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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, 168

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Gsind Hákdr 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Guthormr sindri, Hákonardrápa 8’ 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. 168.

Hræddr fór hjǫrva raddar
herr fyr malma þverri;
rógeisu gekk ræsir
ráðsterkr framar merkjum.
Gerra gramr í snerru
geirvífa sér hlífa,
hinns yfrinn gat, jǫfra,
óls kvánar byr mána.

Herr fór hræddr {raddar hjǫrva} fyr {þverri malma}; {ræsir {rógeisu}} gekk ráðsterkr framar merkjum. {Gramr jǫfra} gerra hlífa sér í {snerru {geirvífa}}, hinns gat {yfrinn byr {kvánar {óls mána}}}.

The army went in dread {of the voice of swords} [BATTLE] before {the diminisher of metal weapons} [WARRIOR = Hákon]; {the impeller {of the strife-fire}} [SWORD > WARRIOR = Hákon] advanced, strong in counsel, ahead of the standards. {The king of princes} [= Hákon] does not protect himself in {the onslaught {of spear-women}} [VALKYRIES > BATTLE], he who attained {an outstanding fair wind {of the wife {of the affliction of the moon}}} [GIANT > GIANTESS > MIND].

Mss: (99v), 39(2vb), F(17va), J1ˣ(60r-v), J2ˣ(56r-v) (Hkr); 61(5va-b), 53(4vb), 325IX 1 a(2rb), Bb(7rb), Flat(8ra) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] hjǫrva: so J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, 53, 325IX 1 a, Bb, Flat, hjarta Kˣ, F, ‘[...]arta’ 39;    raddar: ‘[...]ddar’ 325IX 1 a    [2] herr: hverr J2ˣ;    þverri: þverrði 53, ‘[...]’ 325IX 1 a    [3] róg‑: ‘[...]g‑’ 325IX 1 a;    ‑eisu: ‘[...]isa’ 39;    gekk: om. 325IX 1 a    [4] ráð‑: ‘[...]’ 53;    merkjum: merkin 325IX 1 a    [5] Gerra: geira 53, Bb, ‘gei[...]’ 325IX 1 a, ‘geyrra’ Flat;    í: ‘[...]’ 325IX 1 a;    snerru: ‘[...]erru’ 325IX 1 a, snæru Bb    [6] ‑vífa: ‑fífa J1ˣ, ‑íma Flat;    hlífa: ‘[...]ifa’ 39    [7] yfrinn: ‘vfirrinn’ 39, yfir Flat    [8] óls kvánar: so J1ˣ, J2ˣ, oskvánar Kˣ, ‘os kvanar’ 39, ósk kvánar F, óðs kvánar 61, 53, 325IX 1 a, Bb, óskvænan Flat

Editions: Skj: Goþþormr sindri, Hákonardrápa 8: AI, 63, BI, 56, Skald I, 35, NN §252; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 206, IV, 51-2, ÍF 26, 180-1, Hkr 1991, I, 115-16 (HákGóð ch. 26), F 1871, 79; Fms 1, 40, Fms 12, 28, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 39 (ch. 25), Flat 1860-8, I, 59 .

Context: Hákon engages forces led by Gamli and the other surviving sons of Eiríkr in a land-battle at Rastarkálfr on the island of Fræði (Frei, Møre og Romsdal), and has the victory.

Notes: [All]: For the battle of Rastarkálfr (c. 955), see also Eyv Lv 6 and ÞSjár Þórdr 2 . — [1] raddar hjǫrva ‘of the voice of swords [BATTLE]’: This gen.-case phrase can be construed in various ways, each with merits and demerits. (a) In this edn it is treated as governed by hræddr, hence ‘afraid of battle’. Although hræddr is not normally followed by a gen. phrase, cf. gen. constructions meaning ‘brave in battle’ (Anon Óldr 1/1-2 and Note) and other adj. + gen. constructions in NS §§136-7; this is an appropriate description for Hákon’s opponents. (b) Finnur Jónsson (1884, 92-3; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; followed in Hkr 1991) reads the phrase as part of a kenning þverrir malma raddar hjǫrva ‘diminisher of metals of the voice of swords [BATTLE > WEAPONS > WARRIOR]’. Finnur (1884, 93) notes that while malma can stand alone with an agentive noun such overladen kennings appear to be within Guthormr’s style. (c) Kock (NN §252, followed by ÍF 26) links the phrase to herr ‘army’, thus ‘army of battle’, citing analogues in OE poetry. Such a locution would be uncharacteristic of skaldic style, though the possibility of OE influence cannot be excluded (see Note to l. 8), and comparable circumlocutions are attested in later skaldic poetry, e.g. Mark Eirdr 19/1II heiðinn herr hǫmlu vígs ‘heathen host of the staff of battle [SPEAR]’, and cf. Introduction to Sturl HrafnII. — [5, 6] gerra hlífa sér ‘does not protect himself’: The pres. tense here most probably has habitual or frequentative aspect, referring to Hákon’s ongoing fearlessness (and indicating that Hákdr was composed during the king’s lifetime: see Introduction). Lines such as these, as also ll. 7-8, could have made up whole or part of a stef ‘refrain’ for the drápa. Less likely, though not excluded, is a pres. historic tense, referring to the king’s courage in these specific raids. — [5, 7] gramr jǫfra ‘the king of princes [= Hákon]’: Cf. Arn Þorfdr 15/2II konungr jarla ‘king among jarls’, and Note. The placing of jǫfra ‘of princes’ produces a complicated word order, and an awkward caesura in the Type B-line (l. 7). Jǫfra is taken instead with hinns, hence hinn jǫfra, es ‘the one among princes, who’, in Skj B and ÍF 26, but this is no less problematic. — [8] byr kvánar óls mána ‘fair wind of the wife of the affliction of the moon [GIANT > GIANTESS > MIND]’: This kenning is clearly of the well-known type ‘wind of the giantess [MIND/THOUGHT]’, but it has caused difficulty because of the significant variance in ms. readings. (a) The explanation adopted in this edn is due to Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1886, 195-203, followed by ÍF 26). The reading óls (found only in J1ˣ, J2ˣ) is adopted. This is gen. sg. of the rare ól n., whose etymological sense is ‘pestilence, affliction’ (see AEW: ól 2 and Note to ÞSkall Valfl 1/8II, where it appears to have the meaning ‘troll-woman’). The kenning apparently alludes to the Mánagarmr ‘hound of the moon’, a giant in the likeness of a wolf who will swallow the sun (and/or moon) according to Gylf (SnE 2005, 14; cf. ÍF 26), although the evidence for this figure prior to SnE is equivocal (SnE 2005, 172). (b) Finnur Jónsson (1884, 93; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; LP: óskkvôn, máni; Skj B, followed by Skald; Hkr 1991) instead selects ósk ‘wish’, the reading of F, and reads byr óskkvánar mána ‘fair wind of the desired/desiring woman of Máni/the moon [GIANTESS > MIND]’, but corruption of this easily interpreted reading to óls or óðs would be unlikely, and there is no direct evidence that Máni ‘moon’ had giant status (SnE 2005, 13; Björn Magnússon Ólsen 1886, 196-200; ÍF 26). See Egill St 13/2V (Eg 84) for a similar, also problematic, context containing the words byr and mána .

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