Cite as: Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 30 (Kráka/Áslaug Sigurðardóttir, Lausavísur 9)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 684.
This stanza and Ragn 31, both spoken by Áslaug, clearly belong together. They are quoted in a chapter (18) of the Y-redaction (preserved in 1824b) of Ragn that apparently did not form part of the X-redaction (preserved in 147), and which rounds off the saga’s account of Ragnarr’s sons, beginning with Hvítserkr.
lives to hear, as an old woman, the news of Hvítserkr’s
heroic death in the east; once defeated in battle, he chose to burn to
death on the piled heads of the slain, as she here describes.
notes: This stanza presents few difficulties of interpretation. Hvítserkr (not a historical figure) is mentioned in the mid-C12th poem Háttalykill (RvHbreiðm Hl 21/1III), not specifically as a son of Ragnarr, but close to sts 11-20 in which Ragnarr, Ælle, and inn beinlausi ‘the boneless one’, as well as Agnarr, Bjǫrn and Sigurðr are also mentioned; cf. McTurk (1991a, 89-90). In Saxo (Saxo 2015, I, ix. 4. 17, pp. 644-5), he appears as Withsercus, a son of Regnerus Lothbrog by his third wife Suanlogha. According to Saxo (Saxo 2015, I, ix. 4. 21, pp. 648-9), Withsercus is appointed King of the Scythians by his father Regnerus, but later (Saxo 2015, I, ix. 4. 29-32, pp. 654-7) is treacherously attacked by Daxon, King of the Hellespont, and eventually captured from the top of a pile of corpses while fighting off his assailants. Daxon is moved by his physical beauty to offer him his daughter in marriage, but Withsercus prefers to be bound and burnt to death with his captive friends. Regnerus avenges his death by banishing Daxon to Utgarthia, but later restores Daxon to his kingdom, insisting on an annual tribute from him. Withsercus’s choice of the manner of his own death and his refusal of the offer of his conqueror’s daughter in marriage recall the story of Eiríkr’s death reflected in Ragn 11-14, above, and de Vries (1927b, 136-7; cf. 1928c, 125) argues that this story influenced that of Hvítserkr’s death as described by Saxo and in Ragn 30 and 31. This is indeed likely, though, to judge from numerous differences in detail, Saxo may have had available to him not the full story of Eiríkr’s death but a version of the story of Hvítserkr’s already influenced by it.
texts: ‹Ragn 30›
editions: Skj Anonyme digte og vers [XIII]: E. 2. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ragnarssaga loðbrókar IX 1 (AII, 239; BII, 258-9); Skald II, 134; FSN 1, 293 (Ragn ch. 19), Ragn 1891, 219 (ch. 19), Ragn 1906-8, 168, 215 (ch. 18), Ragn 1944, 118-21 (ch. 20), FSGJ 1, 279 (Ragn ch. 18), Ragn 1985, 148 (ch. 18), Ragn 2003, 62 (ch. 18), CPB II, 351-2.