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Guthormr sindri (Gsind)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Russell Poole;

Hákonardrápa (Hákdr) - 8

Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 273) lists Guthormr (Gsind) among the skalds serving the following kings: Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’; Hálfdan svarti ‘the Black’ Haraldsson (no other skalds listed; omitted in the U text of Skáldatal); and Hákon góði ‘the Good’. Of the poems he may have composed for these rulers, only eight stanzas are extant, all apparently from Hákonardrápa (Hákdr).

Little is otherwise known about Guthormr’s identity, life and career. His place of origin is unknown, but Icelandic birth is hardly likely at this early date, and the name was always much commoner in Norway than in Iceland (Lind 1905-15, 397); equally unknown are his patronymic or matronymic. On the basis of internal evidence in Hákdr, he must have survived the battle at Rastarkálfr on the island of Fræði (Frei) c. 955; he is not mentioned after the death of King Hákon (c. 961), by which time, if he indeed composed for Haraldr hárfagri, he would have been an old man. The sole anecdote about Guthormr, transmitted in Hkr (HHárf, ÍF 26, 141-2) and ÓT (1958-2000, I, 12-13), tells that he was a good skald and a member of the following of Hálfdan svarti. He had earlier been in the entourage of Hálfdan’s father Haraldr hárfagri, was a friend of both men, and had composed a poem about each of them, for which he declined any reward, asking instead that the two men grant a special request from him on some future occasion. When Haraldr and Hálfdan subsequently fell out, his request was that they reconcile with one another, which they did. Credence is lent to this story by the Sendibítr of Jórunn skáldmær (Jór Send), which makes allusion to Guthormr and his stratagem with evident approval, though the details remain obscure (Kreutzer 1972; Jesch 1987, 6-10).

The spelling of the skald’s given name varies (Lind 1905-15, 397) and it is often abbreviated in references to him. The variation may reflect dual origins, in compounds of goð ‘god’ with either þormr ‘protector’ or ormr ‘snake’; alternatively the ‑ormr variant may derive from ‑þormr (AEW: Guðþormr). The name is mentioned in Jór Send 5/3 (see below) but the internal rhyming there provides no means of determining whether the first syllable terminated in ‑t or ‑ð. The standard spelling for the name when used in reference to this individual in the kings’ sagas was apparently Guthormr (Finnur Jónsson, LH I, 442), and that has been adopted in this edition. His nickname is vouched for in Jór Send 4/8. It may mean ‘Spark’ but its exact significance remains unclear. The name Sindri appears in SnE ms. R (added in a later hand) in reference to a dwarf craftsman (SnE 1998, I, 141) and is etymologically related to sindr n. ‘slag, dross’ (CVC: sindr; cf. LH I, 442 n. 4) and sindra ‘to sparkle’ (Lind 1920-1, 308). The nickname may therefore relate to smithing and crafts, perhaps meaning ‘metal-worker’, though the sense ‘shining’ is also possible, given that a mythical hall made of gold is said to be either owned by Sindri’s kin (Vsp 37/3-4) or named Sindri (SnE 2005, 53).

Hákonardrápa (‘Drápa about Hákon’) — Gsind HákdrI

Russell Poole 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Guthormr sindri, Hákonardrápa’ 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. 156.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 

Skj: Goþþormr sindri: Hákonardrápa (AI, 61-3, BI, 55-6)

SkP info: I, 157

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Gsind Hákdr 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Guthormr sindri, Hákonardrápa 1’ 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. 157.

Bifrauknum trað bekkjar
blárǫst konungr ôrum;
mætr hlóð mildingr Jótum
Mistar vífs í drífu.
Svangœðir rak síðan
sótt Jalfaðar flótta
— hrót Giljaðar hylja —
hrafnvíns at mun sínum.


The king trod the blue trail [sea] {in shuddering draught animals of the rowing-bench} [SHIPS] with oars; the excellent generous one heaped up the Jótar in {the snow-storm {of the woman of Mist}}. [VALKYRIE > BATTLE] {The benefactor {of the swan {of raven-wine}}} [(lit. ‘swan-benefactor of raven-wine’) BLOOD > RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIOR] then pursued those who fled {with the illness of Jǫlfuðr} [SPEAR] at his pleasure; {the roofs of Giljaðr} [SHIELDS] conceal [them].

context: Learning that the fall of his brother Eiríkr in England has removed any threat from that direction, Hákon moves to counter Danish raiders in Vík (Viken). He pursues them to Jótland (Jutland), where they regroup and a major battle is fought. Hákon fights valiantly, has the victory and pursues the fleeing enemy inland.

notes: The source of the stanza is identified as Guthormr sindri’s Hákdr in Hkr and ÓT, except that ms. Flat lacks the title at this point, while it identifies st. 6, erroneously, as coming from GráfeldardrápaDrápa about [Haraldr] gráfeldr’ (Flat 1860-8, I, 58). — [1-2]: Interpretations have varied. (a) In this edn, following NN §1928 (cf. ÍF 26; Hkr 1991), bekkjar ‘of the rowing-bench’ is taken with -rauknum ‘draught animals’ to form a ship-kenning; cf. the similar use of þopta ‘rowing-bench’ in HólmgB Lv 9/6V (Korm 44); also Meissner 216. Bekkjar meaning ‘of the stream’ might also yield a ship-kenning, but the parallels involve named rivers (Meissner 214, 217). The element bif- in bifrauknum probably represents bifa ‘quake, tremble’, referring to the shuddering or trembling of a ship at sea. The verb trað ‘trod’ maintains consistency of image with rauknum ‘draught animals’. The cpd blárǫst ‘blue trail’ is treated as a heiti for ‘sea’, similar to a kenning but with an adj. rather than a noun as the first element (cf. CPB II, 30; Meissner 3; ÍF 26; Hkr 1991; cf. also Notes to Eyv Lv 2/4 and Þloft Tøgdr 5/6). (b) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) takes bekkjar as a determinant for blárǫst, thus ‘blue trail of the sea’ or similar, and emends ôrum to ára (gen. pl.) ‘of oars’ to supply a determinant for bifrauknum, but this is unnecessary. (c) Reichardt (1928, 31) and Kock (NN §1928) accept the emendation but assume the opposite pairing of determinants and base-words. — [5-8]: One component, containing a subject, a finite verb, an object, and adverbials, is clearly defined: Hrafnvíns svangœðir rak síðan flótta at mun sínum ‘The benefactor of the swan of the raven-wine [(lit. swan-benefactor of the raven-wine) BLOOD > RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIOR] then pursued those who fled at his pleasure’. Remaining, as more intractable components, are sótt Jalfaðar and hrót Giljaðar hylja. No definitive solution seems attainable. (a) The interpretation tentatively adopted here posits that the helmingr contains two clauses. The first of these, cited above, appears to include the kenning sótt Jalfaðar ‘illness of Jǫlfuðr’, where Jalfaðar is gen. sg. of the Óðinn-heiti Jǫlfuðr or Jalfaðr: see AEW: jǫlfuðr; Note to Þul Óðins 8/4III. His sótt ‘illness’ may be ‘spear’, the god’s characteristic weapon and that by which he sacrificed himself to himself (Hávm 138). Alternatively the kenning might conceivably mean ‘battle’, based on the idea of an affliction (for others) brought about by Óðinn (for battle-kennings with base-words meaning ‘harm, damage’ see Meissner 200, but the examples there are problematic). If the f. sg. noun sótt is taken as dat. or instr., as here, rather than nom. or acc., the phrase as a whole signifies ‘with the spear’ and modifies rak flótta, thus ‘pursued those who fled with the spear’. The second finite verb is hylja (3rd pers. pl. pres. indic.) ‘(they) conceal’, with the tacit object flótta ‘those who fled’ understood from the other clause (for this syntactic feature, see NS §21; cf. Sigv Nesv 1/8; Hharð Gamv 2/1II; SnH Lv 8II; ÞjóðA Lv 8II). The pres. tense in an otherwise entirely pret. narration, while uncommon, has clear analogues in other C10th poetry (e.g. Þjóð Haustl 13/3III; cf. Poole 1991, 44-55). The subject of the verb must be hrót Giljaðar ‘the roofs of Giljaðr’, adopting the n. noun hrót ‘roof, space under the roof’ (Fritzner IV; AEW: hrót), the majority reading in the mss. Giljaðr appears to be an Óðinn-heiti (see Note to l. 7), and Óðinn’s hrót ‘roof(s)’ would be ‘shield(s)’, on the same pattern as þekja Gauts ‘roof of Gautr’ (Þmáhl Máv 17/8V (Eb 19)) and hrót Fjǫlnis ‘roof of Fjǫlnir’ (Hskv Útdr 1/2II; cf. Meissner 170). The pursuit of a (ship-borne) enemy who use shields to cover their backs is described in Þhorn Harkv 11/1-4. (b) Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 26, followed by Hkr 1991) posits a kenning sótt Jalfaðar hrótgiljaðar ‘illness of the betrayer of Óðinn’s roof [(lit. illness of Óðinn’s roof-betrayer) SHIELD > SWORD > (another) SWORD]’. The logical basis would be that in combat one sword may damage another. Bjarni interprets hylja as a form of hylr ‘deep pool (in a stream)’, following Finnur Jónsson (1884, 83; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; cf. Skald), and reads it as part of a kenning hrafnvíns hylja svangœðir ‘benefactor of the swan of the pools of raven-wine [(lit. swan-benefactor of the pools of raven-wine) POOLS OF BLOOD > RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIOR]’. The sense of the whole sentence is then ‘the warrior then drove those who fled with his sword’. The element hylja ‘of pools’ is, however, superfluous. (c) Finnur Jónsson (1884, 84; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) emends sótt to sótti ‘sought’, Jalfaðar to Jalfaðs, and hrót to hrókr, in arriving at the following solution: Jalfaðs svangœðir rak síðan flótta; hrókr hylja hrafnvíns sótti ‘giljaðar’ at mun sínum ‘The benefactor of the swan of Jalfaðr <= Óðinn> [RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIOR] then pursued those who fled; the cormorant of the pools of raven-wine [POOLS OF BLOOD > RAVEN/EAGLE] sought the enticing food at his own pleasure.’ This, aside from being overly drastic, yields an unmetrical l. 6 and leaves giljaðar, tentatively glossed as ‘enticer, betrayer’, or ‘enticing food’, not fully accounted for. (d) Kock (NN §250) tentatively emends ms. sótt to sóttr ‘attacked’, adopts the Bb reading hlaut ‘obtained’ in place of hrót, and emends gyljaðar to gyljaðr ‘howler (wolf)’, with þá ‘then’ added to restore the correct number of syllables. He interprets this as follows: Jalfaðar svangœðir sóttr rak síðan flótta; gyljaðr hlaut þá hylja, vín hrafns at mun sínum ‘The benefactor of the swan of Jalfaðr <= Óðinn> [RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIOR], attacked, then pursued those who fled; the howler [wolf] then obtained the pools, the wine of the raven [BLOOD] at his pleasure’.

texts: Flat 189 (7), HákGóð 3 (I 62), ÓT 6, Hkr 72 (I 62)

editions: Skj Goþþormr sindri: Hákonardrápa 1 (AI, 61-2; BI, 55);

Skald I, 34, NN §§250, 1928, 1929; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 176, IV, 46, ÍF 26, 157-8, Hkr 1991, I, 100 (HákGóð ch. 6), F 1871, 68; Fms 1, 27, Fms 12, 26, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 26 (ch. 17), Flat 1860-8, I, 52



AM 35 folx (Kx) 86v, 10 - 86v, 17 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 45 fol (F) 15ra, 30 - 15ra, 33 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  image  image  image  
AM 37 folx (J1x) 51v, 2 - 51v, 6 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 48v, 18 - 48v, 25 (Hkr)  image  
AM 61 fol (61) 4rb, 11 - 4rb, 13 (ÓT)  transcr.  image  image  
Holm perg 1 fol (Bb) 5va, 5 - 5va, 9 (ÓT)  transcr.  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 7rb, 30 - 7rb, 33 (ÓT)  transcr.  image  image  image  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated