbs, brecan (shatter) and toslitan (to tear asunder; 71–2), which parallel the pairing found in Descent (forbrecan and forbigan, 35) – and also helle gestrudan (destroy hell; 73).

224  Maria Elena Ruggerini 81 At 519–34. The passage is discussed in Clemoes, ‘Cynewulf’s Image,’ 116. 82 On the Latin hymns on the Descent, see Messenger, ‘The Descent Theme.’ 83 A useful analysis of this theme is in Hardin Brown, ‘The Descent-Ascent Motif.’ 84 Oratio de Ascensione Domini (PG 46:89–94). 85 Morris, ed., Blickling Homilies, 64–82, at 67. 86 Ibid., 82–96. 87 Tamburr, The Harrowing of Hell, lines 71–7. 88 Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies, ed. Clemoes, 290–8. 89 Ibid., 290. 90 The Gospels describe the act of Christ ‘sitting on’ or ‘being helped to mount on’ the foal, and then use the verbs intrare and introire when he enters Jerusalem (Matthew 21:7 and 10; Mark 11:7 and 11). Only in Luke do we find the verbs ire, appropinquare, and ingrederi (Luke 19:35–6, 41and 45). 91 Ælfric’s Lives of Saints, ed. Skeat, 150–1. 92 Ibid. 93 Bedingfield, Dramatic Liturgy, 90–113. 94 Woolley, The Canterbury Benedictional (the liturgy of Palm Sunday is discussed at 22–8); see also Orchard, The Leofric Missal II, 478–81. 95 Also of interest, though from a different milieu, is the rubric for the Palm Sunday procession in the Ordinal of Nidaros, discussed in Chadd, Ritual of Palm Sunday, 253–78. 96 For a detailed analysis of the ceremony and of the role played in it by the children, see Bedingfield, Dramatic Liturgy, 103–5. 97 Venientes ante ecclesiam subsistant donec pueri, qui praecesserunt, decantent Gloria laus cum versibus, omnibus, sicut mos est, Gloria laus respondentibus (Kornexl, ed., Regularis Concordia, 73–4). See also De die palmarum: Uenientes hautem ante ecclesiam subsistant donec pueri decantent: Gloria laus cum uersibus (in Die Hirtenbriefe, ed. Fehr, 237). 98 This hymn is an adventus chant (see Kantorowicz, ‘The “King’s Advent,”’ 209). 99 Woolley, The Canterbury Benedictional, 27. 100 Ibid. 101 Hill, ‘Cosmic Stasis’; Hieatt, ‘Transition in Descent.’

All at Sea: Beowulf’s Marvellous Swimming d a n i e l a n lezark

For more than a century a group of three feats undertaken by the hero of the epic poem Beowulf has drawn the attention of scholars; all three suggest the hero is performing remarkable deeds at swimming.1 The first to appear in the poem relates events which have taken place outside the present narrative frame, and concerns Beowulf’s contest on the sea with Breca, the subject of a challenge thrown in the face of the young hero by Unferth, Hrothgar’s þyle (501–83a).2 The second takes place in the course of the poem’s unfolding events, as Beowulf descends into the lake lately occupied by Grendel, and the haunt of his mother (1492–1590). Like the first, the third does not take place in the poem’s narrative frame,3 but presents a recollection by the poetic narrator in Beowulf’s old age of an event which took place many years earlier, when the hero swam home with the war-gear of thirty men slain in the battle between the Geats and the Frisians, the same adventure which saw the death of King Hygelac (2354b–68). The three feats have been taken variously as evidence of the mythic character of the poem and its folktale origins;4 more recent scholarship has tended to downplay the significance of the three episodes to the point where they seem to signify not much more than the hero’s need at certain moments in his life to traverse bodies of water. I will argue, however, that these three episodes are crucial elements in the presentation of the hero, and must be viewed in the wider context of Beowulf’s characterization, as the poet emphasizes the hero’s special relationship with the sea. One of the first things we learn about the hero – soon after we are told he was the greatest in strength among mankind in those days of this life (196–7) – is that beside his other noble attributes, Beowulf was lagucræftig (209a).5 This hapax legomenon literally means ‘sea-powerful’ or ‘sea-skilled.’6 In context, this ‘sea-power’ relates to Beowulf’s skill as a sailor, as he and his companions make their way from the land of the Geats (modern-day southern Sweden) to

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Denmark (most likely not to be identified here with any part of the European continental mainland). At the other end of the poem, as this lagucræftig man lies dying, his last request before his reflections on mortality (2813–16) concerns the building of a burial mound which will recall him to the memory of other navigators (2802–8):7 ‘Hatað heaðomære    hlæw gewyrcean beorhtne æfter bæle    æt brimes nosan; se scel to gemyndum    minum leodum heah hlifian    on Hrones Næsse, þæt hit sæliðend    syððan hatan Biowulfes biorh,    ða ðe brentingas ofer floda genipu    feorran drifað.’ (‘Those brave in battle will command a tomb to be built shining over my pyre on the cliffs beside the sea; it will be like a monument to my people and tower up on Whale’s Head, so that seafarers later will call it “Beowulf’s Barrow,” when their broad ships drive from afar across the flood’s darkness.’)

And indeed the tomb is built, and the poet reminds us of the hero’s dying command as it is fulfilled (3157b–8): se wæs heah ond brad, wægliðendum wide gesyne (it was high and broad, visible from afar to seafarers). Even if there were no further reference within the poem to Beowulf’s relationship with the sea, this framing of his life with reference first to his own exceptional skill on (and perhaps in) the sea, and finally to his enduring fame among sailors and his tomb’s importance as a landmark for navigation, ought to suggest to a sympathetic reader that the poet is indicating a significant connection between the sea and his hero. The fact that this framing device is augmented by close reference to three separate episodes in the poem in which the hero demonstrates great skill in negotiating bodies of water would seem to shout out that Beowulf’s ‘sea-skill’ is a fundamental aspect of his characterization. Before turning to the detail of the three episodes, it is necessary to examine their relationship to the main action of the poem, which is indisputably focused on three contests, between Beowulf and three awesome creatures: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. There has been some resistance among critics to reading Beowulf’s three swimming feats as ‘marvellous’ or ‘supernatural,’ or even ‘superhuman,’ linked to a desire to preserve the hero as a man like all others; this is apparently so, for even if the hero is far stronger than other men, the difference is in degree rather than kind. While I would agree that the poet’s emphasis on the humanity of Beowulf is a key concern in his characterization of

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the hero (certainly revealed in his ultimate mortality), it borders on disingenuousness to ignore the marvellous elements in key episodes in which he is involved. Grendel is a cannibalistic spirit-man whose touch bursts open iron-bound doors, with a flame-like light emanating from his eyes (721b–7), and whose body is protected from weapons by magic (804); many of these elements are beyond normal experience, and certainly the cursing of weapons introduces a supernatural dimension. The effects of this magic are circumvented by Beowulf, who defeats Grendel weaponless by his superlative strength. Grendel’s mother also blends the human and the monstrous as a merewif (sea-woman, 1519), while she also reveals the hero’s all-too-human vulnerability in their wrestling at the bottom of her lake (1537–57). Anglo-Saxons might have believed in the existence of dragons, but it is safe to say none had ever encountered one, and that the beast also introduces an element of the marvellous to the poem with his fiery breath and poisonous bite, which prove the hero’s human vulnerability (2580b–91, 2715). It is clear from these contests that Beowulf was indeed the strongest among mankind in those long lost days (196–7, 789–90), but also that this virtue diminished to the point where the old king’s strength would fail him.8 However, running in tandem with this pattern of contest and decline is a series of references to Beowulf’s sea-skill, relating his lagucræft to his other memorable achievements. The poet develops a structural relationship between Beowulf’s three monster fights and three demonstrations of his ‘sea-skill’; the relationship is so close in the telling of the poem that it may suggest something of the origins of the character before his incorporation into the more widely known histories of Hrothgar and Hygelac.

Breca Beowulf’s contest with Breca is a story told twice in the poem, and on neither occasion in the voice of the poetic narrator. After his successful navigation to Denmark, Beowulf arrives at the court of the Danish king Hrothgar, where he is soon insulted by the þyle Unferth (506–18a): ‘Eart þu se Beowulf,    se þe wið Brecan wunne, on sidne sæ    ymb sund flite, ðær git for wlence    wada cunnedon ond for dolgilpe    on deop wæter aldrum neþdon?   Ne inc ænig mon, ne leof ne lað,    belean mihte sorhfullne sið,    þa git on sund reon.

228 Daniel Anlezark Þær git eagorstream    earmum þehton, mæton merestræta,    mundum brugdon, glidon ofer garsecg;    geofon yþum weol, wintrys wylmum.   Git on wæteres æht seofon niht swuncon;    he þe æt sunde oferflat, hæfde mare mægen.’ (‘Are you the Beowulf who strove with Breca in a swimming contest on the open sea, where in your pride you tested the waves and for a foolish boast risked your life in the deep water? No man, neither friend nor foe, could dissuade you two from that sad venture, when you swam in the sea; there you seized in your arms the ocean streams, measured the sea-streets, dragged your hands and glided over the waves – the water surged, wintry tumults. In the water’s keeping you laboured seven nights, and he outswam you, and had more strength.’)

Unferth’s intervention has attracted a great volume of critical discussion for well over a century, focused on his role as a þyle, the nature of the verbal exchange he initiates, the veracity of his claims, and the nature of his character.9 Exactly what the poet means by calling Unferth a þyle is unclear, but whatever the word means, it must designate some special function at court, or the term would not be used.10 However, the reader is not told Unferth is Hrothgar’s þyle until well after this exchange is concluded (1165, 1456), and there is no reason to assume the poet wants his audience to understand that Unferth’s provocation of Beowulf is tied to this function. Unferth is clearly calling Beowulf a fool, though whether or not Unferth is performing a ritual or formal function when challenging the outsider is unclear. Furthermore, the poet provides a couple of straightforward reasons explaining the outburst: Unferth resents the superior achievements of other men (503–5); and Beowulf notes Unferth’s drunkenness (531a). In a reflection of the hero’s magnanimous nobility, he later disregards the earlier squabble (1807–17). These suggestions of motivation lessen the likelihood that their first exchange is to be perceived as an example of a formal flyting, though this cannot be ruled out. There is no doubt, however, that Unferth’s version of events is designed to question Beowulf’s claim to be able to fulfil his boast that he will kill Grendel. For those of us who know what happens later, and who know that Grendel is a monster who inhabits a lake (or an inlet of the sea), the subject of Unferth’s attack – a contest on water involving sea-monsters – is particularly germane; but none of Grendel’s watery associations have yet been revealed. We have, however, been told by the narrator that Beowulf is lagucræftig, and Unferth’s attack fundamentally questions the narrator’s characterization as much as the young Geat’s boastfulness. This kind of narrative

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patterning suggests that the audience is to understand that not only is Beowulf’s strength (and wisdom) being questioned in Unferth’s account of the Breca episode, but also his ability to master water, in anticipation of later developments. In addition, Unferth’s account points to an established international reputation for Beowulf as a young man who has shown (or tried and failed to show) his power on the open sea (cf. 377–81a). Criticism over the last forty years has problematized earlier assumptions about what kind of contest in fact took place between Beowulf and Breca: were the two swimming or rowing?11 Unferth’s opening words describing the contest seem unequivocal: on sidne sæ ymb sund flite (on the open sea competed about swimming; 507). Old English sund generally has different meanings in prose and poetry, and can mean either ‘sea’ or ‘swimming ability,’ but here the meaning ‘sea’ (more expected in poetry) would produce an awkwardly repetitive reading, so that sund must mean ‘swimming ability.’ This, however, is at odds with the repeated use (both by Unferth and Beowulf) of the verb rowan (to row) to describe the action of the two young men on the water (539–49): ‘Hæfdon swurd nacod,    þa wit on sund reon, heard on handa;    wit unc wið hronfixas werian þohton.   No he wiht fram me flodyþum feor    fleotan meahte, hraþor on holme;    no ic fram him wolde. Ða wit ætsomne    on sæ wæron fif nihta fyrst,    oþ þæt unc flod todraf, wado weallende,    wedera cealdost, nipende niht,    ond norþan wind heaðogrim ondhwearf;    hreo wæron yþa. Wæs merefixa    mod onhrered.’ (‘We had bare swords, when we rowed in the sea, hard in our hands; we thought to protect ourselves from whales. Not at all could he float far from me on the seawaves, more swiftly on the sea, nor would I go from him. We two were together on the sea for five nights, until the current drove us apart, surging waves, the coldest of weathers, darkening night, and a northern wind, battle-grim, pushed against us; the seas were choppy. The anger of the sea-fish was stirred up.’)

The debate over the meaning of this passage, and the poetic use of prose vocabulary, is not easily resolved, especially as Unferth appears to describe both rowing and swimming, even though Beowulf prefers the verb rowan. Roberta Frank has argued that important distinctions are made by Beowulf in

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his reply to Unferth, and that part of the þyle’s flyting strategy in portraying Beowulf as a fool lies in his derisive suggestion that the two were indeed swimming; according to this reading Beowulf’s skilful defence asserts that the two were rowing, and so not completely foolish.12 A number of Old Norse analogues to the episode have been adduced over the past century, the most compelling of which, in Egils saga einhenda ok Asmundar berserkjabana, involves another strong young man competing not with the strength of thirty men in his arm, but against the thirty youths in his gang:13 Egill óx upp með hirð fǫður síns, þar til at hann var tólf vetra gamall. Hann var mikill fyrir sér ok óstýrilátr, kappsamr ok ódæll. Hann lagði lag sitt við drengi ok lagðist út á skóga at skjóta dýr ok fugla. Vatn mikit var í skóginum, ok váru þar í eyjar margar. Þar fóru þeir Egill á sund jafnan, því at þeir vǫndu sik mjǫk við íþróttir. Eitt sinn ræddi Egill um við þá, hverr lengst mundi geta lagizt í vatnit, því at svá var langr vegrinn í þá ey, sem first var landi, at hana sá eigi, utan þeir gengi upp í há tré til. Nú leggjast þeir á vatnit, ok váru saman þrír tigir. Skyldi þar hverr eptir vera, sem hann treysti sér eigi lengra at fara. Leggjast þeir nú um vatnit, ok váru sum sundin breið mjǫk. Egill var fljótastr á sundinu, ok gat engi fylgt honum. Ok er þeir váru langt frá landi komnir, þá kom þoka svá myrk, at engi sá annan, ok gerði þá vind kaldan. Villtust þeir nú á sundinu, ok eigi vissi Egill, hvat af sínum mǫnnum varð. Hvarflaði hann nú um vatnit tvau dægr. Kom hann þá at landi ok var svá máttdreginn, at hann varð at skríða á land, ok reytti hann á sik mosa ok lá þar um nóttina. (Egill grew up at his father’s court, until he was twelve years old; he was selfwilled and ungovernable, aggressive and unmanageable. He hooked up with a gang of lads and they used to go out in the woods to shoot animals and birds. There was a large lake in the woods, with many islands in it, and Egill and his gang often went swimming there, because they had trained themselves for all sorts of sports. One day Egill brought up the question among them who could get furthest into the lake, because it was such a long distance to the furthest island that it couldn’t be seen unless they climbed a high tree. So they set off into the lake, thirty all told: each of them was to go only so far as he felt confident. So they set off into the lake, and some of the distances between the islands were very long. Egill was the swiftest swimmer, and no one could keep up with him. When they had come a long way from the shore, a mist came down so dark, that none of them could see the others, and the wind grew cold. Now they drifted in their swimming, and Egill did not know what had become of his companions. He wandered around in the lake for two days. Then he came to land, and was so exhausted, that he had to crawl ashore; he covered himself with moss and lay there overnight.)

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As Andy Orchard has recently suggested, the analogue is far closer than earlier scholars were willing to concede.14 Here we have a swimming contest between a young man superior to thirty others in strength (cf. Beowulf 379b–81a), and one interrupted by bad weather which separates the contestants. In the wake of his lucky survival, Egill goes on to encounter a hostile giant; but what the parallel might tell us about the origins of Beowulf and his poem is difficult to discern. However, that a number of swimming contest analogues can be found in Old Norse and Old Irish literature, beside none which feature rowing, is significant, especially given the Beowulf poet’s obfuscation. He chooses to introduce his hero’s earlier career through the kind of episode probably familiar to his audience from folk tradition as a swimming contest, but then muddies the waters through two slightly contradictory accounts, in the voices of two characters between whom no love is lost. Given the weight of the analogues, we must consider the possibility that it is the poet’s intention, as much as Unferth’s, to lead the audience into uncertainty over exactly what kind of contest this was. Beowulf and Breca might have been swimming, or perhaps rowing, for five days and nights on the Baltic. However, what is not at stake here is whether or not Beowulf achieved a marvellous feat (550–8): ‘þær me wið laðum    licsyrce min, heard, hondlocen,    helpe gefremede, beadohrægl broden    on breostum læg golde gegyrwed.    Me to grunde teah fah feondscaða,    fæste hæfde grim on grape;    hwæþre me gyfeþe wearð þæt ic aglæcan    orde geræhte, hildebille;    heaþoræs fornam mihtig meredeor    þurh mine hand.’ (‘There my coat of armour offered help, hard, hand-locked, against the hostile ones, my woven battle-dress lay on my breast adorned with gold. Down to the ocean floor a grisly foe dragged me grim in his grasp; however, it was given to me to stab that monster with the point of my sword, my war-blade; the storm of battle took away the mighty sea-beast, through my own hand.’)

Beowulf has certainly demonstrated his strength by either rowing or swimming, but he and Breca were clearly expecting to do more than navigate, as each has a sword in hand (which would make both swimming and rowing awkward, if not dangerous), and we later discover that Beowulf was also wearing armour. This can’t have helped his movement, but came in handy when he was dragged

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to the sea-floor to fight awesome (aglæcan, 425a) sea-beasts. While it is his strength alone that proves decisive in the battle against Grendel, this earlier victory under the water, rather than the contest above it, establishes the lagucræftig Beowulf’s capabilities for his fight against Grendel’s mother. We are not told clearly how long Beowulf was on the sea-floor, though any length of time would render this action beyond normal human capability; and clearly, he can no longer have been in a boat.

Grendel’s Lake Beowulf’s ability to hold his breath underwater appears to be further demonstrated in his next swimming (or perhaps diving) feat. After pulling the arm and shoulder off the retreating Grendel in Heorot, and in response to the revenge attack of the monster’s murderous mother, Beowulf is led by his Danish hosts to a body of water, of untried depth, which the monstrous pair had called home. The vocabulary deployed makes it difficult to determine whether this mere is an inland lake or an inlet of the sea, and the poet’s description suggests both (1357b–75a, 1402b–17a, 1425–40a).15 The body of water is at the foot of a cliff, and perhaps a waterfall, while there is the clear indication of a strong current; eerily, fire can be seen in the water. To exact revenge on Grendel’s mother, Beowulf must descend into the unknown depths of the mere, which he does, armed with Unferth’s sword Hrunting, and wearing armour (1495b–1505):        Ða wæs hwil dæges ær he þone grundwong    ongytan mehte. Sona þæt onfunde    se ðe floda begong heorogifre beheold    hund missera, grim ond grædig,    þæt þær gumena sum ælwihta eard    ufan cunnode. Grap þa togeanes,    guðrinc gefeng atolan clommum;    no þy ær in gescod halan lice;    hring utan ymbbearh, þæt heo þone fyrdhom    ðurhfon ne mihte, locene leoðosyrcan    laþan fingrum. (It was the time of (a) day before he could see the bottom. Right away she who held that expanse of water, bloodthirsty and fierce, for a hundred half-years, grim and greedy, perceived that some man was exploring from above that alien land. She snatched at him, seized the warrior in her clutches, but none the sooner ­injured

All at Sea  233 his sound body – the ring-mail encircled him, so that she could not pierce that war-dress, the locked coat of mail, with her hostile claws.)

The disputed expression here is hwil dæges, which could either mean ‘the time of a day’ or ‘day time.’ The exact phrasing is unique, though comparison with similar expressions of time elsewhere in Old English suggests the latter; however, the evidence is not conclusive. Fred Robinson has argued that the poet has carefully articulated a timeframe for the action, and is simply saying that Beowulf can see the bottom because it is now full daylight, though problems with this framework have been pointed out.16 Does it make a difference, however, to the hero’s achievement if he is not taking a full day to reach the bottom? It certainly makes no difference to his courage. It is apparent that Beowulf cannot see the grund until he is well under water, suggesting he has an inordinate confidence in his ability to hold his breath, though given his earlier experience fighting on the sea-floor, he may have grounds for this. In at least two Old Norse analogues, Hálfdanar saga and Örvar-Odds saga, the contest proves to be more of a test of underwater endurance than of swimming prowess.17 In the first, the armour-clad Hálfdan holds his opponent Áki underwater from morning till midafternoon during their swimming contest. In the latter the hero, under the alias of Viðföll, first is held by, and then holds, two opponents underwater for a great length of time in an aquatic wrestling match; in the second instance those watching assume all three must be dead (cf. Beowulf 1591–1604a). It is apparent from these kinds of episodes that the ability to hold one’s breath underwater was a feat admired and exaggerated within Northern storytelling tradition. Beowulf’s achievement in the latter part of the Breca contest and at Grendel’s mere would appear to be a superlative, rather than superhuman, example of this ability. Furthermore, this demonstration of lagucræft immediately prefaces his fight against the merewif, who is defeated after an awkward tussle in which Beowulf’s armour once again comes in handy. With the destruction of the merewif, the lake is cleansed of sea-monsters who prowl the waves (1425–30a, 1620), and Beowulf the lidmanna helm (protector of seafarers, line 1623) swims back to land.

Return from Frisia The third episode in which the hero might (or might not) swim in a superhuman manner is recalled in the wake of the dragon’s destructive attack on the elderly Beowulf’s royal hall. As Beowulf resolves to fight the dragon, the poet recalls his earlier success against Grendel, as well as an episode which ­occurred

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years earlier, though after the hero’s return from Denmark. Beowulf was among the warriors who fought in the battle which saw the death of his uncle King Hygelac in Frisia (2345–68): Oferhogode ða    hringa fengel þæt he þone widflogan    weorode gesohte, sidan herge;    no he him þa sæcce ondred, ne him þæs wyrmes wig    for wiht dyde, eafoð ond ellen,    forðon he ær fela nearo neðende    niða gedigde, hildehlemma,    syððan he Hroðgares, sigoreadig secg,    sele fælsode ond æt guðe forgrap   Grendeles mægum laðan cynnes.   No þæt læsest wæs hondgemota,    þær mon Hygelac sloh, syððan Geata cyning    guðe ræsum, freawine folca   Freslondum on, Hreðles eafora    hiorodryncum swealt, bille gebeaten.    Þonan Biowulf com sylfes cræfte,    sundnytte dreah; hæfde him on earme    18 XXX hildegeatwa,    þa he to holme ag.19 Nealles Hetware    hremge þorfton feðewiges,    þe him foran ongean linde bæron;    lyt eft becwom fram þam hildfrecan    hames niosan. Oferswam ða sioleða bigong    sunu Ecgðeowes, earm anhaga,    eft to leodum. (Then that prince of rings scorned to seek out the far-flung flier with his full force of men, a large army; he did not dread that attack, nor did he worry much about the dragon’s warfare, his strength or valour, because he had survived many battles, barely escaping alive in the crash of war, after he had cleansed, triumphant hero, the hall of Hrothgar, and at battle crushed Grendel and his kin, that loathsome race. It was not the least of hand-to-hand combats when Hygelac was slain, when the lord of his people, in the land of the Frisians, the son of Hrethel, died sworddrunk, beaten by blades. Beowulf escaped from there through his own strength, took a long swim; he had in his arms the battle-armour of thirty men, when he climbed to the cliffs. By no means did the Hetware need to exult in that fight, when they marched on foot to him, bore their linden shields; few came back from

All at Sea  235 that brave soldier to seek their homes. The son of Ecgtheow crossed the vast sea, wretched, solitary, returned to his people.)

Again the meaning of the text is problematic. Robinson has pointed out that there is no simple reference to armour here, as earlier translators had assumed, though it is more than likely that the hildegeatwa (war-gear) brought back from the defeat in Frisia should include armour.20 Lines 2361–2 are damaged in the manuscript, and even the probable reading to holme stag may suggest that Beowulf is going onto rather than into the sea, and therefore returning home from Frisia by ship rather than by swimming.21 The apparently emphatic oferswam (over-swam) would then be less so, and could refer to a ship ‘swimming over’ the water; the verb is found with this meaning in Middle English, though always with clear direct reference to a ship, absent here.22 If the poet has neglected to mention a boat, this may not be the first time he has done so; if Beowulf and Breca were rowing, then reference to their boats has also been omitted from both Unferth’s and Beowulf’s version of events. In both episodes a simple reference to a boat would have made it clear – for both modern readers and their Anglo-Saxon counterparts – that the hero was not swimming. Elsewhere the poet has no difficulty in describing sea-voyages involving a ship, seen in the descriptions of the journeys of Beowulf and his companions to and from Denmark (210–24a, 1903b–13). It is possible that the poet is choosing describe Beowulf’s solitary sea-journeys in oblique terms, and that the presentation of all three of Beowulf’s aquatic ‘feats’ is deliberately obscure. While it has been difficult to prove that Beowulf’s aquatic prowess is marvellous, there can be no doubt that his achievements are remarkable, if only because the poet chooses to include these deeds at key moments in the poem. In the case of the rival accounts of the contest with Breca, Beowulf is clearly being credentialled for his fight with both Grendel and his sub-aquatic mother; this credentialling establishes that the hero is no fool when he sets out onto deep water (as Unferth has suggested), and also that he is physically capable of fighting strong creatures who live under water.23 Beowulf’s sharp reply to Unferth pleases Hrothgar, but also serves to inform the audience that this lagucræftig man’s aquatic skills are going to come in handy later on. While it is Beowulf’s arm’s great strength (demonstrated by swimming or rowing for days on end) that proves useful against Grendel, it is his ability to hold his breath (shown in his sea-floor battles) that proves useful against Grendel’s mother. The demonstration of this ability in his dive into the mere logically must precede the fight with the merewif, but the poet’s emphasis on the dive enhances its structural and thematic importance as a preface to the second monster fight of the poem; and we should not forget that the poet is making the choices in crafting both the hero’s character and

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the nature of his adversaries. The structural parallels between the battle with Grendel’s mother and those which concluded the contest with Breca are strong: Beowulf finds himself on the grund of the sea, he must be able to hold his breath at length, he is protected by his armour, and carries a sword. None of these are features of the fight with Grendel. Beowulf’s third aquatic adventure in his return from Frisia also serves a credentialling purpose, coming as a preface to battle with the dragon. There is a tendency to regard the poet’s allusion to Hygelac’s death as digressive, canonized in Klaeber’s edition with the creation of a new ‘paragraph’ at line 2354b. But this is no more digressive in context than the preceding reference to Beowulf’s even earlier fight with Grendel. Indeed, the point of the story in the turn to events in Frisia is not that Hygelac was killed, but that Beowulf’s return home was an event as remarkable as his defeat of the Grendel-kin. Both deeds are mentioned immediately after we have been told the elderly Beowulf wishes to fight the dragon alone. Given Hygelac’s relationship to the hero, the question might well arise about how Beowulf survived a battle his uncle did not – a survival which creates the possibility Beowulf fled as a coward. The narrator’s recollection of the battle with Grendel should dispel this possibility, but the poet goes further and includes his allusive account of the hero’s return with the captured war-gear of thirty men. Beowulf did not return in disgrace, but used his aquatic skill to return to his people with booty useful to them in future conflicts. His retreat was not a selfish act of cowardice, but a demonstration of both his superior strength and his desire to serve his people, foreshadowing his desire that the dragon’s looted hoard should also serve their needs (2794–801). It has long been noted that Beowulf’s three monster fights reveal a pattern of diminishing prowess, from his bare-knuckled brawl with Grendel, through his difficulties in wrestling with Grendel’s mother, to the dragon fight in which he needs assistance and is finally killed. The same pattern is found across his three swimming feats (only one of which is included in the main action of the poem). Five days and nights of rowing (or swimming) and a sub-aquatic fight with some monsters are followed by a dive into a lake (or inlet) and a difficult wrestle with one (female) monster, followed by hasty retreat – swimming or sailing – from a military disaster with some captured war-gear. Beowulf’s feats are remarkable, but less and less so. However, the parallel between the monster fights and the aquatic adventures which preface them strongly suggests that the two series are closely related as important elements in the characterization of the hero. The poet’s emphasis on Beowulf’s skill on and in water, and the early medieval analogues of this prowess, combine to suggest that he is offering his audience a transmogrification of the type of character exemplified in Old Norse–

All at Sea  237

Icelandic saga. From the poet’s careful handling of these aspects of the hero’s conduct, which might suggest Beowulf is not quite human, or might even possess supernatural abilities, it is apparent that he expects his audience to be familiar with this type of character. Furthermore, the poet emphasizes, even if playfully, his lagucræftig hero’s humanity. But did the poet have any particular traditional hero in mind in his creation of Beowulf, or did he create a new character to graft onto better-known legends of early Scandinavia? Another character praised for his command of navigation is found in the Old English dialogue poem Solomon and Saturn II. Solomon presents Saturn with a riddle (32b–51):24       Sæge me from ðam lande ðær nænig fyra ne mæg    fotum gestæppan. SATURNUS CUÆÐ: Se mæra was haten    mereliðende weallende Wulf,    werðeodum cuð Filistina, freond Nebrondes. He on ðam felda ofslog    . xxv . dracena on dægred,    ond hine ða deað offeoll, forðan ða foldan    ne mæg fira ænig, ðone mercstede,    mon gesecan, fugol gefleogan    ne ðon ma foldan nita. Ðanon atercynn    ærest gewurdon wide onwæcned,    ða ðe nu weallende ðurh attres oroð    ingang rymað. Git his sweord scinað    swiðe gescæned, ond ofer ða byrgenna    blicað ða hieltas. SALOMON cwað: Dol bið se ðe gæð    on deop wæter, se ðe sund nafað,    ne gesegled scip, ne fugles flyht,    ne he mid fotum ne mæg grund geræcan;    huru se Godes cunnað full dyslice,   Dryhtnes meahta. (‘Speak to me concerning the land where no man can step with his feet.’ Saturn said: ‘The great sea-traveller was called surging Wulf, known to the people of the Philistines, a friend of Nimrod. On that field he slew twenty-five dragons at dawn, and then death felled him, because no man can seek that land, no one that borderland, nor bird fly there, more than any of the beasts of the earth. From there first arose poison-kind, spread widely, those which surging now through poisonous breath make spacious the entrance. His sword shines yet, highly polished, and its

238 Daniel Anlezark hilt gleams over the graves.’ Solomon said: ‘Foolish is he who goes into deep water, he who can’t swim, nor has a sail-rigged ship, nor the flight of a bird, who cannot reach the bed with his feet. Indeed, he very foolishly tests God, the Lord’s might.’

The interaction is complex and works on different levels of interpretation, a characteristic of this abstruse and self-consciously learned poem. Saturn (apparently) answers the riddle in legendary-historical terms, describing a place with affinities to Medusa’s home in the Libyan desert, from which all poisonous creatures arose, and upon which no man or beast may tread. Solomon playfully provides an alternative solution to his own question – the seabed.25 The Beowulf poet might disagree, as his hero’s feet can certainly reach the floor of the sea and survive, with his head submerged – implicitly in the Breca episode, explicitly during his visit to Grendel’s mother. Similarities between elements of Wulf’s obliquely narrated career and Beowulf’s are remarkable – both are dragon slayers, both are associated with poisonous places; most tantalizing and mysterious is the connection between both heroes and an enigmatically shining sword (cf. Beowulf 1557–72a). What makes these similarities more striking still is not only the shared name element ‘Wulf,’ but that the two are clearly identified with the sea – for Wulf, se mæra mereliðende (the great sea-traveller) is his defining epithet. The lagucræftig Beowulf could just as easily be defined as a great ‘sea-traveller.’26 Solomon’s solution to the riddle has the appearance of a proverbial saying, though this tone could easily be imparted by a skilful poet. It is worth noting, however, that Unferth’s attack on Beowulf makes an analogous observation concerning the folly of entering deep waters (508–12; emphasis added): ðær git for wlence    wada cunnedon ond for dolgilpe    on deop wæter aldrum neþdon?   Ne inc ænig mon, ne leof ne lað,    belean mihte sorhfullne sið,    þa git on sund reon.

Despite the looseness of the verbal and syntactic parallels between the two passages (italicized in the passage above), there is a possibility that the passages owe a debt either one to the other, or to a common proverbial tradition. The formula used by Solomon, dol bið se (ðe) (‘foolish is he (who)’), is surprisingly infrequent in Old English verse, and parallels the prose formulation dysig bið se (‘foolish is he’).27 The only other uses in Old English verse which I have discovered are in The Seafarer and Maxims I, both found in the Exeter Book:28

All at Sea  239 Seafarer 106: Dol biþ se þe him his dryhten ne ondrædeþ; cymeð him se deað unþinged. Maxims I 35: Dol biþ se þe his dryhten nat, to þæs oft cymeð deað unþinged. (Seafarer 106: Foolish is he who does not fear the Lord; death comes upon him unexpected. Maxims I 35: Foolish is he who does not know the Lord; to him death often comes unexpected.)

These two passages are so close as to suggest either a direct textual relationship, or the shared poetic use of a popular proverb.29 It is impossible to say that loose verbal echoes suggest the Beowulf poet has the text of Solomon and Saturn II in mind, but it remains striking that Unferth’s accusation of folly not only loosely recalls Solomon’s ‘proverb,’ but is closely aligned with a range of striking parallels across the two poems.30 It is perhaps significant that the unusual poetic use of the prose word sund to mean ‘swimming ability’ is attested outside Unferth’s words in Beowulf only in this passage from Solomon and Saturn II.31 This range of coincidence gives weight to a possible connection between Wulf and Beowulf. Furthermore, it is significant that the poet of Solomon and Saturn II (presumably) expects his audience to understand his oblique reference to the otherwise unattested Wulf, providing evidence that at least one other Anglo-Saxon literary hero was identified by an epithet tying his reputation to the sea. If Beowulf cannot be identified as Wulf in a fuller literary manifestation, then Wulf at least provides evidence that the Anglo-Saxon audience of Beowulf would have appreciated the significance of Beowulf’s skill in and on the sea as an important part of his heroic, monster-slaying character. It is unlikely that Beowulf’s three swimming feats are only coincidentally related to the three monster fights that they preface. Their similar patterning as achievements across the hero’s life and career would seem to confirm that, for the poet, Beowulf’s strength and his ability to traverse the sea, and immerse himself in it, are inseparable aspects of his character. It is possible that the poet derived elements of this characterization from folk tradition, or borrowed them from another source now obscured beyond the point of recovery. A relationship with the sea is an important characteristic of heroes as diverse as the Trojan refugee Aeneas and Christ walking on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23–7). Beowulf’s relationship with the sea, however, is defined more precisely and consistently. The three feats the poet attributes to him are potentially marvellous: days of swimming followed by prolonged sea-floor struggles; a day-long dive to a difficult battle; a swim across rivers and sea carrying thirty men’s wargear. The assumption by the poem’s early critics that this is what is taking place

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may not be accidental, and subsequent criticism, pointing out that the text of Beowulf is far from clear when describing these episodes, is certainly well grounded. That all three feats are enveloped in uncertainty is unlikely to be accidental, and the desire to obscure is probably the poet’s. The evasive telling of these events suggests an audience familiar with the type of the swimming hero, but also a poet anxious on the one hand not to create a hero too similar to the type of incautious braggart found in later sagas (as suggested by Unferth), and on the other not to suggest Beowulf is a superhuman submarine monster, like Grendel himself. For the poem to be at all effective, the hero must in the end prove human. But he must also stand out from the crowd not only in nobility and strength, but also with the necessary skills to take on those creatures of the night that haunt the human psyche and attack social well-being. A refined version of the swimming hero, perhaps adapting and transforming another found in the storytelling tradition, one already associated with dragon-slaying, serves this purpose admirably.

NOTES 1 For twentieth-century discussion see Anderson, ‘Beowulf’s Retreat’; Frank, ‘Mere and Sund’; Greenfield, ‘Touch of the Monstrous’; Griffith, ‘Beowulf 1495’; Lawrence, ‘Breca Episode’; Jorgensen, ‘Beowulf’s Swimming’; Nelles, ‘Sorhfullne Sið’; Puhvel, ‘Aquatic Contest’; Robinson, ‘Beowulf’s Retreat from Frisia’; Robinson, ‘Elements of the Marvellous’; Wentersdorf, ‘Beowulf’s Withdrawal from Frisia’; Wentersdorf, ‘Beowulf’s Adventure’; Orchard, Critical Companion to Beowulf, 125–8. 2 This may be the same event referred to by Beowulf in his address to Hrothgar, lines 419–24a; see Orchard, Critical Companion, 125. 3 See Robinson, ‘Elements of the Marvellous,’ 86. 4 See Lawrence, ‘Breca Episode,’ 366. 5 See Russom, ‘Germanic Concept,’ 9; see Nelles, ‘Sorhfullne Sið,’ 308, 311n9. 6 Cræft(ig) is commonly compounded in poetry; see Grein and Holthausen, Sprachschatz, s.v. 7 The edition cited is Klaeber’s Beowulf, rev. 4th ed. Fulk et al.; translations are based on Liuzza, trans., Beowulf. 8 See Greenfield, ‘Touch of the Monstrous,’ 297. 9 Robinson, ‘Elements of the Marvellous,’ 86–8. 10 Frank, ‘Mere and Sund,’ 162. 11 See Lawrence, ‘Breca Episode,’ 362; Robinson, ‘Elements of the Marvellous,’ 86. 12 Frank, ‘Mere and Sund.’ 13 Egils saga einhenda, ed. Jónsson, III.323–65 (ch. 9); Seven Viking Romances,

All at Sea  241 trans. Pálsson and Edwards, 240–1; Lawrence, ‘Breca Episode,’ 365n1; Wentersdorf, ‘Beowulf’s Adventure,’ 149–50. 14 See Orchard, Critical Companion, 127. 15 Frank, ‘Mere and Sund,’ 154–6. 16 Greenfield, ‘Touch of the Monstrous,’ 296–7. 17 See Jorgensen, ‘Beowulf’s Swimming Contest.’ 18 Klaeber’s Beowulf, ed. Fulk et al., ealra. 19 Ibid., þrong. 20 Robinson, ‘Beowulf’s Retreat,’ 1–4. 21 Wentersdorf, ‘Beowulf’s Withdrawal,’ 404–7. 22 Greenfield, ‘Touch of the Monstrous,’ 298. 23 See Lawrence, ‘Breca Episode,’ 361. 24 The edition cited is Anlezark, ed. and trans., Dialogues of Solomon and Saturn. 25 Solomon’s alternative solution may be designed to playfully take up the reference to the giant Nimrod (Saturn himself also may have been believed to be a giant). The West Saxon Liber Monstrorum describes one property of giants: Gigantes enim ipsos tam enormis alebat magnitudo ut eis omnia maria pedum gressibus transmeabilia fuisse perhibeatur. Quorum ossa in litoribus et in terram latebris, ad indicium uastae quantitatis eorum, saepe conperta leguntur. (Indeed giants used to grow to such an enormous size that it is said that all the sea was passable to them on foot. And their bones are often found, according to books, on the shores and in the recesses of the world, as a mark of their vast size.) Liber monstrorum, ed. and trans. Orchard in Pride and Prodigies, 254–317, I:54. The same work refers to the giant stature of Beowulf’s uncle Hygelac, and his resting place at the mouth of the Rhine (I:2). 26 MS sæliðende does not alliterate in Solomon and Saturn II, and is emended to unattested mereliðende; sæliðend is found elsewhere only in Beowulf 377, 411, 1818, 2806 and the Exeter Book poem, The Whale 48b; see Exeter Anthology, ed. Muir, I.272–5. 27 See, e.g., King Alfred’s Version of Gregory’s West-Saxon Pastoral Care, ed. Sweet, 369, line 25: Dysig bið se læce … ; Bischofs Wærferth, ed. Hecht, 262, line 6: Witodlice dysig byþ se cniht; Ælfric, Hexameron, ed. Crawford, line 39: Full dysig byð se mann; Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies: 264, line 183: Dysig bið se weigferenda man: Se ðe nymð; Cox, ed., ‘Dicts of Cato,’ no. 1, line 67: dysige bioð þa men þe wenaþ. 28 A third example which does not strictly follow the dol bið se formula is also found in the Exeter Book, in Riddle 3 53–4a: Dol him ne ondrædeð ða deaðsperu, swylteð hwæþre. 29 See The Seafarer, ed. Gordon, 46n. 30 Orchard, Pride and Prodigies, 82–4. 31 See Frank, ‘Mere and Sund,’ 158.

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Abildgaard, Nicolai, 54 Adelhart (of Bath), 122 Ælfric (of Eynsham), 13–15, 214–15, 216n2, 241n26 Æthelred (king), 151–2, 156–7, 159–62 Æthelweard, 13, 19 Alber. See elves Alexanders saga, 134, 136, 140–1 Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 7, 150–7, 159–62, 163n12, 165n43, 212 Arinbjarnarkviða, 95–6, 99–102, 106, 108n32 Atlamál, 177, 186n49 Aymeri de Narbonne, 7, 195–7, 200 Bakhtin, Mikhail, 109–12, 116, 118–20, 126–7n1, 127n10 Bald’s Leechbook, 40 Beowulf, 3, 6–8, 93, 149–50, 153–62, 164n30, 165n35, 170, 212, 220n42, 225–40 Blæsinge amulet, 25, 31, 33–8, 39–41 Blickling Homilies, 207, 214, 216n2 Bragi (Boddason the Old), 5, 84, 89, 97–8 Brandr Jónsson (bishop), 6, 135, 137, 141–2, 145–6

Carmina Burana, 25, 31–3, 45 Christ, 7–8, 18, 26–37, 39, 41–2, 46, 47n15, 49n53, 51n97, 51–2n102, 86–7, 105, 134, 143–4, 206–16, 217nn8–9, 13, 218nn16–17, 219nn29, 32, 221nn52–3, 223nn73, 77, 224n90, 239 Cnut. See Knútr Comestor, Petrus: Historia scholastica, 134 Conrad II (emperor), 201 Constable, Archibald, 57 Constantine I (emperor), 122, 203n19 Constantine IX (emperor), 201 Constantinople, 7, 188–92, 194–201, 201n9, 203nn11, 15, 203n17 Cumwhitton burials, 14 Draumr Þorsteins, 5, 77–81, 88 Dream of the Rood, 208, 213, 217n8 Edda, Poetic (Elder), 7, 53, 55–7, 59, 62–4, 70n5, 92, 169, 172–3, 177–8, 182 Edda, prose (of Snorri), 19, 53–4, 56, 70n5, 84, 110–21, 123–6, 127n24, 130n75

270 Index Edinburgh, 56–9 Edmund Ironside, 155 Egils saga, 5, 93–106 Egils saga einhenda, 230 elves (Alber), 4, 25–46, 58, 63 Eyrbyggja saga, 125 Fagrskinna, 188–9, 191–3, 195, 203n18, 204n27 Flateyjarbók, 78, 86, 88, 102, 104 Frederick II (emperor), 201 Frye, Northrop, 109, 113–15, 118–20, 124, 126–7n1 Fuseli, Henry, 54 gods (Norse), 12–15, 18–21, 58, 72n37, 81, 83–4, 98, 111–14, 116–17, 119, 121, 123, 130n75, 211; Baldr, 13, 19, 80, 111–12; Bragi, 113–14, 129n73; Frigg, 14; Loki, 98, 111, 114, 117–18, 121, 123, 185n27; Odin, 5, 15–17, 19–21, 86; Thor, 14–15, 17–21 Gosforth Cross, 4, 11–12, 18 Gospel of Nicodemus, 207, 209 Grágás, 84, 103 Grettis saga, 7, 126, 130n88, 169, 172 Guðrúnarkviða, 177 Gyðinga saga, 6, 133–46 Gylfaginning, 56, 62, 69, 72n37, 93, 106–7n2, 107n11, 110–26 Hákon (king), 135 Halberstadt amulet, 26, 30–3, 43, 47 Hálfdanar saga, 233 Háttatal, 112, 114–15, 121, 123 Hávamál, 98 Heimskringla, 6, 103–5, 188–9, 191–5, 202n9, 203–4n22, 204n27

Helgafell, 82, 87, 89, 133 Helgakviða Hundingsbana, 170, 173–4 Helreið Brynhildar, 180 Henry (of Huntingdon), Historia Anglorum, 150–1 Hoff (Westmorland), 20 Honorius, of Autun: Gemma animae, 30 Hugin, 17 Hyrrokkin (giantess), 19 Isidore (of Seville): De natura rerum, 62, 71n24 Isle of Man, 13–14, 16, 20–1 Jamieson, Robert, 56–9, 62, 70n16, 71nn18, 20 Jerusalem, 8, 142, 197, 199, 203n17, 205n33, 209, 211, 213–15, 217n9, 224n90 John (of Worcester): Chronicle, 151 Joseph (of Exeter): De bello Troiano, 94 Julian (the Apostate): The Caesars, 122 Kaplan, Carter, 109, 111, 118–19 Knock y Doonee (Isle of Man), 16 Knútr (king), 98, 104–5, 152–3, 154–5, 161, 163n12 Kristeva, Julia, 109, 116–17 Kumlbúa Þáttr, 5, 77, 79, 81–9 Leopold IV (of Austria), 201 Lokasenna, 109, 121–3, 126 Lucian (of Samosata): Assembly of the Gods, 121–2 Maccabeus, Judas, 134–5, 136, 140–1, 144 Madla lead cross, 41–2 Magnús (king), 135, 137, 139, 146

Index  271 Magnússon, Finnur, 5, 55–9, 62–7, 69, 70n7, 71n18 manuscripts: AM 226 fol., 133; AM 238 fol. XVII, 133; AM 564 a 4to, 77–8, 82; AM 564 c 4to, 77–8; AM 655 4to XXV, 133; Book of Cerne, 4, 37, 43; British Library, 4505 e 35, 58–9, 65–7; British Library, Cotton Vitellius A. XV, 161; British Library, Royal 2 A. XX (the Royal Prayerbook), 42; British Library, Sloane 2584, 40–1; Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 162, 218n16; Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41, 223n73; Cambridge University Library Ii. 2. 11, 220n38; Codex Frisianus, 202; Codex Regius (GKS 2365 4to), 183n4; Codex Upsaliensis C 222, 30–1; Codex Vaticanus Latinus 510, 35, 39, 42, 49n56; Codex Vaticanus Latinus 235, 36–7; Exeter Book, 7–8, 207, 209, 214, 216, 238; Munich clm 17, 51–2n102; Munich clm 22, 51–2n102; Society of Antiquaries 289, 57–8, 60–3 Maxims I, 7, 172, 238–9 Mímir, 6, 58, 63, 93–4, 106, 107n11 Morkinskinna, 7, 188–9, 192–8, 200–2 Munich Nachtsegen, 44–5 Munin, 17 Nicholas, St, 29 Niðrstigningarsaga, 8, 210–11 Njáls saga, 125, 128n29, 130n84 Northumbria, 12, 15 Odense amulet, 25, 33, 35 Óláfr, St, 86–8, 102–3, 105, 194, 204n27 Örvar-Odds saga, 233

Payne, F. Anne, 109, 111, 118–19 Peter, St, 18 Plato: Apology, 110; Phaedo, 110; Symposium, 121 Portable Antiquities Scheme (United Kingdom), 15 Ragnarǫk, 20, 63, 94, 111, 121, 211 Romdrup lead strip, 26, 28–30, 32–3 Roseberry Topping (Yorkshire), 15, 20 sator-formula, 25–8, 51n102 Schleswig amulet, 25–7, 30, 33–4, 41, 45 Scott, Walter, 57, 59 Seneca (the Younger), Apocolocyntosis, 121–2 Seven Sisters, 34, 36–8, 46 Seven Sleepers, 38, 49n53 Skáldatal, 97 Skáldskaparmál, 84, 112–15, 117–19, 121, 123, 126 Snorri Sturluson, 6, 94, 104, 110–12, 114–26 Society of Antiquaries (London), 57–9 Solomon and Saturn II, 237–9 Svein Forkbeard, 151, 153, 155–6, 161, 164n30 Theodulf (of Orléans), 8, 215 Thor’s hammer, 14–15, 17–18 Thorkell the Tall, 153 Þrymskvíða, 169 Trevelyan, Walter, 56–9, 71n20 Vatnshyrna, 77 Vafþrúðnismál, 5, 56, 91–3, 106 Vǫlsunga saga, 7, 169, 173 Vǫluspá, 11, 56, 92

272 Index Weinbrot, Howard D., 109, 119–21, 126 William (of Jumièges): Gesta Normannorum Ducum, 199–200 William (of Malmesbury): Gesta Regum Anglorum, 151–2

Wace: Roman de Rou (Geste des Normanz), 196–7 Wulfstan (of York), 13, 15 Yggdrasill, 5, 56, 58–9, 62–5, 68–9 Ymir, 119

Toronto Old Norse–Icelandic Series

General Editor Andy Orchard Editorial Board Robert E. Bjork Roberta Frank 1  E  inarr Skúlason’s Geisli: A Critical Edition edited and translated by Martin Chase 2  Anglo-Saxon England in Icelandic Medieval Texts by Magnús Fjalldal 3  Sanctity in the North: Saints, Lives, and Cults in Medieval Scandinavia edited by Thomas DuBois 4  Snorri Sturluson and the Edda: The Conversion of Cultural Capital in Medieval Scandinavia by Kevin J. Wanner 5  Myths, Legends, and Heroes: Essays on Old Norse and Old English Literature in Honour of John McKinnell edited by Daniel Anlezark