Posts Tagged ‘Onela’

After the description of Healfdene’s career we come to his four children:

ðæm feower bearn         forð gerimed


in worold wocun,         weoroda ræswan,

Heorogar ond Hroðgar         ond Halga til;

hyrde ic [þæt Yrse wæs] Onelan cwen,

Heaðoscilfingas         healsgebedda.

Part of this passage is missing from the manuscript and has general been accepted as rendered above, by the square brackets.

Literal:  Then four children all-told, woke to the world, from the leader the band, Heorogar and Hrothgar, and Halga the good; I have heard that [Yrsa] was Onela’s queen, the battle scylding’s bedfellow.

Most of it is straight forward, with the only confusion being the fourth child, generally taken to be a daughter, Yrse.

hyrde ic [þæt Yrse wæs On]elan cwen

Fourth child of Healfdene

The manuscript here reads “elan”, which is thought to mean Onela, a Swedish king mentioned later in the poem.  Onela’s wife was Yrse (Ursula), so the missing name is reverse engineered from that premise.

There is some suggestion that the missing passage is greater than implied here, and that Yrse was originally married to Halga, who then died, she then married Onela.  It comes from the fact than Yrse breaks the alliterating ‘h’ of the other siblings.  So there would have to be another child with a ‘h’ name that is now missing altogether.  Perhaps like guessing at the name that Achilles used when he hid amongst the women of Lycomedes – impossible to answer, but not beyond conjecture.

The lines run something like this:

ðæm feower bearn         forð-gerimed

Then four children all-told

in worold wocun,         weoroda ræswan,

in [the] world awoke, [to the] host’s leader,

Heorogar ond Hroðgar         ond Halga til;

Heorogar and Hrothgar and Halga [the] good;

hyrde ic [þæt  Yrse wæs On]elan cwen,

Heard [have] I that Yrse was Onela’s queen,

Heaðoscilfingas         healsgebedda.

[the] Battle-scylding’s bedfellow.

And so to my translation:

To Healfdene, leader of hosts,

Four children were born,

Heorogar and Hrothgar,

And Halga the good,

And Yrsa, who became Onela’s queen,

Bed-maiden to that Lord of Battle.

Next: the rise of Hrothgar and the building of Heorot.


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