Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to ÞKolb Eirdr 8I

[5-6] gerði vǫrn grams ‘defended the king’: Lit. ‘performed the defence of the king’. The ms. reading vǫrr/vǫrn in l. 6 is likely to supply the object to gerði ‘did, made, performed’. (a) Vǫrn ‘defence’, the reading of 54, Bb and Flat, gives good sense, although since it is restricted to C- and D-group mss of ÓT there may be some doubt whether it is the original reading. (b) Vǫrr, the reading of J2ˣ (partly supported by vǫr in the other Hkr mss) is taken by Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 26) as the base-word of a kenning vǫrr grams ‘sea of the sword [BLOOD]’, hence gerva vǫrr grams ‘to cause blood’, i.e. to inflict wounds. This is possible, since the adj. gramr ‘angry’ is used substantivally as the name of the legendary hero Sigurðr’s sword and by extension any sword (LP: 1. gramr 2). However, gramr ‘king, ruler’ is far more common in skaldic poetry, and a more natural assumption when juxtaposed with vǫrn ‘defence’. (c) It has been suggested (Nj 1875-8, II, 267-8) that vǫr, the reading of Kˣ, F and 61, is here a f. noun with a similar meaning to vǫrn ‘defence’, but the word is not attested elsewhere.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Nj 1875-89 = Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson. 1875-89. Njála: Udgivet efter gamle håndskrifter. Íslendingasögur udgivne efter gamle haandskrifter af Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskrift-selskab 4. Copenhagen: Thiele.
  3. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  4. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  5. Internal references
  6. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  7. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘The Greatest Saga of Óláfr Tryggvason / Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar in mesta (ÓT)’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. clxiii-clxvi.


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