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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eilífr Goðrúnarson (Eil)

10th century; volume 3; ed. Edith Marold;

3. Fragment (Frag) - 1

Skj info: Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Islandsk skjald, omkr. 1000. (AI, 148-52, BI, 139-44).

Skj poems:
1. Et digt om Hakon jarl
2. Þórsdrápa
3. Af et kristeligt digt

Hardly anything is known about the life of Eilífr Goðrúnarson (Eil). According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266, 280), he was active as a skald at the court of Hákon jarl Sigurðarson in Norway around the end of the tenth century. Some scholars have argued that a word-play in a stanza preserved in Skm (SnE) conceals the name of Hákon jarl, thus confirming the information of Skáldatal, but the present edition, following Lie (1976, 399) is sceptical of that hypothesis (see Þdr 23, Note to [All]). Eilífr’s only surviving works are the long poem Þórsdrápa (Eil Þdr, 23 stanzas) and one fragment of a Christian poem (Eil Frag).

Fragment — Eil FragIII

Jana Krüger, translated from German by John Foulks 2017, ‘ Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Fragment’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 126. <> (accessed 24 May 2022)


Skj: Eilífr Goðrúnarson: 3. Af et kristeligt digt (AI, 152, BI, 144); stanzas (if different): [v]

in texts: LaufE, Skm, SnE

SkP info: III, 126

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


In addition to Þórsdrápa (Eil Þdr), the skald Eilífr Goðrúnarson is credited with a helmingr (Eil Frag) recorded in SnE (R (main ms.), , W, U, A) and LaufE (2368ˣ). The mss unanimously attribute it to him (SnE 1998, I, 76): sem kvað Eilífr Guðrúnarson ‘as Eilífr Guðrúnarson said’. Eilífr Goðrúnarson appears to have been active as a skald at the court of Hákon jarl Sigurðarson in Norway around the end of the tenth century (see his Biography). The original context of the stanza is unknown; it is often assumed that it was part of a Christian poem (LH I, 536; Lange 1958a, 54; SnE 1998, I, 201), because it tells of Christ supplanting the heathen bǫnd ‘gods’ in the North and taking up residence at the mythical brunnr Urðar ‘well of Urðr’. The stanza thus bears significant witness to the religious changes in Scandinavia (von See 1959-60, 87; Weber 1969, 152; 1970, 87-8; Frank 1978, 118) and to North-Germanic syncretism (Kahle 1901, 12; Lange 1958a, 57).

This syncretism, however, did not mean that different forms of religion were coalescing into a new one through a conscious process; rather, existing beliefs that seemed useful from a Christian perspective were being reinterpreted. According to Rev. XXII.1-2, Christ’s throne, i.e. his seat of power in Paradise, is located at a spring with trees of life growing on either bank of the stream emanating from it (see Lange 1958a, 56-7); hence the heathen myth of the brunnr Urðar could well have been transferred to Christ. It is not clear whether Eilífr himself converted to Christianity; his intention may also have been to express regrets about a heathen religion on the wane.

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