Article Title

Old Icelandic gaglviðr

Publication Date



Iceland, poetry, semantics


This essay discusses a debated word form gaglviðr occurring in stanza 42 of the Old Icelandic poem VÄluspá 'The Prophesy of the Seeress'. The noun gaglviðr is problematic both from the semantic point of view (Old Icelandic gagl 'gosling', viðr 'tree; forest' 'gosling forest'?), and because it possesses a variant spelling galgviðr ('gallows' tree;’gallows' forest') which occurs in another manuscript containing the same poem. In the present paper, the form gaglviðr is considered to be the correct and the original form of this word, whereas the form galgviðr is interpreted as a scribal error. Various existing semantic analyses of the noun gaglviðr are discussed, and a new alternative analysis is offered. According to the new analysis, gaglviðr is interpreted as a compound place-name meaning 'the Woods of Giantess(es)' or as a poetic word (heiti) for mountains.