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Runic Dictionary

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Prose works relevant to the database

Vǫlsunga saga (Vǫls)

Skaldic vol. 8; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross

verse introduction manuscripts contents

Edited here are six fornyrðislag stanzas or part-stanzas (Anon (Vǫls) 1-6) cited in the text of Vǫlsunga saga ‘The Saga of the Vǫlsungar’ (Vǫls) but not otherwise preserved in Old Norse mss. Although the composer of Vǫls knew and summarised twelve out of the eighteen poems relating to the Volsung material in the Codex Regius of the Poetic Edda, GKS 2365 4° (cf. Vǫls 1965, x and Appendix C, 85-9), he did not quote from them directly, except in a few instances: Reg 1-2, 5, 6 (ch. 14, Vǫls 1965, 25-6), Reg 18 (ch. 17, Vǫls 1965, 29); Sigrdr 5, 6, 10, 12, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15-21 (ch. 21, Vǫls 1965, 35-9); Guðr II, 19/9-12 and 22-3 (ch. 34, Vǫls 1965, 61-4) and Hamð 28/1-4 (ch. 44, Vǫls 1965, 77-8). Variant readings for all these citations are printed below the relevant stanzas in NK. The six stanzas or part-stanzas unique to Vǫls, though presumably likewise taken from poems on the Volsung material but no longer extant, are printed in an appendix to NK 321-3, entitled Bruchstücke und einzelstrophen, II. Aus Vǫlsunga saga. They have recently been published in ÍF Edd. II, 322-3, entitled Vísur úr Völsunga sögu. They also appear in editions of Vǫls (see below), but are not edited by Finnur Jónsson in Skj, nor by Kock in Skald. Kommentar VI, 943-62 offers a detailed commentary on these stanzas. The stanzas are numbered here in two ways: first the place of each in the continuous numbering of stanzas in Vǫls is given (e.g. 1, 22 etc.), followed by that stanza’s place within the corpus of anonymous stanzas (e.g. Anon Vǫls 1, Anon Vǫls 2 etc.).

Vǫls is extant in only one vellum ms., NKS 1824 b 4° (1824b) of c. 1400-25, where it appears on fols 1r-51r. There are a number of paper mss of Vǫls, dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, but none has independent text-critical value (Olsen 1906-8, vii-xiii; Vǫls 1965, xxxviii). Ms. 1824b also contains Ragn on fols 51r-79r, and the ms. arrangement of these two sagas suggests that Vǫls was intended as a prequel to Ragn, the two narratives being linked through the figure of Áslaug, presented in Vǫls as the daughter of Sigurðr and Brynhildr, and in Ragn as the hero Ragnarr’s second wife. Whether this link was present in a version of Vǫls before it was combined with Ragn in 1824b is uncertain (cf. Vǫls 1906-8, lxxviii-lxxxiii; Wieselgren 1935, 351-2; Vǫls 1965, xxxv-xxxvi). It is not possible to date Vǫls with precision, though it is generally thought to be a work of the thirteenth century, most likely based on versions of the Volsung poems similar to those in the Codex Regius (c. 1270), but unlikely, on grounds of textual variation between some of the stanzas the two works have in common (cf. Vǫls 1965, xxxviii and n. 2), to have been directly sourced from the Codex Regius itself. Presumably the six stanzas edited here also derive from the collection (or collections) of eddic poetry that the composer of Vǫls used as source material.

The first edition of Vǫls was by Björner (1737), followed by that of von der Hagen (1814). It later appeared in Volume 1 of FSN (1829, 113-234). Other nineteenth- and twentieth-century editions were by Bugge (1864-73 (Vol. 2)), Wilken (1877), Ranisch (1891), Hannaas (1907), Magnus Olsen (Vǫls 1906-8) and Guðni Jónsson in FSGJ 1 (1950). An edition with facing English translation was published by R. G. Finch in 1965. Only Olsen’s (Vǫls 1906-8) and Finch’s (Vǫls 1965) editions are cited in the editorial apparatus here, along with FSN, FSGJ, NK and ÍF Edd. for sts 2-5.

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