Úlfr Uggason: Húsdrápa 3-6 [ca. 985]

Húsdrápa 3 [Sks # 54] [RWU]
Ţjokkvöxnum kvađ ţykkja
ţikling firinmikla
hafra njóts at höfgum
hćtting megindrćtti.

It is said that the stout lubbard thought that the goat-owner's severely heavy haul was exceedingly dangerous.

1-2. ţjokkvaxinn ţiklingr "the stout lubbard" is, of course, Hymir.

3. hafra njótr "owner of he-goats" is Ţórr. Cp. hafra dróttinn (Hymiskviđa 20, 31).

Snorri comments: "It is said that then the giant Hymir changed colour, went pale, and panicked when he saw the serpent and how the sea flowed out and in over the boat." [Gylfaginning 48, Faulkes' translation]

Húsdrápa 4 [only in W]
Innmáni skein ennis
öndótts vinar banda;
áss skaut œgigeislum
orđsćll á men storđar.

The forehead-moon of the formidable friend of gods shone; the renowned god aimed terrifying glances at the necklace of the earth.

1. Innmáni, literally "in-moon, moon inside".

2. vinr banda "friend of gods" is Ţórr.

3. skaut œgigeislum, literally "shot terrifying beams". In Egill's Arinbjarnarkviđa (ca. 960) we find an uncannily similar image: ţás ormfránn / ennimáni / skein allvalds / œgigeislum "when the king's forehead-moon, gleaming serpent-like, shone with terrifying beams".

4. men storđar "necklace of the earth" is another kenning for Jörmungandr.

Snorri comments (see also stanza 5): "And one can claim that a person does not know what a horrible sight is who did not get to see how Thor fixed his eyes on the serpent, and the serpent stared back up at him spitting poison." [Gylfaginning 48, Faulkes' translation]

Húsdrápa 5 [Sks # 210=316] [RWTU]
En stirđţinull starđi
storđar leggs fyrir borđi
fróns á folka reyni
fránleitr ok blés eitri.

But the stiff rope of the earth gazed with blazing eyes over the gunwale at the challenger of the people of the bone of the land, and spewed venom.

1-2. stirđţinull storđar "stiff rope of the earth" is Jörmungandr.

2-3. reynir folka leggs fróns "challenger of the people of the bone of the land", i.e. "challenger of giants", a typical Ţórr-kenning. Giants are "people of the rock", rocks being "bones of the land".

Húsdrápa 6 [Sks # 55+56] [RWTU]
Fullöflugr lét fellir
fjall-Gauts hnefa skjalla
(ramt mein vas ţat) reyni
reyrar leggs viđ eyra.
Víđgymnir laust Vimrar
vađs af fránum nađri
hlusta grunn viđ hrönnum.
Hlaut innan svá minnum.

The full-strong feller of the mountain-Gautr let his fist crash against the ear of the explorer of the bone of the reed-bed - that was a mighty injury! The giant of Vimur's ford struck the ear-ground off the gleaming serpent into the waves. Thus was the inside {of the hall} decorated with images.

1-2. fellir fjall-Gauts "feller of the mountain-Gautr" is Ţórr. Gautr is one of Óđinn's names, which makes "Gautr of the mountain" a giant.

3-4. reynir leggs reyrar "explorer of the bone of the reed(-bed)", i.e. "explorer of rock", an uncertain giant-kenning without parallel. "Rock" is usually either "bone of ocean" or "bone of ground".

5-6. Víđgymnir vađs Vimrar "Víđgymnir of Vimur's ford". Snorri explains the kenning thus: "Here [Thor] is called giant of Vimur's ford. Vimur is the name of a river that Thor waded when he was on his way to Geirrod's courts". The giant name Víđgymnir is otherwise unknown, and there is no other example of a giant name being used as a base-word in a Ţórr-kenning.

7. grunnr hlusta, literally "foundation of the earholes", seemingly an head-kenning. It seems that in this version of the myth Ţórr actually strikes the very head off the Serpent. But see note below.

Snorri comments: "But Thor threw his hammer after [the serpent], and they say that he struck off his head by the sea-bed. But I think in fact the contrary is correct to report to you that the Midgard serpent lives still and lies in the encircling sea. But Thor swung his fist and struck at Hymir's ear so that he plunged overboard and one could see the soles of his feet." [Gylfaginning 48, Faulkes' translation]

It can hardly be doubted that Snorri had this Húsdrápa stanza in mind when he wrote the above description, and that he was rather puzzled by the poet's apparent statement that Thor killed the Serpent. It may indeed be doubted that this was ever so. If we look closely at the stanza, a couple of curious facts emerge:

1. The kenning reynir leggs reyrar has never been convincingly explained. "Bone of the reed" or "bone of the reed-bed" isn't exactly a convincing rock-kenning. One can't help but suspect that the text may be slightly corrupt here, and the mss. readings suggest that this may be the case: R has reyroz leggs, WT have reyrar logs, and U, alone, has reyrar leggs. Even if we assume that the kenning meant "giant", it may legitimately refer to Jörmungandr, not Hymir. Jörmungandr is the offspring of two giants, Loki and Angrbođa, and in Völuspá 50 he is said to be í jötunmóđi "in giant-fury".

2. The kenning grunnr hlusta is not necessarily a head-kenning. The hlust is not the ear, but rather the earhole. Thus, grunnr hlusta "foundation of earholes" may just as well be an ear-kenning. It seems a remarkable coincidence that the first half of the stanza has Ţórr punching an eyra, and that the second half has him striking a grunnr hlusta. The two are too close for comfort, and it may be suggested that the two half-stanzas actually deal with the same event.

It would be foolish to try the emend the stanza to reflect the above speculations, but I would propose that this stanza from Húsdrápa neither states that Ţórr punched Hymir's ear, nor that he struck off Jörmungandr's head. On the contrary, the first half of the stanza can be read as saying that Ţórr struck at Jörmungandr's ear with his fist, and the second half that Jörmungandr's ear was torn off and fell into the ocean. That would have been a mighty injury, indeed!