Singasteinn

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In Norse mythology, Singasteinn (Old Norse "singing stone" or "chanting stone") is an object that appears in the account of Loki and Heimdall's fight in the form of seals. The object is solely attested in the skaldic poem Húsdrápa. Some scholars have interpreted it as the location of the struggle, others as the object they were struggling over.

Húsdrápa[edit]

The scene is described in the skald Úlfr Uggason's Húsdrápa, as found in the 13th century Icelandic Prose Edda:

Old Norse:
Ráðgegninn bregðr ragna
rein at Singasteini
frægr við firna slœgjan
Fárbauta mǫg vári;
móðǫflugr ræðr mœðra
mǫgr hafnýra fǫgru,
kynnik, áðr ok einnar
átta, mærðar þôttum.[1]
Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur's translation:
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.[2]

In the Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson interprets Singasteinn as the skerry at which Loki and Heimdall fought. Referring to the same poem, he says that Heimdall may be called "Frequenter of Vágasker ["waves-skerry"] and Singasteinn";[3] this gives another name for the skerry[4] and this is also where he states that they were in the form of seals, showing that there was more of the poem on this story. Brodeur has followed Snorri in his translation, and so have some scholarly analyses. For example Gabriel Turville-Petre says, "Singasteinn was evidently a rock far out at sea."[5] Viktor Rydberg, following Snorri in seeing the struggle as over Freyja's necklace Brísingamen, went a step further and saw the necklace as having been lying on the skerry.[6]

Alternatively at singasteini has been taken to refer to what Heimdall and Loki were fighting over, parallel to the hafnýra fǫgru, "beautiful sea-kidney" (which Brodeur rendered as simply "stone"). In this light, there is an attractive emendation of singasteini to signasteini, "magic stone, amulet."[7] Several scholars have pointed out that both "sea-kidney" and "magic stone" fit less well with Brísingamen, a necklace, than with Caribbean drift-seeds that can be found on the beaches of Iceland, Orkney, the Hebrides and the Scandinavian mainland and have been traditionally used as amulets, particularly to ease childbirth; their European names include vettenyrer, wight (Old Norse vættr) kidneys.[7][8][9][10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Skáldskaparmál ch. 23, cited from Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages, Húsdrápa verse 2, Skaldic Project Academic Body, University of Sydney, retrieved June 2, 2010.
  2. ^ Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, The Prose Edda, New York: American Scandinavian Foundation, 1916, OCLC 974934, p. 115, also parallel with the Old Norse at voluspa.org.
  3. ^ tilsækir Vágaskers ok Singasteins, Skáldskaparmál ch. 15; Brodeur translation p. 113, Old Norse text in parallel at voluspa.org.
  4. ^ Wilhelm Heizmann, "Der Raub des Brísingamen, oder: Worum geht es in Húsdrápa 2?" Analecta Septentrionalia: Papers on the History of North Germanic Culture and Literature, Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde Ergänzungsbände 65, Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-021869-5, 502-30, p. 512 (German) suggests that Vágasker was simply Snorri's interpretation of Singasteinn, which was unclear to him.
  5. ^ E.O.G. Turville Petre, Myth and Religion of the North, London, Weidenfeld, 1964, OCLC 460550410, p. 129.
  6. ^ Viktor Rydberg, Teutonic Mythology, tr. Rasmus B. Anderson, London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1889, OCLC 504219736, p. 558.
  7. ^ a b Audrey Meaney, "Drift Seeds and the Brísingamen", Folklore 94.1 (1983) 33-39, p. 33.
  8. ^ Jan de Vries, Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte, Volume 2, 2nd ed. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1957, repr. as 3rd ed. 1970, OCLC 466619179, pp. 260 and 311-12 (German), using this as the basis for arguing that Brísingamen only later came to be thought of as a men, a necklace, after the original idea of an amulet bound on the hips had faded.
  9. ^ Heizmann, p. 512 says this connection has been made "fairly often."
  10. ^ Franz Rolf Schröder, "Heimdall," Beiträge zur Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache und Literatur (PBB) 89 (1967) 1–41 (German) suggests that hafnýra is simply a kenning for "island". According to Heizmann, p. 310, that was a cornerstone of Kurt Schier's argument that Singasteinn was the location.

Sources[edit]

  • Kurt Schier. "Húsdrápa 2. Heimdall, Loki und die Meerniere." in Helmut Birkhan, ed. Festgabe für Otto Höfler zum 75. Geburtstag. Philologica Germanica 3. Vienna: Braumüller, 1976. ISBN 978-3-7003-0131-8. 577–88 - an influential exposition of the location interpretation (German).
  • Birger Pering. Heimdall: Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zum Verständnis der altnordischen Götterwelt. Diss. Lund University. Lund: Gleerup, 1941. OCLC 459397212 - the first exposition of the birthstone interpretation (German).