Runic Dictionary

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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).

file 2002-03-21 - York Hfr paper notes
file 2002-03-27 - York Hfr paper draft

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, 407

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Hfr ErfÓl 4I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 4’ 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. 407.

Hept vas lítt — á lopti
liðu ǫrvar framm gǫrva —
brodda flaug, áðr bauga
brjótendr skyti spjótum.
Orð vas hitt, at harðast,
hvarkunnt, fyr lǫg sunnan,
mest, í malma gnaustan
minn dróttinn framm sótti.

Flaug brodda vas lítt hept; ǫrvar liðu gǫrva framm á lopti, áðr {brjótendr bauga} skyti spjótum. Hitt vas mest hvarkunnt orð, at dróttinn minn sótti framm harðast í {gnaustan malma} fyr sunnan lǫg.

The flight of points was little hindered; arrows travelled precisely forward in the sky, before {breakers of rings} [GENEROUS MEN] shot spears. That was the most widely-known report, that my lord pressed forward the hardest in {the clashing of metal weapons} [BATTLE] south over the sea.

Mss: 61(67vb), 53(64ra), 54(63vb), 325VIII 2 b(1va), Bb(99va), Flat(64rb) (ÓT)

Readings: [2] gǫrva: gervar 325VIII 2 b    [5] Orð: orðit 325VIII 2 b;    hitt: om. Bb    [6] hvarkunnt: so 53, 54, Bb, hvarkunnr 61, Flat, hver kunnr 325VIII 2 b;    fyr: við 53

Editions: Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa 4: AI, 160, BI, 151, Skald I, 82, NN §§1084, 1853E; SHI 2, 299, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 265 (ch. 250), Flat 1860-8, I, 482.

Context: The stanza is cited in support of the statement that Óláfr fought the most valiantly of all the men at Svǫlðr.

Notes: [All]: The introduction in ÓT names the source poem as ÓláfsdrápaDrápa about Óláfr’. — [All]: The parallelism of lopt ‘sky, air’ in the first helmingr and lǫg ‘sea’ in the second (lopt ok lǫg is a common phrase in prose, with the connotation ‘everywhere’), and repeated use of framm ‘forward’, gives the stanza a powerful sense of co-ordinated, sequenced, all-encompassing action. — [6] hvarkunnt ‘widely-known’: Both main readings, hvarkunnt and hvarkunnr, have ms. support from more than one branch of the ÓT stemma. (a) The majority reading hvarkunnt (n. nom. sg. adj.) ‘widely-known’ is taken here with orð ‘report, tale, story’, and mest ‘most’ with hvarkunnt, an interpretation first proposed by Reichardt (1928, 55-7). (b) Ms. 61’s hvarkunnr is also possible, giving hvarkunnr dróttinn minn ‘my widely-known lord’. In this case hitt vas mest orð would mean ‘that was the tale of most [people]’ (Konráð Gíslason 1892, 144) or ‘[people] spoke most about that’ (Skj B). (c) A conceivable alternative, suggested by Kock (NN §1084), is to take harðast ‘hardest’ and mest ‘most’ in apposition. — [6] fyr sunnan lǫg ‘south over the sea’: The battle of Svǫlðr is described as taking place ‘in the south’ or ‘over the sea’ several times in the poem (cf. sts 4/6, 6/4, 19/4, 22/5); austr ‘east’ is mentioned once (st. 22/2), though the syntax is ambiguous. As Baetke (1951, 65-99, especially 89) notes, ‘east’ would suggest the Baltic region to a Norse audience, while ‘south’ and ‘over the sea’, although vague in themselves, support other evidence which suggests Svǫlðr was off the southern coast of the Baltic rather than in the Øresund, as other scholars have suggested. However, the question of the location of the battle remains unresolved; see Andersen (1977, 104-5) for a concise summary of the debate. — [7] gnaustan malma ‘the clashing of metal weapons [BATTLE]’: Malma is gen. pl., lit. ‘of metals’, i.e. metal weapons. The only occurrences of gnaustan ‘clashing, gnashing, tumult’ in the skaldic corpus are here and in st. 22/2, though HSt Rst 18/4 has the closely related noise-word gnaust.

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