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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorbjǫrn hornklofi (Þhorn)

9th century; volume 1; ed. R. D. Fulk;

1. Glymdrápa (Gldr) - 10

Skj info: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, Norsk skjald; omkr. 900. (AI, 22-29, BI, 20-26).

Skj poems:
1. Glymdrápa
2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál)
3. Lausavísa

Little is known about the Norwegian Þorbjǫrn hornklofi ‘Horn-cleaver (?)’. Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 273) names him as a poet of Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ (r. c. 860-c. 932). Judging from Fsk (ÍF 29, 59), he seems to have spent his whole life at the court of this king. Þorbjǫrn is the composer of two poems about Haraldr, Glymdrápa (Þhorn Gldr) and Haraldskvæði (Þhorn Harkv). Skálda saga, an anecdote about skalds preserved in Hb, and hardly likely to be historical, depicts him as one of three skalds, the other two being Auðunn illskælda ‘Bad-poet’ and Ǫlvir hnúfa ‘Snub-nose (?)’, each of whom attempts a romantic encounter with the same rich widow and then bemoans his failure in a lausavísa (see Auðunn Lv 2, Þhorn Lv, Ǫlv Lv 2). The three skalds are also named in Egils saga (ÍF 2, 19) as Haraldr’s favourites. They occupy places of honour in his hall, with Þorbjǫrn between the other two.

In the prose sources Þorbjǫrn is predominantly referred to only by his nickname Hornklofi. To date there is no satisfying explanation of this word. It is attested in the Þulur as a raven-heiti (see Þul Hrafns 1/5III and Note), but it does not occur in that sense in the surviving body of skaldic poetry. Scholars have claimed that the nickname refers to Þorbjǫrn’s device, in Þhorn Harkv, of having a raven speak in his stead (SnE 1848-87, III, 408; ÍF 26, 101 n. 1). Fidjestøl (1991, 126) is, however, justified in doubting this interpretation. An alternative possibility would be to link the nickname to Egill Hfl 16/6-7V (Eg 49): en jǫfurr heldr lǫndum hornklofi ‘and the ruler holds his lands by a hornklof’. But hornklofi here must be the dative of neuter hornklof, whereas Þorbjǫrn’s nickname is a masculine n-stem, and unfortunately the meaning of this passage is obscure, though hornklof seems to be some kind of tool.

my abbr.

Glymdrápa — Þhorn GldrI

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2012, ‘ Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Glymdrápa’ 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. 73. <> (accessed 9 December 2021)

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9 

for reference only:  4x 

Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi: 1. Glymdrápa (AI, 22-4, BI, 20-1); stanzas (if different): 3, 4/1-4 | 4/5-8

SkP info: I, 75

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Þhorn Gldr 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Glymdrápa 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. 75.

Hilmir réð á heiði
hjaldrskíðs þrimu galdra
óðr við œskimeiða
ey brautar heyja,
áðr gnapsólar Gripnis
gnýstœrandi fœri
rausnarsamr til rimmu
ríðviggs lagar skíðum.


The ruler commanded that {the noise {of the battle-plank}} [SWORD > BATTLE] be launched on the heath, ever furious at {the wishing trees {of the incantations {of the standard-road}}}, [BATTLEFIELD > BATTLE > WARRIORS] before {the magnificent increaser {of the noise {of the jutting sun {of the riding horse of Gripnir}}}} [(lit. ‘noise-increaser of the jutting sun of the riding horse of Gripnir’) SHIP > SHIELD > BATTLE > WARRIOR] sailed into battle {with the skis of the sea}. [SHIPS]

context: Hkr describes how Haraldr had a large ship built and manned with his retinue and his berserks. He is reported to have had a large army, and among his followers were many powerful men. Stanzas 1 and 2 are cited without interruption after being introduced as Hornklofi’s report of the battle against the Orkndœlir (people of Orkdalen, a district in Sør-Trøndelag, Norway) at Uppdalsskógr.

notes: [1-4]: This helmingr has been subject to numerous interpretations. All agree on Hilmir réð heyja ... ey óðr við œskimeiða ... ‘The ruler commanded that ... be launched, ever furious at the wishing trees ...’ (or ‘The ruler launched ...’, taking réð in réð heyja as a pleonastic auxiliary). Terms for ‘battle’ are to be expected both as the object of heyja ‘launch’ and as the determinant of œskimeiða ‘wishing trees’, and the interpretations differ over the detail of these. (a) The solution adopted in this edn (as in ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991) is essentially that of Kock (NN §228). He takes þrimu hjaldrseiðs ‘noise of the battle-fish [SWORD > BATTLE]’ as the object of heyja ‘launch’, and the remaining words as a warrior-kenning: œskimeiða galdra vébrautar ‘of the wishing trees of the incantations of the standard-road [BATTLEFIELD > BATTLE > WARRIOR]’. The interpretation given here differs from Kock in choosing the variant hjaldrskíðs ‘of the battle-plank [SWORD]’; see Note to l. 2. (b) Þrimu, translated as ‘battle’, is taken as the object of heyja by Finnur Jónsson (1884, 66-8; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) and Eggert Ó. Brím (ÓT 1892, 345). They then assume that œskimeiða forms a kenning with galdra vébrautar hjaldrseiðs, hence ‘wishing trees of the incantations of the holy (powerful) way (?) of the battle-fish [SWORD > SHIELD > BATTLE > WARRIOR]’ (on the variant hjaldrseiðs see Note to l. 2). The adjectival phrase beginning ey óðr ‘ever furious’ which qualifies hilmir ‘ruler’ is assumed to refer to Haraldr effecting peace. Problems with this interpretation are the use of þrima alone for ‘battle’, of which only one example is known (Arn Þorfdr 8/1II; see Reichardt 1928, 25), and the unclear meaning of vébraut (on which, see Note to l. 4). (c) Fidjestøl (1982, 74-6) combines œskimeiða wishing trees’ with galdra ‘of incantations’ to form a sorcerer-kenning ‘wishing trees of incantations’. He adduces the fact that Haraldr hárfagri took action against sorcerers, as well as against thieves (st. 2). However, Fidjestøl’s interpretation produces an overdetermined battle-kenning as the object of heyja ‘launch’: þrimu vébrautar hjaldrseiðs ‘noise of the holy path of the battle-fish [SWORD > SHIELD > BATTLE]’. Þrimu hjaldrseiðs ‘noise of the battle-fish’ in l. 2 is already a battle-kenning, leaving vébrautar in l. 4 redundant. Moreover, l. 4 is split three ways: ey, vébrautar, heyja. (d) For further, less convincing interpretations see Reichardt (1928, 25-6) and Mohr (1933, 11). — [5-8]: This helmingr has likewise been subject to numerous interpretations. All agree on the sentence structure produced by the base-words of the kennings: áðr rausnarsamr ... gnýstœrandi fœri skíðum ... til rimmu ‘before the magnificent increaser of the noise ... sailed into battle with the skis ...’, but four different ways of associating the numerous genitives with the respective kennings have been considered. (a) The arrangement presented above follows Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV). It involves a minimal emendation of -salar ‘of the hall’ to sólar ‘of the sun’ in l. 5. (b) Very similar is Fidjestøl’s suggestion (1982, 76), which reverses the determinants of the two ship-kennings to produce ríðviggs lagar ‘of the riding horse of the sea’ for the first kenning, and skíðum Gripnis ‘with the skis of Gripnir’ for the second. This edn nonetheless prefers interpretation (a) because one would expect the contiguous gnapsólar (ms. gnapsalar) Gripnis (l. 5) to belong to the same kenning. (c) Kock (NN §229, followed in ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991) seeks to avoid emendation in the first kenning by reading gnýstœrandi gnapsalar Gripnis ‘the increaser of the noise of the jutting hall of Gripnir <sea-king> [SHIELD > BATTLE > WARRIOR]’. This is convincing in itself, but entails also reading skíðum ríðviggs lagar ‘on the skis of the riding horse of the sea [SHIP]’. This would be a kind of interpreted metaphor, in that the ship-kenning explains the metaphor ‘skis’, but such constructions are unusual in skaldic poetry.

texts: HHárf 1 (I 33), Hkr 43 (I 33)

editions: Skj Þórbjǫrn hornklofi: 1. Glymdrápa 1 (AI, 22; BI, 20); Skald I, 12-13, NN §§228-9; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 108, IV, 28-9, ÍF 26, 101, Hkr 1991, I, 61-2 (HHárf ch. 9), F 1871, 42.


AM 35 folx (Kx) 54v, 8 - 54v, 15 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 45 fol (F) 9va, 9 - 9va, 11 (Hkr)  image  image  image  image  
AM 37 folx (J1x) 29v, 7 - 29v, 10 (Hkr)  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 31r, 4 - 31r, 11 (Hkr)  image  
AM 761 a 4°x (761ax) 19v, 1 - 19v, 8  image  
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