Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

Auðunn illskælda (Auðunn)

9th century; volume 1; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross;

Lausavísa (Lv) - 1

Skj info: Auðun illskælda, Norsk skjald, 9. årh. (AI, 6, BI, 6).

Skj poems:

Auðunn or Auðun illskælda ‘Bad-poet’ (Auðunn) was a Norwegian skald of the late ninth or early tenth century. He is listed among the poets of the Norwegian king Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261) and figures in the late narrative Skálda saga Haralds konungs hárfagra (Skáld) in Hb (Hb 1892-6, 445-55), as one of three poet-suitors of a rich widow, the other two being Þorbjǫrn hornklofi and Ǫlvir hnúfa. The three poets are there also said to be skalds of King Haraldr, and a lausavísa of each has been preserved in Hb. Egils saga (Eg) also preserves information about this trio of skalds, and claims that Auðunn was the oldest of the three, having previously been court poet to Haraldr’s father, Hálfdan svarti ‘the Black’ (ÍF 2, 19). A separate helmingr by Auðunn (Auðunn Lv 1III) is also preserved in TGT and edited in SkP III. Auðunn’s nickname illskælda (‘Bad, evil poet’) may imply ‘plagiarist’ (Lind 1920-1, 178-9). Its origin is explained in Skáld (Hb 1892-6, 445) as deriving from an incident in which he appropriated the refrain (stef) from a poem that his relative, Úlfr Sebbason, had composed about King Haraldr. The drápa took on the name Stolinstefja ‘The poem with the stolen stef’. To judge by Lv 1III, Auðunn may also have had a reputation for níð poetry, so the name illskælda could refer to his slanderous verse.

Lausavísa — Auðunn LvI

Margaret Clunies Ross 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Auðunn illskælda, Lausavísa’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Brepols, Turnhout, p. 120.


Skj: Auðun illskælda: Lausavísur (AI, 6, BI, 6); stanzas (if different): 1

in texts: Hb, Skáld

SkP info: I, 120

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


This lausavísa (Auðunn Lv 2), together with one each by Þorbjǫrn hornklofi (Þhorn Lv) and Ǫlvir hnúfa (Ǫlv Lv), is extant only in Skálda saga Haralds konungs hárfagra (Skáld), within a short narrative about King Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ and his poets preserved on a single leaf of Hauksbók (Hb, AM 544 4°, fol. 102r, printed in Hb 1892-6, 445-55).

The three skalds’ lausavísur are cited one after the other in Skáld at the end of a story that has many analogues in medieval European and other literatures (see Hb 1960, xvii and xx n. 54 for references). It concerns a woman who is desired by three would-be lovers, pretends to accommodate them individually, but in fact plans to humiliate each one separately but in the same manner. In the Skáld narrative, King Haraldr and his three skalds are at a feast in Norðmœrr (Nordmøre), north-west Norway, hosted by Ingibjǫrg, a wealthy and attractive widow and a kinswoman of the king. When she goes to serve Auðunn with drink in the evening, he says that he would like to sleep with her that night, promising to reward her with a gold ring and other valuables if she agrees. She appears to do so, takes the ring and tells him to visit her when a third part of the night has passed, when he will find the door to her quarters open. She makes the same arrangements with the other two poets, but for different times of the night. But when they come to their assignations, they each find her door locked and, when they try to leave, discover that the gate in the wooden paling fence that encloses the building is locked too. Because it is dark, each poet spends the rest of the night in the yard, cold and scantily dressed, unaware of the others’ fates. Next morning, upon the king’s enquiring where his skalds were, Ingibjǫrg tells him what had happened. He is furious and threatens to put the poets to death, but relents to the extent of ordering them to undertake a dangerous diplomatic mission to the Swedish king Eiríkr Bjarnarson. Each poet then speaks a stanza about the incident, which he is supposed to have composed during his overnight incarceration, first Auðunn, then Þorbjǫrn and finally Ǫlvir.

In Hb 1892-6, lxxxvi-lxxxvii, Finnur Jónsson expressed the view that the prose narrative of Skáld was probably no earlier than the late thirteenth century, but that the stanzas were authentically old and likely to be part of a historical core narrative which was later much elaborated. Their present fragmentary state makes it difficult to offer any definitive view of their age. Tentatively, however, there appear to be irregularities of alliteration (Auðunn Lv 2/5, possibly Þhorn Lv 1/2) and rhyme (Auðunn Lv 2/4, Ǫlv Lv 1/2, 4), such as are often found in early skaldic verse, that may support the authenticity of these stanzas.

Folio 102r of Hb on which all three stanzas are written is very dark and the part where the three poets’ stanzas are located is now illegible in many places. Thus recourse must be had to early paper copies and printed editions which present readings that are now no longer visible. The late seventeenth-century paper mss AM 67 a folˣ (67aˣ) and AM 67 b folˣ (67bˣ; both copied by Ásgeir Jónsson) contain partial texts of the three stanzas, and AM 307 4°ˣ (307ˣ; c. 1700) has a partial text of Auðunn Lv only, and these were used in the first printed text of Skáld (Fms 3, 65-82) because the editors did not realise that Skáld was in Hb until after the volume was printed (Fms 3, 6-7 and n. p. (see further below); Hb 1960, xvii). Corrections and additions from Hb were added in the ‘Leiðréttingar og Viðbætir’ on the last, unnumbered page (28) of the end matter of Fms 3, here referred to as Fms 3, n. p., where the three stanzas were set out in verse form.

A text of the stanzas was also published in the commentary to Skáldatal in SnE 1848-87, III, 406-7, 412 and 415. Skáld was edited by Finnur Jónsson in Hb 1892-6, 445-55 (the stanzas are on p. 447) and the stanzas by Auðunn and Ǫlvir are discussed in his Kritiske studier (1884, 62-5). Already at the time of his Hb edition, Finnur indicated that he was unable to read a great deal of the poetry with confidence. The stanzas were separately edited by Finnur Jónsson in Skj and by Kock in Skald. Finnur’s Skj A texts of these stanzas are substantially the same as his text in Hb 1892-6, 447, although with many fewer notes about uncertain readings. Guðmundur Finnbogason (1928) uses Finnur’s Hb edition as his base, but offers a substantially modified interpretation of the verses, which is referred to in the Notes below where relevant.

The text of Auðunn Lv 2 printed here depends primarily on what little can still be read today, augmented by readings from the paper mss and from the earlier editions Fms 3, n. p., SnE 1848-87, III, 406-7 and Hb 1892-6, 447; these editions are indicated in the Readings by the sigla HbFms n. p., HbSnE and HbFJ, respectively. As it is now impossible to confirm or deny readings from transcripts and earlier editions without current ms. evidence, they are given in italics and treated as on a par with emendations. The translation and interpretation of the stanza is suggestive only, given the poor state of preservation of the ms., and conjectures have not been used, although some are mentioned in the Notes.

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.