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Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson (Hfr)

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

2. Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (ErfÓl) - 29

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.

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   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, 429

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

20 — Hfr ErfÓl 20I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 20’ 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. 429.

†Samr† vas ôrr of ævi
oddbragðs, hinns þat sagði,
at lofða gramr lifði,
læstyggs burar Tryggva.
Vesa kveðr ǫld ór éli
Ôleif kominn stála;
menn geta máli sǫnnu
— mjǫks verr an svá — ferri.


{The envoy {of the point-thrust}}, [BATTLE > WARRIOR] who said that {the ruler of warriors} [= Óláfr] was alive was about the life {of the deceit-shunning son of Tryggvi}. [= Óláfr] People say Óláfr escaped {the blizzard of steel weapons}; [BATTLE] men guess [things] further from the true story; it is much worse than that.

context: All three prose sources cite this stanza after their description of the battle of Svǫlðr, as part of a group of stanzas attributed to Hallfreðr and concerned with the question of whether or not King Óláfr survived the defeat of his force.

notes: [1-4]: The helmingr is syntactically difficult and the unanimously attested samr resists explanation. As none of the proposed interpretations is satisfactory and no alternative ms. readings for samr exist, it has been obelised in the Text. Most previous eds emend samr: (a) to sumr ‘some (envoy …)’ (Jón Þorkelsson 1884, 63); (b) to ‘that (envoy …)’ (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B), though it is unclear to whom this would refer; (c) or most audaciously to the rare adj. svífr ‘unreliable’ (Skald; NN §2757), giving svífr vas ôrr ‘the envoy was unreliable’. Other scholars avoid emendation by ingenious interpretations of samr. (d) ÍF 26 construes samr as an attributive adj., ‘seemly, worthy’ from sama ‘to suit, befit’, qualifying ôrr oddbraks ‘the envoy of the point-clash [BATTLE > WARRIOR]’, and similarly ÍF 29, Hkr 1991, with variants on ‑braks. But such an adj. is not well attested in verse or prose; the single, later skaldic parallel is breks ósamr ‘disinclined to treachery’ GunnLeif Merl I 2/7VIII. (e) Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SHI 3) suggests samr meaning ‘constant’, hence hinn ... var um æfi samr oddflagðs árr ‘that one ... was [his] whole life an envoy of the point-trollwife [AXE > WARRIOR] devoted (to Óláfr)’. (f) Kock, as an alternative to his construal in Skald, also proposes a tmesis, óðbragðssamr vas ôrr ‘the envoy was very deceitful’ (NN §512). — [1] samr vas ôrr of ævi ‘the envoy ... was ... about the life’: The line lacks skothending. Finnur Jónsson’s emendation of Samr to ‘that’ gives a so-called empty rhyme, in which vowels rhyme without the participation of following consonants, here : ævi (Kuhn 1983, 76; Kristján Árnason 1991, 99-102, 107-10; Gade 1995a, 5-6, 32).

texts: Fsk 123, ÓT 193, ÓTC 65 (I 167), Hkr 196 (I 167)

editions: Skj Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld: 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa 22 (AI, 164; BI, 155); Skald I, 84, NN §§512, 513, 2757; Fsk 1902-3, 132 (ch. 22), ÍF 29, 161 (ch. 24); Hkr 1893-1901, I, 456, IV, 102, ÍF 26, 368-9, Hkr 1991, 250 (ÓTHkr ch. 112), F 1871, 166; SHI 3, 8-9, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 292-3 (ch. 256).


AM 303 4°x (FskAx) 144, 18 - 145, 2 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 301 4°x (301x) 53r, 15 - 53r, 18 (Fsk)  image  
AM 35 folx (Kx) 216v, 14 - 216v, 21 (Hkr)  image  image  
OsloUB 521 folx (521x) 166r, 8 - 166r, 15 (Hkr)  
Holm papp 18 folx (papp18x) 63v - 64r (Hkr)  image  
Holm papp 22 folx (22x) 102r - 102r (Hkr)  image  
AM 45 fol (F) 36vb, 20 - 36vb, 23 (Hkr)  image  image  image  image  
AM 37 folx (J1x) 134v, 14 - 134v, 17 (Hkr)  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 117r, 20 - 117r, 27 (Hkr)  image  
AM 61 fol (61) 69va, 30 - 69va, 33 (ÓT)  image  image  
AM 53 fol (53) 66ra, 24 - 66ra, 29 (ÓT)  image  
AM 54 fol (54) 67rb, 37 - 67va, 1 (ÓT)  image  
AM 325 VIII 2 g 4° (325VIII 2 g) 1rb, 37 - 1va, 1 (ÓT)  image  
Holm perg 1 fol (Bb) 103ra, 11 - 103ra, 15 (ÓT)  image  
AM 52 folx (52x) 54v, 28 - 55r, 6 (Fsk)  image  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated