I’m thrilled to announce that an essay I wrote has now been published by Odroerir: The Heathen Journal. You can download and read the essay here: The Valknut: Heart of the Slain?
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.
The spring semester had attacked with a greater force than the fall semester, but Eirik skald had read the runes aright and was even more prepared this time around. In late March, the semester’s elite vanguard, a particular long essay, had fallen like Hrungnir, leaving the rest of its forces utterly demoralized. The Skald proceeded to easily strike down the rest one by one, until the semester had only two champions remaining, at which point the Skald celebrated a brief rest with rum and cigars. As the Skald prepared to face those last two champions, he reflected on the most Sacred Heart that he won from the slain essay and composed this verse:
I sought the Grail, that sacred Stone,
in tales time-tested of the Trú Norræn
and found my goal in those famed kernels,
Concluding from last week, here are the final ten stanzas of “The Duel.”
Some of you may be wondering what Mokkurkalfi is doing in this tale. His presence probably strikes modern readers as a bit weird. Also peculiar is the emphasis that Snorri seems to put on the hearts of Hrungnir and Mokkurkalfi. There are perhaps some initiatory themes at work here, but whatever such strange details might mean, I prefer to keep them in rather than remove them out of a lack of understanding. The lore contains many mysteries, and we cannot learn from them if we start throwing them out simply because they don’t make sense at our current levels of understanding. But enough of the soapbox, here’s the rest of the poem.
I present another poetic rendering of a prose tale from the lore. It is the story of the first (and probably last) giant to challenge Thor to a formal duel, and it has several things in common with the last Thor story I posted three months ago about his visit to Geirrod (part 1 and part 2). Just like that tale, Snorri presents in it prose with many details, and he also quotes from a difficult skaldic poem that mentions the story as well. (The skaldic poem is Haustlöng by Þjóðólfr of Hvinir.)
Rather than a difficult skaldic meter, I have written my retelling in 20 stanzas of my usual and more accessible fornyrðislag. The spellings have been anglicized throughout. It is well known that Odin has many different names in the lore; less well known is that Thor also has many names, although not as many as Odin, of course. The reader will see quite a few of those names in this poem. Like the previous Thor tale, I present the first half here today, and the second half will follow next Wednesday. The poem’s title is simply “The Duel.”