Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds. Translated from the Old Norse 1843842718, 9781843842712

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Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds. Translated from the Old Norse
 1843842718,  9781843842712

Table of contents :
Foreword vii
Abbreviations xi
Introduction 1
I. Real People, Real Poetry 11
Hildr Hrólfsdóttir nefju 12
Jórunn skáldmær 13
Gunnhildr konungamóðir 16
Steingerðr Þorketilsdóttir 16
Þórhildr skáldkona 17
Auðr Hvelpssystir und Hóli (Bróka-Auðr) 18
Steinunn Refsdóttir 18
Þuríðr Óláfsdóttir pá 20
Kerling í Tungu 21
II. Quasi-Historical People and Poetry 23
Fóstra Þórodds Þorbrandssonar 23
Arnfinnsdóttir jarls 24
Ármóðsdóttir skeggs 25
Unnr Marðardóttir 26
Bóndadóttir, Kerling, and Ambátt in 'Vǫlsa þáttr' 28
Ásdís á Bjargi 31
Signý Valbrandsdóttir 32
Þorbjǫrg Grímkelsdóttir 32
Helga Bárðardóttir 34
Ólǫf geisli 35
Ketilríðr Hólmkelsdóttir 36
III. Visionary Women: Women’s Dream-Verse 39
Kona at Munka-Þverá 40
Steinvǫr Sighvatsdóttir á Keldum 40
Halldóra Þórðardóttir 41
Kona ein í Svartárdal 41
Þuríðr at Fellsenda í Dǫlum 42
Kona skammt frá Þingeyrastað 43
Jóreiðr Hermundardóttir í Miðjumdal 43
IV. Legendary Heroines 49
'Helreið Brynhildar' 50
Signý Hálfdansdóttir 55
Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir ('Hervararkviða') 56
V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens 71
Heiðr in 'Vǫluspá' 72
'Darraðarljóð' 73
'Grottasǫngr' 77
Four Miscellaneous 'Spákona' Sequences 85
1. 'Hrólfs saga kraka' (Heiðr) 85
2. 'Ǫrvar-Odds saga' (Heiðr) 86
3. 'Ǫrvar-Odds saga' (Ǫlvǫr) 88
4. 'Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar' (vǫlva) 88
Gyðja (Pagan Priestess) from 'Ǫrvar-Odds saga' 89
Hervǫr Hundingjadóttir 91
Hildisif Ptólómeusdóttir and Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir 93
'Busluboen' 95
VI. Trollwomen 101
Bragi Boddason’s Trollwoman 102
Forað 102
Feima and Kleima 105
Hildigunnr Risadóttir 106
Vargeisa 106
Ýma, Hergunnr, and Margerðr 108
Hetta trollkona 111
Old Norse Literature Time Line 115
Glossary of Personal Names 117
Bibliography 129
Index of Names 135

Citation preview


The LIBRARY of MEDIEVAL WOMEN Sandra Ballif StrauBhaar

Library of Medieval Women

Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Library of Medieval Women

ISSN 1369-9652

Series Editor: Jane Chance The Library of Medieval Women aims to make available, in an English translation, significant works by, for, and about medieval women, from the age of the Church Fathers to the fifteenth century. The series encompasses many forms of writing, from poetry, visions, biography and autobiography, and letters, to sermons, treatises and encyclopedias; the subject matter is equally diverse: theology and mysticism, classical mythology, medicine and science, history, hagiography, and instructions for anchoresses. We welcome suggestions for future titles in the series. Proposals or queries may be sent directly to the editor or publisher at the addresses given below; all submissions will receive prompt and informed consideration. Professor Jane Chance, Department of English, MS 30, Rice University, PO Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251-1892, USA. E-mail: [email protected] Boydell & Brewer Limited, PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 3DF, UK. E-mail: [email protected]. Website: www.boydellandbrewer.com Previously published titles in this series appear at the back of this book

Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Translated from the Old Norse

Sandra Ballif Straubhaar


© Sandra Ballif Straubhaar 2011 All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner The right of Sandra Ballif Straubhaar to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 First published 2011 D. S. Brewer, Cambridge

ISBN 978 1 84384 271 2

D. S. Brewer is an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF, UK and of Boydell & Brewer Inc. 668 Mt Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY, 14620, USA, website: www.boydellandbrewer.com A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library The publisher has no responsibility for the continued existence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. Papers used by Boydell & Brewer Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests

Typeset by Word and Page, Chester, UK Printed in Great Britain by CPI Antony Rowe, Chippenham and Eastbourne

Contents Foreword







Real People, Real Poetry Hildr Hrólfsdóttir nefju Jórunn skáldmær Gunnhildr konungamóðir Steingerðr Þorketilsdóttir Þórhildr skáldkona Auðr Hvelpssystir und Hóli (Bróka-Auðr) Steinunn Refsdóttir Þuríðr Óláfsdóttir pá Kerling í Tungu

11 12 13 16 16 17 18 18 20 21


Quasi-Historical People and Poetry Fóstra Þórodds Þorbrandssonar Arnfinnsdóttir jarls Ármóðsdóttir skeggs Unnr Marðardóttir Bóndadóttir, Kerling, and Ambátt in Vǫlsa þáttr Ásdís á Bjargi Signý Valbrandsdóttir Þorbjǫrg Grímkelsdóttir Helga Bárðardóttir Ólǫf geisli Ketilríðr Hólmkelsdóttir

23 23 24 25 26 28 31 32 32 34 35 36

III. Visionary Women: Women’s Dream-Verse Kona at Munka-Þverá Steinvǫr Sighvatsdóttir á Keldum Halldóra Þórðardóttir Kona ein í Svartárdal Þuríðr at Fellsenda í Dǫlum Kona skammt frá Þingeyrastað Jóreiðr Hermundardóttir í Miðjumdal

39 40 40 41 41 42 43 43

IV. Legendary Heroines Helreið Brynhildar Signý Hálfdansdóttir Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir (Hervararkviða)

49 50 55 56


71 72 73 77 85 85 86 88 88 89 91 93 95

Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens Heiðr in Vǫluspá Darraðarljóð Grottasǫngr Four Miscellaneous Spákona Sequences 1. Hrólfs saga kraka (Heiðr) 2. Ǫrvar-Odds saga (Heiðr) 3. Ǫrvar-Odds saga (Ǫlvǫr) 4. Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar (vǫlva) Gyðja (Pagan Priestess) from Ǫrvar-Odds saga Hervǫr Hundingjadóttir Hildisif Ptólómeusdóttir and Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir Buslubœn

VI. Trollwomen Bragi Boddason’s Trollwoman Forað Feima and Kleima Hildigunnr Risadóttir Vargeisa Ýma, Hergunnr, and Margerðr Hetta trollkona

101 102 102 105 106 106 108 111

Old Norse Literature Time Line


Glossary of Personal Names




Index of Names


Foreword In chapter 32 of Laxdœla saga, a thirteenth-century Icelandic narrative purporting to retell to us events from several centuries earlier, we are introduced to one Auðr of Hóll in Saurbœr (Breiðafjǫrðr), a farmer in Viking-Age Iceland. Her very name means Treasure, or Wealth; perhaps this is not an accident, since she is that rare thing in earlymedieval Europe, namely, a woman owning land in her own right. She is introduced not in the traditional way as ‘the fairest of women’ (‘allra kvenna vænst’), but uniquely as ‘neither good-looking nor hard-working’ (‘ekki væn né gǫrvilig’). But we readers are expected to like her. It is clear that the narrator likes her. Shortly after we meet her, we learn that her husband, Þórðr Ingunnarson, is desired by the man-hungry Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir, who is already a well-known character in the saga. Guðrún has convinced Þórðr to divorce Auðr on the perfectly legal grounds that she wears men’s breeches. There must be some reason, argues Guðrún, that the neighbors keep calling Þórðr’s wife ‘Bróka-Auðr’ (‘BreechesAuðr’). (Do they, in fact, call her that? We are never told.) When Auðr hears that Þórðr has cast her out, she behaves as Icelandic saga-heroes often do at moments of high drama, spitting out a line of urgent poetry, cited later on in these pages. She then does the second thing that Icelandic saga-heroes often do, namely, go to ground for the winter and make plans. In the following summer Auðr steps on stage again, stealing secretly into her ex-husband’s new residence one night while Guðrún is out. At this moment, the saga-author chooses to point out to us – seemingly with a wink to the audience – that Auðr is wearing men’s breeches. (Whether or not she has ever actually worn them in the past is left nicely ambiguous, and irrelevant.) She finds Þórðr asleep in bed; she draws her sword on him, striking not to kill, but only to cripple. She gashes him across the nipples, successfully puts his sword-arm out of commission, and leaves him pinned in the bed with the blade. Then she rides away, presumably feeling the score to be now even. This volume is intended to give voice to Auðr and her sisters, namely, real and legendary early Nordic women whose exploits, poetic and otherwise, were considered memorable enough to record in the Middle Ages, and who deserve to be considered as equally memorable today. vii

viii  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Auðr’s temper and brashness give her a similar cachet to that of the better-known (male) saga-(anti)hero, Skarphéðinn of Njáls saga, who is famous for his pride, his impetuosity, and his perpetual feral, tooth-baring grin. Both Auðr and Skarphéðinn are skǫrungar, people who make a difference in history. These skǫrungar, figures in the sagas who have left their mark on events and on folk memory, are commonly remembered as skalds as well; this means that, like Auðr, they are said to have marked the notable events of their lives with verse, delivered spontaneously and passionately on the spur of the moment. In the pages that follow I have gathered together as many of Auðr’s sisters as I could find, women characters who are remembered in sagas (family sagas, historical sagas, legendary sagas and late romantic sagas) and related texts as composers of poetry. Readers of this book are invited to seek out the full textual environments cited here in brief, particularly those readers who are new to the multifaceted world of Old Norse literature. The Penguin volume, The Sagas of Icelanders,1 containing a selection from the Leifur Eiríksson multi-volume English-version set,2 is a fine place to start, although both of these anthologies are limited to only one saga genre, the Icelandic family saga. Original texts for these same sagas, plus some historical and legendary sagas as well, are available in Old Norse (spelling conventions vary) at Snerpa.is.3 Some of them are also found in Old Norse and a handful of modern languages at the Icelandic Saga Database,4 as well as at many other locations on the Web. This project has sat on my desk in various forms for quite a while, long enough to see both academic and popular-culture constructions of both medieval Scandinavians and medieval women go through a series of bemusing and amusing changes. Those of us with an academic interest in the Nordic Middle Ages continue to participate in an ongoing symbiosis with the authors of popular historical novels and feature films; with berserker re-enactors; with reconstructionist Æsirworshippers; and with other related interest groups. Continued popular enthusiasm for vikings and medieval Scandinavia in general is good for our line of work. Similarly, it has been fascinating to watch modern and postmodern Scandinavians, both academic and otherwise, switch several times in the past decades between embarrassment at, and pride 1 2 3 4

The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection, with a Preface by Jane Smiley and an Introduction by Robert Kellogg (New York: Penguin, 2000). The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, ed. Viðar Hreinsson et al., 5 vols. (Reykjavík: Leifur Eiríksson Publishing, 1997). http://www.snerpa.is/net/fornrit htm (18 December 2009) http://www.sagadb.org/ (11 July 2010)

Foreword  ix in, their warlike viking ancestors,5 and also to watch the interface of that debate with popular-culture manifestations of that pride, from viking markets to neopagan midsummer festivals. The ongoing academic rediscovery of medieval women and their histories, particularly medieval women with literary output, has similarly been a joy to observe and, in a small way, participate in. In the case of Nordic medieval women, the reader is referred especially to the works of Jenny Jochens and Judith Jesch.6 It is hoped that this volume will be considered a worthy contribution to such an inspiring conversation. This project, as well as its earlier partial incarnations, has gone on sufficiently long for the scholars and friends to whom I am indebted to have become beyond count. One stands out from the throng, however: special thanks are due to the eagle eyes of Shaun F. D. Hughes.



A case in point is the reaction of Swedish gadfly-journalist and popular novelist Jan Guillou to the idea of Swedes being proud descendants of vikings. Forget that, he says, in a column from 2000; we Swedes would be better off acknowledging an eastern-Baltic ancestry, instead of this berserker stuff – which only encourages neo-Nazis: http://wwwc.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/0007/10/ guillou html (18 December 2009). Judith Jesch, Women in the Viking Age (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1991); Jenny M. Jochens, Women in Old Norse Society (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995); Jenny M. Jochens, Old Norse Images of Women (Philadephia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996).

Abbreviations Full details of publications will be found in the Bibliography.


Finnur Jónsson, Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. Guðni Jónsson, Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda Ernst Albin Kock, Den norsk-isländska skalde­ diktningen Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages (University of Sydney project under Margaret Clunies Ross)


Introduction The scope of the present project This book is an attempt to present, in one volume, a selection of notable Old Norse (Old Icelandic) poetry in which the voice of the speaking poet (skald, Icelandic skáld) is female. This poetry is attributed, in the manuscripts, to skalds from the ninth to the thirteenth century, as well as to numerous legendary figures impossible to verify or date. The poems are generally presented in the manuscripts within a prose narrative matrix, as speech acts performed by named women characters within that narrative. (This is in marked contrast to such conventions as those, common in some other European medieval traditions, in which, for example, a male poet adopts a woman’s voice for rhetorical purposes.) One can conclude, from the frequency of these female-voiced Old Norse poetic texts, that the Old Norse poetic production environment in the pre-manuscript era (however tentatively we might construct it or extrapolate about it) exhibited no particular hostility or disbelief in the face of the idea of women as composers and speakers of poetry. It is very likely that the selection and preservation in manuscript of these Old Norse women’s texts have been further assisted by the relatively female-inclusive environments in which high-medieval Icelandic vernacular manuscripts were produced, environments which Guðrún P. Helgadóttir and Robert Kellogg have both investigated.1 Early-modern and modern editors have not been as favorable to women as the medieval ones were, however, with the rather astonishing result that this book represents the first published collection (that I know of) of all the poetry attributed to Old Norse women skalds. A first perusal of the standard twentieth-century collections of skaldic poetry by Finnur Jónsson and Ernst Albin Kock2 is likely to lead the 1


Guðrún P. Helgadóttir, Skáldkonur fyrri alda, 2 vols. (Akureyri: Kvöldvöku­útgáfan, 1961); 2nd ed. in one volume (Akranes: Hörpuútgáfan, 1995); Robert Kellogg, ‘Sex and the Vernacular in Medieval Iceland,’ Proceedings of the First International Saga Conference, Edinburgh, 1971, ed. Peter Foote, Hermann Pálsson, and Desmond Slay (London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 1973), 244–58. Finnur Jónsson, ed., Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning (Copenhagen and Kristiania: Gyldendal, 1912–15; rpt. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger, 1967–73) – critical and normalized editions; Ernst Albin Kock, ed., Den norskisländska skaldediktningen (Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1946–50) – normalized edition only; a response to Finnur.


2  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds reader to conclude that the corpus of preserved poetry in Old Icelandic attributable to women poets (skáldkonur) is rather small. However, this first impression may change somewhat by tracing the verses in Finnur’s and Kock’s collections back to their original saga environments. It then becomes clear, for instance, that a sizeable amount of the dream-verse and prophetic fragments in Sturlunga saga was attributed to women, or that that pithy epigram labeled ‘Fragment’ in the modern editions was originally attributed to Bróka-Auðr in Laxdœla saga. Finnur’s and Kock’s editions can thus be sifted to yield the following: 1. Eight pre-Christian Norwegian and Icelandic skáldkonur, cited in the konungasögur, Íslendingasögur and related þættir;3 2. Eight Icelandic skáldkonur of the Sturlung Age (thirteenth century);4 3. Thirteen additional early skáldkonur from the Íslendingasögur and þættir, but of more doubtful authenticity than the first group; 4. A number of shield-maidens, foreign princesses, witches, priestesses, prophetesses, and troll-women cited as reciting verse in various legendary sagas (fornaldarsögur).5 In connection with lists of this sort, however, we should bear in mind that all of the surviving poetry, whether attributed to men or women, must represent only a fragmented, random portion of the total amount of poetry composed during the Middle Ages in Scandinavia. The eight skáldkonur of the first group mentioned above were active in the tenth century and the first half of the eleventh. The poetry of this period was dominated by the complex dróttkvætt (‘court meter’) style (see below), and all of the compositions of these eight skáldkonur, with the possible exception of two kviðlingar (epigrams, too short to classify), were composed in that meter. The earliest three of these skáldkonur, Jórunn skáldmær (‘poet-maiden’), Hildr Hrólfsdóttir, and Gunnhildr konungamóðir (‘mother of kings’), were Norwegians, tied to various kings by obligations of family, or perhaps fealty (in Jórunn’s case). They were probably active in court circles, where dróttkvætt had become the fashionable mode of expression; accordingly, the subjects of their poetry reflected events of interest at court. The remaining five women poets in this first group were Icelanders. Their poetic commentaries 3 4 5

I have included these under Section I in the body of this book. I have included these under Sections I and III in the body of this book. The ‘Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages’ (SPSMA) critical-edition project, incorporating Finnur, Kock and additional sources including runic inscriptions, currently ongoing at the University of Sydney under the direction of Margaret Clunies Ross and a team of editors, remedies this anti-attributive bias to some degree, but still lists the stanzas of the Sturlung-Age visionaries (male and female both) under ‘Anonymous’: http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/ db.php?table=verses&id=1468 (20 May 2008)

Introduction  3 on errant husbands or lovers (by Bróka-Auðr, Þórhildr skáldkona, and Steingerðr Þorkelsdóttir), satires on Christian missionaries (by Steinunn Refsdóttir), and exhortations addressed to lukewarm avengers (by Þuríðr Óláfsdóttir) may have been noncourtly in theme, but they were no less elegant as examples of the dróttkvætt style than the poetry of the first three. The eight skáldkonur of the second group are all known from Sturlunga saga. One of them, Steinvǫr Sighvatsdóttir (á Keldum), is also listed elsewhere, in the Skáldatal, as being a professional skald in the pay of the Norwegian chieftain Gautr Jónsson (á Mel). However, the extant half-stanza (vísuhelmingr) by her is not a poem in praise of Gautr, but a poetic vision, as are all but one of the compositions in this group. (The exceptional case is the single stanza by ‘Kerling í Tungu,’ the Old Woman of Tunga, which is a simple report of recent local violence.) These poetic visions are always recounted in the same way. The skáldkona is portrayed as having a dream or a vision, or seeing an apparition, in connection with which she experiences the poetry, which she recites upon awakening or coming out of the trance. All but one of these visions are doom-prophecies presaging one of the great climaxes of Sturlunga saga, the fall of Sturla Sighvatsson at the battle of Ǫrlygsstaðir in 1238. Their style is chant-like and simple, using Eddic meters (see Eddic and Skaldic Poetry, below), such as fornyrðislag and galdralag, rather than dróttkvætt. The longest of them, eight stanzas of dream-verse relating to the battle of Þverá (1255) by the sixteen-yearold Jóreiðr Hermundardóttir, constitutes the largest body of poetry by a single historically attestable woman that survives in Old Norse literature. The skáldkonur of groups 3 and 4 above, incorporating the lesshistorical women poets from the sagas of the Icelanders (Íslendingasögur) as well as the women poets from the legendary sagas (fornaldarsögur),6 are significant not so much for their own sake as for what they reveal about the attitudes toward women and poetry among the thirteenthcentury redactors who compiled these sagas. As Guðrún P. Helgadóttir has noted,7 the saga compilers seem to have been far readier to ascribe lengthy poems to supernatural women or legendary heroines of long ago than to their own recent female ancestors. To sum up, then, the first entries in this collection, beginning with Section I, are attributed to historically attestable women whose names are otherwise known to us. The later entries, ending with Section VI, are put into the mouths of female characters from legendary sagas or folklore narratives. These figures may or may not have been thought 6 7

Comprising Sections II, IV, V and VI in the body of this book. Guðrún P. Helgadóttir, Skáldkonur fyrri alda, I, 41.

4  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds real or historical by the scribes of the Icelandic manuscript age (twelfth to fifteenth century) who recorded or copied the texts, often at a considerable remove from the ‘lifetimes,’ real or legendary, of the skalds cited. For me, such (unsolvable, and ultimately uninteresting) riddles surrounding historicity (and its construction through time) take a back seat to the bald fact that, flourishing within the well-known conventions and boundaries of Old Norse saga-prose and spoken poetry, there are cited twelve-hundred-plus lines of poetry issuing, within the narratives themselves, from the mouths of women. (A not-uncommon way to introduce such poetry is ‘Varð henni ljóð á munni,’ ‘A poem came into her mouth.’8) I know of no other medieval vernacular literature that can match this record. One surprising outcome of this project has been that despite its unconventional angle of entry, the composite portrait (historical, mythological, legendary) of the worlds of Old Norse literary narrative that emerges here is an entirely recognizable one, familiar to us from a broad range of more traditional textual samplings, as a glance at the Glossary of Names at the back of this book will show. Namely, the skáldkonur of this book inhabit the same legendary, semi-historical and historical landscapes as Sigurðr Fáfnir’s-Bane, Eiríkr the Red, Skarphéðinn Njálsson, and any number of their more widely celebrated male counterparts from the various saga genres. As outlined above, it is worth repeating that one finds the skáldkonur of the present collection embedded in a variety of prose environments: in fornaldarsaga (legendary-saga) texts derived, at some remove, from Germanic Migration-Age legends; in the classic Icelandic family sagas, which tell the reconstructed histories of Iceland’s and Norway’s Viking Age, as well as the transition to Christianity in Scandinavia; in the thirteenth-century contemporary narratives from Iceland’s Sturlung Age; and also in a handful of other texts of mixed genre. I hope that those readers who are not already acquainted with the (admittedly, less woman-friendly) traditional canon of Old Norse sagas and poetry will be encouraged, by the small glimpses presented here, to read more widely in these textual traditions. Eddic and skaldic poetry The term skáld (related etymologically to English ‘scold,’ not inappropriately, considering the playful and satirical tone of much skaldic poetry) is a neuter noun, applicable to men or women as needed. For instance, Skáld-Torfa (mother of the eleventh-century Icelandic male skald Bersi Skáldtorfuson) and ‘Vilborg skáld’ (from 8

See Judy Quinn, ‘“Ok verðr henni ljóð á munni’ – Eddic Prophecy in the Fornaldarsögur,” Alvíssmál 8 (1998), 29–50.

Introduction  5 Skáldatal, a thirteenth-century list of skalds) are two attested women skalds, unfortunately without surviving poetry, who are named in the manuscripts using the simple word skáld in an uncompounded form. More often, however, women skalds are designated by genderspecific bynames such as skáldkona (‘skald-woman,’ pl. skáldkonur) or skáldmær (‘skald-maiden,’ pl. skáldmeyjar). A skald could potentially compose poetry (skáldskapr) in any number of modes and styles, including (but not at all limited to) that range of styles that have been designated as ‘skaldic.’ This skaldic poetry was characterized by a number of strictly obeyed features which made it both easily memorized and – happily for this collection – relatively difficult to corrupt through time. Its golden age was in the Viking Age (roughly, 800–1100), where it is recorded in the sagas as having flourished not only in Iceland, but everywhere Icelandic (and to a lesser degree, Norwegian) skalds lived or went, including England, Ireland, the Orkneys, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, and Byzantium. The prototypical (but not exclusive) environment for the delivery of a skaldic poem is a foreign court presided over by noble persons whom the skald, whose name is always cited in the surrounding prose, wishes to impress; the prototypical skaldic meter is accordingly called dróttkvætt or court meter. Each eight-line dróttkvætt stanza was required to have these features: six syllables per line; four sets of three alliterating staves (see Notes on Translation, below); four sets of two internal perfect rhymes (in each of the even-numbered lines); and four sets of two internal slant rhymes (in each of the odd-numbered lines). Refinements and additions to these basic requirements were common. Both John Lindow9 and Roberta Frank10 have stressed the default masculinity of this genre and the environments in which it was composed, but, as Sections I and II of this book particularly illustrate, men did not have a monopoly over its production. The term Eddic poetry covers a variety of (non-skaldic) poetic forms which were popular over many centuries. However, none of them are as formally structured as the skaldic meters are, and poetry composed using Eddic meters is consequently more easily corrupted in memory and recording. These meters are called Eddic because of their prominence in the thirteenth-century manuscript, Codex Regius GKS 2365 4to, in which the god-poems and hero-poems of what has been

9 10

John Lindow, ‘Riddles, Kennings and the Complexity of Skaldic Poetry,’ Scandinavian Studies 47 (1975), 311–27. Roberta Frank, Old Norse Court Poetry: The Dróttkvætt Stanza (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978).

6  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds traditionally (but misleadingly)11 called the Elder Edda appear. They include the shorter-lined fornyrðislag (old-lore meter) and galdralag (spell-casting meter, featuring repeated refrains), as well as the longerlined or variable-lined forms of málaháttr (speech meter) and ljóðaháttr (song meter). Some of the Eddic poetry we retain is ascribed to named skalds, although most of it is not. The poems in the Codex Regius of the Elder Edda are all anonymous, for instance. Accordingly there is only one full poem from the Codex Regius included in this collection, Helreið Brynhildar, which (within the context of the larger narrative) is placed in the mouth of the valkyrie Brynhildr and a trollwoman with whom she has an existential argument. In selecting texts to include here, I gave preference to poetry ascribed to named women characters that was also found within prose narrative environments; but I dared to include the anomalous Helreið both because of the centrality of the figure of Brynhildr to the Germanic heroic tradition,12 as well as the argument that although the poem is not found in the Völsunga saga where the most expansive version of Brynhildr’s story is otherwise found, it ought to be. That I have not expanded the project to include additional women-centered Eddic poems from the Codex Regius (e.g., any of the Guðrún poems, or Oddrúnargrátr) is an entirely a matter of space, thematic balance, and the author’s caprice. The entries in Sections I and II of this book are largely skaldic in form, while those in Sections III–VI are generally Eddic. As is usually the case with general rules, there are some exceptions. Notes on the text I am deeply indebted to a number of previous editors for their versions of the texts in this volume, particularly (mostly for skaldic texts, but also for others) Finnur Jónsson and Ernst Albin Kock, as mentioned above; and (mostly for Eddic-style texts) Andreas Heusler; Jón Helgason; Eric V. Gordon; Hugo Gering and Barend Sijmons; Lee M. Hollander; Christopher Tolkien; Gustav Neckel and Hans Kuhn; Anthony Faulkes; and Klaus von See et al.13 The skaldic poetry critical-edition (SPSMA) 11

12 13

Because Snorri Sturluson’s (1179–1241) four-part instruction manual for poets is named ‘Edda (‘This book is called Edda,’ states the fourteenth-century Codex Upsaliensis), and because it retells in prose many of the same narratives that we find in poetic form in the Codex Regius of the Poetic Edda, the same name has become attached to the poetry collection as well. See Theodore Murdock Andersson, The Legend of Brynhild, Islandica 43 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980). Andreas Heusler and Wilhelm Ranisch, Eddica Minora: Dichtungen eddischer Art aus den Fornaldarsögur und anderen Prosawerken (Dortmund: Friedrich Wilhelm Ruhfus, 1903; rpt. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft,

Introduction  7 website at the University of Sydney, directed by Margaret Clunies Ross, has also been invaluable.14 Instead of having to consult dozens of manuscripts myself to compare variants, I have had the luxury of choosing, among these transcriptions and a few others, the readings that made the most sense to me. In no case have the variations resulted in significant differences in meaning or interpretation. Like most editors of the past two centuries, I have used conventionalized Old Norse spelling, developed in the nineteenth century and more or less based on the spelling conventions of the twelfth-century First Grammatical Treatise. Under each entry, for the convenience of the reader I have included, when pertinent, the source pages in Finnur Jónsson’s normalized edition (B-volumes); the source pages in E. A. Kock’s edition; and the URL from the University of Sydney website, plus the name of the editor for that entry. In some few cases, I have had to refer the reader to an additional textual source. Notes on the translation Poetry translators have always had to walk an awkward and unsatisfying middle road between form and meaning. It is virtually impossible to reproduce both, even when – as is the case with Old Norse and modern English – the original and target languages are close relatives. Hence each passage of poetry in this book is translated twice: once as poetry (in an attempt to at least suggest the form of the original) and then as prose (in an attempt to reproduce, more or less precisely, the meaning of the original).


1974); Jón Helgason, ed., Heiðreks saga: Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks konungs (Copenhagen: J. Jørgensen & Co., 1924); Eric Valentine Gordon, rev. A. R. Taylor, An Introduction to Old Norse (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957) (used for Hervararkviða); Hugo Gering and Barend Sijmons, Die Lieder der Edda (Halle an der Saale: Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses, 1927); Lee Milton Hollander, Old Norse Poems: The Most Important Non-Skaldic Verse Not Included in the Poetic Edda (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936); Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise (Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1960); Gustav Neckel, ed., rev. Hans Kuhn, Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1962); Snorri Sturluson, Edda: Skáldskaparmál, ed. Anthony Faulkes, 2 vols. (London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 1998); Klaus von See, Beatrice LaFarge, Eve Picard, Katja Schulz, and Matthias Teichert, eds., Kommentar zu den Liedern der Edda, 6 vols. (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 1997–2009). http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=home (20 May 2008). Two parts have appeared in print under the rubric ‘Skaldic Poetry in the Scandinavian Middle Ages’: Margaret Clunies Ross, ed., Poetry on Christian Subjects, 2 vols. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007) and Kari Ellen Gade, ed., Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas, 2 vols. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009).

8  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds In the poetry translations, I have tried to maintain at least some of the following features of the originals, in this order of precedence: • Meaning • Tone (e.g., heroic, comic, serious, frightening) • Alliteration (at least sets of two, ideally sets of three: Snorri Sturluson’s stuðlar [supporters] and hǫfuðstafr [main-stave]) • Syllable count (six per line, in dróttkvætt) and/or stress count • Internal rhyme (perfect and slant); also occasional end-rhyme • Circumlocutions for nouns, both complex and simple: kenningar (e.g., ‘goddess of gold’ for ‘woman’) and heiti (e.g., ‘ski’ for ‘ship’) It goes without saying that too many of these features of the originals have had to be sacrificed, in order to make room for others of their fellows.

I. Real People, Real Poetry


his first section contains poetry found in the historical sagas of the Norwegian kings, the Icelandic family sagas, and the thirteenthcentury saga of contemporary events, Sturlunga saga. The ordering of the entries is based on the chronological sequence of the recounted events, irrespective of saga dating. With the exception of the thirteenth-century ‘Kerling í Tungu,’ the skáldkonur (women poets) of this section date from the ‘Viking Age,’ the early days of Iceland’s settlement. Three are Norwegians and the rest Icelanders. All nine of these poets use the traditional and complex dróttkvætt (court meter) form (see Introduction), with the possible exception of the epigrammatists Þórhildr and Auðr. (Two-line epigrams, kviðlingar, can be metrically ambiguous, because of the brevity of the sample.) Dróttkvætt as we usually encounter it was used commonly in the courts of kings, often in a kind of extemporaneous verse-repartee between a king and the members of his household. Indeed, John Lindow has suggested that dróttkvætt may have been intended as a secret code language for the exclusive fraternities of housecarls and courtiers surrounding the various Viking-Age kings.1 If this were the case, then it is a particular credit to our skáldkonur here that they seem to have had no trouble with spontaneous composition in dróttkvætt, considering that they probably were not entitled to membership in one of these fraternities. (There is some ambiguity, however, in the case of Jórunn [see below], who does seem to have been a commissioned court poet and who would have been, therefore, familiar with court lore and procedures.)2 Readers are encouraged to consult the Glossary of Names at the back of the book for further background on the various personalities.

1 2

Lindow, ‘Riddles, Kennings’. This argument, of course, depends on the verses being genuinely composed by the skalds to whom they are ascribed within the prose saga texts; and not, instead, mere compositions of the authors of the sagas in question. The book in your hands makes the assumption that at least some portion of the poetry anthologized in it is genuine. On the other hand (to make a worst-case argument), even if none of it is genuine, the fact that generations of reading audiences saw these poems (in all their poignancy and variety) as genuine tells us much about audience perceptions, through time, of women and the authorship of poetry.


12  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Hildr Hrólfsdóttir nefju Around 900, Norway Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla: Haralds saga hárfagra, ch. 24 FJ IB, 27; Kock I, 17 SPSMA (ed. Kari Ellen Gade): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=poems&id=264

Hildr asks King Haraldr Fairhair why he has sent her son, GǫnguHrólfr, into exile Much of this stanza’s verbal cleverness is dependent upon knowing that ‘Hrólfr,’ which is both the name of the exile referred to and the name of his (namesake) maternal grandfather (Hrólfr Nefja, or Rolf the Nose), is a compound of hróðr (‘fame’) and úlfr (‘wolf’). This Gǫngu-Hrólfr (Rolf the Ganger, or Rolf the Walker), son of Rǫgnvaldr, jarl of Mœrr (Møre), is identified in Norwegian and Icelandic sources with Rollo, the first duke of Normandy; however, this connection is impossible to substantiate.

Hafnið Nefju nafna; nú rekið gand ór landi, horskan ho˛lða barma; hví bellið því, stillir? Illt’s við úlf at ylfask, Yggr valbríkar, slíkan; muna við hilmis hjarðir hægr, ef renn til skógar.

You frame my father’s namesake and force him on the wolf ’s road. You hound the high-born hero. How, lord, can you allow this? I warn you: ’ware, warrior! Wolf-deeds reap warfare. The lupine lad may lust for his former lord’s livestock.

You abandon Nefja’s namesake. Now you are driving the wolf 3 out of the land, the wise kinsman of the landed men. Why, O king, do you dare to do this? It is bad to act wolfishly against such a wolf, O Óðinn-of-the-board-of-the-slain; he will not be gentle with the ruler’s herds, if he runs to the woods. 3

Finnur Jónsson’s Lexicon poeticum, p. 170, glosses gandr simply as ‘wolf’ (second meaning, after ‘stout stick, staff’), presumably led to do so by the multiple wolf-puns already present in the stanza (úlfr, ylfask, and the unnamed Hrólfr). Recent work by Eldar Heide and Clive Tolley, however, has connected this multivalent word – in this poem specifically, as well as elsewhere – not only to its more common meaning of ‘magical staff’, but also to the helping-spirits of Sámi shamans, as mentioned in the twelfth-century Historia Norwegiae. See Eldar Heide, Gand, seid og åndevind (University of Bergen, 2006), 18–22; and Clive Tolley, Shamanism in Norse Myth and Magic, Folklore Fellows’ Communications 296–7 (Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2009), I, 246–68.

I. Real People, Real Poetry  13 Jórunn skáldmær (Jórunn the Poet-Maiden) Early tenth century, Norway Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla: Haralds saga hárfagra, ch. 36; Óláfs saga helga, expanded introduction, ch. 3; Snorri Sturluson, Edda: Skáldskaparmál, ed. Faulkes, I, 104, stanza 402 FJ IB, 53–4; Kock I, 33–4 SPSMA (ed. Judith Jesch): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=poems&id=286

Jórunn praises her fellow skald, Gotþormr sindri, for reconciling the royal house with itself Jórunn skáldmær is a particularly intriguing figure because she is the only named woman skald who seems to have naturally filled the role of king’s adviser, common for male skalds at court. However, we have no biographical data for her, only extracts from her poem, and we can only make guesses at the organization of it, since it has come down to us in pieces. Saga-author Snorri Sturluson (see Glossary of Names) tells us in three different places (see above) how Eiríkr blóðøx (Eiríkr BloodAxe) and Hálfdan svarti, two of the most prominent of the many sons of Haraldr hárfagri, came to blows a number of times as the result of territorial disputes. At the point at which the events referred to in Sendibit begin, Eiríkr has just slain a third brother, Bjǫrn, in order to get Bjǫrn’s assigned territory in southern Norway. Brother Hálfdan then ambushes Eiríkr’s encampment in the Trondheim fjord at night, setting a number of buildings afire. Eiríkr, however, escapes unscathed. He in turn reports Hálfdan’s deed to King Haraldr, who gathers his men and sets up camp in the Trondheim fjord, preparing to teach Hálfdan a lesson. At this point in the story, however, the social power of poetry is showcased: skaldic art employed as a diplomatic instrument to check fate and the hot blood of kings. The skald Gotþormr sindri proposes a solution. He reasonably suggests that Hálfdan and Eiríkr are to retain their territories as originally assigned by their father, and are to cease trying to expand them. And all becomes more or less quiet, until the succession to Haraldr’s throne becomes an issue some years later. The noteworthy thing about this episode is that Jórunn’s poem Sendibit seems to have been one of the chief mechanisms by which it was retained in common memory, such that Snorri could recount it three hundred years later. If Haraldr hárfagri was in fact Jórunn’s direct employer, she would have been at court together with Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldr’s most celebrated skald. It is tempting to conclude that they had some contact with each other, since they share one line, ‘hreggs dǫglinga tveggja’

14  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds (‘the storm of the two princes’). Besides occurring in Jórunn’s Sendibit, it is also found in Þorbjǫrn’s Glymdrápa (Noise-Ode), a praise-poem recounting some of Haraldr’s battles. The Flateyjarbók manuscript of Óláfs saga helga uniquely calls Jórunn not skáldmær (‘poet-maiden’) but skjaldmær (‘shield-maiden’). Given that Óláfr helgi Haraldsson (St. Olav), the protagonist of that saga, was known to station his male warrior-poets around him in the shield-wall for the better subsequent recording of great battle-deeds, it is tempting to think of Jórunn playing such a role for Haraldr, however thin the evidence might be.


The Biting Message

Bragningr réð í blóði, beið herr konungs reiði, (hús lutu opt fyr eisum) óþjóðar slo˛g rjóða.

Red with blood of wretches were royal prince’s weapons. Hirdmen angered Haraldr. Houses fell a-flaming.

The ruler managed to redden his weapons in the blood of ill-born people; the people suffered the king’s wrath; buildings often sank down in flames.

Harald frák, Hálfdan, spyrja herðibro˛gð, en lo˛gðis sýnisk svartleitr reyni sjá bragr, hinn hárfagra.

O Halfdan, Haraldr heard of the hard strokes of your sword. They seemed dastard doings and dark deeds to our Fairhair.

Þvít ríkr konungr rekka, reyr undlagar dreyra, morðs þá’s merkja þorðu magnendr, bjósk at fagna.

As highborn king of heroes his heart was stirred to action when magnifiers of murder dared mark their swords with bloodshed.

O Hálfdan, I heard that Haraldr Fairhair learned of forceful dealings. These deeds seem black to him because the mighty king of the heroes prepared himself to react, when the increasers-of-slaughter dared to color the reed-of-wound-fluid with blood.

Hvar vitu einka ˛orvir ˛orveðrs frama go˛rvan tunglrýro˛ndum tungla tveir jo˛frar veg meira an geðharðir gerðu

What more far-flung fame found can be among us than bestowed by two bold princes, bending far towards battle before hearing hawk-eyed Sindri?

I. Real People, Real Poetry  15

golls landrekar þollum (upp angr of hofsk yngva) óblinds fyr lof Sindra?

Hard-hearted lords repented. Gotþormr’s skillful skaldcraft softened stern dissension.

What do two very bold rulers know of the accomplished fame of the destroyers-of-battle-shield-ornaments, more honorable [fame] than the bold rulers gave to fir-trees-of-battle because of praise of unblind Sindri? Distress of lords ceased.

Hróðr vann hringa stríðir Haralds framm kveðinn ramman. Gotþormr hlaut af gæti góð laun kveðins óðar. Raunframra brá rimmu runnr skjo˛ldunga gunnar; áðr bjósk herr til hjo˛rva hreggs do˛glinga tvegg ja.

Strong ode from ring-destroyer strife stopped for King Haraldr. Good pay from goodly ruler Gotþormr got for skaldship. Pair of lordly princes poet moved to peacemake. Spears had planned for sword-storm, but saved were they from slaughter.

Haraldr’s ring-dismantler delivered the strong verses; Got­þormr got good rewards from the ruler for the poem he delivered; the battletree altered the strife of bold kings; previously the army had been preparing for the sword-storm of the two rulers.

16  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Gunnhildr konungamóðir (Gunnhildr, Mother of Kings) Tenth century, Norway Hákonar saga góða, in Fagrskinna, ch. 7 (ed. Bjarni Einarsson) or ch. 6 (ed. Finnur Jónsson) FJ IB, 54; Kock I, 34 SPSMA (ed. R. D. Fulk): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=poems&id=225

Gunnhildr assures her husband, Eiríkr Blood-Axe, that his brother Hákon has not drowned as the rumors say he has Readers familiar with Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar or Njáls saga will have met other fictionalized incarnations of Gunnhildr, who is usually presented in saga narratives as a colorful and vindictive sexual predator, skilled in magical arts. The passage in which this bravura half-stanza appears allows her to remain true to form as court gadfly. The news that Hákon, his brother and rival, has survived a rough crossing is not good news to Eiríkr – but Gunnhildr seems to delight in delivering it.

Hó˛- reið á bak bó˛ru borðhesti -kon vestan, sko˛rungr léta brim bíta bo˛rð, es gramr hefr Fjo˛rðu.

Hákon went on wave-back, from west he rode the board-horse; his ship was scarcely surf-bit as he soared into the Fjords.

Hákon rode the plank-horse from the west, on the back of the wave. The bold one did not let the tide bite his prow when he reached Firðir.4

Steingerðr Þórketilsdóttir Tenth century, Iceland Kormáks saga, ch. 6 (ed. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson) FJ IB, 35; Kock I, 50 SPSMA (ed. Edith Marold): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=poems&id=388

Steingerðr answers Kormákr’s verse proposal with a cryptic ‘yes,’ particularly ironic since Kormákr’s brother Fróði has been dead for years Kormákr Ǫgmundarson is one of a handful of Icelandic hero-poets fated to be unlucky in love. Here we see that his unachievable (and, indeed, unachieved) intended, Steingerðr, is remembered not only for the beautiful ankles enshrined in Kormákr’s poetry, but for some skaldic skill of her own as well. 4

Modern Fjordane, in western Norway.

I. Real People, Real Poetry  17 As numerous further examples will show in the poetic texts which follow, ‘ring-breaker’ (here: bauglestir) is a commonplace kenning for a noble warrior, because poetic conventions assumed that one sign of a great lord was the distribution of gold rings (or pieces of them).

Brœðr mynda ek blíðum, bauglestir, mik festa, yrði goð sem gerðisk góð mér ok sko˛p, Fróða.

Should the gods be goodly, grant Fate I’ll be mated with none else, O ring-breaker, other than – Fróði’s brother.

If it happens such that the gods and fate arrange things well for me, ring-breaker, I would betroth myself to the blithe brother of Fróði.

Þórhildr skáldkona (Þórhildr the Poetess) Tenth century, Iceland Njáls saga, ch. 34 (ed. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson) FJ IB, 95; Kock I, 55 SPSMA (ed. Russell Poole): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=poems&id=462

Þórhildr’s reproof to her husband, Þráinn Sigfússon, as he ogles a fourteen-year-old girl at a wedding celebration The narrator of Njáls saga is no friend to Þórhildr the skald, calling her orðgífr mikit, ‘a great troll with words.’ Here, with this poem, Þórhildr exhibits that edgy articulateness. The occasion is the wedding of Gunnarr á Hlíðarenda and Hallgerðr ‘Long-legs.’ After Þórhildr speaks her poetry, she is thrown out of the party. Her ex-husband, Þráinn, is now free. Accordingly, he is re-married at once, to the very girl who has caught his eye: fourteen-year-old Þorgerðr, daughter of the bride. Short epigrams in simple style like this one were called kviðlingar (‘little speeches’). They are typically uttered at times of heightened emotional tension, and are clearly meant to be remembered for their poignancy.

Esa gapriplar góðir, gægr es þér í augum.

Your manners are missing, Mister Bug-Eyes.

Open-mouthed staring is not proper. Your eyes are popping out.

18  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Bróka-Auðr (Auðr in Breeches) Tenth century, Iceland Laxdœla saga, ch. 35 (ed. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson) FJ IB, 172; Kock I, 92 SPSMA (ed. Guðrún Nordal): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=poems&id=11040

Auðr’s remark upon hearing that her husband has divorced her The story surrounding the production of this second kviðlingr is both like and unlike Þórhildr’s in Njáls saga. Both women are rejected by their husbands and react with a poetic outburst, but the subsequent events are quite different in each case. The narrator of Laxdœla saga calls Auðr ‘neither beautiful nor hardworking’ (ch. 32) but is clearly favorable to her, allowing her a stylish revenge – and a secured future, as an independent landowner – after her husband Þórðr Ingunnarson is seduced away by the dangerous Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir. Auðr has been accused of wearing men’s breeches, grounds for divorce under Icelandic law. Although the saga does not specify, most readers have assumed that the charge is a fabricated one. In any case Auðr makes sure to be wearing breeches when she has the satisfaction of stabbing her ex-husband (although not fatally) in his bed some months later.

Vel es ek veit þat, vas’k ein of latin.

Well to be ware of it when one’s been cast off.

It is well that I know it. I was left alone.

Steinunn Refsdóttir 999, Iceland Njáls saga, ch. 102 (ed. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson); Kristni saga, ch. 9 (ed. Sigurgeir Steingrímsson et al.) FJ IB, 127–8; Kock I, 71 SPSMA (ed. Russell Poole): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=skalds&id=4084

Steinunn mocks the Christian missionary Þangbrandr and his wrecked ship The story of Iceland’s peaceful transition to Christianity in the year 1000 is a common narrative trope in the sagas, whether it constitutes the central story or only appears as a backdrop to other events. Poems such as Hjalti Skeggjason’s sexually charged slander against Óðinn and

I. Real People, Real Poetry  19 Freyja (Njáls saga, ch. 102) on the one hand, and Steinunn’s praise of Þórr the boat-smasher on the other (found in the same chapter), remind us how emotionally fraught the debate must have been. Steinunn’s poem is metrically near-flawless. It has a fine, aggressive rhythm, echoing its sea-going topic, and lively kennings. There are a few slant rhymes where one would expect a perfect rhyme, but that is all. The stanza order below is that found in Njáls saga; in Kristni saga, the stanzas are reversed.5

Braut fyr bjo˛llu gæti (bo˛nd ro˛ku val strandar) mo˛gfellandi mellu mo˛stalls visund allan; hlifðit Kristr, þa’s kneyfði kno˛rr, málmfeta varrar; lítt hykk at goð gætti Gylfa hreins at einu.

Troll-shaker Þórr, he broke the dinged-up bell-ringer’s boat. He flayed the floating falcon. He foxed the ocean’s ox. Your Christ was mostly helpless when the sea-steed sipped too deeply. I believe you are bereft, for your brave God did not save you.

The killer-of-the-giantess’s kinsman [Þórr] broke the bison-of-thegulls’-place [ship] completely, to spite the bell-keeper [Christian priest]; the gods wrecked the falcon/horse-of-the-sea [ship]; Christ did not protect the ore-treader [shod horse] of the tide, when the ship was swamped; little, I think, did God protect Gylfi’s-reindeer [the ship].

Þórr brá Þvinnils dýri Þangbrands ór stað lo˛ngu, hristi blakk ok beysti barðs ok laust við jo˛rðu; munat skíð of sæ síðan sundfært Atals grundar, hregg þvít hart tók legg ja, hó˛num kennt, í spó˛nu.

Þórr snatched Þangbrandr’s longboat, thwacked it, smashed it, wrecked it, shook the prow-steed, plowed it precisely, nicely under. So sad! No more sliding of ski upon the sea-foam: god-gales grabbed the sail-horse, god-winds chewed its splinters.

Þórr took Þangbrandr’s long Þvinnill’s-beast [ship] far from its place, shook the horse-of-the-prow and beat [it] and struck [it] against the earth; the ski-of-Atall’s-ground will not be able to swim upon the sea from now on, because a fierce storm caused by him [Þórr] took to smashing it in fragments. 5

Einar Ólafur Sveinsson, ed., Brennu-Njáls saga, Íslenzk fornrit 12 (Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1954), 265–6.

20  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Þuríðr Óláfsdóttir pá Eleventh century, Iceland Heiðarvíga saga, ch. 22 (ed. Sigurður Nordal and Guðni Jónsson) FJ IB, 97; Kock I, 103–4 SPSMA (ed. Russell Poole): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=poems&id=483

Þuríðr, daughter of Óláfr the Peacock, urges her sons (Barði and his brothers) to avenge their dead brother Hallr This poem is delivered at the climax of an intense hvǫt (‘whetting’) scene in which Þuríðr serves her three surviving sons an unusual twocourse meal: first, a huge ox-leg cut in thirds, to remind them of Hallr’s dismembered body; and second, three stones, which are as hard to digest as the fact of Hallr’s death. The saga goes on to tell us that Þuríðr prepares to go with her sons on their vengeance journey to make sure that they follow through with it, but that Barði has arranged to have her saddle-cinch secretly loosened before she mounts. She falls off her horse and into a creek, and must stay behind.

Brátt munu Barða frýja beiðendr þrimu seiða; Ullr munt ættar spillir undlinns taliðr þinnar, nema lýbrautar látir láðs valdandi falda (lýðr nemi ljóð, sem kváðum), lauðhyrs boða rauðu.

They’ll call you full craven, my kinsman of ill fame. Kin-spoiler, coward, Barði the bashful! Rain blood with your blade on these brother-slayers! Pay heed to this poem, for people will scorn you.

The demanders-of-the-fish-of-battle will soon insult Barði’s courage; Ullr-of-the-wound-serpent, you will be counted the spoiler of your kin, unless you cause the offerers-of-foam-fire to wear red headcoverings, possessor-of-the-road-of-the-land-fish! May the people note the verse that I have spoken.

I. Real People, Real Poetry  21 Kerling í Tungu 1244, Iceland Þórðar saga kakala, ch. 25 (Króksfjarðarbók manuscript), in Sturlunga saga (ed. Guðbrandur Vigfússon, and ed. Jón Jóhanesson et al.) FJ IIB, 157–8; Kock II, 84 SPSMA (ed. Guðrún Nordal): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1488

An old woman at Sælingsdalstunga in Hvammsveit, one of the farms harried by Kolbeinn ungi Arnórsson’s men in acts of revenge against the Sturlungs (see Glossary of Names), complains of the recent violence This poem in skaldic style (dróttkvætt) is typical of many produced during the thirteenth-century Icelandic period of intense civil unrest called the Sturlung Age, retelling in a memorable form the details of recent violent acts, with names attached so that the community will know exactly who was responsible. Such poems would have been set to parchment almost immediately. The production of contemporary chronicles, large and small, was a minor cottage industry during this violent time, which concluded with Iceland’s submission to the authority of Norwegian king Hákon Hákonarson in 1262. For more Sturlung-Age poetry produced by women, see Section III.

Beinir Brandr til rána bróðir Páls í hljóði; hykk at hvergi þykki hvinn Broddi þó minni; hér var ólmr með Hjálmi Hallvarðr of dag allan; hann mun hefðarvinnu Hafr Bjarnar sonr varna.

Páll’s brother, brusque Brandr, breaks in and takes; both he and Broddi may bear that same fame. Here Hjálmr was harried hard, by harsh Hallvarðr: bad business only brings Bjo˛rn’s son to that man.

Brandr, Páll’s brother, promotes noisy plundering; I think that by no means does Broddi seem a lesser thief, however; Hallvarðr was fierce with Hjálmr6 here, all the day long; Hafr, Bjo˛rn’s son, will prevent him from doing honorable work.


Jón Jóhannesson suggested that this is not a name, but a simple noun (helmet), since Hjálmr á Víðivǫllum cannot have been present at the attack on Tungu (if this is in fact he); he was, as chapter 24 of the saga informs us, in Húnaþing with Kolbeinn ungi at the time. The two lines would then mean something like, ‘Hallvarðr was fierce under his helmet.’ Jón Jóhannesson et al., Sturlunga saga, II, 289.

II. Quasi-Historical People and Poetry


his second section contains material generically similar to that in the first section, largely culled from the more or less realistic narratives of the Icelandic family sagas. The following fragments, however, are less likely than those in Section I to be what they claim to be. Textual anachronisms, or tell-tale elements in the poems’ prose environments, make it less likely that these compositions can be attributed to historically attestable persons. The poems appear roughly in order of historical likelihood (most likely first). Fóstra Þórodds Þorbrandssonar (Þóroddr Þorbrandsson’s Foster-Mother) Ostensibly early eleventh century, Iceland

Eyrbyggja saga, ch. 63 (ed. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson and Matthías Þórðarson) FJ IB, 394–5; Kock I, 195 SPSMA (ed. Judy Quinn): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1340

Þóroddr’s foster-mother warns him about Glæsir, the ghost bull Eyrbyggja saga is known for its numerous hauntings, of which the bull Glæsir (Shiny, Glossy) is only one example. He is said to have been conceived when a cow licked up the funerary ashes of a bothersome human ghost. Like Gunnhildr konungamóðir (Section I) and many of the prophetesses (spákonur) of Section V, Þóroddr’s foster-mother finds herself in the unenviable position of telling a stubborn man a true prophecy that he does not want to hear. In this case the urgency of the speaker comes through with particular force, in these two intense dróttkvætt stanzas.

I say: beware the beast! It bodes blood when he bellows. I tremble, for this bull will break your body’s life. He’ll put fetters on your flesh. He’ll give to you slit sod, turned-up turf, earth-wounds, a grave: White-Hair sees plainly.

Haus knýr hjarðar vísi, hann ræðr of fjo˛r manna, hallar hristi mjallar hadds, blóðvita ro˛ddu; sá kennir þér sinna svarðristit ben jarðar: þat verðr, at fé fjo˛trar fjo˛r þitt, en sék go˛rva. 23

24  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

The herd-leader shakes his head with a blood-boding voice; he will kill people. The shaker-of-the-hair-of-snow [old woman] totters. He will teach you to go to a turf-cut wound in the earth [a grave]. It will happen that the animal will deprive you of your life, and I see it clearly.

Oft es auðar þopta œr, es tungu hrærir, sék á blóðgum búki bengrát, es ér látið. Tarfr mun hér, þvít horfa hann tekr reiðr við mo˛nnum, þat sér golls ens g jalla Gerðr, þinn bani verða.

I rave, I rant, I roar, I rage with tongue and teeth. I see your fallen body bathed in tears of blood. This bull burns with anger, with vengeful wrath toward men. Goddess of jingling gold sees this: I see it.

Often the rowing-bench of riches is [I am] frenzied, when she moves her tongue, according to your estimation; I see wound-tears [blood] on a bloody body. The bull will be your death here, because he is beginning to turn against men when angry. That, the Gerðr-ofjingling-gold sees [I see].

Arnfinnsdóttir jarls Ostensibly tenth century, Halland (Denmark then, Sweden today) Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar, ch. 48 (ed. Sigurður Nordal) FJ IB, 604; Kock I, 294 SPSMA (ed. Margaret Clunies Ross): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1424

Jarl Arnfiðr’s daughter mocks Egill’s prowess This imperfect dróttkvætt stanza and its surrounding episode seem to have no other purpose, in a saga otherwise studded with poetry, than to goad the youthful saga-hero, Egill Skalla-Grímsson, to further deeds. Its authenticity is thus suspect, but the scene is no less memorable.

Hvat skalt, sveinn, í sess minn? Sjaldan hefr þú gefnar vargi varmar bráðir, vesa vilk ein of mína; sátta hrafn í hausti of hræsolli g jalla,

Who said this seat was yours, boy? Seldom have you drawn sword. From you the wolf gets no flesh. My flesh likes sitting solo. You’ve never seen the crow caw on corpses slain at harvest;

II. Quasi-Historical People and Poetry  25

vastat at, þars egg jar á skelþunnar tunnusk.

when shell-sharp swords came slashing you shied away, and stayed home.

What are you doing in my chair, boy? You have seldom given warm flesh to the wolf. I would like to be alone with my own [flesh]. You did not see the raven in the autumn crowing over the corpseleavings. You were not there when the mussel-sharp swords rose to the attack.

Ármóðsdóttir skeggs Ostensibly tenth century, Norway Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar, ch. 71 (ed. Sigurður Nordal) FJ IB, 603–4; Kock I, 294 SPSMA (ed. Margaret Clunies Ross): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1425

The daughter of Ármóðr bóndi warns Egill to keep his temper; in vain, as it turns out Readers familiar with Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar will recognize this dróttkvætt poem as coming from the episode where the mercurial Egill Skalla-Grímsson memorably vomits in his host’s beard and later maims him, in a protest against bad hospitality. The warning is delivered sotto voce to a volatile poet; it makes perfect sense to have it couched in verse, the better to get his attention. Stylistically, this stanza echoes, and is most likely intended to echo, Egill’s own well-known boyhood boast-poem, which begins very similarly: Þat mælti mín móðir.

Því sendi mín móðir mik við þik til fundar ok orð bera Agli, at ér varir skyldið; Hildr mælti þat horna: haga svá maga þínum, eigu órir gestir œðra nest á frestum.

My mother has sent me to meet with you two, and warns you with words: Watch out, Egill’s men! She who sends ale out says your stomachs can wait; our guests will be getting gourmet food quite soon.

My mother sent me to meet you and bear the message to Egill that you [all] should be careful. The Hildr-of-horns said: Manage your stomach accordingly; our guests have expectation of better food.

26  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Unnr Marðardóttir Ostensibly tenth century, Iceland Njáls saga, ch. 7 (ed. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson) FJ IIB, 210–11; Kock II, 110–11 SPSMA (ed. Russell Poole): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5178 ff

Unnr uses poetry to explain to her father in greater detail why she wants a divorce Njáls saga recounts how the jealous spells of Queen Gunnhildr of Norway (Gunnhildr konungamóðir, Section I) have disabled her ex-lover Hrútr Herjólfsson in an unusual way. He has come home to Iceland and married Unnr Marðardóttir as planned, but their marriage cannot be consummated. As is ironically appropriate for a man named Hrútr (Ram), his problem is not impotency but hyper-potency. This situation makes the numerous warrior-kennings (spear-sharpener, bow-bender, blade-launcher), with which these stanzas are studded, particularly poignant. These dróttkvætt verses are found in only three of the dozens of manuscripts of this very popular saga, but two of those three are among the oldest and most complete, namely, Reykjabók and Kálfalækjarbók.

Víst segik gott frá geystum geirhvessanda þessum, þats sjálfráðligt silfra sundrhreyti er fundit; verðk, þvít almr er orðinn eggþings fyr gørningum (satt er at, sék við spotti) seg ja mart eða þeg ja.

I’d gladly say good things about my spear-sharpener: he would if he could, my ring-breaker lover. But this war-tree’s been hexed. There’s a spell on his spindle. I’m afraid folk will scorn me: I’ll say all, or be silent.

Certainly I speak well of this one-fiercely-engaged-in-spearsharpening, concerning that which is deemed that a silver-breaker has within his own control; because the elm-of-swordplay has become subject to sorcery (it is true that I would like to avoid scorn), I must say much or else be silent.

Víst hefr, hringa hristir, Hrútr líkama þrútinn, brjótr þás linnbeðs leitar lundýgr munuð drýg ja; leita ek með ýti undlinna þá finna

I’ll say fairly, my father, that Hrútr looms extra-large when he seeks hard to slake the salt thirsts of desire. I also try everything to aid the blade-launcher,

II. Quasi-Historical People and Poetry  27

yndi okkars vanda, aldræðr boði skjaldar.

to find a good fit for our pickle, my father!

Certainly, O shaker-of-rings, Hrútr has a swollen body, when the breaker-of-gold tries pugnaciously to carry out his desire; I try then with the sword-launcher to find satisfaction in our difficulty, O aged shield-offerer.

Þó veitk hitt, at hreytir Good father, I’ll grant that handfúrs, jo˛kuls spannar   my gracious gold-giver 1 meiðr, er jafnt sem aðrir knows a bow-bender’s business ýtendr boga nýtir, better than many. vilda ek við ˛oldu But I’d still like to split jókennanda þenna, from this skillful ship-master. rjóðr (lít orð ok íðir) My actions and words undlegs, skilit seg ja. both speak loud here, my father! Though I know that the scatterer-of-hand-fire, O tree-of-the-handglacier, is just as useful as other bow-benders, I would like to declare myself divorced from this tamer-of-wave-horses; behold [my] words and deeds, O sword-reddener.


Like ‘ring-breaker’ (see stanza 1, as well as Steingerðr Þórketilsdóttir, above), ‘gold-giver’ was a common kenning for a man of high rank.

28  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Bóndadóttir, Kerling, and Ambátt (Farmer’s Daughter, Farmwife, and Serving-Maid) Ostensibly 1029; a remote headland in northern Norway Vǫlsa þáttr (ch. 266 of Óláfs saga helga in Flateyjarbók manuscript), ed. Faulkes FJ IB, 237–9; Kock II, 123–4 SPSMA (ed. Wilhelm Heizmann): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5479 http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5480&val= http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5483&val= http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5485&val= http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5476&val=

St. Óláfr, fleeing his enemy Knútr (Canute the Great), offends his pagan hosts, who worship a preserved horse’s penis This story, in the form we have it, is clearly intended as an extended joke at the expense of superstitious and greedy peasants, as well as a vehicle to praise its Christian hero-king (who is traveling under an assumed name, ‘Grímr’) for his powers of observation and wit. There may or may not be remnants of authentic pre-Christian ritual hidden behind the story, especially the reference to magic done ‘atop the door,’ since the kind of sorcery known as seiðr is said to have been performed on an elevated platform (seiðhjallr). Who the Mǫrnir are, or is, is unknown. Suggestions vary from plural readings including ‘giantesses’ and ‘fertility goddesses’ to singular ones meaning ‘sword’ and thereby ‘[deified] phallus.’2 The name ‘Vǫlsi’ (horse’s penis) is elsewhere known to us as the source of the dynastic name of the Vǫlsungs, the family of Sigurðr Fáfnisbani the dragon-slayer. The poetry is in simple Eddic style.

Bóndadóttir Ek sé gull á gestum ok guðvefjar skikkjur. Mér fellr huga til hringa. Heldr vil ek bjúg en ljúga. Kenni ek þik, konungr minn. Kominn ertu, Óláfr. 2

Farmer’s Daughter I see gold on the guests, and goodly cloaks. I’d like those rich rings. Lame me if I lie, but I ken my own king: Óláfr is come.

See Rudolf Simek, Lexikon der germanischen Mythologie (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner, 2006), 474–5; and Clive Tolley, ‘Vǫlsa þáttr: Pagan Lore or Christian Lie?’, in Analecta Septentrionalia: Papers on the History of North Germanic Culture and Literature / Beiträge zur nordgermanischen Kultur- und Literaturgeschichte, ed. Wilhelm Heizmann, Klaus Böldl, and Heinrich Beck (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2009), 680–700.

II. Quasi-Historical People and Poetry  29

Farmer’s Daughter: I see gold on the guests, and cloaks of costly fabric. I desire the rings. I would rather be struck crippled than lie: I know you, my king. You have come, Óláfr.

Kerling Aukinn ertu, Vo˛lsi, ok upp of tekinn, líni gæddr, en laukum studdr. Þiggi mo˛rnir þetta blæti, en þú, bóndi sjálfr, ber þú at þér Vo˛lsa.

Farmwife I lift you up, Vo˛lsi, enlarged as you are, lapped in linen, studded with leeks. May the Mo˛rnir take this offering; but first, my husband, have you the Vo˛lsi.

Farmwife: You have grown, Vo˛lsi; you have been taken up, protected by linen, aided by herbs. May the trollwomen receive this offering; but you, man of the house – take the Vo˛lsi to you. Vo˛lsi goes from house-father to daughter

Bóndadóttir Þess sverk við Gefjun ok við go˛ðin ˛onnur, at ek nauðig tek við nosa rauðum. Þiggi mo˛rnir þetta blæti, en, þræll hjóna, þríf þú við Vo˛lsa.

Farmer’s Daughter I swear by Gefjun and other gods: this red ‘nose’ is what I would not like to hold. May the Mo˛rnir take this offering; but first, our houseboy, have you the Vo˛lsi.

Farmer’s Daughter: I swear by Gefjun and the other gods that I reluctantly take up this red ‘nose.’ May the trollwomen receive this offering; but you, servant of the household – you take the Vo˛lsi. Vo˛lsi goes from male slave to female

Ambáttin Víst eigi mættak við of bindask í mik at keyra, ef vit ein lægim

Serving-Maid I have a desire that I can’t deny: to drive him into me while lying alone

30  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

í andkætu. Þiggi mo˛rnir þetta blæti, en þú, Grímr, gestr várr, gríp þú við Vo˛lsa.

in some cosy corner. May the Mo˛rnir take this offering; but first, our guest Grímr, grasp you the Vo˛lsi.

Serving-Maid: Certainly I would not refrain from driving [the Vo˛lsi] into me, if we two lay together in a cosy spot. May the trollwomen receive this offering; but you, Grímr, our guest – you take the Vo˛lsi. Óláfr throws Vo˛lsi to the dog

Kerling Hvat er þat manna mér ókunnra, er hundum gefir heilagt blæti? Hefi mik of hjarra ok á hurðása, vita ef ek borgit fæ blætinu helga. Legg þú niðr, Lærir, ok lát mik eigi sjá, ok svelg eigi niðr, sártíkin ro˛g!

Farmwife Most uncouth of men and unknown to me, he gives to dogs this godly thing! High must I lift me over hinges and doorframes, to spell out a way to save what is holy. Lay it down, Lærir! Let me not see it. Don’t swallow it down, you damnèd dog!

Farmwife: What kind of man is this, unknown to me, who gives a holy offering to dogs? Lift me up onto the hinges and onto the doorbeams to find out if I can protect this holy offering. Put it down, Lærir, don’t let me see; and don’t swallow it, you vile hound!

II. Quasi-Historical People and Poetry  31 Ásdís á Bjargi Ostensibly 1031, Iceland Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar, ch. 83 (ed. Guðni Jónsson) FJ IIB, 476; Kock II, 260 SPSMA (ed. Andy Orchard and Jonathan Grove): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=4874

Grettir the Strong’s mother mocks her son’s killers when they come from Drangey Island bringing her his head Grettir’s mother delivers this dróttkvætt stanza in response to a stanza by Þorbjǫrn ǫngull in which he calls the dead outlaw a griðbítr (‘peacebreaker’) and his mother a nála nauma (‘needle-hag’). After Ásdís speaks her poem, her enemies are moved to remark that it is no wonder that she had a brave son, since she herself is so brave.

Mundut síðr en sauðir, Sýrar gráps, fyr dýri, komit es norðr at Njo˛rðum nýtt skaup, á sjá hlaupa, ef styrviðir stæði, stála Freyr, í eyju, verit hefk lofs of lýði létt, ósjúkum Gretti.

I know your news, for new tales have come north. High-hearted heroes: hosts against one man! My son was sick from your sorcerous spells, or else you’d have fled like feckless sheep.

You would, no less than a sheep, have fled before the wolf [lit., beast] to the sea, if the battle-tree had stood, if Grettir had not been sick on the island. O Freyr-of-steel [warrior], in the north new mockery would have affected the Njo˛rðr of Freyja’s sleet [warrior]; I would have been ready, otherwise, to give praise to people.

32  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Signý Valbrandsdóttir Ostensibly tenth century, Iceland Harðar saga ok Hólmverja, ch. 7 (ed. Þórhallur Vilmundarson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson) FJ IIB, 477; Kock II, 261 SPSMA (ed. Tarrin Wills): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=4998

The three-year-old saga-hero Hǫrðr, in taking his first steps, breaks his mother’s necklace. She speaks this stanza. This portentous stanza in skaldic style contains linguistic anachronisms (the nature of the rhymes in lines 6 and 8, and the use of ‘ei’ as a negative adverb in line 5) that mark it as no older than the fourteenth century. As an ornament to the scene in which it appears, it works very well, however.

Braut í sundr fyr sætu Sírnis hljóða men góða; ýta, trúik, at engi bœti auðar hlíði þat síðan. Gangr varð ei góðr ins unga gulls lystis inn fyrsti. Hverr mun héðan af verri. Hneppstr mun þó inn efsti.

Broke in bits before her, the lady lacks her necklace. No wretch can repair it: no righting for this wrong. Gold-hunter’s first foray failed to be a good one. Each step of his will worsen, but worst will be the last one.

[The boy] broke apart the good neckring-of-the-giant’s-voice [gold] in front of the woman; I believe that no one can repair it for the hillside-of-riches [woman] later. The first step of the young golddesirer was not a good one. Each step will be progressively worse from here on. The worst one, though, will be the last.

Þorbjǫrg Grímkelsdóttir Ostensibly tenth century, Iceland Harðar saga ok Hólmverja, ch. 11, 38 (ed. Þórhallur Vilmundarson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson) FJ IIB, 478 and 481; Kock II, 261 and 263 SPSMA (ed. Tarrin Wills): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5002 http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=4996&val=

Both of the following stanzas are used to dramatic effect within the saga-narrative. In the first one, Þorbjǫrg tells her brother Hǫrðr of her depth of feeling for him; in the second, she actively demonstrates it.

II. Quasi-Historical People and Poetry  33 When Þorbjǫrg’s husband Indriði comes home with a group of men and the news of Hǫrðr’s death, she serves them dinner to the accompaniment of the second stanza below. After that, she confronts Indriði at swordpoint and demands the head of Hǫrðr’s slayer, as well as sanctuary for his widow and two sons. The first stanza is in simple Eddic meter, while the second, in skaldic style, has the additional (and somewhat rare) ornament of end-rhyme. Its syllable-count is imperfect, making a tenth-century provenance unlikely. Þorbjǫrg reacts to her brother Hǫrðr’s pronouncement: ‘You will live longer than I’

Verðir þú, svá at ek vita go˛rla, vápnum veginn eða í val fallinn, þeim skulu manni mín at so˛nnu bitrlig ráð at bana verða.

If I found out that you were fallen, brought low by blades or slain in battle – that man who did it would be my foeman, and should best beware my bitter vengeance.

If you are slain with weapons or fallen in battle, such that I know fully of it, my bitter intentions will surely be the death of that man [i.e., your slayer]. Þorbjǫrg taunts her brother’s killers, among them her own husband, Indriði

Varð í hreggi ho˛rðu Ho˛rðr felldr at jo˛rðu, hann hefr átta unnit, Unns, ok fimm at gunni. Heldr nam grimmra galdra galdr rammliga at halda; mundi enn bitra branda brandr elligar standa.

They brought Ho˛rðr down, dashed him to the ground. He bested thirteen men in battle before then. If not for sorcerous will that sapped his battle-skill, that man of bitter brand would not have ceased to stand.

Ho˛rðr was felled to earth in a hard storm-of-Óðinn [battle]. He defeated eight-and-five [thirteen] men in battle. The magic of grim sorcery3 took hold rather strongly; otherwise, the staff-of-bitterswordblades would be still standing. 3

Meaning the ‘war-fetter’ or herfjǫtr (a paralyzing panic in the heat of battle) that caused Hǫrðr’s death.

34  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Helga Bárðardóttir Ostensibly tenth century, Iceland Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, ch. 5, 7 (ed. Þórhallur Vilmundarson and Bjarni Vilhjálms­son) FJ IIB, 482; Kock II, 263 SPSMA (ed. Margaret Clunies Ross): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=4714

These two fragments, one Eddic and one skaldic in style, are recited by the daughter of the semi-legendary Bárðr Snæfell’s-Hero in the fantastic saga that recounts his exploits. Helga recites the first one in a homesick moment in Greenland, where she is visiting the celebrated settler Eiríkr inn rauði (Eiríkr the Red). She has come to Greenland, all the way from Snæfellsnes, in unlikely fashion: namely, riding on a piece of drift-ice. Because of her mode of travel and her exceptional strength, some of the Greenlanders think her a troll, even though she is kvenna vænst (the most beautiful of women). She is human enough for Miðfjarðar-Skeggi, however, who is visiting from Iceland on business. She saves him from a family of trolls and he takes her on his travels to Norway and back to Iceland. Skeggi already has a wife in Iceland, however, and Helga’s scandalized father Bárðr takes her back into his home. Heartbroken, she declaims the second stanza below and presently disappears to spend the rest of her life haunting caves and craters, keeping people awake at night by playing her harp. Helga is homesick for Snæfellsnes

Sæl væra ek ef sjá mættak Búrfell ok Bala, báða Lóndranga, Aðalþegnshóla ok O˛ndverðnes, Heiðarkollu ok Hreggnasa, Dritvíkrmo˛l fyr dyrum fóstra.

How happy I’d be to behold once more Búrfell and Bali, both Lóndrangar, Aðalþegnshólar and O˛ndverðnes, Heiðarkolla and Hreggnasi, and Dritvík’s beach from the doorstep at home.

I would be happy if I could see Búrfell and Bali, both Lóndrangar, Aðalþegnshólar and O˛ndverðnes, Heiðarkolla and Hreggnasi, and the Dritvík gravel, from my foster-father’s door. Helga mourns further; for Miðfjarðar-Skeggi as well

Braut vilk bráðla leita. Brestr eigi stríð í flestu

Because of the gold-giver I must go soon from here.

II. Quasi-Historical People and Poetry  35

mér fyrir menja rýri. Mun ek dáliga kálast, þvít auðspenni unnak allteitum sefa heitum. Sorg mák sízt því byrg ja. Sitk ein. Trega greinum.

Strife eats my soul. In pain I will pine for my passion, once pure, glad and strong, that I had. I gape open with grief. I speak sorrow to myself.

Soon I will seek the road. Conflict in most things does not cease in me because of the dispenser-of-necklaces. I will waste away miserably because I loved the riches-spender with a glad and fervent heart. Thus I can hardly hide [my] sorrow. I sit alone. I explain [my] sorrow.

Ólǫf geisli (Ólǫf Sun-Ray)

Víglundar saga, fourteenth century; ch. 6 (ed. Jóhannes Halldórsson) FJ IIB, 488; Kock II, 266 SPSMA (ed. Kate Heslop): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5449

Ólǫf pines for Þorgrímr Eiríksson, not in vain as it turns out In the first vignette of the courtly flavored Víglundar saga, Ólǫf geisli, the beautiful daughter of one Þórir jarl in Norway, recites this dróttkvætt stanza on the occasion of her father’s arranging for her marriage to someone other than her true love. But the story ends happily, because her beloved, Þorgrímr Eiríksson, appears at the wedding and carries her off. The two flee to Iceland and become the parents of the hero of the saga.

Veit ek, at gullhrings gætir glaðr kveðr betr en aðrir; sá mun hljómr í heimi hauklanda Vo˛r granda. Engi er hirðir hringa hvítr svá, at ek til líta; einum vann ek eiða; ann ek vel bjo˛rtum manni.

I know the glad gold-giver speaks skald-verse with skill. That sound is sorrow to me so long as I’m alive. I do withdraw my love-gaze from any white ring-guardian. With one man I wound love-oaths; I wanted that bright warrior.

I know that the glad guardian-of-the-gold-ring4 speaks poetry better than others. That sound will make the goddess of the hawkland [i.e., lady, me] unhappy in the world. No fair keeper-of-rings is such that I care to gaze fondly on him. I made my pledge to one [man]. I loved the bright man well. 4

Gold-giver, ring-guardian: i.e., generous lord.

36  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Ketilríðr Hólmkelsdóttir

Víglundar saga, fourteenth century; ch. 12, 18, 21, 22 FJ IIB, 488–92; Kock II, 266–8 SPSMA (ed. Kate Heslop): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5460 ff

These irregularly rhymed dróttkvætt stanzas are charming ornaments to Víglundar saga’s romantic-comedy narrative, in which it becomes clear at the end that the heroine’s marriage to old Þórðr is one in name only and everyone can live happily ever after as the best of friends. (It is clear that we are no longer in the conceptual universe of, say, Njáls saga.) Ketilríðr mistakenly believes that her lover, Víglundr, and his best friend Trausti have been drowned by sorcery

Eigi má ek á ægi ógrátandi líta, sízt er málvinir mínir fyr marbakkann sukku; leiðr er mér sjóvar sorti ok súgandi bára. Heldr go˛rði mér harðan harm í unna farmi.

The waves make me weep. I don’t wish to see them, since my sweetest companions sank under the sea-cliffs. Swart seas are loathsome, and the sucking surf. Those tides brought a burden – they buried my joys.

I cannot look at the sea without weeping, since my beloved friends sank before the sea-cliffs. The blackness of the sea, and the sucking of the waves, are loathsome to me. Cruel grief was caused to me in the burden of the waves. Víglundr must go into exile; Ketilríðr mourns his loss

Skammt leidd ek skýran skrauta-Njo˛rð ór garði. Þó fylgdi hugr minn hánum hvers kyns konar lengra; munda ek leitt hafa lengra, ef land fyr lægi væri ok ægur marr yrði allr at grænum velli.

I walked awhile with him, but I wanted to walk longer. My feet just passed the fence; my heart followed still farther. If waves had been wide lands, had seas been grassy pastures, there would have been no limit to the length of my walk with him.

I followed the bright Njo˛rðr-of-ornaments for a short way out of the yard; still, my heart followed him farther, in every possible way. I would have walked even farther with him if there were land instead of ocean, and the terrible sea turned entirely into a green plain.

II. Quasi-Historical People and Poetry  37 Víglundr and Trausti return from abroad; they land at Gautavík, where Ketilríðr lives with Þórðr, her new husband

Kenni ek Víglund vænan Vánar elds, at kveldi – firn er, at fund minn girnist flaustra eims, ok Trausta. Gipt er gullhlaðs þopta grannvaxin nú manni, æ mun engi finnast ellri þeim í heimi.

Shining river’s gold gleams on Víglundr at evening. Glad is he to greet me. Good Trausti I see also. But I must say I am given to a new man in marriage. In the wide world there is no one more old and grey than he.

I recognize fair Víglundr of river-fire [gold], and Trausti, in the evening; it is wonderful that he is glad to see me. The slender goldcrowned rowing bench is [=I am] now married to a husband. There is none older than he in the world. Ketilríðr warns Víglundr at a chess game, saying that Þórðr has put him in check

Þoka mundir þú, Þundar, þinni to˛fl, inn g jo˛fli, (ráð eru tjalda tróðu teit) at ˛oðrum reiti.

Enwrapped in fair tapestry, the reed of riches makes remarks: Man, change that chessman’s station. I cheerfully suggest it.

Generous warrior, you should move your chessman to another square. That is the advice of the cheerful branch-of-tapestries.

III. Visionary Women: Women’s Dream-Verse


his section contains poetry heard by women in dreams, and later repeated to listeners as the dream is retold. Like Guðrún P. Helgadóttir,1 I have chosen to count these stanzas as the compositions of the dreamers. Although there are scattered examples of dream-poetry and portents throughout the family sagas and kings’ sagas, it is in Sturlunga saga, the thirteenth-century contemporary chronicle of Icelandic civil war and the last days of the Icelandic republic, that this narrative trope really comes into its own. All of the entries in the following section are from Sturlunga saga. In the visionary dreams of Sturlunga saga, the dreampersonage tends to be male when the dreamer is a woman, and is not uncommonly female when the dreamer is a man; but it will be noted that the longest entry below does not fit this pattern. The speakers of the poetry, within the various dream contexts recounted here, include ghosts, dead (or soon-to-be-dead) men and women, legendary figures and other supernatural agents. It is a common feature of Icelandic folklore to this day -- in which supernatural portents are taken quite seriously -- that the speech of ghosts and damned souls has several identifiable features, notably including the repetition of phrases, as in the old poetic spell-casting meter, galdralag. All of the entries in this section are in a simple Eddic style. Although they are not as metrically complex as the poetry in Sections I or II, for the golden age of skaldic poetry was long past, many of them are memorable pieces of poetry. A good example is Halldóra Þórðardóttir’s fragment, which echoes the earlier, anonymous Darraðarljóð (see below). All but one of these poetic visions are doom-prophecies presaging one of the great climaxes of Sturlunga saga, the fall of Sturla Sighvatsson at the battle of Ǫrlygsstaðir in 1238. The most memorable vision, however – and also the longest – refers to other climactic events, the burning of the farmstead at Flugumýrr (1253) and the subsequent battle of Þverá (1255).


Guðrún P. Helgadóttir, Skáldkonur fyrri alda, I, 131.


40  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Kona at Munka-Þverá 1238, Iceland Sturlunga saga: Íslendinga saga, ch. 130 (ed. Guðbrandur Vigfússon, and ed. Jón Jóhanesson et al.) FJ IIB, 153; Kock II, 82 SPSMA (ed. Guðrún Nordal): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1466

In the woman’s dream, an unidentified dream-man speaks This stanza is the first of a total of nineteen verse fragments received in dreams and visions by both men and women, recorded in the Íslendinga saga section of Sturlunga saga, all referring to the upcoming battle of Ǫrlygsstaðir, between the Sturlungs and the followers of Gizurr Þorvaldsson and Kolbeinn ungi Arnórsson. For all of the Sturlunga saga entries herein, the reader is encouraged to consult the Glossary of Names to keep the factions straight.

Saman dragask sveitir, svellir órói – varir mik ok varir mik, at viti Sturla. Ætla lýðir, þótt á laun fari – kemr vél fyrir vél – vélar at g jalda.

Men are being mustered. Malice is rising. I suspect, oh, I suspect that Sturla knows about it. Folk will pay in full to fight against this thing. They’ll use any foul trick: treachery for treachery.

Troops are being brought together. Unrest is growing. I suspect and I suspect that Sturla knows of it. Even though it be done in secret, the people intend to repay the betrayal. Betrayal is met with betrayal. Steinvǫr Sighvatsdóttir á Keldum 1238, Iceland Sturlunga saga: Íslendinga saga, ch. 134 (ed. Guðbrandur Vigfússon, and ed. Jón Jóhanesson et al.) FJ IIB, 154; Kock II, 82 SPSMA (ed. Guðrún Nordal): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1468

In Steinvǫr’s dream, her brother’s severed head, resting on the fencing of a deserted cattle-pen, speaks the following to Þorgrímr ór Gunnarsholti Another Ǫrlygsstaðir portent. Sturla Sighvatsson was in fact fated to die in the battle, after sustaining numerous head wounds.

III. Visionary Women: Women's Dream-Verse  41

Sit ek ok sék á svarit Steinvarar. Hví liggr hér á vegg ho˛fuð í ørtro˛ð?

I sit here seeking Steinvo˛r’s reply: Heavy hangs a head on this wall. What for?

I sit and I look for Steinvo˛r’s answer: Why is there a head here, on the cattlepen-wall in the overcrowded pasture? Halldóra Þórðardóttir (from the Fljót district of Skagafjǫrðr) 1238, Iceland Sturlunga saga: Íslendinga saga, ch. 136 (ed. Guðbrandur Vigfússon, and ed. Jón Jóhanesson et al.) FJ IIB, 155; Kock II, 83 SPSMA (ed. Guðrún Nordal): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1475

In Halldóra’s dream, an unidentified dream-man speaks Another Ǫrlygsstaðir portent. The language echoes the death-song of the valkyries (Darraðarljóð), purportedly from the Battle of Clontarf (1014), cited in Njáls saga and featured below in Section V.

Røkkr at éli, rignir blóði, hrýtr harðsnúinn hjalmstofn af bol.

Clouds gather. Gore falls like rain. The stubborn head is snapped from its body.

The sky darkens with storm. Blood rains down. The hard-twisted [stubborn] helmet-stump [head] is flung from the torso. Kona ein í Svartárdal 1238, Iceland Sturlunga saga: Íslendinga saga, ch. 136 (ed. Guðbrandur Vigfússon, and ed. Jón Jóhanesson et al.) FJ IIB, 155; Kock II, 83 SPSMA (ed. Guðrún Nordal): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1467

Spoken to a woman from Svartárdalr in a dream by a ‘large and evillooking man’ Another Ǫrlygsstaðir portent. An identical stanza, similarly delivered by a ‘large and evil-looking’ (‘mikill ok illilegr’) male dream-messenger, is also recorded five chapters earlier as having been received in a dream-

42  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds vision by an unnamed man in Borgarfjǫrðr.2

Sumar munat þetta svarflaust vesa, rýðr rekka sjo˛t rauðu blóði. Herr mun finnask fyr hraun ofan, þar mun blóð vakit betra en eigi.

I don’t prophesy peace for this summer, but battalions bespattered in bloody crimson. On slag-fields the swordsmen are seen to swarm. Bloodshed’s more likely than the lack of it is.

This summer will not be devoid of strife; the dwelling-places of warriors will be reddened in red blood. An army will meet together, up on the lava fields; there blood will flow, more likely than not.

Þuríðr at Fellsenda í Dǫlum 1238, Iceland Sturlunga saga: Íslendinga saga, ch. 136 (ed. Guðbrandur Vigfússon, and ed. Jón Jóhanesson et al.) FJ IIB, 156; Kock II, 83 SPSMA (ed. Guðrún Nordal): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1480

Sturla Sighvatsson, on the eve of his death, appears in a dream to Þuríðr and speaks the following Another Ǫrlygsstaðir portent.

Hverir vo˛ktu mér varman dreyra? Segið mér, ok segið mér, sárt vask leikinn. Ætlask virðar – ok veit Tumi: gleðr mik ok gleðr mik – Gizur veiða.

What butchers bathed me in this warm blood? Say their names, say their names! Sorely they dealt with me. Trusty men take up arms, and Tumi knows of it. I am glad, I am glad. Gizurr will pay for this.

Who drenched me in warm blood? Tell me, tell me! I have been illtreated. Men intend (and Tumi knows it: it cheers me, it cheers me) to hunt Gizurr down. 2

Guðbrandur Vigfússon, ed., Sturlunga saga, I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1878), 365; Jón Jóhannesson, Magnús Finnbogason and Kristján Eldjárn, eds., Sturlunga saga, I (Reykjavík: Sturlunguútgáfan, 1946), 418.

III. Visionary Women: Women's Dream-Verse  43 Kona skammt frá Þingeyrastað 1238, Iceland Sturlunga saga: Íslendinga saga, ch. 136 (ed. Guðbrandur Vigfússon, and ed. Jón Jóhanesson et al.) FJ IIB, 157; Kock II, 83 SPSMA (ed. Guðrún Nordal): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1483

A woman near Þingeyrastaðr hears an invisible man speak the following stanza Again, an Ǫrlygsstaðir portent.

Leikr es í norðri, lýðir berjask, þeir vilja Gizur geirum sveipa; munat þeir Gizur geirum sveipa.

Blades in the north bristle in battle. Spear-storm seeks to swallow Gizurr; spear-flood fails to follow Gizurr.

There is sport in the north. Warriors fight. They want to strike Gizurr with spears all round; they will not strike Gizurr with spears.

Jóreiðr Hermundardóttir í Miðjumdal 1255, Iceland Sturlunga saga: Íslendinga saga, ch. 190 (ed. Guðbrandur Vigfússon, and ed. Jón Jóhanesson et al.) FJ IIB, 158; Kock II, 84–5 SPSMA (ed. Guðrún Nordal): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1489 ff

Guðrún Gjúkadóttir appears to the young Jóreiðr The legendary pagan heroine, Guðrún Gjúkadóttir, appears to the sixteen-year-old Jóreiðr in dreams, reporting to her about the burning at Flugumýrr (1253) and the battle of Þverá (1255). The chief combatants at Þverá included Þorvarðr Þórarinsson, Sturla Þórðarson and Þorgils skarði Bǫðvarsson on the one side, and Hrafn Oddsson and Eyjólfr ofsi Þorsteinsson on the other (see the Glossary of Names). Both the burning at Flugumýrr and the battle of Þverá have already occurred when, as the saga tells us, Jóreiðr í Miðjumdal3 hears about them from her dream-woman in July of 1255. But the full version of the 3

Now Miðdalur, in Biskupstungnahreppur.

44  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds violent news has not yet trickled down to southern Iceland where Jóreiðr lives, near today’s Biskupstungnahreppur (not far from Þingvellir), in the house of a priest and farmer named Páll – either as his wife or maidservant, although the saga is not clear on this point. Jóreiðr’s concerns do not seem to be political. She wants to know how her kinsmen have fared. It is striking that her dream-woman, Guðrún Gjúkadóttir, is one of the grand figures of ancient pagan legend from the Continent; she was the rival of Brynhildr Buðladóttir (see the first entry in Section IV). Julia McGrew suggested that Guðrún’s presence may be meant to suggest an irony of history repeating itself:4 Guðrún married an enemy (Atli Buðlason) with disastrous results, serving as an example to those who would resolve feuds by marriage, as had been attempted at Flugumýrr. Prose sections are included in small print, for continuity. ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘From the north, the abode of the dead.’ ‘What do you know of Þorvarðr (Þórarinsson)?’ ‘I know everything about him.’

Hann es hurð fyr heim brynjaðr í sveim, eru brennumenn þá, mannhundar, hjá, mannhundar hjá.

By his house-door he bides, byrnied for battle. Fiends wait with fire, false dogs that they are. False dogs that they are!

He stands at home before the door, armored amidst battle. Now the burners, the villains, are nearby, villains nearby. ‘Is there any meaning in what you say to me?’

Mark es þér, sem þínum fo˛ður ok ˛ollum yðr áttniðjungum.

There is meaning for you and for your father, and all of your other family and kin.

There is a meaning for you, as well as for your father and all of your kinsfolk. ‘Where are the burners?’

Eru menn þá, er þeim vegnar svá: 4

The snare is snapped; fate has them trapped.

Julia McGrew, tr., Sturlunga saga, 2 vols. (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1971), I, 476.

III. Visionary Women: Women's Dream-Verse  45

heldr vísak þeim í helju heim, í helju heim.

Those men I would tell to go straight to Hel, to go straight to Hel.

Now the men are where circumstance has brought them: I would rather show them the way to Hel, the way to Hel. ‘What do they intend, since fate has brought them thus far?’ ‘They intend, with their wickedness, to bring heathendom upon this whole country.’ ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘From the northern districts.’ ‘What do you know of Þorvarðr?’

Nú es Þorvarði þro˛ngt of hjarta, þó es buðlungi bót it næsta, bót it næsta.

Now is Þorvarðr thronged by woe. But soon the chief shall have good cheer, shall have good cheer.

Now Þorvarðr’s heart is heavy, although better things are coming for that lord, better things coming. ‘What about Steinólfr, his brother?’

Nú es Steinólfr í styrstraumi á stagli píndr með Agli. Ves þú vinr vinar míns, en ek mun með svinnum at saka bótum.

Now Steinólfr, amid the strife, aches on the rack with Egill beside him. Be faithful to me and befriend my friend, and I shall surely seek redress.

Now Steinólfr, in the battle, is tortured on the rack with Egill. Be a friend to my friend, and I will, with a wise man, find a remedy for his offenses. ‘Why do you not ask me anything, even my name? . . . I am Guðrún Gjúkadóttir.’ ‘What are heathens doing here?’ ‘It doesn’t concern you whether I am Christian or heathen – but I am a friend to my friends.’ ‘What do you know of Gizurr Þorvaldsson?’

Minnir milding morgun sáran. Hvárt mun Gizuri ganga at óskum?

That man remembers a mournful morning. Do you guess that Gizurr will get what he wants?

46  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Vildak at óskum ˛oðlings syni ˛oll ævi sín eftir gengi.

I’d want the wishes of that warlord’s son to be all fulfilled for the rest of his life.

The lord is reminded of a painful morning. Will things go for Gizurr according to his wishes? I would that things should go according to his wishes, for the son of a lord, for all their lives. ‘What would happen in that case?’ ‘Then he would rule Iceland until he dies.’ ‘Do you think well of him?’ ‘Quite well.’ ‘What do you think of Þorvarðr?’ ‘All birds who fly high seem good to me.’ ‘What do you think of Hrafn?’5 ‘All black birds are loathsome to me.’ ‘What do you think of Þorgils skarði?’6 ‘I think ill of all birds who foul their nests.’

Seg Þorvarði þessa grímu, ungum auðskata, ef þik eptir spyrr. En þótt þik eigi eptir fregni, þó skaltu seg ja syni oddvita.

Tell Þorvarðr (the young thane) this night’s business, if he seeks the news. And even if he asks you not, let the young lord hear what has happened.

Tell Þorvarðr, the young chieftain, about this night, if he asks you afterwards. And even if he doesn’t ask for news afterwards, tell him, the nobleman’s son, anyway. ‘Now this has happened to you three times, because all good things come in threes. It is no less true that God’s Trinity is good.’

Jóreiðr sees Guðrún again, dragging Eyjólfr Þorsteinsson by the tail of her horse, in punishment for the burning at Flugumýrr

Þá vas betra, er fyr baugum réð Brandr inn ˛orvi ok burr skata. 5 6

It was better before, when Brandr presided – a mild gold-giver and a goodly man.

Hrafn was Eyjólfr’s partner in the Flugumýrr burning (1253), who fought against Þorvarðr, Sturla and Þorgils at Þverá (1255). Þorgils was Þorvarðr’s and Sturla Þórðarson’s partisan in the Þverá battle.

III. Visionary Women: Women's Dream-Verse  47

En nú es fyr lo˛ndum ok lengi mun Hákon konungr ok hans synir.

But now king Hákon and his kinsmen will rule these lands for long years to come.

It was better then, when Brandr the generous, and the son of the man, managed the finances. But now Hákon the king and his sons are over the lands, and it will be for a long time.

IV. Legendary Heroines


he three speaking poets in the following section come from the paradoxical world of the legendary sagas (fornaldarsögur) – written down relatively late (typically in the thirteenth or fourteenth century) in terms of saga-writing, but assembled from very early narrative material, going back to the time of the early tribal migrations in northern Europe (ca. 350–600). Historical events, locations and persons from the Migration Age appear in the fornaldarsögur in altered but recognizable form, with little importance given to historical chronology, just as they do in analogous narratives from other northern European literatures – e.g., Beowulf, although Beowulf is five or six centuries older than these sagas. These legendary sagas are exemplified by such stories as those of Sigurðr Fáfnisbani (Fáfnir’s Bane) and Brynhildr the Valkyrie; the Danish king Hrólfr kraki, who – like his Beowulfian analogue, Hroðgar – needs a foreign hero with a B-name to save his mead-hall from a monster; and Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir, the curse-daring shield-maiden, wielding her fated ancestral sword, Tyrfingr. References to actual events and persons sprinkled throughout the legendary sagas include the great battle between the Goths and the Huns in 451, and figures such as Attila the Hun and the Gothic chieftains Theodoric and Ermanaric. Vǫlsunga saga, perhaps the most celebrated of these legendary sagas, tells the full version of Brynhildr the shield-maiden’s tragic story. The Eddic poem from the Codex Regius (but not found in the saga) that is included immediately below allows her an otherwise unprecedented opportunity to speak for herself, at some length.


50  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Brynhildr and Gýgrin (the Trollwoman) in Helreið Brynhildar (Brynhildr’s Ride to Hel) Codex Regius GKS 2365 4to, late thirteenth century Also in Nornagests þáttr, Flateyjarbók manuscript (FSNL I) Neckel, Edda, rev. Kuhn, 219–221 Klaus von See et al., Kommentar, VI, 489–565

Riding to the Otherworld in the funerary wagon in which her body has lately been immolated, the legendary heroine Brynhildr defends the life she has lived This poem displays some of the inconsistencies of the larger narrative complex in which it is embedded. Is Brynhildr an ordinary mortal woman who happens to frequent battlefields, has a famous brother (Atli, i.e. Attila), and falls foul of a family of vindictive royal Burgundians whose names start with G? Or is she an immortal valkyrie, and a lapsed favorite of the god Óðinn? Vǫlsunga saga can be read to support either interpretation. This poem enables her to tell her story her own way. One hopes that she will get her Sigurðr after all.

Gýgrin Skaltu í go˛gnom ganga eigi grjóti studda garða mína; betr semði þér borða at rekja heldr en vitja vers annarrar.

Trollwoman You cannot come through my caverns, my rock-founded realms underground. Better for you to beat at a loom, and not hanker after someone’s husband.

Trollwoman: You shall not go through my domains, built on rocks; it would have been more seemly for you to weave tapestries than to chase after someone else’s man.

Hvat skaltu vitja af Vallandi, hvarfúst ho˛fuð, húsa minna? 1

Foreign woman and fickle-headed, what do you want with me and my house?

Gustav Neckel, ed., rev. Hans Kuhn, Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1962).

IV. Legendary Heroines  51

Þú hefir, Vár gullz, ef þik vita lystir, mild, af ho˛ndum mannz blóð þvegit.

Goddess of gold, you were not free of guilt when you wiped and washed wet blood from your hands.

What are you looking for – foreign one, fickle-headed – at my house? Gracious Vár-of-gold, you have, if you care to hear, washed a man’s blood from your hands.

Brynhildr Bregðu eigi mér, brúðr, ór steini, þótt ek værak í víkingo; ek mun okkar œðri þykkja, hvars menn eðli okkart kunno.

Brynhildr You cannot stay me, stone-bride, whether or not I have waged war. Men might judge between me and you, but clearly I come of a higher kindred.

Do not hinder me, woman from the rock, though I have been on a viking journey; of the two of us, I would be considered nobler, anywhere that men knew of our origins.

Gýgrin Þú vart, Brynhildr Buðla dóttir, heilli versto í heim borinn; þú hefir Gjúka um glatat bo˛rnom ok búi þeira brugðit góðo.

Trollwoman But you, Brynhildr, Buðli’s daughter, were born in the world to the worst of fortunes. You have killed all Gjúki’s kin and struck to the ground their goodly house.

You, Brynhildr Buðli’s daughter, were born into this world with the worst fortune; you have destroyed the children of Gjúki and ruined their fair house.

Brynhildr Ek mun seg ja þér, svinn, ór reiðo,

Brynhildr I’ll share wisdom from my wagon,

52  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

vitlaussi mjo˛k, ef þik vita lystir, hvé gørðo mik Gjúka arfar ástalausa ok eiðrofa.

if you, fool, will hear what I have to say. It was Gjúki’s kin who caused my end: loveless, alone and an oath-breaker.

Very foolish one, I the wise one will tell you from my wagon, if you care to hear, how Gjúki’s heirs made me loveless and an oath-breaker.

Lét hami vára hugfullr konungr, átta systra, undir eik borit; var ek vetra tólf, ef þik vita lystir, er ek ungom gram eiða seldak.

Covered in cloaks by courageous king we lay, eight sisters under the oak. To tell the truth, I was twelve years old when I gave promises to the young prince.

The brave king had our cloaks, [those] of eight sisters, brought under an oak. I was, if you care to hear, twelve winters old when I gave my oaths to the young prince.

Héto mik allir í Hlymdo˛lom Hildi undir hjálmi, hverr er kunni.

Helmet-Hildr they called me, those in Hlymdalir who knew me.

All the people in Hlymdalir who knew me called me Hildr-underthe-helmet.

Þá lét ek gamlan á Goðþjóðo Hjálm-Gunnar næst heljar ganga; gaf ek ungom sigr Auðo bróður. Þar varð mér Óðinn ofreiðr um þat.

I sent Hjálm-Gunnarr on the Hel-road. I gave the old Goth a warrior’s end, allowing Auða’s young brother to win. Óðinn was angry with me for that.

Then next I caused old Hjálm-Gunnarr of the Goths to go to Hel. I gave victory to Auða’s young brother, and Óðinn was very angry with me.

IV. Legendary Heroines  53

Lauk hann mik skjo˛ldom í Skatalundi, rauðom ok hvítom, randir snurto; þann bað hann slíta svefni mínom, er hvergi lanz hrœðaz kynni.

I lay locked under shields in Skatalundr, white and red, their rims touching. Óðinn put spells to prolong my sleep: none but the fearless could free me from them.

He imprisoned me with shields in Skatalundr, red and white ones. Their edges touched each other. Then he commanded my sleep to be broken by one who knew no fear anywhere.

Lét um sal minn, sunnanverðan, hávan brenna her allz viðar; þar bað hann einn þegn yfir at ríða, þannz mér fœrði gull þatz und Fáfni lá.

Óðinn bespelled the southern walls with fearful flames, the foe of all trees. Only one thane could ride through it, who brought bright gold from Fáfnir’s bed.

On the south side of my hall he commanded the enemy-of-allwood, [piled] high, to burn. Then he commanded that one man would ride over it, the one who would bring me the gold that had lain under Fáfnir.

Reið góðr Grana gullmiðlandi, þars fóstri minn fletjom styrði; einn þótti hann þar ˛ollom betri víkingr Dana, í verðungo.

The good gold-giver on Grani’s back came to the court of my foster-father. He bore himself better than the bench-sitters there, most like a Viking of the valiant Danes.

The good gold-giver rode Grani to where my foster-father ruled the roost. Alone, there he seemed better than all in the crowd – a viking of the Danes.

54  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Sváfo vit ok unðom í sæing einni, sem hann minn bróðir um borinn væri; hvártki knátti ho˛nd yfir annat átta nóttom okkart legg ja.

Sweetly we slept in a single bed, as if he had been my born brother. For eight nights neither of us two laid hand on the other in lust or love.

We slept in joy in one bed, as if he were born my brother. Neither of us laid a hand over the other for eight nights.

Því brá mér Guðrún Gjúka dóttir, at ek Sigurði svæfak á armi; þar varð ek þess vís, er ek vildigak, at þau vélto mik í verfangi.

Then said Guðrún, Gjúki’s daughter, that I had slept in Sigurðr’s arms. And thus it happened, what I had not wanted; they tricked me into taking a husband.

Then Guðrún, Gjúki’s daughter, said I had slept in Sigurðr’s arms. And I found out what I did not want – that they had tricked me into a marriage.

Muno við ofstríð allz til lengi konor ok karlar kvikvir fœðaz; Vit skolom okkrom aldri slíta, Sigurðr, saman – søkkstu, gýg jarkyn!

Fierce feuding fills the lives of women and men in this mortal world. Sigurðr and I shall never be split one from another. Step aside, trollspawn!

For all too long, women and men are born to live their lives in extreme strife. The two of us, Sigurðr and I, will never be split apart. Sink down, troll-kin!

IV. Legendary Heroines  55 Signý Hálfdansdóttir Setting: Legendary Denmark Hrólfs saga kraka, ch. 3 (FSNL I) FJ IIB, 250; Kock II, 130 SPSMA (ed. Desmond Slay): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5121

A legendary heroine laments her brothers’ fate The legendary saga of the Danish king Hrólfr kraki dates from the late Middle Ages, but it has its roots in fifth- and sixth-century history. The Signý of this poem is the aunt of the hero-king. Her tragedy is that she has married an enemy of her clan and must watch the degradation of her family.

O˛ll er orðin ætt Skjo˛ldunga, lofðungs lundar, at limum einum; bræðr sá ek mína á berum sitja, en Sævils rekka á so˛ðluðum.

The tree of my kin (the Skjo˛ldung kings) is blasted now, with barren branches; bareback my brothers bestride their horses, while Sævill’s soldiers sit on saddles.

The Skjo˛ldung line, kingly branches, have all turned into bare twigs; I saw my brothers sit bareback, while Sævill’s warriors sat on saddles.

56  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir (Hervararkviða) Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks konungs, ch. 4 (ed. Jón Helgason) Heusler and Ranisch, Eddica Minora, 13–20 SPSMA (ed. Hannah Burrows): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5006 ff

A shield-maiden finds out the truth about her dead father; she goes to his grave to confront his ghost and demand her inheritance That the following poem (here reproduced with a few stanzas from a preceding scene)2 should have been a favorite of anthologists for several hundred years is no surprise. It contains a number of memorable elements: its young, warlike heroine, traveling (disguised as a man) with a band of viking raiders, the haunted grave-ground, and, not least, the presence of a deadly curse. As the saga-narrative reveals throughout, tragedy must ensue for any wielder of the sword Tyrfingr, since it carries the curse of the captive dwarf smiths who were forced to forge it. Relative to that curse, there is particular irony in Hervǫr’s insisting that she does not care – as long as she may claim the sword – if her descendants kill each other in future generations; they are, of course, now fated to do exactly that. Hervǫr’s berserker father and eleven berserker uncles are also found in the saga of Arrow-Oddr (Ǫrvar-Odds saga; see Sections V and VI), where their deaths are recounted in greater detail. Hervǫr’s visit to a parent’s grave to recover an heirloom of value has an analogue in more familiar folk narrative, in the Grimms’ version of Cinderella. An additional curiosity perhaps worth noting is that the Danish island of Sámsey (Samsø), where the legendary-saga tradition sets this scene – portraying it as the haunted site of dead berserkers and cursed weapons – is chiefly known today for summer cottages and aquatic sports.


The original texts of these additional stanzas – the first five below – are borrowed from Christopher Tolkien’s edition of Hervarar saga: Christopher Tolkien, ed. and tr., The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise (Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1960), 10–12; they are absent in the Heusler edition. (The resulting orthography mismatches are due to Tolkien’s favoring of the R manuscripts, while Heusler prefers Hauksbók. See Tolkien, Heidrek, xxix–xxxi.) There are also two narrative stanzas interspersed further down for continuity, drawn from E. V. Gordon’s edition of the poem in Introduction to Old Norse, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957, 143–4). (Gordon’s choice of stanzas, and their order, largely follows Guðbrandur Vigfússon and F. York Powell, Corpvs Poeticvm Boreale [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1883, 163–8].)

IV. Legendary Heroines  57

Hervo˛r Áka ek várri vegsemð hrósa, þótt hon Fróðmars fengi hylli; fo˛ður hugðumk ek frœknan eiga, nú er sagðr fyrir mér svína hirðir.

Hervo˛r Pitiful praise is our family’s portion, even though Fróðmarr favored Tófa. I thought I had a father of fame, but people are saying it was pigs he herded.

I have no need to praise our reputation, even though she [Tófa, my mother] gained the praise of Fróðmarr.3 I thought I had a famous father, but now people say to me that he was a swineherd.

Bjarmi jarl Logit er mart at þér of lítil efni, frœkn með fyrðum var faðir þinn taliðr; stendr Angantýs ausinn moldu salr í Sámsey sunnanverðri.

Jarl Bjarmi These are lies, little worth noting. A worthy warrior was your warlike father. Angantýr’s howe, a hollowed hill, stands on Sámsey, south of here.

Much that is said to you is a lie of little account. Your father was counted as brave among the warriors. Angantýr’s hall, covered with dirt, stands on Sámr’s island, south of here.

Hervo˛r Nú fýsir mik, fóstri, at vitja framgenginna frænda minna; auð mundu þeir eiga nógan, þann skal ek ˛oðlask, nema ek áðr fo˛rumk.

Hervo˛r Uncle, I’ll go there, the graves to see: the dim howes of my dead kindred. A fine blade may be buried there; that prize is mine, unless I perish.

Foster-father, now I am eager to visit my departed kinsmen. They must have considerable treasure. I will get it, unless I die first. 3

It is impossible to identify who Fróðmarr is: see Tolkien, Heidrek, 91.

58  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Skal skjótliga af sko˛r búa4 blæju líni, áðr braut fari; mikit býr í því, er á morgin skal skera bæði mér skyrtu ok ólpu.

Swiftly I’ll strip the lapped linen from my hanging hair before I leave. Much depends on the morning’s tasks: to make me a man’s mantle and shirt.

Swiftly the linen wrapping will come off of my hair before I depart. Much depends on having both a shirt and a cape tailored for me in the morning.

Bú þú mik at ˛ollu sem þú bráðast kunnir, sannfróð kona, sem þú son myndir; satt eitt mun mér í svefn bera, fæ ek ekki hér ynði it næsta.

Mother, make for me man’s clothing, what I would wear if I were your son. My dreams have shown me but one destiny: I’ll not find happiness here at home.

Prepare everything for me as fast as you can, wise woman, as if you were making it for a son. One true thing my sleep reveals to me: I will get no joy here at all.

Narrator Hitt hefr mær ung í Munarvági við sólar-setr segg at hjo˛rðu.5

Narrator The young maid met a man on the Munarvág shore; he watched his flock under waning sunlight.

A young maiden met with a man herding his flocks in Munarvágr at sunset. 4


Tolkien cites this sensible emendation by Finnur Jónsson, but then declines to use it, printing instead the ‘um skǫr’ of the manuscripts (Tolkien, Heidrek, 11). The difference is between taking off a linen headcloth (as here) and putting one on (as in Tolkien). Gordon, Introduction, 143.

IV. Legendary Heroines  59

Hirðir Hverr er einn saman í ey kominn? gakktu greiðliga gistingar til!

Herdsman Who has arrived alone on this island? Go to a guest-house, get you to shelter!

Who has come alone to the island? Go quickly to a guest-house.

Hervo˛r Munkat ek ganga gistingar til, þvíat ek engi kann eyjarskegg ja; segðu hraðliga, áðr heðan líðir: hvar ró Hjo˛rvarði haugar kendir?

Hervo˛r I can go to no guest-house nor get me to shelter, for none on this island knows my face. Say to me swiftly the answer I’m seeking: where are the howes of Hjo˛rvarðr’s kin?

I may not go to any lodgings, since I know no one on the island. Tell me quickly before you leave: where are the burial mounds named for Hjo˛rvarðr?

Hirðir Spyrjattu at því, spakr ertu eigi, vinr víkinga, þú ert vanfarinn; fo˛rum fráliga, sem okkr fœtr toga! allt er úti ámátt firum.

Herdsman Unwisely you ask for answers best hidden. Friend of vikings, vain is your journey. Let our feet take us far, as fast as we can. Horrors are here for anyone human.

Do not ask that. You are not wise, vikings’ friend. You have come to the wrong place. Let us go from here as fast as our feet can go. Everything out here is ghastly for mortals.

Hervo˛r Men bjóðum þér máls at g jo˛ldum;

Hervo˛r Talk, and a treasure I’ll tender to you.

60  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

muna dreng ja vin dælt at letja; fær eigi mér fríðar hnossir, fagra bauga, svát at ek fara eigi.

But it’s hard to hinder a blade-brother: I’ll take no bribes to abandon my quest – no rich rings nor bright bracelets.

I offer you a necklace in return for this conversation. It’s hard to hinder the friend of warriors. No one can give me fair treasures or pretty rings to halt my journey.

Hirðir Heimskr þykki mér, sá er heðra ferr, maðr einn saman, myrkvar grímur; hyrr er á sveimun, haugar opnask, brenn fold ok fen: fo˛rum harðara!

Herdsman I hold you half-witted to come hither, one man alone under murky shadow. Grave-mounds gape open and ghost-fires rise up. The bogs are burning. Begone! We must flee!

Anyone who comes here – a man by himself under dark shadows – seems foolish to me. The fire is soaring. The mounds are opening. The fields and swamps are burning. Let us run faster!

Hervo˛r Hirðumat fælask við fno˛sun slíka, þótt of alla ey eldar brenni! látum okkr eigi liðna rekka skjótla skelfa! skulum við talask.

Hervo˛r Why should we fear such foolish talk? Let all the island be awash in ghost-fire. We shall have no fear of departed forebears, nor shudder to seek speech with these dead.

Let us not be frightened by such nonsense, even if fires burn all over the island. Let us not quickly tremble at departed warriors. We must talk with them.

IV. Legendary Heroines  61

Narrator Var þá féhirðir fljótr til skógar mjo˛k frá máli meyjar þessar, enn harðsnúinn hugr í brjósti of sakar slíkar svellr Hervo˛ru.6

Narrator Fast fled that herdsman forest-ward. Weary was he of weird talk. But Hervo˛r’s heart was high in her: the grim grave-ground gave her no pause.

The herdsman went swiftly to the forest, away from the speech of this girl. But Hervo˛r’s resolute heart swells in her bosom, thinking of such things.

Hervo˛r Vaki, Angantýr! vekr þik Hervo˛r, einga dóttir ykkur Tófu; selðu ór haugi hvassan mæki, þann er Sváfrlama slógu dvergar!

Hervo˛r Wake, Angantýr! Hervo˛r wakes you – your only daughter, and Tófa’s too. Give from the grave the grim blade, smithed by dwarfs for Sváfrlami.

Wake, Angantýr! Hervo˛r wakes you, the only daughter of yourself and Tófa. Give me the sharp sword from out of the mound, the one that the dwarfs forged for Sváfrlami.

Hervarðr, Hjo˛rvarðr, Hrani, Angantýr, vek ek yðr alla und viðar rótum, hjálmi ok með brynju, hvo˛ssu sverði, ro˛nd ok með reiði, roðnum geiri.

Hervarðr, Hjo˛rvarðr, Hrani, Angantýr! Arise and wake under wooden roots: in helms and byrnies, bright swords bearing, shields and riding-gear and reddened spears.

Hervarðr, Hjo˛rvarðr, Hrani, Angantýr! I wake you all under the tree-roots, in helm and with mail-shirt, with sharp sword, with shield and with chariot, with bloody spear. 6

Ibid., 144.

62  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Mjo˛k eruð orðnir, Arngríms synir, megir meinsamir, moldar at auka, er engi skal sona Eyfuru við mik mæla í Munarvági.

Sons of Arngrímr, (awesome warriors!), dust you must be, damp mold merely! Do Eyfura’s kinsmen lack the courage to meet with me in Munarvágr?

Arngrímr’s sons, kinsmen battle-ready, you must have already descended to dust, since none of the sons of Eyfura wishes to talk with me in Munarvágr.

[Hervarðr, Hjo˛rvarðr, Hrani, Angantýr!] Svá sé yðr ˛ollum innan rifja, sem ér í maura mornið haugi, nema sverð selið, þat er sló Dvalinn; samira draugum dýrt vápn fela.

Hervarðr, Hjo˛rvarðr, Hrani, Angantýr! Bare may your ribs be and rotten with vermin, itch upon itch ever beset you, if you yield not the death-dealer Dvalinn forged; what good for a ghost is a grim-edged weapon?

May it be with you all, inside your ribs, as if you rested in an anthill, unless you give up the sword which Dvalinn forged. It is not seemly for ghosts to hide a costly weapon.

Angantýr Hervo˛r dóttir, hví kallar svá, full feiknstafa? ferr þú þér at illu! œr ertu orðin ok ørvita, villhygg jandi, vekr menn dauða!

Angantýr Hervo˛r, daughter, doom fills your words! Curses suit poorly a shield-maid so highborn. Wild your thoughts are, and wanting in wit, if in truth you desire dead men to awaken.

Hervo˛r, daughter! Why do you call on us full of curses? This is unseemly of you. You have turned crazy, and wanting in wit, thinking wildly, to awaken dead men.

IV. Legendary Heroines  63

Grófat mik faðir niðr né frændr aðrir; [two missing lines] þeir ho˛fðu Tyrfing tveir er lifðu, varð þó eigandi einn of síðir.

Neither father nor mother these mounds did make for us, [’twas Arrow-Oddr dug them, destroyer of us all.] The two men who lived took Tyrfingr away. One perished soon after. The sword is not here!

My father did not bury me, nor other kinsmen. [Probable missing lines: My foemen laid me in this mound.] Two men who lived took Tyrfingr, but afterwards only one owned the sword.

Hervo˛r Segðu eitt satt! svá lati áss þik heilan í haugi, sem þú hafir eigi! trauðr ertu at veita Tyrfing hvassan arfa þínum, einga barni.

Hervo˛r Give me the truth! May some god doom you to burial alive, if the blade is not here, if Tyrfingr is lost! Truly, ’tis ill-done to hold back an heirloom from your only heir.

Tell me one true thing! May a god leave you whole in the mound, if you do not have it! You are reluctant to yield keen-edged Tyrfingr to your heir [and] only child.

Angantýr Hnigin er helgrind, haugar opnask, allr er í eldi eybarmr at sjá; atalt er úti um at litask; skyntu, mær, ef þú mátt, til skipa þinna!

Angantýr The hell-gate opens, the howes are open: fearsome fires fathom the island, gruesome to gaze on, ghastly to view. Get away, girl, go to your ships!

The hell-gate is open, the mounds open up. The surface of the island is all aflame. It is terrible to look at out here. Hurry, girl, if you can, to your ships!

64  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Hervo˛r Brennið ér eigi bál á nóttum, svá at ek við elda yðra fælumk; skelfrat meyju muntún hugar, þótt hón draug séi í durum standa.

Hervo˛r I need more than burning balefires at dusk to force me to fear: flames do not stop me. Hervo˛r’s heart heeds no danger, though walking dead in doorways stand.

No flames that you burn at night could make me fear your fires. The heart in this maid’s breast does not tremble, even if she sees a ghost standing in the door.

Angantýr Segi ek þér, Hervo˛r, – hlýttu til meðan, vísa dóttir! – þat er verða mun: sjá mun Tyrfingr, ef þú trúa mættir, ætt þinni, mær, allri spilla.

Angantýr Hearken, Hervo˛r, highborn daughter, hear me tell your hapless fate: this bitter blade I bear, this Tyrfingr, will author the ending of all your kin.

I say to you, Hervo˛r, daughter of princes – listen, meanwhile, to what will happen! This Tyrfingr, if you will believe me, will destroy all of your kinsmen, maiden.

Muntu son geta, þann er síðan mun Tyrfing bera ok trúa afli; þann munu Heiðrek heita lýðar, sá mun ríkstr alinn und ro˛ðuls tjaldi.

A son you shall have, a swordsman mighty; Tyrfingr he’ll bear, and trust his own might. Heiðrekr he’ll hight, this hardy hero; he will stand strong under the sky-tent.

You will bear a son, who later will wield Tyrfingr and trust in his might. Men will call him Heiðrekr. He will be the most splendid man nourished under the sun’s canopy.

IV. Legendary Heroines  65

Hervo˛r Ek vígi svá virða dauða, at ér skuluð allir ligg ja, dauðir með draugum, í dys fúnir; selðu, Angantýr, út ór haugi dverga smíði! dugira þér at leyna.

Hervo˛r Kindred, I cast you a lasting curse: restful repose I wrest from you; may you rot here, restless, with the wretched dead. Give me, Angantýr, the grim sword; it’s unwise to hide that dwarf-made blade.

Thus I curse you dead men, that you may all lie dead among the ghosts, rotting in the howe. Give me the dwarfs’ work from out of the mound. It is not seemly for you to hide it.

Angantýr Kveðkat ek þik, mær ung, mo˛nnum líka, er þú um hauga hvarfar á nóttum gro˛fnum geiri ok með Gota málmi, hjálmi ok með brynju fyr hallar dyrr.

Angantýr Hervo˛r, I hold you hardly human, stealing by night to stalk our grave-ground; with graven spear and Gothic armor, with helm and byrnie our hall-doors to face.

Young maiden, I consider you hardly human – you, who walk around barrows at night with graven spear and Gothic metal, with helm and with mail-shirt before the mound’s door.

Hervo˛r Maðr þóttumk ek menzkr til þessa, áðr ek sali yðra sœkja réðak; selðu ór haugi þann er hatar brynjur, hlífum hættan Hjálmars bana!

Hervo˛r Nay, normal am I, in no wise uncommon, at least until I essayed this quest. Give from the grave the gasher of mail-shirts, hater of hard shields, Hjálmarr’s bane.

66  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

They thought I was human enough for this, before I decided to seek your hall. Give me from the mound that which hates mail-shirts: Hjálmarr’s bane, dangerous to shields.

Angantýr Liggr mér und herðum Hjálmars bani, allr er hann útan eldi sveipinn; mey veit ek enga moldar hvergi, at þann hjo˛r þori í hendr nema.

Angantýr Buried beneath me is Hjálmarr’s bane, enfolded in flames from hilt to point; no mortal maid of mankind’s tribe would dare catch and keep so curst a thing.

Under my shoulders lies Hjálmarr’s bane. It is encircled with flames all around. I know no maiden anywhere on earth who would dare take that sword in her hands.

Hervo˛r Ek mun hirða ok í hendr nema, hvassan mæki, ef ek hafa mættak; uggi ek eigi eld brennanda: þegar loga lægir, er ek lít yfir.

Hervo˛r I would catch and keep so keen a blade, and guard it well, if gain it I could. For fire and flames I feel no fear; see! they subside when stared upon straightly.

I would guard and take in my hands the sharp sword, if I might have it. I do not fear the burning flames, since the fire lessens as I look at it.

Angantýr Heimsk ertu, Hervo˛r, hugar eigandi, er þú at augum í eld hrapar! Heldr vil ek selja sverð ór haugi, mær en unga, mákat ek synja.

Angantýr I hold you half-witted to harbor this horror, and foolish, to face the fires unprotected. But I cannot, daughter, deny your desire: I give from the grave the grim blade.

IV. Legendary Heroines  67

You are foolish, Hervo˛r, to have the thought to rush open-eyed into the fire. I would rather give you the sword from the mound. Young maiden, I would not deny you.

Hervo˛r Vel gørðir þú, víkinga niðr, er þú seldir sverð ór haugi; betr þykkjumk nú, buðlungr, hafa, en ek Nóregi næðak ˛ollum.

Hervo˛r Virtue you have, viking kinsman, to give from the grave the grim blade; peerless, beyond price, this princely thing, nobler to own than Norway entire.

You do well, kinsman of vikings, that you give me the sword from the mound. O prince, I think now that it is better to have it than to acquire all of Norway.

Angantýr Veizt eigi þú – veso˛l ertu mála, fláráð kona! – hví fagna skal; sjá mun Tyrfingr, ef þú trúa mættir, ætt þinni, mær, allri spilla.

Angantýr Fey and frightful, these fell words of yours; high-hearted you are, but hollow your joy. This bitter blade I bear, this Tyrfingr, will author the ending of all your kin.

Your words are ill-fated, false-spoken woman. You do not know what you rejoice at. This Tyrfingr, if you will believe me, will destroy all of your kinsmen, girl.

Hervo˛r Ek mun ganga til g jálfrmara; nú er hilmis mær í hugum góðum: lítt hræðumk þat, lofðunga niðr, hvé synir mínir síðan deila.

Hervo˛r I’ll haste away hence; high is my mood. Death-dealer’s daughter departs over sea now. I care for no curses, O kinsman of kings: I care not if my kin kill one another!

68  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

I will go to the sea-steed [ship]. Now the hero’s daughter is in good humor. Little do I fear, O kinsman of kings, how my sons will fight later on.

Angantýr Þú skalt eiga ok una lengi, hafðú á hulðu, Hjálmars bana, takattu á egg jum, eitr er í báðum; sá er mannz mjo˛tuðr meini verri.

Angantýr Long shall you have and hold this blade. Take care how you touch this Tyrfingr, I tell you. Painted with poison are point and both edges; a dealer of doom and death it is.

You shall own, and enjoy for a long time, Hjálmarr’s bane. Hold it by the scabbard and do not grasp it by the edges, since there is poison on both of them. It is the worst dispenser of evil to men.

Far vel, dóttir! fljótt gæfak þér tólf manna fjo˛r, ef þú trúa mættir, afl ok eljun, allt et góða þat er synir Arngríms at sik leifðu.

Hearken, Hervo˛r, heed my farewell: if you’d give me hearing, gladly I’d grant you stamina and strength – such as we had, Arngrímr’s twelve sons, ere all were slain.

Farewell, daughter. I would swiftly give you the strength of twelve men, if you would believe me – strength and endurance and all the good things the sons of Arngrímr lost in death.

Hervo˛r Búið ér allir – brott fýsir mik – heilir í haugi! heðan vil ek skjótla; helzt þóttumk nú heima í millim, er mik umhverfis eldar brunnu.

Hervo˛r May fate keep and hold you hale in your howes; rest there unroused. The road calls me on. Unease I felt now at these unearthly things, when between the worlds the balefires burned.

IV. Legendary Heroines  69

I must be going. May you all stay well in the mound. I must leave soon. I certainly felt between the worlds just now, when all around me the fires were burning.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens


hat many of the legendary skalds in this diverse section have in common with the equally loquacious (but more inhuman1) trollwomen in Section VI is that their primary purpose in a given narrative is to serve as a speaking foil or a bearer of news to a male listener. The attitude of these legendary women skalds toward the said legendary heroes varies widely, from mild and flirtatious to pugnacious and hostile. Some of the skalds in this section are valkyries or air-riding spirits, and some are giant-maidens, and thus only marginally human; these tend also to be foresighted prophetesses. Others are ordinary human women with a prophetic gift, or a skill for casting curses (or even magical weapons). Still others are simply out-of-town girls, despite the exotic features of the narratives they find themselves in. These last are thus the legendary or foreign equivalents of Egill Skalla-Grímsson’s playful interlocutors, found in Section II. Skalds who are witches, pagan priestesses or prophetesses often address a reluctant or inimical male audience, as the foresighted Gunnhildr konungamóðir did (see Section I); those who have no such powers may (or may not) be met with a friendlier reception, presumably because they are less threatening figures. One of the texts below comes from an Eddic poem of the Codex Regius, and one from the otherwise realistic world of the Icelandic family saga (Njáls saga, in this case); but the others are drawn from the liminal world of the legendary sagas, the fornaldarsögur (see the introduction to Section IV).


The admittedly arbitrary line of demarcation between Sections V and VI was set thus: Section V, non-trolls; Section VI, trolls. With particular reference to the set of texts in this collection, ‘troll’ may simply be an ethnic slur for ‘foreigner,’ though (see the introduction to Section VI).


72  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Heiðr vǫlva Codex Regius GKS 2365 4to, late thirteenth century Neckel, Edda, rev. Kuhn, 5, stanza 22

Vǫluspá 22, the tasks of a seeress I include this extract here because of its description of the work of a spákona (prophetess), as well as its mention of one prophetess’s multivalent name ‘Heiðr’ (Clear, or Bright, or Honor, or Heath – as in the home of heathens). This name is in fact applied to a number of spákonur in both poetry and prose. The common use of this name (or title? or term of opprobrium?) as designating a wise woman is perhaps traceable to this poem. Although many of the stanzas in Vǫluspá are spoken from a firstperson perspective, the speaker may be either be referring, in this thirdperson stanza, to her own work as prophetess; or, just as well, to the work of another.2

Heiði hana hétu hvars til húsa kom, vo˛lu vel spá, vitti hon ganda; seið hon, hvars hon kunni, seið hon hug leikinn, æ var hon angan illrar brúðir.

They called her Clear-minded when she came to the houses, and Seeress; she spoke her spells with a staff. Witch-tricks she worked: she worked them wild-minded. Wicked wise-women welcomed her always.

They called her Heiðr [bright one] when she visited houses, and a vo˛lva [prophetess]; she knew well how to prophesy with magic staves; she knew how to do magic, she worked magic while out of her wits, she was always a joy to wicked women.


Ursula Dronke sees the narrator and ‘Heiðr’ as separate figures; see The Poetic Edda, Volume II: Mythological Poems, ed. and tr. Ursula Dronke (Oxford University Press, 1997), 27–30, 99–101. By contrast, John McKinnell draws a variant conclusion, namely, that ‘Heiðr’ should be read as the poem’s narrator; see ‘On Heiðr,’ Saga-Book of the Viking Society 25 (2001), 394–417. W. H. Auden and Paul B. Taylor, in their popularized translation of 1970, chose to present the Heiðr stanza using the first person; see W. H. Auden and Paul B. Taylor, The Elder Edda: A Selection (London: Faber and Faber, 1970), 144.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  73 Darraðarljóð Njáls saga, ch. 157 (ed. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson) FJ IB, 389–92; Kock I, 192–4 SPSMA (ed. Russell Poole): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=33 ff

The saga tells us how this poem was seen and heard in a vision by a man named Dǫrruðr, on Good Friday, 1014, in Caithness, Scotland – on the morning of the battle of Clontarf in Ireland. In it, valkyrie-women weave a bloody tapestry, prophesying of battle. This much is known: the battle of Clontarf was fought on Good Friday, 1014, between the forces of Munster (under Brian Boru) and Leinster (under Máelmorda mac Murchada and many allies). However, although the Njáls saga text explicitly connects the poem below with that battle, there are too many mismatches to make that connection smoothly; the poem’s somewhat generic warlike images make it equally applicable to any number of events. Still, attempts have been made, for instance, to connect the ‘young king’ of stanza 4 with Sigtryggr silkiskegg, the Norse king of Dublin, who was an enemy and a complicated in-law (both sonin-law and stepson) of Brian Boru, who has in turn been connected to the ‘doughty king’ in stanza 7. Sigtryggr, however, was not present on the battlefield that day.3

Vítt es orpit fyr valfalli rifs reiðiský; rignir blóði. Nú’s fyr geirum grár upp kominn vefr verþjóðar, es vinur fylla rauðum vepti Randvés bana.

Widely we stretch our weaving-warp: the ribs of our loom rain down blood. Warriors’ lives fill our grey web. With red threads we work the warp, weave the weft, fulfill Óðinn’s will.

The hanging cloud of the loom crossbar is stretched wide before the slaughter. Blood rains down. Now the grey web of men is raised up on spears, which the women friends-of-Randvér’s-slayer [friends of Óðinn] fill in with a red weft.


An excellent summary of the scholarship surrounding the poem’s potential historicity is contained in Russell G. Poole’s Viking Poems on War and Peace: A Study in Skaldic Narrative (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991).

74  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Sjá er orpinn vefr ýta þo˛rmum ok harðkléaðr ho˛fðum manna; eru dreyrrekin do˛rr at sko˛ptum, járnvarðr yllir enn ˛orum hrælaðr; skulum slá sverðum sigrvef þenna.

The web is warped with warriors’ guts. The warp is weighted with heavy heads. Bloody spears support the loom. With iron-shod shuttle, with arrows for beaters and swords for stiffeners, we shape our weaving.

This web is strung with men’s entrails and heavily weighted with men’s heads. Blood-soaked spears are used for supports. The shuttle is iron-clad, and arrows are used as battens. We will forge this victory web with swords.

Gengr Hildr vefa ok Hjo˛rþrimul, Sanngríðr, Svipul sverðum tognum. Skapt mun gnesta, skjo˛ldr mun bresta, mun hjalmgagarr í hlíf koma.

Hildr weaves, and Hjo˛rþrimul; Sanngríðr and Svipul, with sweeping swords. Spear-shafts will clash and targes will shatter. The helmet-hound will harry the shield.

Hildr goes a-weaving, and Hjo˛rþrimul, Sanngríðr and Svipul with drawn swords. Shafts will clash, shields will break. The helm-hound [ax] will strike the shield.

Vindum, vindum vef darraðar, þann er ungr konungr átti fyrri! Fram skulum ganga ok í folk vaða, þar er vinir várir vápnum skipta.

We weave, we weave the web of spears: the young war-king once owned this weaving. We follow forward where folk are fighting, where favored friends wield their weapons.

We weave, we weave the spear-web, that which the young king previously owned. We will go forth and walk among the people, where our friends exchange weapons.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  75

Vindum, vindum vef darraðar ok siklingi síðan fylg jum! Þar sjá bragnar blóðgar randir, Gunnr ok Go˛ndul es grami fylgðu.

We weave, we weave the web of spears. We come in the wake of the war-chief. Swordsmen will see their shields bloodied, where Gunnr and Go˛ndul go to follow the king.

We weave, we weave the spear-web, and afterwards follow the prince to war. The heroes will see bloody shields, where Gunnr and Go˛ndul followed the prince.

Vindum, vindum vef darraðar, þar er vé vaða vígra manna! Látum eigi líf hans farask: eigu valkyrjur vals of kosti.

We weave, we weave the web of spears, where brave banners of warriors are waving. Let us not let his life be lost! Valkyries decide who dies and who lives.

We weave, we weave the spear-web, where the banners of fighting men are waving. Let us not let his life be lost. Valkyries have the choice of the slain.

Þeir munu lýðir lo˛ndum ráða, er útskaga áðr of byggðu; Kveð ek ríkum gram ráðinn dauða. Nú er fyrir oddum jarlmaðr hniginn.

Outland lords will rule the lands, who once dwelt on the windy nesses. A doughty king is doomed to die. Spears will strike and a jarl will fall.

Those men will rule the lands who used to settle on outer headlands. I say a mighty king is doomed to death. Now a jarl has fallen under spears.

Ok munu Írar angr of bíða, þat er aldri mun

The grief of this day will grow for Ireland, and men shall always

76  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

ýtum fyrnask. Nú er vefr ofinn, en vo˛llr roðinn. Mun um lo˛nd fara læspjo˛ll gota.

hold it in memory. Our web is full woven and the field fully reddened. This sad tale of strife will be sounded abroad.

The Irish will also experience grief, such that men will always remember it. Now the web is woven and the battlefield reddened. The ill tale of warriors will travel through the lands.

Nú er ogurligt um at lítask, es dreyrugt ský dregr með himni; mun lopt litat lýða blóði, es sóknvarðar syng ja kunnu.

Bloated with blood, red clouds veil the sky – gruesome to gaze on, ghastly to view. The blood of heroes hues the heavens, but the battle-women can still sing.

Now it is terrible to look around, as the bloody cloud floats against the sky. The sky will be dyed with the blood of men, but the battlewomen still know how to sing.

Vel kváðu vér um konung ungan; sigrhljóða fjo˛lð syngum heilar: en hinn nemi, er heyrir á, geirfljóða hljóð ok gumum segi!

We have praised in full the fair young king. We end in good cheer our warlike chanting. Let him who hears this pay heed and hearken, and sing to all men the spearwomen’s song!

We have spoken well about the young king; in health we sang many victory songs. But let him who listens take note of the spear-women’s song, and tell it to men.

Ríðum hestum, hart út berum, brugðnum sverðum á brott héðan!

We ride, we ride in fast foray, with swords held high, away from here!

We ride fast away from here on horses without saddles, with our swords drawn.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  77 Grottasǫngr: Fenja and Menja Setting: Legendary Denmark Snorri Sturluson, Edda: Skáldskaparmál, ed. Faulkes, I, 52–7, stanzas 159–82

The Mill-Song, sung by the giant maidservants of Fróði Friðleifsson, the great-uncle of king Hrólfr kraki of Denmark The tale of the magic mill which grinds out whatever the owner desires, here called Grotti, has analogues in Finnish tradition (the Sampo of the Kalevala) as well as in the Norwegian folktale collection of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe (‘Kvernen som står og maler på havsens bunn’). In every incarnation of the tale, the mill is a mixed blessing. Here the story serves as a warning to imperious masters, or perhaps as a sermon against greed. King Fróði – whose name means both ‘wise’ and ‘fertile’, but who, as the poem ironically shows, lives up to neither designation – is ignorant of the impending danger emanating from his slaves’ quarters, failing to identify the giant lineage, and potential power, of the thrall-women Fenja and Menja.4 Hrólfr kraki’s father Helgi married his own daughter unwittingly, which is why Yrsa is both Hrólfr’s sister and mother (stanza 22 below). However, in contrast to Sigurðr’s half-brother Sinfjǫtli of Vǫlsunga saga, Hrólfr is not negatively affected by his incestuous origin.

Nú eru komnar til konungs húsa framvísar tvær, Fenja ok Menja; Þær ró at Fróða Friðleifssonar máttkar meyjar an mani hafðar.

Now have come to the king’s houses two far-seeing ones, Fenja and Menja: mighty maidens, kept as menials by King Fróði Friðleifsson.

Now two seeresses have come to the king’s houses, Fenja and Menja. They, mighty maidens, are kept for thralls by Fróði Friðleifsson.


Clive Tolley, ed. and tr., Grottasǫngr: The Song of Grotti (London: The Viking Society for Northern Research, 2008). Tolley also connects these giantesses and their mill with the three powerful giantesses of Vǫluspá, who upset the gods’ chess game; both groups of ‘mátkar meyjar’ (‘mighty maids’: see stanza 1, below) wield anarchic female might against a male power structure.

78  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Þær at lúðri leiddar váru ok grjóts grjá gangs of beiddu. Hét hann hvárigri hvíld né ynði, áðr hann heyrði hljóm ambátta.

They were made to go to the grinding-mill, commanded to keep the mill moving. He rendered to them no respite, no rest: he had to hear always the hum of their working.

They were led to the mill’s platform and bidden to set the grey stones in motion. He allowed them neither rest nor satisfaction until he heard the song of the thrallwomen.

Þær þyt þulu þo˛gnhorfinnar: ‘Legg jum lúðra, léttum steinum.’ Bað hann enn meyjar, at þær mala skyldu.

The mill made moans, ceasing its silence. ‘Let us lift up our load and set up these stones.’ Still he goaded those girls to start up their grinding.

They cause creaking in the silence-banished [mill]. ‘Let us set up the mill, lift up the stones.’ Then he commanded the maids again to grind.

Sungu ok slungu snúðgasteini, svá at Fróða man flest sofnaði; þá kvað þat Menja (var til meldrs komin):

They sang and they spun the spinning stone, and Fróði’s house-slaves fell to sleeping. Then Menja said, there by the mill:

They sang and turned the whirling stone, so that Fróði’s servants mostly slept; then Menja said, who had come to the grinding:

‘Auð mo˛lum Fróða, mo˛lum alsælan, mo˛lum fjo˛ld fjár á feginslúðri. Siti hann á auði. Sofi hann á dúni, vaki hann at vilja, þá es vel malit.

‘For Fróði, good fate; For Fróði, fine fortune; much money we grind on the mill for him. May he rest on riches, sleep on soft bedding, wake when he wills it: then we have ground well.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  79

‘We grind riches for Fróði, we grind to make him blessed, we grind great amounts of money on the lucky mill. May he sit on heaps of riches, sleep on down, wake when he wants to; then we have ground well.

‘Hér skyli engi ˛oðrum granda, til bo˛ls búa né til bana orka, né ho˛ggva því hvo˛ssu sverði, þó at bana bróður bundinn finni.’

‘No one here shall wound another, work baleful deeds or be a man’s bane, nor hew another with heavy blade – even if that other is his brother’s slayer.’

‘Here no one shall injure another, wreak harm or cause death, nor hew with the sharp sword, though he meet his brother’s killer bound before him.’

En hann kvað ekki orð it fyrra: ‘Sofið eigi þit né of sal gaukar, eða lengr en svá ljóð eitt kveðak.’

But Fróði uttered only these words: ‘Rest no longer than rooftop-ravens, no longer than I take to sing one song.’

But he spoke no word but this first one: ‘Sleep no more than the cuckoos on the roof, or longer than it takes me to recite one poem.’

‘Varattu, Fróði, fullspakr of þik, málvinr manna, er þú man keyptir. Kaus þú at afli ok at álitum, en at ætterni ekki spurðir.

‘Far from your knowing, speech-friend Fróði, was wisdom’s rede when you bought your thralls. You chose us for strength and our sturdy frames, but you never asked what kin we came from.

‘You were not, Fróði, altogether wise about your own interests, speech-friend of men, when you bought us as serving-maids; you chose for strength and outward appearance, but you never asked our pedigree.

80  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

‘Harðr var Hrungnir ok hans faðir, þó var Þjazi þeim ˛oflgari; Iði ok Aurnir, okkrir niðjar, bræðr bergrisa, þeim erum bornar.

‘Hardy was Hrungnir, and his father as well, though Þjazi had stronger thews than they. Also Iði and Aurnir were our kinsmen, the cave-troll brothers; we were born to that clan.

‘Hrungnir was strong, and his father, although Þjazi was stronger than they. Iði and Aurnir, our kinsmen, brothers of the mountain giants – we were born into their clan.

‘Kæmia Grotti ór grjá fjalli né sá inn harði hallr ór jo˛rðu, né mœli svá mær bergrisa, ef vissi vit vætr til hennar.

‘These millstones had never left the mountains, these rough rocks had never been raised to the surface, nor had a troll-maiden known the use of a mill, if she had not had this knowledge from birth.

‘Grotti would not have come out of the grey mountain, nor the hard stone out of the earth, nor would the hill-giant maid work the mill this way, if it were not something she knew about already.

‘Vér vetr níu várum leikur ˛oflgar alnar fyr jo˛rð neðan. Stóðu meyjar at meginverkum, fœrðum sjálfar setberg ór stað.

‘For nine winters we girls gamed with each other, with strength in our arms, under the earth. Strong against stones set in living rock, we mighty maidens moved mountains.

‘For nine winters we were playmates, strong-armed, under the ground. The maidens performed mighty deeds: we ourselves moved a flat-topped mountain from its place.

‘Veltum grjóti of garð risa,

‘We rolled the rocks from the giants’ garth.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  81

svá at fold fyrir fór skjalfandi. Svá sløngðum vit snúðgasteini, ho˛fgahalli, at halir tóku.

The ground groaned and shook beneath them. Then we slung the stone, the spinning stone, heavy as mountains, and men took it up.

‘We overturned stones at the giants’ dwelling, such that the earth trembled. Then we threw the turning stone, the heavy stone, and men took it.

‘En vit síðan á Svíþjóðu framvísar tvær í folk stigum. Beiddum bjo˛rnu en brutum skjo˛ldu, gengum í gegnum gráserkjat lið.

‘We went then to Sweden, seeress and seeress. We walked together among the warriors. We faced the swordsmen and smote their shields, in our restless going through grey-shirted ranks.

‘Later, in Sweden, we two seeresses walked among the people. We challenged warriors [‘bears’] and broke shields, and made our way through the grey-armored company.

‘Steyptum stilli, studdum annan, veittum góðum Gothormi lið. Vara kyrrseta, áðr Knúi felli.

‘We threw down one king and created another. We gave support to good Gothormr. There would have been war without Knúi’s fall.

‘We overthrew one prince and set up another one. We gave support to good Gothormr. There was no peace until Knúi fell.

‘Fram heldum því þau misseri, at vit at ko˛ppum kenndar várum. Þar skorðu vit sko˛rpum geirum blóð ór benjum, ok brand ruðum.

‘We did yet more deeds in those days long gone, well-known for our skills and strength in battle. With sharpened spears we slashed and wounded. Our bloodied brands bore reddened edges.

82  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

‘In those seasons we carried on, until we were known for our deeds; there, with sharp spears, we slashed the blood out of the wounds and reddened our weapons.

‘Nú erum komnar til konungs húsa misskunnlausar ok at mani hafðar. Aurr etr iljar, en ofan kulði, dro˛gum dolgs sjo˛tul. Daprt er at Fróða.

‘Now we have come to the king’s houses, maids kept as menials and shown no mercy. Silt eats our bare soles, frost bites our feet, we pull at the peace-wheel. Here is dull and dreary.

‘Now we have come to the king’s houses, kept for slaves and shown no mercy. Mud eats the soles of our feet and cold bites the rest of them. We turn the strife-settler. It is dull at Fróði’s.

‘Hendr skulu hvílask, hallr standa mun, malit hefi ek fyr mik mitt of létti. Nú muna ho˛ndum hvíld vel gefa, áðr fullmalit Fróða þykki.

‘Hands will have rest, and the stone will stand still, when the task we’ve begun is ground and done. There can be no stopping, no ceasing of labor, until Fróði tells us our task is finished.

‘Hands will rest and the stone will stand still when I have ground out my share, for my part. Rest will not be granted to hands now, not until it seems to Fróði that the grinding is finished.

‘Hendr skulu ho˛lða harðar trjónur, vápn valdreyrug. Vaki þú, Fróði! Vaki þú, Fróði! ef þú hlýða vill so˛ngum okkrum ok so˛gnum fornum.

‘War-hands will hold hardened war-staffs and bloodied brands. Awaken, Fróði! Awaken, Fróði! Wake and listen to the legends of old, to the songs we are singing.

‘The hands of the warriors will be hard staves, bloody weapons. Awaken, Fróði. Awaken, Fróði, if you will listen to our songs and ancient tales.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  83

‘Eld sé ek brenna fyr austan borg, – vígspjo˛ll vaka – þat mun viti kallaðr. Mun herr koma hinig of bragði ok brenna bœ fyr buðlungi.

‘East of your fortress there are fires burning: they wake the war-beacons to bring forth battle. War-bands come west to fight you, Fróði, and set burning brands to your houses here.

‘I see fire burning east of the fortress. War-tidings are awakened. I would call that a beacon. An army will come moving this way and burn the settlement in front of its ruler.

‘Munat þú halda Hleiðrar stóli, rauðum hringum né regingrjóti. To˛kum á mo˛ndli, mær, skarpara; eruma varmar í valdreyra.

‘Soon you will lose your high-seat at Lejre, your red-gold rings and these royal grindstones. Maiden, now let us grind with more might! We are not yet warmed by warriors’ blood.

‘You will not keep the throne at Lejre, the gold rings or the mighty stone. Maiden, let us grasp the mill-handle more strongly. We are not warm in slain men’s blood.

‘Mól míns fo˛ður mær ramliga, þvíat hon feigð fira fjo˛lmargra sá. Stukku stórar steðr frá lúðri, járni varðar; mo˛lum enn framar!

‘My father’s daughter grinds more fiercely: she foresees the deaths of many men. The metal-shod pillars under our mill are bursting their bounds, but we grind still more!

‘My father’s daughter ground fiercely, for she saw the death of many men. The great mill-supports, reinforced with iron, have burst from their places. Let us grind yet more!

‘Mo˛lum enn framar! Mun Yrsu sonr,

‘Let us grind still more! Yrsa’s offspring,

84  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

við Halfdana, hefna Fróða. Sá mun hennar heitinn verða burr ok bróðir, vitum báðar þat.’

will avenge Fróði on the Half-Danes; we both know that she will bear a boy, who will be both her son and her brother.’

‘Let us grind more! Yrsa’s son will avenge Fróði on the Half-Danes; he will be called both her son and her brother. We both know that.’

Mólu meyjar, megins kostuðu. Váru ungar í jo˛tunmóði. Skulfu skapttré, skauzk lúðr ofan, hraut inn ho˛fgi hallr sundr í tvau.

The girls kept grinding. Their anger grew great. The giant-maids were yet young in years. They shook and they shattered. The mill-stand shuddered. The great grindstone groaned, and split.

The maidens ground; they used up their strength. They were young in their giantish rage. The mill-shafts shook, the mill-stand broke down, the heavy millstone fell into two pieces.

En bergrisa brúðr orð um kvað: ‘Malit ho˛fðum, Fróði, sem munum hætta. Hafa fullstaðit fljóð at meldri.’

The cave-troll slave-girl spoke these words: ‘Fully finished is our grinding, Fróði. We have stopped our striving. The thrall-maids are done.’

But the hill-giant maiden spoke these words: ‘We have ground, Fróði, to the point where we will stop. The women are finished with their grinding.’

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  85 Four Miscellaneous Spákona Sequences Perhaps the best-known appearance of a magic-working prophetess (spákona or vǫlva) found in the sagas is that of Þorbjǫrg lítilvǫlva (Þorbjǫrg the Little Sibyl) in the saga of Eiríkr the Red, Eiríks saga rauða. It is said that she is the last of nine sisters, and that it is her habit to wander the settlements (of Greenland, in this case) at festival times, telling fortunes for both individuals and the community. She is treated with great honor. Her clothing, involving many different kinds of fur, is described in detail. She requires a local woman assistant to sing a necessary charm-song (varðlokur) for the work, but we are not given the text of the song. The four poetry samples below are all drawn from younger narratives, but the prose vignettes surrounding them seem to be considerably indebted to the account in Eiríks saga rauða. In these cases, however, we are privileged to hear the seeresses speak their poetry. 1. Hrólfs saga kraka (Heiðr) Setting: Legendary Denmark Hrólfs saga kraka, ch. 3 (FSNL I) FJ IIB, 250; Kock II, 130 SPSMA (ed. Desmond Slay): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5122&val= ff

The prophetess sees (multiple times) through the disguises and false names of the threatened princes – Hrólfr kraki’s father and uncle It is a commonplace in the legendary sagas that true nobility shines out through the eyes. Sigurðr Fáfnisbani, for instance, is said in Vǫlsunga saga to have had eyes too keen for common men to look at. Here, two Danish princes of the Skjǫldung clan are said to display that same trait.

Tveir eru inni (trúi ek hvárigum), þeir es við elda ítrir sitja.

Two sit inside. I trust neither of them. High-born, they rest by the warm hearth.

Two are inside, they who sit splendid by the fire. I trust neither of them.

Þeir, es í Vífilsey váru lengi ok hétu þar hunda no˛fnum, Hoppr ok Hó.

They lived a long time on Vífill’s island, and were called there by hounds’ names: Hoppr and Hó.

86  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

The ones who stayed long in Vífilsey and were called there by dogs’ names: Hoppr and Hó.

Sék, hvar sitja synir Hálfdanar, Hróarr ok Helgi, heilir báðir; þeir munu Fróða fjo˛rvi ræna.

I can seen where the sons of Hálfdan are sitting, Hróarr and Helgi, healthy and hale. They are Fróði’s foes, and will find and kill him.

I see where the sons of Hálfdan are sitting, Hróarr and Helgi, both hale; they will rob Fróði of life.

O˛tul eru augu Hams ok Hrana, eru ˛oðlingar undra djarfir.

Hawk-eyed princes, Hamr and Hrani – wondrously bold and brave they are.

Fierce are the eyes of Hamr and Hrani. The princes are wondrously brave.

2. Ǫrvar-Odds saga (Heiðr) Setting: Legendary Norway Ǫrvar-Odds saga, ch. 2 (FSNL II) FJ IIB, 310–11; Kock II, 164–5 SPSMA (ed. Margaret Clunies Ross): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5219&val=

Ǫrvar-Oddr (Arrow-Odd) smacks Heiðr across the nose with a stick, but she delivers her unwelcome prophecy anyway Heiðr’s prophecy (below) has such unusual force that the saga-hero cannot die until he comes home, ‘ancient of days,’ to fulfill it. Thus Oddr lives on through multiple lifetimes. (This is presumably the reason that Oddr cannot die on the island of Sámsey in the duel with the twelve berserker brothers, as recounted in both this saga and Hervarar saga, despite being vastly outnumbered. See Hervararkviða, Section IV.)

Œgðu eigi mér, Oddr á Jaðri, elda skíðum, þótt ýmist geipum.

Don’t you annoy me, Oddr of Jæren, or wave sticks at me when I say strange things.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  87

Saga mun sannast, sú er segir vo˛lva. O˛ll veit hon ýta ˛orlo˛g fyrir.

The tale will prove true that the vo˛lva tells. She can foresee the fate of all men.

Do not threaten me, Oddr of Jæren, with pieces of firewood – even though I say many strange things. The story that the prophetess speaks will prove true. She foreknows the fate of all men.

Ferr eigi þú svá fjo˛rðu breiða né líðr yfir láð ok vága, þótt sjór yfir þik sæg jum drífi – hér skaltu brenna á Berurjóðri.

Wherever you fare – over broad fjords, or wandering over wave-capped waters, or storm-driven over salty seas – they’ll burn you here, at Berurjóðr.

No matter if you go over broad fjords or travel over the sea and the waves, even if the sea drives you with storms – here you shall be burned, at Berurjóðr.

Skal þér ormr granda eitrblandinn, fránn ór fornum Faxa hausi. Naðr mun þik ho˛ggva neðan á fœti, þá ertu fullgamall fylkir orðinn.

A shining snake, a venomous viper, bursts forth from Faxi’s ancient skull. The adder attacks you on the ankle. Ancient of days you’ll be by then.

A snake will harm you, a poisonous one, gleaming from the ancient skull of Faxi [a horse]. Down below on your foot the snake will strike you. You will be an extremely old lord by then.

88  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds 3. Ǫrvar-Odds saga (Ǫlvǫr) Setting: Legendary Ireland Ǫrvar-Odds saga, ch. 12 (FSNL II) FJ IIB, 311; Kock II, 165 SPSMA (ed. Margaret Clunies Ross): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5294

Upon receiving a magical silk (or silver) shirt with golden seams, Oddr asks Ǫlvǫr, the Irish princess: ‘Did you make this all by yourself?’ Ǫlvǫr’s poem is both like and unlike the other spákona fragments. It is not a foretelling, but it does reveal an occult backstory invisible to the ordinary eye. The stanza is composed in flawed but memorable dróttkvætt: there are only a few of the expected internal rhymes present, and an extra syllable in the second line. The magical shirt is variously said (depending upon the manuscripts) to be made either of silk or of silver.

Serk of frák ór silki ok í sex sto˛ðum gervan: ermr á Íralandi, ˛onnur norðr med Finnum; slógu Saxa meyjar, en suðreyskar spunnu, váfu valskar brúðir, varp Óþjóðans móðir.

Seamstresses sixfold stitched this shirt. One sleeve was made by Sámi, and the other by the Irish. Saxon sisters strung the silk, and southern maidens spun it. Welsh women wove the shirt, on looms warped by No-One.

I heard the shirt is of silk and made in six places: one sleeve in Ireland, the other northwards among the Sámi. Saxon maidens harvested it, women of the southern islands spun it, Franco-Italian women wove it, and No-people’s mother strung the loom. 4. Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar (Vǫlvan) Setting: Legendary Norway Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar, ch. 5 (ed. Faulkes, Two Icelandic Stories, 70) FJ IIB, 362; Kock II, 197 SPSMA (ed. Peter Jorgensen): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5207

The foretold fate of Ásbjǫrn prúði, best friend of the hero The parallels to Ǫrvar-Oddr’s prophecy and fate are obvious. Likewise, the frame-story for the prophecy’s delivery is very similar to the one in Eiríks saga rauða recounted at the head of this section.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  89

Þó at þú látir yfir lo˛gu breiða byrhest renna ok berisk víða, nær mun þat ligg ja, at norðr firir Mœri, þú bana hljótir; bezt mun at þeg ja.

Widely you’ll ride the running wind-steed, and, wandering farther, race over strange waters – but it’s here, close to home, near mountainous Mœrr, you’ll meet your death. I’m done. That’s all.

Though you let the wind-horse run over the wide ocean and you are carried far, it will be near here that you will get your death, north of Mœrr.5 Best to be silent now. Gyðja (Pagan Priestess) from Ǫrvar-Odds saga Setting: Legendary ‘Bjalka’ (Antioch) Ǫrvar-Odds saga, ch. 29 (FSNL II) FJ IIB, 310–32; Kock II, 172–3 SPSMA (ed. Margaret Clunies Ross): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?if=default&table=verses&id=5315 ff

A sorceress-queen tries to defend her people While romancing the daughter of a certain King Herrauðr, Ǫrvar-Oddr (Arrow-Oddr) takes a troop of men to collect the king’s taxes from King Álfr bjalki of Bjalka. Oddr kills Álfr’s son Víðgripr, fills Álfr full of arrows, and sets their city on fire. Álfr’s wife, known simply as Gyðja (Priestess), shoots magical arrows at Oddr from every finger, as well as engaging him in poetic debate for not worshipping the right gods.

Hverr veldr eldi, hverr orrostu, hverr jarls-magni egg jum beitir; hof sviðnuðu, ho˛rgar brunnu, hverr rauð egg jar á Yngva nið?

What fighters have come with fire and sword, attacking our men with honed edges? Our shrines are smoking, our altars in ashes. Whose swords have bloodied the sons of Yngvi?

Who wields fire? Who [wields] battle? Who lets the blades feed on free men? The temples were smoldering and the altars were burning. Who reddened their blades against Yngvi’s kin? 5

Now Møre, in western Norway, south of Trøndelag.

90  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Hlægir mik þat, at hefir fengna Freys reiði þú, fári blandna; hjálpi æsir og ásynjur, go˛rvo˛ll regin, gyðju sinni.

Freyr’s anger and ill will lash out at you: it makes me laugh. Grant me aid, gods and goddesses! Help your priestess, O potent powers!

I laugh that you have incurred the wrath of Freyr, mingled with malice. May the gods and goddesses – all the powers – aid their priestess.

Hverir ólu þik upp til heimskan, er þú eigi vilt Óðin blóta?

Who raised you, fool, who reared you so badly? Wretch, you refuse to honor Óðinn!

Who raised you up to stupidity, that you will not sacrifice to Óðinn?

Auð þættumk ek eiga gnógan, ef enn ágæta Álf of fyndak; blót gefk honum ok bú fjogur; hann mun yðr alla í eld draga.

I’d be rich enough in royal goods if I could have my Álfr again. I’d hold a feast, four farms’ worth. And he would burn you all to blazes.

I would be thought to own sufficient riches, if I could have the noble Álfr back. I’d give him a sacrificial feast, and four farms. He would drag you all through the fire.

Hvat efldi þik austan hingat feikna-fullan ok fláráðan? muntu hvarvetna herja vilja, er Álfi máttuð aldrspell gera.

What eastern gods gave you victory, you loathsome one and full of lies? Doleful darts from all directions flew frightfully and felled my Álfr.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  91

What helped you here from out of the east, frightful and deceitful one? You wanted to fight everywhere, when you made age-damage on Álfr.

Hjálpi æsir ok ásynjur, go˛rvo˛ll regin, gyðju sinni.

Grant me aid, gods and goddesses! Help your priestess, O potent powers!

May the gods and goddesses – all the powers – aid their priestess.

Hervǫr Hundingjadóttir Setting: A legendary fortress Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis, ch. 14 (FSNL IV) FJ IIB, 358–9; Kock II, 193–4 SPSMA (ed. Richard Harris): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?if=default&table=verses&id=5089&val=

Hǫrðr’s future sweetheart introduces herself and gives advice to heroes In similar fashion to the ‘master-maid’ in Asbjørnsen and Moe’s Norwegian folk-tale collection,6 Hervǫr Hundingjadóttir suggests courses of action to the three saga-heroes (Hjálmþér, Ǫlvir and their mysterious servant Hǫrðr) that enable them to rid her sinister fortress home of various evils and safely escape. The saga informs us that not only does Hervǫr have golden hair, a snow-white complexion, skin as fair as a lily, eyes as bright as gemstones and cheeks like roses, but she is also a fine chess-player. It is thus no surprise that when the time comes for the three heroes to depart, the smitten Hǫrðr neatly abducts her from her father’s court by tying a walrus-hide rope around the tower she lives in, uprooting it and hauling it on board his ship. Hervǫr’s first meeting with our heroes is more hostile, however, as the first two of these stanzas show. Hjálmþér advises Hǫrðr to bribe her with treasure, after which she immediately becomes more helpful.

Hervo˛r ek heiti Hunding ja dóttir; minn fo˛ður ro˛skvan ef þú réðir líta, 6

Hervo˛r am I, Hundingi’s daughter. You’d like to look at my lordly father?

Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, Samlede eventyr, med alle de originale tegningene, 2 vols. (Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, 1994), II, 264.

92  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

líf þitt án dvo˛l þú láta myndir, ef værir genginn í gegn do˛glingi.

You’d cross the king, cut him down? You’ll lose your life without delay.

I am Hervo˛r, Hundingi’s daughter. You’ll lose your life without delay, if you plan to look at my bold father, if you go against the king.

Allt ferr eptir einu, eigi margt vitum frægra, virðar vinna listir ok val tafni fæða; fyrr skyldir þú hanga á hávum gálga en í glaum inn ganga; gakk eigi hóti framar.

Bold men who come here all bear the same fate: skilled swordsmen are sacrificed, slain. More likely you’ll hang on a high gallows than steal into our hall. Stop right there.

It always happens the same way. We don’t care much about heroes. Men practice their skills and the slain sacrifices rise higher. You’re more likely to hang on a high gallows than enter into the feasting. Don’t come one step closer.

Í ho˛ll skalt ganga ok hilmi lúta, kveðja kurteisliga konung enn stórráða; lát þú eigi æðru á þér finna, þótt í ho˛ll lítir háva stórgarpa.

Go in and bow to our bold lord, greet the great king with courtesy; let no fear be found in you, though the hall be full of tall fighters.

You shall go into the hall and bow to the ruler. Greet the greatcounseled king courteously. Let no fear be found in you, even though you see great and tall warriors in the hall.

Gef þú auð jo˛furr, ef þú ˛orr þykkisk, þágu gull gumnar, gerask þér vel hollir; en ef maðr metnask við mildings síðu,

Would you be a gold-giver, a generous lord? If they take your treasure, you’ll win over the warriors. If a tiresome toady cozies up to the king, though,

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  93

sýn leiðum lyndi lát hann sneypu hljóta.

show him your temper: he’ll take disgrace then.

Lord, give out treasure, if you wish to be thought generous. If the men take the gold, they will be quite faithful to you. But if a man exalts himself at the ruler’s side, show the loathsome one your quality; let him get dishonor for it.

Hildisif Ptólómeusdóttir (formerly Skinnhúfa) and Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir (formerly Vargeisa) Setting: Legendary Arabia Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis, ch. 21 (FSNL IV) FJ IIB, 363; Kock II, 196 SPSMA (ed. Richard Harris): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?if=default&table=verses&id=5113

Journeys end in lovers’ meetings: two sisters, both princesses, greet old friends Hildisif, identified in Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis as the daughter of king Ptólómeus of Arabia, last saw the warrior Ǫlvir and his hero-companion Hjálmþér in ch. 9 of the saga, when she was under a spell as the ‘creature’ (kvikendi) Skinnhúfa (Skin-Cloak), slave to a cave-dwelling giant.7 Similarly Álsól, her sister, last saw Hjálmþér in ch. 10 when she was under a spell as a horse-headed fabulous monster (finngálkn), at which time she gave him a fine sword (Snarvedill) and a new servant (Hǫrðr).8 Now, at saga’s end, Hjálmþér and Ǫlvir find themselves at the Arabian court of these two princesses and their brother, the mysterious King Hringr – who bears a strange likeness to that valiant former servant, Hǫrðr, whom they have recently mourned as dead. All enchantments have been broken, and every Jack will have his Jill, in true comedy fashion: Hǫrðr (King Hringr) will marry Hervǫr Hundingjadóttir,9 while Hjálmþér and Ǫlvir will marry the king’s two sisters, Álsól and Hildisif. But first, Hildisif and Álsól must calm down the moody and grieving hero-pair by revealing the true identities of the three royal siblings, thus assuring them that ‘Hǫrðr’ is quite alive after all. 7 8 9

This giant is unnamed in ch. 9 of the saga, but called ‘Bendill’ in the stanza here. See the entry on Vargeisa in Section VI for more details. See the entry on Hervǫr Hundingjadóttir, immediately above.

94  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Hildisif to O˛lvir Sax hefir þú O˛lvir, slík eru vápn færi, bana veittir Bendli, bart þú þat ór helli; brá ek hilmis sonum í hauka líki; forðaðek ykru fjo˛rvi; fegri em ek nú hóti.

Hildisif to O˛lvir A splendid sword is your sax, O˛lvir; its blade, Bendill’s bane; you bore it from the cave. I spell-shifted you both to falcon shapes and saved your lives. See my beauty now!

You have a chopper, O˛lvir. Those kinds of things are ready weapons. You served Bendill with death; you brought it [the weapon] out of the cave. I changed the lords’ sons into hawks; I saved your lives. I’m a lot prettier now.

Álsól to Hjálmþér Keyptir þú Snarvendil með kossi einum; var þat verð lítit, vel frák at mér kæmi; ˛orr mundir af auði ef optar svá fengir, jo˛furr enn ógndjarfi ok einkar heppni.

Álsól to Hjálmþér You bought Snarvendill with a single kiss, a trifling thing. I took it gladly. When you are rich you’ll give out rings, a fearless hero and happy lord.

You bought Snarvendill with a kiss. It was not worth much. I heard clearly that it was coming to me. You’ll be generous with treasure if you get it reasonably often, dauntless lord [boar] and rather lucky.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  95 Buslubœn Setting: Legendary Sweden Bósa saga, ch. 5 (FSNL III) FJ IIB, 352–4; Kock II, 189–90; Heusler and Ranisch, Eddica Minora, 126–8 SPSMA (ed. Wilhelm Heizmann): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=4731&val= ff

Busla the witch uses a curse to defend the hero Bósi, and his friend Herrauðr, against their enemy – Herrauðr’s father, King Hringr10 The cryptic runic formula (described here but not shown) that goes with the final stanza has analogues elsewhere, including inscriptions on memorial rune stones from Sweden and Denmark. Lee M. Hollander suggested that the six nouns in the formula all could be seen as having sexual connotations,11 while Claiborne W. Thompson preferred to classify them as the kind of ‘sonorous nonsense’ characteristic of many magical formulae.12 The full list of nouns (appearing in the manuscripts independently of the poetry) is: ristill (‘plowshare’), aistill (‘testicle’), þistill (‘thistle’), kistill (‘box’), mistill (‘mistletoe’) and vistill (unknown).

Hér liggr Hringr konungr, hilmir Gauta, einráðastr allra manna; ætlar þú son þinn sjálfr at myrða, þau mun fádœmi fréttast víða.

You lie here, king Hringr, lord of the Gautar, most hard-hearted of all men. You mean to murder your own son. The world will wonder at this odd idea.

Here lies king Hringr, lord of the Gautar, most stubborn of all men. You mean to murder your own son. That strange deed will be heard of far and wide.

Heyr þú bœn Buslu, brátt mun hun sungin, svá at heyrast skal um heim allan; 10 11


Hear Busla’s boon! Boldly I sing it. All the earth gives ear to it.

No relation to King Hringr Ptólómeusson, featured in the previous entry. Lee Milton Hollander, Old Norse Poems: The Most Important Non-Skaldic Verse Not Included in the Poetic Edda (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), 79. Claiborne W. Thompson, ‘The Runes in Bósa saga ok Herrauðs,’ Scandinavian Studies 50 (1978), 54.

96  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

ok óþo˛rf ˛ollum þeim sem á heyra, en þeim þó fjándligust, sem ek vil fortala.

It is hard for anyone who hearkens to it; for the one I speak to, its words are yet worse.

Listen to Busla’s prayer. Soon it will be sung all though, such that it will be heard over all the world. [It is] not good for anyone who may hear it, but most inimical to the one I speak it to.

Villist vættir, verði ódœmi, hristist hamrar, heimr sturlist, versni veðrátta, verði ódœmi, nema þú, Hringr konungr, Herrauð friðir ok honum Bósa bjargir veitir.

May wights wander free, and wonders be seen; may cliffs crash, and plains quake; may the weather worsen, and all ill occur – unless you, King Hringr, make peace with Herrauðr, and bring Bósi out of this outlawry.

May spirits be loosed, may eerie things happen, may cliffs shake, may the world be overturned, may the weather worsen, may eerie things happen – unless you, king Hringr, make peace with Herrauðr, and grant protection to Bósi.

Svá skal ek þjarma þér at brjósti, at hjarta þitt ho˛ggormr gnagi, en eyru þín aldregi heyri ok augu þín úthverf snúist, nema þú Bósa bjo˛rg of veitir ok honum Herrauð heipt upp gefir.

I curse your chest inside your ribs: a fierce worm will feed on your heart. I curse your ears so they cannot hear. I curse your eyes to turn inside out – unless Bósi’s made free of this outlawry and you leave off hating Herrauðr, your son.

Thus shall I curse you in your chest, that a viper will gnaw at your heart, and your ears will cease to hear, and your eyes will be turned inside out, unless you grant protection to Bósi and leave off hating Herrauðr.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  97

Ef þú siglir, slitni reiði, en af stýri sto˛kkvi krókar, rifni reflar, reki segl ofan, en aktaumar allir slitni, nema þú Herrauð heipt upp gefir ok svá Bósa biðr til sátta.

When you set sail, the riggings will slit, the rudder will rip free from its frame, the sails will rot and fall free from the mast, the sheets will split and fly free in the wind – unless you stop hating Herrauðr, your son and broker a bargain of peace with Bósi.

If you sail, may the rigging tear, may the hooks holding the steering break, may the sails tear and fall, may all the sail-ropes tear, unless you stop hating Herrauðr and make peace with Bósi.

Ef þú ríðr, raskist taumar, heltist hestar, en hrumist klárar, en go˛tur allar ok gangstígar troðist allar í tro˛llhendr fyrir þér, nema þú Bósa bjargir veitir ok Herrauð heipt upp gefir.

When you ride, the reins will tangle, the horses go halt, the steeds grow weary; and every trail and traveling-path will take you into trollish hands – unless Bósi’s made free of all outlawry and you leave off hating Herrauðr, your son.

When you ride, may the reins be disarranged, may the horses go lame, may the steeds grow weak, and all roads and footpaths take you into the hands of trolls, unless you grant protection to Bósi and stop hating Herrauðr.

Sé þér í hvílu sem í hálmeldi, en í hásæti sem á hafbáru; þó skal þér seinna

In your bed, burning straw; in your privy, queasy unease; and after that,

98  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

sýnu verra, en ef þú vilt við meyjar manns gaman hafa, villist þú vegarins; eða viltu þulu lengri?

worse things. When you try to take man’s pleasure with maidens, you’ll lose your way. Want a longer list?

May it be like burning straw in your bed, like an ocean wave in your privy.13 But later you shall see worse sights. And if you want to take a man’s pleasure with maidens, you will lose your way. Do you want a longer list? Saga narrator reluctantly includes more of the curse’s second part

Troll ok álfar ok taufrnornir, búar, bergrisar brenni þínar hallir. Hati þik hrímþursar, hestar streði þik, stráin stangi þik, en stormar œri þik, ok vei verði þér, nema þú vilja minn gerir.

May elves and trolls and evil witches, hill-giants and bogles burn your halls. May ice-giants hate you, stallions straddle you, bed-straws scratch you, and storms strike you. Fulfill all my wishes, or woe be unto you.

May trolls and elves and sorcerous witches, spirits and mountaingiants burn your halls. May frost giants hate you, stallions use you for sex, straws poke you and storms buffet you; and woe be unto you unless you do my will. Formula to go with the þistill-mistill-kistill runes

Komi hér seggir sex, segg þú mér no˛fn þeira ˛oll óbundin, ek mun þér sýna: getr þú eigi ráðit, svá at mér rétt þykki, þá skulu þik hundar 13

Here are six swordsmen, Say me their names, all in the right order, as I show them to you. If you cannot guess the good and true answer, then baleful hounds

Lit. ‘throne,’ but easily extended to this meaning; cf. Atlakviða 36. See Beatrice LaFarge and John Tucker, Glossary to the Poetic Edda (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1992), 321.

V. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses, and Alien Maidens  99

í hel gnaga, en sál þín so˛kkva í víti.

will bite you in hell, and your very soul sink down to the pit.

Let six warriors [runic letters] come here. Tell me their names all rightly arranged. I will show them to you. If you cannot interpret this puzzle such that it seems correct to me, then hounds will gnaw you in hell and your soul will sink to perdition.

VI. Trollwomen


he trollwomen who haunt a certain subtype of the fornaldarsögur (legendary sagas) are almost always hostile towards the human men they encounter, usually in remote places far away from human settlements. There are often ownership disputes over fishing-grounds, boats and fishermen’s huts. Verbal violence, often in verse, usually escalates into physical violence. Since trolls are often said to live in the north and to have alien facial features, clothing, and manners, it is no great leap to conclude that many troll-encounter stories have had their roots in real-world meetings and misunderstandings between Norsespeakers and Sámi-speakers. Of course there are exceptions that prove the rule. A few notable warm encounters involving trolls and humans are sprinkled thoughout these legendary sagas as well, such as the kiss exchanged between Hjálmþér and the horse-monster Vargeisa (below);1 or the romance between Ǫrvar-Oddr and the giant-maiden Hildigunnr, who first keeps the hero in a baby’s cradle, but later bears him a child (also below). It is worth noting that the taxonomy of non-humans in these legendary sagas is nothing like as exact as we postmodern, post-Linnean readers, perhaps brought up on Dungeons and Dragons manuals in which the carefully delineated varieties and types of trolls are listed in loving detail, might expect. Trolls (troll), giants (jǫtnar) and fabulous monsters (finngálkn) constitute variable categories amongst themselves; and any of them might be human enough to breed with.


See also ‘Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir’ in Section V.


102  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Bragi Boddason’s Trollwoman Setting: Legendary Norway (ostensibly ninth century) Snorri Sturluson, Edda: Skáldskaparmál, ed. Faulkes, I, 85, stanza 300 FJ IB, 172; Kock I, 92 SPSMA (ed. Edith Marold): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1295

Bragi Boddason ‘the Old’ is the semi-legendary first of all skalds. This stanza follows one of Bragi’s describing what a skald is. Both stanzas are (presumably deliberately) encrusted with obscure and difficult kennings.

Troll kalla mik, tungl sjo˛t-Rungnis, auðsúg jo˛tuns, élsólar bo˛l, vílsinn vo˛lu, vo˛rð náfjarðar, hvélsvelg himins. Hvat er troll, nema þat?

You skalds say I’m a troll: I’m Hrungnir’s moon-loony. I suck gold from giants. I slay the storm-sun. I work woe for the witch-wife. I’m warden at Death Fjord. I swallow the sky-wheel. What’s a troll but that?

They call me troll,2 the moon of home-Hrungnir, the giant’s treasure-sucker, the bane of the storm-sun, the prophetess’s pleasant companion,3 the guardian of the corpse-fjord, the swallower of heaven’s wheel. What’s a troll but that?

Forað Setting: Legendary Norway Ketils saga hœngs, ch. 5 (FSNL II) FJ IIB, 303–5; Kock II, 161–2 SPSMA (ed. Beatrice La Farge): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1295 ff

The Norwegian hero, Ketill hœngr (Ketill Salmon), is taunted by a trollwoman while on a fishing trip The following are Forað’s stanzas only; Ketill’s part of the conversation in the saga is also in verse. Ketill addresses Forað at one point as fóstra 2


‘Troll’ (the form is ambiguously nominative or accusative; singular or plural) can be read as subject (‘The trolls call me . . .’) or object (‘They call me a troll’). I prefer the second option. Or ‘hard labor.’ See Finnur Jónsson, ed., Lexicon Poeticum Antiquae Linguae Septentrionalis, 2nd ed. (Copenhagen: Atlas, 1966), 625.

VI. Trollwomen  103 (foster-mother), perhaps referring to a distant kinship. (The men of Ketill’s family, the heroes of Hrafnista, are famous for dallying with trolls when they aren’t killing them.) The three named arrows Forað refers to are magic Sámi arrows Ketill has stolen.4 The conversation ends when Forað turns into a whale and Ketill shoots her under the tail, bragging that he has now made her unsuitable for marriage.

Forað ek heiti. Fœdd vark norðarla, hraust í Hrafnseyju, hvimleið búmo˛nnum, ˛or til áræðis, hvatki er illt skal vinna.

I bear the name Forað. I was born far up north, full of health, in Hrafnsey, hated by neighbors, ever-ready for wreckage when roguery was called for.

My name is Dangerous Place. Strong was I born, in the north, in Hrafnsey [Raven Island], detested by the local people, ready for mischief, whatever evil there is to be done.

Mo˛rgum manni hefik til moldar snúit, þeim’s til fiskjar fór. Hverr er sá inn ko˛purmáli, er kominn er í skerin?

I’ve turned many a man to a musty corpse when he fared out to fish. Who is this cocky one who’s come here to these rocks?

Many a man have I made bite the dust, when he went fishing. Who is this boastful one who has come into the skerries?

Synjak þess eigi, seggr inn víðfo˛rli, at þú líf hafir langt of menn aðra, ef þú fund okkarn fyrðum óblauðum, sveinn lítill, segir. Sék þinn hug skjalfa.

I don’t deny it, dauntless wanderer: you’ll have lived longer than those luckless others, when you retell the tale of our time here together to your bold companions. But now you’re a coward.

I doubt not, well-traveled warrior, that you will have longer life than other men, if you [live to] tell courageous men of our meeting, little fellow. I see your courage is failing. 4

These same arrows are eventually passed down to Ketill’s grandson Ǫrvar-Oddr (Arrow-Oddr), becoming the source of his lifelong by-name.

104  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Gang hóf ek upp í Angri. Eigraðak þá til Steigar. Skálm glamrandi skrapti. Skarmtak þá til Karmtar. Elda munk á Jaðri ok at Útsteini blása. Þá munk austr við Elfi, áðr dagr á mik skíni, ok með brúðkonum beigla ok brátt gefin jarli.

I began in Anger, then my way led to Steig. Sword in sheath ratttled. I stormed on to Karmøy. In Jæren and Utsteinn I’ll fan a few fires. Then east, to Elf River, before break of day, I’ll meet with my bridesmaids and soon marry the Jarl.

I started my journey in Angr.5 Then I plodded to Steig. The rattling short-sword clattered. I hastened then to Ko˛rmt.6 I will blow on fires at Jaðarr7 and at Útsteinn. Then, eastwards by the Elfr,8 before daylight shines on me, I will shuffle off with the bridesmaids and soon be married to an earl.

Seyði þínum munk snúa, ok sjálfum þér gnúa, unz þik gríðr of gripi ok með g jálfri sínu komi.

I’ll kick at your cookfires and chop you in pieces. Then the troll-girl will grab you and great waves will swamp you.

I will overturn your cookfire and pulverize you, until the giantess seizes you and comes with the roar of waves.

Flaug ok Fífu hugða ek fjarri vera, ok hræðumkat eigi Hremsu bit.

‘Flight’ is far off, and so is ‘Arrow.’ ‘Shaft’ may bite, but I am not bothered.

Flight and Arrow, I think, are far off; and I do not fear the bite of Shaft.

5 6 7 8

Now Varanger. As the saga’s prose tells us, this journey runs down the Norwegian coast, eventually heading east to Sweden. Now Karmøy. Now Jæren. Now Götaälv.

VI. Trollwomen  105 Feima and Kleima Setting: Legendary Norway Gríms saga loðinkinna, ch. 1 (FSNL II) FJ IIB, 309; Kock II, 163–4 SPSMA (ed. Beatrice La Farge): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=4881 http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=4883

Two troll-girls discourse with Grímr loðinkinni (Grímr Hairy-Cheek) before he kills them Grímr, son of Ketill hœngr, is no more chivalrous to trolls than his father. Fishing rights are once again the issue of contention.

Feima ek heiti. Fœdd vark norðarla, Hrímnis dóttir ór háfjalli. Hér er systir mín, hálfu fremri, Kleima at nafni, komin til sjóvar.

I bear the name Feima. I was born far up north, Hrímnir’s daughter from the high mountain. And now my sister, more splendid than I am, Kleima by name, has come to the sea.

My name is Woman. I was born in the north, Hrímnir’s daughter from the high mountain. Here is my sister, better by half, Procrastinator by name, having come to the sea.

Þat var fyrri, at faðir okkar brottu seiddi báru hjarðir. Skuluð aldrigi, nema sko˛p ráði, heilir héðan heim of komast.

Empty threats! This is the truth: our father made magic and the fish-flocks fled. Unless fate favors you, you’ll never escape away from here or arrive safely home.

It is rather the case that our father magicked the wave-flocks away from here. Unless fate decrees it, you [pl.] will never escape to your home unharmed.

106  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Hildigunnr Risadóttir Setting: Legendary Norway Ǫrvar-Odds saga, long version, ch. 18 (FSNL II) FJ IIB, 316; Kock II, 168 SPSMA (ed. Margaret Clunies Ross): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5284

The giant-maiden Hildigunnr dandles Oddr on her knee and teases him about his size Once Oddr convinces Hildigunnr that he would be better off in her bed than in a giant’s baby cradle, things go better for them. They have a son together, Vignir.

Tuttr litli ok toppr fyr nefi, meiri var Goðmundr í gær borinn.

Teensy Shorty, mustache on his lip; bigger was Goðmundr, born yesterday.

Short little fellow, mustache under his nose. Goðmundr, born yesterday, was bigger.

Vargeisa Setting: Legendary Nowhere Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis, ch. 10 (FSNL IV) FJ IIB, 354–5; Kock II, 191–2 SPSMA (ed. Richard Harris): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5107 ff

The hero meets a ‘splendid’ (‘gildligt’) woman-monster (‘finngálkn’) with a horse’s mane, tail and face; she offers him a sword and gives him advice This hero-and-monster encounter is unusual, as such things tend to go in the legendary sagas. Even though Hjálmþér is a bit afraid of the alien woman-creature, he is always courteous to her, and his good manners ultimately pay off. There are many analogues in pan-European folk tales: if you respect the wild magical being, it will help you out in your quest later on. More specific benefits may ensue, as Hjálmþés saga certainly attests, if you are a man and the wild magical being is female.9 Ballad 31 in Francis 9

More benefits than are mentioned in this episode. See the entry on Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir (in Section V) to find out what happened later.

VI. Trollwomen  107 James Child’s Anglophone collection, ‘The Marriage of Sir Gawain,’ is a distant analogue; so is the Wife of Bath’s tale in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, as well as the story of Grímr and Lopthœna in the legendary saga Gríms saga loðinkinna.

Vargeisa ek heiti, heyr þú, vísa son, vilt, at þér í sinni sjá; allra þinna telk þik þurfa munu vel trúra vina.

I am called Wolf-fire. Listen, my lord: do you crave a companion? Trust me when I tell you that all friends are a treasure you will truly have need of.

My name is Wolf-Fire. Listen, son of chieftains, do you want me to live with you? I think that you may well have need of all your true friends.

Sæk Snarvendil, sigr mun honum fylg ja, horskr ef hilmir vilt þér í hendi bera; koss vilk af þér klénan þigg ja, þá munt mímung mér ór hendi fá.

Seek Snarvendill and snatch victory; hold in your hand the hard blade. Just a hasty kiss I’ll have from you; then you’ll have from my hand the sword I hold.

Seek Snarvendill [her sword]. Victory will follow it if you, brave leader, will take it in your hand. I would like a little kiss from you, and then you can have the sword from my hand.

Selk þér Snarvendil, sigr mun honum fylg ja, jo˛furr inn stórráði, um þína aldrdaga; snúist þín ævi æ til sigrs ok gæfu, hvar sem þú heim kannar, hugr er í konungs barni.

Seek Snarvendill and snatch victory for all your life long, audacious lord. Wars won, and fair fortune, you will always have, anywhere you call home. The king’s son shows courage.

I give you Snarvendill. Victory will follow it, great-counseled prince, until your old age. Your life will always turn to victory and good luck, wherever you find a home. Courage is in the king’s son.

108  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Vert eigi svá ærr, at O˛lvi grandir; vert honum heill hilmir, hann er þér hollr fylkir; lát eigi illmæli æða lund þína; vel þér vini tryggva ok vert þeim hollr dróttinn.

Don’t be so mad, man, that you malign O˛lvir. Be as trusty to him, king, as he is to you, young lord. Let no gossiping goad your mood. Find faithful friends and rule them fairly.

Don’t be so furious that you hurt O˛lvir. Be true to him, prince. He is loyal to you, chieftain. Let no slander anger your disposition. Choose true friends and be a loyal lord to them.

Kjós þann þræl af þengils liði er gefr svínum soð; mun þér eigi maðr duga af mildings hirð, ef þér glapvígr gerisk.

Of all the lord’s men, make him your lackey who gives soup to the swine. A chance-chosen thrall from the king’s court won’t do, if your war-skills start slipping.

Choose a servant from the king’s men, the one who gives broth to the swine. No man from the generous one’s court will be sufficient for you, if you become clumsy at killing.

Ýma, Hergunnr, and Margerðr Setting: Legendary Nowhere (Seaside) Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis, ch. 12 (FSNL IV) FJ IIB, 356–8; Kock II, 191–3 SPSMA (ed. Richard Harris): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5077 f http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5080&val= ff http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=5086

Hjálmþér and his men, including his new thrall Hǫrðr, have a violent encounter with a family of trollwomen This seaside episode, in which a fishing-dispute subtext may also be present, begins with flirtation and erotic teasing but descends into butchery very quickly. The surrounding prose makes it clear that these troll girls, unlike Vargeisa, are grotesquely ugly – and thereby, within the value judgments of the narrative, deserving only of death. Vargeisa’s

VI. Trollwomen  109 gifts from the previous episode – both the sword and the new thrall10 – help our heroes, Hjálmþér and Ǫlvir, to dispatch these trolls quickly.

Ýma Illa kveðr til mín, því enn ungi munt fyrst hafðr á seyði af segg jum þínum; með gullofnum dúki má sjá en glaða mær þerra sína ljósa lokka.

Ýma Young man with no manners, master of men: I’ll fry you first over my fire here. Look, this fair damsel dries her light locks with linens of gold.

You speak rudely to me, young one. You will be the first of your warriors to be put over the cooking fire. With a gold-woven cloth the beautiful maid may be seen drying her fair locks.

Víst gleðr mik eitt, þótt vitir eigi, jo˛furr inn ógndjarfi, hvat um er at vera: nú munu systr mínar at nái gera út á herskipum alla menn þína.

But one thing cheers me, battle-brave chieftain – you have no idea of what will happen. Out on your war-keels the wives of my kin will kill all your men and make corpses of them.

Certainly one thing makes me glad, although, O battle-brave prince, you do not know what will happen. My sisters will turn all your men into corpses, out on the warships.

Hergunnr To˛lum ek treysti at tala við ho˛fðing ja, þó námum vér lítit, þats til vegar horfir; skulum til skála skunda go˛ngu ok menn mildings merkja á seyði. 10

Hergunnr In truth, I can talk to this chieftain, I trust, but there’s little to win here that leads to honor. We’ll hasten our steps to the sleeping-hall and watch these men seethe and melt on the fire.

See the entry on Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir (in Section V) for the hidden relationship between Vargeisa and Hjálmþér’s new ‘thrall,’ Hǫrðr.

110  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

I trust myself to talk to the chieftain, although we may achieve little honor by it. We will hasten our pace to the sleeping-hall and watch the king’s men over the cookfire.

Heldk upp hro˛mmum; hér mátt jo˛furr líta hendr Hergunnar; hefk negl óskorna; rifna mun þín ólpa, ef vit jo˛furr finnumk; þér skalt eigi kyrrt klappa, konungr inn suðrœni.

My playful paws you can see here, prince. Hergunnr’s hands have ragged claws. I’ll rip up your robes, royal one, when we meet: my embrace is not soft for you, southern king.

I hold up my paws. Here, O prince, you may see Hergunnr’s hands. I have untrimmed nails. Prince, if we meet, your coat will be torn. You will not be embraced softly, O king from the south.

Margerðr Illa leikr þú O˛lvir, eigi ert hæfr vífum, má eigi fang festa á fylki vel bornum; egg jar eru eitrblandnar, æfir eru do˛glingar, oddar eru blóðgir, eigi munum vér sigrask.

Margerðr You are no fit playmate for us women, O˛lvir. My claws can’t capture the high-born king. These princes are powerful: their blades are bloody, their swordpoints poisoned. Hope for victory is vain.

You play roughly, O˛lvir. You are not polite to women. My grasp cannot capture the well-born chief. The blades are poisoned, the princes are powerful, the swordpoints are bloody – we will not be defeated.

Hergunnr Hvar ert Margerðr, mær in ˛oflgasta? vinnr þú sigr lítinn á siklings liði; hryggr er hálflaminn, en herðar brotnar, sterkr er stafnbúi, sto˛kkva mun nú verða.

Hergunnr Where are you, Margerðr, monstrous maiden? You can hardly win against these warriors. My back is shattered, my shoulders broken. This sailor’s a strong one. It’s best to seek safety.

VI. Trollwomen  111

Where are you, Margerðr, most powerful maiden? You are gaining a small victory over the king’s men. My back is half maimed and my shoulders broken. The sailor is strong. I must flee now.

Hetta Trollkona Setting: Legendary Iceland (Snæfellsnes) Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, ch. 8 (ed. Þórhallur Vilmundarson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson) FJ IIB, 482; Kock II, 263–4 SPSMA (ed. Margaret Clunies Ross): http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=4716 f

Hetta the troll, a shape-changer and a cattle-killer, almost lures a fisherman to his death Ingjaldr the fisherman, who has unwisely taken fishing advice from Hetta the troll, is finally rescued from freezing to death, after the events represented below, by the saga’s eponymous hero. ‘Norpr inn nefskammi’ (‘frozen, short-nosed person’) is, of course, a troll-to-human ethnic slur: trolls are well-known for long noses, and Ingjaldr is not a troll.

Róa skaltu fjall Firða fram á lo˛g stirðan, þar mun grátt glitta, ef vilt Grímsmið hitta; Þar skaltu þá ligg ja – Þórr er vinr Frigg ja – rói norpr inn nefskammi Nesit11 í Hrakhvammi.

Row past cliffs at Firðafell where wet waves flash and swell. It’s by Grímr’s waterway where fishscales glimmer grey. It’s there your way wends. (Þórr is Frigg’s friend.) To Hrakhvammr he rows, with his wee frozen nose.

You shall row past Firðafjall12 on choppy seas if you wish to find Grímr’s fishing-ground. Codfish will glitter there. There you shall stay. Þórr is Frigg’s friend. Let the short-nosed frozen person row to Nes13 in Hrakhvammr.14

11 12 13 14

Now Rifshöfuð. Now Kirkjufell, Snæfellsnes. Now Rifshöfuð. Now Hregghvammur, below Búrfell.

112  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Út reri einn á báti Ing jaldr í skinnfeldi, týndi átján ˛onglum Ing jaldr í skinnfeldi; ok fertugu færi Ing jaldr í skinnfeldi, aptr komi aldri síðan Ing jaldr í skinnfeldi.

Rowed out in boat alone, Ing jaldr in Skin-Cloak. Can’t find his fishhooks, Ing jaldr in Skin-Cloak. Can’t find his fishing-lines, Ing jaldr in Skin-Cloak. Never ever coming back, Ing jaldr in Skin-Cloak.

Rowed out alone in a boat. Ingjaldr in a skin cloak [repeated three more times]. Lost eighteen fishhooks, and forty fishing-lines. Let him never return.

Old Norse Literature Time Line The emphasis is on dates pertinent to the present collection of poems, with the earlier periods providing source materials for their composition.


Early Christian saints (e.g., Sebastian, Catherine of Alexandria, Mary of Egypt). 350–600 Migration Age in Europe. Historical prototypes for later epic heroes, e.g., Sigebert the Frank, Brunichildis the Visigoth, Gundicarius of Burgundy, Ermanaric the Ostrogoth, Attila the Hun, Theodoric the Ostrogoth. 750–1100 ‘Vikings’ from Scandinavia venture as far as the Mediterranean, the Near East and North America for purposes of plunder, exploration, settlement and mercantile activity. 872–933 Haraldr hárfagri (Haraldr Fairhair) reigns in Norway. 874–930 Iceland is founded and settled by Scandinavians from the Continent, mainly Norwegians. 931–933 Eiríkr blóðøx (Eiríkr Blood-Axe) reigns in Norway. 933–960 Hákon góði (Hákon the Good) reigns in Norway. 995–1000 Norway and Iceland convert to Christianity. Manuscript tradition begins (pens and parchment). 1014 Battle of Clontarf (Ireland). 1015–1028 Óláfr Haraldsson (St. Olav) reigns in Norway. 1150 Saints’ lives (see first entry above) begin to be translated from southern European prototypes. 1150–1241 Saxo Grammaticus (Denmark) and Snorri Sturluson (Iceland) begin to write down old stories from the pagan era, both mythological and historical. (There is a two- to eight-hundred-year gap between these ‘events’ and the recording of them.) 1217–1263 Hákon Hákonarson (Hákon the Old) reigns in Norway. 1230s Snorri Sturluson is the likely author of Egils saga SkallaGrímssonar, a semi-historical biographical account of a direct ancestor, who was one of the founders of Iceland. 115

116  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds 1240s on.

Sagas of other founders and settlers of Iceland, such as Laxdœla saga and Njáls saga, continue to be written down, by authors other than Snorri (with a two to three centuries gap between the events described and the saga composition). 1238 Battle of Ǫrlygsstaðir (Iceland). 1253 Wedding at Flugumýrr (Iceland). 1255 Battle of Þverá (Iceland). Late 13c. on. Early legendary sagas (fornaldarsögur), such as Vǫlsunga saga and Hervarar saga, featuring figures out of the Migration Age as characters, begin to be composed and written down. The poetry in these sagas is sometimes older, by an indeterminable period, than the prose. 1260s Sturla Þórðarson (Iceland) writes the Íslendinga saga portion of Sturlunga saga (contemporary history with little time gap). 1262 Norway, under Hákon Hákonarson, finally annexes Iceland, after decades of Icelandic civil war. 1250 x 1300 The Codex Regius GKS 2365 4to manuscript of the Poetic Edda is written (Iceland). Just under half the poetry of the Codex Regius tells stories of the pagan gods, while the remainder retells the heroic cycle of Sigurðr Fáfnisbani, the dragon-slayer of Vǫlsunga saga. Some poems are probably recent compositions; others must be old, but dating is problematic.

Glossary of Personal Names The names listed here are primarily personal, but include a few proper names of objects. Alphabetical order follows English conventions. Diacritical marks are ignored, and ð is alphabetized as if it were d, and þ as if th. Boldface type (whether italicized or not) marks a name as having its own entry in the Glossary. Boldface italics mark names which have their own entries as skalds within the body of the book.

Agnarr, Auða – Brother and sister favored by the valkyrie Brynhildr Buðladóttir (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry). Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir – A legendary princess of Arabia, formerly enchanted in monstrous form (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). See also Hildisif Ptólómeusdóttir and Vargeisa. Ambátt (Maidservant) – A quasi-historical eleventh-century Norwegian; said to have met the incognito Óláfr Haraldsson (Vǫlsa þáttr). Angantýr Arngrímsson – Berserker father of Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir (Hervarar saga). Ármóðsdóttir skeggs (Daughter of Beard-Ármóðr) – Said to have met and spoken with Egill Skalla-Grímsson in Norway (Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar). Arnfinnsdóttir jarls (Daughter of Jarl Arnfinnr) – Said to have met and spoken with Egill Skalla-Grímsson in Halland (then Denmark, now Sweden) (Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar). Arngrímr – Paternal grandfather of Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir (Hervarar saga). Arrow-Oddr – See Ǫrvar-Oddr. Ásbjǫrn prúði (Ásbjǫrn the Magnificent) – Legendary Norwegian hero, companion of Ormr Stórólfsson (Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar). Ásdís á Bjargi – Eleventh-century Icelander, farmed at Bjarg, Miðfjǫrdr, northern Iceland; mother of Grettir Ásmundarson (Grettis saga). Atall – A legendary sea-king. Aurnir (Gravel) – A giant. Barði Guðmundarson – Eleventh-century Icelander, lived at Ásbjarnarnes, Vatnsnes, northern Iceland; son of Þuríðr Óláfsdóttir (Heiðarvíga saga). 117

118  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Bárðr Snæfellsáss (Bárðr, Snæfell’s Hero) – Tenth-century quasihistorical Icelander from Snæfellsnes, western Iceland; eponymous hero of the fantastic saga Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss. Bendill – A cave-dwelling giant (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). Bóndadóttir (Farmer’s Daughter) – A quasi-historical eleventh-century northern Norwegian; said to have recognized the incognito Óláfr Haraldsson (Vǫlsa þáttr). Bósi Þvarason – A legendary Swedish hero (Bósa saga). Bragi Boddason – Semi-legendary ninth-century Norwegian, first of all skalds (Snorri Sturluson, Edda: Skáldskaparmál). Brandr Kolbeinsson of Staðr – A thirteenth-century Icelander, a follower of Kolbeinn ungi Arnórsson (Sturlunga saga). Brandr inn ǫrvi (Brandr the Generous) – An otherwise-unidentified thirteenth-century Icelander, either Brandr Vermundsson or Brandr Kolbeinsson (Sturlunga saga). Brian Boru – King of Ireland, died at the battle of Clontarf (1014), even though his side (Munster) was victorious. Broddi Þorleifsson of Hof – A thirteenth-century Icelander, a follower of Kolbeinn ungi Arnórsson (Sturlunga saga). Bróka-Auðr (Breeches-Auðr) – A tenth-century Icelander, lived at Hóll, Saurbœr, western Iceland; wife of Þórðr Ingunnarson in Laxdœla saga. Brynhildr Buðladóttir – Legendary valkyrie heroine, lover of Sigurðr Fáfnisbani (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry). Buðli – Father of Brynhildr Buðladóttir (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry). Busla – A legendary witch in Sweden, patroness of Bósi Þvarason (Bósa saga). Dvalinn – A dwarf; forged Tyrfingr for Sváfrlami (Hervarar saga). Egill – A thirteenth-century Icelander, companion of Steinólfr (Sturlunga saga). Egill Skalla-Grímsson – A tenth-century Icelander, lived at Borgarfjǫrðr, western Iceland; poet, adventurer and saga-hero (Egils saga SkallaGrímssonar). Eiríkr blóðøx (Eiríkr Blood-Axe) – King of Norway (931–3), son of Haraldr hárfagri (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla). Eyfura – Paternal grandmother of Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir (Hervarar saga). Eyjólfr ofsi (the Overbearing) Þorsteinsson – Icelander; former son-inlaw of Sturla Sighvatsson; burned the house down at the Flugumýrr wedding (1253), with Hrafn Oddsson; killed at the battle of Þverá (1255) (Sturlunga saga).

Glossary of Personal Names  119 Fáfnir – A dragon, slain by Sigurðr Fáfnisbani (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry). Faxi – A horse belonging to Ǫrvar-Oddr, also the indirect cause of his death at his birthplace in Norway (Ǫrvar-Odds saga). Feima (possibly: Woman) – A troll-woman encountered by the legendary Norwegian hero Grímr loðinkinni (Gríms saga loðinkinna). Fenja – A giant-maiden in legendary Denmark (Grottasǫngr). Fífa – See Gusisnautar. Flaug – See Gusisnautar. Forað (possibly: Dangerous Place) – A troll-woman encountered by the legendary Norwegian hero Ketill hængr (Ketils saga hœngs). Fóstra Þórodds Þorbrandssonar (Þóroddr Þorbrandsson’s Foster Mother) – An eleventh-century Icelander, said to be living in Álptafjǫrðr (Snæfellsnes, western Iceland) in Eyrbyggja saga. Freyja – A goddess. Freyr – A god. Frigg – A goddess, wife of Óðinn. Fróði Friðleifsson – A legendary king of Denmark (Hrólfs saga kraka and Grottasǫngr). Fróði Ǫgmundarson – Tenth-century Norwegian; sickened and died in childhood, just before his family sailed from Norway to Iceland; halfbrother of the Icelandic skald Kormakr Ǫgmundarson (Kormaks saga). Gefjun – A goddess. Gerðr – A goddess, wife of Freyr. Gizurr Þorvaldsson – Icelander; an enemy of the Sturlungar; fought alongside Kolbeinn ungi Arnórsson at the battle of Ǫrlygsstaðir (1238) (Sturlunga saga); owner of the estate at Flugumýrr, site of an ill-fated wedding between enemies that became a conflagration (1253). Gjúki – Father of the legendary heroine Guðrún Gjúkadóttir (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry). Gjúkungar – The legendary Burgundian dynastic family that included Guðrún Gjúkadóttir and her brothers (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry). Glæsir (Shining One) – A supernatural bull in eleventh-century Álptafjǫrðr, Snæfellsnes, western Iceland; said to be conceived after a cow ate the funerary ashes of a bothersome ghost (Eyrbyggja saga). Goðmundr – An infant giant, brother of Hildigunnr Risadóttir (ǪrvarOdds saga). Gǫndul (Staff-Bearer) – A valkyrie. Gǫngu-Hrólfr (Hrólfr the Walker) – Said in Norwegian and Icelandic sources to have been the grandson of Hrólfr nefja and the son of Hildr

120  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Hrólfsdóttir and Rǫgnvaldr jarl of Mœrir; semi-legendary founder of Normandy (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla). Gothormr – A legendary king of Sweden (Grottasǫngr). Gotþormr sindri – A skald for Haraldr hárfagri king of Norway; contemporary of Jórunn skáldmær (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla). Grani – The horse of Sigurðr Fáfnisbani (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry). Grettir Ásmundarson – An eleventh-century Icelandic outlaw and saga-hero (Grettis saga). Grímr (1) – A name for Þórr (Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss). Grímr (2) – An alias for Óláfr Haraldsson in Vǫlsa þáttr. Grímr loðinkinni (Grímr Hairy-Cheek) – A legendary Norwegian hero, son of Ketill hœngr (Gríms saga loðinkinna) and father of ǪrvarOddr. Grotti (Millstone) – The magic mill acquired by legendary Danish king Fróði Friðleifsson, at which Fenja and Menja were forced to toil. Guðrún Gjúkadóttir – A legendary heroine; rival and enemy of Brynhildr Buðladóttir; married to Sigurðr Fáfnisbani (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry). Gunnhildr konungamóðir (Gunnhildr, Mother of Kings) – Queen of Norway, wife of Eiríkr blóðøx (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla). Gunnr (Battle) – A valkyrie. Gusisnautar – Flaug, Fífa and Hremsa: the three magical arrows passed down in the family of the heroes of Hrafnista, inherited by ǪrvarOddr. Gyðja (Priestess) – A pagan priestess-queen of ‘Bjalka,’ an enemy of Ǫrvar-Oddr (Ǫrvar-Odds saga). Gylfi – A legendary sea-king. Hafr Bjarnarson – A thirteenth-century Icelander, follower of Kolbeinn ungi Arnórsson (Sturlunga saga). Hákon góði (Hákon the Good) – King of Norway (933–60), son of Haraldr hárfagri (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla). Hákon Hákonarson inn gamli (Hákon the Old) – King of Norway (1217–63) (Sturlunga saga). Hálfdan – Brother of Fróði (Friðleifsson), legendary king of Denmark; grandfather (and great-grandfather) of Hrólfr kraki (Hrólfs saga kraka and Grottasǫngr). Hálfdan svarti – Son of Haraldr hárfagri (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla). Halldóra Þórðardóttir – A visionary thirteenth-century Icelander; farmed at Fljót in Skagafjǫrðr in northern Iceland (Sturlunga saga).

Glossary of Personal Names  121 Hallr Guðmundarson – Eleventh-century Icelander, lived at Ásbjarnarnes, Vatnsnes, northern Iceland; son of Þuríðr Óláfsdóttir (Heiðar­víga saga). Hallvarðr Jósepsson – A thirteenth-century Icelander, follower of Kolbeinn ungi Arnórsson (Sturlunga saga). Hamr – An alias for Hróarr Hálfdanarson (Hrólfs saga kraka). Haraldr hárfagri (Haraldr Fairhair) – King of Norway (872–933), son of Hálfdan svarti; father of Hálfdan svarti, Hákon góði, and Eiríkr blóðøx (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla). Heiðr (possibly: Bright; Honor; or Heath) – A name or title for a prophetess. Heiðr vǫlva (Heiðr the Seeress) – Names given to prophetesses in Hrólfs saga kraka and Ǫrvar-Odds saga. Heiðrekr – A legendary king of Reiðgotaland, son of Hervǫr Angantýs­ dóttir (Hervarar saga). Helga Bárðardóttir – Semi-legendary tenth-century Icelander; daughter of Bárðr Snæfellsáss (Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss); sometime companion of Miðfjarðar-Skeggi. Helgi Hálfdanarson – A legendary king of Denmark, father (and grandfather) of Hrólfr kraki (Hrólfs saga kraka). Hergunnr – A troll-woman encountered by legendary hero Hjálmþér (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). Herrauðr Hringsson – A hero-prince in legendary Sweden, companion of Bósi Þvarason (Bósa saga). Hervarðr Arngrímsson – Berserker uncle of Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir (Hervarar saga). Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir – A legendary shield-maiden and saga-heroine (Hervarar saga). Hervǫr Hundingjadóttir – A legendary chess-playing princess said to have had ‘eyes like gemstones and cheeks like roses,’ abducted from her father’s fortress by Hǫrðr (Hringr) (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). Hetta trollkona (Hetta the Troll-woman) – An Icelandic troll-woman encountered by Bárðr Snæfellsáss (Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss). Hildigunnr risadóttir (Hildigunnr Giant’s-Daughter) – A giant-maiden encountered by Ǫrvar-Oddr (Ǫrvar-Odds saga). Hildisif Ptólómeusdóttir – A legendary princess of Arabia, formerly enchanted in monstrous form (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). See also Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir and Skinnhúfa. Hildr (Battle) – A valkyrie. Hildr Hrólfsdóttir – A tenth-century Norwegian; mother of GǫnguHrólfr (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla). Hjálm-Gunnarr – Old warrior, not favored by the valkyrie Brynhildr Buðladóttir (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry).

122  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Hjálmarr – A legendary Swedish hero, companion of Ǫrvar-Oddr, slain with the cursed sword Tyrfingr (Hervarar saga and ǪrvarOdds saga). Hjálmr (á Víðivǫllum?) – A defender of Tongue Farm (Iceland) against Kolbeinn ungi Arnórsson in the thirteenth-century Icelandic civil wars (Sturlunga saga); or (alternate reading) a follower of Kolbeinn, not present at the attack on the farm (and therefore not referred to in the poem). See the entry on Kerling í Tungu. Hjálmþér – A legendary hero, son of the ‘king of Mannheim’ and a princess of Persia (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). Hjǫrþrimul (Sword-Clashing) – A valkyrie. Hjǫrvarðr Arngrímsson – Berserker uncle of Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir (Hervarar saga). Hó – A dog-alias for Helgi Hálfdanarson (Hrólfs saga kraka). Hoppr – A dog-alias for Hróarr Hálfdanarson (Hrólfs saga kraka). Hǫrðr Grímkelsson – Tenth-century Icelandic saga-hero, active in southern and western Iceland (Harðar saga ok Hólmverja). Hǫrðr (Hringr Ptólómeusson) – A servant-man with a secret identity, hired by Hjálmþér at the advice of Vargeisa, who turns out to be very good at killing trolls (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). Hrafn Oddsson – Icelander; former son-in-law of Sturla Sighvatsson; burned the house down at the Flugumýrr wedding (1253), with Eyjólfr ofsi Þorsteinsson; killed at the battle of Þverá (1255) (Sturlunga saga). Hrani – An alias for Helgi Hálfdanarson (Hrólfs saga kraka). Hrani Arngrímsson – Berserker uncle of Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir (Hervarar saga). Hremsa – See Gusisnautar. Hrímnir (Sooty, or Icy) – A giant. Hringr – A king of the Gautar in legendary Sweden, father of Herrauð (Bósa saga). Hringr Ptólómeusson – See Hǫrðr. Hróarr Hálfdanarson – Brother of Helgi Hálfdanarson (Hrólfs saga kraka). Hrólfr kraki (Hrólfr the Ladder) – A legendary king of Denmark, son of Helgi Hálfdanarson and Yrsa (Hrólfs saga kraka). Hrungnir – A giant. Hrútr Herjólfsson – Tenth-century Icelander, briefly married to Unnr Marðardóttir (Njáls saga). Iði (Agile) – A giant. Ingjaldr – Icelander; a fisherman friend of the eponymous hero, in the fantastic saga Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss.

Glossary of Personal Names  123 Jóreiðr Hermundardóttir í Miðjumdal – A visionary thirteenth-century Icelander. Sixteen years old, she served as maidservant to a priest and farmer in Miðjumdalr, not far from Þingvellir. The legendary pagan heroine Guðrún Gjúkadóttir appeared to her in a series of visions (Sturlunga saga). Jórunn skáldmær (Jórunn the Poet-Maiden) – A Norwegian skald at the time of Haraldr hárfagri (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla). Kerling (Old Woman) – Norwegian; said to have met Óláfr Haraldsson while incognito (Vǫlsa þáttr). Kerling í Tungu (The Old Woman of Tongue Farm) – An Icelander of the Sturlung age (thirteenth century) (Sturlunga saga). Ketill hœngr (Ketill Trout/Salmon) – A legendary Norwegian hero (Ketils saga hœngs). Father of Grímr loðinkinni and grandfather of Ǫrvar-Oddr. Ketilríðr Hólmkelsdóttir – Icelander; the heroine of the saga-romance Víglundar saga. Kleima (possibly: Procrastinator) – A troll-woman encountered by legendary Norwegian hero Grímr loðinkinni (Gríms saga loðinkinna). Knúi – A legendary king of Sweden (Grottasǫngr). Kolbeinn ungi (the Young) Arnórsson – A thirteenth-century Icelander, resident in Skagafjǫrðr, inimical to the Sturlungar (Sturlunga saga). Kona at Munka-Þverá (Woman at Munka-Þverá) – A visionary thirteenth-century Icelander, resident in Eyjafjǫrðr (Sturlunga saga). Kona ein í Svartárdal (A Woman in Blackriver Valley) – A visionary thirteenth-century Icelander, resident in Svartárdalr, Húnavatn (Sturlunga saga). Kona skammt frá Þingeyrastað (Woman, close to Þingeyrir) – A visionary thirteenth-century Icelander (Sturlunga saga). Kormakr Ǫgmundarson – A tenth-century Icelandic skald and sagahero, from Miðfjǫrðr, northern Iceland (Kormaks saga). Lærir – A dog in Vǫlsa þáttr. Margerðr (possibly: Sea-Goddess) – A troll-woman encountered by Hjálmþér (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). Menja – A giant-maiden (Grottasǫngr). Miðfjarðar-Skeggi (Skeggi of Miðfjǫrðr) – A tenth-century Icelander, featured in a number of sagas. Mǫrnir (possibly: Giantesses, or deified phallus) – A divine entity or entities worshipped by the peasant family in Vǫlsa þáttr. Njǫrðr – A god.

124  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Óðinn – The All-father, god of battle and poetry. Óláfr Haraldsson – King of Norway (1015–28); also Norway’s patron saint (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla). Óláfr pái (Óláfr the Peacock) – Prominent tenth-century Icelander, said to be the grandson of Muircearteach, king of Ireland (Laxdœla saga). Ólǫf geisli (Ólǫf Sun-ray) – The hero’s mother, a princess of Norway, in the saga-romance Víglundar saga. Ǫlvir – A legendary hero, companion of Hjálmþér (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). Ǫlvǫr – A legendary princess of Ireland, beloved of Ǫrvar-Oddr (Ǫrvar-Odds saga). Ormr Stórólfsson – A legendary Norwegian hero (Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar). Ǫrvar-Oddr (Arrow-Oddr) – A legendary Norwegian hero, inheritor of three magic arrows, endowed with an unnaturally long life (ǪrvarOdds saga). Páll Kolbeinsson of Reynistaðr – A thirteenth-century Icelander; follower of Kolbeinn ungi Arnórsson (Sturlunga saga). Randvér’s Bane – A name for Óðinn. Sævill – An evil jarl, married to Signý Hálfdansdóttir (Hrólfs saga kraka). Sanngríðr (True Courage, or True Giantess) – A valkyrie. Signý Hálfdansdóttir – Sister of Hróarr and Helgi, married to Sævill (Hrólfs saga kraka). Signý Valbrandsdóttir – A tenth-century Icelander from Reykjadalr in southern Iceland; mother of Hǫrðr Grímkelsson (Harðar saga ok Hólmverja). Sigtryggr silkiskegg (Sigtryggr Silkbeard) – King of Dublin, son-inlaw and enemy of Brian Boru; allied with Brian’s Leinster enemies at the battle of Clontarf (1014). Sigurðr Fáfnisbani (Sigurðr Fáfnir’s Bane) – A legendary dragonslaying hero (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry). Sigurðr Hlǫðvisson – Jarl of Orkney, allied with Brian Boru’s Leinster enemies at the battle of Clontarf (1014). Skinnhúfa (Skin-Cloak) – Alias for Hildisif Ptólómeusdóttir while enslaved by the giant Bendill (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). Skjǫldungar – The legendary Danish dynastic family that included Hróarr Hálfdanarson, Helgi Hálfdanarson, Signý Hálfdansdóttir and Hrólfr kraki (Hrólfs saga kraka).

Glossary of Personal Names  125 Snarvendill (Turns Quickly) – A sword (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis), given by Vargeisa to Hjálmþér. Snorri Sturluson – A thirteenth-century Icelandic chieftain and man of letters; author of Skáldskaparmál and Heimskringla; uncle of Sturla Þórðarson, Steinvǫr Sighvatsdóttir á Keldum and Sturla Sighvatsson; killed by his former son-in-law Gizurr Þorvaldsson, among others. Steingerðr Þórketilsdóttir – A tenth-century Icelander; beloved of Kormakr Ǫgmundarson (Kormaks saga). Steinólfr – A thirteenth-century Icelander, brother of a certain Þorvarðr, possibly Þorvarðr Þórarinsson of Eyjafjǫrðr; companion of Egill (Sturlunga saga). Steinunn Refsdóttir – An Icelander, living at Hofgarðr on Snæfellsnes, around 999 (Njáls saga and Kristni saga). Steinvǫr Sighvatsdóttir á Keldum – A thirteenth-century Icelander of the Sturlungar; farmed at Keldur; cousin of Sturla Þórðarson; foretells the death of her brother, Sturla Sighvatsson (Sturlunga saga). Sturla Sighvatsson – A thirteenth-century Icelander of the Sturlungar, brother of Steinvǫr Sighvatsdóttir á Keldum; died at the battle of Ǫrlygsstaðir (1238) (Sturlunga saga). Sturla Þórðarson – A thirteenth-century Icelander of the Sturlungar; chronicler of contemporary civil war; author of the Íslendinga saga section of Sturlunga saga; cousin of Steinvǫr Sighvatsdóttir á Keldum. Sturlungar (Sturlungs) – A dynastic faction in the thirteenth-century Icelandic civil wars recounted in Sturlunga saga. Sváfa – See Tófa. Sváfrlami – Great-grandfather of Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir, maternal grandfather of Angantýr and his berserker brothers (Hervarar saga). Svipul (Quick) – A valkyrie. Sýr (Sow) – A name for Freyja. Þangbrandr – A Christian missionary to Iceland, around 999 (Njáls saga and Kristni saga). Þjazi – A giant. Þorbjǫrg Grímkelsdóttir – An Icelander; sister of Hǫrðr Grímkelsson (Harðar saga ok Hólmverja). Þorbjǫrn hornklofi – A ninth- and tenth-century Norwegian, skald to Haraldr hárfagri. Þorgils skarði Bǫðvarsson – A thirteenth-century Icelandic chieftain; fought on Sturla Þórðarson’s side at the battle of Þverá (1255) (Sturlunga saga). Þorgrímr Eiríksson – Norwegian; father of the eponymous hero in the saga-romance Víglundar saga.

126  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Þórhildr skáldkona – A tenth-century Icelander of southern Iceland; wife of Þráinn Sigfússon in Njáls saga. Þóroddr Þorbrandsson – An eleventh-century Icelander, said to be living in Álptafjǫrðr (Snæfellsnes, western Iceland) (Eyrbyggja saga). Þórr – A god. Þorvarðr Þórarinsson – A thirteenth-century Icelandic chieftain, resident in Eyjafjǫrðr, possible kinsman of Jóreiðr Hermundardóttir í Miðjumdal; possible brother of Steinólfr (Sturlunga saga). Þundarr – A man’s name, used in poetry to refer to Víglundr (Víglundar saga). Þuríðr at Fellsenda í Dǫlum (Þuríðr from Fellsendi in the Dales) – A visionary thirteenth-century Icelander (Sturlunga saga). Þuríðr Óláfsdóttir pá – Eleventh-century Icelander; daughter of Óláfr pái and grandddaughter of Egill Skalla-Grímsson; mother of Barði Guðmundarson and Hallr Guðmundarson (Heiðarvíga saga). Þvinnill – A legendary sea-king. Tófa (Vixen) – The mother of Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir (Hervarar saga). Sváfa in some manuscripts. Trausti – Companion of Víglundr in the saga-romance Víglundar saga. Tumi Sighvatsson – A thirteenth-century Icelander of the Sturlungar, brother of Steinvǫr Sighvatsdóttir á Keldum and Sturla Sighvatsson (Sturlunga saga). Tyrfingr (possibly: Buried under turf) – A legendary cursed sword, made by Dvalinn, inherited by Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir (Hervarar saga). Ullr – A god. Unnr – A name for Óðinn (in Þorbjǫrg Grímkelsdóttir’s second stanza only). Unnr Marðardóttir – A tenth-century Icelander, briefly married to Hrútr Herjólfsson (Njáls saga). Ván – A river-name, used in poetry (Víglundar saga). Vár (possibly: Oath) – A goddess-name. See also Vǫr. Vargeisa (Wolf-Fire) – A legendary monster-woman, keeper of Snarvendill (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). See also Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir. Víglundr Þorgrímsson – The eponymous hero of the saga-romance Víglundar saga. Vignir – A legendary figure, son of Ǫrvar-Oddr and Hildigunnr risadóttir (Ǫrvar-Odds saga). Vǫlsi – The eponymous sacred object in Vǫlsa þáttr. Vǫlsungar – The legendary Continental dynastic family that included Sigurðr Fáfnisbani (Vǫlsunga saga and Eddic poetry).

Glossary of Personal Names  127 Vǫlva – A name or title for a prophetess. Vǫlva – The otherwise nameless prophetess in Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar. Vǫr (possibly: Wary) – A goddess-name; also, a common second element in women’s names (Hervǫr, Olvǫr, Steinvǫr). See also Vár. Yggr (Frightful) – A name for Óðinn. Ýma – A troll-woman encountered by Hjálmþér (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis). Yrsa – The mother (and half-sister) of Hrólfr kraki (Hrólfs saga kraka).

Bibliography Andersson, Theodore Murdock, The Legend of Brynhild. Islandica 43. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980. Asbjørnsen, Peter Christen, and Jørgen Moe, Samlede eventyr, med alle de originale tegningene. 2 vols. Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, 1994. Auden, W. H., and Paul B. Taylor, The Elder Edda: A Selection. London: Faber and Faber, 1970. Barði Guðmundsson, The Origin of the Icelanders, tr. Lee Milton Hollander. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967. First published as Uppruni Íslendinga, Reykjavík: Menningarsjóður, 1959. Bjarni Einarson, ed., Ágrip af Nóregs konunga sǫgum: Fagrskinna – Nóregs konunga tal. Íslenzk fornrit 29. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1984. Boer, Richard C., Die Edda, mit historisch-kritischem Kommentar. 2 vols. Haarlem: H. D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon, 1922. Clover, Carol J., ‘Hildigunnr’s Lament,’ in Karen Swenson and Sarah M. Anderson, eds., Cold Counsel: Women of Old Norse Literature and Myth. New York: Routledge, 2002, 15–54. Clunies Ross, Margaret, ed., Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages: Poetry on Christian Subjects. 2 vols. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007. Detter, Ferdinand, and Richard Heinzel, Sæmundar Edda mit einem Anhang. 2 vols. Leipzig: Georg Wigand, 1903. Dronke, Ursula, ed. and tr., The Poetic Edda, Volume II: Mythological Poems. Oxford University Press, 1997. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson, ed., Brennu-Njáls saga. Íslenzk fornrit 12. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1954. —— ed., Laxdœla saga; Halldórs þættir Snorrasonar; Stúfs þáttr. Íslenzk fornrit 5. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1934. —— ed., Vatnsdœla saga; Hallfreðar saga; Kormáks saga; Hrómundar þáttr halta; Hrafns þáttr Guðrúnarsonar. Íslenzk fornrit 8. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1939. —— and Matthias Þórðarson, eds., Eyrbyggja saga; Brands þáttr ǫrva. Íslenzk fornrit 4. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1935. Faulkes, Anthony, ed., Stories from the Sagas of the Kings. London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 1980. (Includes Vǫlsa þáttr.) —— ed., Two Icelandic Stories: Hreiðars þáttr and Orms þáttr. 2nd ed. London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 1978. 129

130  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Finnur Jónsson, ed., Lexicon Poeticum Antiquae Linguae Septentrionalis. Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog, oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd ed. Copenhagen: Atlas, 1966. First published 1931. Finnur Jónsson, ed., Fagrskinna: Nóregs Konunga tal. Samfund til udgivelse af gammel nordisk literatur 30. Copenhagen: Møller, 1902–3. —— ed., Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. 4 vols. Copenhagen and Kristiania: Gyldendal, 1912–15; rpt. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger, 1967–73. Frank, Roberta, Old Norse Court Poetry: The Dróttkvætt Stanza. Islandica 42. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978. Gade, Kari Ellen, ed., Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages: Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas. 2 vols. Turnhout: Brepols, 2009. Gering, Hugo, and Barend Sijmons, eds., Die Lieder der Edda. 3 vols. Halle an der Saale: Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses, 1927. Gordon, Eric Valentine, An Introduction to Old Norse. 2nd ed., rev. A. R. Taylor. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957. Guðbrandur Vigfússon and F. York Powell, ed. and tr., Corpvs Poeticvm Boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue, From the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1883. Guðbrandur Vigfússon, ed., Sturlunga saga. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1878. Guðni Jónsson, ed., Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. Reykavík: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan, 1950. —— ed. Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar; Bandamanna saga; Odds þáttr Ófeigssonar. Íslenzk fornrit 7. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1936. Guðrún P. Helgadóttir, Skáldkonur fyrri alda. 2 vols. Akureyri: Kvǫld­ vǫkuútgáfan, 1961; 2nd ed. in one vol. Akranes: Hǫrpuútgáfan, 1995. Heide, Eldar, Gand, seid og åndevind. University of Bergen, 2006. Heusler, Andreas, and Wilhelm Ranisch, Eddica Minora: Dichtungen eddischer Art aus den Fornaldarsögur und anderen Prosawerken. Dortmund: Friedrich Wilhelm Ruhfus, 1903; rpt. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1974. Hollander, Lee Milton, Old Norse Poems: The Most Important NonSkaldic Verse Not Included in the Poetic Edda. New York: Columbia University Press, 1936. Hughes, Shaun F. D., ‘The Re-Emergence of Women’s Voices in Icelandic Literature, 1500–1800,’ in Karen Swenson and Sarah M. Anderson, eds., Cold Counsel: Women of Old Norse Literature and Myth. New York: Routledge, 2002, 93–128. Jesch, Judith, Women in the Viking Age. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1991.

Bibliography  131 Jochens, Jenny M., ‘The Church and Sexuality in Medieval Iceland’, Journal of Medieval History 6 (1980), 377–92. —— Old Norse Images Of Women. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996. Jochens, Jenny M., Women in Old Norse Society. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995. Jóhannes Halldórsson, ed., Kjalnesinga saga; Jǫkuls þáttr Búasonar; Víglundar saga; Króka-Refs saga; Þórðar saga hreðu; Finnboga saga; Gunnars þáttr Keldugnúpsfífls. Íslenzk fornrit 14. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1959. Jón Helgason, ed., Heiðreks saga: Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks konungs. Samfund til udgivelse af gammel nordisk litteratur 48. Copenhagen: J. Jørgensen & Co., 1924. Jón Jóhannesson, Magnús Finnbogason, and Kristján Eldjárn, eds., Sturlunga saga. 2 vols. Reykjavík: Sturlunguútgáfan, 1946. Kalinke, Marianne E., ‘Fathers, Mothers and Daughters: “Hver er að ráða?”,’ in Karen Swenson and Sarah M. Anderson, eds., Cold Counsel: Women of Old Norse Literature and Myth. New York: Routledge, 2002, 167–88. Kellogg, Robert, ‘Sex and the Vernacular in Medieval Iceland,’ in Peter Foote, Hermann Pálsson, and Desmond Slay, eds., Proceedings of the First International Saga Conference, Edinburgh, 1971. London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 1973, 244–58. Kock, Ernst Albin, ed., Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1946–50. —— ‘Notationes norrœnae,’ Acta Universitatis Lundensis, Nova Series: Teologi, Juridik, och Humanistik (1923–43), 19–39. LaFarge, Beatrice, and John Tucker, Glossary to the Poetic Edda. Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1992. Lindow, John, ‘Riddles, Kennings and the Complexity of Skaldic Poetry,’ Scandinavian Studies 47 (1975), 311–27. McGrew, Julia, tr., Sturlunga saga. 2 vols. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1971. McKinnell, John, ‘On Heiðr,’ Saga-Book of the Viking Society 25 (2001), 394–417. Neckel, Gustav, ed., Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 3rd ed., rev. Hans Kuhn. Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1962. Plummer, John, ed., Vox Feminae: Studies in Medieval Women’s Songs. Kalamazoo: The Medieval Institute, 1980. Quinn, Judy, ‘“Ok verðr henni ljóð á munni’ – Eddic Prophecy in the Fornaldarsögur,” Alvíssmál 8 (1998), 29–50. Sigurður Nordal, ed., Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar. Íslenzk fornrit 2. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1933.

132  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Sigurður Nordal and Guðni Jónsson, eds. Borgfirðinga sǫgur: Hœnsa-Þóris saga; Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu; Bjarnar saga Hítdœlakappa; Heiðarvíga saga; Gísls þáttr Illugasonar. Íslenzk fornrit 3. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1938. Sigurgeir Steingrímsson, Ólafur Halldórsson, and Peter Foote, Biskupa sögur I: Síðari hluti – sögutextar: Kristni saga; Kristni þættir; Jóns saga helga; Gísls þáttr Illugarsonar; Sæmundar þáttr. Íslenzk fornrit 15:2. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 2003. Simek, Rudolf, Lexikon der germanischen Mythologie. Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner, 2006, 474–5. Snorri Sturluson, Edda, tr. Anthony Faulkes. London: J. M. Dent, 1987. —— Edda: Skáldskaparmál, ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 1998. —— Heimskringla, ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. Íslenzk fornrit 26–8. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag, 1941–51. Straubhaar, Sandra Ballif, ‘Ambiguously Gendered, Not Only Grammatically: The Skalds Jórunn, Auðr and Steinunn,’ in Karen Swenson and Sarah M. Anderson, eds., Cold Counsel: Women of Old Norse Literature and Myth. New York: Routledge, 2002, 261–71. —— ‘Critical Notes on the Icelandic Skáldkonur.’ Unpublished dissertation, Stanford University, 1982. —— ‘The Forgotten Skáldkonur and their Place in Early Scandinavian Culture,’ in Judith Rice Rothschild, ed., Creativity, Influence, Imagination: The Worlds of Medieval Women. Morgantown, West Virginia: University of West Virginia Press, 1987, 14–23. —— ‘Jórunn skáldmær,’ ‘Steinunn Refsdóttir,’ and ‘Jóreiðr í Miðjumdal,’ in Katharina Wilson, ed., An Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers. New York: Garland, 1991, 1158–9, 1190–1, 837–8. —— ‘Nasty, Brutish and Large: Cultural Difference and Otherness in the Figuration of the Trollwomen of the Fornaldar sögur,’ Scandinavian Studies 73 (2001), 105–24. —— ‘Skáldkonur,’ in Philip Pulsiano et al., ed., Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993, 594–6. —— Three entries (Jóreiðr, Jórunn, Steinunn) in Katharina Wilson and Nadia Margolis, eds., Women in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2004, I, 493–5, II, 870–1. Thompson, Claiborne W., ‘The Runes in Bósa saga ok Herrauðs,’ Scandinavian Studies 50 (1978), 50–6. Þórhallur Vilmundarson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson, eds., Harðar saga; Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss; Þorskfirðinga saga (Gull-Þóris saga); Flóamanna saga; Þórarins þáttr Nefjólfssonar; Þorsteins þáttr uxafóts; Egils þáttr Síðu-Hallssonar; Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar; Þorsteins þáttr tjaldtœðings; Þorsteins þáttr forvitna; Bergbúa þáttr;

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Index of Names

Aðalþegnshólar (Iceland) 34 Agnarr 52, 117 Álfr bjalki 89–91 Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir 93, 101, 106–9, 117 Ambátt (Vǫlsa þáttr) 28–30, 117 Andersson, Theodore Murdock 6 Angantýr Arngrímsson 57, 61–8, 117 Angr (Norway) 104 Ármóðsdóttir skeggs 25, 117 Arnfinnsdóttir jarls 24–5, 117 Arngrímr 62, 68, 117 Arrow-Oddr – see Ǫrvar-Oddr Ásbjǫrn prúði 88, 117 Asbjørnsen, Peter Christen 77, 91 Aschenputtel 56 Ásdís á Bjargi 31, 117 Atall 19, 117 Atlakviða 98 Atli Buðlason 44, 50 Attila 49–50, 115 Auða 52, 117 Auden, Wystan Hugh 72 Auðr Hvelpssystir und Hóli – see Bróka-Auðr Aurnir 80, 117 Bali (Iceland) 34 Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss 34, 111 Barði Guðmundarson 20, 117 Bárðr Snæfellsáss 34, 111, 118 Beck, Heinrich 28 Bendill 93–4, 118 Beowulf 49 Bersi Skáldtorfuson 4 Berurjóðr (Norway) 87 Biskupstungnahreppur (Iceland) 43–4 Bjalka (Antioch) 89


136  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Bjarg (Iceland) 31 Bjarmi jarl 57 Bjarni Einarson 16 Bjarni Vilhjálmsson 32, 34, 111 Böldl, Klaus 28 Bóndadóttir (Vǫlsa þáttr) 28–9, 118 Borgarfjǫrðr (Iceland) 42 Bósa saga 95 Bósi Þvarason 95–7, 118 Bragi Boddason 102, 118 Brandr inn ǫrvi 46–7, 118 Brandr Kolbeinsson 21, 46–7, 118 Brandr Vermundsson 46–7, 118 Breiðafjǫrðr (Iceland) vii Brian Boru 73, 118 Broddi Þorleifsson 21, 118 Bróka-Auðr vii, 2–3, 11, 18, 118 Brunichildis 115 Brynhildr Buðladóttir 44, 49–54, 118 Buðli 44, 50–1, 118 Búrfell (Iceland) 34, 111 Burrows, Hannah 56 Busla kerling 95–9, 118 Buslubœn 95–9 Canterbury Tales 107 Chaucer, Geoffrey 107 Child, Francis James 106–7 Cinderella 56 Clontarf (Ireland) 41, 73, 115 Clunies Ross, Margaret x, 2, 7, 24–5, 34, 86, 88–9, 106, 111 Codex Regius 5–6, 49–50, 71–2, 116 Darraðarljóð 39, 41, 73–6 Drangey (Iceland) 31 Dritvík (Iceland) 34 Dronke, Ursula 72 Dublin 73 Dvalinn 62, 118 Egill (Sturlunga saga) 45, 118 Egill Skalla-Grímsson 24–5, 71, 118 Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar 16, 24–5, 115 Einar Ólafur Sveinsson 16–19, 23, 26, 73

Index  137 Eiríkr blóðøx 13, 16, 115, 118 Eiríkr rauði 4, 34, 85 Eiríks saga rauða 85, 88 Elfr (Sweden) 104 Ermanaric 49, 115 Eyfura 62, 118 Eyjólfr ofsi Þorsteinsson 43, 46, 118 Eyrbyggja saga 23 Fáfnir 53, 119 Fagrskinna 16 Faulkes, Anthony 6–7, 13, 28, 77, 88, 102 Faxi 87, 119 Feima 105, 119 Fellsendi í Dǫlum (Iceland) 42 Fenja 77–84, 119 Fífa 104, 119 Finnar (Sámi) 88 Finnur Jónsson x, 1–2, 6–7, 12–13, 16–18, 20–1, 23–6, 28, 31–2, 34–6, 40–3, 55, 73, 85–6, 88–9, 91, 93, 95, 102, 105–6, 108, 111 Firðafjall (Iceland) 111 Firðir (Norway) 16 First Grammatical Treatise 7 Fjordane (Norway) 16 Flateyjarbók 14, 28, 50 Flaug 104, 119 Fljót (Iceland) 41 Flugumýrr (Iceland) 39, 43–4, 46, 116 Foote, Peter 1 Forað 102–4, 119 Fóstra Þórodds Þorbrandssonar 23–4, 119 Frank, Roberta 5 Freyja 19, 119 Freyr 31, 90, 119 Frigg 111, 119 Fróði Friðleifsson 77–9, 82–4, 119 Fróði Ǫgmundarson 16–17, 119 Fróðmarr 57 Fulk, R. D. 16 Gade, Kari Ellen 7, 12 Gautavík (Iceland) 37 Gautr Jónsson (á Mel) 3 Gawain 107

138  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Gefjun 29, 119 Gerðr 24, 119 Gering, Hugo 6–7 Gizurr Þorvaldsson 40, 42–3, 45–6, 119 Gjúki 51–2, 54, 119 Gjúkungar 51–2, 119 Glæsir 23, 119 Glymdrápa 14 Goðmundr 106, 119 Gǫndul 75, 119 Gǫngu-Hrólfr 12, 119 Gordon, Eric Valentine 6–7, 56, 58 Götaälv (Sweden) 104 Gothormr 81, 120 Gotþormr sindri 13, 15, 120 Grani 53, 120 Grettir Ásmundarson 31, 120 Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar 31 Grímr (Óláfr Haraldsson) 28, 30, 120 Grímr (Þórr) 111, 120 Grímr loðinkinni 105, 107, 120 Gríms saga loðinkinna 105, 107 Grottasǫngr 77–84 Grotti 77, 80, 120 Grove, Jonathan 31 Guðbrandur Vigfússon 21, 40–3, 56 Guðni Jónsson x, 20, 31 Guðrún Gjúkadóttir 6, 43–6, 54, 120 Guðrún Nordal 18, 21, 40–3 Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir vii, 18 Guðrún P. Helgadóttir 1, 3, 39 Guillou, Jan ix Gundicarius 115 Gunnarr á Hlíðarenda 17 Gunnhildr konungamóðir 2, 16, 23, 26, 71, 120 Gunnr 75, 120 Gusisnautar 120 Gyðja 89–91, 120 Gýgrin 50–1 Gylfi 19, 120 Hafr Bjarnarson 21, 120 Hákon góði 16, 115, 120 Hákon Hákonarson inn gamli 21, 47, 115–16, 120

Index  139 Hákonar saga góða 16 Hálfdan svarti 13–14, 120 Halland (Denmark/Sweden) 24 Halldóra Þórðardóttir 39, 41, 120 Hallgerðr Hǫskuldsdóttir 17 Hallr Guðmundarson 20, 120 Hamr (Hróarr Hálfdanarson) 86, 121 Haraldr hárfagri 12–15, 115, 121 Haralds saga hárfagra 12–13 Harðar saga ok Hólmverja 32 Harris, Richard 91, 93, 108 Heiðarkolla (Iceland) 34 Heiðarvíga saga 20 Heide, Eldar 12 Heiðr vǫlva 72, 85, 86, 121 Heiðrekr 64, 121 Heimskringla 12–13 Heizmann, Wilhelm 28, 95 Hel 45, 52 Helga Bárðardóttir 34–5, 121 Helgi Hálfdanarson 77, 85–6, 121 Helreið Brynhildar 6, 50–4 Hergunnr 108–11, 121 Hermann Pálsson 1 Herrauðr Hringsson 95–7, 121 Hervararkviða 56–69, 86 Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks konungs 56, 86, 116 Hervarðr Arngrímsson 61–2, 121 Hervǫr Angantýsdóttir 49, 56–69, 121 Hervǫr Hundingjadóttir 91–3, 121 Heslop, Kate 35 Hetta trollkona 111–12, 121 Heusler, Andreas 6, 56, 95 Hildigunnr risadóttir 101, 106, 121 Hildisif Ptólómeusdóttir 93–4, 121 Hildr 25, 52, 74, 121 Hildr Hrólfsdóttir nefju 2, 12, 121 Hjálmarr 65–6, 68, 121 Hjálm-Gunnarr 52, 121 Hjálmr, possibly á Víðivǫllum (Sturlunga saga) 21, 122 Hjálmþér 91, 93–4, 101, 106, 108, 122 Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis 91, 93, 106, 108 Hjalti Skeggjason 18 Hjǫrþrimul 74, 122

140  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Hjǫrvarðr Arngrímsson 59, 61–2, 122 Hleiðr (Lejre, Denmark) 83 Hlymdalir 52 Hó (Helgi Hálfdanarson) 85–6, 122 Hóll (Iceland) vii Hollander, Lee Milton 6–7, 95 Hoppr (Hróarr Hálfdanarson) 85–6, 122 Hǫrðr Grímkelsson 32–3, 122 Hǫrðr (Hringr Ptólómeusson) 91, 93, 95, 108–9, 122 Hrafn Oddsson 43, 46, 122 Hrafnista (Norway) 103 Hrafnsey (Norway) 103 Hrakhvammr (Hregghvammur, Iceland) 111 Hrani (Helgi Hálfdanarson) 86, 122 Hrani Arngrímsson 61–2, 122 Hreggnasi (Iceland) 34 Hremsa 104, 122 Hrímnir 105, 122 Hringr (Bósa saga) 95–6, 122 Hringr Ptólómeusson 91, 93, 122 Hróarr Hálfdanarson 85–6, 122 Hroðgar 49 Hrólfr kraki 49, 55, 77, 85, 122 Hrólfr nefja 12 Hrólfs saga kraka 55, 85 Hrungnir 80, 102, 122 Hrútr Herjólfsson 26–7, 122 Hughes, Shaun F. D. ix Húnaþing (Iceland) 21 Hvammsveit (Iceland) 21 Iði 80, 122 Indriði þórvaldsson 33 Ingjaldr (Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss) 111, 122 Íslendinga saga 40–3, 116 Jaðarr (Norway) 86, 104 Jæren (Norway) 86–7, 104 Jesch, Judith ix, 13 Jochens, Jenny M. ix Jóhannes Halldórsson 35 Jón Helgason 6–7, 56 Jón Jóhannesson 21, 40–3 Jóreiðr Hermundardóttir í Miðjumdal 3, 43–7, 123

Index  141 Jørgensen, Peter 88 Jórunn skáldmær 2, 13–15, 123 Kalevala 77 Kálfalækjarbók 26 Karmøy (Norway) 104 Keldur (Iceland) 3, 40 Kellogg, Robert viii, 1 Kerling (Vǫlsa þáttr) 28–30, 123 Kerling í Tungu 3, 11, 21, 123 Ketill hœngr 102, 105, 123 Ketils saga hængs 102 Ketilríðr Hólmkelsdóttir 36–7, 123 Kirkjufell (Iceland) 111 Kleima 105, 123 Knúi 81, 123 Knútr inn ríki 28 Kock, Ernst Albin x, 1–2, 6–7, 12–13, 16–18, 20–1, 23–6, 28, 31–2, 34–6, 40–43, 55, 73, 85–6, 88–9, 91, 93, 95, 102, 105–6, 108–11 Kolbeinn ungi Arnórsson 21, 40, 123 Kona at Munka-Þverá 40, 123 Kona ein í Svartárdal 41–2, 123 Kona skammt frá Þingeyrastað 43, 123 Kormakr Ǫgmundarson 16–17, 123 Kormaks saga 16 Kǫrmt (Norway) 104 Kristján Eldjárn 42 Kristni saga 18–19 Króksfjarðarbók 21 Kuhn, Hans 6–7, 50, 72 Lærir (Vǫlsa þáttr) 30, 123 LaFarge, Beatrice 7, 98, 102, 106 Laxdœla saga vii, 2, 18, 116 Leinster (Ireland) 73 Lejre (Denmark) 83 Lindow, John 5, 11 Lóndrangar (Iceland) 34 Lopthœna 107 Magnús Finnbogason 42 Margerðr 108–11, 123 Marold, Edith 16, 102 Matthias Þórðarson 23

142  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds McGrew, Julia 44 McKinnell, John 72 Menja 77–84, 123 Miðdalur (Iceland) 43 Miðdalr (Iceland) 43 Miðfjarðar-Skeggi 34, 123 Moe, Jørgen 77, 91 Mœrr (Norway) 12, 89 Møre og Romsdal (Norway) 12, 89 Mǫrnir 28–30, 123 Munarvágr (Denmark) 58, 62 Munka-Þverá (Iceland) 40 Munster (Ireland) 73 Neckel, Gustav 6–7, 50, 72 Nes (Iceland) 111 Njáls saga 16–19, 26, 36, 41, 71, 73, 116 Njǫrðr 31, 36, 123 Normandy 12 Nornagests þáttr 50 Oddrúnargrátr 6 Óðinn 12, 18, 33, 50, 52–3, 90, 124 Óláfr Haraldsson 14, 28–30, 115, 124 Óláfr pái 20, 124 Óláfs saga helga 13–14, 28 Ólǫf geisli 35, 124 Ǫlvir (Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis) 91, 93–4, 108–10, 124 Ǫlvǫr 88, 124 Ǫndverðnes (Iceland) 34 Orchard, Andy 31 Ǫrlygsstaðir (Iceland) 3, 39, 40–3, 116 Ormr Stórólfsson 88, 124 Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar 88–9 Ǫrvar-Oddr 56, 63, 86–8, 101, 106, 124 Ǫrvar-Odds saga 56, 86, 88–9, 106 Óþjóðan 88 Páll Kolbeinsson 21, 124 Picard, Eve 7 Poole, Russell 17–18, 20, 26, 73 Powell, F. York 56 Quinn, Judy 4, 23

Index  143 Randvér 73, 124 Ranisch, Wilhelm 6, 56, 95 Reykjabók 26 Rifshǫfuð (Iceland) 111 Rǫgnvaldr, jarl of Mœrr 12 Rollo, duke of Normandy 12 Sælingdalstunga (Iceland) 3, 11, 21 Sævill jarl 55, 124 Sámi 88, 101, 103 Sampo 77 Sámsey (Denmark) 56–7, 86 Sanngríðr 74, 124 Saurbœr (Iceland) vii Saxo Grammaticus 115 Schulz, Katja 7 Sendibit 13–15 Sigebert 115 Signý Hálfdansdóttir 55, 124 Signý Valbrandsdóttir 32, 124 Sigtryggr silkiskegg 73, 124 Sigurðr Fáfnisbani 4, 28, 49, 54, 77, 85, 116, 124 Sigurður Nordal 20, 24–5 Sigurgeir Steingrímsson 18 Sijmons, Barend 6–7 Simek, Rudolf 28 Sinfjǫtli Sigmundarson 77 Sírnir (giant) 32 Skagafjǫrðr (Iceland) 41 Skáldatal 3, 5 Skáldskaparmál 77, 102 Skáld-Torfa 4 Skarphéðinn Njálsson viii, 4 Skatalundr 53 Skinnhúfa (Hildisif Ptólómeusdóttir) 93–4, 124 Skjǫldungar 55, 124 Slay, Desmond 1, 55, 85 Smiley, Jane viii Snæfellsnes (Iceland) 34, 111 Snarvendill 93–4, 107, 125 Snorri Sturluson 6–7, 12–13, 77, 102, 115, 125 Steig (Norway) 104 Steingerðr Þórketilsdóttir 3, 16–17, 27, 125 Steinólfr Þórarinsson 45, 125

144  Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds Steinunn Refsdóttir 18–19, 125 Steinvǫr Sighvatsdóttir á Keldum 3, 40–1, 125 Sturla Sighvatsson 3, 39–40, 42, 125 Sturla Þórðarson 43, 46, 116, 125 Sturlunga saga 3, 11, 21, 39–44, 116 Sturlungar 21, 40, 43, 125 Sváfrlami 61, 125 Svartárdalr 41 Svipul 74, 125 Sýr (Freyja) 31, 125 Taylor, Paul B. 72 Teichert, Matthias 7 Þangbrandr 18–19, 125 Theodoric 49, 115 Þingeyrir (Iceland) 43 Þingvellir (Iceland) 44 Þjazi 80, 125 Thompson, Claiborne 95 Þorbjǫrg Grímkelsdóttir 32–3, 125 Þorbjǫrg lítilvǫlva 85 Þorbjǫrn hornklofi 13–14, 125 Þorbjǫrn ǫngull 31 Þórðar saga kakala 21 Þórðr Ingunnarson vii, 18 Þorgils skarði Bǫðvarsson 43, 46, 125 Þorgrímr Eiríksson 35, 125 Þorgrímr ór Gunnarsholti 40 Þórhallur Vilmundarson 32, 34, 111 Þórhildr skáldkona 3, 11, 17, 126 Þórir jarl (Víglundar saga) 35 Þóroddr Þorbrandsson 23, 126 Þórr 19, 111, 126 Þorvarðr Þórarinsson 43–6, 126 Þráinn Sigfússon 17 Þundar (heiti) 37, 126 Þuríðr at Fellsenda í Dǫlum 42, 126 Þuríðr Óláfsdóttir pá 3, 20, 126 Þverá (Iceland) 3, 39, 43, 46, 116 Þvinnill 19, 126 Tófa 57, 61, 126 Tolkien, Christopher 6–7, 56–8 Tolley, Clive 12, 28, 77 Trausti (Víglundar saga) 36–7, 126

Index  145 Trøndelag (Norway) 89 Trondheim (Norway) 13 Tucker, John 98 Tumi Sighvatsson 42, 126 Tyrfingr 49, 56, 63–4, 67–8, 126 Ullr 20, 126 Unnr (Óðinn-heiti) 33, 126 Unnr Marðardóttir 26–7, 126 Útsteinn (Utstein, Norway) 104 Valland 50 Vár 51, 126 Varanger (Norway) 104 Vargeisa (Álsól Ptólómeusdóttir) 101, 106–9, 126 Viðar Hreinsson viii Víðivellir (Iceland) 21 Vífilsey (Denmark) 85–6 Víglundar saga 35–7 Víglundr Þorgrímsson 36–7, 126 Vignir 106, 126 Vilborg skáld 4 Vǫlsa þáttr 28–30 Vǫlsi 28–30, 126 Vǫlsunga saga 49–50, 77, 85, 116, 126 Vǫlsungar 28, 126 Vǫluspá 72 von See, Klaus 6–7, 50 Vǫr 35, 127 Wills, Tarrin 32 Ýma 108–11, 127 Yngvi 89 Yrsa 77, 83–4, 127

Library of Medieval Women Christine de Pizan’s Letter of Othea to Hector, Jane Chance, 1990 Writings of Margaret of Oingt, Medieval Prioress and Mystic, Renate BlumenfeldKosinski, 1990 Saint Bride and her Book: Birgitta of Sweden’s Revelations, Julia Bolton Holloway, 1992; new edition 2000 The Memoirs of Helene Kottanner (1439–1440), Maya Bijvoet Williamson, 1998 The Writings of Teresa de Cartagena, Dayle Seidenspinner-Núñez, 1998 Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love and The Motherhood of God, Frances Beer, 1998 Hrotsvit of Gandersheim: A Florilegium of her Works, Katharina M. Wilson, 1998 Hildegard of Bingen: On Natural Philosophy and Medicine: Selections from Cause et Cure, Margret Berger, 1999 Women Saints’ Lives in Old English Prose, Leslie A. Donovan, 1999 Angela of Foligno’s Memorial, Cristina Mazzoni, 2000 The Letters of the Rožmberk Sisters, John M. Klassen, 2001 The Life of Saint Douceline, a Beguine of Provence, Kathleen Garay and Madeleine Jeay, 2001 Agnes Blannbekin, Viennese Beguine: Life and Revelations, Ulrike Wiethaus, 2002 Women of the Gilte Legende: A Selection of Middle English Saints’ Lives, Larissa Tracy, 2003 Mechthild of Magdeburg: Selections from The Flowing Light of the Godhead, Elizabeth A. Andersen, 2003 The Book of Margery Kempe, Liz Herbert McAvoy, 2003 Guidance for Women in Twelfth-Century Convents, Vera Morton and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, 2003 Anne of France: Lessons for my Daughter, Sharon L. Jansen, 2004 Goscelin of St Bertin: The Book of Encouragement and Consolation, Monika Otter, 2004 Late-Medieval German Women’s Poetry: Secular and Religious Songs, Albrecht Classen, 2004 The Paston Women: Selected Letters, Diane Watt, 2004 The Vision of Christine de Pizan, Glenda McLeod and Charity Cannon Willard, 2005 Women’s Books of Hours in Medieval England, Charity Scott-Stokes, 2006 Caritas Pirckheimer: A Journal of the Reformation Years, 1524–1528, Paul A. MacKenzie, 2006

Old Norse Women’s Poetry Old NOrse pOetry is one of the most important and influential areas of medieval European literature, and much of it is attributable to women skalds. This book presents a bilingual edition (Old Norse and English) of this material, from the ninth to the thirteenth century and beyond. The poems reflect the dramatic and often violent nature of the sagas: they feature Viking Age shipboard adventures and shipwrecks; prophecies; curses; declarations of love and of revenge; duels, feuds and battles; encounters with ghosts; marital and family discord; and religious insults, among many other topics. Their authors fall into four main categories: pre-Christian Norwegian and Icelandic skáldkonur of the Viking Age; Icelandic skáldkonur of the Sturlung Age (thirteenth century); additional early skáldkonur from the Islendingasögur and related material, not as historically verifiable as the first group; and mythical figures cited as reciting verse in the legendary sagas (fornaldarsögur). Cover (clockwise from top): Detail, British Library MS Harley 4431, f. 150; detail Mary, Queen of Heaven by the Master of the Saint Lucy Legend, painted 1485-1500, from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, ©1998 Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington; detail, British Library MS Cott. Dom. A XVII f. 74v; detail, Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, MS Cod. Pal. Germ. 848, f. 17.

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