Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Arn Hryn 2II/1 — hlébarðs ‘of the bear’

Seinkun varð, þás hlébarðs hanka
hnikaði ôr in ljóta bára.

Seinkun varð, þás in ljóta bára hnikaði ôr hlébarðs hanka.

Delay came about, as the foul breaker drove against the oar of the bear of the cleat [SHIP].


[1] hlébarðs: so W, hlébarð A


[1] hlébarðs hanka ‘of the bear of the cleat [SHIP]’: Only the gen. sg. ‑barðs is compatible with the syntax of the couplet. The hanki ‘cleat’ is a loop or other device which holds the cordage for the sails in a given position (cf. Jesch 2001a, 166). Hanka here is taken as gen. sg. ‘of the cleat’, but gen. pl. ‘of cleats’ is also possible. Hlébarðr (also a giant name in Hárb 20, NK 81) is clearly an animal term forming, with hanka, a stereotypical ship-kenning, but the particular animal is not certain. (a) It occurs as a term for ‘bear’ in Þul Bjarnar 1/6III, in Grett Lv 15/5V and elsewhere, and ship-kennings with a base-word meaning ‘bear’ are well attested (Meissner 218). (b) Hlébarðr is a heiti for ‘wolf’ in Þul Vargs 1/6III, and ‘wolf’ is also attested in kennings for ‘ship’, although rather less frequently than ‘bear’ (Meissner 220). (c) Hlébarðr is held to be an adoption, altered by folk etymology, of MLat. leopardus (Alexander Jóhannesson 1951-6, 1026; AEW), and it is conceivable that Arnórr meant ‘leopard’ here (cf. bru léón ‘lion of the wave [SHIP]’ in Svtjúg LvI), but he does not in general show a taste for such exotic references. (d) Krömmelbein’s solution produces an implausible kenning (TGT 1998, 153).



case: gen.


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