Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Friðþjófs saga ins frœkna 36 (Friðþjófr Þorsteinsson, Lausavísur 30)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 234.
The final section of the saga includes six stanzas that focus on Friðþjófr’s encounter with King Hringr and Ingibjǫrg, now married to the king. Friðþjófr approaches the court in disguise but the king soon sees through it and recognises his visitor, whom he treats with extraordinary generosity, to the extent that he eventually offers him both his wife and his position as ruler. Friðþjófr indicates that he will accept this only if Hringr is mortally ill, and in the prose text, as if to order, the king develops an illness and dies. The conclusion to the saga is told in the prose only: Helgi and Hálfdan hear of Friðþjófr’s good fortune and hurry to deprive him of his new position. Friðþjófr kills Helgi but spares Hálfdan to be hersir in Sogn under him. He and Ingibjǫrg have two sons (B version) or many children (A version). Ingibjǫrg’s feelings throughout this final section of the saga are rather negative, but she acquiesces in whatever Friðþjófr has in mind, though she hardly acts as a heroine of romance.
|Þá hét ek Friðþjófr, er ek fór með víkingum,
en Herþjófr, er ek ekkjur grætta,
Geirþjófr, er ek gaflökum fleygða,
Gunnþjófr, er ek gekk at fylki,
Eyþjófr, er ek útsker rænta,
Helþjófr, er ek henta smáb*örn*,
|Valþjófr, þá ek var æðri mönnum. |
Nú hef ek sveimat síðan með saltkörlum,
hjálpar þurfandi, áðr en hingat kom.
Ek hét Friðþjófr, þá er ek fór með víkingum, en Herþjófr, er ek grætta ekkjur, Geirþjófr, er ek fleygða gaflökum, Gunnþjófr, er ek gekk at fylki, Eyþjófr, er ek rænta útsker, Helþjófr, er ek henta smáb*örn*, Valþjófr, þá ek var æðri mönnum. Nú hef ek sveimat síðan með saltkörlum, þurfandi hjálpar, áðr en kom hingat.
I was called Friðþjófr (‘Peace-thief’), when I travelled with vikings, and Herþjófr (‘Army-thief’), when I made widows weep, Geirþjófr (‘Spear-thief’), when I let fly throwing spears, Gunnþjófr (‘Battle-thief’), when I went towards the host, Eyþjófr (‘Island-thief’), when I plundered outlying skerries, Helþjófr (‘Hel-thief’), when I seized little children, Valþjófr (‘Slain men-thief’), when I was higher than [other] men. Now I have since roamed around with salt burners, needing help, before I came here.
Mss: papp17ˣ(361v), 109a IIˣ(152r), 1006ˣ(593), 173ˣ(91r-92r) (Frið)
Readings:  ek: so 1006ˣ, 173ˣ, om. papp17ˣ, 109a IIˣ  fylki: ‘flik’ 109a IIˣ  ‑b*örn*: björnu papp17ˣ, 109a IIˣ, ‑bornu 1006ˣ, 173ˣ
Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 7. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Friðþjófssaga ens frækna II 3: AII, 277, BII, 299, Skald II, 158, FF §22, NN §2837; Falk 1890, 84-6, Frið 1893, 30, Frið 1901, 43; Edd. Min. 102.
Context: Friðþjófr approaches King Hringr’s court disguised as a wayfarer in a shaggy cloak. He claims to be engaged in the burning of salt (saltbrenna). When he comes before the king, Hringr asks him his name, and this stanza forms the answer.
Notes: [All]: This stanza, together with the surrounding prose, is only in the B redaction mss. Metrically and stylistically, it is unlike all the other stanzas in Frið, and clearly belongs to an enumerative model, in which an individual, usually in disguise, tells about his many adventures by means of a long list of names he has acquired on account of them. The god Óðinn is the prototype of this kind of figure, and Grí 48-50, quoted by Snorri Sturluson with commentary in Gylf (SnE 2005, 21-2), is the prototypical poetic realisation of this motif. It is a moot point as to how ll. 5-14 of the text should be divided metrically, as here (with Edd. Min., observing that er ek would normally be in dip) or after er ek (so Frið 1901 and Skald). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) gives up on this question and places ll. 3-12 in square brackets, presumably to indicate that he sees them as a late interpolation. The stanza is a mixture of metres, fornyrðislag, málaháttr and kviðuháttr. — [All]: The Odinic model does not really suit the chivalrous character of Friðþjófr, as presented in the rest of the saga, both prose and poetry; however, the figure of the wandering hero in disguise is a conventional motif in other fornaldarsögur, such as Ǫrv, where the wanderer calls himself by a pseudonym (often Víðfǫrull ‘Widely-travelled’ or, in some mss of Ǫrv, Næframaðr ‘Bark-man’). In Frið 36, the many names Friðþjófr calls himself are all based on the semantic sense of the second element of his name ‑þjófr ‘thief’, while the first elements vary appropriately according to the activities with which they are associated. Most of these activities are of a martial or aggressive nature, which does not fit particularly well with Friðþjófr’s character in the saga. On names in ‑þjófr, see Bugge (1890, 225-36). —  Friðþjófr ‘(“Peace-thief”)’: Some eds (so Skj B) emend the text here to Valþjófr (taking this name from l. 13), on the ground that Friðþjófr would not state his actual name in such a stanza, designed to keep King Hringr guessing about his identity. Later in the saga prose, however, Hringr is made to say that he knew who Friðþjófr was as soon as he saw him (Frið 1901, 47; Frið 1914, 31), so it may be unwise to apply modern-day rationality to the use of conventional motifs in saga literature. —  gaflökum ‘throwing spears’: Old Norse gaflak, first appearing in prose texts c. 1270 (cf. ONP: gaflak), is possibly derived from late OE gafeluc (cf. OFr. javelot, MHG gabilot) and refers to some kind of throwing spear or javelin (cf. Þul Spjóts l. 7III and Note there). For the etymology, see OED: gavelock. — [11-12] Helþjófr, er ek henta smáb*örn* ‘Helþjófr (“Hel-thief”), when I seized little children’: Some eds (e.g. Edd. Min.) have adopted the reading of papp17ˣ in l. 12 smábjörnu (other mss having smábornu) in the sense ‘little bears’, sensing a possible connection with the name Húnþjófr, which appears in a corresponding passage of Friðþjófs rímur (IV, 55, 3, Frið 1893, 123) and which could be understood to contain the element húnn ‘bear cub’ or ‘boy, young man’ (cf. LP: húnn). The slight emendation to smábörn ‘little children’ was proposed by Falk, and seems far more probable than the over-ingenious bear cub hypothesis. Both Skj B and Skald emend to smábǫrnum (dat. pl.), though henda ‘catch, seize’ takes the acc. —  Valþjófr ‘(“Slain men-thief”)’: The first element of this name is understood here to derive from valr ‘the dead slain in battle’, but it may possibly derive from val ‘choice’ or val- ‘foreign’ (cf. Bugge 1890, 230). On the name and its likely connotations in Anglo-Norman, see Edmonds (2015). —  með saltkörlum ‘with salt burners’: In early Norway and Iceland, salt was often produced by boiling seawater or burning seaweed on the seashore (Foote and Wilson 1980, 164; Buckland 2008, 599-600). See also Anon (HSig) 4/1-4II for another reference in Old Norse poetry to the activity of burning seaweed to obtain salt.