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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 1. Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, 1. Ynglingatal, 14 [Vol. 1, 31]

[6] trjónu farra ‘its weapon of the bull [HORN]’: This has been the subject of numerous interpretative efforts. (a) In summary, the case for the present interpretation is as follows. Trjóna is etymologically related to ON tré ‘tree, wood’ and can denote a wooden bar or rod (Fritzner: trjóna 2); cf. eintrjánungr ‘log boat (made of one piece of wood)’. The meaning ‘weapon’ is attested in Grott 18/2 (NK 300), hence Hendr scolo hǫndla harðar triónor, vápn valdreyrug ... ‘Hands will handle hard triónor, weapons bloody with battle-slain’ (see S-G II, 461; Kommentar III, 935-6) and possibly in Þjóð Haustl 17/7III trjóna trolls, which refers to the hammer Mjǫllnir and might be rendered as ‘the weapon of the troll’, i.e. weapon for use against the troll (Marold 1983, 173). Farri is only attested in ON prose in the meaning ‘vagabond, vagrant’ (Fritzner: farri), but Sigfús Blöndal (1920-4: farri) gives an obsolete meaning ‘bull’ along with the figurative meaning ‘vagabond’, and the word has Gmc cognates meaning ‘bull’ or ‘cow’ (see AEW: farri 3). The combination of trjóna ‘wooden rod, weapon’ with farri ‘bull’ yields a pattern of kenning Þjóðólfr uses frequently: ‘weapon of the bull’ to denote ‘horn’. (b) Trjóna may alternatively have the sense ‘snout’ (which is given as the first sense in LP, Fritzner: trjóna), either as a figurative extension of ‘rod’ or through confusion with its derivative trýni (on this see AEW: trjóna, trýni). The word occurs in Gsind Hákdr 2/3, where it seems to refer to a promontory, and in StarkSt Vík 33/4VIII (Gautr 41), in a list of ugly body parts. Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; LP: trjóna), partly following Konráð Gíslason (1869, 52-3; 1881, 230), takes trjóna farra as ‘snout of the bull’ and flæmingr as the sword-heiti listed in Þul Sverða 7/2III, hence ‘horn’, but it is questionable whether a bull’s horn could be referred to as the ‘sword of the snout of the bull’. (c) Farri, as the animal that kills Egill, has been interpreted as ‘boar, pig’, e.g. by Schück (1905-10, 105-7, and cf. AEW: farri 4). Schück also notes that in the series of Swedish princes featured in Beowulf, Ongenþēow, the ruler who corresponds to Egill (see Note to l. 14 below), is killed by a man named Eofor, whose name in OE means ‘Boar’ (Beowulf ll. 2486-9, 2961-81; cf. Schück 1905-10, 120; Lindqvist 1936, 301).


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