Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hákon inn góði Haraldsson (Hákg)

10th century; volume 1; ed. R. D. Fulk;

Lausavísa (Lv) - 1

Skj info: Hakon den gode, Konge i Norge 936-61. (AI, 61, BI, 54).

Skj poems:
[untitled]

See ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume. A single helmingr is attributed to Hákon (Hákg).

Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 > 8. Volume Introduction > 4. Biographies > 4.1. Ruler biographies > 4.1.a. Kings and jarls of Norway > 3. Hákon I inn góði Haraldsson (r. c. 934-c. 961)

Hákon góði ‘the Good’ was a younger son of Haraldr hárfagri (q. v); he lived c. 920-c. 961. As his alternative nickname Aðalsteinsfóstri ‘Æthelstan’s foster-son’ indicates, Hákon was sent for fostering to the English king Æthelstan, c. 925. Hákon heard the news of his father’s death some time in the 930s and sailed back to Norway to claim the kingdom. With the help of Sigurðr jarl of Hlaðir (Lade), son of his father’s ally Hákon jarl Grjótgarðsson, and the acclaim of the farmers of Þrándheimr (Trøndelag), whose hereditary rights he promised to restore, Hákon góði seized control of Upplǫnd (Opplandene) and Vík (Viken) and drove out his half-brother Eiríkr blóðøx (q. v.), who fled to England. The heartland of Hákon’s kingdom, however, was the south-western part of the country. Sigurðr jarl retained control over Trøndelag, and Hákon established Tryggvi Óláfsson and Guðrøðr Bjarnarson as rulers of the small kingdoms in the south-east. As Æthelstan’s foster-son, Hákon was raised a Christian (see Introduction to Eyv Hák), but any attempts to convert Norway were short-lived and he appears to have reverted to the pagan religion (Krag 2003b, 190). According to the kings’ sagas, Hákon established law federations and organised the leiðangr, the levy for naval defence. For some time Hákon succeeded in repelling attacks by the Eiríkssynir, sons of Eiríkr blóðøx, who enjoyed the support of their uncle King Haraldr blátǫnn of Denmark, and himself made several raids on Danish territories. In or about 960 the Eiríkssynir and their Danish supporters, led by the oldest surviving brother, Haraldr gráfeldr (q. v.), renewed their assaults and c. 961 they confronted their uncle Hákon at the battle of Fitjar on the island of Storð (Stord in Sunnhordland, south of Bergen at the mouth of Hardangerfjorden, western Norway). Storð was of strategic importance for defence of the trade route along the Norwegian coast, and Fitjar, already a chieftainly or royal centre by the late ninth century (Andersen 1977, 68), may have been a significant site for Hákon within his core territory in western Norway (Bagge 2004, 194). Hákon gained the victory but died of his wounds. He lacked a male heir, so Haraldr gráfeldr succeeded as king. The sources count Hákon’s rule as between twenty-four and twenty-seven years: see Note to Anon Nkt 12 [All]II; on his death and burial-place see Anon Nkt 14-15II and Notes. For overview, see Anon Nkt 10-15II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 9-10; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 5-7); HN (MHN 106-7; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 15-16); Ágr (ÍF 29, 7-11; Ágr 2008, 6-17); Fsk (ÍF 29, 74-6, 80-95; Finlay 2004, 55-7, 60-73); HákgóðHkr (ÍF 26, 150-97; Hollander 1964a, 96-127). Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 273) lists only Eyvindr skáldaspillir (Eyv) and Guthormr sindri (Gsind) as composing for Hákon.

Events documented in poetry: Hákon’s voyage to Norway and possession of Firðir (Fjordane, Gunnh Lv); his campaign against the Danes c. 950 (Gsind Hákdr 1-3); his raids on Gautland (Götaland, Gsind Hákdr 4); his establishment of his nephew Tryggvi Óláfsson as under-king in Vík (Viken, Gsind Hákdr 5); his battle with the Eiríkssynir off Ǫgvaldsnes (Avaldsnes, Rogaland) c. 953 (Gsind Hákdr 6-7); his victory over Gamli Eiríksson at Rastarkálfr on Fræði (Frei, Møre og Romsdal) c. 955 (Gsind Hákdr 8; Eyv Lv 6; ÞSjár Þórdr 2); his final battle at Fitjar c. 961 (Eyv Hák 2-9; ÞSjár Þórdr; Eyv Lv 1-5; Glúmr Lv); Hákon summoned and welcomed into Valhǫll (Eyv Hák 10-17); his preservation of pagan sanctuaries (Eyv Hák 18); his generosity (Eyv Lv 8-9); Hákon as outstanding king (Eyv Hák 19-20); the desolation of the land after his death (Eyv Hák 21; Eyv Lv 12-14); Hákon remembered as a just lawgiver (Sigv Berv 5II, c. 1038). Hákon is attributed with a stanza spoken at Fitjar, praising his men’s loyalty: Hákg Lv, a riposte to Eyv Lv 3.

Lausavísa — Hákg LvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Hákon inn góði Haraldsson, 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. 153.

 1 

Skj: Hakon den gode: (AI, 61, BI, 54); stanzas (if different): [v]

in texts: Fsk

SkP info: I, 153

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

This isolated helmingr (Hákg Lv) is preserved only within the Fsk account of the battle of Fitjar (c. 961). It is presented as King Hákon’s response to Eyv Lv 3, which Fsk calls a gamankviðling ‘game-ditty’, and so the pair may perhaps have been devised to illustrate the claim of Eyv Hák 4 that the king was cheerful and joked with his men before the battle: see Olsen (1962a, 6). Kock (NN §1927) likens the sentiment expressed in ll. 1, 4 concerning loyal repayment of a lord’s generosity, to that of Beowulf ll. 2633–38a and The Fight at Finnsburg ll. 37–40. He seems convinced of Hákon’s authorship, as he says the similarity of sentiment is not surprising in a foster-son of the English king Æthelstan. Poole (1988, 175) argues that these two helmingar attributed to Eyvindr and Hákon, along with Eyv Lv 1, 2, 4 and 5, formed part of a narrative poem by Eyvindr about the battle. The mss of Fsk (all paper transcripts) are listed below; 51ˣ is chosen as the main ms. here.
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