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Runic Dictionary

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Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA)

11th century; volume 2; ed. Diana Whaley;

1. Magnússflokkr (Magnfl) - 19

Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA) is listed in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 254, 262) among the poets of Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson and Haraldr harðráði ‘Hard-rule’ Sigurðarson, and virtually all his extant poetry seems to have been composed in honour of them, or in association with them; hence it dates from the period 1035-1066. The text of Skáldatal in AM 761 a 4°ˣ (SnE 1848-87, III, 259) also credits Þjóðólfr with poetry for Haraldr Þorkelsson, son of Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’ and one of the Dan. magnates present in Norway during the reign of Sveinn Álfífuson (1030-35). No identifiable fragments of this remain, but if true the tradition would suggest that Þjóðólfr was born not much later than 1010. Hemings þáttr Áslákssonar (Hem) has him die at the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, and there is no record of him after that date, though Lv 11 has the air of being composed after the battle. Þjóðólfr was, according to Skáldatal and Fsk (ÍF 29, 245), the brother of another skald, Bǫlverkr Arnórsson (Bǫlv), and according to Sneglu-Halla þáttr (Snegl) in Flat (1860-8, III, 415), was from an undistinguished family in Svarfaðardalur, northern Iceland. The same þáttr (p. 421) names his father not as Arnórr but as Þorljótr, in the context of a scurrilous anecdote told against Þjóðólfr by Sneglu-Halli (SnH), who also taunts him with having composed the otherwise unknown Sorptrogsvísur ‘Dustbin Vísur’. The þáttr nevertheless describes him as accomplished (menntr vel) and courteous (kurteis maðr), highly favoured by King Haraldr and chief of his poets (haufutskꜳlld sitt, p. 415). Þjóðólfr’s poetry, rich in allusion and imagery, has continued to be widely admired, and it gains colour and vigour from the fact that he participated in many of the campaigns he depicts. It undoubtedly also reflects the fact that he was one of an exceptional circle of poets patronised by Haraldr (see Turville-Petre 1968), and much of his poetry shares topics and imagery with that of his contemporary Arnórr jarlaskáld (Arn), though there is no account of the dealings between these two. Þjóðólfr figures in several anecdotes centring on poetic composition: see Contexts to Lv 2-6, though we have no way of knowing whether he was so touchy about his reputation as the Context to Lv 4, and Snegl, would suggest; he also features as a go-between figure in Brands þáttr ǫrva, which cites no poetry. For brief biographies of Þjóðólfr see, e.g. SnE 1848-87, III, 578-9; LH 1894-1901, I, 627-32; Hollander 1945, 189-96.

In addition to the works edited here as Þjóðólfr’s, there have been further attributions to him. Þfagr Sveinn 7 is attributed to Þjóðólfr in Mork (1928-32, 165-6) and Flat (1860-8, III, 341), but to Þorleikr fagri in other sources; ÞKolb Eirdr 17I is attributed to Þjóðólfr in the U ms. alone, and Þfisk Lv 3 is attributed to him in F. Further, Flat, by citing Okík Magn 1 after ÞjóðA Magnfl 18 without announcing a change of skald implicitly assigns the latter to Þjóðólfr. We might perhaps also imagine Þjóðólfr having a hand in Anon (HSig) 2, the st. collaboratively composed by Haraldr’s men. A further set of six sts presented are anonymous in the medieval sources but are presented in this edn as Halli XI Fl (for reasons explained in Halli Biography below). These are printed among Þjóðólfr’s works in CPB II, 210-11 and listed under his name in SnE 1848-87, III, 583-4; Poole also finds ‘the ascription to Þjóðólfr Arnórsson … tempting, on stylistic grounds’ (1991, 75).

Preserved mainly in the kings’ sagas, above all in Hkr, Þjóðólfr’s oeuvre presents exceptional problems of reconstruction, which are discussed at some length in the Introductions to the individual poems or sets of sts. The chief problem is that Þjóðólfr certainly composed a major dróttkvætt poem for each of his patrons Magnús (Magnússflokkr, Magnfl) and Haraldr (Sexstefja, Sex), but that in each case there is also a set of sts that may or may not belong in the main encomium. The decision has been taken here to print them separately: fourteen sts depicting the aftermaths of Magnús’s major battles at Århus (Áróss) and Helgenæs (Helganes) are presented as ‘Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi’ (Magn), and seven describing the launch of Haraldr’s great levied fleet from Nidelven (the river Nið) as ‘Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr’ (Har). As a reference aid, the arrangement of Þjóðólfr’s oeuvre in SkP and Skj is shown here.

Magnússflokkr (ÞjóðA Magnfl)
SkP Skj
15Náði jarl at eyða 19
16Rǫnn lézt, ræsir Þrœnda,20
17Hizig laut, es heitir 21
18Flýði jarl af auðu, 22
19Háðisk heilli góðu25
Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi (ÞjóðA Magn)
1Hrauð leifs mǫgr áðan Magnfl 15
2Misst hafa Sveins at sýnu, Magnfl 16
3Gær sák grjóti stóru Lv 1
4Spurði einu orði Magnfl 17
5Saurstokkinn bar svíra Magnfl 18
6Hrindr af hrókalandi Lv 2
7Menn eigu þess minnask, Lv 3
8Skjǫld bark heim frá hjaldri Magnfl 23
9Bauð leifs sonr áðan Magnfl 24
10Nú taka Norðmenn knýja,Lv 4
11Brum jǫrn at œrnuLv 5
12Svíðr of seggja búðirLv 6
13Fjǫrð lét fylkir verðaLv 7
14Ek hef ekki at drekkaLv 8
Runhent poem about Haraldr (ÞjóðA Run)
Sexstefja (ÞjóðA Sex)
6Þjóð veit, at hefr háðar7
7Stólþengils lét stinga6
8Ok hertoga hneykir25
9Reist eikikjǫlr austan8
10Vatn lézt, vísi, slitna,9
11Gegn skyli herr, sem hugnar10
12Frn hefr sveit við Sveini11
13Lét vingjafa veitir12
14Fast bað fylking hrausta13
15Alm dró upplenzkr hilmir14
16Flest vas hirð, sús hraustum15
17Sogns kvðu gram gegnan16
18Sveinn át sigr at launa17
19Nús of verk, þaus vísi,18
20Létu lystir sleitu19
21Tók Holmbúa hneykir20
22Gagn brann greypra þegna; 21
23Fœrði fylkir Hǫrða,22
24Áræðis naut eyðir23
25Refsir reyndan ofsa24
26Mǫrk lét veitt fyr verka26
27Ǫrð sær Yrsu burðar27
28Lét hræteina hveiti32
29Blóðorra lætr barri30a
30Geirs oddum lætr greddir30b
31Gera vas gisting byrjuð29
32Hár skyli hirðar stjóri35
Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr (ÞjóðA Har)
1Skeið sák framm at flœði, Lv 18
2Slyngr laugardag lǫngu Lv 19
3Rétt kann rœði slíta Lv 20
4Sorgar veit, áðr slíti Lv 21
5Eigu skjól und skógi Lv 22
6Hléseyjar lemr hvan Lv 23
7Haraldr þeysti nú hraustla Lv 24
Fragments (ÞjóðA Frag )
1 Nús valmeiðum víðisLv 9
2Jarl/Ǫrr lætr, odda skúrar Sex 28
3Ganga él of Yngva Sex 31
4Snart við sæþráð kyrtat Sex 33
5Útan bindr við enda Sex 34
Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur (ÞjóðA Lv)
1Leiða langar dauða Lv 10
2Sumar annat skal sunnar Lv 11
3[Logit hefr Baldr at Baldri]
brynþings fetilstingar
Lv 12
4Mildingr rauð í móðu Lv 13
5Varp ór þrætu þorpi Lv 14
6Sigurðr eggjaði sleggju Lv 15
7Haddan skall, en Halli Lv 16
8Út stendr undan báti Lv 17
9Ǫld es, sús jarli skyldi Lv 25
10Skalka frá, þótt fylkir Lv 26
11Ǫld hefr afráð goldit Lv 27

Reconstructions of the Þjóðólfr corpus are offered by Finnur Jónsson in SnE 1848-87, III, 579-90, which is the basis (almost unchanged) for Skj (AI, 361-83, BI, 332-53), and the Skj ordering is retained in Skald (I, 168-77); other major contributions are by Guðbrandur Vigfússon in CPB (II, 198-212) and by Fidjestøl (1982, 133-43, 172).

The principal eds consulted in the course of re-editing Þjóðólfr’s poetry for SkP are listed for each st., and are of two main types: eds of the skaldic corpus (Finnur Jónsson’s in Skj AI, 361-83; BI, 332-53 and Ernst Albin Kock’s in Skald I, 168-77, supported by numerous NN) and eds of the various prose works in which the poetry is preserved. Extracts are also included in anthologies, articles and other works including (with ten or more sts): CPB II, 198-212; Kock and Meissner 1931, I, 57-60; Hollander 1945,190-6 (annotated translations only), Poole 1991, 59-63; and (with seven sts) Turville-Petre 1976, 97-102. Such works as these, together with others containing comment on the poetry, are cited as appropriate in the Notes.


Magnússflokkr — ÞjóðA MagnflII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Magnússflokkr’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 61-87. <> (accessed 16 October 2021)

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

Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson: 1. Magnúsflokkr, omtr. 1045 (AI, 361-8, BI, 332-8); stanzas (if different): 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25

SkP info: II, 69-70

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — ÞjóðA Magnfl 5II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Magnússflokkr 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 69-70.

Sjalfr vas austr við Elfi
Ulfs mǫgr ok hét fǫgru;
þar réð Sveinn at sverja
sínar hendr at skríni.
Réð Ôleifs sonr eiðum,
— átt hafa þeira sáttir
skemmra aldr an skyldi —
Skônunga gramr, hônum.

{Mǫgr Ulfs} vas sjalfr austr við Elfi ok hét fǫgru; þar réð Sveinn at sverja hendr sínar at skríni. {Sonr Ôleifs}, {gramr Skônunga}, réð hônum eiðum; sáttir þeira hafa átt skemmra aldr an skyldi.

{Úlfr’s kinsman} [= Sveinn Úlfsson] himself was east at the Götaälv (Elfr), and promised fine things; there Sveinn did pledge himself [lit. his hands] at the shrine. {Óláfr’s son} [= Magnús], {the lord of the Skánungar} [= Magnús], dictated oaths to him; their peace-agreements have had a shorter life than they ought.

Mss: (508v-509r), 39(15va), F(39va), E(6v), J2ˣ(248v) (Hkr); FskBˣ(56v), FskAˣ(216) (Fsk); H(6v), Hr(7va) (H-Hr); Flat(190va-b) (Flat)

Readings: [1] við: í 39, F, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, H, Flat    [3] þar: þá FskBˣ, ‘þer’ FskAˣ    [6] sáttir: sættir FskBˣ, FskAˣ

Editions: Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson, 1. Magnúsflokkr 5: AI, 362, BI, 333, Skald I, 168; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 42, IV, 193, ÍF 28, 38, Hkr 1991, 581 (Mgóð ch. 23), F 1871, 180, E 1916, 21-2; Fsk 1902-3, 207 (ch. 41), ÍF 29, 219 (ch. 49); Fms 6, 53 (Mgóð ch. 27), Fms 12, 132; Flat 1860-8, III, 274, Andersson and Gade 2000, 113-14, 468 (MH).

Context: While Magnús and his fleet are anchored by the Götaälv (Elfr, Gautelfr), the Dane Sveinn Úlfsson comes and becomes his man. Magnús appoints him as jarl and viceroy over Denmark (this follows the st. in Fsk) and Sveinn swears oaths of loyalty on a shrine or reliquary.

Notes: [All]: In Flat, the st. is anonymous. — [1-4]: The main problem in the first helmingr is that the verb var (normalised vas) ‘was’, the reading of all mss, makes sense in ll. 1-2 but appears to leave acc. pl. sínar hendr ‘his hands’ unaccounted for. (a) The interpretation adopted here agrees with those early eds who retained var/vas and took sverja hendr sínar á skríni together as ‘swear (with) his hands (placed) on the shrine’ (e.g. Munch and Unger in Fsk 1847, 101-2, 194; Sveinbjörn Egilsson in LP (1860): sverja and SHI 6, 48). This rather strained assumption was taken up by C20th eds of Hkr (ÍF 28, Hkr 1991) and Fsk (ÍF 29) and by Gade (2000, 113). Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson, however, improves the solution by translating as batt hendur sínar með eiðum ‘bound (over) his hands with oaths’ and noting that this is not dissimilar from constructions like sverja e-m land (‘make over land to sby on oath’; cf. a similar rendering in Hkr 1991). Given that hendr ‘hands’ can refer to the whole person, as in Hǫgni varði hendr Gunnars, lit. ‘Hǫgni defended Gunnarr’s hands’ in Akv 19 (NK 243), there could be a double sense here, literal and figurative: Sveinn is placing his hands on the shrine while swearing himself in allegiance to Magnús. (b) Emendation of var to bar provides the necessary transitive verb, and some corruption would be understandable given that the presumed cl. bar sínar hendr is suspended over ll. 1 and 4. This yields:

Sjalfr bar austr við Elfi
Ulfs mǫgr ok hét fǫgru,
— þar réð Sveinn at sverja —
sínar hendr at skríni.

Prose order: Mǫgr Ulfs bar sjalfr hendr sínar at skríni austr við Elfi ok hét fǫgru; Sveinn réð at sverja þar. Translation: Úlfr’s kinsman [= Sveinn] himself placed his hands on the shrine east at the Götaälv, and promised fine things; Sveinn did swear there. The emendation was suggested by Konráð Gíslason (Nj 1875-8, II, 298 anm.), and was adopted by Finnur Jónsson in his eds of Hkr (1893-1901) and Fsk (1902-3) and in Skj B. As well as being an emendation against the whole paradosis, however, this leaves sverja awkwardly intransitive, whereas the verb is normally followed by a noun object such as eið(a) ‘oath(s)’ or a cl. such as (þess), at ... ‘that ...’. (c) Konráð dismissed an alternative emendation, of hét in l. 2 to helt, hence helt hendr sínar at fǫgru skríni ‘held his hands over the beautiful shrine’, for the good reason that helt (inf. halda) would normally govern the dat., not the acc. — [1] við Elfi ‘at the Götaälv (Elfr)’: The reading í ‘in’ is found in Flat, H-Hr, and most Fsk mss (52ˣ exceptionally having við, fol. 81r), and it is retained in the eds of those works listed above. It would presumably refer to the region around the river in Västergötland, but við ‘at’ or ‘by’ is preferable. — [4] skríni ‘reliquary’: The word could refer to a shrine or reliquary. The surrounding prose in Hkr, H-Hr and Flat suggests a portable reliquary. — [8] gramr Skônunga ‘the lord of the Skánungar [= Magnús]’: This is taken in apposition to sonr leifs ‘Óláfr’s son’ (l. 5), since both refer to Magnús. The alternative is that it is an apostrophe (a possibility raised, and rejected, by Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV, 193). The Skánungar are the people of Skåne, now in southern Sweden but then Dan. territory.

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