NORSE-CHRISTIAN SYNCRETISM 259
a stag from Christian tradition and pagan stag cults of Scandinavia and
northern Europe.32 We would be overreaching ourselves, however, for
a trace of true syncretism in stanza 55, since in fact no stag cult existed
in medieval Iceland and the continental stag cults lay historically be-
yond recall in the early Iron Age. The figure of the sun-stag in Sólar-
Ijóð is not the product of Norse-Christian syncretism but of a second-
ary interpretatio christiana which fashioned it imaginatively from di-
verse literary, legendary, and biblical materials. Since such interpreta-
tio is integral to the creative process going on in the poem, it is worth-
while pursuing its ramifications about the sun-stag.
The commentators on Sólarljóð are agreed that the stag, like the
sun itself, is an incarnation of Christ, who took this animal form in
Plácítus saga, and who in the allegorized Physiologus fought the ser-
pent, Satan, as a stag;33 but the identities of the two leaders of the ani-
mal are hidden from us. They cannot be figures of the same stature as
Christ anyway - certainly not God the Father and the Holy Ghost!34 -
or the poet would have distinguished them more conspicuously. The
trio forgathers thus in stanza 55:
leit ek sunnan fara,
hann teymdu tveir saman,
stóðu foldu á
en tóku horn til himins.
Two literary echoes are awakened in these lines, from the Völuspá
(sts. 4-5) and the second Helgakviða Hundingsbana II (st. 38).35 As
32 On Christ as a stag, see Will E. Peuckert's encyclopaedic note 'Hirsch,' in Hand-
wörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens IV, 96 ff., and on the Bronze Age and Iron Age
stag cults, Walther Schultz, 'Bemerkungen zum Sonnenhirsch und Opferhirsch,' in Var-
ia Archaeologica, Festschrift Wilhelm Unverzagt (Sekt. f. Vor- u. Fruhgesch. d. Ak. d.
Wissen. z. Berlin 16), Berlin 1964, pp. 435-39.
See the review of scholarly opinion in Fidjest0l, Sljð. III, pp. 14-15, along with
Plácítus saga in Heilagra manna s0gur, ed. Carl R. Unger, Christiania 1877, II, 194, and
fragment B, 14, of the Icelandic Physiologus, ed. Halldór Hermannsson, in Islandica
XXVII, Ithaca 1938, p. 20.
So Paasche, Hedenskap og kristendom, p. 187, and Falk, Sljð. I, p. 35.
35 Falk's analogue, Sljð. I, p. 35.