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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Einarr Skúlason, 3. Haraldsdrápa II, 3 [Vol. 2, 546-7]

[1, 2] geitunga Ellu ‘of Ælle’s <Northumbrian king’s> birds [EAGLES]’: See also ÞjóðA Magnfl 6/6. Ælle (Ella) was king of Northumbria (d. 867). He was captured by the sons of Ragnarr loðbrók ‘Shaggy-breeches’, whom Ælle had killed. To avenge their father, they are said to have tortured him to death by carving an eagle on his back, cutting the ribs from the spine and pulling the lungs out through the wound (see Hb 1892-6, 464). For this type of torture, see Frank 1984a. In skaldic poetry, Ælle came to be used as a virtual shorthand for ‘English king’ (see ÞjóðA Magnfl 6/6; Townend 1997), and if the name is used in this generic sense here, his ‘birds’ would be a kenning for ‘birds of battle’ in general.


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