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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, 161

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Gsind Hákdr 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Guthormr sindri, Hákonardrápa 3’ 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. 161.

Selund náði þá síðan
sóknheggr und sik leggja
vals ok Vinða frelsi
víð Skáneyjar síðu.

{Sóknheggr} náði þá síðan leggja und sik Selund, víð frelsi vals ok Vinða, síðu Skáneyjar.

{The attack-cherry-tree} [WARRIOR = Hákon] then afterwards succeeded in placing under himself Zealand, the broad sanctuaries against slaughter and the Wends, [and] the coast of Skåne.

Mss: (87r), F(15rb), J1ˣ(51v), J2ˣ(49r) (Hkr); 61(4rb), Bb(5va), Flat(7rb) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] Selund: sælund J1ˣ, sælǫnd Flat;    náði: naðr J1ˣ, náðir Flat;    þá: þú Flat    [2] sik: so F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, Bb, þik Kˣ, Flat;    leggja: leggjask Bb    [4] víð: viðr J1ˣ, J2ˣ;    síðu: so J1ˣ, J2ˣ, síða Kˣ, F, 61, Bb, Flat

Editions: Skj: Goþþormr sindri, Hákonardrápa 3: AI, 62, BI, 55, Skald I, 34, NN §§1930, 2910A; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 177, IV, 47, ÍF 26, 159-60, Hkr 1991, I, 101 (HákGóð ch. 8), F 1871, 68; Fms 1, 28, Fms 12, 26, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 27 (ch. 18), Flat 1860-8, I, 53 .

Context: Hákon continues with extensive raids around Selund (Zealand), encountering no resistance. After citation of the stanza it is mentioned that Hákon follows up on these successes by moving east, raiding the coast of Skáney (Skåne) and attacking Danish and Wendish vikings.

Notes: [All]: The interpretation of the helmingr is uncertain because of the difficulty of l. 3 and the variation in the ms. readings. (a) In this edn, frelsi vals ok Vinða is tentatively taken as ‘sanctuaries against slaughter and the Wends’ (see Note to l. 3 below). The phrase could either be in apposition to Selund, characterising Zealand, or the two phrases could refer to different places, so that the helmingr lists three places (so Kock, NN §1930, and cf. Kock 1936, 1-2; Toyne 1948, 69 n.). In ll. 3-4, asyndeton, the omission of a explicit conj. ‘and’, is assumed. This overall solution accounts for the range of readings. Original víð Skáneyjar síðu, with collocation of what appears to be a f. nom. sg. adj. víð with a f. acc. sg. noun síðu, evidently confused the redactors, who attempted to solve the apparent difficulty in two different ways: (1) changing the acc. to nom. (Skáneyjar) síða to achieve case agreement; (2) changing the adj. to a prep. (viðr ‘by’) and retaining the case of the noun (acc. (Skáneyjar) síðu). (b) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; cf. ÍF 26) construes the helmingr differently. He treats Skáneyjarsíðu as a combined object with Selund (linked by ok ‘and’ in l. 3), and interprets Vinða ‘of Wends’ as governing vals ‘choice’, taken in the sense of ‘elite’: thus Selund ok Skáneyjarsíðu, víð frelsi vals Vinða ‘Zealand and the coast of Skåne, widely-spread sanctuaries of the elite of the Wends’. But the placing of ok makes this unlikely and it is hard to see why an elite of Wends would be specified. — [2] -heggr ‘-cherry-tree’: Heggr is prunus padus, the bird-cherry tree, a species of cherry native to northern Europe. — [3] frelsi vals ok Vinða ‘sanctuaries against slaughter and the Wends’: (a) The f. pl. noun frelsi (often ‘freedom’) is taken here to mean ‘sanctuary, refuge’ (so LP (1860): frelsi and Finnur Jónsson, Note to [All], interpretation (b), above) and construed as taking the double gen., vals ‘of slaughter’ and Vinda ‘of the Wends’, forming a phrase meaning that these areas became safe after Hákon took over. (b) Interpreting vals as gen. sg. of valr ‘falcon’ and vinda as gen. pl. of vindr ‘wind’ would give ‘freedom of the falcon and of the winds’, which could conceivably be a poetic description of a tract of sea and/or land, but its reference would be elusive and it would be unparalleled in skaldic poetry.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated