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Skįldskaparmįl

						Saint Olafs Dream House                                   185
cosmological terms. They might represent the number two, indicating night and
day, or by adding the four corner posts of the bed they may stand for the
twenty-four hours of the day.16 A division of the house into two halves by a panel
is given in the manuscript Tómasskinna, thus supporting the night/day interpre-
tation. The numbers two and twenty-four also occur as the two hundred (cc), or
two-hundred and forty, companions of King Olaf sleeping in a circle.17
A hint about the allegorical nature of the house is given by the names and skills
of Rauðúlfr's people. The name of one of his two sons is Dagr, which means
"Day". Rauðúlfr's brother-in-law was Hringr Dagsson or "Ring, son of Day". The
other son, Sigurdr, knows all the movements of the heavenly bodies and the time
even when he can not see the sky.
The (four) bedposts are highlighted in the story by describing the large gilded
knobs and the candlesticks. The bedposts may convey multiple symbolism,
especially if oriented to the cardinal directions, as shown in Fig.l. There are i.a.
the four seasons, the four elements, the four cardinal virtues and the four ages of
man. In a cosmological context the huge gilded knobs on the corner posts of the
king's bed might represent the sun. Four suns, one on each corner, might then
refer to the four most significant events in the sun's daily journey across the sky,
i.e. sunrise (east), midday (south), sunset (west) and midnight (north).18
The triple candles in the corner posts of the bed give a total circle of twelve
candles. It is difficult to avoid associating this number with the twelve months
or the twelve signs of the zodiac. Both mark the sun's counterclockwise journey
along the ecliptic, — one complete circle over a year. This interpretation would
make the dream-house an allegory of the year as well as of the day. Both are defined
by the sun's movements over the sky.19 The threefold division of the four directions
has further correspondences in medieval cosmology: the twelve winds were
usually arranged as four main winds, each with two side winds (the winds were
depicted on the dome).20 The four seasons had three months each,21 and the
twelve signs of the zodiac were divided between the four elements. A figure from
'" In the old Icelandic calendar the day was divided into two d&gur and the year into two misseri
(Beckman and Kálund 1914-16, p. 7).
17   Numbers retain their symbolic value even when multiplied by ten. Cf. St. Augustine On
Christian Doctrine 3.36.
18   Or morning, noon, evening and night (St. Augustine On Christian Doctrine2.16). If we choose
to orient the four doors to the SW, NW, NE and SE the corner posts of the bed might stand
for midsummer and midwinter sunrises and sunsets, i.e. the rwo extremes of the year. In the
light of the Icelandic HomilyBook, discussed later, the first interpretation seems to explain more
of the material at hand.
'' Martianus Capella offers a parallel when addressing Phoebus: "They say that your sacred head
bears twelve beams of golden light, because you make the twelve months and the twelve hours
ofdaylight" {The Marriage ofPhilology and Mercury§\88, tr. Stahl etal. 1977). Also in thesame
work (§73): "Sol's head was encircled with a gleaming crown which glowed with the fire of
twelve burning stones." Cf. also Alan of Lille The Plaint ofNature (Prose 1).
20   Cf. Isidore EtymologiaeXIII 11.2-3; Pliny NaturalHistory 2.119; Obrist (1997).
21   Cf. Isidore EtymologiaeV 35.2.
					
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