This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

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, 413

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Hfr ErfÓl 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 8’ 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. 413.

Upp sǫgðu lǫg — lagðisk
líf skjótt firum — hlífa
gnóg til gumna feigðar
gǫlkn við randar bǫlku.

{Gǫlkn hlífa} sǫgðu upp lǫg, gnóg til feigðar gumna, við {bǫlku randar}; líf lagðisk skjótt firum.

{Monsters of shields} [AXES] proclaimed the laws, enough for the doom of warriors, at {the walls of the rim} [SHIELDS]; life was quickly laid aside for men.

Mss: 54(64rb), Bb(100ra), Flat(64va) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] lagðisk: ‘lo᷎gþiss’ 54, ‘lęgiss’ Bb, ‘lo᷎gdar’ Flat

Editions: Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa 8: AI, 161, BI, 152, Skald I, 83, NN §475; SHI 2, 305-6, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 269 (ch. 250), Flat 1860-8, I, 484.

Context: Óláfr’s Norwegians hold the Swedes’ ships with grappling hooks as they had the Danes’, and overrun them: Saugdu suerd þeirra eín log aullum Suium þeim er þeir komu hoggum vid ‘Their [the Norwegians’] swords spoke one law to all the Swedes they landed blows on’.

Notes: [1] sǫgðu upp lǫg ‘proclaimed the laws’: The usual phrase in the sagas for the formal recitation of the laws at the Alþingi (Íslendingabók, ÍF 1, 16). The personification of weapons (here, axes proclaiming the law) is rare, though cf. ÞGísl Búdr 6/3, 11/4, and Note to Hókr Eirfl 4/6. — [1] lagðisk ‘was laid aside’: This emendation seems to have been first proposed by Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SHI 2). ‘Lo᷎gþiss’ (so 54) and ‘lo᷎gdar’ (so Flat) may be inflected forms of lǫgðir ‘stabber’ here, while Bb has ‘lęgiss’, gen. sg. of lœgir m. ‘sea’. However, neither gives sense with líf skjótt firum ‘life quickly for men’. The rare use of leggjask in the sense ‘to cease, lay aside’ may have confused scribes and led to corruption. — [4] gǫlkn ‘monsters’: The kinship of this word with base-words of axe-kennings such as flagð ‘troll-woman’ and gýgr ‘giantess’ suggests an axe-kenning (and so Meissner 148) rather than a sword-kenning, as implied by the prose context. The two other skaldic instances of galkn, in Hókr Eirfl 7/4 and Anon (Gunnl) 2/4V (Gunnl 2), also combine it with words for ‘shield’. The exact meaning and etymology of galkn are uncertain (ÍO, AEW: galkn). — [4] við bǫlku randar ‘at the walls of the rim [SHIELDS]’: (a) Bǫlkr here seems most likely to function as the base-word of a shield-kenning (Reichardt 1928, 57-8), perhaps specifically one denoting the shield-wall (ONP: bǫlkr, balkr 3 ‘wall of people’; and cf. hnitvegg ‘clash-wall’ [SHIELD], st. 7/6). (b) Both Finnur Jónsson (in LP: 1. bǫlkr 2) and Kock (NN §475) suggest randar bǫlku means ‘shield section [of the laws]’, cf. erfðabǫlkr ‘inheritance section’. Kock takes this with the main clause, which thus becomes an extended metaphor: ‘axes’ law’, proclaimed við randar bǫlku ‘in accordance with the “shield section”’, results in imminent death (for the shield-bearers, presumably). While undeniably attractive, and supported e.g. by Ohlmarks (1958, 447), this interpretation is rather tenuous. Við bǫlku ‘in accordance with the [law-]section’ is otherwise unknown (ONP: bǫlkr, balkr 4). (c) In Skj B Finnur Jónsson construes bǫlkr randar as a battle-kenning (most likely ‘storm of the (shield)-rim’, cf. LP: 2. bǫlkr ‘storm’), and takes við randar bǫlku with the intercalary clause, which produces ‘life soon ended for men in the battle’.

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.