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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 13. Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, 2. Háleygjatal, 6 [Vol. 1, 204]

[3-4] hǫsvan serk Hrísgrísnis ‘the grey shirt of Hrísgrísnir <wolf> [WOLF-SKIN]’: This is one of the earliest references to berserkr practices. The two most familiar native terms are berserkr ‘bear/bare-shirted’ and ulfheðinn ‘wolf-skin’ (cf. Þhorn Harkv 8/5, 7 and Note); Eyvindr’s expression here, with its use of serk(r) and an allusion to a wolf, has elements of both. The correct form (-grísnir or ‑grisnir), etymology and meaning of the unique heiti Hrísgrísnir are unclear: for discussion see NN §2744; AEW: Hrísgrísnir. Faulkes (SnE 1998, II, 319) suggests ‘one who gnashes his teeth in the bushes’. The phrase may be regarded as a kenning, albeit a unique one, on the basis of its structure and the figurative use of serkr ‘shirt’.

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