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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur, 23 [Vol. 2, 600-2]

[8] einum hróki ‘for a certain scoundrel’: Hrókr appears in a list of derogatory terms for men in SnE (W 1924, 104; SnE 1848-87, II, 496), and ‘scoundrel’ is an appropriate meaning in this context (see Note to st. 14/2 for his probable use of another term in the same list). There may however be an intended ambiguity, a subtext derived from chess (see st. 1/1). Hrókr is also the OIcel. word for ‘rook’, first recorded in Mágus saga jarls, probably composed around 1300 and clearly based on a French source. The word is of Persian origin but seems to have entered northern languages from Lat. via French (AEW). Rǫgnvaldr could have encountered the French term in France, or in the British Isles, as it is recorded in Anglo-Norman texts from the late C12th (Rothwell et al. 1991, 661). The Lat. form rocus is attested in the British Isles around 1150 (Latham 1965, 410). In this st., the rook would be Eindriði, moving in a straight line, and attacked by the knight, i.e. Rǫgnvaldr, the only chess-piece that can move diagonally (i.e. in a roundabout, or ‘hooked’, fashion). Hrókr also occurs in KormǪ Lv 13/6V.


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