Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Sigv Lv 17I

[7] hvalfra ‘be overturned’: Finnur Jónsson in Skj B and Kock in Skald adopt the minority reading hvalfa (assigning it the same meaning), following Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson (Nj 1875-8, II, 60-1), who call hvalfra a ‘monstrous’ reading motivated only by the rhyme with the sjalfr or sjalfra found in Holm2 and Holm4. The word is not otherwise attested, but the meaning is free of problems (ÍF 27): the function of the suffix -r- in weak verbs (klifra, haltra, hliðra, etc.) seems originally to have been intensification, and so it is fully plausible in this context. And there are reasons to think it is correct: sjalfr and sjalfra are so isolated in the ms. tradition that it seems likelier that they are influenced by hvalfra than the reverse; and certainly the reading of Kˣ, ‘hualfara’, is hard to explain by Konráð’s reasoning. It is debatable whether ‘overturn’ is better understood to mean ‘defeat’, as in ‘capsize a vessel’, the use to which hvalfa is commonly put (see CVC: hválfa), or ‘bring to light’ (as in ‘expose the underside’), which is what the previous eds generally assume.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. 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.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  6. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.


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