This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Runic Dictionary

login: password: stay logged in: help

Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

11th century; volume 2; ed. Diana Whaley;

1. Rǫgnvaldsdrápa (Rǫgndr) - 3

Arnórr jarlaskáld ‘Jarls’-poet’ came from Hítarnes in western Iceland, the son of the prosperous farmer and poet Þórðr Kolbeinsson (ÞKolbI, born 974) and Oddný eykyndill ‘Island-candle’ Þorkelsdóttir, who was the subject of the long-running personal and poetic rivalry between Þórðr and Bjǫrn Hítdœlakappi (BjhítV) which is commemorated in Bjarnar saga Hítdœlakappa. According to that saga chronology, Arnórr would have been born c. 1011/12, and he features as a boy in ch. 23 of the saga, and in ch. 60 of Grettis saga. He went abroad, probably in his early twenties, for he is named in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267) among the skalds of King Knútr inn ríki (Cnut the Great) (d. 1035). From the evidence of the memorial poems Rǫgnvaldsdrápa (Arn Rǫgndr), especially st. 2, and Þorfinnsdrápa (Arn Þorfdr), especially sts 3, 4 (cf. Lv 1), he spent several years in the Orkney Islands as poet and intimate of the jarls Rǫgnvaldr (d. c. 1045) and Þorfinnr (d. c. 1065). It is to this that his nickname refers. Arnórr was in Norway during the brief joint rule of Magnús Óláfsson and Haraldr Sigurðarson (c. 1045-6), and his performance of Hrynhenda (Arn Hryn) for Magnús and Blágagladrápa ‘The drápa of Dark Geese (= Ravens (?))’ for Haraldr is the subject of a spirited anecdote (Mork 1928-32, 116-18, Flat 1860-8, III, 321-3, Fms 6, 195-8; referred to below as ‘the Mork anecdote’). The later part of Arnórr’s career is obscure, but there is a second, memorial poem for Magnús, Magnússdrápa (Arn Magndr), and his composition of a Haraldsdrápa (Arn Hardr) in memory of Haraldr (d. 1066) suggests continuing links of some kind with Norway, though he also composed about Icelanders: a fragmentarily preserved poem for Hermundr Illugason (d. c. 1055; Arn HermIII) and a poem for Gellir Þorkelsson (d. 1073) of which Arn Frag 1III might be a remnant. For further outlines of Arnórr’s life and works, see Hollander 1945, 177-83; Turville-Petre 1968, 5-10, 1976, 93-4; Whaley 1998, 41-7.

The majority of Arnórr’s surviving oeuvre takes the form of memorial encomia (erfidrápur) for rulers of Norway or Orkney in the dróttkvætt metre: ten ll. only of Rǫgndr and longer fragments of Magnússdrápa (Magndr), Þorfdr and Hardr. His greatest contribution to the development of skaldic poetry, however, is his authorship of the first known encomium in the hrynhent metre: the Hrynhenda which, since it apostrophises Magnús góði, must predate the memorial Magndr. Arn Frag 1III is in the same metre but probably unconnected (see above). It is possible that Arn Frag 4III is in praise of Knútr inn ríki and the non-royal dedicatees of Herm and Frag 1 have been mentioned above. Arnórr also appears in one recension of Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 262) as a poet of Óláfr kyrri ‘the Quiet’ Haraldsson (d. 1093), and the pres. tense praise of Arn Frag 3III could have been addressed to him, or alternatively to Haraldr in Blágagladrápa. Only one st., Arn Lv 1, seems clearly to be a lv.; it was spoken during a civil conflict in the Orkneys. Herm and the eight other Fragments are printed in SkP III since they are preserved in SnE and LaufE and cannot be certainly assigned to any of the poems in the present volume.

The principal eds consulted in the course of editing Arnórr’s poetry for SkP are listed for each st., and are of two main types: eds of the skaldic corpus (Finnur Jónsson’s in Skj AI, 332-54, BI, 305-27, BI, and E. A. Kock’s in Skald I, 155-65, supported by numerous NN) and eds of the various prose works in which the poetry is preserved. Extracts are also included in anthologies, articles and other works including (with ten or more sts): Munch and Unger 1847, 119-20; CPB II, 184-98; Wisén 1886-9, I, 44-6, 141-2, 199-200 (Hryn only); Kock and Meissner 1931, I, 48-53; Hollander 1945,177-88 (annotated translations only, mainly Hryn); and (with five sts): Turville-Petre 1976, 93-7. Other works containing comment on the poetry are cited as appropriate in the Notes.

Rǫgnvaldsdrápa (‘Drápa about Rǫgnvaldr’) — Arn RǫgndrII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Rǫgnvaldsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 178-81. <> (accessed 1 July 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3 

Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 1. Rǫgnvaldsdrápa, o. 1046 (AI, 332, BI, 305-6)

in texts: Flat, Orkn, ÓH, Skm, SnE

SkP info: II, 178-81

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Only two helmingar and a couplet are safely attributable to Arnórr’s Rǫgnvaldsdrápa (Arn Rǫgndr), which was evidently an erfidrápa ‘memorial drápa’ for the Orcadian jarl Rǫgnvaldr Brúsason (born c. 1011). He was the son of a half-brother of Þorfinnr jarl Sigurðarson and is portrayed in Orkn ch. 19 as handsome, accomplished and popular (see ‘Biographies of Other Dignitaries’ in Introduction to this vol.). He fought for Óláfr Haraldsson (S. Óláfr) at Stiklestad (Stiklastaðir) in 1030, then as landvarnarmaðr ‘commander of defensive forces’ for Jaroslav (Jarizleifr) in Novgorod (Hólmgarðr); the ten battles mentioned in Rǫgndr st. 1 belong to this early period.

Rǫgndr is preserved as follows: st. 1 in ÓH (Holm2 as main ms., 972ˣ, 321ˣ, Holm4, 325VII, 325V, 61, Bb, Tóm) and Orkn (332ˣ, Flat, R702ˣ and 325III β), and sts 2, 3 in SnE (R as main ms., , W, U; st. 3 also in B). The text of st. 1 in ÓH ms. 73aˣ is copied from 325V and therefore not used here.

The poem’s title is recorded in the introduction to st. 2 (see Note to [All]), st. 3 is a prayer for Rǫgnvaldr’s soul, and st. 1 is plausibly connected with Rǫgnvaldr in its prose sources. The ordering of sts 1-2 is uncertain but appropriate (see comment on st. 1 above). The prayer in st. 3, like the other four in Arnórr’s poetry (see Note to st. 3), would have formed an appropriate close to the poem, and also identifies the poem as an erfidrápa, but it is also possible that the prayers functioned as refrains, cf. the klofastef ‘split refrain’ of Stúfr Stúfdr, which expresses a wish that Haraldr’s soul might have a dwelling-place with Christ.

© 2008-