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Runic Dictionary

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Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

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

4. Þorfinnsdrápa (Þorfdr) - 25

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.

Þorfinnsdrápa (‘Drápa about Þorfinnr’) — Arn ÞorfdrII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa’ 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. 229-60. <> (accessed 21 October 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25 

Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 5. Þórfinnsdrápa (AI, 343-8, BI, 316-21); stanzas (if different): 1 | 3 | 4 | 12 | 13 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18

SkP info: II, 255-6

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

22 — Arn Þorfdr 22II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 22’ 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. 255-6.

Gramr myndi sá gǫmlu
gunnbráðr und sik láði
— hann fekk miklu minna
mannspjall — koma ǫllu,
ef ílendra Endils
ættstafr hafa knætti
(vélti herr of Hjalta)
hjalm-Þrótta lið (dróttin*).

Sá gunnbráðr gramr myndi koma ǫllu gǫmlu láði und sik—hann fekk miklu minna mannspjall—, ef {ættstafr Endils} knætti hafa lið {ílendra hjalm-Þrótta}; herr vélti of {dróttin* Hjalta}.

That battle-hasty ruler would have brought all of the ancient land under his sway—he had much the less loss of men—if he, {the kin-stave of Endill <sea-king>} [RULER], could have had the support {of the land-restored helmet-Þróttar <= Óðinn’s>} [WARRIORS]; the troop betrayed {the Shetlanders’ lord} [= Rǫgnvaldr].

Mss: Flat(132rb) (Orkn)

Readings: [4] ‑spjall: spjǫll Flat    [8] dróttin*: dróttins Flat

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 5. Þórfinnsdrápa 22: AI, 348, BI, 321, Skald I, 162, NN §3226; Flat 1860-8, II, 415, Orkn 1913-16, 72, ÍF 34, 69-70 (ch. 26); Whaley 1998, 306-8.

Context: The st. appears shortly after st. 21. Rǫgnvaldr’s ships are attacked and cleared by Kálfr Árnason and his men. Seeing that, the Norwegians sent by King Magnús to support Rǫgnvaldr flee, leaving very few craft with the jarl. This was the turning point in the battle.

Notes: [All]: The st. contains three expressions for a ruler: gramr ‘ruler’ (l. 1), ættstafr Endils ‘kin-stave of Endill <sea-king>’ (ll. 5, 6) and dróttin Hjalta ‘Shetlanders’ lord’ (ll. 7, 8): They must all refer to the same man, and this must be Rǫgnvaldr Brúsason, unless the traditions about the battle of Rauðabjǫrg in Orkn ch. 26 are completely awry. According to the saga, Rǫgnvaldr almost prevails, but is eventually defeated because of the defection of his allies and, far from tightening his hold over Orcadian territory, is obliged to take refuge in Norway. These points, apart from the flight to Norway, are all matched in the st. The necessary emendation of dróttins to dróttin was proposed by Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1909a, 297-8). — [1, 2] gǫmlu láði ‘ancient land’: Presumably Orkney and Shetland. — [3-4] minna mannspjall ‘the less loss of men’: Minna is n. acc. sg., but mannspjǫll (ms. ‘mann spioll’) is n. acc. pl. Minna mannspjall is perhaps a better emendation than minni mannspjǫll, for a scribe could well have altered spjall to spjǫll in order to secure what he considered a perfect rhyme with ǫllu, although a rhyme of a : ǫ would have been acceptable. — [5, 8] ílendra hjalm-Þrótta ‘of the land-restored helmet-Þróttar <= Óðinns> [WARRIORS]’: The identity of the ílendir warriors who treacherously failed to support Rǫgnvaldr is disputed. (a) Finnbogi Guðmundsson (ÍF 34, 70 n. and xxxiv) suggests that ílendr can refer to a man who has been outlawed but has regained his right to live in the land, and cites from Egils saga ch. 56 in support of this. If ílendr does have this sense in st. 22, it describes exactly the position of Kálfr Árnason as described in Orkn chs 25-6: King Magnús promises him that he can repossess his estates in Norway, if he supports Rǫgnvaldr against his friend Þorfinnr. When the battle begins Kálfr at first holds aloof but eventually responds to the egging of Þorfinnr and enters the conflict on his side, with decisive effect. The allusions in the present st. become entirely comprehensible if it is assumed that Kálfr and his men are meant. There are, however, other possibilities. (b) The most common meaning of ílendr is ‘settled, resident in the land’ (e.g. Flat 1860-8, II 24 and 374; Fms 6, 254). Some scholars, presumably taking this as a starting-point, have interpreted ílendr as meaning ‘native’ (for which the usual term is innlendr) and hence have understood the ílendir warriors of st. 22 to be islanders who betrayed Rǫgnvaldr (so Björn Magnússon Ólsen, 1909, 298, specifying Shetlanders, and Finnur Jónsson in Skj B; Hofmann 1955, 103 also interpreted ílendr in the sense ‘native’, which he suggests may be influenced by OE inlende). But although the men of Orkney and Shetland were obliged to side either with Rǫgnvaldr or Þorfinnr at Rauðabjǫrg, there seems to be no tradition of treachery. (c) Ílendr can mean ‘arrived in the land’, as when Knútr, newly arrived in Denmark, is described thus in Sigv Knútdr 9/4I. The Norw. crews whom King Magnús sent to support Rǫgnvaldr (a separate band from Kálfr and his men) were ílendir in this sense; but although they eventually fled from the battle, they were scarcely guilty of treachery against Rǫgnvaldr.

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