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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 28 January 2022)

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, 409

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Hfr ErfÓl 6I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 6’ 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. 409.

Herskerðir klauf harðan
— hann gekk reiðr of skeiðar —
svarðar stofn með sverði
sunnr eldviðum kunnum.
Kunni gramr at gunni
— gunnþinga jarnmunnum
margr lá heggr of hǫggvinn —
holdbarkar rô sarka.

{Herskerðir} klauf {harðan stofn svarðar} {kunnum eldviðum} með sverði sunnr; hann gekk reiðr of skeiðar. Gramr kunni sarka {rô {holdbarkar}} at gunni; {margr heggr {Gunnþinga}} lá of hǫggvinn jarnmunnum.

{The army-diminisher} [RULER] split {the hard stump of the scalp} [HEAD] {of famous sword-trees} [WARRIORS] with a sword in the south; he went angry through the warships. The prince knew how to redden {the yard-arm {of flesh-bark}} [MAIL-SHIRT > SWORD] in battle; {many a cherry-tree {of meetings of Gunnr <valkyrie>}} [BATTLES > WARRIOR] lay chopped down by iron mouths.

Mss: 54(64ra), Bb(99vb) (ÓT); A(21v) (ll. 5-8) (SnE)

Readings: [3] svarðar: ‘suafdar’ 54, Bb    [6] gunnþinga jarnmunnum: so A, gunnþings á hjǫr þunnum 54, Bb    [7] heggr: ‘hæggr’ 54, Bb, herr A    [8] holdbarkar rô: hold barkaðra 54, hold barkaðrar or ‘hold barkaðrra’ Bb, ‘hollbarkat ra’ A;    sarka: ‘sęrka’ Bb, ‘sarkat’ A

Editions: Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa 6: AI, 160, BI, 151, Skald I, 82, NN §§2450, 2987L; SHI 2, 302-3, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 267 (ch. 250); SnE 1848-87, II, 493, III, 174-5.

Context: In ÓT, following the initial phase of exchanging missiles, hand-to-hand fighting commences on Ormr inn langi (see Note to st. 10/1). In the extra þulur found in the version of SnE preserved in ms. A, ll. 5-8 are used to exemplify the word sarkat (l. 8), which according to this source is synonymous with roðit ‘reddened’ (see Note).

Notes: [All]: Tree-felling as an extended metaphor for battle runs through this stanza: warrior-kennings with base-words referring to trees, common in skaldic poetry, are supplemented with the more unusual kenning stofn svarðar ‘stump of the scalp [HEAD]’ and the unique holdbǫrkr ‘flesh-bark [MAIL-SHIRT]’ (see Note to l. 8 below). — [1] herskerðir ‘the army-diminisher [RULER]’: The close parallel herskerðandi ‘army-diminisher’ GunnlI Lv 13/7V (Gunnl 22), cited in Meissner 341, is an emendation, but cf. skerðir Engla ‘diminisher of the English’ Egill Lv 11/7V (Eg 16). — [3] svarðar ‘of the scalp’: (a) This is a long-established emendation of ms. ‘suafdar’, already adopted in Árni Magnússon’s copy of this stanza in 761bˣ. It provides a conventional kenning for ‘head’, stofn svarðar ‘stump of the scalp’, cf. strǫnd svarðar ‘shore of the scalp’ RvHbreiðm Hl 32/8III, hjalmstofn ‘helmet-stump’ GSúrs Lv 34/8V(Gísl 37). It also supplies conventionally positioned hendingar, as the viðrhending (second part of an internal rhyme) is sverð-, the penultimate syllable in the line, rather than stofn, the third (see Kuhn 1983, 85). (b) ‘Suafdar’ in both mss is not readily explained. It could be the f. nom./acc. pl. of the p. p. of svefja ‘to lull to sleep’, or perhaps some other derivative of the root *seu- (AEW: svefn), referring to sleep, putting to sleep, or killing (cf. Note to Þul Óðins 4/3III on the Óðinn-name Sváfnir), but no solution along these lines fits the syntax, semantics and metre of the helmingr as preserved, and the emendation stands. — [4] kunnum eldviðum ‘of famous sword-trees [WARRIORS]’: Finnur Jónsson in Skj B emends kunnum to gunnar ‘of battle’ to produce eldviðum gunnar ‘men’, presumably with viðum ‘trees’ as base-word and eld- gunnar ‘fire of battle [SWORD]’ as determinant. However, eldr ‘fire’ is among the sword-heiti in Þul Sverða 8/2III, and can mean ‘sword’ in warrior- and battle-kennings, though the examples are mainly in later poetry (see Meissner 76, who suggests that eldr in these expressions is a synonym for brandr m. ‘flame, sword’). Emendation is therefore unnecessary (so also Krijn 1931, 54). — [5]: Although this is an odd line, it contains aðalhending, an occasional metrical liberty. — [6] Gunnþinga jarnmunnum ‘of meetings of Gunnr <valkyrie> [BATTLES] ... by iron mouths’: Semantically there is little to choose between the reading of ms. A adopted in the Text above and Gunnþings/gunnþings á hjǫr þunnum, the reading of 54 and Bb, and the latter is preferred by some previous eds (Wisén 1886-9, I, 35; Skald, reading af for á). Gen. sg. Gunnþings ‘of the meeting of Gunnr <valkyrie> [BATTLE]’ is equivalent as a determinant to gen. pl. Gunnþinga, while á hjǫr þunnum ‘by/on thin blades’ takes the place of jarnmunnum ‘by iron mouths’. But the prep. á ‘on, in’, necessary to preserve scansion, is odd in context (occasioning Skald’s emendation to af ‘by’), and this combined with the parallel in Hókr Eirfl 7/4 for jarnmunnum (below) tips the balance in favour of A’s reading. — [6] Gunnþinga ‘of meetings of Gunnr <valkyrie> [BATTLES]’: Gunnr is a valkyrie-name and a common noun (as in l. 5) and here, as frequently, it is difficult to tell them apart; hence ‘of battle-meetings’ is also possible, though it would not be a true kenning. On Gunnr/Guðr see further Note to Þul Valkyrja 1/6III. — [6] jarnmunnum ‘with iron mouths’: Cf. Hókr Eirfl 7/4, and Note to st. 1/2 above for further resemblances between the two poems. Krijn (1931, 54) observed that the expression is more opaque here, where it stands alone, than in Hókr Eirfl 7/4, where jarnmunnr is part of a bird metaphor. Munnr ‘mouth’ is, however, a well-established term for the cutting edge of a weapon (Fritzner: muðr 2; LP: munnr, muðr; NN §2450), and would have been intelligible as such. — [7] heggr ‘cherry-tree’: A minor emendation of the ms. readings. The species is bird-cherry, common in Scandinavia. — [8] rô holdbarkar ‘the yard-arm of flesh-bark [MAIL-SHIRT > SWORD]’: The whole of l. 8 presents considerable difficulties, not least the word sarkat (variant sarka), which the helmingr is ostensibly introduced into SnE to explain (see Note below). (a) The ms. readings (‘barkaðra’ 54, Bb, ‘barkat’ A) suggest the word beginning barka- is a p. p. It is interpreted as such by Sveinbjörn Egilsson: [h]rá-sarka barkat hold, and explained by him as ‘to give a raw wound to barked (mail-clad) flesh’ (SHI 2) or as ‘to denude barked flesh, to strip the armour from a mailed body’ (LP (1860): barkaðr, rásárka). But barka means not ‘to cover with bark’ but ‘to strip the bark from’ (cf. Engl. ‘gut’) or ‘to tan with bark’ (Fritzner IV: barka). Even if we instead postulate barkat hold ‘tanned, i.e. toughened flesh’ (Finnur Jónsson 1907, 316: barkaðr), hrár ‘raw, sappy’ usually applies to meat or vegetation, rather than wounds. The lack of initial <h> is also problematic, as the only other instance of this spelling, in Hávm 151/6 (NK 42), is doubtful (Evans 1986, 138-9). (b) Harðbarkliga ‘very boastfully’, suggested by Krijn (1931, 54), is a radical emendation, and involves an emended version of the ÓT mss’ hjǫr þunnum in l. 6 in place of jarnmunnum (see Note above). (c) The best solution seems to be to interpret the words preceding sarkat/sarka as a series of nouns comprising a kenning, of which the base-word is ‘yard-arm’, and the determinant is either holdbarkar ‘of flesh-bark’ (Gísli Brynjúlfsson 1857, 189-90; SnE 1848-87, III; Skald; NN §2450) or holbarkar ‘of hollow-bark’ (Skj B; LP: holbǫrkr). Holdbǫrkr ‘flesh-bark’ has at least one parallel (bark nǫkkva bœnar ‘bark of the ship of prayer [BREAST > MAIL-SHIRT]’ Hallv Knútdr 6/3, 4III; cf. also barklaust birki bǫðserkjar ‘barkless birches of the battle-shirt [MAIL-SHIRT > WARRIORS]’ Hfr Óldr 2/5, 6), whereas Finnur Jónsson’s idea of the mail-shirt as bark encircling the empty interior of the body (LP: holbǫrkr) has none. — [8] sarka ‘redden’: (a) The interpretation preferred in the Text above is kunni ... sarka ‘knew how to redden’. Although the verb *sarka ‘redden (with wounds)’ is otherwise unknown and its meaning somewhat uncertain, ‘redden’ is vouched for by ms. A’s equation of sarkat with roðit ‘reddened’. Other solutions are less plausible. (b) AEW: sarka assumes derivation from sárr ‘wound’, and suggests the possibility of a form sárka (also the headword in LP), but the short vowel is metrically guaranteed in the present stanza. (c) LP (1860): rásárka suggested that ‘roðit’, to which ‘sarkat’ is equated in SnE, is hroðit ‘stripped’ rather than roðit ‘reddened’, presumably yielding something along the lines of ‘strip until raw’.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated