Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035

3.2. Sagas relating to Denmark and Orkney to c. 1035

1. Knýtlinga saga (Knýtl)
2. Orkneyinga saga (Orkn)

(Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 > 8. Volume Introduction > 3. Sources for skaldic poetry cited in the kings’ sagas: manuscripts, facsimiles and editions > 3.2. Sagas relating to Denmark and Orkney to c. 1035 > 1. Knýtlinga saga (Knýtl))

1. Knýtlinga saga (Knýtl)

Stemma (adapted from ÍF 35, clxxxvi)

Manuscripts: A class

The A-class mss are more complete than those of the B class, which only begins at ch. 22 and appears to have a shortened version of the original text in some places. The A text was preserved in the lost Codex Academicus (*Cod. Ac., c. 1300).

18ˣ:      AM 18 folˣ. Copy of *Cod. Ac. (c. 1700; by Árni Magnússon). Chapters 3-82 are now missing, but the following copies were made when it was complete:

a) 20dˣ: AM 20 d folˣ (early C18th, partly by Árni Magnússon). Knýtl chs 1-27. Used in Skj A to supplement 18ˣ, but inferior to JÓ 1741 (below).

b) 873ˣ: NKS 873 4°ˣ (C18th; by Jón Vídalín).

c) JÓ: 1741. An edition based on 18ˣ which has been considered superior to the ms. transcripts of 18ˣ (ÍF 35, clxxxv).

20b I:   AM 20 b I fol (c. 1300). Nine leaves, in poor condition, from the same exemplar as that of *Cod. Ac.

Flat:      Flateyjarbók, GKS 1005 fol (Icelandic, mainly c. 1387-95). See separate entry.

Holm papp 41ˣ: Holm papp 41 4°ˣ (c. 1687). An A-class text for chs 1-21; thereafter a copy of the B-class ms. 1005ˣ and therefore without independent value.

Manuscripts: B class

The original vellum is lost.

180b:    AM 180b fol (c. 1400-1500). Chapters 22-88 (19v-34r). Copies of 180b:

a) 1005ˣ: AM 1005 4°ˣ (c. 1600-50).

b) 1006ˣ: GKS 1006 folˣ (c. 1600-1700). Copied in 19ˣ (AM 19 folˣ, c. 1600-1700).

20b II:  AM 20 b II fol (c. 1300-25). Three leaves.

A further ms., of uncertain class, is:

20i 23ˣAM 20 i 23 folˣ (c. 1700-1800)

Editions: 1741, Knýtl 1919-25, ÍF 35.

The saga presents a synopsis of the lives of Danish kings from Haraldr blátǫnn Gormsson (d. 988) to part-way through the reign of Knútr Valdimarsson in 1187. It falls into three parts, with the life of Knútr Sveinsson (S. Knud, 1080-6) at its centre, and is widely seen as a Danish counterpart to Hkr. The saga’s abrupt start has led to the assumption that the beginning is lost, and the B recension is definitely incomplete, starting with Sveinn Úlfsson (Sven Estridsson, r. 1047-1074/6). The work depends on a range of earlier sources, Danish and Norwegian, most of which are now lost (at least in the versions used in Knýtl), and it is considered to belong to the mid or late thirteenth century. Óláfr Þórðarson hvítaskáld (d. 1259), nephew of Snorri Sturluson, is named as the source of much of the information in the saga, and has been seen as its author (see, e.g., ÍF 35, clxxix-clxxxiv).


Knýtl contains some sixty stanzas, all or almost all composed by Icelanders, and most unique to this saga. Twenty-five are edited in this volume, including Ótt Knútdr 1-10, ÞKolb Eirdr 12-13, 15-16 and Þloft Tøgdr 7 which are preserved nowhere else. A further thirty-six stanzas cover events after 1035 and are edited in SkP II (see p. lxxv), while Hallv Knútdr 3III is edited with the remainder of that poem in SkP III.

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