Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Guthormr sindri (Gsind)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Russell Poole;

Hákonardrápa (Hákdr) - 8

Skj info: Goþþormr sindri, Norsk. Det 10. årh. (AI, 61-63, BI, 55-56).

Skj poems:
Hákonardrápa

Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 273) lists Guthormr (Gsind) among the skalds serving the following kings: Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’; Hálfdan svarti ‘the Black’ Haraldsson (no other skalds listed; omitted in the U text of Skáldatal); and Hákon góði ‘the Good’. Of the poems he may have composed for these rulers, only eight stanzas are extant, all apparently from Hákonardrápa (Hákdr).

Little is otherwise known about Guthormr’s identity, life and career. His place of origin is unknown, but Icelandic birth is hardly likely at this early date, and the name was always much commoner in Norway than in Iceland (Lind 1905-15, 397); equally unknown are his patronymic or matronymic. On the basis of internal evidence in Hákdr, he must have survived the battle at Rastarkálfr on the island of Fræði (Frei) c. 955; he is not mentioned after the death of King Hákon (c. 961), by which time, if he indeed composed for Haraldr hárfagri, he would have been an old man. The sole anecdote about Guthormr, transmitted in Hkr (HHárf, ÍF 26, 141-2) and ÓT (1958-2000, I, 12-13), tells that he was a good skald and a member of the following of Hálfdan svarti. He had earlier been in the entourage of Hálfdan’s father Haraldr hárfagri, was a friend of both men, and had composed a poem about each of them, for which he declined any reward, asking instead that the two men grant a special request from him on some future occasion. When Haraldr and Hálfdan subsequently fell out, his request was that they reconcile with one another, which they did. Credence is lent to this story by the Sendibítr of Jórunn skáldmær (Jór Send), which makes allusion to Guthormr and his stratagem with evident approval, though the details remain obscure (Kreutzer 1972; Jesch 1987, 6-10).

The spelling of the skald’s given name varies (Lind 1905-15, 397) and it is often abbreviated in references to him. The variation may reflect dual origins, in compounds of goð ‘god’ with either þormr ‘protector’ or ormr ‘snake’; alternatively the ‑ormr variant may derive from ‑þormr (AEW: Guðþormr). The name is mentioned in Jór Send 5/3 (see below) but the internal rhyming there provides no means of determining whether the first syllable terminated in ‑t or ‑ð. The standard spelling for the name when used in reference to this individual in the kings’ sagas was apparently Guthormr (Finnur Jónsson, LH I, 442), and that has been adopted in this edition. His nickname is vouched for in Jór Send 4/8. It may mean ‘Spark’ but its exact significance remains unclear. The name Sindri appears in SnE ms. R (added in a later hand) in reference to a dwarf craftsman (SnE 1998, I, 141) and is etymologically related to sindr n. ‘slag, dross’ (CVC: sindr; cf. LH I, 442 n. 4) and sindra ‘to sparkle’ (Lind 1920-1, 308). The nickname may therefore relate to smithing and crafts, perhaps meaning ‘metal-worker’, though the sense ‘shining’ is also possible, given that a mythical hall made of gold is said to be either owned by Sindri’s kin (Vsp 37/3-4) or named Sindri (SnE 2005, 53).

Hákonardrápa (‘Drápa about Hákon’) — Gsind HákdrI

Russell Poole 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Guthormr sindri, Hákonardrápa’ 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. 156.

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Skj: Goþþormr sindri: Hákonardrápa (AI, 61-3, BI, 55-6)

in texts: Flat, HákGóð, Hkr, ÓT

SkP info: I, 156

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

Six stanzas and two helmingar remain of this poem (Gsind Hákdr), which is named HákonardrápaDrápa about Hákon’ in Hkr (ÍF 26, 157) and ÓT (1958-2000, I, 26); on the poem’s title according to Flat see Note to st. 1 [All]. Hákdr may be one of the poems about Hákon góði ‘the Good’ Haraldsson referred to in Egils saga (ÍF 2, 239, 257), which appears to follow the content of several of the extant stanzas quite closely, though without direct quotation. It is uniformly attributed in the sources to Guthormr sindri.

The subject-matter of Hákdr is supplied by episodes from the middle to late career of Hákon góði, sometimes styled Aðalsteinsfóstri ‘foster-son of Æthelstan’; see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume. Hákon’s kingship in Norway (c. 934-61) was marked by long-running hostilities with the Eiríkssynir or Gunnhildarsynir, sons of his brother Eiríkr blóðøx ‘Blood-axe’ and Gunnhildr. Although the focus of his power was the central western districts, with support from Þrándheimr (Trøndelag), he also exerted intermittent lordship over Vík (Viken, the area around Oslofjorden), here in rivalry with the Gautar (people of Götaland) and Danes (Andersen 1977, 92-4), and it is this aspect of his rule that is reflected in the extant stanzas of Hákdr. The episodes covered are Hákon’s expedition to Denmark and Gautland (Götaland) c. 950 (sts 1-4), his installation of Tryggvi Óláfsson as king in Vík (st. 5), his battle with the Eiríkssynir off Ǫgvaldsnes (Avaldsnes) c. 953 (sts 6-7) and his victory over Gamli Eiríksson at Rastarkálfr (unidentified) c. 955 (st. 8). It is assumed that Hákdr was composed some time prior to Hákon’s death c. 961 (de Vries 1964-7, I, 173), because the surviving stanzas do not cover that or subsequent events. That the poem was composed in Hákon’s lifetime and addressed to him may also be indicated by the use of the second person in st. 3/2 (though the mss vary between second and third person) and the present tense in st. 8/5. Since the poem is styled a drápa, it probably boasted at least one stef ‘refrain’, but, in consequence of its fragmentary preservation, none can be conclusively identified (though see Note to st. 8/5-6).

Hákdr is preserved in the Hkr mss (as main ms.), 39 (sts 6-8 only), F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, and the ÓT mss 61, 53 (sts 6-8), 325IX 1 (sts 6-8), Bb, Flat (sts 1-6, 8). Árni Magnússon’s anthology ms. 761bˣ includes st. 6 but has not been cited in the Readings, since it is evidently copied from an extant ms. (most probably 61).

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