The recurring collocation of vreiðr and vega in Old Norse poetry


  • James Parkhouse independent



Old Norse literature, eddic poetry, collocation, oral theory, traditional referentiality


Poetry in early Germanic vernaculars exhibits variations on a metrical form predicated on a pattern of alliterating stressed syllables linking two halves of a line (in contrast to syllabic metres in which scansion requires a fixed number of syllables per line). This gave rise to the phenomenon of recurring alliterative collocations: the repeated combination of alliterating words or word-roots within a given poetic corpus. It is likely that such collocations originated, like formulae in oral-formulaic theory developed by Milman Parry and A.B. Lord, as building blocks for extempore composition during performance. However, there is strong evidence that Old Norse poetry was composed deliberatively and memorized for performance. Recurring collocations in Old Norse verse therefore reflect conscious artistic design rather than compositional expediency. This article focuses on one such collocation—the adjective vreiðr (angry) and the verb vega (to fight, to strike)—as a case study of the way in which composers of Old Norse eddic verse exploited the traditional resonances of certain collocations to shape audience understanding of character and plot.


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How to Cite

Parkhouse, J. (2024). The recurring collocation of vreiðr and vega in Old Norse poetry. Manuscript and Text Cultures (MTC), 2(2), 51–73.