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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 23 May 2022)

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, 318

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

28 — Eskál Vell 28I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 28’ 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. 318.

Þrymr varð logs, þars lǫgðu
leikmiðjungar, Þriðja,
(arngreddir varð) odda
(andvígr) saman randir.
Sundfaxa kom Sǫxum
sœki-Þróttr á flótta,
þars svát gramr með gumnum
garð yrþjóðum varði.


{The din {of the fire of Þriði}} [SWORD > BATTLE] came about, where {the miðjungar {of the game of arrow-points}} [(lit. ‘game-miðjungar of arrow-points’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] set their shields together; {the eagle-feeder} [WARRIOR] became aggressive. {The attacking-Þróttr {of the channel-horses}} [SHIPS > SEA-WARRIOR = Hákon jarl] drove the Saxons to flight, where the ruler with his men defended the palisade against the troops.

context: In Hkr and ÓT’s account of the battle for the Danevirke, Hákon’s forces defend both wall and gates. A large part of the emperor’s army falls, and he breaks off his attack. Fsk (which lacks sts 25-7) summarises the campaign before citing st. 28.

notes: Although the historical sources report that the Danish king was defeated, Vell claims Hákon jarl was victorious. Historians explain this either as evidence that the stanza does not relate to the battle of the year 974 (see Note to st. 26 [All]; Skovgaard-Petersen 1977, 167) or that Hákon jarl was indeed able to defend his part of the wall (Ussing 1928, 147; Bolin 1931, 205). — [1-3]: The distribution of the determinants in the kennings used here has been handled in various ways: (a) The arrangement adopted above is also that of most other eds. (b) Vell 1865, 81 and Konráð Gíslason (1895-7, I, 163) have þrymr odda ‘din of spears [BATTLE]’ and leikmiðjungar logs Þriðja ‘the miðjungar of the game of the fire of Þriði <= Óðinn> [SWORD > BATTLE > WARRIORS]’. Here l. 2 remains a unit, but l. 1 is split into three parts, Þrymr varð, logs, þars/es lǫgðu. (c) Kock (NN §2245) reads the two kennings as þrymr logs ‘din of the sword [BATTLE]’ and leikmiðjungar Þriðja ‘the miðjungar of the game of Þriði <= Óðinn> [BATTLE > WARRIOR]’; but this involves taking log in the sense of ‘sword’, which is otherwise unattested.

texts: Fsk 82, ÓT 53, ÓTC 20 (I 124), Hkr 151 (I 124)

editions: Skj Einarr Helgason skálaglamm: 3. Vellekla 29 (AI, 129; BI, 122); Skald I, 68, NN §§407, 2245; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 301, IV, 82, ÍF 26, 258, Hkr 1991, I, 173 (ÓTHkr ch. 26), F 1871, 112; Fms 1, 124, Fms 12, 37, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 137 (ch. 69); Fsk 1902-3, 74-5 (ch. 15), ÍF 29, 116-17 (ch. 17).


AM 35 folx (Kx) 147v, 25 - 148r, 3 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 45 fol (F) 24va, 27 - 24va, 30 (Hkr)  image  image  image  image  
AM 37 folx (J1x) 87r, 10 - 87r, 15 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 81v, 16 - 81v, 23 (Hkr)  image  
AM 61 fol (61) 14vb, 4 - 14vb, 6 (ÓT)  image  image  
AM 53 fol (53) 13ra, 18 - 13ra, 22 (ÓT)  image  
AM 54 fol (54) 9rb, 37 - 9va, 1 (ÓT)  image  
Holm perg 1 fol (Bb) 19va, 35 - 19vb, 1 (ÓT)  transcr.  image  
OsloUB 371 folx (FskBx) 21r, 24 - 21v, 2 (Fsk)  image  
AM 51 folx (51x) 18v, 23 - 18v, 30 (Fsk)  image  
AM 302 4°x (302x) 22v - 22v (Fsk)  
AM 303 4°x (FskAx) 83, 6 - 83, 13 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 52 folx (52x) 32v, 2 - 32v, 9 (Fsk)  image  
AM 301 4°x (301x) 29v, 15 - 29v, 20 (Fsk)  image  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated