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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

 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, 81

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Þhorn Gldr 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Glymdrápa 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. 81.

Hrjóðr lét hæstrar tíðar
harðráðr skipa bǫrðum
bôru fáks ins bleika
barnungr á lǫg þrungit,
þar svát barsk at borði
(borðhǫlkvi rak norðan)
hlífar valdr til hildar
(hregg) dǫglinga tveggja.


{The hard-ruling clearer {of the pale horse of the wave}}, [SHIP > SEA-WARRIOR = Haraldr] [when] child-young, had ships’ prows put out to sea at the best time, so that {the owner of the shield} [WARRIOR = Haraldr] travelled on board there into battle against two rulers; the storm drove {the plank-horse} [SHIP] from the north.


The sources place this stanza in different contexts. Fsk associates sts 3-5 with the battle of Hafrsfjǫrðr (Hafrsfjorden), citing them in unbroken sequence after Þhorn Harkv 7-11. Hkr reports that Haraldr goes south to Mœrr (Møre) and defeats Húnþjófr, king of Norðmœrr (Nordmøre), and King Nǫkkvi, the ruler of Raumsdalr (Romsdalen), in a major battle near Sólskel (Solskjel). It then cites sts 3/5-8 and 4 as a single stanza. Flat (HarHárf) cites st. 3, followed by two stanzas comprising sts 9 and 5/1-4, and 5/5-8 and 4, in the context of a battle against three kings of Norðmœrr, which precedes the battle of Sólskel. SnE (Skm) provides the stanza’s first helmingr as an example of a ship-kenning.

notes: The prose texts preserve the helmingar of sts 3-5 and 9 in various combinations (see Context above), and eds vary. The text given here, like that of Skald, follows the arrangement of the text as preserved in Fsk, since the stanza here begins with a main clause as all other stanzas in Gldr do, followed by a subordinate clause (cf. Fidjestøl 1982, 87), and since Hkr lacks st. 3/1-4. — [5-8]: The syntactic structure of this helmingr is problematic. (a) The construal here corresponds to that of most other eds. (b) Kock (NN §§232, 2212) simplifies the syntax by reading borðhǫlkvi rak norðan as ‘it drove the plank-horse [SHIP] from the north’, i.e. as a parenthesis containing an impersonal use of rak ‘drove’. But his reading also entails reading hildar hreggs ‘of the storm of Hildr <valkyrie> [BATTLE]’, in which hreggs is the reading of F only, and clearly a scribal ‘improvement’. (c) Sveinbjörn Egilsson (Fms 12) and Reichardt (1928, 27-9) combine valdr hlífar ‘the owner of the shield [WARRIOR]’ as the subject of rak borðhǫlkvi ‘drove the plank-horse [SHIP]’. But barsk at borði cannot then be adequately accounted for (as Finnur Jónsson 1929b, 137 notes).

texts: Fsk 23, HarHárf 5, Hkr, Skm 258 [1-4], Flat 399, SnE 260 [1-4]

editions: Skj Þórbjǫrn hornklofi: 1. Glymdrápa 3, 4/1-4 (AI, 22; BI, 20);

Skald I, 13, NN §§232, 1020, 1916A, 2212; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 109, IV, 30-1, ÍF 26, 103, Hkr 1991, 63 (HHárf ch. 10), F 1871, 42; Fsk 1902-3, 18 (ch. 2), ÍF 29, 69 (ch. 3); Fms 10, 186-7, Fms 12, 224-5, Flat 1860-8, I, 572 (HarHárf); SnE 1848-87, I, 440-1, II, 331, 442, SnE 1931, 156, SnE 1998, I, 74.


AM 35 folx (Kx) 55r, 8 - 55r, 11 [5-8] (Hkr)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 45 fol (F) 9v, 21 - 9v, 22 [5-8] (Hkr)  image  image  image  image  
AM 37 folx (J1x) 29v, 22 - 30r, 2 [5-8] (Hkr)  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 31r, 29 - 31v, 2 [5-8] (Hkr)  image  
OsloUB 371 folx (FskBx) 6r, 8 - 6r, 15 (Fsk)  image  
AM 51 folx (51x) 5r, 4 - 5r, 11 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 302 4°x (302x) 8r, 16 - 8r, 23 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 303 4°x (FskAx) 17, 16 - 17, 23 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 52 folx (52x) 7v, 10 - 7v, 17 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 301 4°x (301x) 6r, 6 - 6r, 10 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 76va, 57 - 76va, 60 (Flat)  image  image  image  
GKS 2367 4° (R) 35r, 11 - 35r, 12 [1-4] (SnE)  transcr.  image  image  image  
Traj 1374x (Tx) 36v, 9 - 36v, 9 [1-4] (SnE)  image  
AM 242 fol (W) 79, 32 - 80, 1 [1-4] (SnE)  image  image  image  
DG 11 (U) 33v, 25 - 33v, 26 [1-4] (SnE)  image  
AM 748 I b 4° (A) 11v, 32 - 11v, 33 [1-4] (SnE)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 761 a 4°x (761ax*) 19v, 17 - 19v, 20 [1-4]  image  
AM 761 a 4°x (761ax*) 20v - 20v [4-8]  image  
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