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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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 26 September 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   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, 403

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Hfr ErfÓl 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 1’ 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. 403.

Þar hykk víst til mjǫk misstu
— mǫrg kom drótt á flótta —
gram, þanns gunni framði,
gengis þrœnzkra drengja.
Nœfr einn við jǫfra
allvaldr tváa
tváa snjalla
— frægrs til slíks at
at segja
siðr — ok jarl inn þriðja.


There, I certainly believe, the prince who promoted battle missed too much the support of warriors from Trøndelag; many a band took to flight. The adept mighty ruler fought alone against two bold princes and a jarl as the third; it is a famous custom to tell of such a thing.

context: Most sources cite this stanza in support of their accounts of the disparity in size between Óláfr’s fleet and that of his enemies, just before they describe the battle of Svǫlðr; Fsk and Hkr use it in a more general way. The disparity is blamed in ÓTOdd and ÓT on the premature departure of part of Óláfr’s own fleet, and in HN and Ágr (neither of which cites the stanza), on its late arrival.

notes: For the sea-battle at Svǫlðr c. 1000, see also Skúli SvǫlðrIII, Stefnir Lv 1, OSnorr Lv, Eþsk Couplet, Hókr Eirfl, ÞKolb Eirdr 8, and the later treatment in HSt Rst 15-23 and Anon Óldr 17-24. — [1-4]: The helmingr refers to a lack of gengis þrœnzkra drengja ‘the support of warriors from Trøndelag’ (ll. 1, 4), and to the flight of mǫrg drótt ‘many a band’ (l. 2), and it might be expected that these are the same thing, but this is unclear, as is the identity of these groups. Drótt could mean either the ruler’s personal retinue or just a troop in a battle; the epithet mǫrg ‘many’ would favour the latter, and with it the interpretation, ‘despite lacking a Trøndelag retinue, Óláfr [nevertheless] put many of the [enemy] drótt to flight’ (Ohlmarks 1958, 442). The troops from Trøndelag may be Eiríkr’s men, faithful to him as the jarl of Trøndelag rather than to the king (Ohlmarks loc. cit.; von See 1977a). Alternatively, Hallfreðr may be referring to the part of Óláfr’s own force which made itself unavailable just before the battle (see Context above), as according to HN (MHN 117-19) the missing men were from Trøndelag, but this tradition may itself be based on the present stanza rather than independent information. — [2]: Cf. Glúmr Gráf 2/2 and Hókr Eirfl 7/8 drótt kom mǫrg á flótta (325VIII 1’s defective text of l. 2 may also have had this ordering). Von See (1977a) suggests this is one of a series of polemical citations of Hókr Eirfl (composed for Óláfr’s adversary Eiríkr jarl), though this involves reversing the commonly-accepted dating of the two works. — [3]: Wisén (1886-9, I, 137) suggested that the aðalhending in this line is gram þann : framði, which involves the crossing of a word boundary (see Kristján Árnason 1991, 102-3), though only one consonant (in this case, the m) need agree to form a correct aðalhending.

texts: Flat 329, Fsk 113, ÓT 159, ÓTC 55 (I 158), ÓTOdd 7 (6), Hkr 186 (I 158)

editions: Skj Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld: 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa 3 (AI, 159-60; BI, 150-1); Skald I, 82, NN §§2449, 2451 anm. 1; ÓTOdd 1932, 206, ÍF 25, 320-1; Fsk 1902-3, 123 (ch. 22), ÍF 29, 152 (ch. 24); Hkr 1893-1901, I, 443, IV, 97, ÍF 26, 358-9, Hkr 1991, I, 243 (ÓTHkr ch. 105), F 1871, 162; SHI 2, 293, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 260-1 (ch. 249), Flat 1860-8, I, 480.


Holm perg 18 4° (Holm18) 51v, 33 - 51v, 35 (ÓTOdd)  transcr.  image  
AM 310 4° (310) 84, 7 - 84, 10 (ÓTOdd)  transcr.  image  
OsloUB 371 folx (FskBx) 37r, 14 - 37r, 21 (Fsk)  image  
AM 303 4°x (FskAx) 134, 9 - 134, 16 (Fsk)  image  
AM 51 folx (51x) 33v, 18 - 33v, 25 (Fsk)  image  
AM 302 4°x (302x) 54v - 54v (Fsk)  image  
AM 301 4°x (301x) 49v, 14 - 49v, 18 (Fsk)  image  
AM 52 folx (52x) 51r, 17 - 51r, 24 (Fsk)  image  
AM 35 folx (Kx) 211r, 20 - 211r, 27 (Hkr)  image  image  
Holm papp 18 folx (papp18x) 62r - 62r (Hkr)  image  
OsloUB 521 folx (521x) 161v, 12 - 161v, 19 (Hkr)  
AM 45 fol (F) 36ra, 7 - 36ra, 10 (Hkr)  image  image  image  image  
AM 37 folx (J1x) 130v, 21 - 131r, 2 (Hkr)  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 114r, 24 - 114r, 31 (Hkr)  image  
AM 325 VIII 1 4° (325VIII 1) 5ra, 34 - 5ra, 38 (Hkr)  image  
AM 61 fol (61) 67rb, 16 - 67rb, 19 (ÓT)  image  image  
AM 54 fol (54) 63rb, 13 - 63rb, 17 (ÓT)  image  
Holm perg 1 fol (Bb) 98vb, 26 - 98vb, 30 (ÓT)  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 64ra, 37 - 64ra, 40 (ÓT)  image  image  image  
unknown ms (xx) -  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated