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Hrókr inn svarti (Hróksv)

volume 8; ed. Hubert Seelow;

VIII. Hrókskviða (Hrkv) - 27

Hrókskviða — Hróksv HrkvVIII (Hálf)

Not published: do not cite (Hróksv HrkvVIII (Hálf))

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27 

SkP info: VIII, 345

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Hróksv Hrkv 1VIII (Hálf 51)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Hubert Seelow (ed.) 2017, ‘Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka 51 (Hrókr inn svarti, Hrókskviða 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 345.

Hrókskviða ‘Poem of Hrókr’ (Hrkv) is the longest cohesive sequence of stanzas in Hálf. It is a dramatic monologue uttered by Hrókr inn svarti ‘Rook the Black’, one of the Hálfsrekkar who has survived the hall fire and finds himself at the court of a foreign king, Haki, in Skåne (ON Skáney), where his true identity as a great warrior is unknown and he is paid little respect. The poem is addressed to the king’s daughter Brynhildr, and the immediately preceding prose narrative describes the circumstances of its performance: while the men of the court were out hunting, and the women gathered nuts, Brynhildr comes upon a big man alone under a tree, and overhears him recite this poem. At the end of his performance (according to the prose text) she comes to realise the man’s identity, and that Hrókr had been talking about himself and the deeds of the Hálfsrekkar, as well as of his love for her. Evidently the poem has the desired effect in that Hrókr is immediately elevated to a position of honour at court, married to Brynhildr, and is then able to dispatch troublesome rivals for her hand. Eventually he and Haki join up with other Hálfsrekkar and their supporters to kill King Ásmundr in revenge for the burning of Hálfr and his men.

Hrkv is an interesting combination of an ævikviða ‘life poem’ or autobiography, in which a speaker reviews his own life, often upon the point of death (though this is not the case here), with a retrospective encomium of the life and mores of Hálfr and his warrior band, the Hálfsrekkar. Stanzas 57-9 enumerate the rules that Hálfr established for his men to follow, a subject treated briefly in the prose text (Hálf 1981, 177-8), while sts 62-7 form a catalogue of the names of individual members of the Hálfsrekkar, largely corresponding (though not quite in the same order of naming) to a list given in ch. 5 of the prose text (Hálf 1981, 177-8).

The primary function of Hrkv within the plot of Hálf is its connection to the theme of revenge. Although only three sts (69-72) deal explicitly with this theme, the majority of stanzas in Hrkv bear upon Hrókr’s ultimate goal of achieving revenge for his dead leader. By concealing his identity and having it revealed indirectly, Hrókr gains prestige at court, and this enables him to be considered a fitting wooer for Brynhildr. The unstinting praise of Hrkv for the bravery and nobility of Hálfr and the Hálfsrekkar has the effect of making it more urgent and more meaningful that revenge for their killing should be carried out, while Hrókr’s marriage to Brynhildr assures him of the support of Haki on the revenge expedition against Ásmundr.

Another distinguishing characteristic of Hrkv, which is not paralleled elsewhere in Hálf, is its representation of the complexity of Hrókr’s psychological states, his wishes, hopes and reflections on his life and fate, especially in sts 69, 70 and 74-6.

Nú mun segja         sonr Hámundar,
hvert eðli var         okkart bræðra.
Var minn faðir         miklu fremri,
haukr görr at hug,         en Haki yðvarr.

{Sonr Hámundar} mun nú segja, hvert eðli okkart bræðra var. Var minn faðir haukr görr at hug, miklu fremri en Haki yðvarr.

Now {the son of Hámundr} [= Hrókr inn svarti] will tell, what the parentage of us two brothers was. My father was a real hawk in regard to courage, much superior to your Haki.

Mss: 2845(38r) (Hálf)

Readings: [5] Var minn faðir: minn var faðir 2845

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 6. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Hálfssaga IX 1: AII, 265, BII, 286, Skald II, 150; Hálf 1864, 31, Hálf 1909, 120, FSGJ 2, 124, Hálf 1981, 133, 190; Edd. Min. 44.

Context: This stanza is introduced by the words: Brynhildr kóngsdóttir sá, hvar maðr stórr stóð við eik eina. Hún heyrði, at hann kvað ‘Brynhildr the king’s daughter saw where a tall man was standing by an oak tree. She heard that he said’.

Notes: [All]: There is more than a trace of the mannjafnaðr in this and the following stanza of Hrkv, in that Hrókr compares King Haki and later Vifill, his rival for Brynhildr’s hand, unfavourably with himself and his father in terms of courage. — [2] sonr Hámundar ‘the son of Hámundr [= Hrókr inn svarti]’: The prose text claims (Hálf 1981, 177) that Hámundr inn frækni ‘the Bold’ was a hersir, a Norwegian district chieftain. His sister Gunnlǫð was married to Álfr jarl inn gamli ‘the Old’ from Hordaland (Hǫrðaland) and their two sons were the two brothers named Steinn, Innsteinn and Útsteinn. — [3-4]: In the phrase eðli okkart bræðra ‘the parentage of us two brothers’, it should be noted that grammatically okkart qualifies eðli, not bræðra. — [3] eðli ‘parentage’: The noun eðli has several possible meanings of which ‘parentage’ is one (cf. ONP: eðli 2 ‘origin, descent, extraction’). Other eds (cf. Skj B’s hvorledes vi brødre var i karakter ‘how we brothers were in character’) understand eðli in the sense of ‘nature, (true) character’ (ONP: eðli 3), and this interpretation is also possible. — [5] var minn faðir ‘my father was’: The ms. has these words in the unusual order minn var faðir; as this order makes the line unmetrical, the line has been emended here, as with most eds, to give a metrical line. — [7] haukr ‘hawk’: On the comparison of brave warriors to hawks, see Note to Hálf 29/1. — [8] Haki: Here the name of a king in Skåne (Skáney), at whose court Hrókr has taken refuge. Elsewhere Haki ‘Hook’ is a sea-king name (Þul Sækonunga 2/7III, Þul Sea-kings 1/8III) or the name of a famous pirate, brother of the legendary Hagbarðr (see Anon (FoGT) 24/1III and Note there).

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