I wrote this for a class on Old Nordic Religion during my first year of Viking and Medieval Norse Studies at the University of Iceland. In its approach to the subject, one can my characteristic style: viewing the source material with the eyes of a poet. Back in April, about a month after I finished writing it, I posted my Háskólavísur 09 update about it, featuring a 13-line poem on the subject. (And yes, I’m quite busy with the second year of the program at this time.) The abstract for the essay is below.
This essay argues that the triple-triangle symbol commonly known as the valknut represents a heart in at least some contexts. Specifically, it is either the ideal, steady heart of the brave slain hero or that of a worthy adversary, and that the word valknut itself may be a heiti for ‘heart of the slain’. Most notably, the metaphor of stone is used as an exemplar for this steadiness in the mythological figure of Hrungnir and his stone heart, while the heroic example is that of Hǫgni, whose steady heart was cut from him while still alive. To support these conclusions, this essay looks at a variety of literary, etymological, and archaeological evidence, including but not limited to Vǫlsunga saga for the death of Hǫgni, Snorri’s Edda for Þórr’s duel with Hrungnir, the possible sources and meanings of the word valknut, Gotland picture stones, and archeological finds featuring the symbol. The interpretation as a heart is compared with that of a binding symbol for the various archaeological sources and is found to be at least as viable. The possibly related symbol of interlocked drinking horns is also briefly explored as an additional depiction of a heart, but one that is connected to Kvasir and skalds instead of warriors.