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Runic Dictionary

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Prose works relevant to the database

Óláfs saga helga hin elzta (ÓHÆ)

Skaldic vol. 1; ed. Diana Whaley

verse introduction manuscripts contents

Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 > 8. Volume Introduction > 3. Sources for skaldic poetry cited in the kings’ sagas: manuscripts, facsimiles and editions > 3.1. Sagas of the kings of Norway to c. 1035 > 12. The Oldest Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in elzta (ÓHÆ)


52:       NRA 52 (c. 1225). First six fragments contain text of ÓHÆ.

Facsimile and edition: ÓHÆ 1893.

This saga, now extant only in six vellum fragments preserved as NRA 52, is thought to have been composed c. 1200. (Two further fragments, supposed in the 1893 edition also to belong to ÓHÆ, were shown to be from other texts by Louis-Jensen 1970b.) Their language suggests ÓHÆ was compiled by an Icelander, and he seems to have known Ágr, but nothing more is known about the circumstances of the saga’s composition. The NRA 52 fragments concern only Óláfr’s reign as king of Norway, but reconstructions based on extant works which drew on ÓHÆ show it must originally also have included Óláfr’s return from Russian exile, his death at the battle of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad) in 1030, and the subsequent recognition of his sanctity. The fragments also contain several anecdotes and þættir about Icelandic skalds, and it is in these that most of the saga’s eight skaldic citations occur. The compilers of later sagas about Óláfr helgi, such as ÓHLeg and the Lífssaga by Styrmir Kárason, drew on ÓHÆ when it was complete, and Fidjestøl (1982, 21) reasons that ÓHLeg took all its sixty-three stanzas from ÓHÆ, though (on the evidence of its incomplete preservation of ÞSjár Róðdr) it omitted some others in the interests of conciseness. Judging by this, ÓHÆ contained well over sixty stanzas and was an important early written witness to the skaldic tradition.


The surviving fragments of ÓHÆ contain the following: Ótt Lv 1, Þorf Lv 1, Þorm Lv 10, 11, 15, Ótt Hfl 1 (l. 1 only), Bersi Lv 1, Hár Lv 2.

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