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Sinmara

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In Norse mythology, Sinmara is a female companion of Surtr, a jötunn foretold to play a major role during the events of Ragnarök. Sinmara is attested solely in the poem Fjölsvinnsmál, where she is described as the keeper of the legendary weapon Lævateinn. Scholarly theories have been proposed about the etymology of her name, and her connection with other figures in Norse mythology.

Etymology

The etymology of the name Sinmara is obscure. The latter element of the name, mara, may equate to "(night-)mare". The sin- element is unclear, but it has been proposed as meaning sindr (Old Norse "cinders").[1] Rudolf Simek opines that sin cannot be related to the term sindr, while this would equal a "meaningful interpretation in regard to the colour", he theorizes that a more likely interpretation is "the pale (night-)mare", noting that this would fit the wife of a fire jötunn.[2]

Adolfo Zavaroni and Reggio Emilia suggest the interpretation "Perpetual-incubus." The sin- element is here theorized as being the same as in the male name Sinwara, found in a runic inscription on the Næsbjerg brooch from Denmark, Old High German sin-vlout "great flood", Old English sin-niht(e) and Old Saxon sin-nahti "eternal night", and Gothic sin-teins "daily".[3] J. Fibiger assumed the meaning "the great mare" based on the Sin- element in the Old High German word Sinfluth "great flood" (a variant of previously mentioned sinvlout).[4]

Viktor Rydberg proposed that the name Sinmara is composed of sin, meaning "sinew", and mara, meaning "the one that maims", noting that mara is related to the verb merja (citing Guðbrandur Vigfússon's dictionary[5]), Rydberg concludes that the name Sinmara thus means "the one who maims by doing violence to the sinews," thus identifying her as Nidhad's wife, who orders Völund's sinews cut to prevent his escape, in the eddic poem Völundarkviða.[6]

Fjölsvinnsmál

In the Henry Adams Bellows translaton of Fjölsvinnsmál, Sinmara is mentioned three times, and twice in Benjamin Thorpe's translation. In Bellows' translation, Sinmara is mentioned by Fjölsviðr, who refers to Sinmara as a female companion of Surtr, and says that the two are endangered by the rooster Víðópnir that sits atop the tree Mímameiðr. However, the translation by Benjamin Thorpe does not include mention of Sinmara:

Henry Adams Bellows translation
Fjolsvith spake:
"Vithofnir his name, and now he shines
Like lightning on Mimameith's limbs;
And great is the trouble with which he grieves
Both Surt and Sinmora."[7]
Benjamin Thorpe translation
Fiolsvith.
Vidofnir he is called; in the clear air he stands,
in the boughs of Mima's tree:
afflictions only bring together indissoluble,
the swart bird at his lonely meal.[8]

In the next reference (or, in the Bellows translation, first), Fjölsviðr describes to the hero Svipdagr that Sinmara keeps the weapon Lævateinn within a chest, locked with nine strong locks (Sinmara is here anglicized as "Sinmora"):

Henry Adams Bellows translation
Fjolsvith spake:
"Lævatein is there, that Lopt with runes
Once made by the doors of death;
In Lægjarn's chest by Sinmora lies it,
And nine locks fasten it firm."[9]
Benjamin Thorpe translation
Fiolsvith.
Hævatein the twig is named, and Lopt plucked it,
down by the gate of Death.
In an iron chest it lies with Sinmœra,
and is with nine strong locks secured.[10]

In the final mention, Fjölsviðr tells Svipdagr that, before Sinmara will agree to give Svipdagr the weapon Lævatein, Svipdagr must bring the "bright sickle" to Sinmara, and then she will give Lævateinn to Svipdagr:

Henry Adams Bellows translation
Fjolsvith spake:
"The sickle bright in thy wallet bear,
Mid Vithofnir's feathers found;
To Sinmora give it, and then shall she grant
That the weapon by thee be won."[11]
Benjamin Thorpe translation
Fiolsvith.
The bright sickle that lies in Vidofnir's wings,
thou in a bag shalt bear,
and to Sinmœra give,
before she will think fit to lend and arm for conflict.[12]

Theories

Henry Adams Bellows comments that Sinmara is "presumably Surt's wife".[7] In the theories of Viktor Rydberg, Sinmara is the wife of Mímir, the mother of Nótt, Böðvildr, "and other night díses". According to Rydberg, the byname Sinmara refers to "Mímir-Niðhad"'s "queen ordering Völund's hamstrings to be cut."[13]

Hjalmar Falk states that "Sinmara [...] is probably no other than Hel, Loki's daughter." He says that Sinmara is called hin fölva gýgr "pale giantess"[12] in Fjölsvinnsmál, just as the classical Roman poet Virgil speaks of the pale Orcus, a god of the underworld in Roman mythology, and that Hel is blue or half blue and half light, like the Roman goddess Proserpina, whom Saxo Grammaticus equates to Hel in his Gesta Danorum. Falk further states Sinmara is mentioned as aurglasis Eirr, which he translates as "the goddess of the ring", and he notes that that is just as Hel is called Gjallar sunnu gátt "wearer of the necklace" in stanza 9 of the poem Forspjallsljóð.[14]

Notes

  1. Simek (2007:285) citing Gutenbrunner (1940).
  2. Simek (2007:285).
  3. Zavaroni and Emilia (2006:72).
  4. Fibiger (1854:20).
  5. While Anderson's English translation of Rydberg's Teutonic Mythology gives the word "maim" and cites Gudbrand Vigfusson's Icelandic-English Dictionary (1874), the dictionary has "to bruise, crush" in its entry for Merja on page 424.
  6. Rydberg (2004:518).
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bellows (1936:244).
  8. Thorpe (1907:98).
  9. Bellows (2004:245).
  10. Thorpe (1907:96–97).
  11. Bellows (2004:247).
  12. 12.0 12.1 Thorpe (1907:99).
  13. Rydberg (2003:196).
  14. Falk (1894:61).

References

  • Bellows, Henry Adams (1936). The Poetic Edda: Translated from the Icelandic with an Introduction and Notes. Princeton University Press. American Scandinavian Foundation.
  • Falk, Hjalmar (1894). "Om Svipdagsmál" in Arkiv för nordisk filologi 10, pp. 26–82. (in Danish)
  • Fibiger, J. (1854). Forsög til en forklaring af Eddasangen Fjölsvinsmaal. Koch. (in Danish)
  • Gutenbrunner, Siegfried (1940). "Eddica" in Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und Literatur 77. (in German)
  • Rydberg, Viktor (2003) translated by William Reaves. Our Fathers' Godsaga: Retold for the Young. iUniverse. ISBN 0595299784
  • Rydberg, Viktor (2004) translated by Rasmus B. Anderson. Teutonic Mythology. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0766188914
  • Simek, Rudolf (2007) translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. ISBN 0859915131
  • Thorpe, Benjamin (Trans.) (1907). The Elder Edda of Saemund Sigfusson. Norrœna Society.
  • Vigfusson, Gudbrand (1874). An Icelandic-English Dictionary Based on the MS. Collections of the Late Richard Cleasby. Oxford Clarendon Press.
  • Zavaroni, Adolfo; Emilia, Reggio (2006). "Mead and Aqua Vitae: Functions of Mímir, Oðinn, Viðofnir and Svipdagr" in Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 61, pp. 65–86.
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