Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hallar-Steinn (HSt)

12th century; volume 1; ed. Rolf Stavnem;

2. Fragment (Frag) - 1

Skj info: Hallar-Steinn, Islandsk skjald, 12. årh. (AI, 543-53, BI, 525-35).

Skj poems:
1. Rekstefja
2. a. Af et digt om en kvinde
2. b. Af et digt om Skáldhelgi(?)

Nothing is known about this skald (HSt) except what can be deduced from his nickname, which has been identified with the farm-name Höll, in Þverárhlíð, Mýrasýsla, western Iceland (Finnur Jónsson 1907, 185), and from the poetry attributed to him. His main extant work is the drápa Rekstefja (HSt Rst), whose ambitious praise of Óláfr Tryggvason might well point to Iceland at the end of the twelfth century or somewhat later (see Skj, and Introduction to the poem below). Hallar-Steinn has been identified (e.g. by Wisén 1886-9, I, 143) with the eleventh-century poet Steinn Herdísarson (SteinnII), but this is implausible. HSt Frag 1, of uncertain origin but probably attributable to this poet, may also commemorate Óláfr Tryggvason, while HSt Frag 2-5III represent a love-lorn poet. These fragments are preserved only in treatises on poetics and grammar, and are therefore edited in SkP III, as are two further fragments, HSt Frag 6-7III.

Fragment — HSt FragI

Diana Whaley 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Hallar-Steinn, Fragment’ 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. 939.


in texts: Fris

SkP info: I, 939

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


The stanza presented here as HSt Frag 1 is the only one of seven fragments attributed to Hallar-Steinn to be preserved in the kings’ sagas; the remainder (HSt Frag 2-7III) are edited in SkP III. Frag 1 depicts a twelve-year-old prince sailing splendidly-equipped warships out of Garðar (Russia). It is only preserved in F, where it is attributed to Hallar-Steinn, and in copying out the stanza Árni Magnússon in 761bˣ(152r) retained this attribution. Its source is unknown, other than the personal knowledge of the F scribe (Ólafur Halldórsson 2001, xlii). The subject is normally identified with Óláfr Tryggvason (r. c. 995-c. 1000), hero of Hallar-Steinn’s Rekstefja. A practice of ascribing the stanza to Hallfreðr and placing it at the opening of his Óláfsdrápa (Hfr Óldr) goes back at least to SnE 1848-87, III, 478 and is continued in Skj and elsewhere, but this is without medieval authority. Moreover, the stanza does not name Óláfr, its preservation differs from that of Hfr Óldr and, as Fidjestøl (1982, 107) points out, its content is unlike the known stanzas of Óldr, which focus on particular conflicts, although an introductory stanza might well be more general (and in fact Óldr 1/1-4 is geographically unspecific). Also problematic if the stanza is to be attributed to Hallfreðr is the fact that ll. 1-4 of the fragment are strikingly similar to Arn Magndr 1/5-8II, which reads Vasat ellifu allra | ormsetrs hati vetra, | hraustr þás herskip glæsti | Hǫrða vinr ór Gǫrðum ‘The hater of the reptile’s home [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN] was not fully eleven winters when [he], the valiant friend of the Hǫrðar [NORWEGIAN KING = Magnús Óláfsson], arrayed warships to leave Russia’, and HSt Frag 1 may have been influenced either in composition or in transmission by the Magnús poem. Indeed, it has been suggested that the whole story of Óláfr’s youthful exile in Garðar was taken over from Magnús’s history (Gordon 1938, 72-3; Fidjestøl 1982, 107). Whether or not this is so, the story was also embraced by Hallar-Steinn in Rekstefja (HSt Rst 2 on Óláfr’s fostering in Garðar, st. 3 on his departure thence), and the poet of the twelfth-century Anon Óldr (st. 3), as well as by the compilers of early Latin and vernacular prose works (see Note to HSt Rst 2/2). As for the stanza below, we do not have a safe text of it, and the only medieval witness attributes it to Hallar-Steinn. It does not seem to fit within Rst, since it is in standard dróttkvætt metre rather than the tvískelft of Rst, and its content would overlap uncomfortably with Rst 3. It is therefore printed here as a fragment attributed to Hallar-Steinn.

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