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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Valgarðr á Velli, Poem about Haraldr harðráði, 11 [Vol. 2, 309-10]

[4] þógu ógurlig hǫfuð ‘washed the terrifying heads’: See Note to st. 10/5 above. Landnámabók (Ldn, ÍF 1, 313), contains an instructive section on the terror that these heads could inspire: Þat var upphaf hinna heiðnu laga, at menn skyldi eigi hafa hǫfuðskip í haf, en ef þeir hefði, þá skyldi þeir af taka hǫfuð, áðr þeir kœmi í landsýn, ok sigla eigi at landi með gapandi hǫfðum eða gínandi trjónum, svá at landvættir fælisk við ‘That was the opening [section] of the pagan laws, that people must not have ships with heads when setting out to sea. But if they did, then they must take off the heads before they sighted land and not sail toward land with gaping heads or yawning mouths, so that the guardian spirits of the land would be frightened’.


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