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Runic Dictionary

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Einarr skálaglamm Helgason (Eskál)

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

2. Vellekla (Vell) - 37

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.

Vellekla (‘Lack of Gold’) — Eskál VellI

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2012, ‘ Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla’ 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. 280. <> (accessed 21 September 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   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37 

Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm: 3. Vellekla, o. 986 (AI, 122-31, BI, 117-24); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37

SkP info: I, 301

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

14 — Eskál Vell 14I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 14’ 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. 301.

Ǫll lét senn inn svinni
sǫnn Einriða mǫnnum
herjum kunn of herjuð
hofs lǫnd ok banda,
áðr veg jǫtna vitni
valfalls of allan
— þeim stýra goð — geira
garðs Hlórriði farði.


The wise one soon made all the harried lands of the temple of Einriði <= Þórr> and the sanctuaries of the gods, famous among the peoples, lawful for men, before {the Hlórriði {of the fence of spears}} [SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl] ferried evidence of slaughter {to the path of the giants} [MOUNTAINS = Norway?] across all the sea; the gods guide him.

context: In Hkr and ÓT, Hákon jarl, after driving the Eiríkssynir (Gunnhildarsynir) from Norway, orders his subjects to maintain the temples and sacrifices. Hkr cites sts 14-16 in unbroken sequence, whereas ÓT cites only sts 14 and 16. Fsk cites only the first helmingr, also to illustrate Hákon’s restoration of sacrifices, but much later in the narrative, after Hákon’s return from Denmark.

notes: The overall understanding of the stanza in this edn matches that of the medieval sources and most eds, and appears to be the best solution available, but given the difficulties, especially of ll. 5-8, it can only be tentative. — [5-8]: All eds regard Hlórriði garðs geira ‘Hlórriði <= Þórr> of the fence of spears [SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl]’ as the subject of farði of allan sæ ‘ferried all across the sea (lit. across all the sea)’. The remainder of this difficult helmingr is subject to several interpretations. (a) The construal shown above follows Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) in taking together veg jǫtna ‘path of the giants [MOUNTAINS]’, which could refer to Norway, and taking valfall ‘slaughter’ to refer to the death of Haraldr gráfeldr in the battle in Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden, c. 970). Hence the helmingr appears to mean that Hákon, returning to Norway with this news, at the same time has a claim to authority there. In this edn, veg jǫtna is further taken as part of a construction ferja e-m e-t ‘to ferry/bring sby sth.’, parallel to similar constructions using færa ‘bring’ or senda ‘send’. Finnur Jónsson reads at ‘to’ rather than áðr ‘before’ in l. 5, and this forms a satisfactory prepositional phrase with veg jǫtna, but is problematic in other ways (see Note to l. 5). (b) Kock (NN §402, followed by ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991) interprets vitnir valfalls ‘wolf of death in battle’ as a kenning referring to a sword that Hákon jarl brought across the sea to the mountains (to Norway), but this is unsatisfactory because it would indicate an attack on Norway by Hákon. (c) Kuhn (1971b, 5), on the basis of (l. 5) in some mss, interprets vitni valfalls véjǫtna to mean ‘evidence of the death of the sanctuary-giants [DESECRATORS OF THE TEMPLE]’. Only one instance of jǫtunn in the sense of ‘harmful being’ is attested, however, in Egill Lv 25/4V (Eg 32) jǫtunn vandar ‘giant of the mast [WIND]’.

texts: Fsk 86 [1-4], ÓT 40, ÓTC 4 (I 108), Hkr 135 (I 108)

editions: Skj Einarr Helgason skálaglamm: 3. Vellekla 15 (AI, 125-6; BI, 119); Skald I, 67, NN §§401, 402; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 280-1, IV, 73, ÍF 26, 241-2, Hkr 1991, I, 161 (ÓTHkr ch. 16), F 1871, 105; Fms 1, 91, Fms 12, 34, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 98 (ch. 55); Fsk 1902-3, 78 (ch. 15), ÍF 29, 120 (ch. 17).


AM 35 folx (Kx) 139v, 30 - 140r, 5 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  
AM 39 fol (39) 5va, 32 - 5va, 35 (Hkr)  image  
AM 45 fol (F) 23ra, 27 - 23ra, 30 (Hkr)  image  image  image  image  
AM 37 folx (J1x) 81r, 21 - 81v, 2 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 76r, 18 - 76r, 25 (Hkr)  image  
AM 61 fol (61) 11ra, 35 - 11ra, 38 (ÓT)  image  image  
AM 53 fol (53) 9rb, 4 - 9rb, 7 (ÓT)  image  
AM 54 fol (54) 5ra, 14 - 5ra, 17 (ÓT)  image  
Holm perg 1 fol (Bb) 14vb, 34 - 14vb, 37 (ÓT)  transcr.  image  
OsloUB 371 folx (FskBx) 22v, 8 - 22v, 11 [1-4] (Fsk)  image  
AM 51 folx (51x) 19v, 30 - 19v, 33 [1-4] (Fsk)  image  
AM 302 4°x (302x) 23r - 23r [1-4] (Fsk)  
AM 303 4°x (FskAx) 87, 6 - 87, 9 [1-4] (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 52 folx (52x) 34r, 3 - 34r, 6 [1-4] (Fsk)  image  
AM 301 4°x (301x) 31r, 14 - 31r, 16 [1-4] (Fsk)  image  
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