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Þorbjǫrn hornklofi (Þhorn)

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

2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) (Harkv) - 23

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.

Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) — Þhorn HarkvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘ Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál)’ 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. 91. <> (accessed 24 May 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23 

Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi: 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál), Flere af de herhenhørende vers tillægges i forskellige håndskrifter Tjodolf hvinverske. (AI, 24-9, BI, 22-5)

SkP info: I, 108

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

14 — Þhorn Harkv 14I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 14’ 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. 108.

‘Hafnaði Holmrygjum         ok Hǫrða meyjum,
hverri inni heinversku         ok Hǫlga ættar
konungr inn kynstóri,         es tók konu ina dǫnsku.’

‘Inn kynstóri konungr, es tók ina dǫnsku konu, hafnaði Holmrygjum ok meyjum Hǫrða, hverri inni heinversku ok ættar Hǫlga.’

‘The high-born king [Haraldr] who took the Danish wife rejected the Hólmrygir and the maidens of the Hǫrðar, every single one from Hedmark and of the family of Hǫlgi.’

Mss: (63v-64r), F(11ra), J1ˣ(35v), J2ˣ(36v) (Hkr); 61(2ra), 53(1vb), Bb(2rb), 325IX 1 bˣ(2va-b), Flat(6ra) (ÓT); Flat(77ra) (Flat)

Readings: [1] Hafnaði Holmrygjum: ‘Hafnadí hilmir ruium’ Bb, ‘Hafnnade hunnmo᷎rgum’ Flat(6ra), hafnaði hann Holmrygjum Flat(77ra)    [2] ok Hǫrða: Haraldr Flat(6ra)    [3] hverri: herran Bb;    inni: inum Bb, inn Flat(6ra);    heinversku: heinverskum Bb, hœversku 325IX 1 bˣ, Flat(6ra), hvinversku Flat(77ra)    [4] ok Hǫlga ættar: ok hǫlða ættar J1ˣ, J2ˣ, Flat(77ra), hilmir norrœni Flat(6ra)    [6] es: om. Bb, 325IX 1 bˣ, Flat(6ra);    konu ina: ‘[...]na’ J2ˣ;    ina: om. Flat(6ra);    dǫnsku: danska Flat(6ra)

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 14: AI, 27, BI, 24, Skald I, 15; Hkr 1777-1826, I, 97, VI, 18, Hkr 1868, 63, Hkr 1893-1901, I, 127, IV, 37, ÍF 26, 119-20, Hkr 1991, I, 74 (HHárf ch. 21/22), F 1871, 49; Fms 1, 7, Fms 12, 25, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 7 (ch. 2), Flat 1860-8, I, 42; Fms 10, 195, Flat 1860-8, I, 576 (HarHárf); Möbius 1860, 229, Jón Helgason 1946, 145-6, Jón Helgason 1968, 19.


In both Hkr and ÓT, the stanza is cited in evidence of the report that Haraldr gave up all his nine or ten wives in order to win the hand of Ragnhildr (see the preceding stanza); the context in HarHárf (Flat(77ra)) is similar.

Notes: [All]: The stanza is attributed to Þjóðólfr (ór Hvini) in HarHárf (Flat(77ra)), though the different version cited in Flat(6ra) is called Þorbjǫrn’s. — [1] hafnaði ‘rejected’: Snorri’s interpretation of the context in Hkr reveals that he understood the verb to mean ‘parted with’ (so also Magerøy 1963, 84; Jochens 1995, 31), but the meaning of the stanza may well be not that Haraldr parted with so many wives or concubines but that although he could have married a woman from any part of Norway, he chose a Dane instead. See Koht (1927-9, 430-1), in response to Schreiner (1927-9b, 172-3). Following Snorri’s interpretation, to explain the connection between this stanza and st. 13, Lindquist (1929, 7) supposes some lines to have been lost from the beginning of this stanza, to the effect that the women speak ill of Haraldr because of an old grudge. Harris (1985, 97) perceives the tone of this stanza as mocking. For a listing of the numerous women with whom Haraldr is said to have fathered children, see Hkr 1991, III, 135. — [1] Holmrygjum ‘the Hólmrygir’: Residents of the islands (hólmr m. ‘island’) of Rogaland, in this context clearly the female residents. Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV, 37; LP: Holmrygir), perhaps expecting instead a gen. pl. parallel with Hǫrða ‘of the Hǫrðar’ (actually supplied in Möbius 1860 and in Sueti 1884, 26), and noting that this refers to women only, suggests that the second constituent of the cpd could be a form of rýgr ‘lady’, with a pun on -rygjum (so also ÍF 26, 119-20; Olsen 1942b, 28-30). — [4] Hǫlga ‘of Hǫlgi’: The eponymous ruler of Hálogaland (Hålogaland). — [5]: The line repeats st. 7/3, and thus Sueti (1884, 16) cites this as evidence that the sts about Haraldr’s court and those about the battle were composed by the same poet. It does not occur elsewhere in the skaldic corpus. — [6] es ‘who’: This word may instead be temporal ‘when’ (so Sueti 1884, 27; Kershaw 1922, 79).

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated