Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Ǫrvar-Odds saga 71 (Ǫrvar-Oddr, Ævidrápa 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 888.
Ǫrvar-Oddr’s so-called Ævidrápa ‘Life-drápa’ (ǪrvOdd Ævdr) or poetic autobiography is extant as a continuous poem of seventy-one stanzas, called here the continuous Ævdr, only in the younger mss 343a, 471 and 173ˣ. However, all mss, including 7, 344a and 567IV, preserve some stanzas or parts of stanzas, that are also present in the continuous Ævdr, as part of the saga narrative, in connection with several of the main episodes in Oddr’s life. Ms. 7 has considerably more (11) of these stanzas than 344a (4) and the fragmentary 567IV (2) and concludes with the second helmingr of Ǫrv 140 followed by Ǫrv 141, the conclusion of the continuous Ævdr. The younger mss contain two versions of the four stanzas (Ǫrv 91, 92, 108 and 111) that are present in all non-fragmentary mss: the first comes at the point in the narrative where the stanza forms part of the saga prosimetrum, and the second within the continuous Ævdr. The presence of stanzas in 7, 344a and 567IV that also appear in the Ævdr in the younger mss strongly suggests that the Ævdr is an extensive amplification of a poetic kernel that was already present in the general ms. tradition.
Table 3 shows the distribution of stanzas conventionally attributed to the Ævdr across the ms. witnesses. A double tick indicates that the stanza in question appears twice in a particular ms. The numbering and order of stanzas in the Table is the order in which they appear in the continuous Ævdr, though this is of course not the order in which stanzas, present in 7, 344a and 576IV and also found in the continuous Ævdr, appear in those mss. For details of ms. location of individual stanzas, see the Mss line for each stanza.
Manuscript Witnesses to ǪrvOdd Ævdr
The lengthy Ævdr of the younger mss reveals a similar penchant for first-person poetic autobiography to what we find in other poetry attached to fornaldarsögur (and to Ǫrv itself in the case of Hjálmarr’s death-song, Ǫrv 13-29), such as the stanzas ascribed to Hildibrandr and Ásmundr in Ásm, Anon Krm (Ragn) and StarkSt Vík (Gautr). In all these cases, the hero-poet, speaking in the first person, recounts the high points of his life in a recollective frame of mind, in many cases just before the moment of death. The ævidrápa/kviða genre is discussed in greater detail in the Introduction to Volume VIII, where there is also a discussion of the probably parallel development of the long autobiographical poem in Saxo’s Gesta Danorum.
In the younger mss ǪrvOdd Ævdr is found almost at the end of the saga prose and the stanzas are written continuously without prose intervention. For this reason, no Context section is given in this edition of the Ævdr, though Notes to individual stanzas comment on the relationship between the stanzas and the prose text to which they appear to relate.
According to all versions of the saga, Oddr and his companions have at last returned to his childhood home at Berurjóðr and the vǫlva’s prophecy is about to be fulfilled: Oddr finds the skull of the horse Faxi half buried in the ground. When he prods it with the shaft of his spear, a snake wriggles out and bites Oddr on one leg above the ankle. The poison from the bite affects him almost instantly; realising that he is dying, Oddr asks his men to divide into two groups, the one to build him a stone coffin and collect firewood for a funeral pyre, the other to stay beside him as he composes a poem about his life. The various mss differ slightly in their wording, but all indicate that those who stayed by Oddr to hear the Ævdr were expected to memorise it, ms. 7 indicating that they were to rísta eptir kvæði því er ek vil yrkja um athafnir mínar ok ævi ‘carve [in runes] in accordance with the poem that I intend to compose about my actions and [my] life’ (Ǫrv 1888, 195). In all mss the poem is called a kvæði (kvæði um ævi mína ‘poem about my life’ in 344a, Ǫrv 1888, 194), but the conventional modern term for the poem, ævidrápa is not used, and is in fact misleading. Although the poem is long, it is not a drápa, as it does not have one or more refrains (stef).
Previous editors have handled the Ævdr and the stanzas that also appear in the saga prosimetrum rather differently and somewhat confusingly. In Ǫrv 1888 Boer prints the stanzas occurring in the prose saga at points where they occur in 7, and again separately in an Appendix (Anhang, pp. 198-208) as a continuous poem, there basing himself on 343a’s version of the Ævdr text. He follows a more complex reconstructive principle in Ǫrv 1892, 97-100 (Anhang I), where he rearranges the stanzas, inserting hypothetical lacunae, as he thought the poem would have been in the original Ævdr. He also prints the stanzas that occur in the prosimetrum, following 7’s text, in the body of the prose saga. Edd. Min. prints what it calls Ǫrvar-Odds Sterbelied ‘The Death-song of Ǫrvar-Oddr’, including in this reconstructed poem those stanzas of the Ævdr that occur in 7 plus a few others that are found elsewhere in the saga, arranging them according to the sequence in which they appear in that ms., though in the actual ms. they are of course separated by varying quantities of prose. Skj and Skald print the Ævdr stanzas according to the sequence in which they occur as a continuous poem at the end of the younger mss, 343a and 471 (Skj does not use 173ˣ). Skj A and B use the version of 343a in the continuous Ævdr as their base ms., but in Skj A variant readings are given in the notes from 7, 344a and 471. Neither Skj nor Skald include versions of the stanzas within the prosimetrum in their sequences of stanzas from Ǫrv; these latter are only accessible to the reader in their entirety from the variant readings recorded in the notes to Skj A. In the present edition, 7 is used as main ms. for those stanzas of the Ævdr that also occur in it, 343a for those stanzas that are only in the continuous Ævdr. In a few cases, where the texts diverge greatly, versions from 7 and 343a are given.
notes: The beginning of the Ævdr is marked by a large red-coloured initial H in 471. — [1-2]: The introductory formula of these lines is comparable to Vsp 1/1-4 and Þhorn Harkv 1/1-2I. It is also reminiscent of the introductory appeal to a listening audience in some late medieval romances; cf. the Middle English Octavian 1-3 (Mills 1973, 75): Lytyll and mykyll, olde and yonge, | Lystenyth now to my talkynge, | Of whome Y wyll yow [k]ythe; ‘Small and great, old and young, listen now to what I say, [and] about whom I will make known to you’.
texts: ‹Ǫrv 71›
editions: Skj Anonyme digte og vers [XIII]: E. 10. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ǫrvar-Oddssaga IX 1 (AII, 306; BII, 324); Skald II, 173, NN §121; Ǫrv 1888, 198, FSGJ 2, 340.