Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hallbjǫrn hali (Hhal)

12th century; volume 1; ed. Kate Heslop;

Skj info: Hallbjǫrn hali, Islænder, 12. årh. (AI, 540, BI, 521).

Skj poems:
Lausavísa

Hallbjǫrn hali (‘Tail’; Hhal) was an Icelander, the shepherd of an otherwise unknown Þorkell of Þingvellir, according to Þorleifs þáttr jarlaskálds (ÞorlJ; ÍF 9, 227). Only one stanza attributed to him survives, in connection with an anecdote telling how he acquired poetic skill from the ghost of Þorleifr jarlsskáld (Þjsk) in a dream (see Lausavísa below). According to ÞorlJ Þorleifr was killed by agents of Hákon jarl, whose death c. 995 would supply an approximate terminus a quo for Þorleifr’s appearance as a ghost. If Hallbjǫrn is taken as a historical figure, therefore, as Almqvist (1965-74, I, 193) thinks he should be, he would have been alive in the late tenth century. However, doubt remains about this and about the authenticity of the stanza. Similarities between the anecdote and Skáldskaparmál’s account of poetics have been noted (SnE 1848-87, III, 374; ÍF 9, ci), and if these are genuine signs of influence, they would date it to after the mid-thirteenth century, and Hallbjǫrn may be fictional. Further, a Hallbjǫrn hali is named in Skáldatal as the poet of Knútr Eiríksson, King of Sweden (d. 1195) and King Sverrir of Norway (d. 1202), and it is tempting to identify this figure with the Hallbjǫrn of ÞorlJ, who is said to have travelled abroad and composed praise-poems for many rulers. This is presumably the reason why Finnur Jónsson dates the stanza c. 1190 in Skj (cf. LH II, 75-6). Two other men called Hallbjǫrn hali appear in the sources (SnE 1848-87, III, 370-6; ÍF 9, 229 n. 1), but they are almost certainly different people.

 Lausavísa   1 

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