ŮËRSDR┴PA 8:1-4

Codex RegiusCodex TrajectinusCodex WormianusEmended & Modernized
8 : 1-4 VariantsVariants 
O■v fast en fri■ar  Ë­u fast, en, frÝ­ir,
flavt ei­svara ga/ta  flaut, ei­svara Gauta
setrs vikingar snotrir vikingasetrs vÝkingar snotrir,
sver■rvNnar fengvNar;-runni­-runni­sver­-, runnar, -fen, gunnar;

This half-stanza consists of two clauses:

FrÝ­ir ei­svara vÝkingar Gauta setrs, snotrir runnar gunnar, ˇ­u fast, en sver­-fen flaut, i.e. "the glorious, battle-wise warriors, oath-sworn vikings of Gauti's dwelling, waded hard, while the sword-fen [ocean] flowed".

frÝ­ir ] is an emendation for fri­ar (see 4:3). The meter demands a long syllable, but frÝ­ar can hardly be fitted into the syntax. The warriors are frÝ­ir, either "handsome" or "glorious".

snotrir gunnar runnar ] Gunnar runnar (battle-trees) is a known kenning for "warriors". Here, they are also gunnar snotrir "battle-wise".

Gauta setrs ] The seat of Odin is either Asgard or Valholl. Gauta setr can also mean "seat of the gods", which amounts to the same.

sver­-fen ] On the basis of the text of T and W, line 4 has been emended by various editors to read svar­runni­ fen, i.e. "the fen (river) which runs over the sward". Fen could, of course, mean either "ocean" or "river", but the word svar­runninn seems dubious. I prefer to read sver­-fen "sword-river" as a name for the river (or ocean). From V÷luspß 36, we know a similar river: ┴ fellur austan / um eiturdala / s÷xum og sver­um / SlÝ­r heitir s˙: "A river flows from the east through icy (venomous) valleys, with sabres and swords, it is named SlÝ­r". This may, indeed, be the Arctic Ocean, which Thor is wading here. It flows through eiturdalir "valleys of venom", and we have already seen (in stanza 6) that the "poison" spewed forth by the ocean (serpent) is equivalent to the icy cold of the Northern Seas. The "sabres and swords" carried by the river SlÝ­r are equivalent to the terrible cold of the ocean, which is like poison, and cuts like the edge of a sword. The image of cold as a sword, or venom, is alive and well in modern Icelandic (nÝstingskaldr, eiturkaldr, eitrsvalr). In a stanza quoted in Skßldskaparmßl 70, the Midgard-worm is called eitrsvalr na­ur "venom-cold serpent". In another stanza in the same chapter of Skßldskaparmßl, we find the expression eitrk÷ld elfr "venom-cold river". In a stanza from ١r­ar saga hre­u, we find the Midgard-worm referred to as eitr■vengr ÷ldu "poison-string of the wave".

Indeed, if such a methaphor was intended by the poet, a skaldic pun may also be suspected, based on the similarity of the words SlÝ­r "the fierce, cruel one", and slÝ­r "scabbard" [cp. slÝ­rbeitr "cruel-cutting" in Atlakvi­a 21:5].

Among kennings for the sword we find: garmur slÝ­ra "dog/wolf of the scabbard"; flugdreki slÝ­ra "flying dragon of the scabbard"; slÝ­r-ßll "eel of the scabbard"; slÝ­rv÷ndur "wand of the scabbard". The primary meaning of the word gandr is "staff, wand", but it can also mean "wolf", and in the combinations J÷rmungandr (the great worm) and Vßnargandr (the wolf Fenrir) it surely means "monster". Therefore, if we take the name SlÝ­r to refer to the great ocean surrounding Midgard, the Midgard Worm might be poetically thought of as a "sword", since it is both a monster (garmr, dreki, gandr) and a staff/wand (v÷ndr, gandr) which rests in the terrible scabbard (SlÝ­r/slÝ­r). A much quoted expression from Hymiskvi­a refers to the great ocean-serpent as umgj÷r­ allra landa "the surrounding girdle of all lands". However, we cannot overlook the fact that the word umgj÷r­, umger­ was frequently used to mean "sheath, scabbard".

The piercing cold of the Arctic Ocean is thus equivalent to the fierce pain caused by the sword's edge, which is also equivalent to the venomous cold (eitr) spewed forth by the terrible ocean-serpent (■jˇ­ßar fnŠstu eitri, 5:7-8).

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