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The Waning Sword: Conversion Imagery and Celestial Myth in 'Beowulf'
More info and resources at: https://doi.org/10.11647/obp.0190

13. The Solar Antler in Sólarljóð

© Edward Pettit, CC BY 4.0 https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0190.13

In light of my findings so far concerning mythological traditions about solar stags, the relationship between antlers and swords, and the theft and recovery of sunlight, two stanzas from near the end of Sólarljóð merit analysis. At least the first of these stanzas concerns a buried, probably solar antler. In my view, both stanzas concern this antler and preserve, or reinvent, a heathen myth about a dwarf’s illicit storage of a rune-inscribed weapon originally symbolic of sunshine, which was later liberated by solar emissaries.1 I believe this myth bears comparison to Beowulf’s taking of the rune-inscribed hilt of the giant sword from Grendel’s mere.

Stanzas 78 and 79 of Sólarljóð read:

‘Arfi, faðir  einn ek ráðit hefi,

  ok þeir Sólkötlu synir,

hjartarhorn,  þat er ór haugi bar

  inn vitri Vígdvalinn [or Vig(g)dvalinn].

‘Her eru þær rúnir,  sem ristit hafa

  Njarðar dætr níu,

Böðveig [or Baugveig] in elzta  ok Kreppvör in yngsta

  ok þeira systr sjau.’2

‘Heir, I alone, (your) father, and the sons of Sólkatla “Sun-Cauldron” have read the hart’s horn, that which the wise Vígdvalinn bore from the burial mound.

‘Here are those runes which Njörðr’s nine daughters have carved, Böðveig “Battle-Drink” [or Baugveig ‘Ring-Drink’] (being) the eldest (daughter) and Kreppvör “Strait/Clench/Scrape(?)-Goddess” the youngest and their seven sisters.’

It has rightly been observed that ‘Sólarljóð is, to say the least, a difficult poem’,3 whose ‘poetic interpretation of pagan myths as Christian symbols … is … idiosyncratic’.4 These two stanzas contribute to that difficulty, especially as only one of the proper names they mention is otherwise known. To interpret these stanzas, we must first set them in context. This is not a straightforward task, but an attempted summary of the poem follows.

Sólarljóð is a visionary poem spoken by a dead Christian man to his son, the vision being communicated in a dream. The father begins by telling a series of moral exempla, the first and longest concerning robbery and murder, and including personages with semi-allegorical names. Next comes a series of more formal counsels, followed by a description of the man’s illness, death and vision of the sun as he passes from this world. After a period in which his soul apparently wavers between Heaven and Hell, he records what he witnessed in the Otherworld. He saw fljúga vánardreka ‘a dragon of expectation flying’ from the west (54), sólar hjört ‘the sun’s stag’ (or ‘a stag of the sun’) journeying from the south (55),5 and seven niðja sonu ‘sons of waning/dark moons’ riding from the north (56).6 He goes on to describe the terrors and torments of those in Hell, interspersed with the happy fates of the virtuous in Heaven. It is in this section that stanzas 78 and 79 appear, sandwiched between a description of Óðinn’s wife (Frigg or perhaps Freyja) rowing á jarðar skipi ‘in/on the ship of the earth’ as an image of the torment of unquenchable sexual desire (77), and a reference to the evils perpetrated by persons, creatures or objects called Sváfr and Sváfrlogi (78; see below). The father concludes by instructing his son to recite the poem to living people and by informing him that they will meet again á feginsdegi fira ‘on men’s day of joy’ (i.e., Doomsday).

Stanzas 78 and 79 contribute to the poem’s visionary climax. This suggests that they hold great significance, and that, as one scholar has observed, the hart’s horn ‘is an object with deep symbolic import, perhaps representing the revelatory crux of the poem’.7 It also appears likely that these stanzas, like others in the poem, draw on both Christian and heathen themes and images. More specifically, we may infer from the reference to the solar hart in stanza 55 that the hjartarhorn ‘hart’s horn’ of stanza 78 is a solar symbol.

In my view, stanzas 78 and 79 accommodate both Christian and heathen interpretations. I examine their possible Christian significance first.8

The Buried Antler and Christian Legends, Especially of the Cross

In Christian tradition the stag often symbolizes Christ.9 St. Ambrose, for example, treated the stag as a ‘type’ of both the giant-killer David and Christ.10 The medieval Icelandic Physiologus, which is thought likely to derive from English models, directly equates a deer with Christ.11

Since the medieval mind also identified Christ with the sun, the heathen image of the solar stag would have lent itself readily to reuse by Christians.12 As Sólarljóð is fundamentally a Christian poem, the solar hart of stanza 55 probably symbolizes Christ.

If the solar stag represents Christ, there are reasons for thinking that its buried antler symbolizes the Cross, as others have proposed.13 The Cross was intimately linked with the sun in medieval symbolism. This is shown, for instance, by the image of sio reade rod ‘the red Rood’ that will shine on þære sunnan gyld ‘in place of the sun’ on Doomsday, according to the Old English poem Christ (1101–2).14 It is also apparent from the presence of solar imagery on the Gosforth Cross, including an antlered hart.

As we have seen, antler and Cross are juxtaposed—and thereby implicitly equated—in the illustration of David’s palace in the Utrecht Psalter and Harley Psalter. A still more striking instance of implied equation by juxtaposition appears in the story of St. Eustace, which was popularized in the second half of the thirteenth century by its inclusion in the Legenda Aurea ‘Golden Legend’ of Jacobus de Voraigne. This story was known in medieval Iceland: it forms the subject of both a poem, Plácitusdrápa, and a prose narrative, Plácitus saga.15 According to the story, Placidus (Plácitus), a righteous heathen Roman in the service of the Emperor Trajan, was out hunting one day when a huge stag appeared before him. The stag, which declared itself a manifestation of Christ, had a radiant crucifix between its antlers; in effect, the crucifix formed a third, central antler.16 The late Anglo-Saxon homilist Ælfric records that betwux þæs heortes hornum glitenode gelicnys þære halgan cristes rode breohtre þonne sunnan leoma ‘between the hart’s horns glittered the likeness of the rood of holy Christ, brighter than the sun’s light’.17 Placidus then returned home, converted to Christianity and changed his name to Eustachius (Eustace).

Earlier, classical authors including Pliny, Aelian, Oppian and Lucretius had reported that the stag was a serpent-slaying creature. This belief was picked up by medieval Christian authorities, such as Isidore of Seville. Images of Christ as stag and of stag as snake-killer could therefore combine, as in Guillaume le Clerc of Normandy’s early thirteenth-century Bestiaire divin ‘Divine Bestiary’, in which the stag represents Christ harrowing Hell and defeating the serpent Satan.18 A related idea may be entertained for Sólarljóð 78, with the antler—a natural symbol of the cycle of death and rebirth—representing the resurrective Cross,19 as well as, perhaps, the Word of God and the shining, righteous souls which Christ liberated from Hell during the Harrowing.

A stanza as obscure as Sólarljóð 78 admits more than one Christian interpretation, however. It could also reflect the popular medieval legend of the Invention of the Cross. According to the version of the story told by the Old English poet Cynewulf, St. Helena travelled to Jerusalem in search of the Cross at the request of her son, the Emperor Constantine, who had seen a vision of it.20 Having learnt that a Jew called Judas knew the site, Helena had him tortured until he took her men to the hill where Christ died and implored God to reveal the burial place. Immediately, an emission of smoke did just that. In this light, Sólarljóð’s Sólkatla ‘Sun-Cauldron’ may recall St. Helena, whose name derives via Latin from Greek ‘Ελένη, feminine of ‘Ελενος ‘Bright One’. Sólkötlu synir ‘Sólkatla’s sons’ may suggest, albeit approximately, Helena’s son Constantine and the men who recovered the Cross for her. The faðir ‘father’, while principally being the poem’s speaker, may also suggest the overseeing God the Father, as well as perhaps a priest. The wise Vígdvalinn (or Vig(g)dvalinn)21 may suggest Judas, whom Cynewulf describes as extremely wise, and who was, in effect, the guardian of the buried Cross. Judas’ delay in revealing the Cross’s location could tie in with the second element in the name Vígdvalinn: -dvalinndelayed’, past participle of dvelja. Especially if this Judas were associated with his more famous namesake—who also ‘delayed’ in recognizing Christ—this would encourage identification of the first element Víg- as víg ‘homicide’.22

A third possible Christian interpretation relates Sólkatla to the mulier amicta sole ‘woman clothed in the sun’ of Revelation 12.23 This woman, who had luna sub pedibus eius ‘the moon under her feet’ and a crown of stars on her head, was pregnant with a male child, who was commonly interpreted as Christ. She was interpreted as Mary, mother of God, who was often viewed as a vessel (cf. ‘Sun-Cauldron’) and as a second Eve, the mother of mankind. Furthermore, Ælfric described Mary as wlitigre ðonne se mona, forðan ðe heo scinð buton æteorunge hire beorhtnysse. Heo is gecoren swa swa sunne mid leoman healicra mihta ‘more beautiful than the moon, because she shines without failing of her brightness. She is as choice as the sun with light of exalted powers’.24 As such, Sólkatla might represent Mary, while her sons might be the Apostles or angels, or mankind in general. The ‘father’ could again be suggestive of God the Father. Vígdvalinn could represent the mulier’s murderous foe, a giant red dragon with cornua decem ‘ten horns’, whose tail swept stars from the sky and flung them to earth. Angels defeated this horned beast, which is identified with Satan, and hurled it to earth (in terram). Since it then continued to pursue the woman, there is a sense that it bore at least one horn from the earth, as Vígdvalinn bore a horn from a burial mound.25

A fourth possible Christian interpretation casts Vígdvalinn in a markedly different light. Rather than being an evil figure, he could represent Christ as the holy stag who, after ‘delaying’ for three days, rose from the dead.26 The inscribed antler could symbolize the Cross and the Word of God, being Christ’s gift of salvation for mankind, the sons of Sólkatla/Mary. In this light we might compare Vígdvalinn to Beowulf’s Wiglaf ‘Holy Leaving/Heirloom’ who bears the Cross-like standard from the dragon’s barrow (hlæw 2773). Not only may OE Wig- ‘Holy’ relate to Víg- in Vígdvalinn (compare ON vígsla ‘consecration, ordination’), but there is even a sense in which Wiglaf ‘delayed’ virtuously. When his companions fled to the wood, he alone stayed behind to help Beowulf slay the dragon.

Given the highly enigmatic, dream-like nature of Sólarljóð, more than one of these suggested interpretations may be tenable at once.

The Solar Antler, the Dwarf-Horse-Stag(?) and a Solar Sword

Stanzas 78–9 of Sólarljóð also warrant interpretation as a heathen Norse myth, or perhaps rather as a Christian poet’s reinvention of one. The only otherwise-attested character in these stanzas is Njörðr (Njǫrðr), the heathen Norse sea-deity who fathered Freyr and Freyja. All the other names in these stanzas, those otherwise unknown, are similarly of Germanic origin. From this perspective these stanzas appear to describe the recovery of a solar hart’s horn by a father-figure and the sons of a sun-goddess.

The likely goddess is Sólkatla, whose name encapsulates an image of the sun as a fiery cauldron. Although this could, in theory, be a newly invented image, it is consistent with an ancient and widespread idea that the sun travelled in a cauldron, especially by night.27 This concept appears in early Greek myth and is reflected in representations of the sun’s vehicle on Late Bronze Age cauldrons from Hungary, Italy and Scandinavia, as well as probably in rock-art from Scandinavia (this possibly being the region where it originated); it is perhaps most remarkably evidenced by a cauldron of the Scandinavian Bronze Age from Skallerup, Zeeland, which stands on what have been described as two wheeled, swan-headed ‘ships’.28 This finding encourages belief that at least this part of Sólarljóð may reflect traditional aspects of heathen solar mythology.

Sólkatla’s sons may be personified sunbeams, akin to Skírnir in Fǫr Skírnis. They are implicitly contrasted with the mysterious ‘sons of waning/dark moons’ who ride from the north in stanza 56.

From this perspective, the ‘father’—Sólkatla’s husband?—is harder to identify. Perhaps he is Freyr, the bright ruler of the sun who killed Beli with an antler. In Fǫr Skírnis he certainly gains a radiant, sun-like bride, though Gerðr is better identified with the moon, which shines with light taken from the sun. Freyr was certainly considered a dynastic progenitor, and early evidence that he was a supreme father-figure comes from Þjóðólfr of Hvinir’s late ninth-century poem Haustlǫng ‘Autumn-Long’, stanza 10 of which refers to allar áttir Ingi-freys ‘all the kindreds of the Ingi-lord/Ingi-Freyr’.29

Whoever the ‘father’ might represent from a heathen perspective, there may well have been a tradition that a lost solar weapon, symbolized by an antler, was recovered from the ground. For the wording of the first half of Sólarljóð 78 appears teasingly ambiguous.30 A listener might at first suppose that arfi is the dative singular of arfr ‘inheritance’ acting as the direct object of ráðit, past participle of ráða, a verb whose meanings when governing the dative include ‘have’, ‘possess’ and ‘rule’. This would give the initial impression that the stanza begins: ‘I alone, your father and the sons of Sólkatla, have gained possession of your inheritance’. Only upon hearing the stanza’s second half would it become apparent that the direct object of ráðit is rather the accusative hjartarhorn ‘hart’s horn’, and that, as such, arfi is the vocative of the noun meaning ‘son’, ‘heir’ and ráðit must mean ‘read, interpret’. In other words, the stanza initially gives the impression that the father and the sons of Sólkatla gained possession of the son’s inheritance, only to replace that impression with the reading of the hart’s horn. But the listener’s mind does not wholly erase its first impression; rather, it assimilates it into an assumption that the father and the sons of Sólkatla gained possession of an ancestral antler from Vígdvalinn, which they then read. This blended impression neatly condenses the essential points of the solar weapon’s recovery and subsequent significance.

In stanza 78, there remains one named character to identify a non-Christian mythological basis for: the wise Vígdvalinn or maybe Vig(g)dvalinn. Neither possible form of the name is attested elsewhere, but both are composed of recognizable elements, only the first of which differs (víg versus vig). Both possible forms of the name need considering for their potential significance in terms of heathen mythology, and it may be a mistake to insist on a firm choice of one or the other in this context.

To start with the second possibility, Vigdvalinn, the first element (vig-) could be a combining form of the noun vigr ‘spear’, the buried antler perhaps being imagined as a pronged spear. If so, it would appear exceptional as there seem to be no other attested compounds with vigr ‘spear’ as their first element. Alternatively, vig- might represent (or be a scribal error for) vigg- ‘horse’.31 As noted earlier, the name’s second element, -dvalinn, is interpretable as the past participle of dvelja ‘to dwell, delay’, in which case *Viggdvalinn could be the ‘Horse That Delayed’. But the same participle is also, in my view, attested as the personal name of two creatures of Norse mythology which probably shed more light on this character’s nature.

Dvalinn is the name of a mythological stag, one of four which chew the shoots of the world-tree in Grímnismál 33, as also in Gylfaginning:32 Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.33 This finding invites us to identify Sólarljóð’s antler-bearer as a stag, even as one who bit off an antler-like twig of the radiant world-tree.

Dvalinn is also the name of a dwarf, as is Dáinn ‘One Who Has Died’. This seems unlikely to be coincidence, especially as the constituent elements of the name of the third listed stag, Duraþrór, may well find parallel in the dwarf-names Dúri, Durinn, Dúrnir and Þrór. Of the four stag-names, only Duneyrr lacks a clear dwarven equivalent, but it might be explained as a compound of dun ‘noise’ (or *dun ‘dun’) + eyrr ‘gravelly bank’, in light of the dwarves’ journey to the dwellings of Aurvangar ‘Mud Plains’ at Jǫruvellir ‘Mud Fields(?)’ in Vǫluspá 14.34

Taken together with Grelant, the dwarf-horse-stag(?) of Samsons saga fagra, and the dwarf-horse-deer(?) of the Old English charm Wið dweorh, both of whom may well have concealed the sun or sunshine (see Chapter 12), this evidence suggests to me that the antler-bearer of Sólarljóð could be a dwarf-stag (or dwarf-horse-stag) who had buried a twig-like solar antler in a grave-mound. This impression strengthens with the discovery that the dwarf Dvalinn was most likely a lunar creature who stole sunshine but, having ‘delayed’ his departure from the night sky as he played with it, was destroyed at dawn by the first rays of the rising sun. We turn to him next, along with consideration of the other possible form of the name of Sólarljóð’s antler-bearer, Vígdvalinn.

Svafrlami and Dvalinn

Illustrative of the notion of a dwarf-stag who produces a solar weapon from the ground may be an episode featuring the dwarf Dvalinn in the mid-seventeenth century U-version of Heiðreks saga.35 It describes how Óðinn’s grandson, King Svafrlami, chased a hart deep into a forest until sunset, without managing to catch it. At sunset, Svafrlami, who was by now lost deep in the forest, saw a large stone and two dwarves beside it. Although this story is recorded only very late and makes no explicit identification of this stag with one of the two dwarves, beneath the narrative’s surface might lie the concept of a creature who was stag by day and dwarf by night. Whether that is the case or not, the story’s continuation includes other details suggestive of a link with Sólarljóð’s Vígdvalinn.

Svafrlami vígði ‘consecrated’ the outside of the large stone með málajárni ‘with marked/signed-iron’, presumably an iron sword marked with (runic?) signs.36 He also drew his sword over the dwarves, whereupon they begged for fjǫrlausn ‘life-loosening’. Presumably the pair were magically immobilized and feared being kept above ground until sunrise, when they would be turned to stone. The dwarves named themselves Durinn and Dvalinn. Svafrlami, who knew them to be the most skilful of dwarves, commanded them to make him the best of swords. It was to have a golden hilt, scabbard and baldric, and an unfailing blade, and it was always to confer victory upon its wielder.

The dwarves made him the sword, which was it fríðasta ‘the most beautiful’. However, when delivering the weapon, Dvalinn cursed it. As he stood at the stone’s entrance, he declared that the sword would kill a man every time it was drawn, that it would commit three of the most heinous deeds,37 and that it would be the death of Svafrlami himself. At once, Svafrlami swung the sword at Dvalinn, but the dwarf escaped into his stone.

The king called the sword Tyrfingr.38 He used it to kill the giant Þjazi, his father’s killer, before taking the giant’s daughter, Fríðr ‘Peace’. Ultimately, though, a berserk slew Svafrlami with the same sword.39

The late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century R-version of the saga adds that whenever Tyrfingr was drawn lýsti af svá sem af sólargeisla ‘light shone from it as from a sunbeam’, that it always brought victory to its wielder, and that it was renowned in all the ancient tales.40 It attributes the sword’s forging to Dvalinn alone.41

Svafrlami’s acquisition of the sword which Dvalinn, a possible dwarf-stag, forged (or co-forged) and brought outside his stone may parallel the implied acquisition by the father and the sons of Sólkatla of the solar antler that Vígdvalinn carried from the burial-mound in Sólarljóð (to his own demise?). We may also recall Hotherus’s acquisition from Mimingus’ cave, after a hunt, and after sunset, of the sword that will kill Balderus in Saxo’s Gesta Danorum.

Since a sword that shone like a sunbeam may well have been made from a sunbeam, Dvalinn could be implicated in an acquisition, probably illicit, of sunlight—an implication strengthened by other evidence to be adduced shortly. The ‘father’ in Sólarljóð clearly viewed the antler as his heir’s rightful inheritance, which raises the possibility that Vígdvalinn possessed it unjustly.42

Another possible parallel between Sólarljóð and the Svafrlami-episode concerns the first element Víg (rather than Vig(g)) in Vígdvalinn. This element is itself ambiguous, perhaps deliberately so. As noted earlier, it could be the common Old Norse noun for ‘homicide’ (or ‘battle’), which would encourage the belief that Vígdvalinn had acquired the antler violently. But, also as noted earlier, víg may alternatively mean ‘holy’ or ‘consecrated’. The cognate verb vígja (compare German weihen ‘to sanctify’) describes Svafrlami’s use of a sign-inscribed sword to ‘consecrate’ the stone and immobilize the dwarves in Heiðreks saga;43 the same verb is used in Þrymskviða 30 of Mjǫllnir’s destruction of Þrymr, the giant who guarded the stolen fulgural hammer underground; it also describes Þórr’s attack on the fever-causing giant in the Canterbury Runic Charm.44 The name Vígdvalinn might therefore point to a similar ‘consecration’ of this dwarf by the father or Sólkatla’s sons, one that similarly compelled the dwarf to bring a solar weapon, the hart’s horn, from the barrow. Víg- might also indicate the dwarf’s prophetic power, given the parallel of OE wíglung ‘divination, soothsaying, sorcery’ and Dvalinn’s prophetic curse in Heiðreks saga.

Stanza 80 of Sólarljóð, though also obscure, may offer support for the impression that similarities with the Svafrlami-episode of Heiðreks saga are not coincidental:

‘Hverju bölvi  þeir belt hafa

  Sváfr ok Sváfrlogi;

blóð þeir vöktu  ok benjar sugu

  ey undir illum vana.’ (80)45

‘Every evil they have dealt, Sváfr and Sváfrlogi; they awoke blood and sucked wounds, always with ill custom.’

The identities of Sváfr and Sváfrlogi (or Svafr and Svafrlogi) are uncertain. Possibly they relate to the Sváfaðr mentioned in Sólarljóð 11 as an unfortunate person who slew, and was himself slain by, his friend in a duel over a radiant woman. But these names have also been compared to the Óðinn-alias Sváfnir ‘Putter to Sleep’.46 Equally, their drawing of blood and sucking of wounds might identify them as carrion beasts or dragons, like the snake Sváfnir of Grímnismál 34, and the dragon Niðhǫggr of Vǫluspá 39, which saug ‘sucked’ corpses. However, the terms svelgr ‘swallower’ and niðhǫggr/níðhǫggr also appear in a list of sword-names in Skáldskaparmál.47 At the same time, the names Sváfr and Sváfrlogi are similar enough to Svafrlami to raise the possibility of some relationship to a version of the story told in Heiðreks saga. Perhaps—though this is no more than a guess—this stanza describes the infamous career of a deadly flaming sword called Sváfrlogi ‘Sleeping/Sleep Flame’,48 a weapon made by Vígdvalinn and wielded by Sváfr (a shortening of Svafrlami?)—with which he did great harm by killing people.

In some respects, the story of Svafrlami’s acquisition of Tyrfingr in Heiðreks saga also parallels Beowulf’s acquisition of the giant sword, with the exception that the latter weapon lacks an explicit curse—it does, however, bear an ominous inscription about strife and has a destiny to slay its possessors, the giants. Thus, the stag-hunt in Beowulf is similarly followed by the hero’s attack on a giant (a creature akin to dwarves) with a sword (Hrunting) wundenmæl ‘wound with signs’ or ‘adorned with winding signs’, 1531)—compare Sváfrlami’s málajárn—and subsequent acquisition from the giants’ home of a more marvellous sword. This second sword was similarly golden-hilted, beautiful (wlitig, 1662) and of sun-like radiance. Furthermore, Beowulf similarly used it to overcome giants and end their monstrous attacks (compare Svafrlami’s gaining of Fríðr ‘Peace’).

Dvalinn and the Deaths of Alvíss and Hrímgerðr

The natures of the antler and its bearer in Sólarljóð are probably also illuminated by what we learn of dwarves, and especially Dvalinn, from other Old Norse texts.

Vígdvalinn is vítr ‘wise’, like the dwarves described as veggbergs vísir ‘wall-rock’s wise ones’ in Vǫluspá 48. His wisdom perhaps encompassed runic lore, as the antler was inscribed with runes (though not by him). Stanza 143 of the Eddic poem Hávamál records that Dvalinn carved powerful rune-staves for the dwarves.

Vígdvalinn’s wisdom may well have encompassed metal-working, as dwarves are renowned smiths. This could be relevant if, as seems likely, the horn he guards is a golden antler. We have seen that Dvalinn forged a marvellous gold-hilted sword for Svafrlami. He also contributed to the forging of Freyja’s necklace in Sörla þáttr.49

More importantly, Dvalinn possessed the sun, or rather (it seems) some of its light, at least temporarily and to his undoing. Another Eddic poem, Alvíssmál ‘The Sayings of Alvíss’, records that kalla dvergar Dvalins leika ‘the dwarves call [sól “the sun”] Dvalinn’s play-sister/play-thing/playmate [or “deluder”]’ (16).50 Similarly, Hrafnagaldur Óðins 24 records that the horse of Dagur ‘Day’ dro leik Dvalins … i reiþ ‘drew Dvalinn’s playmate/plaything [i.e., the sun] in a chariot’.51 Judging from the meaning of his name, it seems likely that Dvalinn played too long in the morning sky with pilfered sunlight, and that, being dvalinn ‘delayed’ above ground, he was destroyed, possibly through petrification, by the rays of the rising sun. Such, at least, seems to be the similar fate in Alvíssmál of the titular Alvíss ‘All-Wise’. He was a dwarf with a giantish appearance—Þórr declares ‘þursa líki þikki mér á þér vera’ ‘“There seems to me to be the likeness of giants in you”’ (2)—who might actually be Dvalinn by another name.52 Alvíss, an erudite but unwary character, tried to make off with Þórr’s daughter without his permission. Þórr, however, tricked him into staying above ground at daybreak by asking him principally about the various races’ names for aspects of the natural world, including the moon and the sun. Finally, having delayed him long enough, Þórr declared:

‘Í einu brjósti  ek sák aldregi

  fleiri forna stafi;

miklum tálum  ek kveð tældan þik:

  uppi ertu, dvergr, um dagaðr,

  nú skínn sól í sali.’ (35)

‘In a single breast I’ve never seen more ancient staves; by great tricks I declare you’ve been duped: you’re up, dwarf, as it has dawned; now the sun shines in the halls!’

We may infer that the sun’s light kills Alvíss. The ‘ancient staves’ Þórr mentions seem to be a usefully ambiguous metaphor. In one respect, as rune-staves/words, they denote the many points of erudition that Alvíss has enumerated: we may compare, in Vafþrúðnismál 1, Óðinn’s desire to contend á fornum stǫfum ‘in ancient staves’ with a giant who, having spoken forna stafi in competition with the god of wisdom (and possibly sunlight) (55), is destined to lose his head. In another respect, they denote the sun’s beams, which strike the hapless dwarf.53 Sólarljóð 40 describes the sun as setta dreyrstöfum ‘set with bloody-staves’ (i.e., sunbeams imagined as red runes), an image we may also connect with the runes inscribed on Vígdvalinn’s antler.

These points and others are clarified by comparison with one of the clearest Old Norse parallels to Alvíss’s demise, namely the petrification of the giantess Hrímgerðr ‘Rime-Gerðr’, daughter of Hati, in the Eddic Helgakviða Hjǫrvarðzsonar ‘Poem of Helgi, son of Hjǫrvarðr’.54 This poem is explicit about Hrímgerðr having been dvalða ‘delayed’ (compare Dvalinn) above ground until dawn by the words of Atli ‘Terrible One’,55 a warrior in the service of the titular Helgi ‘Holy One’, and of Helgi himself:

‘Austr líttu nú, Hrímgerðr,  er þik lostna hefr

  Helgi helstǫfum!

Á landi ok á vatni  borgit er lofðungs flota

  ok siklings mǫnnum it sama.

‘Dagr er nú, Hrímgerðr,  en þik dvalða hefir

  Atli til aldrlaga;

hafnar mark  þykkir hlœglikt vera,

  þars þú í steins líki stendr!’ (29–30)

‘Look east now, Hrímgerðr, since Helgi has struck you with Hel/deadly-staves! On land and on water the leader’s fleet is protected and the prince’s men likewise.

‘It’s day now, Hrímgerðr, and Atli has delayed you to your life’s end; you’ll seem to be a laughable harbour-mark, there where you stand in the form of a stone!’

The notion that Helgi ‘struck’ the giantess with staves is interesting, since he has not physically touched her. As in Alvíssmál, these staves seem to be a metaphor both for words and the first rays of the morning sun.56

Helgi’s victory over Hrímgerðr also appears comparable to Skírnir’s over Gerðr in Fǫr Skírnis. Not only do the conquered giantesses share the name Gerðr, but the object of Freyr’s desire is linked repeatedly with hrím ‘rime/frost’, the first element in Hrímgerðr. Thus, Skírnir declares that, if Gerðr does not accept Freyr, she will be condemned to witness the giant Hrímnir gawping at her (Fǫr Skírnis 28) and to possession by the giant Hrímgrímnir (35); and she cements her accord with Skírnir by offering him a hrímkálkr ‘rime-cup’ (37). Also, rather as Atli states that Hrímgerðr will be taken by an appalling shaggy giant (Helgakviða Hjǫrvarðzsonar 25), so Skírnir declares that Gerðr will be given to hrímþursar ‘rime-giants’ (30, 34).57 Again, rather as Hrímgerðr will be a laughable harbour-mark, so Gerðr, a giantess whose name suggests enclosed land but who is also closely linked to the sea, will be an undrsjón ‘wondrous sight’ (28).58 Both giantesses, furthermore, share essentially the same fate: although Gerðr is not petrified by the implicitly solar Skírnir, having been assaulted by his words and at least threatened with being struck (drep, Fǫr Skírnis 26) by his tamsvǫndr/gambanteinn, she is overcome by his stafi ‘(rune-)staves’ (36), just as Hrímgerðr is struck and defeated by Helgi’s.

In addition, it seems that both giantesses’ fathers are slain by the hero with a sword of probably solar nature. Skírnir declares that Gymir will sink before the edges of the sword he acquired from Freyr (Fǫr Skírnis 25). Hrímgerðr’s father, Hati, who shares his name with the wolf that hunts the sun in Grímnismál, is killed by Helgi, most likely with the sword to which he was directed by a valkyrie:

‘Sverð veit ek liggja  í Sigarshólmi,

fjórum færa  en fimm tøgu;

eitt er þeira  ǫllum betra,

vígnesta bǫl,  ok varit gulli.

‘Hringr er í hjalti,  hugr er í miðju,

ógn er í oddi,  þeim er eiga getr;

liggr með eggju  ormr dreyrfáðr,

en á valbǫstu  verpr naðr hala.’

(Helgakviða Hjǫrvarðzsonar 8–9)

‘I know of swords lying in Sigarshólmr “Sigarr’s Island”, four fewer than fifty; one of them is better than all (others), the bale of battle-brooches/fastenings(?) [i.e., shields/armour?], and adorned with gold.

‘A ring is in the hilt, courage is in the middle, terror is in the point, for the one who gets to own it; there lies along the edge a blood-stained snake, and on the slaughter/knob-cord(?) [i.e., hilt-binding(?)] an adder lashes its tail.’

The references to ‘courage’ in the middle and ‘terror’ in the point of this sword may be to runic spells inscribed in a practice comparable to that recommended by another valkyrie in the Eddic poem Sigrdrífumál ‘Sayings of Sigrdrífa’ (6). If so, Helgi’s sword appears comparable to the golden málfán ‘sign/mark-adorned’ (Fǫr Skírnis 23, 25) sword with which Skírnir threatened Gerðr,59 and to the málajárn with which Svafrlami incapacitated the dwarves Durinn and Dvalinn. It also resembles Beowulf’s giant sword, which was similarly the wæpna cyst ‘choicest of weapons’ (1559), adorned with gold (gylden hilt 1676, scennum sciran goldes 1694), ‘ring-marked’ (hringmæl 1564), inscribed with runes, and wavy-marked (brogdenmæl 1667), which is also to say marked with wavy, curling, serpent-like patterns as a result of pattern-welding. Furthermore, Beowulf similarly found his sword among many other items of armour and weaponry (1557, 1612–4); and it was located in a submerged cave, which, though not an island, may be functionally equivalent to one in that it shares the property of being enclosed by water. The wording of Helgakviða Hjǫrvarðzsonar 29 seems likely, therefore, to reflect an earlier notion that Hrímgerðr had been lostna ‘struck’ with the same sort of weapon, a rune-inscribed solar sword.

We may conclude that Hrímgerðr and Gerðr, and Hati and Gymir, are counterparts. It also appears that the stories in which they appear are fundamentally variants of the same myth involving them as giants and giantesses—probably originally identified or linked with the moon60—who are defeated by the arrival of the sun.

Returning to Dvalinn, and therefore potentially Vígdvalinn, both his name and his race could well identify him as a lunar creature. As noted when discussing Riddle 29, the moon sometimes appears to linger too long in the sky, only to be overcome by the sun, which in time reclaims its light and wholly outshines its rival, causing the moon to fade from view. Dvalinn probably ‘delayed’ too long playing with his solar toy of pilfered sunshine.

That Dvalinn, like other dwarves, was connected with the moon may be indicated by the name of the site of his race’s ancestral hall, according to the first half of Vǫluspá 37:

‘Stóð fyr norðan  á Niðavǫllum

salr ór gulli  Sindra ættar.’

‘There stood to the north, on Niðavellir, the hall of the race of Sindri ‘Cindery’ [a dwarf], made from gold.’

As we have seen, the place-name Niðavellir is ambiguous. It could mean ‘Kinsmen’s Plains’ (< niðr ‘kinsman’ + vellir ‘plains’), but its likely principal meaning is ‘Dark/Waning Moons’ Plains’ (< ON nið + vellir). Another possibility is ‘Plains of Niði ‘Dark Moon’ [a dwarf]’, which would follow on from a reference to Niði earlier in the poem.

Dvalinn’s likely lunar connections are underlined by his association earlier in Vǫluspá with the dwarves Nýi (< ‘new [i.e., waxing or full] moon’)61 and Niði (< nið ‘dark or waning moon’).62 These three names appear together in Vǫluspá near the start of a list of dwarves which comes only six stanzas after prominent references to the sun and moon:

‘Nýi ok Niði,  Norðri ok Suðri,

Austri ok Vestri,  Alþjófr, Dvalinn.’ (Vǫluspá 11)

‘Full/Waxing Moon and Dark/Waning Moon, Northerly and Southerly, Easterly and Westerly, All-Thief, Delayed.’

Furthermore, the immediate proximity of Alþjófr ‘All/Great-Thief’ to Dvalinn in this list underlines the likelihood that a lunar Dvalinn stole sunlight, the greatest treasure of all.63

Interpretation of Dvalinn—and therefore potentially Vígdvalinn—as a dwarf identified with the moon may, together with the reference to the niðja sonu ‘sons of the dark phases of the moon’ in Sólarljóð 56, help to explain an obscure passage about a certain Niðjungr in the thirteenth-century Old Norse Málsháttakvæði ‘Proverb Poem’, one that might relate to the story behind Sólarljóð 78. The passage reads:

gulli mælti Þjazi sjálfr,

Niðjungr skóf af haugi horn;

hølzti eru nú minni forn.64 (8)

Þjazi himself spoke with gold, Niðjungr scraped/took/stole a horn from a grave-mound; (these) memories are now extremely old.

Roberta Frank observes that the character Niðjungr is ‘unknown’,65 presumably as there is no apparent reason to identify him with the Niðjungr of the Eddic poem Rígsþula ‘Rígr’s List’ (41). Interpreted, however, as the common noun ‘kinsman, descendant’ in relation to the preceding giant Þjazi, niðjungr might refer to a giant or a dwarf, given that, according to Snorri, dwarves arose as maggots in the flesh of the giant Ymir,66 and that Alvíss resembles a giant in Alvíssmál. Another possibility, though, is that Niðjungr is the name of a dwarf associated, like Niði in Vǫluspá, with nið ‘the dark/waning moon’.67 Niðjungr would then be a lunar dwarf who took a solar(?) horn from a grave-mound, perhaps as one of Sólarljóð’s ‘son’s of dark/waning moons’.68 If so, the last line of this stanza would indicate that a likely variant of the myth of Vígdvalinn and the hart’s horn was considered ancient in the thirteenth century.69

Runes of Resurrection

Having investigated the possible heathen background of stanza 78 of Sólarljóð, it remains to do the same for stanza 79. If, as seems very likely, the antler is a solar symbol, the runes—which is to say, rune-staves—that Njörðr’s nine daughters inscribed, probably on the antler, may reasonably be identified with the ‘bloody-staves’ with which the sun was ‘set’ according to stanza 40. They may also be connected more broadly with the implicitly solar staves with which Helgi defeated the frosty Hrímgerðr at dawn; the rune-inscribed gambanteinn with which Skírnir overcame the frosty Gerðr, leading to her union with Freyr, the ‘fair-weather traveller’; and with the rune-inscribed and probably sun-like giant sword (possibly anticipated, I have argued, by the strong antlers of a hunted hart) with which Beowulf slew Grendel’s mother, the melting of which inspires an analogy with the thawing of ice in spring.

Each of these analogous stave-sets is associated with an attack on a giant or giants and the resurrection of the sun at dawn or in spring. Each is also associated with a liminal locale between land and sea, earth and water. We should investigate, therefore, whether much the same is the case with the inscribed antler of Sólarljóð.

That the antler’s rune-staves, taken from the earth, may have an aquatic, resurrective aspect is suggested by the nature of their inscribers. The nine daughters of the sea-god Njörðr, unknown outside Sólarljóð, may well be personified waves, equivalent to the nine daughters of the sea-giant Ægir whom I earlier connected with Vargeisa and her ‘double’ Ýma; the names of Ægir’s daughters seem to have been quite fluid, and the two names given in SólarljóðBöðveig ‘Battle-Drink’ and Kreppvör ‘Strait/Clench/Scrape(?)-Goddess’—look to be compatible with such a nature.70 These nine daughters might also be associated with the nine ‘Njörðr-locks’ that secured Lævateinn in its submerged chest in Svipdagsmál. If they do have an aquatic nature, the antler was presumably under water at some point, like Lævateinn, Mistilteinn (see Chapter 15), Hrunting and the giant sword. Another reason for thinking the sea may be relevant is the parallel between Sólkatla and the Skallerup cauldron with its wheeled ‘ships’.

Vígdvalinn’s (enforced?) taking of a solar antler from the ground might well symbolize the dawn of a new day as the sun surmounted the horizon. But there is another reason why the daughters of Njörðr and their runic inscription might have a resurrective aspect, one that would have special relevance to Sólarljóð. Njörðr was one of the Vanir gods, who appear likely to have mastered the power of resurrecting themselves and others from the dead. Such a power would explain their ability to wage war against the Æsir with a vígspá ‘battle/holy spell/prophecy’ in Vǫluspá 24.71 Furthermore, Grímnismál 14 says of Njörðr’s daughter Freyja, a likely valkyrie-goddess, that hálfan val hon kýss hverjan dag, / en hálfan Óðinn á ‘each day she selects half the slain, and Óðinn has [the other] half’, the inference being that she resurrects fallen men to live some kind of afterlife. Other Old Norse texts tell, or allude to, the story of a woman called Hildr ‘Battle’ (a valkyrie-name) who enabled a never-ending conflict between kings, the Hjaðningavíg ‘Battle of the Hjaðningar’, by magically resurrecting the slain each night so that they could continue fighting the next day.72 Hildr is often thought to reflect the character of Freyja, and in the account of this battle in Sörla þáttr it is indeed Freyja, rather than Hildr, who resurrects the dead.73 If Freyja was among the daughters of Njörðr in Sólarljóð, or if his other daughters commanded similar power, the antler they inscribed would lend itself to Christian reinterpretation as a symbol of the Cross, through which Christ similarly enabled the resurrection of the dead.

Sólarljóð and Beowulf

I propose, therefore, that Sólarljóð 78–9 record or adapt a heathen myth about a dwarf, possibly a dwarf-stag (or even a dwarf-horse-stag) called Vígdvalinn (or Vig(g)dvalinn) who had hidden a rune-inscribed antler, symbolizing a sunbeam, in a burial-mound. In his dwarf form Vígdvalinn may well have been associated with the waning or dark moon, and he may well have stolen the solar antler, or at least acquired and buried it illicitly. Later, this solar treasure was implicitly reclaimed as an heirloom by solar emissaries and a father-figure suggestive of a sun-controlling god. Its recovery might have been achieved, by analogy with Heiðreks saga, after a stag-hunt, which ended when the hunters forced the dwarf to delay dangerously long outside his mound. The antler bore rune-staves, which had been inscribed by Njörðr’s nine aquatic(?) daughters, perhaps by night while the sun was supposedly in the sea. These runes represented sunbeams at dawn, and they conferred on the antler the power to revive the dead. From a Christian perspective, the solar antler therefore most likely symbolizes the radiant Cross in its redemptive function. It is recovered from its burial site as an heirloom in a story analogous to the Harrowing of Hell and perhaps to the Invention of the Cross.

The parallels between this interpretation and Beowulf, though inexact, appear encouragingly numerous and substantive. Thus, in Beowulf, following a description of a stag-hunt comparable to Norse myths about the capture of the sun by wolves (at least some lunar),74 Beowulf, as emissary of the Bright-Danes who are devotees of the sun-god Ing (Yngvi-Freyr), similarly encounters a homicidal monster whose lair—at once aquatic and strangely terrestrial—conceals a rune-inscribed, probably sun-like sword, which the poet may have subtly compared to the strong antlers of the stag hunted by hounds. Beowulf overcomes this monster and recovers the sword, the shining runic hilt of which is a laf ‘heirloom’ (1687). The sword and especially its hilt (made partly of antler?), like the antler-heirloom of Sólarljóð, is implicitly identified with the Cross and the focus of an episode that probably evokes the Harrowing of Hell. The golden hilt is returned to Hroðgar, a father-figure to Beowulf, and to the sun-like stag-hall Heorot, presumably as their rightful inheritance.

1 Tate, ‘“Heiðar stjörnur”’, 1032–3 denies that the antler is inscribed with runes, but overstates the case that the poet simply sought to overturn heathen tradition. As Amory, ‘Norse-Christian Syncretism’, I, 8–9 observes, for example, in stanza 25 the poet elevates the heathen women called dísir to the ranks of the holy.

2 Adapted from Clunies Ross, Poetry on Christian Subjects, 352, 354.

3 Tate, ‘“Heiðar stjörnur”’, 1030.

4 Amory, ‘Norse-Christian Syncretism’, I, 17.

5 As on the south face of the Gosforth Cross (see Chapter 10).

6 Tate, ‘“Heiðar stjörnur”’, 1030–1 relates these stanzas to descriptions in Vǫluspá.

7 Birkett, Reading the Runes, 173.

8 For other views about these enigmatic stanzas, including alternative Christian interpretations, see D. Brennecke, ‘Zur Strophe 78 der Sólarljóð’, ANF 100 (1985), 97–108; Njörður P. Njarðvík (ed.), Sólarljóð (Reykjavík, 1991), 102–6.

9 See Bampi, ‘“Gǫfuct dýr”’.

10 Nicholson, ‘Beowulf’, 639.

11 Waggoner, Sagas of Imagination, 112; V. D. Corazza, ‘Crossing Paths in the Middle Ages: The Physiologus in Iceland’, in M. Buzzoni and M. Bampi (ed.), The Garden of Crossing Paths: The Manipulation and Rewriting of Medieval Texts: Venice, October 28–30, 2004 (Venice, 2005), 225–48.

12 In this light, Beowulf’s stag seeking the wood may anticipate the early thirteenth-century Middle English poem Now goth sonne under wod. In this poem sonne ‘sun’ and sone ‘son [i.e., Christ]’ are implicitly equated; so is the wod ‘wood’ with rode, which denotes both the face (of Mary) and the Rood, and with tre ‘tree, Cross’; Davies, Medieval English Lyrics, 54.

13 Clunies Ross, Poetry on Christian Subjects, 335. Brennecke, ‘Strophe 78’ argues that the single horn of Sólarljóð 78 is that of a unicorn, symbolic of Christ. However, the solar hart of Sólarljóð 55 has more than one horn (tóku horn is plural). Nor is the antlered solar hart of the Gosforth Cross a unicorn.

14 Muir, Exeter Anthology, I, 90.

15 See, respectively, Clunies Ross, Poetry on Christian Subjects, 179–220 and J. Tucker (ed.), Plácidus saga (Copenhagen, 1998). On the story’s background and development, see Thierry, ‘Culte du cerf’.

16 Cf. the sun’s presence as effectively the third, central antler of the god Cernunnos on the Celtic coin mentioned in Chapter 10. Note, too, the placement of the vessel of stolen sunlight between the lunar thief’s horns in Old English Riddle 29, discussed in Chapter 11.

17 Skeat, Ælfric’s Lives of Saints, II, 192–3.

18 M. Thiébaux, The Stag of Love: The Chase in Medieval Literature (Ithaca, 1974), 40–6. It is also a snake-trampling deer that represents the Devil-conquering Christ in the Icelandic Physiologus.

19 The Cross too was inscribed, bearing the letters INRI, short for Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of Jews’.

20 R. E. Bjork (ed. and trans.), The Old English Poems of Cynewulf (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2013), 141–235.

21 For simplicity, I generally use only the first possible form of the name henceforth.

22 I discuss the name Vígdvalinn/Vig(g)dvalinn further below.

23 Perhaps the sound of -katla would suggest to some kyrtla, genitive plural of kyrtill ‘gown’.

24 Thorpe, Homilies, I, 444.

25 It might, however, be difficult to attribute benign significance to the Biblical beast’s horns.

26 See especially Brennecke, ‘Zur Strophe 78’. Amory, ‘Norse-Christian Syncretism’, I, 1–25 at 13 identifies Vígdvalinn with St. Peter, but the apostle took nothing from Christ’s tomb.

27 On this concept see Panchenko, ‘Scandinavian Background’, an article that does not, however, mention Sólkatla.

28 See Panchenko, ‘Scandinavian Background’, 10–15 with fig. 6.

29 North, Haustlǫng, 6–7 (adapted).

30 See also Clunies Ross, Poetry on Christian Subjects, 352. B. E. Schorn, Speaker and Authority in Old Norse Wisdom Poetry (Berlin, 2017), 124–33 at 132 observes that ‘the interpretation of this stanza is both conceptually and structurally difficult’.

31 One manuscript of Sólarljóð has the garbled form vijgdarannlinn, which at least has an initial element with two consonants (vijg-). Cf. LP s.v. vigr 3); but note also the emendation, in a list of terms for horses, of viglitnir to vígglitnir, explained as ‘war-glittering one’ (rather than *vigglitnir ‘glittering horse’), in PTP, 936–7.

32 SnEGylf, 18.

33 Note also a verse list of ‘stag’-names in PTP, 898–900; it includes Duraþrór, Duneyrr, Dáinn and Dvalarr, the last of which names is probably a variant of Dvalinn, one perhaps related to New Norwegian dvalen ‘lazy, sleepy’.

34 Alternatively, Duneyrr might mean ‘Dun-Eared One’ (eyra ‘ear’) or, if rather Dúneyrr, ‘Downy-Eared One’. Then again, we might look to the dwarf-name Dúrnir, which sounds not too dissimilar. See PTP, 899. Possibly the four Old Norse stags symbolize the cardinal directions, a function elsewhere attributed to dwarves, albeit differently named ones; Tolley, Shamanism, I, 339. Perhaps germane, too, is the close association between stags and smiths in early Celtic tradition (see Enright, Sutton Hoo Sceptre, 173–5, 338–9), as dwarves were celebrated metal-smiths (pace Enright, Sutton Hoo Sceptre, 173: ‘the ancient relationship between smith and stag in Celtic culture … is not one that can be found in the early medieval Germanic sphere’).

35 See Tolkien, Saga, 67–8 and the introductory remarks about the cursed sword at ix–xi.

36 Tolkien, Saga, 68 n. observes that -járni is a later addition. Another version reads málasaxi ‘short, one-edged sword marked with signs’; Rafn, Fornaldar sögur, I, 514; it also names Dvalinn as the first of the two dwarves, the other being Dulinn.

37 Probably three kin-slayings, including two killings of brothers by King Heiðrekr, a worshipper of Freyr; Tolkien, Saga, x; cf. Unferð’s use of Hrunting(?) to kill his brother in Beowulf. Heiðrekr even manages to injure Óðinn with Tyrfingr; Tolkien, Saga, 31, 44.

38 On this sword, see SASE5-7, 417–8. Its name may mean ‘scion of a tyrfi [resinous fir-tree]’, which would make it a twig-sword, or derive from Tervingi, a name for the Visigoths that is thought to mean ‘dwellers in the wooded regions’ (cf. Gothic triu ‘tree’); see Tolkien, Saga, xxiv; Falk, Altnordische Waffenkunde, 62; PTP, 802–3.

39 Tolkien, Saga, 68.

40 Tolkien, Saga, 1; see also 6, 20.

41 Tolkien, Saga, 15. A different version of Þjazi’s death appears in SnESkáld, I, 2, but both versions may share the idea that the giant’s death was caused by solar fire. Snorri records that the gods lit fires by the wall of their stronghold (borgarvegginn) as soon as Þjazi flew over it as an eagle; the giant’s feathers immediately caught fire and he fell down among the gods, who killed him. The divine fires rising above the wall could be an image of the first red rays of the sun rising above the horizon, imagined (as possibly in Old English Riddle 29) as a wall (veggr). If so, we have a parallel with Þjazi’s death by the sunlike sword Tyrfingr.

42 Note, however, that Pliny, Naturalis Historia (8.115), records the belief that stags bury their right antlers, which contain a healing drug and are never found; Rackham, Pliny, III, 82. Also, Saxo does not record that Mimingus had stolen his sword. A possibly comparable giant called Faunus had stolen a golden-hilted, dwarf-made sword, though (see Chapter 12 n. 56).

43 See also an episode in McDonald, ‘Nítíða saga’, 134–5.

44 See further Taggart, How Thor Lost his Thunder, 162–73.

45 Clunies Ross, Poetry on Christian Subjects, 355.

46 Clunies Ross, Poetry on Christian Subjects, 355.

47 SnESkáld, I, 120; PTP, 806–8. Note also the ‘sword’-term Fjǫrsváfnir, translated ‘life-quencher’ in ibid., 794–5.

48 Had it lain ‘asleep’, like the antler, in the ground? Or like the submerged giant sword, which shone suddenly in Grendel’s cave? Cf. also the radiant sword Gunnlogi which, in Sigurðar saga þǫgla, a dwarf gave to Vilhjálmr while he slept (see Chapter 12). Was the name Svafrlogi also intended to suggest vafrlogi, the ‘flicker-flame’ surrounding the homes of Gerðr and Menglǫð, or is this just a coincidence?

49 FSN, I, 367–8.

50 On the term Dvalins leika, see K. von See, B. La Farge, E. Picard, K. Schulz, Kommentar zu den Liedern der Edda, Bd. 3: Götterlieder (Heidelberg, 2000), 336–40; PTP, 910–11.

51 Lassen, Hrafnagaldur, 93.

52 As proposed in P. Acker, ‘Dwarf-Lore in Alvíssmál’, in P. Acker and C. Larrington (ed.), The Poetic Edda: Essays on Old Norse Mythology (New York, 2002), 213–27 at 220, https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203357736

53 Cf. Sólarljóð 61: blóðgar rúnir váru á brjósti þeim / merkðar meinliga ‘bloody runes were painfully marked on their breast’, the sufferers being envious men. In Baltic myth the thundergod Perkunas, who is married to the sun, cleaves the moon with a sword for having seduced the sun’s daughter; Cashford, Moon, 213–4. It seems to me quite likely that Alvíss, who sought to marry Þórr’s daughter (possibly Þrúðr ‘Strength’), may once have personified the dark or waning moon, or been closely connected with it.

54 The nocturnal giantess killed by Grettir was similarly turned to stone by the early morning sun, according to some; Guðni Jónsson, Grettis saga, 213. See further K. von See, B. La Farge, W. Gerhold, D. Dusse, E. Picard and K. Schulz, Kommentar zu den Liedern der Edda, Bd. 4: Heldenlieder (Heidelberg, 2004), 525–6; also my discussion of Freyja’s encounter with the giantess Hyndla in Chapter 14.

55 Atli is also recorded as an alias of Þórr; PTP, 758–9.

56 A related solar meaning may be encoded in an episode found in chapter 5 of Ketils saga hængs; FSN, II, 168–72. The eponymous hero went fishing at Skofar, a place identified as probably the Norwegian island of Skrova by B. Waggoner (trans.), The Hrafnista Sagas (New Haven, 2012), 202 n. 27. From the harbour Ketill saw on the headland a pitch-black troll-woman (potentially a dark-moon creature like those I identify in Chapter 14). She had just emerged from the sea and glotti við sólunni ‘grinned (sneeringly) at the sun’. The two exchanged verses in which, among other things, Ketill declared at uppiverandi sólu ‘by the uprisen sun’ that he had never seen a more loathsome sight; she identified herself as Forað (Forat), a word for a dangerous place (or situation) that often denotes a bog (cf. PTP, 725–7); he addressed her as fóstra ‘foster-mother’; she referred to her skálm ‘short sword’ and her intentions to set fire to places áðr dagr á mik skíni ‘before day shines on me’ and gnúa ‘to rub’ him (doubtless sexually). She then fumbled for him, but he notched one of his three magical arrows and shot her undir fjöðrina ‘under the feather/fin’ as she changed í hvalslíki ‘into whale-form’. At that she screamed and, we may presume, died. We are not told which arrow Ketill shot, but since Forað declared that she did not fear the arrow Hremsa ‘Claw/Paw/Clutch/Shaft’ and thought Flaug ‘Flight’ and Fífa ‘Cotton Grass’ were far away, it was most likely one of the latter two. If it was Fífa, Forað may well have died by (implicitly sexual) penetration by a burning ‘candle-arrow’, since cotton grass (Eriophorum)—a sedge often found in bogs—was used to make candlewicks (see CV s.v. fífu-kveykr ‘a wick of fífa’). Fífa could then represent a candle-arrow comparable to a radiant solar shaft; it could also be functionally equivalent to the radiant candle-sword of Beowulf, which may well similarly have dispatched Grendel’s mother in the form of a monstrous fish (see Chapter 15). In the context, it would make sense for the encounter to end with a radiant, airborne weapon punishing Forað for her initially dismissive insolence to the sun. Broadly speaking, such a climax might also be expected because only shortly earlier, in chapter 4, another hostile encounter between Ketill and a troll, set in a similar location, apparently ended when dawn broke and the monster hvarf ‘disappeared’; FSN, II, 167, and see Waggoner, Hrafnista Sagas, 202 n. 23. A related saga describes these arrows as dwarf-made, self-directed, implicitly self-returning and gulli fiðraðar ‘feathered with gold’; FSN, II, 213–4.

57 For a study of this word, see Frog, ‘The (De)Construction of Mythic Ethnography II: Hrímþurs and Cosmogony (a Contribution to the Vanir Debate)’, RMN Newletter 8 (2014), 38–55.

58 Like also Lúða in Hjálmþés saga (see Chapter 7).

59 von See et al., Kommentar, Bd. 4, 462.

60 On lunar giants and giantesses, see further Chapter 14.

61 Although ON is also attested as a translation of Latin novilunium ‘new (i.e., dark) moon’, in the popular imagination the ‘new moon’ is the young waxing moon, not the dark moon. See CV s.v. nið, ný, nýr.

62 Gould, ‘Dwarf-Names’, 952, 963; PTP, 694–5. Gould lists other dwarf-names indicating radiance, such as Dellingr ‘Day, Gleaming One’, Glóinn ‘Glowing One’, Ljómi ‘Gleam/Beam’ (cognate with OE leoma), which may also reflect the association between dwarves and the moon and sun. Curiously, there was even a dwarf called Ingi/Yngvi.

63 An Old Norse plant-name also seems informed by such a myth. CV identifies dverga-sóleyg, literally ‘sun-eyed one of the dwarves’, as Ranunculus glacialis, a plant whose flower has a central ring of bright yellow.

64 R. Frank, ‘The Málsháttakvæði or “Proverb Poem” Englished’, in C. E. Karkov (ed.), Poetry, Place, and Gender: Studies in Medieval Culture in Honor of Helen Damico (Kalamazoo, 2009), 234–51 at 238; see also PTP, 1222–3.

65 Frank, ‘Málsháttakvæði’, 245, n. 17. For other thoughts on this passage, see Clunies Ross, Poetry on Christian Subjects, 353.

66 SnEGylf, 15.

67 CV s.v. niðjungr. That at least some dwarves were associated with the waning or dark moon, which is to say the visibly lacking or absent moon, would be in keeping with a recent characterization of these beings: ‘If we bear in mind that all kinds of absence seem to be the dominant feature of dwarfs, it seems to be precisely their negativity which makes them important …. At the very core of their essence lies not presence but absence’; Ármann Jakobsson, ‘The Hole’, 66, 69. Additionally, dwarves often vanish in medieval narratives.

68 Another dwarf associated with a horn is Hornbori ‘Horn-Borer/Bearer’ (Vǫluspá 13), though nothing more is known of him.

69 Note also Óláfr Tryggvason’s instruction to his dog Vigi in Bjarni Aðalbjarnason, Heimskringla, I, 325: ‘Vigi, tak hjǫrtinn!’ ‘Vigi, take the hart!’, whereupon the dog attacked the fleet-footed Þórir hjǫrtr, who defended himself with a sword; on the nickname hjǫrtr ‘hart’, see D. Whaley, ‘Nicknames and Narratives in the Sagas’, ANF 108 (1993), 122–46 at 127, 140.

70 Simek, Dictionary, 2 remarks of Ægir’s daughters that their names ‘appear to have been indefinite … any synonym for “wave” could be used in poetry as a name for one of Ægir’s daughters’. According to Dronke and Dronke, Growth of Literature, 45, which does not mention Sólarljóð, the Vanir ‘will have been domiciled so long in the sea that it was no longer recalled in tradition as a specific piece of knowledge about them, only about Njǫrðr, their representative, caught up in vivid tales that survived for later record.’

71 See Dronke, Poetic Edda, II, 42–4.

72 See J. Quinn, ‘The End of a Fantasy: Sǫrla Þáttr and the Rewriting of the Revivification Myth’, in J. McKinnell, D. Ashurst and D. Kick (ed.), The Fantastic in Old Norse/Icelandic Literature: Sagas and the British Isles. Preprint Papers of the 13th International Saga Conference, Durham and York, 6th-12th August, 2006, 2 vols (Durham, 2006), II, 808–16.

73 FSN, I, 369–70.

74 It may be relevant to note that it is not only some giants who have lupine associations. So too do certain dwarves, judging from the second elements, each meaning ‘wolf’, of the following dwarf-names: Aurvargr, Hleðjólfr, Hlévargr, Hljóðólfr, Mjǫðvitnir and Móðvitnir; for these names, see Gould, ‘Dwarf-Names’; PTP, 692–706.