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Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson (Hfr)

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

III. Hákonardrápa (Hákdr) - 9

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).

Hákonardrápa (‘Drápa about Hákon’) — Hfr HákdrIII

Kate Heslop 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Hákonardrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 212.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 

for reference only:  2x 

Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld: 1. Hákonardrápa, omkr. 990 (AI, 155-6, BI, 147-8); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

SkP info: III, 215

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Hfr Hákdr 1III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2017, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Hákonardrápa 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 215.

Askþollum stendr Ullar
austr at miklu trausti
rœkilundr inn ríki
randfárs brumaðr hári.

{Inn ríki rœkilundr {randfárs}}, brumaðr hári, stendr {{Ullar ask}þollum} at miklu trausti austr.

{The mighty heeding-tree {of shield-harm}} [SWORD > WARRIOR], budded with hair, stands in firm support {of firs {of Ullr’s <god’s> ship}} [(lit. ‘Ullr’s ship-firs’) SHIELD > WARRIORS] in the east.

Mss: R(33v), Tˣ(34v), W(76), U(32r), A(10v), C(4v-5r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] Askþollum: so Tˣ, W, A, C, ‘[…]skþollvm’ R, ‘Alþol[…]’ U;    stendr: gengr C    [3] rœki‑: so U, A, C, ‘reyki‑’ R, ‘reuki’ Tˣ, ‘ræyki’ W;    inn: ‘h[…]’ U;    ríki: reiki Tˣ    [4] randfárs: ‘[…]ndfars’ U;    brumaðr: ‘bry[…]r’ U, ‘brvmar’ A;    hári: harri U

Editions: Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, 1. Hákonardrápa 1: AI, 155, BI, 147, Skald I, 80; SnE 1848-87, I, 414-15, II, 325, 436, 585, III, 75, SnE 1931, 147, SnE 1998, I, 65; Davidson 1983, 450, 516-19.

Context: This helmingr is quoted in Skm in a series of examples of man-kennings with names for trees as base-words, here lundr ‘tree’.

Notes: [All]: The sg. warrior-kenning (rœkilundr randfárs ‘heeding-tree of shield-harm’) refers to the subject of the poem; so, presumably, Hákon jarl, while the reference to austr ‘east’ here indicates Norway (LP: 2 austr 1). The stanza shares much of its vocabulary with Eskál Vell 8I, redistributed around the helmingr in a witty recapitulation of Einarr’s stanza. — [1] Ullar askþollum ‘of firs of Ullr’s <god’s> ship [(lit. ‘Ullr’s ship-firs’) SHIELD > WARRIORS]’: Askr ‘ash’ (tree of the genus Fraxinus) here refers to a ship made of ash-wood, a meaning occasionally attested in prose (ONP: askr 4), and found in verse in Eskál Vell 4/2I and ǪrvOdd Lv 2/4VIII (Ǫrv 8); cf. Jesch (2001a, 135-6), Note to Þul Skipa 1/4 and OE æsc ‘ash-ship, viking ship’. ‘Ullr’s ship’ is a reasonably common kenning for ‘shield’ (LP: Ullr; Meissner 166), as noted in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 67, 167-8, 194), although the reasons for this association (he is also called áss skjaldar ‘god of the shield’ in Skm, SnE 1998, I, 19) are obscure. See also Hallv Knútdr 3/5, 7, 8 and Note there. — [3] rœkilundr ‘heeding-tree’: The first element of this cpd, rœki- (from rœkja ‘heed, take care of’), is apt in a stanza celebrating the traust n. ‘support, protection’ that the ruler offers his subjects. The cpd is only otherwise attested in Eskál Vell 8/4I. — [3] inn ríki ‘the mighty’: Hákon’s nickname. — [4] brumaðr hári ‘budded with hair’: The verb bruma ‘bud’ is otherwise unknown, but brum n. ‘buds, shoots; (in later prose) beginnings’ (ONP: 1 brum 1-2; LP: brum) and brumr m. ‘point in time’ (ONP, LP: brumr) are fairly well attested. As Finnur Jónsson (LP: hár n.) points out, this is an extended metaphor, in which Hákon is a tree, whose buds are his hair. This organic metaphor thus includes his relationship to his subjects, who are called þollar ‘firs’: the mighty tree shelters them. Davidson (1983, 469-71) suggests this is also an image of dynastic fruitfulness, traditionally symbolised by luxuriant hair (cf. Hálfdan svarti’s dream, ÍF 26, 90-1). The sense of a beginning inherent in brumaðr ‘budded’ could be regarded as appropriate to the opening section of the poem, though there is no external evidence to support such a placement of this helmingr.

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