|Codex Regius||Codex Trajectinus||Codex Wormianus||Emended & Modernized|
|9 : 5-8||Variants||Variants|
|[að ostali striðan||oð ; stridann||Háðu stáli stríðan|
|stravm hrekk mimis ekkior||bec mimi ekior||straum Hrekkmímis ekkjur;|
|stophnisv] for stey[pir|
The bracketed words are supplied from W.
|stop- hnísu fór steypir|
|striðlvndr með v]a/l griþar.||-lyndr||vol||stríðlund með -völl Gríðar.|
There are obviously two sentences here. My interpretation of both differs considerably from that of all editors:
Hrekkmímis ekkjur háðu stáli stríðan straum; steypir Gríðar fór stopvöll hnísu með stríðlund, i.e. "the widows of the Mímir of mischief [waves] caused a violent stream, strident with steel. Gríðr's toppler [Þórr] carried the battle-tree [Þjálfi] across the bumpy land of the porpoise [ocean]".
Line 5 makes no sense in the mss., and the majority of editors agree on the emendation háðu. I accept this, but interpret the meaning of lines 5-6 in a different manner. Hrekkmímis ekkjur are generally thought to be Gjálp and Greip, Geirröð's daughters. The only "evidence" for such an interpretation comes from Snorri's prose account, and I am vary of accepting this. I can find no hard evidence in the poem that Thor encountered the two sisters during his journey across the ocean (or river).
Hrekkmímis ekkjur ] Hrekk-mímir "mischief-Mímir" is obviously a giant appellation. Ekkjur usually means "widows", but according to the Lexicon Poeticum, the basic meaning of ekkja is "a single, unmarried woman, regardless of whether she has formerly been married or not". In poetry the term was frequently used loosely to mean simply "women, wives", just like brúðir "brides" [cp. Haustlöng 15:7 Svölins ekkja = Óðinn's "widow" = Earth]. So who are these "widows"?
I believe they are Ægisdætur "daughters of Ægir", who, in poetry, were used as personifications of the ocean waves. I read Hrekkmímir as a name for Ægir, whose name is a synonym of "ocean". The poet may have coined it, punningly, from the word hregg-mímir, "storm-mímir", a poetic term for the sky (see Skáldskaparmál 68, and Nafnaþulur). The ocean-giant was, indeed, full of mischief. Snorri names the nine daughters of Ægir in Skáldskaparmál 33 and 76: Himinglæva, Dúfa, Blóðughadda, Hefring, Unnur, Hrönn, Bylgja, Bára, Kólga. Most of these names are synonyms for "wave", but the name Blóðughadda "the one with bloody hair" suggests their violent function in the current half-stanza, which may be compared to a verse fragment by Einar Skúlason (Skáldskaparmál 76), where the ocean's turbulence is caused by Himinglæva, one of the sisters:
æsir hvasst at hraustum
Himinglæva þyt sævar ...
i.e. "Himinglæva violently agitates the roar of the sea against the brave ..."
We meet these nine maidens again in a disputed stanza by Snæbjörn, quoted in Skáldskaparmál 33, where they are referred to as "nine brides of the island-quern, who revolve the cruel skerry-mill (Grótti) beyond the earth's edge":
Hvatt kveða hræra Grótta
út fyrir jarðar skauti
eylúðrs níu brúðir...
I have already mentioned the great world-mill in the commentary to half-stanza 6:5-8. Seemingly, the great mill Grótti was revolved by nine giantessess "beyond the earth's edge". The churning of the mill caused a gigantic maelstrom in the Northern Ocean, so forceful that it was able to suck down whole ships with their crews.
At this point of his journey, Thor has surely passed "beyond the earth's edge", where the mischievous daughters of Hrekkmímir (Ægir) churn up immense currents in the ocean.
It is of interest to note that these nine giantesses are still alive and well as late as the Fornaldarsögur. In chapter 12 of Hjálmþés saga og Ölvis, we come across them in a terrible mood. Their names are not so pretty this time, and neither are they themselves:
Hjálmþér sá á sjóinn og sá níu tröllkonur svo stórar og illúðlegar, að engar þóttist hann séð hafa þeim líkar. Þær höfðu rifið í sundur öll skipin, en drepið alla mennina og borið góss allt á land ... Þær hétu svo: Hergunnur, Hremsa, Nál og Nefja, Runa og Trana, Greip og Glyrna, Margerður hin níunda. Hún hafði kryppu stóra, og bar hana hærra en höfuðið. Hún hafði eitt auga, og stóð það fyrir miðju enni, og var kerla ekki frýnileg yfirlits ... Þær voru stuttklæddar píkurnar og göptu kjöftunum, en skóku höfuðin.
háðu stáli stríðan straum ] The dative stáli is usually taken to mean "against the steel, against the spear-point", cp. skotnaðra (6:4), hlymþél (6:6). The meaning would then be "they caused a violent stream [to rush] aginst the spear-point". Although a bit forced, this may well be so, but I suspect otherwise. In my commentary to half-stanza 8:1-4, I suggested that the poet used the word sverð-fen as an image for the extreme cold of the Arctic Ocean, which cuts through the body like a sword of ice; and juxtaposed this image with the river Slíðr, the current of which is mingled with bitter swords. I would suggest that the poet here continues this imagery. The giantesses of the ocean waves, Ægir's daughters, create a violent current (stríðan straum), which is also "strident with steel" (stáli stríðan). The poet's use of language is extremely skilful here, and meaningful puns may be suspected. Háðu stáli stríð would mean "made war with steel". The meanings of the verbs stríða and hrekkja can be similar: "to cause harm, pain". In modern Icelandic, they are synonyms, meaning "vex, tease, harass".
The alliteration in this half-stanza must be commented upon. All the alliterating words begin with ST-: stáli-stríðan-straum, stop-steypir-stríðlund. It should also be noted that that former half-stanza (9:1-4) is almost as rich in S-sounds: sinni-skaunar, seil-sjóla-sjálflopta. The hissing, soughing, sounds of the streams of the sea become resoundingly audible. [Reading this stanza aloud always brings to my mind a line from Dylan Thomas' UNDER MILKWOOD: "the only sea I saw was the see-saw sea".]
My emendations in lines 7-8 may seem drastic, but the damaged state of Codex Regius only gives us:
[...] for stey [...] a/l griþar
The missing parts are provided by Codex Wormianus, and partially supported by Codex Trajectinus. I am unable to agree with the text "established" by the scholars:
stophnísu fór steypir
stríðlundr með völ Gríðar
i.e. stríðlundr steypir stophnísu fór með Gríðarvöl, i.e. "the wrathful feller of the mountain-porpoise (giantess) went forth with (or: wielded) Gríður's staff".
My reasons for refusing to accept such a reading are two:
1. Stop-hnísa = "mountain-porpoise" = giantess. This seems unacceptable. Stop doesn't mean "mountain". Stop means "bump, unevenness, that which makes one stumble", from which primary meaning a secondary meaning has been derived "unsteadiness, readiness to stumble". I can find no examples of stop = "mountain" in the texts. The adjective stopall means "stumbling, or, causing one to stumble".
2. völ Gríðar = Gríðarvöl. There is no evidence for such a staff outside Snorri's prose account of the tale. This account is extremely dubious (see Analogues). We have already learned that Thor withstood the force of the ocean currents by plunging his spear into the bottom of the ocean. He must surely have used both hands to do so. So how can he suddenly be wielding this so-called Gríðarvölr "staff of Gríðr"? It is clearly absurd. Gríðr was a giantess, the mother of Víðarr by Óðinn. Snorri's tale seems to be made out of whole cloth, or perhaps his failed attempts to understand the complex language of Þórsdrápa.
In any case, I would suggest a totally different interpretation (based on two minor emendations), which totally eliminates the famous Gríðarvölr.
stop- hnísu fór steypir
stríðlund með -völl Gríðar
steypir Gríðar ] "the feller of the giantess" is Thor. A mythic kernel may be suspected: Did Thor slay Gríðr, the mother of Odin's son, Víðarr?
stopvöll hnísu ] Völlr hnísu "the land of the porpoise" is the ocean. Stopvöllr means "uneven land". This modifies the kenning, making the ocean "uneven", i.e. "billowy, turbulent", which is obviously fitting here.
stríðlund ] I prefer to read stríðlund as the accusative of stríðlundr "battle-tree", i.e. "warrior". Þór fór með stríðlund = "Thor waded with the warrior (Þjálfi) hanging onto him". The word might also be interpreted as a dative of stríðlund "wrathful temper", in which case með stríðlund = wrathfully.
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