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Runic Dictionary

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Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson (Ólhv)

13th century; volume 2; ed. Lauren Goetting;

III. 2. Fragments (Frag) - 9

prose works

Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson (Ólhv) was an accomplished Icel. scholar and a prolific poet. Details of his life are documented in Sturlunga saga (Stu), Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar (Hák), and Knýtlinga saga (Knýtl). He was born c. 1210-12 at Staður on Snæfellsness, Iceland, as the eldest son of Þórðr Sturluson and his concubine Þóra. He was the nephew of Snorri Sturluson (SnSt; d. 1241), with whom he spent long periods of time as a young man, and the older brother of Sturla Þórðarson (Sturl; d. 1284). In 1237 he left Iceland with Snorri to embark upon a career as a professional poet at the courts of Scandinavia. According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256-8, 260, 378-84) Óláfr composed poetry in honour of a large number of kings and noblemen, including the following: (in Norway) Jarl Skúli Bárðarson (d. 1240), King Hákon Hákonarson (d. 1263) and his son Hákon ungi ‘the Young’ Hákonarson (d. 1257), Jarl Knútr Hákonarson (d. 1261); (in Sweden) King Eiríkr Eiríkson (d. 1250); (in Denmark) King Valdimarr Valdimarsson (d. 1241). Because of Óláfr’s close association with Valdimarr, from whom he hafði ... margar ágætligar frásagnir ‘got ... many excellent narratives’ (ÍF 35, 315), he is thought by some to have written Knýtl, which recounts the history of Dan. rulers (see LH 1894-1901, II, 275, 784-5). Around 1242 Óláfr returned to Iceland and founded a school at Stafaholt in Borgarfjörður, where he wrote the Third Grammatical Treatise (TGT) and devoted himself to teaching and writing until his death in 1259. In addition to these pursuits, he was ordained subdeacon at some point after his return to Iceland and also served as lawspeaker 1248-50.

Most of Óláfr’s extant poetry consists of encomia to King Hákon Hákonarson and is inserted throughout the prose in Hák. This includes part of Hrynhenda (Ólhv Hryn), one st. from a Poem about Hákon (Ólhv Hák), and two lvv. (Ólhv Lv). One lv. traditionally assigned to him, has been reassigned in the present edn to Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson (Ólsv Love 3III). Aside from the aforementioned, the remainder of Óláfr’s known poetic works includes two sts from ÁrónsdrápaDrápa about Árón’ (Ólhv ÁrdrIV), composed about his friend Árón Hjǫrleifsson, and two sts from ThómasdrápaDrápa about Thomas (ꜳ Becket)’ (Ólhv ThómdrIII), recorded in the Fourth Grammatical Treatise (FoGT). Finally, nine fragments of sts from TGT (Ólhv FragIII), treated as anonymous in previous eds, are attributed to Óláfr in this edn.

Fragments — Ólhv FragIII

Tarrin Wills 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson, Fragments’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 302.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9 

in texts: Gramm, TGT, TGT 1, TGT 2, TGT 3, TGT 4

SkP info: III, 302

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

The following nine helmingar and couplets (Ólhv Frag 1-9) are used as illustrations of rhetorical figures in TGT. These fragments belong to the same prose and ms. context as the fragments of Anon (TGT) in this volume, and a more detailed discussion of the work, its author, mss and editions, can be found in the Introduction to Anon (TGT) in Introduction to this Volume. The stanzas in Ólhv Frag are anonymous in the treatise but are here attributed to Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson on the basis of their close resemblance to examples used in corresponding sections of related Latin grammatical treatises. Because Óláfr can be reliably identified as the author of TGT, verse examples which closely resemble the Latin are likely to be of his composition. The Notes to individual stanzas explain the correspondences with the Latin exemplars.

As with Anon (TGT), both the form and content of these fragments is diverse, including battle and victory themes (sts 3, 5, 6, 8), mythological material (sts 4, 7), love poetry (st. 1), a traditional ending to an encomium (st. 2) and an example of Christian typology (st. 9). They include material mainly in dróttkvætt (sts 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9), in addition to a kviðuháttr fragment (st. 2) and two fornyrðislag fragments (sts 4, 6). Finnur Jónsson (Skj) classifies the majority (sts 1-3, 5, 6, 8) as anonymous twelfth-century Vers om ubestemmelige personer og begivenheder ‘Stanzas about unidentified persons and events’; sts 7 and 9 are also placed by Finnur in the twelfth century (Vers, hentydende til sagn og lign. ‘Stanzas referring to legends and similar’ and Andre religiøse vers ‘Other religious stanzas’ respectively). Stanza 4 is unaccountably omitted from Skj.

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