Skáldskaparmál

21. Kennings for Ullr

How should Ullr be periphrased? By calling him Son of Sif, Stepson of Thor, God of the Snowshoe, God of the Bow, Hunting-God, God of the Shield.


22. Kennings for Hœnir

How should Hœnir be periphrased? By calling him Bench-Mate or Companion or Friend of Odin, the Swift of God, the Long-Footed, and King of Clay.1


23. Kennings for Loki

How should one periphrase Loki? Thus: call him Son of Fárbauti and Laufey, or of Nil, Brother of Býleistr and of Helblindi, Father of the Monster of Ván (that is, Fenris-Wolf), and of the Vast Monster (that is, the Midgard Serpent), and of Hel, and Nari, and Áli; Kinsman and Uncle, Evil Companion and Bench-Mate of Odin and the Æsir, Visitor and Chest-Trapping of Geirrödr, Thief of the Giants, of the Goat, of Brísinga-men, and of Idunn’s Apples, Kinsman of Sleipnir, Husband of Sigyn, Foe of the Gods, Harmer of Sif’s Hair, Forger of Evil, the Sly God, Slanderer and Cheat of the Gods, Contriver of Baldr’s Death, the Bound God, Wrangling Foe of Heimdallr and of Skadi. Even as Úlfr Uggason sings here:

The famed rain-bow’s defender,
Ready in wisdom, striveth
At Singasteinn with Loki,
Fárbauti’s sin-sly offspring;
The son of mothers eight and one,
Mighty in wrath, possesses
The Stone ere Loki cometh:
I make known songs of praise.

Here it is written that Heimdallr is the son of nine mothers.


24. About the giant Hrungnir

Now an account shall be given of the source of those metaphors which have but now been recorded, and of which no accounts were rendered before: even such as Bragi gave to Ægir, telling how Thor had gone into the east to slay trolls, and Odin rode Sleipnir into Jötunheim and visited that giant who was named Hrungnir. Hrungnir asked what manner of man he with the golden helm might be, who rode through air and water; and said that the stranger had a wondrous good steed. Odin said he would wager his head there was no horse in Jötunheim that would prove equally good. Hrungnir answered that it was a good horse, but declared that he had a much better paced horse which was called Gold-Mane. Hrungnir had become angry, and vaulted up onto his horse and galloped after him, thinking to pay him for his boasting. Odin gal loped so furiously that he was on the top of the next hill first; but Hrungnir was so filled with the giant’s frenzy that he took no heed until he had come in beyond the gates of Ásgard. When he came to the hall-door, the Æsir invited him to drink. He went within and ordered drink to be brought to him, and then those flagons were brought in from which Thor was wont to drink; and Hrungnir swilled from each in turn. But when he had become drunken, then big words were not wanting: he boasted that he would lift up Valhall and carry it to Jötunheim, and sink Ásgard and kill all the gods, save that he would take Freyja and Sif home with him. Freyja alone dared pour for him; and he vowed that he would drink all the ale of the Æsir. But when his overbearing insolence became tiresome to the Æsir, they called on the name of Thor.

Straightway Thor came into the hall, brandishing his hammer, and he was very wroth, and asked who had advised that these dogs of giants be permitted to drink there, or who had granted Hrungnir safe-conduct to be in Valhall, or why Freyja should pour for him as at a feast of the Æsir. Then Hrungnir answered, looking at Thor with no friendly eyes, and said that Odin had invited him to drink, and he was under his safe-conduct. Thor declared that Hrungnir should repent of that invitation before he got away. Hrungnir answered that Ása-Thor would have scant renown for killing him, weaponless as he was: it were a greater trial of his courage if he dared fight with Hrungnir on the border at Grjótúnagard. ‘And it was a great folly,’ said he, ‘when I left my shield and hone behind at home; if I had my weapons here, then we should try single-combat. But as matters stand, I declare thee a coward if thou wilt slay me, a weaponless man.’ Thor was by no means anxious to avoid the fight when challenged to the field, for no one had ever offered him single-combat before.

Then Hrungnir went his way, and galloped furiously until he came to Jötunheim. The news of his journey was spread abroad among the giants, and it became noised abroad that a meeting had been arranged between him and Thor; the giants deemed that they had much at stake, who should win the victory, since they looked for ill at Thor’s hands if Hrungnir perished, he being strongest of them all. Then the giants made a man of clay at Grjótúnagard: he was nine miles high and three broad under the arm-pits; but they could get no heart big enough to fit him, until they took one from a mare. Even that was not steadfast within him, when Thor came. Hrungnir had the heart which is notorious, of hard stone and spiked with three corners, even as the written character is since formed, which men call Hrungnir’s Heart. His head also was of stone; his shield too was stone, wide and thick, and he had the shield before him when he stood at Grjótúnagard and waited for Thor. Moreover he had a hone for a weapon, and brandished it over his shoulders, and he was not a pretty sight. At one side of him stood the clay giant, which was called Mökkurkálfi: he was sore afraid, and it is said that he wet himself when he saw Thor.

Thor went to the meeting-place, and Thjálfi with him. Then Thjálfi ran forward to the spot where Hrungnir stood and said to him: ‘Thou standest unwarily, Giant, having the shield before thee: for Thor has seen thee, and comes hither down below the earth, and will come at thee from beneath.’ Then Hrungnir thrust the shield under his feet and stood upon it, wielding the hone with both hands. Then speedily he saw lightnings and heard great claps of thunder; then he saw Thor in God-like anger, who came forward furiously and swung the hammer and cast it at Hrungnir from afar off. Hrungnir lifted up the hone in both hands and cast it against him; it struck the hammer in flight, and the hone burst in sunder: one part fell to the earth, and thence are come all the flint-rocks; the other burst on Thor’s head, so that he fell forward to the earth. But the hammer Mjöllnir struck Hrungnir in the middle of the head, and smashed his skull into small crumbs, and he fell forward upon Thor, so that his foot lay over Thor’s neck. Thjálfi struck at Mökkurkálfi, and he fell with little glory. Thereupon Thjálfi went over to Thor and would have lifted Hrungnir’s foot off him, but could not find sufficient strength. Straightway all the Æsir came up, when they, learned that Thor was fallen, and would have lifted the foot from off him, and could do nothing. Then Magni came up, son of Thor and Járnsaxa: he was then three nights old; he cast the foot of Hrungnir off Thor, and spake: ‘See how ill it is, father, that I came so late: I had struck this giant dead with my fist, methinks, if I had met with him.’ Thor arose and welcomed his son, saying that he should surely become great; ‘And I will give thee,’ he said, the horse Gold-Mane, which Hrungnir possessed.’ Then Odin spake and said that Thor did wrong to give the good horse to the son of a giantess, and not to his father.

25. About the völva Gróa

Thor went home to Thrúdvangar, and the hone remained sticking in his head. Then came the wise woman who was called Gróa, wife of Aurvandill the Valiant: she sang her spells over Thor until the hone was loosened. But when Thor knew that, and thought that there was hope that the hone might be removed, he desired to reward Gróa for her leech-craft and make her glad, and told her these things: that he had waded from the north over Icy Stream and had borne Aurvandill in a basket on his back from the north out of Jötunheim. And he added for a token, that one of Aurvandill’s toes had stuck out of the basket, and became frozen; wherefore Thor broke it off and cast it up into the heavens, and made thereof the star called Aurvandill’s Toe. Thor said that it would not be long ere Aurvandill came home: but Gróa was so rejoiced that she forgot her incantations, and the hone was not loosened, and stands yet in Thor’s head. Therefore it is forbidden to cast a hone across the floor, for then the hone is stirred in Thor’s head. Thjódólfr of Hvin has made a song after this tale in the Haustlöng.

It says there:

On the high and painted surface
Of the hollow shield, still further
One may see how the Giant’s Terror
Sought the home of Grjótún;
The angry son of Jörd drove
To the play of steel; below him
Thundered the moon-way; rage swelled
In the heart of Meili’s Brother.

All the bright gods’ high mansions
Burned before Ullr’s kinsman;
With hail the earth was beaten
Along his course, when the he-goats
Drew the god of the smooth wain forward
To meet the grisly giant:
The Earth, the Spouse of Odin,
Straightway reft asunder.

No truce made Baldr’s brother
With the bitter foe of earth-folk.

Rocks shook, and crags were shivered;
The shining Upper Heaven
Burned; I saw the giant
Of the boat-sailed sea-reef waver
And give way fast before him,
Seeing his war-like Slayer.

Swiftly the shining shield-rim
Shot ‘neath the Cliff-Ward’s shoe-soles;
That was the wise gods’ mandate,
The War-Valkyrs willed it.
The champion of the Waste-Land
Not long thereafter waited
For the speedy blow delivered
By the Friend of the snout-troll’s crusher.

He who of breath despoileth
Beli’s baleful hirelings
Felled on the shield rim-circled
The fiend of the roaring mountain;
The monster of the glen-field
Before the mighty hammer
Sank, when the Hill-Danes’ Breaker
Struck down the hideous caitiff.

Then the hone hard-broken
Hurled by the Ogress-lover
Whirred into the brain-ridge
Of Earth’s Son, that the whetter
Of steels, sticking unloosened
In the skull of Odin’s offspring.

Stood there all besprinkled
With Einridi’s blood.

Until the wise ale-goddess,
With wondrous lays, enchanted
The vaunted woe, rust-ruddy,
From the Wain-God’s sloping temples;
Painted on its circuit
I see them clearly pictured:
The fair-bossed shield, with stories
Figured, I had from Thórlelfr.”2


26. Thor’s journey to the dwelling of Geirröðr

Then said, Ægir: “Methinks Hrungnir was of great might. Did Thor accomplish yet more valorous deeds when he had to do with the trolls?” And Bragi answered: “It is worthy to be told at length, how Thor went to Geirrödr’s dwelling. At that time he had not the hammer Mjöllnir with him, nor his Girdle of Might, nor the iron gauntlets: and that was the fault of Loki, who went with him. For once, flying in his sport with Frigg’s hawk-plumage, it had happened to Loki to fly for curiosity’s sake into Geirrödr’s court. There he saw a great hall, and alighted and looked in through the window; and Geirrödr looked up and saw him, and commanded that the bird be taken and brought to him, But he who was sent could scarce get to the top of the wall, so high was it; and it seemed pleasant to Loki to see the man striving with toil and pains to reach him, and he thought it was not yet time to fly away until the other had accomplished the perilous climb. When the man pressed hard after him, then he stretched his wings for flight, and thrust out vehemently, but now his feet were stuck fast.

So Loki was taken and brought before Geirrödr the giant; but when Geirrödr saw his eyes, he suspected that this might be a man, and bade him answer; but Loki was silent. Then Geirrödr shut Loki into a chest and starved him there three months. And now when Geirrödr took him out and commanded him to speak, Loki told who he was; and by way of ransom for his life he swore to Geirrödr with oaths that he would get Thor to come into Geirrödr’s dwelling in such a fashion that he should have neither hammer nor Girdle of Might with him.

“Thor came to spend the night with that giantess who was called Grídr, mother of Vídarr the Silent. She told Thor the truth concerning Geirrödr, that he was a crafty giant and ill to deal with; and she lent him the Girdle of Might and iron gloves which she possessed, and her staff also, which was called Grídr’s Rod. Then Thor proceeded to the river named Vimur, greatest of all rivers. There he girded himself with the Girdle of Might and braced firmly downstream with Grídr’s Rod, and Loki held on behind by the Girdle of Might. When Thor came to mid-current, the river waxed so greatly that it broke high upon his shoulders.

Then Thor sang this:

Wax thou not now, Vimur,
For I fain would wade thee
Into the Giants' garth:
Know thou, if thou waxest,
Then waxeth God-strength in me
As high up as the heaven.

“Then Thor saw Gjálp, daughter of Geirrödr, standing in certain ravines, one leg in each, spanning the river, and she was causing the spate. Then Thor snatched up a great stone out of the river and cast it at her, saying these words: ‘At its source should a river be stemmed.’ Nor did he miss that at which he threw. In that moment he came to the shore and took hold of a rowan-clump, and so climbed out of the river; whence comes the saying that rowan is Thor’s deliverance.

“Now when Thor came before Geirrödr, the companions were shown first into the goat-fold3 for their entertainment, and there was one chair there for a seat, and Thor sat there. Then he became aware that the chair moved under him up toward the roof: he thrust Grídr’s Rod up against the rafters and pushed back hard against the chair. Then there was a great crash, and screaming followed. Under the chair had been Geirrödr’s daughters, Gjálp and Greip; and he had broken both their backs. Then Geirrödr had Thor called into the hall to play games. There were great fires the whole length of the hall. When Thor came up over against Geirrödr, then Geirrödr took up a glowing bar of iron with the tongs and cast it at Thor. Thor caught it with his iron gloves and raised the bar in the air, but Geirrödr leapt behind an iron pillar to save himself. Thor lifted up the bar and threw it, and it passed through the pillar and through Geirrödr and through the wall, and so on out, even into the earth.

Eilífr Gudrúnarson has wrought verses on this story, in Thórsdrápa:

The winding sea-snake's father
Did wile from home the slayer
Of the life of the gods' grim foemen;
--(Ever was Loptr a liar)--

The never faithful Searcher
Of the heart of the fearless Thunderer
Declared green ways were lying
To the walled stead of Geirrödr.
No long space Thor let Loki
Lure him to the going:
They yearned to overmaster
Thorn's offspring, when the Seeker

Of Idi's garth, than giants
Greater in might, made ready
In ancient days, for faring
To the Giants' Seat, from Odin's.
Further in the faring
Forward went warlike Thjálfi
With the divine Host-Cheerer
Than the deceiving lover
Of her of enchanted singing:
--(I chant the Ale of Odin)--
The hill dame's Mocker measured
The moor with hollow foot-soles.
And the war-wonted journeyed
Till the hill-women's Waster
Came to Gangr's blood, the Vimur;
Then Loki's bale-repeller,
Eager in anger, lavish
Of valor, longed to struggle.
Against the maid, kinswoman
Of the sedge-cowled giant.
And the honor-lessener
Of the Lady of the Sea-Crag
Won foot-hold in the surging
Of the hail-rolled leaping hill-spate;

The rock-knave's swift Pursuer
Passed the broad stream of his staff's road,
Where the foam-flecked mighty rivers
Frothed with raging venom.
There they set the staves before them
In the streaming grove of dogfish;
The wind-wood's slippery pebbles,
Smitten to speech, slept not;

The clashing rod did rattle
'Gainst the worn rocks, and the rapid
Of the fells howled, storm-smitten,
On the river's stony anvil.
The Weaver of the Girdle
Beheld the washing slope-stream
Fall on his hard-grown shoulders:
No help he found to save him;
The Minisher of hill-folk
Caused Might to grow within him
Even to the roof of heaven,
Till the rushing flood should ebb.
The fair warriors of the Æsir,
In battle wise, fast waded.
And the surging pool, sward-sweeping,
Streamed: the earth-drift's billow,
Blown by the mighty tempest,

Tugged with monstrous fury
At the terrible oppressor
Of the earth-born tribe of cave-folk.
Till Thjálfi came uplifted
On his lord Thor's wide shield-strap:
That was a mighty thew-test
For the Prop of Heaven; the maidens

Of the harmful giant stiffly
Held the stream stubborn against them;
The Giantess-Destroyer
With Grídr's staff fared sternly.
Nor did their hearts of rancor
Droop in the men unblemished,
Nor courage 'gainst the headlong
Fall of the current fail them:
A fiercer-daring spirit
Flamed in the dauntless God's breast,--
With terror Thor's staunch heart-stone
Trembled not, nor Thjálfi's.
And afterward the haters
Of the host of sword-companions,
The shatterers of bucklers,
Dinned on the shield of giants,
Ere the destroying peoples
Of the shingle-drift of monsters
Wrought the helm-play of Hedinn
'Gainst the rock-dwelling marksmen.
The hostile folk of sea-heights
Fled before the Oppressor
Of headland tribes; the dalesmen
Of the hill-tops, imperilled,

Fled, when Odin's kindred
Stood, enduring staunchly;
The Danes of the flood-reef's border
Bowed down to the Flame-Shaker.
Where the chiefs, with thoughts of valor
Imbued, marched into Thorn's house,
A mighty crash resounded
Of the cave's ring-wall; the slayer

Of the mountain-reindeer-people
On the giant-maiden's wide hood
Was brought in bitter peril:
There was baleful peace-talk.
And they pressed the high head, bearing
The piercing brow-moon's eye-flame
Against the hill-hall's rafters;
On the high roof-tree broken

He crushed those raging women:
The swinging Storm-car's Guider
Burst the stout, ancient back-ridge
And breast-bones of both women.
Earth's Son became familiar
With knowledge strange; the cave-men
Of the land of stone o'ercame not,
Nor long with ale were merry:
The frightful elm-string's plucker,

The friend of Sudri, hurtled
The hot bar, in the forge fused,
Into the hand of Odin's Gladdener.
So that Gunnr's Swift-Speeder
Seized (the Friend of Freyja),
With quick hand-gulps, the molten
High-raised draught of metal,

When the fire-brand, glowing,
Flew with maddened fury
From the giant's gripping fingers
To the grim Sire of Thrúdr.
The hall of the doughty trembled
When he dashed the massy forehead
Of the hill-wight 'gainst the bottom
Of the house-wall's ancient column;

Ullr's glorious step-sire
With the glowing bar of mischief
Struck with his whole strength downward
At the hill-knave's mid-girdle.
The God with gory hammer
Crushed utterly Glaumr's lineage;
The Hunter of the Kindred
Of the hearth-dame was victorious;
The Plucker of the Bow-String
Lacked not his people's valor,
The Chariot-God, who swiftly
Wrought grief to the Giant's bench-thanes.
He to whom hosts make offering
Hewed down the dolt-like dwellers
Of the cloud-abyss of Elf-Home,
Crushing them with the fragment

Of Grídr's Rod: the litter
Of hawks, the race of Listi
Could not harm the help-strong
Queller of Ella's Stone-Folk.

27. Kennings for Frigg

How should one periphrase Frigg? Call her Daughter of Fjörgynn, Wife of Odin, Mother of Baldr, Co-Wife of Jörd and Rindr and Gunnlöd and Grídr, Mother-in-law of Nanna, Lady of the Æsir and Ásynjur, Mistress of Fulla and of the Hawk-Plumage and of Fensalir.


28. Kennings for Freyja

How should one periphrase Freyja? Thus: by calling her Daughter of Njördr, Sister of Freyr, Wife of Ódr, Mother of Hnoss, Possessor of the Slain, of Sessrúmnir, of the Gib-Cats, and of Brísinga-men; Goddess of the Vanir, Lady of the Vanir, Goddess Beautiful in Tears, Goddess of Love. All the goddesses may be periphrased thus: by calling them by the name of another, and naming them in terms of their possessions or their works or their kindred.


29. Kennings for Sif

How should Sif be periphrased? By calling her Wife of Thor, Mother of Ullr, Fair-Haired Goddess, Co-Wife of Járnsaxa, Mother of Thrúdr.


30. Kennings for Iðunn

How should Idunn be periphrased? Thus: by calling her Wife of Bragi, and Keeper of the Apples; and the apples should be called Age-Elixir of the Æsir. Idunn is also called Spoil of the Giant Thjazi, according to the tale that has been told before, how he took her away from the Æsir. Thjódólfr of Hvin composed verses after that tale in the Haustlöng:

How shall I make voice-payment
Meetly for the shield-bridge
. . . . . . .
Of the war-wall Thórleifr gave me?
I survey the truceless faring
Of the three gods strife-foremost,

And Thjatsi's, on the shining
Cheek of the shield of battle.
The Spoiler of the Lady
Swiftly flew with tumult
To meet the high god-rulers
Long hence in eagle-plumage;

The erne in old days lighted
Where the Æsir meat were bearing
To the fire-pit; the Giant
Of the rocks was called no faint-heart.
The skilful god-deceiver
To the gods proved a stern sharer
Of bones: the high Instructor

Of Æsir, helmet-hooded,
Saw some power checked the seething;
The sea-mew, very crafty.
Spake from the ancient tree-trunk;
Loki was ill-willed toward him.
The wolfish monster ordered
Meili's Sire to deal him
Food from the holy trencher:
The friend of Him of Ravens

To blow the fire was chosen;
The Giant-King, flesh-greedy,
Sank down, where the guileless
Craft-sparing gods were gathered.
The comely Lord of All Things
Commanded Loki swiftly
To part the bull's-meat, slaughtered
By Skadi's ringing bow-string,

Among the folk, but straightway
The cunning food-defiler
Of the Æsir filched-the quarters,
All four, from the broad table.
And the hungry Sire of Giants
Savagely ate the yoke-beast
From the oak-tree's sheltering branches,
That was in ancient ages,

Ere the wise-minded Loki,
Warder of war-spoil, smote him,
Boldest of foes of Earth-Folk,
With a pole betwixt the shoulders.
The Arm-Burden then of Sigyn,
Whom all the gods in bonds see.
Firmly forthwith was fastened
To the Fosterer of Skadi;
To Jötunheim's Strong Dweller

The pole stuck, and the fingers
Of Loki too, companion
Of Hœnir, clung to the pole's end.
The Bird of Blood flew upward
(Blithesome in his quarry)
A long way off with Loki,
The lither God, that almost

Wolf's Sire was rent asunder;
Thor's friend must sue for mercy,
Such peace as he might purchase
To pray: nigh slain was Loptr.
Then Hymir's Kinsman ordered
The crafty god, pain-maddened,
To wile to him the Maiden
Who warded the Æsir's age-cure;

Ere long the necklace-robber,
Brísinga's thief, lured slyly
The Dame of Brunnakr's brooklet
Into the Base One's dwelling.
At that the steep slope-dwellers
No sorrow felt; then Idunn
Was from the south, by giants

New-stolen, come among them.
All Ingvi-Freyr's high kindred,
Hoary and old, to council.
Hasted; grewsome of fashion
And ugly all the gods were.
. . . . . . .4
This heard I, that the Staunch Friend
Of Hœnir--oft thereafter
With wiles he tricked the Æsir--
Flew, in hawk-wings hidden;

And the vile Sire of Giants,
Vigorous Wing-Plume-Wielder,
Hurtled on eagle-pinion
After the hawk-shaped Loki.
Swiftly the gods have kindled
A fire; and the sovereign rulers
Sustained the flame with shavings:
Scorched was the flying giant,--

He plunged down in mid-soaring:
'Tis pictured on the giant's
Sole-bridge, the shield which, painted
With stories, Thórleifr gave me.

“This is the correct manner of periphrasing the Æsir: To call each of them by the name of another, and to designate him in terms of his works or his possessions or his kindred.


1. ?Aur-konung.

2. Passages enclosed within brackets are considered by Jónsson to be spurious.

3. So Cod. Reg. and Cod. Worm.; Cod. Upsal. and Cod. Hypn. read gesta hús = guest’s house. Gering, Simrock, and Anderson prefer the latter reading. I have followed Jónsson in accepting geita hús.

4. “Brjála ður texti”–Jónsson, Edda (Reykjavik, 1907), p. 384. The condition of the text makes translation impossible.

Source