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Runic Dictionary

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Prose works relevant to the database

Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar (Hák)

Skaldic vol. 2; ed. Guðrún Nordal

verse introduction manuscripts contents

Vol. II. Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: from c. 1035 to c. 1300 > 8. Introduction > 4. Sources for Skaldic Poetry Cited in the Kings' Sagas > 1. Sagas of the kings of Norway after 1035 > 4. Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar (Hák)


The relations between the manuscripts of Hák are complicated, and scholars have not been able to establish a satisfactory stemma (see Hák 1977-82, xii-xiii). A preliminary distinction can be made between the ‘Norwegian’ manuscripts (E, J, F, G/42ˣ) and the ‘Icelandic’ manuscripts (81a, 8/325VIII 5 a/304ˣ, 325VIII 5 b, 325X, Flat), and the order of manuscripts in the editions in SkP II reflects that grouping.


E:             Eirspennill, AM 47 fol. See Hkr. Hák: 139v-194v.

55 A:       Jöfraskinna, preserved in NRA 55 A (one-leaf fragment). See Hkr.

F:              Fríssbók, Codex Frisianus, AM 45 fol. See Hkr. Hák: 84ra-124rb.

G:             Gullinskinna, preserved in AM 325 VIII 5 c 4° (one-leaf fragment). See Hkr.

42ˣ:          AM 42 folˣ, copy of G. See Hkr. Hák: 82r-177v.

81a:         Skálholtsbók yngsta, AM 81 a fol (Icelandic, c. 1450-75). Hák: 64va-120vb.

8:              Holm perg 8 fol (two scribal teams: to 68v ‘A’ c. 1340-70; 69r-81v ‘B’ c. 1500). Hák: 32v-81v.

325VIII 5 a: AM 325 VIII 5 a 4°. Three leaves originally belonging to 8 (‘A’).

304ˣ:       AM 304 4°ˣ (c. 1600-50 and later, a copy of 8 when it was more complete, though a few leaves were missing from 8 at the time it was copied).

325VIII 5 b: AM 325 VIII 5 b 4° (c. 1300-25). Two leaves.

325X:      AM 325 X 4° (c. 1370). Fragments a little earlier than Flat, but from a codex that was not the exemplar of Flat. Hák: 11ra-12vb.

Flat:         Flateyjarbók, GKS 1005 fol. See separate entry.

Facsimiles and editions: F 1932, AM 81a 1961, Flat 1930; E 1916, F 1871, Hák 1910-86 (= Sv 1910-86), Hák 1977-82, Flat 1860-8, III.

Hák, which was written by the Icelander Sturla Þórðarson (c. 1265; see Sturl Biography), chronicles the life of King Hákon Hákonarson (1204-1263; see ‘Royal Biographies’ below). AM 80 folˣ (80ˣ), another copy of G by Ásgeir Jónsson (end of the C17th), has not been considered in the editions in the present volume. NRA 55 B (55 B), a one-leaf fragment of Hák (c. 1300-25), contains no poetry. Because both Hák and Sv are recorded in 81a, the siglum Hák 1910-86 (a diplomatic edition of 81a) refers to the same edition as Sv 1910-86.


The prose text of Hák is at times fairly heavily interspersed with poetry, notably with the poetic compositions of Sturla himself (Sturl Hákkv, Hrafn, Hákfl, Magndr) and of his brother, Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson (Ólhvít Hryn). The saga also contains Gizurr Þorvaldsson’s Hákonardrápa (Giz Hákdr), stanzas from Snorri Sturluson’s Háttatal (SnSt Ht 63-4III), lausavísur (Játg Lv, Ólhvít Lv 1-2, Snæk Lv, SnSt Lv 4IV, GOdd Lv 1IV) and three anonymous stanzas (Anon (Hák) 1-3). Because Sturla relied heavily on eyewitness accounts and written documentation as sources for the prose account of Hák, the poetic citations in the saga are mainly ornamental in nature. The inclusion of the stanzas reflects the convention in the earlier kings’ sagas of using skaldic stanzas to verify the events described in the prose texts, a convention that peaked in such royal compendia as Mork, Fsk and Hkr.

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