Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Heilagra manna drápa, 22 [Vol. 7, 887-8]

[All]: Sts 22-3 celebrate S. Hallvarðr (Norw. Hallvard) of Viken, a Norw. saint, who was probably venerated in Iceland, although the evidence for a cult there is equivocal. Hallvarðr Vébjörnsson from Lier near Drammen was supposed to have been related to S. Óláfr on his mother’s side; aside from this, little of his life is known apart from the manner of his death. He was about to cross Drammensfjorden in a boat when a woman, who had been falsely accused of stealing, appealed to him to save her. Hallvarðr took her aboard, but was attacked by the woman’s pursuers, who called on him to give her up. When Hallvarðr refused, they shot at both him and the woman with bow and arrows, killing them both. Hallvarðr was regarded as a martyr because he had died in defence of innocence. His name is found in Icel. calendars and there is a fragment of a prose saga in an Icel. ms. from 1380, as well as a later fragment (Unger 1877, I, 396-9; Widding, Bekker-Nielsen and Shook 1963, 313). There is some evidence suggesting his cult was stronger c. 1200 than in c. 1330-50 (quoted in Cormack 1994, 60 n. 60, 121, 144), so, as a late medieval poem, Heil would seem to be running against an Icel. trend. Nevertheless, an Icel. ms. from C15th contains a sequence in honour of Hallvarðr and there was an image of him at Munkaþverá as late as 1525 (Gjerløw and Magnús Már Lárusson 1961). See further Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 30-3.


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