RSDRPA 11:5-8

Codex RegiusCodex TrajectinusCodex WormianusEmended & Modernized
11 : 5-8 VariantsVariants 
ar hylriar heii  r hylriar hi,
hrioendr fiorv ioarfiøruhriorvrhrjendr fjru jar,
vi skyld breta skytivbretia vi skyld-Breta skytju
skl' eic heins reikar.scal eikskalœiksklleik Heins reikar.

My interpretation is basically that of Faulkes, who has chosen to read the words of this half-stanza in their natural order. Other commentators have, I think, unneccessarily complicated matters. Thus, I read:

r hylriar, hrjendr fjru jar, hi sklleik reikar Heins vi skyld-Breta skytju, i.e. "before the crossers of the deep, the destroyers of the nation of the sea-shore [rr & jlfi], were able to conduct the bowl-play of the hair-parting of Hinn [battle] against the kin-Briton of the cave [Geirrr]".

hylriar ] "riders (i.e. crossers) of the deep". Hylr is a term for an extremely deep place in a river, and is here, obviously a poetic term for the ocean. Cp. Icelandic hyl-djpur "abysmally deep".

hrjendr fjru jar ] "destroyers of the nation of the sea-shore", i.e. destroyers of giants. It may not be immediately apparent why the giants could be referred to as "inhabitants of the beach", at least not to those unfamiliar with the landscape of the Norwegian and Icelandic fjord (fjrr). The beaches of a fjord are generally not broad stretches of soft sand, ideal for sun-bathers of southern climates. More ordinarily, they are narrow stretches of pebbles and rocks, with overhanging cliffs, usually the bottom slopes of towering mountain-walls on each side of the fjord. It is quite possible that Geirrr's clan was imagined as a clan of sea-side giants living in such an environment, where the slopes of the mountains reach all the way down to the beach of the fiord. Thor and jlfi have just crossed the ocean, and have earned the name hylriar. They step ashore, onto the beach of a fjord, overshadowed by the cliffs of a mountain-wall, whose inhabitants (giants) immediately attack them (see 11:1-4).

hi ] The emendation can hardly be avoided, and is quite acceptable. An older manuscript may have read hei, which could stand for hi just as well as heii. Hi is a subjunctive form of the verb heyja, involving a future sense, which seems obvious. r hi = "before they would fight", "before they reached the point of fighting".

skl-leik reikar Heins ] is a kenning for battle, "the bowl-play of the hair-parting of Heinn". As ludicrous as it may seem, it is quite normal. Heinn is the name of a famous legendary king, whose wife's name was Hildur ("battle"). The couple's names are frequent in war-kennings, hers as a heiti for "battle", his as a heiti for "warrior" (the husband of "battle"). Reik means "the parting of the hair (on top of the head), and could be used in kennings to mean "top of the head", or simply "head". The skl "bowl" placed on the head of the warrior (Heinn) is simply a helmet. The leikr "game, play" depending on the warrior's helmet is obviously a battle. [A double poetic pun may be suspected, involving sub-textual interpretations of 1) skl-eik "bowl-oak, cup-tree" as a kenning for "woman" (i.e. Hildur, Heinn's wife); and 2) the possible sexual meaning of leika vi "play with", cp. Hrbarslj 30: lk ek vi ina lnhvtu. Similar crypto-sexual imagery will be commented upon in later stanzas.]

skyld-Breta skytju ] "the kin-Briton (inhabitant) of the cave" is almost certainly a kenning for Geirrr, the head of the clan of the "beach folk" (see above). The basic problem of this kenning is the actual meaning of the problematic word skytja. I believe (like Faulkes seems to do) that it means "cave, grotto", and is related to skti "cave", and skot "dark, narrow passage; nook, corner". [Cp. Icelandic kot - ktur - kytja - kytra, and Blndal Magnsson's Etymological Dictionary.] Skyld-Breti is less off a problem. Breti means Briton. Bretland means "land of Britons, i.e. Britain". Thus Breti skytju is easily a kenning for "the native, dweller, inhabitant of the cave", i.e. giant = Geirrr. The poet's skyld-Breti "kin-Briton, a relative of the Britons" is irrelevant, and was probably chosen for the simple reason that a word beginning with SK- was needed here (to alliterate with SKytju).

If the above interpretation is correct, I suspect that the kennings are pregnant with secondary meanings. Thor and jlfi have just crossed the abysmal deep of the Arctic Ocean, i.e. they are hylriar. Finally they step ashore, onto the beach (fjru) of Giantland, and are immediately attacked by giants (fjru j, cp. stanza 11:1-4), who inhabit the shore north of the Great Ocean. The beach is that of a fjord, overhung by cliffs. The king of the "sea-shore giants" lives inside a cave (skytju), situated inside the sea-side mountain. In order to reach the entrance of this cave, the divine warriors must first (r) fight a troop of guardian giants (har-bara li-Hatar, see 11:1-4). Much depends on the imagination of the reader (or listener). The attacking giants are seen as wolves jumping off cliff-shelves (har-br), which overhang the rocky sea-shore; i.e. wolf-giants, who guard the entrance to the palace/cave of Geirrr, king of giants.

NOTE: The picture painted above, of shoreline giants living in a cave inside a fjord-side mountain, is extremely vivid. I am, therefore, puzzled by a statement of North's in his edition of Haustlng (p. 79). Discussing a kenning for the giant Hrungnir, bolmr fjalfrs lgra gjalfra "the bear of the hide-out of the high sea-swells", i.e. "a bear of a cliff-cave which traps water from the high tide", North comments that the "extraordinary image of this giant in shoreline surroundings is unparalleled". He is wrong - rsdrpa eloquently provides the parallel. This is a good example of "academic blindness". The editors have slavishly followed Snorri's "river" interpretation. Faulkes repeats Jnsson, who repeated Egilsson. I have shown, in my commentaries, that there is no river in this poem.

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