> Nú tók Svanur til orða og geispaði mjög: "Nú sækja að fylgjur Ósvífurs."
MM & HP: "At that moment Svan had a fit of yawning and announced,
"Osvif's fetches are attacking us." The first part more literally:
"Now S. started speaking and yawned much..."
`fylgjur' (sg. fylgja) are supernatural "accompaniers" (according to
the usual etymology), spirits or fetches, not the men who have come to
help Osvífr, who are referred to later as his `förunautar'. According
to Rudolf Simek's Dictionary of Northern Mythology, trans. Angela
Hall, `fylgjur' are "The souls of people but separate from their
bodies. The `fylgjur' of Old Norse literature are only seen in dreams
or else by people capable of seeing them with supernatural powers.
They appear in the shapes of women and animals, but are a kind of
doppelgänger of a person and can act or else appear instead of him as
an ominous sign." Apparently the ability to see one's own `fylgja'
might also betoken one's impending death: `þú munt vera feigr maðr ok
muntu hafa sét fylgju þína.' Comparing and contrasting them with the
Christian idea of the soul, he writes that they "leave a person at his
death and become independent beings" and "can transfer to relations so
that a certain relationship of the `fylgjur' to the family must be
assumed." He also compares them to the Roman `genii' and Christian
`guardian angels'. "They are more than these, as they are bound by a
belief in destiny, and they stand in association to the personified
luck of a person, the `hamingja'. The word `fylgja' is thought to be
related to the ON verb `fylgja' "follow", and as such would actually
mean "following spirit", "wraith", but a connexion with `fulga' "skin,
cover; caul" and `fylgja' "afterbirth" cannot be totally rejected"."
As protective supernatural females, their role seems similar to that
of the `dísir' (often translated "goddesses"), but I don't know to
what extent these concepts overlap. Here is a collection of Old Norse
quotes dealing with `fylgjur' and related entities [
According to the school's edition notes: Svanur fær aðsókn. Það er
alþekkt trú á Íslandi og Noregi að fornu og nýju að menn geispi eða þá
syfji þegar sótt er að þeim, sbr. t.d. Finnboga sögu ramma (669) og
Þorsteins þátt uxafóts (2312). "S. gets a premonition in the form of
an attack of yawning or feeling abnormally drowsy (aðsókn). It is a
well known belief in Iceland and Norway, in both ancient and modern
times, that people will yawn or become drowsy when they're going to
get a visit, compare for example Finnboga saga ramma (669) and
Þorsteins saga uxafóts (2312)." Another example, the `völva'
(seeress) in Hrólfs saga kraka yawns a lot when she starts to identify
the princes with seid-magic. Apparently the belief is that the
yawning is caused by these fylgjur (fetches / guardian spirits),
either sent deliberately, or just going on ahead of the approaching
person. There are a few explanations here [
], including this one: "eru það nefndar aðsóknir, þegar einhver þykist
finna á sér ónot, óró, máttleysi, eða svefnsókn fyrir gestakomu."
"That is called `aðsóknir' (pl.) when someone feels unease or weakness
or has an attack of sleepiness before a visit."
> Svanur tók geitskinn eitt og veifði yfir höfuð sér
MM & HP: "Svan took a goatskin and swung it round his head."
Schools edition: hér er um að ræða galdrabragð og kemur það fyrir í
talshættinum "veifa (vefja) héðni um höfuð e-m" (sbr. Eyrbyggju 558 og
Grettlu 1054). VEIFÐI: veifaði. "A magical technique is being
described here. It also occurs in the expression `swing (wrap) a skin
round someone's head', cf. Eybyggja saga 558 and Grettis saga 1054."
Zoega defines that idiom "to hoodwink one". I wonder if this is
related in any way to the traditional saga method of killing witches,
which involved putting a skin bag over their head. I had assumed this
was so that the executioners wouldn't have to look them in the eye (to
avoid remorse or being cursed, which I guess psychologically might
amount to the same thing). A sort of hoisting them with their own
petard? Or just coincidence?
> og verði skrípi
Could also be plural, as MM & HP have translated. Likewise `undr'.
They have "phantoms...weird marvels". The older spelling `undr' is
just used here because it's verse. Patricia's "weird stuff" is about
the right for neutrality I think, although it might diminish it to
sound too colloquial? MM & HP translate a later occurrence "uncanny
events", which I quite like. Marvels and wonders, to me, have
something of a positive connotation, as if it might be something
amazingly beautiful or admirable in some way, a sense of awe, or else
it has a connotation of fairground / circus advertising, or just
surprise in the set phrase `it's a wonder' = "it's surprising that..."
How do other people feel? The word `undr' covers all sorts of
strange occurrences in sagas, including unpleasant and sinister
phenomena, supernatural killings and so forth. Just the impression
I've got from my limited reading... It sounds a little archaic to me
to use `marvel' or `wonder' in this broader sense for anything
strange, bad things included. Not that archaic is necessarily out of
place here; might be a matter of style.
> á hálsinn
Schools edition: Bjarnarfjarðarháls.
> og gengu í fen ofan sjálfir
Patricia, `sjálfir' is masculine nominative plural, and I think refers
to the men themselves (as opposed to their horses, which may also be
sinking, but I think this is just emphasising that even the men were
sinking). `fen' is neuter accusative (plural?) here, so if the
adjective had been referring to that it would have been `sjálf', of if
singular `sjálft'. For the word order, compare `Þeir gengu út báðir'
"They both went out.
> svo að þeim hélt við meiðingar
"so that they were on the verge of [sustaining] unjuries"
MM & HP "so that they were in danger of injury"
(distinguished from other senses of `halda við' by accusative)
> Þeir töpuðu af sér vopnunum.
"They lost their weapons."
> "Ef eg fyndi hesta mína og vopn þá mundi eg aftur hverfa."
"If I found (MM & HP: could find) my horses and weapons, then I would
turn back", plural.
> Þá eggjuðu margir á að enn skyldi við leita um atreiðina og var það
gert og urðu þeim þegar hin sömu undur.
"Then many urged that they should still make the attempt (go on with
the attempt) at riding there, and that's what they did, but they were
instantly met with the same weird phenomena." MM & HP: "uncanny
events". Neuter nominative plural, the same as the nominative
singular, but note the plural verb `urðu' and inflections on the
article and weak adjective, `hin sömu'. School's edition notes:
ATREIÐ: það að ríða að e-m "riding to someone."
Patricia: "And this happened three times (some folk never learn)"
But it's a tale. You have to do things three times in tales. It's
> Þá mælti Ósvífur: "Þó að förin sé eigi góð þá skal þó nú aftur
hverfa. Nú skulum vér gera ráð vort í annan stað og hefi eg það helst
í hug mér að fara og finna Höskuld föður Hallgerðar og beiða hann
sonarbóta því að þar er sæmdar von sem nóg er til."
Schools edition: ÞAR ER SÆMDAR VON ER NÓG ER TIL: helst er að leita
sæmdar þar sem gnægðir eru fyrir. "The best place to look for honour
is where there is an abundance." MM & HP: "Finally Osvif said, `We
have had no success on this expedition, but even so we must turn back.
We must resort to other plans. What I have chiefly in mind is to go
to se Hoskuld and ask him for compensation for my son. One may look
for honour where honour abounds.'" See also the proverbs concordance:
Then Osvif said, "Though our trip has led to no good, we must turn
back. We'll try another plan, and what I have in mind now is to go to
Hoskuld to ask him for compensation for my son we can expect to find
honour where there is plenty of it." [
> og er nú ekki fyrr frá að segja en þeir koma á Höskuldsstaði.
"and there's nothing to tell of now till they come to Hoskuld's place."
`fyrr en' "before"
(-staði, accusative plural of masculine i-stem staðr.)
This is a sort of set phrase or formula, very commonly used for
describing journeys in saga: nothing significant happened, there's
nothing to report till they reach their destination.
> Þar var þá fyrir með Höskuldi Hrútur bróðir hans.
"There with Hoskuld then was his brother Hrut."
In this context, `fyrir' just means "there", "present".
> og er það eigi allra manna að sækja hann þangað.
MM & HP: "and it is not everyone who can reach him there."