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Runic Dictionary

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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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 28 September 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 

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

SkP info: I, 163

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Gsind Hákdr 5I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Guthormr sindri, Hákonardrápa 5’ 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. 163.

Ok sóknhattar setti
svellrjóðr at því fljóði
Ónars eiki grónu
austr geðbœti hraustan,
þann, es áðr frá Írum
íðvandr of kom skíðum
salbrigðandi Sveigðis
svanvangs liði þangat.

Ok {{{sóknhattar} svell}rjóðr} setti {hraustan geðbœti} austr at {því fljóði Ónars}, grónu eiki, þann, {íðvandr {Sveigðis sal}brigðandi}, es of kom áðr liði þangat frá Írum {skíðum {svanvangs}}.

And {the reddener {of the ice {of the attack-hat}}} [(lit. ‘ice-reddener of the attack-hat’) HELMET > SWORD > WARRIOR = Hákon] placed {the valiant morale-improver} [RULER = Tryggvi] in the east over {that woman of Ónarr <giant>} [= Jǫrð (jǫrð ‘land’)], grown with oak, that man, {a diligent cleaver {of the hall of Sveigðir <= Óðinn>}} [(lit. ‘diligent hall-cleaver of Sveigðir’) SHIELD > WARRIOR = Tryggvi], who had previously brought his following there from the Irish {on the skis {of the swan-plain}} [SEA > SHIPS].

Mss: (87v), F(15rb), J1ˣ(52r), J2ˣ(49v) (Hkr); 61(4rb-va), Bb(5vb), Flat(7rb) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] ‑hattar: ‑hvattr F, ‑hittir Bb    [2] svell‑: ‘suol‑’ Flat;    at: af Flat    [3] Ónars: einars J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, Bb;    eiki: ‘eki’ 61, ekki Flat;    grónu: grœnu J2ˣ, Bb, seima 61, grœnum Flat    [4] austr: austrs Flat;    geð‑: sið‑ Bb;    ‑bœti: ‑boði J1ˣ, bœtis Flat;    hraustan: hraustum 61    [6] of (‘vm’): ok Bb, er Flat;    skíðum: so F, 61, Bb, Flat, skeiðum Kˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ    [7] ‑brigðandi: so all others, ‑brygðandi Kˣ;    Sveigðis: sveigðisk Flat    [8] ‑vangs: ‑fangs J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, Bb, Flat

Editions: Skj: Goþþormr sindri, Hákonardrápa 5: AI, 62-3, BI, 55-6, Skald I, 34, NN §§1931, 2743; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 179, IV, 48, ÍF 26, 161, Hkr 1991, I, 102 (HákGóð ch. 9), F 1871, 69; Fms 1, 29, Fms 12, 27, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 28 (ch. 18), Flat 1860-8, I, 53 .

Context: King Tryggvi Óláfsson, Hákon’s nephew, returns from raiding around Ireland and Scotland. During the spring Hákon places him in charge of Vík (Viken) to ward off enemy action and consolidate the hold over the Danish lands from which Hákon had exacted tribute.

Notes: [1, 2-3] setti … at því fljóði Ónars ‘placed … over that woman of Ónarr <giant> [= Jǫrð (jǫrð “land”)]’: For discussion of forms of the name Ónarr see Finnur Jónsson (1884, 84-5) and Note to Þul Dverga 3/6III. The noun fljóð means ‘woman given to a man’ (see Note to Þul Kvenna I 1/3III), but the few other earth-kennings involving Ónarr refer to earth as his daughter (Meissner 87; ÍF 26). It may be that the variation of base-word from ‘daughter’ to ‘wife’ reflects conflation with earth-kennings based on the idea of ‘Óðinn’s spouse/concubine’. The metaphor of the marriage of ruler to land occurs in other poetry of the late C10th and early C11th (e.g. Eyv Hál 12, Hfr Hákdr 3-6III, Edáð Banddr 3; cf. SnE 1998, I, 158). The language may be purely figurative and conventional (cf. Frank 2007, 177, 190), but it has been regarded as pointing to an ancient rite of hieros gamos ‘sacred marriage’ (Ström 1983; Steinsland 1986b; Steinsland 1991; Steinsland 1992), perhaps even to a revival of such a cult under Hákon góði or more especially under the jarls of Hlaðir (Lade; e.g. Åkerblom 1899a, 271-2). The exact region placed under Tryggvi’s protection is not specified in the stanza. The prose narrative may be correct in mentioning Vík (Viken, the area around Oslofjorden), but Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 26) suggests that the reference might be to the Danish lands subjugated by Hákon in his campaign. The mention of oak forests would fit best with the Danish islands or the Skåne coast (cf. Price 2000b, 32, map). — [4] geðbœti ‘morale-improver [RULER = Tryggvi]’: Tryggvi Óláfsson (see Context). The kenning may involve word-play on his name, cf. tryggr ‘trustworthy’ (cf. Hkr 1893-1901, IV; ÍF 26; Hkr 1991). — [5, 7] þann … -brigðandi ‘that man … cleaver …’: Þann ‘that man, that one’ is m. acc. sg., referring back to geðbœti ‘morale-improver’ (l. 4), while brigðandi ‘cleaver’, base-word to the warrior-kenning, is m. nom. sg., elaborating on es ‘who’, the subject of kom ‘brought’. Both refer to Tryggvi. — [5] áðr ‘previously’: Finnur Jónsson (1884, 85) and Kock (NN §1931) proposed emendation to ár ‘before’, to supply hending, but áðr : Írum do rhyme (cf. Kuhn 1983, 79). — [7] Sveigðis ‘of Sveigðir <= Óðinn>’: The form and application of this rare proper name are discussed by Konráð Gíslason (1881, 200-8).

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