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Runic Dictionary

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Óttarr svarti (Ótt)

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

3. Lausavísur (Lv) - 3

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).

Lausavísur — Ótt LvI

Matthew Townend and R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘ Óttarr svarti, Lausavísur’ 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. 783. <> (accessed 28 June 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3 

Skj: Óttarr svarti: Lausavísur (AI, 299, B)

SkP info: I, 784

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Ótt Lv 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Lausavísur 1’ 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. 784.

Hnøtr sendi mér handan
hrǫnduðr alinbranda
— ár vas, þats mank meiri
mín þing — konungr hingat.
Mær es markar stjóri;
meir sék þar til fleira;
niðrat oss í ǫðru,
íslands mikils vísi.

Konungr, {hrǫnduðr {alinbranda}}, sendi mér handan hnøtr hingat; ár vas, þats mank þing mín meiri. {Stjóri markar} es mær; meir sék þar til fleira; niðrat oss í ǫðru, {vísi {mikils íslands}}.

The king, {the distributor {of arm-flames}} [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN = Óláfr], sent some nuts across to me here; it was long ago, when I remember my position [to have been] greater. {The ruler of the forest} [TREE] is slender; later I will look for more there; do not humiliate us again, {sovereign {of the great ice-land}} [SEA > RULER].

texts: Flat 964, ÓH, ÓHLeg 28, ÓHÆ 1

editions: Skj Óttarr svarti: Lausavísur 1 (AI, 299; BI, 275); Skald I, 141, NN §§2010, 3052B; ÓH 1941, II, 689, 703, 705, Flat 1860-8, III, 243; ÓHÆ 1893, 2; ÓHLeg 1922, 58, ÓHLeg 1982, 138-9.


AM 73 a folx (73ax) 95v, 31 - 95v, 38 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 71 folx (71x) 78r, 25 - 78r, 27 (ÓH)  image  
AM 76 a folx (76ax) 101r, 3 - 101r, 10 (ÓH)  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 187rb, 34 - 187rb, 36 (ÓH)  image  image  
GKS 1008 fol (Tóm) 122v, 5 - 122v, 7 (ÓH)  image  
NRA 52 (NRA52) 1r, 3 - 1r, 5 [1-2, 4-5, 7-8] (ÓHÆ)  image  
DG 8 (DG8) 91v, 13 - 91v, 16 (ÓHLeg)  image  
AM 761 b 4°x (761bx) 267r, 3 - 267r, 10  image  
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