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Gunnlaugr Leifsson (GunnLeif)

13th century; volume 8; ed. Russell Poole;

VIII. 2. Merlínusspá II (Merl II) - 68

Gunnlaugr Leifsson (GunnLeif, d. 1218 or 1219) was a monk at the Benedictine house of Þingeyrar, a monastery near the shores of Húnaflói, in northern Iceland, that maintained close relations with the seat of the bishop at Hólar (Turville-Petre 1953, 135). Nothing is known concerning Gunnlaugr’s place of birth, upbringing or social origins. He was regarded in his own time as a man of singular Latin learning (LH II, 394-5) and worked in a distinguished historiographic and hagiographic milieu (de Vries 1964-7, II, 246). In a rare personal anecdote, perhaps apocryphal, Arngrímr Brandsson, a Benedictine monk and abbot at Þingeyrar (d. 1361 or 1362), tells that Gunnlaugr attempted to recite his new history of Saint Ambrose at the church at Hólar but was rebuffed by Bishop Guðmundr Arason (LH II, 394-5; Ciklamini 2008, 1). The two men were evidently on good terms at an earlier stage, however (Ciklamini 2004, 66), and, while bishop at Hólar, Guðmundr commissioned Gunnlaugr to prepare a life of Jón helgi ‘the Saint’ Ǫgmundarson and an account of portents and miracles pertaining to Þorlákr Þórhallsson, both in Latin (LH II, 394-5). 

Works ascribed to Gunnlaugr that survive in one form or other include the Latin life of Jón helgi, represented by a close Icelandic translation; the account of Þorlákr’s miracles; a Latin expansion of Gunnlaugr’s Þingeyrar colleague Oddr Snorrason’s life of King Óláfr Tryggvason, extant in the shape of excerpts translated into Icelandic; an Icelandic original version of Þorvalds þáttr víðfǫrla ‘The Tale of Þorvaldr the Far-traveller’ that may at one time have formed part of the life of Óláfr; and a now entirely lost life of Saint Ambrose (LH II, 394-403; Turville-Petre 1953, 194-200; Bekker-Nielsen 1958; de Vries 1964-7, II, 245-7; Würth 1998, 205-6; Ciklamini 2004, 66; Katrín Axelsdóttir 2005). The only work ascribed to Gunnlaugr that appears to survive in a relatively complete state is Merlínusspá ‘The Prophecies of Merlin’ (Merl I and II). It is also the sole medieval instance of a direct verse translation into Icelandic from Latin prose (Würth 1998, 206).

no FJ abbr

Merlínusspá II — GunnLeif Merl IIVIII (Bret)

Russell Poole 2017, ‘ Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 134. <> (accessed 5 August 2021)

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   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   47   48   49   50   51   52   53   54   55   56   57   58   59   60   61   62   63   64   65   66   67   68 

Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá I, fri oversættelse (AII, 10-21, BII, 10-24); stanzas (if different): 43, 45/1-4 | 44 | 45/5-8

SkP info: VIII, 162

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

30 — GunnLeif Merl II 30VIII (Bret 30)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 30 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 30)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 162.

‘Ok suðr skulu þeir
sveitar leita;
vekr vargr ok bjǫrn
En galti þeim
gengi sínu
heitr hvatliga,
þvít hann hug trúir.


And they will have to seek for an army in the south; the wolf and the bear will rouse a wild boar. And the boar will promise them his support with alacrity, since he trusts in his [own] courage.

notes: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 153.191-2; cf. Wright 1988, 109, prophecy 42): At ipsi excitabunt aprum dentosum in illa et nauigio reuecti cum uulpe congredientur ‘They will stir up a tusked boar against it and sail back with a fleet to fight the fox’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 152). Gunnlaugr expands on the characterisation of the boar, introducing indirect speech and an element of irony, since the boar, despite his trust in his own courage, will emerge as rather a pathetic figure. — [1]: Emended in NN §97 (cf. Skald) from ms. skal (refreshed) to skulu ‘must’. While syntactically speaking skal might be used impersonally, as in Bret 1848-9 and Skj B (followed by Merl 2012), the line as it stands in the ms. is metrically deficient and skal for skulu could have arisen through abbreviation. In this edn þeir is added by analogy with II 31/3 and similar lines, with its antecedent in barmar ‘brothers’ in II 29/7. In Bret 1848-9 ms. ok (refreshed) is emended to í, which is accepted in Skj B with further emendation of suðr to suðri, which might also be right; Merl 2012 rejects this further emendation.

texts: Bret 30

editions: Skj Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá I 30 (AII, 15-26; BII, 16); Skald II, 10, NN §97; Bret 1848-9, II, 26 (Bret st. 30); Hb 1892-6, 274; Merl 2012, 93-4.


AM 544 4° (Hb) 50r, 3 - 50r, 5 (Bret)  transcr.  image  image  image  image  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated