Íđunn’s abduction: Haustlöng stanzas 2-13
Ţjóđólfr úr Hvíni (~ 855-930)
1. List of kenningar and the information they bring forth
2. kenningar and their context in stanzas 2-13
APPENDIX: translation notes
This poem describes the myth of Íđunn’ abduction in s. 2 to s. 13. She is the guardian of the golden apples that are the ‘shapings’ (translating the plural of Old Norse sköp meaning ‘shaped’), that ensure a long life to the ancient Scandinavian gods, named Ćsir in Old Norse. These gods have the striking feature of being submitted to fate. Thus when their fate will be completed, they will die as any other component of our universe. It nevertheless seems that, the deciders of destinies, the three Norns, did not impose ageing to the Ćsir and they thus have been able to work out some magic shapings (sköp) by which they are able to endlessly delay their ageing. These shapings are golden apples and elf-goddess Íđunn, wife of the god of poetry, Bragi, is in charge to sustain their magic. In order to counter these shapings, a powerful giant called Ţiazi will force Loki to deliver to him Íđunn and her magic, and he then installs her in giants’ residence. The gods indeed start to age and they threaten Loki of death if they do not recover both Íđunn and her magic. Loki succeeds in recovering Íđunn and Ţiazi, who at once started to chase them, is killed thanks to a trick devised by the Ćsir.
The story told by these Haustlöng stanzas is well-known, since Snorri Sturluson minutely described it in the first chapter of his Skáldskaparmál. This poem abounds in kenningar difficult to interpret because they refer to a large amount of lore, that has obviously been well-known to an audience living at the beginning of the 10th century. These stanzas have been quoted by Snorri Sturluson and Faulkes’ translation (1987, p. 86-88) of Snorri’s Edda provides one translation. The text below gives you the list of the kenningar contained in the poem which appeared to me most probable in the context of Norse paganism such as I seek to discover within the literature Norse and of the innumerable academic comments which it caused. These kenningar are interesting by the particular light as they throw on the major characters of the poem.
1. A list of kenningar and the hidden information they contain
This poem uses a considerable number of kenningar and our comments on them will reveal secret or unexpected aspects of the characters they name. Until this study, the exact role of Giants in Norse mythology appeared somewhat mysterious and illogical since their only role seems to survive and destroy. The kenningar in this poem will enable us to understand their role as collecters of crowds of anonymous corpses.
He is called “Meili of the light foot” in s 4. I do not think that this kenning carries much significant knowledge. De Vries suggests, among others, to link this name to the substantive hani, a rooster, and to its song. Richard North’s eccentric assumption making of Hśnir a ‘coquerel’ in order to underline his supposed boasting feature is at best useless to understand the poem. The truth is that Hśnir appears somewhat neutral here but he never ‘sings’ out of place.
He is called in
s. 3: wise-adorner-farmer helmet-hooded of the chains,
s. 4: raven of the Ćsir,
s. 5: pleasant Master of the ground.
Attributing to Óđinn a concern for neatly done farming works is not really incredible though unusual. Him as a ‘pleasing’ character (as inn s. 5) is more than not usual, to say the least. It seems that Ţjóđólfr tries to mellow Óđinn because he (Ţjóđólfr) will now tell a story in which Óđinn should have behaved more carefully in order to prevent Loki’s irresponsible behavior. Moreover, when we will tell the “Tale of Íđunn’s abduction,” we will also see that the present poem exposes Óđinn’s first defeat, his first step towards death because the “long life goddess” cannot come back unharmed from her stay with the giants. This is very similar to the idea that Hervör (see her tale at http://www.nordic-life.org/MNG/MytheHervor.htm ) cannot come back unharmed of a stay in a burial mount, as stated three times in the saga.
He is called:
s. 4: friend of the raven of the Ćsir = Óđinn’s friend,
s. 5: Farbauti’s son and the crafty one who disturbs the Ćsir,
s. 6. deep minded (wise) god-keeper of the prey,
s. 7: burden of Sigyn’s arms,
s. 8: a good catch, and Ţórr’s ‘over’-friend (large friend), and the “dislocated heavy airy one,”
s. 9: fussy saga-stirrer and girdle-thief of gods’ Brising,
s. 11: annoying servant, and spirit of fraud of Gefn, the beer waitress (Íđunn),
s. 12: test of Hśnir’s mind, and hawk’s son.
Almost all the kenningar depicting Loki are ironic. He has perhaps been in the past Óđinn’s friend and never was he Ţórr’s. That he is Farbauti’s son recalls us that he belongs to a family of giants. According to some legends, he would be responsible for the earthquakes each time his wife, Sigyn, goes away in order to empty the basin where she collects the venom of the snake that stays above him. He is certainly intelligent though not ‘deeply minded’, since this poem illustrates some silliness in his behavior with Ţiazi. The kenning ‘burden of Sigyn’s arms’ might be the only non pejorative kenning about him since it carries the idea that Sigyn cares for her Loki.
A “good catch” makes of him some kind of captured game or else, by allegory, a woman since a Norse way of speech expresses that when she marries, a woman is “caught,” as game is. This plays with the impression of undecided sexuality that he gives off. “The heavy airy dislocated one” is a humorous way to describe Loki whose shoulder is dislocated under the effect of its own weight while he is very often called the airy one in Norse literature. That Loki is a “saga-stirrer” means that he provokes sagas – usually not for the best, instead of being the creator of beautiful sagas. The theft of Freyja’s necklace episode shows him as pettily jealous of female power, and as unable to keep his booty. Calling him an “infuriating servant” shows him in a subordinate condition he is not even able to properly take on. Calling him “spirit of fraud of Íđunn” underlines that the abduction of Íđunn happens through Ţjazi’s intelligence who nicely traps Loki and through Loki’s stupidity for seeking a petty revenge by striking Ţjazi with a stick. The kenning “test of Hśnir’s heart” underlines his ‘infuriating saga-stirrer’ feature, and the “hawk’s son” shows him a kind of hawk ‘coquerel’ by playing on his tiny size as compared to Ţjazi’s.
She is called in
s. 9: pain alleviator maid and ‘goddess of the brooks of the source of harvest’,
s 10: wave-swirl, or protection provider,
s. 11: Gefn, the beer waitress, and famous maiden who increases the Ćsir’s delight.
That she is protective to the Ćsir is illustrated by several kenningar: she is the young woman who “alleviates pain,” who “works to protect’, who is called “Gefn, the beer waitress” and “Ćsir’s delight.” All this strengthens her aspect of keeper of the golden apples of youth. It is also clear that organizing games and bringing delight may possibly hint at a role that Christian morals reprobate.
On the other hand, two kenningar are out of this scheme. An “eddy of the wave” brings down to sea floor and drowns imprudent ones who let waves carry them. With a some skill, it is easy to escape from this situation, though not without fright. The ‘goddess of the brooks of the source of the harvest’ puts her divine functions under a new light. Since Freyr became the symbol of the earthly fertility in addition to his role in male fertility, we all tend to associate also his female counterpart, Freyja, with earth fertility. Ţjóđólfr throws a doubt on this assertion and reminds us that there is not ground-fertilizing goddess in our mythology. Now, he allots this role to Íđunn, and this in turn implies that when she will leave Ásgarđr, as the poem “Galdr of Óđinn’s raven” tells us, earth itself will lose its fertility as Ragnarök draws closer.
Ţjazi (and Hrćsvelgr)
s. 2: ‘wolf/monster of the lady’ and ‘fence-Týr of the cliffs’,
s. 3: very-wise seagull of the wave of the ‘caught’ by death,
s. 4: (Hrćsvelgr): wind divinity and (Ţiazi): Hrćsvelg- battle greedy whale,
s. 6: dólgr (monster) and wildly famished Mörnir’s father,
s. 7: ‘foster father of the ski-goddess’ and ‘ghost of giant-land’,
s. 8: ‘bird of blood or sweat’ and ‘Miđjungr’s dear friend’,
s. 9: ‘bush of Ymir’s family’ and ‘(house of the) rock-king’,
s. 11: The wolf of the wave beachcomber of the corpses of Gefn, the beer waitress (Íđunn),
s. 12 (Ţiazi):‘ evil-spirited king, Mörn’s father’ and (Hrćsvelgr/Ţiazi): ‘eagle of the blades-play of feathers’,
s. 13: son of Greipr’s lover.
‘Wolf’ or ‘monster’ are two traditional words used for speaking of giants and the ‘fence-Týr of the cliffs’, i.e. the cliff-divinity who puts Íđunn inside a fence obviously point at Ţiazi.
The ‘very-wise seagull of the waves of the death-caught ones’ contains a new information about Ţiazi. The ‘death-caught ones’ are obviously corpses and ‘wave’ introduces the idea of a moving sea of corpses. The seagull convoys the waves, so that Ţiazi seems to be flying above a sea of corpses and he convoys them where the waves takes them along. Lastly, he is very wise, which suppresses the shrill chatter of the seagulls and makes of them wise birds convoying the corpses. It is now useful to remember the kenning for Íđunn in stanza 11, in which he is the ‘the wolf of the beachcomber wave of the corpses’. Ţiazi thus seems to drive the stream of corpses throughout their shift until a ‘beachcomber wave’ throws them on a mysterious shore.
In stanzas 4 and 12, Ţiazi is directly compared to Hrćsvelgr and I cut out two longer kenningar to emphasize the part hinting at Hrćsvelgr. Both kenningar allude to Hrćsvelgr’s role as a producer of winds and storms, and we should not forget the meaning of his name. I know that Simek stated in his dictionary of Scandinavian mythology: “it is absolutely wrong to conclude that Hrćsvelgr is a demon of death merely because of his name.” This statement is not quite clear since we hardly know what is a “demon of death” and carrying a name a “corpses-swallower”, at the very least, connects him to the dead ones. What partly justifies Simek’s remark is that neither Snorri nor Ţjóđólfr, nor VafŢrúđnismál 37, connects him directly to the dead ones: all we know is that he creates the winds and “er sitr á himins enda (he sits at the end of the sky - or of Yggdrasill’s crown). This supports Simek’s opinion. Conversely, we have just seen that Ţjóđólfr gives to Ţiazi a very clear role of guiding crowds of corpses - undoubtedly produced by a slaughter or a natural disaster. This role is very different from the one of a psychopomp for selected individuals as Óđinn and Freyja are, though it does not at all opposes the existence psychopomp gods. It is therefore not absurd to think that this role might have been the one of giants or of some giants. Thus, with such a name as Hrćsvelgr, this last being compared to Ţiazi, both might be taking part in this task. This moderates Simek’s assertion without contradicting it since, on the one hand, Ţiazi nor Hrćsvelgr are “demons of dead ones” as he claims, though they are looked upon as kinds of “waste collectors” for heaps of anonymous corpses.
Stanza 7 calls him a ‘ghost of giant-land’ so that he can be looked upon as a ‘living-dead’ one, called a draugr in the sagas that describe the behavior of such individuals (refer also to http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/DraugarQuietOnes.htm and Hervör’s myth at http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/HervorsMyth.htm ). Obviously, this kenning can be used here in a purely allegorical way, it does not prevent that it draws yet another link between Ţiazi and death.
We have just seen that Hrćsvelgr is known as a wind-god and that Ţiazi is compared to him. In stanza 12, “eagle of the play-blades of feathers” expresses in a picturesque way how very strong winds can be felt as a “set of play-blades" that slices what it meets.
As for stanza 13 kenning, that Ţiazi’s father had been Greip giantess’s lover provides a lone branch of ‘Ymir’s family bush’ (s. 9) of which we know very little, except some of its branches gave rise to the Ćsir.
2. The context of the kenningar in stanzas 2-13
The Old Norse (ON) version given below is due to Koch, found as “unpublished” though available, in Skaldic base at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/skaldic/db.php?id=1438&if=default&table=text
Stanza 2 (the only translated stanza in this presentation)
Koch’s ON version
Segjöndum fló sagna
snótar ulfr at móti
í gemlis ham gǫmlum
glammi ó fyr –skǫmmu;
settisk ǫrn, ţars ćsir,
ár (Gefnar) mat (or mar) bôru
(vasa byrgi-Týr bjarga
bleyđi vćndr) á seyđi
Almost literal translation facing the VN version
Towards the tellers, flew (took his flight), of sagas
of the lady the wolf, to meet,
in, of an old eagle, the old shape
noisily not- little-time-ago;
(Slightly changing the word order)
Towards the tellers of sagas, it flew
the wolf of the lady, to meet them,
in the old shape of an old eagle
noisily, long ago.
sat down the eagle, where to Ćsir,
of harvest-Gefjon meat/horse had installed
(was the Týr fence of the chasms
fear lessened) on the hearth.
(Slightly changing the word order, and “fear lessened” understood as “insensitive to fear”)
The eagle sat down where to Ćsir
had installed the meat/horse of harvest Gefjon on the hearth.
(the fence-Týr of the fells
was insensitive to fear)
The wolf of the lady flew, long ago, to the meeting of the tellers of sagas, in the shape of an immensely old eagle.
The eagle sat down where to Ćsir had installed ox on the hearth in order to cook it.
(the giant who was going to imprison Íđunn was insensitive to fear)
Comments on stanza 2 vocabulary
- tellers of sagas = those who transmit knowledge, the Ćsir.
- fló: the three verbs flýja, to flee, and flá, to fly (to strip), fljúga, to fly (to take its flight) can have the same preterit fló.
- the wolf of the lady = Ţjazi.
- hamr, masc. plur. hamir, the skin, the form, can make its singular dative in ham instead of traditional hami.
- vćndr, here undoubtedly an irregular form of the last participle of vana, to decrease. Vandr may mean ‘decreased’ and being “fear decreased” qualifies either “someone who is without fear” or someone who not very courageous since he approaches the Ćsir in such a disguise. In any case, the other possible meaning vćndr are also ambiguous regarding Ţjazi’s courage.
- Gefjon’s ‘meat’ or horse alludes to Gefjon’s myth (see http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/GylfiGefjonTale.pdf ). It is either an ox or its flesh, which amounts to the same here. Its abundance (ár) stresses that it is an enormous ox.
- a “Týr of the fells” is a giant and he “builds a fence” around Íđunn and thus these kenningar announce of Ţjazi’s future actions. This wink to the reader shows that Ţjóđólfr is addressing an audience quite aware of the myth and only the rhythm of his poetry and its kenningar will be able to surprise them and attract their interest.
Kenningar and descriptions of stanza 2
- saga tellers = the Ćsir who maintain the tradition while telling their adventures to mankind, also called ‘myths’.
- wolf/monster of the lady = the giant Ţjazi who carries Íđunn as a wolf seizes his prey.
- an old eagle of old form = doubling ‘old’ insists on giant Ţjazi’s great age.
- the abundance of the meat (or horse) of Gefjon = an ox which will become a topic of conflict between Ţjazi and the Ćsir and will enable Ţjazi to force Loki to betray the Ćsir.
- the fence-Týr of the cliffs = the giant Ţjazi who will retain Íđunn captive in Giant-country, a country of cliffs.
(Stanza 2 only is translated. We will provide summaries of the stanzas that are only intended to indicate the context in which the kenningar are stated).
The parts underlined here and in the appendix are kenningar or one word giving an indication of another word (i. e. one word metaphors called heiti).
The ‘notes’ technical explaining my choices are intended to the readers interested by the language Norse. It are rejected at the end of section 2.
The gods do not manage to bone the decoy-reindeer, so that the wise-adorner-farmer helmet-hooded of the chains says that there is some fraud here. The very-wise seagull of the large wave of the death-caught ones spoke from the ancient tree - the friend of Hćnir did not like it.
Kenningar and descriptions
- ‘decoy-reindeer’ is the ox that will be used to trap Loki.
-‘wise-adorner-farmer helmet-hooded-of-the-chains (Óđinn)’. The polysemic Norse word snytrir, rendered here by ‘wise-adorner-farmer’ stands for an artist who decorates places and it describes also a tidy farmer. This word is also linked to the adjective snotr, meaning ‘wise’. These meanings are given in Lex. Poet. only (thus in Latin). The word hapt (or haft) means a chaining device and means also ‘the gods’. The helmet-hooded-of-the-chains points at a warrior god, here Óđinn. This kenning provides us two images associated with Óđinn: one, very well known, is the one of a warrior; the other, almost ignored, is the one of a wise and tidy peasant.
- ‘very-wise seagull of the wave of the ‘caught’ by death’. The very-wise gull is Ţjazi in the form of an eagle. The wave of the caught by death is the moving crowd of the dead ones.. We will find further this image of the crowd of corpses that evokes a liquid mass.
- the ancient tree = Yggdrasill which is the tree par excellence of Scandinavian mythology. Note that Ţjazi is said to be located in Yggdrasill while he speaks, which hints at Hrćsvelgr, the eagle perched at Yggdrasill’s top.
- the friend of Hćnir could as well be Óđinn as Loki. The following will show us that it designates Loki who hates this ‘very-wise seagull’.
The cliffs wolf/monster requires of Meili of the light foot to serve a share of the bait-reindeer to him. The friend of the Ćsir raven had to blow the fire. The battle-greedy whale wind divinity landed near the gods’ safeguard.
Kenningar and descriptions
- cliffs wolf/monster = Ţiazi. This is a very traditional kenning to designate a giant.
- bait-reindeer = the ox being cooked.
- Meili of the light foot. Mieli is one of Óđinn’s sons. He is called the ‘Ţórr’s brother’ elsewhere but without any more details. Although Hśnir is not Óđinn’s son, the context to see here a kenning for Hśnir, since Loki ‘still less an Óđinn’s son.
- friend of the Ćsir raven = Óđinn’s friend = Loki. In these ancient times, Óđinn and Loki were certainly still friends as long as they have been blood brothers. Note that the two kenningar be read reverse by making of Loki a ‘Meili of the light foot’ and of Hśnir ‘the friend of the Ćsir raven’. That would hardly change the meaning of the poem.
- the divinity of the wind (vind-rögnir) has been twice underlined since it is a double kenning. This is Hrćsvelgr, the eagle perched on the top of Yggdrasill, whose name means “corpse swallower” and who creates the winds while beating his wings. Another interpretation is possible because the name Vinţórr is known to speak of Ţórr about to fight. The two assumptions point both at Ţiazi. It is useful in itself to meet Hrćsvelgr as a heiti for Ţiazi, revealing unknown et deep links between the two beings.
- the complete kenning is “vígfrekr vind-vagna rögnir” = battle-greedy wind-whale divinity, which describes a vind vagna rögnir, that is an enormous divine eagle, correctly describing Hrćsvelgr.
- safeguard of the gods: the three Ćsir participating to this adventure. Note the irony of this kenning since they will not be able to prevent Íđunn’s abduction and will rather become the gods’ ‘Achilles heel’.
The pleasant Master of the ground asked Farbauti’s son to cut out for the free men the whale of springtime creaking belts. The Ćsir’s tricky disturbing one laid on the table four shares.
Kenningar and descriptions
- pleasant Master of the ground: Óđinn.
- Farbauti’s son is Loki, a traditional kenning.
- free men. A classical metaphor, when a human person is described, is to give him/her the name of a god or a goddess. Even the giant Ţjazi is called Týr in stanza 2. Here we meet an example of the opposite where the gods who are designated as “free men.”
- whale of the belts squeaking during spring. The context says that this complex kenning indicates the same ox as above. Authors do not agree on the meaning of this kenning. Here is my proposal: It is obviously a large animal (‘whale’) which is described as fastened to heavy loads it has to pull. At springtime, oxen are put to work. Leather belt straps emits characteristic crackings well-known to anyone who has carried loads fastened by leather straps.
- the tricky one disturbing the Ćsir: Who better than Loki can be both tricky and disturbing to the Ćsir?
Wildly famished Mörnir’s father gobbled the bear of the tree-roots yoke furiously and the deep minded guardian-Týr of the prey violently struck the monster between its shoulders with a stick.
(Ţiazi furiously devoured the ox and (supposedly) wise Loki violently struck him between the shoulders with a stick.)
Kenningar and descriptions
- slíđrliga svangr to fađir Marnar = wildly famished father of Mörnir i.e. Ţjazi whose voracity is underlined here.
- okbjörn eiki-rótum = yoke-bear of oakwood roots= bear of the oaktree-roots yoke. We note Ţjóđólfr attribute the most complex kenningar to this ox, though it is a very secondary character.
- dólgr = monster, a word pointing at Ţjazi throughout this poem.
- djúphugađr hirđi-Týr herfangs = ‘deep’ minded (wise) guard-god of the prey’ i.e. the deep minded god, guardian of the prey, what Loki is supposed to be. He keeps on eye on the ox, the prey, but to qualify him as being ‘deep minded’ appears quite ironic here.
All the gods could observe that the burden of Sigyn’s arms remained stuck to the stick and to the foster father of the ski goddess .The stick was stuck to the Giant-country ghost as well as the hands of Hśnir’s friend.
Kenningar and descriptions
- burden of Sigyn’s arms: Sigyn is Loki’s wife and the ‘burden of her arms’ is Loki.
- foster-father of the ski goddess (goddess of the ski = Skađi, a giantess). Her foster father is Ţjazi.
- Giant-country ghost is Ţjazi. This kenning is particularly striking, it speaks of Ţjazi as if he was dead.
- the context tells that ‘Hśnir’s friend’ is stuck to the stick, thus the kenning points at Loki.
The bloody bird [or, ‘sweating’] flew a long time with the learned god, a good catch. The heavy airy one and Ţórr’s ‘over’-friend was ready to dislocate. The father of the wolf had ‘to beg from Miđjung’s friendly companion.
(Ţjazi, with his good catch, flew a long time with Loki, so that Loki was ready to dislocate. Loki was thus forced to beg peace from Ţjazi.)
Kenningar and descriptions
- bird of blood (or of sweat) is Ţjazi.
- learned god (or ‘the god of dubious sexuality and disorganized wisdom’) is Loki, described here in a way as ambiguous as himself. (“learned god” is the traditional translation which will be discussed in note 1, at the end of this section 2).
- a good catch (fangsćll) indicates Loki. A woman may also be called a ‘catch’ by her husband. This fangsćll carries also inuendos on the fact that Loki is a ‘catch’, ridiculously stuck to Ţjazi as he his.
- father of the wolf: the wolf is Fenrir, one of Loki’s sons.
- Ţórr’s ‘over’-friend = a humorous way to call Loki as long as Ţórr obviously hates him.
- ţungr Loptr of sprungin = ‘heavy airy dislocated one (torn appart) = still a way of making fun of Loki who is often called a “lofty one.” Here, his joints dislocate while being hung to the stick attached to Ţjazi’s back.
- ‘málunaut miđjungs’ = Miđjungr’s dear friend. Miđjungr is the name of a giant and there exist several assumptions trying to interpret this two words (of them, the simplest: ‘the half-young person,’ pointsd at Ţjazi) though all fail to be a valid kenning. We miss some information about Miđjungr.
The bush of Ymir’s family asked the fussy saga-stirrer to bring him the pain-alleviator maid who knows the Ćsir’s herbs of great age.
The girdle-thief of the gods’ Brising brought then the goddess of the brook of the source of harvest to the home of the rock-king.
Kenningar and descriptions
- bush of Ymir’s family: Ţjazi. The concept of family tree is familiar for us, and this ‘bush’ is a family tree. Remember that a tree, Yggdrasill, is an essential piece of Norse spirituality thus speaking of tree for a particular family would be quite grandiloquent!
- fussy saga-stirrer: Loki’s various fussy interventions force the Ćsir into adventures that will become matter of sagas. ‘Creator of sagas’ would be too much laudatory for such a behaviour.
- the pain alleviator maid is Íđunn. This is far from obvious and the problem is discussed in Note 2.
- Ćsir’s herbs of great age: the word ‘herbs’ is used here to summarize the magic ‘shapings’ (sköp) that make it possible to delay ageing. In Norse mythology, they are more usually represented as golden apples of which Íđunn is in charge, and that allow the Ćsir to avoid aging, in spite of the fact that their destiny dooms them to die on one remote day, of unspecified date.
- girdle-thief of gods’ Brising. Loki has “stirred a saga” in order to humiliate Freyja who was undoubtedly very proud of her necklace Brisingamen, which displayed her female power. See a paganized version of the myth at http://www.nordic-life.org/MNG/BrisingamenConte.htm .
- goddess of the brooks of the source of harvest: harvests are regarded as a manifestation of earth magic, and this magic has a ‘source’ whose benefits are spread like brooks all over the country. Íđunn, often called a pleasure giver, as it happens also in this poem, is clearly described as a fertility goddess what brings her closer to Freyja and of Freyr - who is also the god of agricultural fertility.
- the house of the rock-king: the house of the stony king. The translation “home of king of the rock” would allude to Ţjazi’s place of residence while this kenning evokes the house of someone who is ‘rocky’, that is without softness (see a grammatical explanation in Note 3). It is a constant of the Norse civilization to describe any woman’s feeling of horror if she has to closely mix with giants.
Dwellers of the sloping (or ‘brilliant) edges were not afflicted by the arrival of wave-swirl (or protection provider) coming from the South; Freyr’s whole family became old and gray; the ‘holly ones’ were rather ugly.
Kenningar and descriptions
- Dwellers of the sloping (or brilliant) edges. Sloping or brillant, edges are cliffs and calling the giants ‘cliff dwellers’ is a traditional kenning.
- Wave-swirl of the vague (or ‘protection provider’]): Ţjóđólfr presents Íđunn’s name of of kind in such way that it becomes a kenning - Íđ međ jötnum unn - [unn is the accusative of unnr and, precisely, Íđunn is in the accusative case in this sentence] which it thus read as iđu-unnr (vave-swirl). The words ‘međ jötnum’ in the middle nicely split the two parts of this kenning. De Vries’ etymological dictionary provides the following etymology: "iđ = an action" followed by "unna = to offer, to love,” more probable but less in agreement with the aqueous kenning for Ţjazi “wolf of the vave beachcomber of the corpses” met in the following stanza. Thus, Íđunn, a “swirl” is carried over by Ţjazi, a “vave beachcomber.”
- the whole family of Freyr: Freyr’s ‘clan’, that is all the Ćsir.
Until the wolf of the beachcomber wave of the corpses of Gefn, the beer waitress is found, and that the annoying servant and the Gefn’s fraud spirit, Gefn, the beer waitress…
The angry leader spoke as follows: you will be excluded Loki except if, by trick, you bring back the famous maiden who increases the delight of the chains.
Kenningar and descriptions
- the wolf of the wave beachcomber of the corpses of Gefn, the beer waitress.
Gefn is a goddess name and Íđunn is said to provide pleasure. The “goddess provider of pleasure” is thus Íđunn. We know that “Íđunn’s wolf” is Ţjazi and he is described as a “wave beachcomber of corpses.” All this evokes a sea of corpses whose waves break under the influence of Ţjazi. He is not a kind of ‘universal killer’ but rather a kind of ‘universal undertaker’: He is in charge of carrying the corpses, whose waves break on the shores of Hell, somewhat similar to Charon in Greek mythology. He is called however here a ‘wolf’, which means also ‘monster’ and this makes of him a monstrous conveyor – similar to a inhuman machine - of corpses.
- the annoying servant and the spirit of fraud of Gefn, the beer waitress. We have just seen that this last expression indicates Íđunn and the “annoying servant” who cooks the meat is Loki. Snorri tell us how he cheated on Íđunn’s freedom to deliver her to Ţjazi.
- the leader in anger. Ingvifreyr is often believed to be this leader because his ‘family’ became old as stanza 10 states it. Usually, Ţórr is the god who gets angry and often threatens Loki of death, and Óđinn is the leader of all. Thjođorlfr might be alluding to these gods, each of them being personaly angry.
- a famous maiden who increases the delight of the chains. The proper meaning of the word haft / hapt is the one of ‘shackles’. By metaphor, this word names the ‘powers’, thus the gods. This way of speech stresses that the ‘powerful ones’ fetter us, a still very modern opinion. Here, there is a possibility that the ‘powerful ones’ are the giants who fettered Íđunn for their own ‘delight’. In both cases, this kenning points at Íđunn who is always a pleasure provider for the ‘powerful ones’.
I heard (to say) that the test of Hśnir’s mind (Loki) recovered by a trick Ćsir’s delights/games, he flied ‘increased’ by a hawk skin, and the evil-spirited king Mörn’s father (Ţjazi) caused towards the hawk’s son (Loki) a vigorous gale of an eagle of the blades-play of the feathers (Hrćsvelgr).
(Snorri tells us that he borrowed Freyja’s hawk-skin, by which is power has been ‘increased’.)
Kenningar and descriptions
- test of Hśnir’s mind. Loki and Hśnir are friendly in this poem but we cannot imagine a Loki who would not try even his friends.
- Ćsir’s delights/games . Íđunn is clearly described here as someone who contributes to the Ćsir’s pleasures. In fact, The meaning of ‘leikr’ oscillates between the ones of ‘games organizer’ and ‘sexual toy’.
- ‘king, Mörn’s father’ is a giant king, and an evil-spirited one is Ţjazi.
- hawk’s son. Here Loki is in a hawk shape and the poet wishes to underline his small size in front of Ţjazi’s enormous one. Obviously, Ţjazi’s strength seems to dominate the Ćsir and they are all frightened when seeing this immense monster swooping down on them.
- the eagle of the blades-play of the feathers. We can obviously see here a kenning for Ţjazi there but it has been just pointed at by long a kenning (king, etc.). It might then be sensible to see here a kenning for someone else. The eagle Hrćsvelgr who “swallows the corpses” (as means his name) perched at the top of Yggdrasill is well-known for creating the winds and the storms with his wings. He uses its feathers as gigantic blades to generate storms. This last kenning would then specificlly point at Hrćsvelgr whose name becomes a heiti for Ţjazi The two giants become somewhat identical at this point.
Stanza 13 (four first lines)
Summary (four first lines)
The ginnregin (holy powers) quickly start to burn shafts and wooden scraps and the son of Greip’s wooer is singed, here ends his travel.
Kenningar and descriptions
- Ginnregin (ginn-regin). Regin means ‘divine powers’ and prefix ginn- qualifies what is holy, ‘valuable’. The Ćsir are called here ‘ginnregin’ while other poems seem to place the ‘ginnregin’ higher than them in the divine hierarchy (as far as there is one).
- Greip’s love son: Ţjazi. The kenningar related to Ţjazi suggest that he belongs to the very first generations of giants. Independently, Greip is the name of a giantess in the poem called ‘Ţórr’s praise’ (Ţórsdrápa) but we knows nothing about the relationship between her and Ţjazi’s father beloved one. They must be two different characters bearing the same name.
Explanatory notes for section 2
Note 1 on the expression međ fróđgum tívi (s. 8, l. 1) usually translated as “with the learned god:”
Preposition međ can be followed by a dative or an accusative. The usual translation « wise deity » supposes that ‘fróđg’ is equivalent to fróđr and that tívi is an irregular dative, which normally reads tiva. Besides, Loki has just before been acting foolishly by striking an obviously combative supernatural being. He thus cannot be a ‘wise deity’, fróđr must here be ironical. All this is very puzzling and I suggest that Ţjóđólfr’s intention has been to mock Loki by recalling that he is not a really masculine deity but a neutral one. He thus uses tívi as a neutral noun of the 2nd declension instead of the normal weak masculine, which provides a dative and an accusative tívi. This would enable us to read fróđ-gum as ‘wise-fuss’ in the accusative, as if he, Loki, was carrying away, or ‘treating’ Ţjazi [Since the one actually carrying is Ţjazi, gumr should be a dative. The classical translation avoids this ‘error’ but an ironical meaning is quite possible]. In that case međ (+ acc.) fróđgum tívi would take the meaning of : « with the sexually undefined deity wise in fuss, » which qualifies Loki to the point.
I kept above the classical translation because both are plausible and mine is more complex.
Note 2: Explanation on the choices made for translating the word sorgśran (s. 9, l 2)
This word qualifies usually Loki as being “howling with pain” while I chose to write sorgśra and it qualifies then Íđunn as a “pain-alleviator.”
The on line version of ‘Skaldic base’ gives this orthography what makes of this word a adjective in the accusative case and masculine gender. It thus will qualify Loki, called a ‘stirrer’ (hrśrir) whose masculine accusative does hrśri and śran , understood as a derivative of verb ćra, ‘to make insane’. The translations which qualify Loki of “insane with pain,” are certainly also possible within the context and it stems from this interpretation.
Finnur Jónsson’s volume A of “Den Norsk-Islandske Skjadedigtning, p. 18” (1912), though, gives the verbatim content of the manuscripts. Here, we see two possible forms “sorg eyra” and “sorg eura”. The form “sorgśran” appears only in volume B, showing that Finnur wanted to attach this adjective to Loki.
It could have been also possible to respect the original version ‘eyra’ and modify ‘eura’ in ‘eyra’ rather than adding an ‘n’ to these adjectives. In this case, this adjective would apply to Íđunn, here called ‘mey’, the accusative feminine case. One can then bring closer (just as did Svenbjörn Egilsson in his Lexicon Poëticum) eyra and verb eira, to save, and sorg eyra becomes an accusative feminine as it is in the originals and calls Íđunn a pain alleviator. Stanza 11 will call her “munstśrandi mey,” the delight increaser, which stresses her capacity to alleviate pain.
Both are possible and require a emendation, but I prefer to choose the one respecting the original grammar of the manuscripts.
Note 3 on grjót-Níđađar: Níđuđr is the name of a giant and it thus designtes Ţjazi. The words composed on grjót are never built by putting grjót in the genitive what is usually regarded as a adjectivisation of the word. Thus, the canonical meaning of ‘grjót-’something is stony-something.
APPENDIX: notes related to the translation of stanzas 3 - 13
3, 4 and 5.
3. Tormiđluđr (difficult-sharer) vas tívum
-tálhreinn (decoy-reindeer) međal (among + gen.)- beina (the bones).
Hvat kvađ hapta snytrir (soigneux – (Lex. Poet.))
hjalm-faldinn (helmet-hooded) ţví valda.
Margspakr (Margspakr =very wise) of nam mćla
már (már=seagull) val-kastar (morts-attrapés , caught-dead=heap-dead) báru (bára=billow)
(vara Hśnis vinr (Hśnir’s friend = Loki) hánum
hollr) af fornum ţolli (ancient (fir)-tree = Yggdrasill).
4. Fjallgylđir (Fjall-gylđir=mount-wolf, fall-wolf) bauđ (bid) fyllar (fills)
fet-Meila (fet-Meila=step-Meili=light-foot - Óđins son = ? Hśnir) sér deila
(hlaut) af helgum skutli
(hrafnásar (raven-áss = Óđinn) vinr (friend) (friend of Óđinn = Loki) blása (blew) ).
vin-grögnir (vind-rögnir [see NB below] = vind-divinity - ) lét vagna (vagna, nom. sing. OR gen. plur vagna = dolphin or porpoise [small whale])
vígfrekr (víg-frekr=battle-greedy )
[“vígfrekr vind-vagna rögnir let sígask ofan” ]
ţars vélsparir (well-sparer) vôru (váru : pret. plur.)
varnendr (safegard) gođa (of the gods) farnir.
5. Fljótt (swiftly) bađ foldar (of earth) dróttinn (master)
Fárbauta mǫg (Fárbauti’s son) várar (de Vár [vára= the spring-times])
ţekkiligr (handsome, pleasant) međ ţegnum (ţegn=homme libre)
ţrymseilar (noise-line= poet. warrior) hval (whale, acc.) deila (to deal, divide + acc.).
En af breiđu (breiđr = broad) bjóđi (bjóđr = table, sol, qui invite)
bragđvíss (quick-wise = tricky) at ţat lagđi
ósvífrandi (ósvífrandi = (Lex. Poet) hostis (stranger,ennemy) THOUGH svífr = quiet ; ósvífrandi could render ‘unquietening, disturbing’ = Loki) ása
upp ţjórhluti fjóra.
NB : Ving-ţórr = ‘battle-ţórr’ ‘hence’ Ving-rögnir = battle divinity. OR ELSE : land-rögnir = land-divinity = a king. Vind-rögnir = wind-divinity = Hrćsvelgr
5. Commentary on várar/vara
Finur Jonsson’s version says ‘várar’ which calls to the goddess Vár. The word is thus a feminine doing várar in the sing. gen. Vár would then be a heiti for Skađi. Manuscrits rather provide vára that can be plural genitive of
vár, n., (= of the springtimes). Hval ţrymseilar vára = “whale of the noise-lines of springtimes.” During springtimes oxes start working again and the belts of these ‘big animals’ start cracking again. [A translator alluded to whip cracking. I have a limited experience in oxen handling. I nevertheless can witness that I never saw someone whiping an ox)]
6 -7 - 8
Ok slíđrliga (savagely) síđan
svangr (hungry) - vas ţat fyr lǫngu - vas ţat fyr löngu: it was very long ago (langr, n. löng, dat. sing. löngu)
át af eikirótum (eiki = oak timber, oaken. eiki-rótum = with oaken-roots)
okbjǫrn (yoke-bear = ox) fađir Marnar,
áđr djúphugađr (djúphugađr: djúpr=deep, hugađr=minded) drćpi
dolg (dólgr = fiend/monster, acc.) ballastan (ballastan = most hard) vallar (vallar=gen. sing. völlr (of the) field)
hirđi-Týr (gardian- Týr) međal herđa
herfangs (Lex.Poet herr-fáng=prey) (“deep minded god gardian of the prey”) ofan stǫngu (dat. stöng, pole).
(málunaut ?= máli-nautr [máli used as an adjective]= friendly-mate (acc.). Miđjung name of a giant).
Note on ‘Marnar’ (s. 6)
In Ţórsdrápa 7 Eysteinn Björnsson’s translation (https://notendur.hi.is//~eybjorn/ugm/thorsd00.html) Ţórr is “ţverrir barna mörnar” = a diminisher of Mörn’s children.
Note on međ fróđgum tívi. (s. 8)
Preposition međ can be followed by a dative or an accusative. The usual translation « wise deity » supposes that ‘fróđg’ is equivalent to fróđr and that tívi is an irregular dative, which normally reads tiva. Besides, Loki has just before been acting foolishly by striking an obviously combative supernatural being. He thus cannot be a ‘wise deity’, fróđr his here ironical. All this is very puzzling and I suggest that Ţjóđólfr’s intention has been to mock Loki by recalling that he is a not a really masculine deity but a neutral one. He thus uses tívi as a neutral noun of the 2nd declension instead of the normal weak masculine, which provides a dative and an accusative tívi. This would enable us to read fróđ-gum as ‘wise-fuss’ in the accusative, as if he, Loki, was carrying away, or ‘treating’ Ţjazi [Since the one actually carrying is Ţjazi, gumr should be a dative. The classical translation avoids this ‘error’ but an ironical meaning is quite possible]. In that case međ (+ acc.) fróđgum tívi would take the meaning of : « with the sexually undefined deity wise in fuss, » which qualifies Loki to the point.
Note on málunaut miđjungs.
The text states thatLoki is forced to biđja friđar málunaut miđjunsg « beg peace from Miđjung’s dear friend. » In Norse, to beg something (genitive, here friđar) from someone (dative, here málunaut which actually is an accusative).
9 - 10 - 11
Sér bađ sagna (of sagas) hrśri (stirrer)
ţás ellilyf (elli-lyf = old age-herb) ása,
áttrunnr (átt-runnr = family-bush) Hymis, kunni;
Brunnakrs (of brunnr = spring – akr = crop) of kom bekkjar (brook’s)
Brísings-gođa dísi (dat. ?)
girđiţjófr (girdle-thief) í garđa (home)
grjóf-Níđađar (rock-Níđuđr -> in the home of the rock-king) síđan.
Urđut (‘t’ negation) brattra (or bjartra) (steep (or bright)) barđa (edge)
byggvendr (inhabitant) at hryggvir (= grieved);
ţá vas Iđ- (iđa = eddy) međ jötnum
-unnr (the waves) nýkomin sunnan ;
gćttusk allar áttir (whole family)
Ingvifreys (of Ingvifreyr) at ţingi
(váru heldr (rather) ) ok hárar
(hamljót (ugly) regin) gamlar.
(unz hrunsćva (hrun-sćva ruin-sea – breaker wave)) hrćva (of the corpses/fragments)
hund (dog, wolf.) öl-Gefnar (of ale-Gefn) fundu
leiđiţir (leiđi = irksome/tomb/fair wind. ţirr = servant) ok lćva (fraud, craft)
lund (mind, temper) öl-Gefnar bundu").
"Ţú skalt véltr (pushed away), nema vélum (except with tricks)
- vreiđr (angry) mćlti svá – leiđir (leader),
mun stśrandi mćra
mey (delight-swelling famous girl) aptr, Loki, hapta (gen. of ‘chains’ = gods)".
Note on iđ-unnr (s. 10, l. 3-4)
Ţjóđólfr makes a kenning out of Íđunn’s name. He reads it as iđu-unnr (waves of the eddy). By putting “međ jötnum” in between, he states this is a kenning, and not an etymology. De Vries etymological dictionnary provides the etymology: “iđ = a doing” followed by “unna = to grant, to love.”
12 - 13
- Sveipr varđ í för - Greipar.
 - the reference is Snorri Sturluson, Edda, translation Anthony Faulkes, Everyman 1987.
An old translation is also available here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/pre05.htm
The poem itself was recently translated into English by Richard North, The Haustlöng of Ţjóđolfr of Hvinir, Antony Rowe Ltd, 1997. I read very attentively this work and found there little help. When it significantly differs from Faulkes’ version, the arguments are so confused and even illogical, that this version does not bring much more than a good idea of where the poem’s translation becomes really tricky. Note that I did not try to translate the poem (except stanza 2) though I put all my care in spotting and translating its kennings.