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Runic Dictionary

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Einarr skálaglamm Helgason (Eskál)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Edith Marold;

3. Lausavísur (Lv) - 3

Little is certain about the life of Einarr skálaglamm ‘Tinkle-scales’ Helgason (Eskál), except that he came from a noble family from western Iceland. They were descendants of Bjǫrn austrœni ‘the Easterner’, i.e. ‘the Norwegian’, son of Ketill flatnefr ‘Flat-nose’. According to Ldn (ÍF 1, 123), Einarr’s mother was Niðbjǫrg, daughter of an Irish king. Einarr’s brother Ósvífr was the father of Guðrún Ósvífsdóttir, the heroine of Laxdœla saga. A few anecdotes link Einarr to Egill Skallagrímsson. Egils saga (Eg, ÍF 2, 268-73) tells of Einarr visiting Egill and the two talking at length about poetry. The meeting led to a long friendship, which is reflected in similarities between the two skalds’ poetry (de Vries 1964-7, I, 176). A valuable shield given to Egill by Einarr inspired Egill to compose a Skjaldardrápa or shield poem honouring the gift, of which only the first stanza has survived (Egill SkjalddrV).

Einarr must have lived c. 940-c. 990. He presumably spent much of his life at the court of Hákon jarl Sigurðarson in Norway, for whom he composed Vellekla (Eskál Vell) and another poem, Hákonardrápa (Eskál Hákdr). Two stanzas (Eskál HardrIII) that possibly stem from one or more Haraldsdrápur in honour of Haraldr blátǫnn ‘Blue-tooth’ Gormsson indicate that he might have spent time at the Danish court, perhaps as a companion of Hákon jarl. Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266, 280) mentions Einarr only as one of Hákon jarl’s skalds. Besides these poems, three lausavísur are preserved in Jvs, Fsk, Flat and Eg. The first two are part of a typical skald anecdote about court poetry and its reward, and are preserved in versions that differ sufficiently for them to be printed in both SkP I (Eskál Lv 1a and Lv 2a) and SkP V (Eskál Lv 1bV (Eg 124) and Lv 2bV (Eg 125)). The third (Eskál Lv 3) concerns the death of Þorleifr skúma Þorkelsson (Þskúm), an Icelandic retainer of Hákon jarl, at the battle of Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen, c. 985).

According to Jvs (1969, 178-9), Einarr’s nickname skálaglamm ‘Tinkle-scales’ refers to a pair of precious and magically resounding scales (OIcel. skálar/skálir) with which Hákon jarl rewarded him for Vell (see Introduction to Eskál Lv 1-3). This explanation (apparently accepted in Finnur Jónsson 1907, 284) may, however, be a later etymological invention, and skálaglamm could instead derive from OIcel. skáli ‘hall, free-standing house’ either as part of a sky-, breast- or shield-kenning (Lie 1975, 643), or more likely as a ‘loud sound (glamm) in the hall’, in reference to his art of recitation. Jvs (1969, 178) also tells that Einarr earlier had the nickname Skjaldmeyjar-Einarr ‘Einarr of the shield-maiden’. Skjaldmeyjar are armed women who took part in battles (cf. Akv 16), but nothing is known about how Einarr got this nickname. According to Ldn and Jvs, Einarr drowned in Breiðafjörður on a voyage home (Ldn, ÍF 1, 123; Jvs 1969, 205); they add a legend according to which his scales (Jvs), or his shield and his coat (Ldn), wash ashore, inspiring the names of the islands Skáleyjar, Skjaldey and Feldarhólmr.

Lausavísur — Eskál LvI

Margaret Clunies Ross 2012, ‘ Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Lausavísur’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 330. <> (accessed 27 June 2022)

stanzas:  1a   2a   3 

Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm: 4. Lausavísur (AI, 131-2, BI, 124-5); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2

in texts: Eg, Flat, Fsk, Jvs, LaufE

SkP info: I, 330

notes: 1-2 in Eg; 3 in Jvs.

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Three dróttkvætt lausavísur attributed to Einarr skálaglamm Helgason (Eskál Lv 1-3) are extant (for the meaning of the nickname skálaglamm see below, and Biography above). Lv 1 and 2 are preserved in significantly differing versions within the kings’ sagas tradition (Jvs and Fsk) on the one hand and within the sagas of Icelanders (Egils saga (Eg)) on the other, and are therefore printed both in SkP I (designated Lv 1a and Lv 2a) and in SkP V (designated Lv 1bV (Eg 124) and Lv 2bV (Eg 125)), where the Eg text is given priority.

All three of Lv 1-3 are found in two mss of Jvs, viz. 291 of the second half of the thirteenth century and 510 of the mid-sixteenth century, as well as in the version of the saga incorporated into the saga of Óláfr Tryggvason in Flat (ms. Flat), while the Jvs ms. 7, of the early fourteenth century, contains Lv 2 and 3 only. Lv 3 is also in Fsk, in the A-group ms. FskAˣ and the B-group FskBˣ and 51ˣ. On the complex relationships between the texts of Jvs, see ‘Sources’ in Introduction to this volume. Lv 3/1-4 is also preserved in LaufE.

In all likelihood, Einarr’s lausavísur and the short narratives about his nickname had their origin in Icelandic oral tradition. Lv 1 shows significant differences between ms. versions, especially in the second helmingr. The texts of the stanza in the Jvs A-redaction mss (291 and Flat) are very similar, while the M ms. which represents the A-redaction of Eg shows clear affinities, particularly in the first helmingr, with 510, a mixed Jvs AB ms. This suggests that the A-redaction of Eg is most likely to have had access to a B-redaction ms. of Jvs (like the authors of the accounts in Fsk and Hkr) and that this text followed that redaction. For details of the Eg mss, see Introduction to these stanzas in SkP V.

In the edition below, 291 is taken as the base ms. for Lv 1a and 2a, as it is the earliest ms. and assumed by Foote (1959a, 28) to have had an archaic exemplar, while the version of M is the base ms. for the texts in SkP V. Einarr’s Lv 3 occurs only in mss of Jvs (291, 7, 510), and in episodes derived from Jvs in Flat and Fsk; again, therefore, 291 is the base ms.

Eskál Lv 1-3 are set in Jvs within narratives involving the Icelandic skalds who attended Hákon jarl Sigurðarson and his son Eiríkr. Einarr is the first named, followed by Vigfúss Víga-Glúmsson, Þórðr ǫrvahǫnd ‘Left-handed’ and Þorleifr skúma ‘the Dusky’ (?) Þorkelsson, and the various versions of Jvs include a number of verses attributed to these skalds. In Einarr’s case, Lv 1a and 2a accompany a short account of his displeasure at Hákon jarl’s failure to honour him for his poetry, as the jarl apparently used to do, which leads Einarr to threaten to transfer his allegiance to Sigvaldi Strút-Haraldsson, the Danish leader of the Jómsvíkingar. Hákon mollifies the skald and averts his transfer of loyalty to Sigvaldi, according to Jvs, with a gift of a pair of scales, made of burnished silver and gilded all over, which had a set of magical weights that produced a tinkling noise (glamm) in the bowl when the weight turned out to be what the jarl wanted. This story is used in Jvs to explain a change in Einarr’s nickname: before this episode he was called Skjaldmeyjar-Einarr ‘Einarr of the Shield-maiden’ (this information is only here, and for reasons not given); after it he acquired the nickname skálaglamm ‘Tinkle-scales’. (For further discussion of the nickname see Biography of Einarr above.) Lv 3 is attached to the famous sea-battle of Hjǫrungavágr (modern Liavågen in Sunnmøre, Norway), where the jarls fought against and defeated the Jómsvíkingar c. 985.

For lists of Jvs, Flat and Fsk editions, see ‘Sources’ in Introduction to this volume. Editions of Eg used here are those of Finnur Jónsson (Eg 1886-8) and Sigurður Nordal (ÍF 2, 1933), Bjarni Einarsson’s edition of the A-redaction (Eg 2001) and his critical edition based on M (Eg 2003), and Chesnutt’s edition of the C-redaction (Eg 2006).

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