Icelandic: svæla tófuna úr greninu.


Senior Member
Hello everyone,

I came across what looks like an idiom in Icelandic in a novel but I can't understand what it should mean. This is the whole sentence:

Nú á að svæla tófuna úr greninu.

I took a stab, but I'm waiting to hear from the native speakers: "And now she had to lure the fox out of the lair"? I know it's not right, but what does it mean? Does it mean "to take a risk?".

Thank you!!

  • Rafeind

    Icelandic - Iceland
    If it is meant figuratively (and not about an actual fox) it means making life difficult for someone so that they come out of hiding. (If that makes no sense in context I need the context.)

    Literally ‘að svæla tófuna úr greninu’ means ‘to light a fire and let the smoke into the fox’ burrow to make it run out so you can hunt it’. Tófa is a fox (more specifically female fox but it is often used generally), greni is fox’ burrow and svæla is thick smoke or bad air. Að svæla is to get someone outside by letting smoke into the room/area where they are.


    Senior Member
    Icelandic & Swedish
    looks like an idiom in Icelandic
    Yes, I think we can call it an idiom, but it’s not a very common one. When using svæla figuratively people are probably more likely to use the word without a reference to the lair, or even the fox itself, as in the following example:

    Tyrion reynir að svæla út svikahrapp og Jon Snow lendir í vandræðum í kvennabúri Crasters [Fréttablaðið (newspaper) 16 April 2012]​

    Originally, the word used with svæla was inni, not út, since the aim was usually to get rid of the fox by killing it inside the lair, not to catch it.

    Em ek ok ófúss þess at láta svæla mik inni sem melrakka í greni [Njáls saga — The words of Skarphéðinn when his father’s enemies set fire to their farm (although he later changes his mind)]​