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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson (Hfr)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Diana Whaley;

2. Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (ErfÓl) - 29

Skj info: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, Islandsk skjald, død ved 1007. (AI, 155-73, BI, 147-63).

Skj poems:
1. Hákonardrápa
2. Óláfsdrápa
3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa
4. Eiríksdrápa
5. Lausavísur

Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ‘Troublesome-poet’ Óttarsson (Hfr) was brought up in Vatnsdalur, northern Iceland, probably in the 960s. He is the subject of Hallfreðar saga (Hallfr), which survives both as a continuous text (ÍF 8, 133-200) and interpolated into ÓT. The main strands of the saga are Hallfreðr’s unhappy relationship with Kolfinna Ávaldadóttir, his travels as trader, fighter and poet, his conversion to Christianity and his devotion to Óláfr Tryggvason, and all these aspects of his life occasioned poetry which partially survives.

Fragments of an early drápa for Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (r. c. 970-c. 995) are extant (Hfr HákdrIII; ÍF 8, 151), but the greater part of Hallfreðr’s court poetry, and the poetry edited in this volume, concerns King Óláfr Tryggvason (c. 995-c. 1000): Óláfsdrápa (Hfr Óldr) and Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (Hfr ErfÓl). Like other Icelanders, Hallfreðr accepted Christian baptism under the influence of Óláfr. The difficulty, for a poet and pagan, of this switch of religious allegiance is the theme of Hfr Lv 6-10V, and is, according to the sagas, alluded to in his nickname vandræðaskáld, lit. ‘Poet of difficulties’. The sagas agree that the name was bestowed by the king, though they differ about the precise reason (ÓTOdd 1932, 125-6; Hkr, ÍF 26, 331-2; Hallfr, ÍF 8, 155; ÓT 1958-2000, I, 387). Hallfreðr is attributed with a lost Uppreistardrápa ‘Restoration drápa’ (?), supposedly composed to atone for his journey into pagan Gautland (Västergötland, ÍF 8, 178). He is also credited in Hallfr (ÍF 8, 194-5) with an encounter with Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (r. c. 1000-c. 1014) and in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 257, 266, 280) with poetry for him; this is vestigially preserved in Eiríksdrápa (Hfr EirdrV). The saga also shows Hallfreðr presenting a flokkr to the Danish jarl Sigvaldi (ÍF 8, 168) and a poem to the Swedish king Óláfr Eiríksson (ÍF 8, 177-8), but no traces of these survive.

The marriage of Kolfinna, the love of Hallfreðr’s youth, to Gríss Sæmingsson provoked Hallfreðr both early and later in life to compose strikingly inventive stanzas which intertwine themes of yearning love and rivalry (Hfr Lv 1-3, 15-24V), and his níð against Gríss led to legal proceedings and indirectly to the killing of Hallfreðr’s brother Galti (Ldn, ÍF 1, 224; ÍF 8, 189-90). In the course of an adventure in Västergötland (Hfr Lv 12-14V), Hallfreðr met and married Ingibjǫrg Þórisdóttir, who died young, but not before bearing two sons, Auðgísl and Hallfreðr. According to Hallfr (ÍF 8, 196-9), Hallfreðr himself died at the age of nearly forty, from a combination of illness and injury as he sailed through the Hebrides; he was buried on Iona (cf. Hfr Lv 26-7V).

Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (‘Memorial drápa for Óláfr Tryggvason’) — Hfr ErfÓlI

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar’ 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. 400.

 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   26a   26b   27   28 

Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld: 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa, 1001 (AI, 159-66, BI, 150-7); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 27 | 28 | 29

SkP info: I, 434

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

24 — Hfr ErfÓl 24I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 24’ 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. 434.

Harðgǫrvan lét hjǫrvi
holms verða Týr sverða
vind á víðu sundi
vígþey Heðins meyjar,
áðr an Ormi næði
Eirekr eða hlut meira;
mǫrg óð bitr í blóði
benkneif fyr Ôleifi.

{Týr sverða} lét {vind {meyjar Heðins}}, {vígþey}, verða harðgǫrvan hjǫrvi á víðu sundi holms, áðr an Eirekr næði Ormi eða meira hlut; {mǫrg bitr benkneif} óð í blóði fyr Ôleifi.

{The Týr <god> of swords} [WARRIOR] made {the wind {of the maiden of Heðinn <legendary hero>}} [= Hildr > BATTLE], {war-breeze} [BATTLE], become hard-fought with the sword on the wide sound of the islet, before Eiríkr got Ormr (‘Serpent’) and the better lot; {many a biting wound-hook} [SWORD] waded in blood before Óláfr.

Mss: 53(66rb), 54(67va), 325VIII 2 g(1va), Bb(103rb) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] ‑gǫrvan: ‑gǫrvar 325VIII 2 g, Bb    [2] holms verða: so 54, 325VIII 2 g, Bb, holmsverða 53    [3] sundi: ‘syndi’ Bb    [4] ‑þey: ‑hey Bb    [8] ben‑: bein‑ 54, Bb, ‘b[…]n’ 325VIII 2 g

Editions: Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa 17: AI, 163, BI, 154, Skald I, 83-4, NN §§479, 1855, 3057; SHI 3, 11-12, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 294-5 (ch. 256).

Context: The battle of Svǫlðr is famous both for the defence of Óláfr and his men and for Eiríkr’s mighty attack.

Notes: [1-4]: There seems to be an excess of kenning elements, and the solution adopted here, as in other eds, is to assume that vígþey ‘war-breeze’ or ‘thawing wind of war’ stands in apposition to a battle-kenning, either as in the Text above (and NN §479), or as in Skj B: Týr meyjar Heðins lét sverða vind, vígþey, verða ... ‘the Týr of the maiden of Heðinn [= Hildr (hildr ‘battle’) > WARRIOR] made the wind of swords, war-breeze, become ...’. Skj B’s interpretation is more distant from the word order of the stanza than is Kock’s in NN. — [2, 3] á víðu sundi holms ‘on the wide sound of the islet’: The vagueness of this, coupled with the fact that Svǫlðr is described both as a body of water and as an island in the other sources (Baetke 1951, 65-99), makes it impossible to know which sund ‘sound, channel’ and holmr ‘islet’ are referred to. Despite this, Finnur Jónsson in Skj B (as also Kock in Skald) capitalises Holms, and in LP: holmr 4 explains Holms sund as referring to the sound of the island of Svǫlðr. — [3, 4] vind meyjar Heðins ‘the wind of the maiden of Heðinn <legendary hero> [= Hildr > BATTLE]’: ‘The maiden of Heðinn’ is clearly Hildr, the valkyrie taken as war-trophy and wife by Heðinn Hjarrandason, hero of the Hjaðningavíg (‘battle of Heðinn’s men’, SnE 1998, I, 72). Like other terms such as gunnr (see LP: Gunnr), Hildr has a twofold function: as a proper name for a valkyrie and as a common noun meaning ‘battle’. The present edn assumes a reference to a valkyrie here; Hildr’s ‘wind’ is then ‘battle’. The Skj B interpretation of ll. 1-4 (see Note above) prefers the common noun hildr, arrived at by ofljóst, as also in st. 17/3-4 above. See further LP: 2. Heðinn, 1. hildr; Meissner 201-2, 273. — [4] vígþey ‘war-breeze [BATTLE]’: Although both the referent and the determinant mean ‘battle’, something usually avoided, this kenning fits known patterns (Meissner 182, 186). — [5] áðr an ‘before’: Skj B takes this as a subordinate clause beginning a new sentence, rather than dependent on the first helmingr, and mǫrg benkneif óð ‘many a wound-hook [SWORD] waded’ as the main clause rather than intercalated. However, subordinate clauses do not normally precede main clauses (Kuhn 1983, 190; and on this stanza see Kock, NN §3057). — [5] Ormi ‘Ormr (“Serpent”)’: See Note to st. 10/1. — [6] meira hlut ‘the better lot’: Hlutr m. is literally ‘lot’, a token in sortilege, as well as ‘share, part’, but in phrases such as lægri hlutr ‘worse (lit. ‘lower’) lot’ or minni hlutr ‘lesser lot’ it describes the comparative position of two competing parties. Perhaps, as Ohlmarks suggests (1958, 455), the skald’s desire to play down his hero’s defeat influenced a phrasing which attributes Eiríkr’s victory to the workings of chance. — [8] benkneif ‘wound-hook [SWORD]’: Kneif f. ‘hook, claw, pincer’ (?), probably related to knífr ‘knife’ (ÍOkneif), is well-attested in the modern language but rare in OIcel. It occurs as a byname in Ldn (ÍF 1, 51, 340-3), where it is spelt variously kneif and (the younger form) hneif, and as a variant reading in GSúrs Lv 27/5V (Gísl 30). Sword-kennings based on words for tools are fairly common, e.g. bengrefill ‘wound-hoe’ Egill Hfl 8/3V (Eg 41), and see Meissner 156. LP: benkneif suggests sårkniv(?), spyd ‘wound-knife(?), spear’. — [8] fyr Ôleifi ‘before Óláfr’: The usual sense of fyr(ir), ‘before, in the presence of’, is assumed here (so also Skj B); battle similarly rages fyr skylja (‘before the king’) in st. 12/6-7. Alternatively, fyr(ir) + dat. can express disadvantage (e.g. taka fé fyrir öðrum ‘to take property from another/others’, CVC: fyrir C. III; NN §3057), and fyr Ôleifi could be taken with ll. 5-6, referring to the seizure of Ormr despite Óláfr’s defence (so Skald).

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