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Runic Dictionary

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Óttarr svarti (Ótt)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Matthew Townend;

1. Hǫfuðlausn (Hfl) - 20

The Icelandic poet Óttarr svarti ‘the Black’ (Ótt) was remembered in the twelfth century (ESk Geisl 12) as one of the hǫfuðskǫld ‘chief skalds’ of the late Viking Age. His nickname would seem to locate him within the tradition of poets being ‘dark’ in either appearance or temperament (see Clunies Ross 1978b; Finlay 2000). According to Styrmir Kárason (ÓH 1941, II, 688), the poet Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv) was a mikill vinr ‘great friend’ of Óttarr, and indeed Óttarr’s Hǫfuðlausn (Ótt Hfl) is greatly indebted to Sigvatr’s Víkingarvísur (Sigv Víkv, see Introduction to Hfl). Snorri Sturluson (ÍF 27, 144; ÓH 1941, I, 203) further describes Óttarr as Sigvatr’s maternal nephew, and if this is correct he would have been the grandson of Þórðr Sigvaldaskáld ‘Poet of Sigvaldi’ (see Biography of Sigvatr Þórðarson). Óttarr features in the various sagas of Óláfr Haraldsson, but the only major anecdote about him is the story surrounding his Hfl (see Introduction).

Skáldatal, in one or both of its recensions (SnE 1848-87, III, 252, 253, 258, 260, 261, 267, 269), lists Óttarr as having composed for six patrons: the Danes Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ Haraldsson and his son Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (Cnut the Great); Óláfr sœnski ‘the Swede’ Eiríksson and his son Ǫnundr Óláfsson; and the Norwegian King Óláfr inn helgi Haraldsson (S. Óláfr), and the Norwegian magnate Dala-Guðbrandr (‘Guðbrandr of the Dales’, on whom, see ÍF 27, 183-90; ÓH 1941, I, 271-82). For Sveinn and Dala-Guðbrandr, Óttarr is the only poet listed in Skáldatal. Panegyric poetry by Óttarr is certainly extant for three of these patrons: Óláfsdrápa (ÓldrIII) for Óláfr Eiríksson (preserved only in SnE and therefore edited in SkP III), Hfl for Óláfr Haraldsson, and Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) and Lv 2 for Knútr. It has, moreover, been suggested that one stanza in Knútdr may have been misplaced from an earlier poem for Sveinn (see Note to st. 9 [All]). No poetry survives for Ǫnundr or Dala-Guðbrandr. From all the evidence, it is likely that Óttarr visited, and composed, for, his patrons in this order: Sveinn until his death in 1014; Óláfr Eiríksson until his death c. 1021 (though ÓHLeg 1982, 130-1, has Óttarr, a young man fresh from Iceland, approaching him as his first patron), then his son Ǫnundr; Óláfr Haraldsson in the early 1020s, and Dala-Guðbrandr in the same period; Knútr by c. 1027 for an unknown period (Knútr died in 1035). For previous discussions of Óttarr’s career, see SnE 1848-87, III, 326-33, LH I, 574-7 and Poole (1993b).

Hǫfuðlausn (‘Head-ransom’) — Ótt HflI

Matthew Townend 2012, ‘ Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn’ 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. 739. <> (accessed 20 September 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20 

Skj: Óttarr svarti: 2. Hǫfuðlausn, o. 1023 (AI, 290-6, BI, 268-72); stanzas (if different): 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20

SkP info: I, 745

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Ótt Hfl 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn 3’ 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. 745.

Ungr hratt á vit vengis,
vígrakkr konungr, blakki
(þú hefr dýrum þrek) dreyra
Danmarkar (þik vanðan).
Varð nýtligust norðan
— núst ríkr af hvǫt slíkri —
(frák til þess, es fóruð,)
fǫr þín, konungr (gǫrva).

Vígrakkr konungr, hratt ungr {blakki {dreyra vengis}} á vit Danmarkar; þú hefr vanðan þik dýrum þrek. Konungr, fǫr þín norðan varð nýtligust; frák gǫrva til þess, es fóruð; núst ríkr af slíkri hvǫt.

Battle-bold king, you launched [when] young {the steed {of the blood of the land}} [SEA > SHIP] towards Denmark; you have accustomed yourself to splendid valour. King, your journey from the north became most successful; I heard clearly about this, that you travelled; now you are powerful on account of such boldness.

Mss: (220r) (Hkr); Holm2(5v), J1ˣ(136v), J2ˣ(119r), 325VI(5rb), 73aˣ(16r), 78aˣ(14v), 68(5r), 61(79ra), 325V(6vb), Bb(125rb), Flat(79va-b), Tóm(95r), 325XI 2 i(1vb) (ll. 1-3) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] hratt (‘hraztu’): bart J1ˣ, J2ˣ, helt 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, ‘hreztv’ Bb;    vengis: ‘væ[…]gis’ 325VI    [2] konungr: á vit 68, konungi Bb, konungr konungr Flat    [3] dreyra: so Holm2, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, Tóm, 325XI 2 i, ‘drøra’ Kˣ, ‘dreyr[…]’ 325VI    [4] ‑markar: ‑marka 325V    [5] Varð: yðr J1ˣ, J2ˣ    [6] st (‘nu ert’): nú er 78aˣ, Tóm;    hvǫt: corrected from ‘for’ in a later hand 61, ‘hnod’ Tóm    [7] frák (‘fra ec’): frá J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 78aˣ;    es (‘er’): at 325V

Editions: Skj: Óttarr svarti, 2. Hǫfuðlausn 3: AI, 290, BI, 268, Skald I, 137-8, NN §§724, 2486A; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 6, IV, 105, ÍF 27, 5 (ÓHHkr ch. 4); ÓH 1941, I, 35 (ch. 21), Flat 1860-8, II, 15.

Context: When the twelve-year-old Óláfr first goes to sea as a viking, he and his men sail east along the coast and to Denmark.

Notes: [1, 3] dreyra vengis ‘of the blood of the land [SEA]’: This pattern of kenning is usually explained by reference to the myth of the giant Ymir, whose blood formed the seas (see SnE 2005, 11-12, Meissner 99-100). — [5] norðan ‘from the north’: The construal here, with fǫr þín ‘your journey’, follows Kock (NN §724) and ÍF 27. The adv. is taken instead with the verb fóruð ‘you travelled’ in Skj B. — [7] þess ‘this’: As Kock points out (NN §2486A), this line lacks skothending. His suggested emendation of þess to þar ‘there’, however, is not satisfactory since til and not þar would then receive full stress, and þar could not carry the skothending

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