ŢÓRSDRÁPA 19:1-4

Codex RegiusCodex TrajectinusCodex WormianusEmended & Modernized
19 : 1-4 VariantsVariants 
Hel blotin va hneitirHil blotinnhnettirHel- blótinn vá -hneitir
hog brotningi skogar  hógbrotningi skógar
vndirfialfrs af alfiafliatundirfjálfrs at álfi
alfheims blikv kalfa;  álfheims bliku kálfa;

This half-stanza is extremely difficult, and I find myself unable to agree with former commentators, for three basic reasons: 1) An emendation of helblótinn to herblótinn "worshipped by hosts" is totally unwarranted; 2) likewise, an emendation of af alfi to af afli "with force" is hardly permissible, since it destroys the in-rhyme; 3) the interpretation of hógbrotningr skógar "easily broken branch of the wood" as Gríđarvölr is ludicrous, to say the least. In the last stanza, we saw Thor killing giants with his "bloody hammer". A sudden switch to a wooden staff seems absurd. As I've mentioned before (9:5-8), I doubt that Eilífr was familiar with Snorri's (perhaps spurious) "Gríđarvölr".

I do not claim to have penetrated the true meaning of the verse, but attempting to make sense, rather than nonsense, I would suggest reading:

blótinn Hel-hneitir, at álfi, vá skógar-kálfa undirfjálfrs álfheims bliku hógbrotningi, i.e. "the worshipped Hel-striker [Ţórr], with the Elf [Ţjálfi], slew the wood-calves of the subterranean refuge from Elf-World's gleam [giants] with the easy-crusher [Mjölnir]".

blótinn ] "sacrificed to", i.e. worshipped.

Hel-hneitir ] "one who strikes (another) to Hel", i.e. Thor, who with his hammer sends his enemies to Hel, i.e. kills them. See, for example, Lokasenna 63, where Thor threatens Loki with his hammer: Ţegi ţú, rög vćttur / ţér skal minn ţrúđhamar / Mjölnir mál fyrnema; / Hrungnis bani / mun ţér í hel koma / fyr nágrindur neđan: "Shut up, evil creature, my mighty hammer Mjölnir shall silence you; Hrungnir's slayer will send you to Hel, down below the corpse-gates." Cp. also the expressions drepa í Hel "strike to Hel", lemja til Heljar "beat to Hel", both of which mean "kill".

at álfi ] "with the Elf, by the Elf's side". Such a meaning of at is not common, but neither is it impossible. Cp. Helgakviđa Hundingsbana II:18: Ţú skalt, mćr ung / at mér lifa: "Young girl, you shall live with me (by my side)". The Elf is, of course, Ţjálfi, Thor's reliable companion, who has accompanied him on the quest. Rydberg suggested that Ţjálfi was a stepson of Egill (Örvandill), and if this is correct, he may properly be termed an Elf. It is obvious from Völundarkviđa that Egill was an Elf. The etymology of Ţjálfi's name has puzzled scholars. A perfectly reasonable *ţewa-alfaR "servant-elf" has been suggested, but rejected on the grounds that Ţjálfi is nowhere said to be an Elf. If my interpretation is correct, Ţjálfi is, indeed, an Elf, and the suggested etymology probably correct. The very common formula Ćsir ok Álfar strongly suggests that the Elves were closely connected with the Ćsir, perhaps as servants, companions, or helpers. See, for example: Hávamál 143, 159, 160; Grímnismál 4; Skírnismál 7, 17, 18; Lokasenna 2, 13, 30; Völuspá 48; Ţrymskviđa 7; Sigurdrífumál 18.

hógbrotningi ] "one who easily crushes", or perhaps "handy crusher". The word is difficult, but in the poem's context (see former stanza) it must refer to Thor's hammer. The poet obviously made up this word, and expected his audience to understand it as an equivalent to Mjölnir. Regardless of the "correct" etymology of the name Mjölnir, it is apparently related to the verbs mala "grind", mylja "crush", the passive molna "crumble"; and the nouns mjöl "(ground) flour" and möl "pebbles (i.e. ground rock)". Such associations of words might easily have prompted the poet to create the word brotningr as a synonym of Mjölnir, basing his word-play on the verb brjóta "break, smash" (past participle brotiđ "broken"); the passive brotna "break, crumble"; and the verbal adjective brotinn "broken".

skógar-kálfa undirfjálfrs álfheims bliku ] "the wood-calves of the under-hideaway from the gleam of the Elf-world" is a kenning for giants. Álfheims blika "the gleam of the Elf-world" is a kenning for the Sun, cp. álfröđull "radiance of elves" (Vafţrúđnismál 47, Skírnismál 4). Undirfjálfr apparently means "subterranean hideaway (refuge, sanctuary)". Thus, the kenning undirfjálfr álfheims bliku means "cave", i.e. a place below, where you can hide away from the sun's rays. The forest-calves (i.e. wolves), who live in the cave, are Geirröđr's giants. They were also referred to as wolves in half-stanza 11:1-4. [It must be noted that "the subterranean refuge of (rather than from) the sun" can also be read as a reference to the Underworld. Such a reading, however, does not change the meaning of the kenning.]

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