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Runic Dictionary

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Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson (TorfE)

9th century; volume 1; ed. Russell Poole;

Lausavísur (Lv) - 5

Einarr jarl Rǫgnvaldsson (TorfE) ruled over the Orkneys at some time in the early tenth century. Our knowledge of him derives largely from Orkn, Fsk, and HHárf in Hkr; the relevant part of ÓT essentially derives from Hkr. All three principal compilations incorporate lausavísur ascribed to Einarr which are printed below as his five lausavísur. Additionally, Orkn and Hkr give a brief account of his life and of the events that the lausavísur relate to. Parts of the story are also told in Ldn (ÍF 1, 314, 316) but without the lausavísur (Mundal 1993, 248). His more familiar name, Torf-Einarr ‘Turf-Einarr’, is explained as due to his adoption of peat as a fuel in Orkney (ÍF 34, 11; ÍF 26, 129).

Einarr was a son of Rǫgnvaldr Mœrajarl ‘Jarl of Møre’, his mother being a concubine (see Note to Lv 1 [All] on Rǫgnvaldr’s sons). When King Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ awarded Rǫgnvaldr the rule of Orkney and Shetland in compensation for the killing of his son Ívarr, Rǫgnvaldr initially delegated it to his brother Sigurðr, then to Sigurðr’s son Guttormr, and after their deaths to his own son Hallaðr. Only after Hallaðr failed in the task did Rǫgnvaldr grudgingly assent to Einarr’s offer to take it on (ÍF 34, 10-11). Torf-Einarr established himself as lord of the islands, having first defeated two viking leaders; see Anon (Hhárf). The killing of Rǫgnvaldr, possibly at Haraldr’s instigation, precipitated the vengeance on Einarr’s part recounted in the lausavísur.

Lausavísur — TorfE LvI

Russell Poole 2012, ‘ Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson, 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. 129. <> (accessed 4 July 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5 

Skj: Torf-Einarr jarl: Lausavísur (AI, 31-2, BI, 27-8); stanzas (if different): 2 | 4 | 5

in texts: Flat, Fsk, HHárf, Hkr, Orkn, ÓT

SkP info: I, 129

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


The lausavísur ascribed to Torf-Einarr (TorfE Lv 1-5) concern the hostilities between Hálfdan and Guðrøðr, sons of Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’, and himself after the killing of his father Rǫgnvaldr Mœrajarl (see Context to Lv 1). Torf-Einarr exults in his successes, while (in sts 1, 4) decrying the failure of his brothers Gǫngu-Hrólfr ‘Walking Hrólfr’, Hrollaugr and Þórir to join him in avenging his father.

The order of lausavísur differs in the witnesses and is difficult to fix, in the absence of a clear narrative line. The order of Orkn, which contains all five, is adopted here. In Fsk three lausavísur are preserved, in the order Lv 1, 4, 3, and are used to document statements about the genealogy of William the Conqueror (Vilhjálmr bastarðr Rúðujarl ‘the Bastard, Jarl of Rouen’) and the vengeance for Rǫgnvaldr jarl (see von See 1960, 40). The order in Hkr (Lv 1, 4, 5 and 2, with 3 omitted) reflects Snorri’s interpretations of the lausavísur (von See 1960). Finnur Jónsson (1884, 96; Skj) attempted to synthesise the lausavísa orders found in Orkn, Fsk and Hkr. It has been argued that the set of five lausavísur was composed as a single poem (or flokkr) rather than as true lausavísur (von See 1960, 32, 40-3; von See 1977b, 61-2; Poole 1991, 161-3, 168-72, where they are given the title ‘Torf-Einarr’s revenge’; contrast Hofmann 1978-9, 77-80). The present edition follows the medieval sources in presenting them as extemporised lausavísur (see Contexts).

The traditional ascription to Torf-Einarr is similarly retained in the present edition. Finnur Jónsson (1884, 96) argued in its favour on the basis of the speaker’s tone and attitudes. For the contrary suggestion, that Torf-Einarr is not the composer of the lausavísur and that they ought to be grouped together with Anon (Hhárf), an anonymous couplet that precedes them in Orkn and Hkr, see Poole (1991, 169-70), and for possible contexts for later composition cf. Mundal (1993, 251), Bruhn (1993), Poole (2006), Poole (2007a), and Poole (2010a). Aesthetic appreciations of the sequence of lausavísur, viewed as a free-standing poem, are offered by von See (1960, 41-3) and Poole (1991, 170-2).

The lausavísur are composed in a metrical form termed munnvǫrp, lit. ‘mouth-throwings’, in Snorri Sturluson’s Háttatal (SnE 2007, 28) and illustrated in SnSt Ht 66III. SnSt Ht 55III is introduced in the prose of Ht as Torf-Einars háttr ‘Torf-Einarr’s verse-form’, and there is a close, but not perfect, match between the metrical features of Ht 55III and the lausavísur (see Note to Ht 55III [All]; SnE 2007, 25, 63). In the strict later development of this form, seen, for instance, in Bjarni Kolbeinsson’s Jómsvíkingadrápa (Bjbp Jóms), even lines feature skothending whereas odd lines are completely unrhymed. In the present lausavísur, by contrast, while most even lines feature skothendingar, some have no rhyme and others have aðalhendingar (von See 1969, 364). Skothendingar may also occur in odd lines. The second of the two rhyming syllables does not necessarily occupy the fifth position in the line, as would be the case in classical munnvǫrp. Extra rhymes occur sporadically through other parts of the lausavísur.

The mss used in this edition are as follows: the Hkr mss , F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ (Lv 1, 2, 4, 5); the Orkn mss 332ˣ (Lv 1-5), Flat (Lv 1, 2, 4, 5), R702ˣ (Lv 2-5); the Fsk mss FskAˣ, 301ˣ (Lv 1, 3, 4; the ‘B’ redaction of Fsk has a lacuna); and the ÓT mss 61, 53, 54, Bb (Lv 2). The skaldic anthology 761bˣ supplies a text of all five stanzas. The textual relations between the prose sources are complex, but the section containing the stanzas in Orkn is thought to have been compiled somewhat before 1190 and to have been Snorri’s source for the account in Hkr (ÍF 26, lx; Finnbogi Guðmundsson 1993, 206, 210; Jesch 1993b, 229), though the extant Orkn has been further revised. Hkr was in turn the principal source for the relevant part of ÓT (cf. Ólafur Halldórsson 2001, v). The relationship of Fsk to the other accounts is unclear. The ms. texts of the lausavísur also yield a complex picture, with variable patterns of agreement across, and within, the Hkr, Orkn and Fsk groupings. Fsk has evidently derived the stanzas not from Orkn but from a different, unknown source (Indrebø 1917, 107; Ellehøj 1965, 165-6; Fidjestøl 1982, 28, 33 and 38). Marginal variants in FskAˣ, shown in the Readings below, match the Orkn tradition (especially 332ˣ) quite consistently. The text in 761bˣ appears to derive largely from J2ˣ, with some additional consultation of 332ˣ and possibly other sources. In this edition, is used as the main ms. for Lv 1, 2, 4, 5, and 332ˣ for Lv 3, but readings from other mss are adopted where the weight of the evidence suggests that the reading is secondary. Previous editions of these lausavísur, in addition to Skj, Skald and editions of the prose works concerned, include those of von See (1960, 370-1) and Poole (1991, 161-3).

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