ŢÓRSDRÁPA 6:1-4

Codex RegiusCodex TrajectinusCodex WormianusEmended & Modernized
6 : 1-4 VariantsVariants 
Ţar ímork firir markarj maurc ; firi  Ţar í -mörk fyrir -markar,
malhvettan byr settvmalhueican ; bvrbvrmálhvettan byr settu,
ne hvćl volvr halarhuel uaulorhvelvolvr ; hallarne hvélvölur hálar,
háf skotnaţra svafv;  háf- skotnađra, sváfu;

This half-stanza consists of two clauses:

Ţar settu (ţeir) skotnađra í háfmörk fyrir málhvettan byr (háf)markar; ne sváfu hálar hvelvölur (háfmarkar), i.e. "there they pushed shooting-serpents [spears] into the net-forest [ocean] against the loud-sounding wind of the (net-)forest [ocean-current]. The slippery, round bones [pebbles] did not sleep".

Although the basic meaning of this half-stanza is obvious, the problems are many, and have been "solved" by commentators in various conflicting ways. My suggestions are in no way meant as a final solution, and various other possibilities have been suggested by former commentators.

ţar settu ] Literally "there placed". The subject, ţeir, is omitted, but is perfectly understood by the plural form settu.

skotnađra ] is the plural accusative of skot-nađr "shooting-serpent", which is an obvious kenning for "spear".

háfmörk ] Háfr is a term meaning "bag-shaped net for catching fish". Mörk means "wood, forest", and is used in kennings as an equivalent of "land, earth". The "land of the fish-trap" is, of course, a kenning for "sea, ocean". This interesting word seemingly serves three different purposes in this half-stanza (see below).

málhvettan ] is a problematic word. Mál means "word, speech, sound", but -hvettr has been variously interpreted. Egilsson related it to hvetja "urge" and hvatr "quick", but Jónsson to the (otherwise unknown) *hvetta (cp. Norwegian kvetta). Apart from the etymological uncertainties, it seems probable that málhvettr simply means "noisy"; either "quick to make a sound", or "struck so as to make a sound".

fyrir byr (háf)markar ] The kenning háf-mörk "sea" has already been explained. I believe that the poet reuses it here as a part of the expression byr háfmarkar. Háf- does not need to be repeated, but the genitive -markar must. The byr (wind) of the sea is a circumlocution for "ocean-current". The wind (byr) is a current of the air, thus a "sea-wind" is a current of the ocean. Fyrir must be read as "against, in the face of". The warriors, facing the overwhelming currents of the ocean, push their spears into the bottom of the ocean and hold fast, in order not to be swept away. (Cp. stikleiđ in stanza 8.)

ne sváfu hálar hvelvölur (háfmarkar) ] Vala means "knuckle-bone". In kennings, stones could be called "bones of the earth", i.e. völur markar. The basic meaning of hvel is "wheel", but it could also mean "round-shaped". If völur markar are "stones", then völur háfmarkar are "stones of the ocean", and hvelvölur háfmarkar "rounded stones of the ocean". They are "rounded" because of the erosion of the sea, and therefore hálar "slippery". Therefore, they must be seen as lying on the bottom of the ocean, where the warriors place their feet - otherwise they wouldn't be hálar "slippery". Such an interpretation is reinforced by the fact that these "slippery stones" are described as disturbed from their sleep (ne sváfu). Rocks on the bottom of the ocean might be seen as sleeping, i.e. at rest. But when Thor arrives and wades forth, thrusting his big feet against the slippery rocks and his spear into the bottom of the ocean, they are no longer at rest (ne sváfu).

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