What troubles the Elves? Giant Realm is all aroar. Stynia dvergar Dwarfs groan fyr steindurom, at the granite doors, veggbergs visir. D o you still seek to know? And what? The reference is in the stanza cited above and invokes a whole field of signification through its description of groaning dwarfs at granite doors — or so I will argue in this paper. But first, a little philology: the stanza occupies a different place in the order of the poem in its three main manuscripts.
I would like to acknowledge the invaluable advice offered by John Lindow, in whose debt I also am for retrieving the only extant copy of this paper from old piles in his office after I managed to lose all electronic traces of it. Hafstein the road. The text of the stanza holds no great semantic mysteries.
Elves would have deserved at least as much attention as dwarfs. Nothing makes it more evident than their fear that the foundations of existence are slipping away. It has been said that the dwarfs are too insignificant to be described in greater detail than the elfs. That would be some socialism1. Precisely because the dwarfs are so lowly that they live in stones, and earth is supported by stone, this description has greater implications than if the fear of those who live in high palaces were recounted. It can hardly be [an] accident that the poet chose the subterraneans to point his intention.
All the poem actually mentions is their groans and the fact that they are by the doors of stone not the doors of daylight , that they have, in other words, left or that they are leaving their dwellings. I submit that the motif of dwarfs leaving their abodes had a special traditional significance and that this significance may be attested in other texts, modern as well as medieval. In the grand dichotomy, dwarfs appear to be more closely aligned with giants, in opposition to gods and mankind. Nonetheless, the role usually assigned to them is that of donors to the two latter races.
They are reluctant donors, however, and the gods generally obtain the goods through deceit, threats, or bribery. IF 26, ch. Either way, the boulder opens into an Otherworld, is a boundary stone of sorts, and the dwarf is the gatekeeper of the spatial- ontological boundary marked by the boulder. Again, we have a dwarf by a door, but this time it is not said to be a door of stone, but the door of Dellingr.
It is also a transition with which dwarfs are all too familiar, according to tradition, since it marks the break of day and sunrise, which they must avoid at all costs. In a sense, they mark the beginning of time: as soon as the primordial game of chequers is broken off and an end is put to the original state of bliss, in stanza 8, we are introduced to the dwarfs, in stanzas Hafstein mankind, for the gods stumble upon its progenitors, Askr and Embla, in stanza 17, and it may even be, as Gro Steinsland has cogently argued, that the dwarfs took part in the genesis of humans The only other stanza where dwarfs figure is at the center of attention in this paper.
Dronke , There is a longstanding tradition of folkloristic approaches in modern scholarship on medieval Scandinavian literature. It is into this tradition that I would like to inscribe the argument of this paper. If this identification is accepted, I argue, moreover, that considerable consequences follow for our understanding of the stanza in question.
The greater part of the legends may be interpreted as marking a change of times by the dwarf exodus, their motivation comprising the feature of contemporary society that the legend contrasts with days of yore. Yet another text makes Frederick the Great responsible for driving the dwarfs out F Kuhn and Schwartz , This legend is a particularly striking depiction of historical change, as Frederick 11 , king of Prussia, is one of the dominant figures in European history.
Generally considered second to none as a military commander, he greatly extended the Prussian territories and made his country Europe's most important military power. He is simultaneously recognized as a great statesman, who professed the ideals of enlightened monarchy and did much to spread them throughout Europe. Als aber die Menschen in der ganzen Umgegend Christen wurden, da sind sie ausgezogen. Hafstein the sound e. Haupt , 36 Other legend tellers, however, attribute responsibility to a different source of noise pollution, the growth of industry.
In a recent article, I made similar claims concerning contemporary reports about the departure of elfs in Iceland Valdimar Tr. Hafstein The departure of the elfs, associated with the old order, is a sign of the times; the expansion of the industrial and the modern — urban sprawl, if you will — destroys their homes and habitat in rocks, cliffs, and hills and chases them away.
The valley had been designated to become a cemetery for the capital area in the year , so trucks brought in loads of soil and bulldozers were used to level it. A hill in the valley seemed to present special problems. After that, the two bulldozers in use both broke down by the hill, each one more than once. On one occasion it took an entire day for a dealer representative to figure out what had gone wrong.
As might be expected, this reinforced the notion that supernaturals were obstructing the work in Leirdalur, and the word spread like wildfire. Soon, the press began paying visits to the site of construction to interview the workers and to film the hill in question. But even the media crews ran into trouble. I can drive up on top of the hill, for that matter.
That's my opinion". In light of ensuing events, she surmised that some might have stayed behind and that they were protecting their home. Consequently, when work could go ahead without trouble, these, too, were taken to have emigrated for a full discussion of this incident, refer to Valdimar Tr. Another contemporary text, perhaps more directly analogous to other texts under discussion, is the following first-hand account from a man in his forties.
There was a grassy hill by the house. Groaning Dwarfs at Granite Doors 41 and head for the edge of the lava. The people carried bags on their backs and shoulders, but Kjartan did not see anything precisely about their costume or the shape of the bags. Kjartan watched this a short while but then looked away to get his friend and show him. Then the elfs vanished completely. National Museum, Department of Ethnology: File no. When the modern and medieval versions are set alongside each other, we see that the only significant variation occurs in the social changes prompting the emigration of the Icelandic elfs.
The comparison reveals that, in legend tradition, urbanization is as anathema to modern day elfs as Christianity was to their pagan forebears. In other words, they mark boundaries, they signal a temporal break, and distinguish the past from the present. This categorical ambiguity holds true even in medieval Iceland alone, and is all the more relevant when considering texts as distant from each other historically and geographically as those presented here.
The beings go by various names, but the different denominations take turns playing the part of the supernaturals in standard legends and the boundaries between them seem blurry and flexible. Partly, this can be explained by the well-documented folkloric processes of ecotypification formation of local variants of the legends through adaptation to tradition dominants characters or motifs that figure prominently in the traditions of a certain region.
To some extent, it probably reflects the inherent obscurity and general liminality of supernatural beings. Vladimira, , by S. Rendered from the ancient Scots vernacular into modern Scottish Selkirk, J. Scribner's Sons, [?
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