Rígsþula - Synopsis


Rígr was walking along the shore and came to a farm-hut owned by Ái (great-grandfather) and Edda (great-grandmother). They offered him shelter and poor, rough food for a meal. That night Rígr slept between the pair in their bed and then departed. Nine months later, Edda gave birth to a son who was svartan (dark). They named him Þræll (thrall, serf, or slave). Þræll grew up strong but ugly. He married a woman named Thír (slave girl or bondswoman), and they had twelve sons and nine daughters with names mostly suggesting ugliness and squatness. They became the race of serfs.

Traveling further, Rígr came across a pleasant house where a farmer/craftsman, Afi (grandfather) lived with his wife Amma (grandmother). This couple gave him good food and also let him sleep between them. Nine months later, a son, Karl (churl or freeman) was born, who had a ruddy complexion. Karl married a woman named Snör (daughter-in-law), and they had twelve sons and ten daughters with names mostly suggesting a neat appearance or being of good quality. One of the names is smiðr (smith). These became the ancestors of free farmers, craftsmen and herdsmen.

Traveling further, Rígr came to a mansion inhabited by Faðir (Father) and Móðir (Mother). They gave him excellent food served splendidly and, nine months later, Móðir gave birth to a beautiful baby named Jarl (earl or noble), whose hair was blond and who was bleikr (bright white in color). When Jarl grew up and began to handle weapons and to use hawks, hounds, and horses, Rígr reappeared, claimed him as his son, gave him his own name of Rígr, made him his heir, taught him runes, and advised him to seek lordship.

Through warfare Jarl became lord of eighteen homesteads with much wealth besides. He also gained the hand of Erna (Brisk), daughter of Hersir (lord). Erna bore eleven sons to Ríg-Jarl but no daughters. All the sons were given high-sounding names, mostly meaning "son." They became the ancestors of the warrior nobility.

The youngest son, named Konr, was the best of them. He alone learned rune-craft as well as other magic and was able to understand the speech of birds, to quench fire, and to heal minds. He also had the strength of eight normal men. His name was Kon the young (Konr ungr in Old Norse), the name and title to be understood as the origin of the Norse word konungr (king) (although this is a false etymology). Konr, like his father, also acquired the name or title of Rígr.

One day, when Konr the young was riding through the forest hunting and snaring birds, a crow spoke to him and suggested he would win more if he stopped hunting mere birds and rode to battle against foemen, that he should seek the halls of Dan and Danp, who were wealthier than he. At that point the poem abruptly cuts off.

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