Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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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
3.2. Sagas relating to Denmark and Orkney to c. 1035
3.3. Other sources

(subheadings only)

1. Ágrip af Nóregs konunga sǫgum (Ágr)


Ágr:       Ágrip, AM 325 II 4° (Icelandic, c. 1225).

Editions: Ágr 1929, ÍF 29 (Ágr and Fsk), Ágr 2008.

This short work (whose title, meaning ‘Summary of the histories of the kings of Norway’, is editorial) was probably composed in Trøndelag, Norway at the end of the twelfth century; it is preserved in a single, Icelandic, ms. It is the earliest surviving vernacular history of Norway, and the first to use skaldic poetry as source material for the sagas of kings (Fidjestøl 1982, 21). The first leaf and a gathering at the end are missing, so Ágr’s original coverage is unknown, but it is thought to have begun with Hálfdan svarti ‘the Black’ in the mid ninth century and ended in 1177 with Sverrir Sigurðarson’s accession to the Norwegian throne. The surviving part recounts the reigns of kings from Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ to Ingi in the twelfth century, in widely varying detail. The question of Ágr’s sources is extremely complex. Its author seems to have translated sections directly from the Latin Historia de antiquitate regum Norwagiensum by Theodoricus. There are also similarities between Ágr and the anonymous Latin Historia Norwegiae, though here the two works may draw on a now-lost common source. A number of other lost sources have been proposed, and Ágr’s author also used orally-transmitted material, including skaldic poetry. (On the sources see further the summaries by Bjarni Einarsson in ÍF 29, x-xvii and Driscoll in Ágr 2008, xiii-xx.)


Ágr preserves seven stanzas, three of which relate to the reigns up to 1035 covered in SkP I: Anon Oddmjór, Anon (Ágr) Lv and Sigv Lv 26; the two anonymous stanzas are preserved only in Ágr. The remaining four are edited in SkP II and listed at SkP II, lv. Eyv Hál is named as a source (ÍF 29, 18), but nothing is quoted from it, nor are the events described in this part of Ágr mentioned in the surviving stanzas of Hál.

2. Fagrskinna (Fsk)

Stemma (adapted from Whaley 1998, 13)

Manuscripts: A class

Fsk:      Vellum of c. 1350-1400, lost in the fire of Copenhagen in 1728. Three copies made by Ásgeir Jónsson before the fire preserve the A text:

a) FskAˣ: AM 303 4°ˣ (c. 1675-1700)

b) 52ˣ:    AM 52 folˣ (c. 1675-1700)

c) 301ˣ: AM 301 4°ˣ (c. 1700)

Manuscripts: B class

The original burned in the fire of Copenhagen in 1728. One leaf remains:

NRA51: NRA 51 (c. 1240-63). Three copies made before the fire preserve the B text:

a) FskBˣ: OsloUB 371 folˣ (c. 1700; a fairly faithful copy by Ásgeir Jónsson)

b) 51ˣ: AM 51 folˣ (c. 1700)

c) 302ˣ: AM 302 4°ˣ (c. 1675-1700)

Editions: Fsk 1902-3, ÍF 29 (Ágr and Fsk).

The seventeenth-century antiquary Þormóður Torfason (‘Torfæus’) gave the name Fagrskinna ‘Fair vellum’ to a now-lost medieval ms. of the historical survey known in the Middle Ages as Nóregs konunga tal ‘Enumeration of the Kings of Norway’; Fagrskinna is now widely used as the title for this work. The work was composed in Norway c. 1220, probably in the Trøndelag district, and may have been commissioned by King Hákon Hákonarson of Norway; according to his saga he had a konunga tal read to him on his deathbed. Whether its author was an Icelander or a Norwegian has been the subject of much speculation (see Finlay 2004, 15-17 for a summary). Fsk recounts the reigns of the kings of Norway from Hálfdan svarti in the mid ninth century to the death of Eysteinn Eysteinsson in 1177. The well-balanced narrative moves swiftly from one significant political event to the next, focusing on decisive battles, and avoiding digressions such as þættir, fabulous episodes, or stories about the kings’ viking exploits. Fsk is largely based on written sources. Many are extant, usually in younger redactions than those used by the author of Fsk (Ágr, Jómsvíkinga saga (Jvs), Oddr Snorrason’s Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar (ÓTOdd), an Óláfs saga helga and Morkinskinna (Mork)), but some are lost (Sæmundr Sigfússon’s Latin survey of the kings from Hálfdan svarti to Magnús góði ‘the Good’, *Hlaðajarla saga, *Knúts saga ríka and *Hryggjarstykki). Snorri Sturluson in turn probably used Fsk as a source when composing the first and third parts of Hkr.

As shown above, Fsk exists in two redactions: ‘A’, from the first half of the fourteenth century, and ‘B’, from c. 1250. Of the two medieval mss that preserved these redactions a fragmentary single leaf from B survives as NRA 51, but fortunately, multiple copies of each had been made during the seventeenth century. The ‘B’ text of Fsk is traditionally given priority over the ‘A’ text, for instance in the editions of Finnur Jónsson (Fsk 1902-3) and Bjarni Einarsson (ÍF 29, 1984), not least because of the greater antiquity of the exemplar, and this practice is generally followed in this edition. The ‘A’ text is nevertheless an important witness, both in the numerous places where NRA 51 had lacunae and throughout. The paper transcripts are collectively referred to as the ‘FskA transcripts’ (FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ) and ‘FskB transcripts’ (FskBˣ, 51ˣ, 302ˣ). FskAˣ and FskBˣ are generally the best in their respective classes, and are routinely used in this volume, but the other transcripts are used selectively where the Fsk readings are particularly important (e.g. because the stanza is only preserved in Fsk, or Fsk provides the main ms.) or difficult to establish (e.g. because the stanza is lacking from FskAˣ or FskBˣ).


Fsk quotes some 290 stanzas, of which some 180 fall in the chapters covering the years to 1035 and hence appear in this volume. Many were taken from earlier written sources, for instance stanzas from Sigv Víkv, Sigv Erlfl, Ótt Knútdr and Þloft Tøgdr which are also preserved in the Legendary Saga of S. Óláfr / Helgisaga Óláfs konungs Haraldssonar (ÓHLeg) and may well derive from a now-lost portion of the Oldest Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in elzta (ÓHÆ; Fidjestøl 1982, 28). In cases where the source is completely lost Fsk is a prime early witness to the skaldic tradition. It is our only source for most of Þhorn Harkv and Anon Eirm. Fidjestøl (1982, 34) suggests that Fsk is the place where Þhorn Harkv, ÞSjár Þórdr and Hfr Óldr entered the written tradition (although stanzas from all of these poems are also cited elsewhere). Fsk also cites substantial amounts of Þhorn Gldr, Eyv Hák, Eyv Hál, Eskál Vell, Hfr ErfÓl and Hókr Eirfl. A peculiarity of Fsk is that its compiler seems to have known many more stanzas than he chose to cite from some poems, e.g. Glúmr Gráf, Edáð Banddr. The focus on salient events favours the citation of encomiastic poetry over lausavísur, but Fsk also preserves some more informal stanzas including several lausavísur by Eyvindr skáldaspillir. On the poetry relating to events after c. 1035, see SkP II, lx.

3. Flateyjarbók (Flat)


Flat:      Flateyjarbók, GKS 1005 fol (Icelandic, mainly c. 1387-95). Three additional quires (188r-210r) comprise the ‘Younger Flateyjarbók’ (YFlat; see SkP II, lx)

325IV b and 325XI 3: AM 325 IV b 4°, AM 325 XI 3 4°; fragments of the archetype of YFlat (c. 1350-1400). AM 325IV b contains no poetry and 325XI 3 contains poetry edited in SkP II (see p. lx).

Facsimile and editions: Flat 1930; Flat 1860-8, I-III, Louis-Jensen 1970b (fragments).

Flateyjarbók ‘Book of Flatey’ is the name given both to an important compilation and to its ms., a large, magnificently illustrated and well-preserved vellum codex, now consisting of 225 leaves. Most of the codex was written in the late fourteenth century by the priests Jón Þórðarson and Magnús Þorhallsson for Jón Hákonarson of Víðidalstunga in northern Iceland. Flatey was the home of its owner in the mid seventeenth century.

Flat as a compilation draws on an estimated forty to fifty mss (see Rowe 2005 on its genesis). The first phase of writing, done by Jón Þórðarson, consisted of Eiríks saga víðfǫrla, ÓT and ÓH. The latter two are in versions that are greatly expanded relative to other recensions by weaving in sections from other texts, some of which are also extant in other versions (e.g. Færeyinga saga (Fær), Jvs, Hallfreðar saga (Hallfr), Fóstbræðra saga (Fbr)), but many of which are þættir found nowhere else. The second phase of copying was carried out by Magnús Þorhallsson, who added Sverris saga, Hákonar saga gamla, þættir and other short texts, poetry both skaldic and non-skaldic, and annals. Important for the present volume are the articuli or short extracts from the lost saga of S. Óláfr, Lífssaga hins heilaga Óláfs konungs Haraldssonar by Styrmir Kárason (also known as Lífssaga Óláfs helga; Flat 1860-8, III, 239-48; ÓH 1941, II, 683-95). To several of the articuli there are parallel texts in mss Tóm and Bæb (ÓH 1941, II, 695-713); see also Sigurður Nordal (1914, 69-133) for a reconstruction of Styrmir’s Lífssaga. A third, much later phase (late fifteenth century) involved the insertion into Flat of twenty-three leaves containing Magnúss saga góða ok Haralds harðráða, the chronological continuation of ÓH. On the use of the paper mss BLAdd 4867ˣ (4867ˣ) and AM 563a 4to (563aˣ) for the text of Þorleifs þáttr jarlaskálds (ÞorlJ), see below.


Flateyjarbók has well over a thousand stanzas, but the majority are also found elsewhere, and the texts tend to be somewhat garbled, especially those copied by Jón Þórðarson (Rowe 2005, 36 n. 4). The principal text-critical significance of this ms. therefore lies in the poetry unique to it, above all Nóregs konungatal (see SkP II, 761-808), a twelfth-century poem of seventy-five stanzas written out in full. . The codex also uniquely attests to over thirty stanzas relating to the period to 1035 and edited in this volume. Most are cited in its unique þættir: Sigurðar þáttr slefu (SSlef): Þklypp Lv; Þorleifs þáttr jarlaskálds (ÞorlJ): Þjsk Sveindr, Þjsk Jarl, Þjsk Lv 5-6, Svtjúg Lv, Hhal Lv; Haralds þáttr hárfagra (HarHárf): Þjóð Har 1-4, Þhorn Gldr 9, Þhorn Harkv 13; Styrbjarnar þáttr Svíakappa (Styrb): Anon (Styrb) 1-3, ÞHjalt Lv 1-2; Eindriða þáttr ok Erlings (EindrErl): Eindr Lv. Other þættir contain numerous stanzas that are recorded elsewhere, including Stefnis þáttr Þorgilssonar (Stefn): Anon (ÓT) 1; Helga þáttr Þórissonar (Helg): ÓTr Lv 2; Þormóðar þáttr Kolbrúnarskálds (Þorm): Þorm Lv 10-11, 15-16; and Vǫlsa þáttr (Vǫlsa): Anon (Vǫlsa) 1-13, Þorm Lv 17 = Anon (Vǫlsa) 11. Further, the Styrmir extracts contain twenty-four stanzas including Anon Liðs 1-10 as an uninterrupted sequence and five stanzas attributed to Óláfr helgi; Ólhelg Lv 4 and 9 are preserved only there. The Flat compilers also inserted Sigv ErfÓl 2 into their text of ÓH and Þrándr Kredda into Fær. On the poetry relating to events after c. 1035, see SkP II, lx, and further poetry from Flat will appear in SkP IV, V and VIII.

4. The Greatest Saga of Óláfr Tryggvason / Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar in mesta (ÓT)

Stemma (adapted from ÓT 1958-2000, III, cccix)

Manuscript: A class

61:       AM 61 fol. (Icelandic; c. 1350-75 to fol. 109v, c. 1400-50 thereafter). Also contains ÓH.

Manuscripts: B class

53:       AM 53 fol (c. 1375-1400).

557:     AM 557 4° (c. 1420-50). Contents include a text of Hallfr seemingly derived from the lost Codex Resenianus (*b in stemma).

Manuscripts: C class

The following three belong to the same ms., and are collectively designated C1 in ÓT 1958-2000 and below.

54:       AM 54 fol (c. 1375-1400 to fol. 72ra; c. 1500-1600 thereafter). Part belongs to the D class (below).

325VIII 2 d: AM 325VIII 2 d 4° (c. 1375-1400). No poetry.

325IX 1 a: AM 325IX 1 a 4° (c. 1375-1400).

325VIII 2b: AM 325VIII 2b 4° (c. 1500). Descended from the lost archetype for C1. (C7 in ÓT 1958-2000.)

The following all appear to be descended from C1:

325VIII 2 c, e-h: AM 325VIII 2 c, e-h 4° (c. 1400). Six leaves and smaller fragments of a single vellum apparently copied directly from C1. (C3, C4,, C5 in ÓT 1958-2000.) Only 2 g (C3) contains poetry.

22ˣ:      Holm papp 22 folˣ (c. 1600-50). Copied from the vellum of which 325VIII 2 c, e-h are remnants from when it was complete.

Bb:       Bergsbók, Holm perg 1 fol (Icelandic, c. 1400-25). An indirect copy of the same vellum. Also contains ÓH. (C2 in ÓT 1958-2000.)

325VIII 2 a: AM 325VIII 2 a 4° (c. 1400). Seven damaged leaves. Another indirect copy of the same vellum. (C6 in ÓT 1958-2000.)

325IX 1 bˣ: AM 325IX 1 b 4°ˣ (c. 1650-1700, by Jón Ólafsson of Lambavatn). Written to fill out lacunae in 54, probably from a lost copy of it. (C8 in ÓT 1958-2000.)

Manuscripts: D class

62:       AM 62 fol; c. 1375-1400.

Flat:      Flateyjarbók, GKS 1005 fol (Icelandic, mainly c. 1387-95). Also contains ÓH and other texts. See separate entry.

54:       AM 54 fol. See C above. The later addition (fols 72-6) belongs to the D class (ÓT 1958-2000, III, cccxi).

Facsimile and editions: AM 61 1982, AM 557 1940, Bb 1963, AM 62 1993, Flat 1930; Fms 1-3, ÓT 1958-2000, I-III.

The lengthy compilation ÓT was written in Iceland in the fourteenth century. It sets out to provide King Óláfr Tryggvason, the Christianizer of Iceland, with a saga of comparable grandeur to Snorri’s ÓH. One ms. of the saga (Bb) names its compiler as Bergr Sokkason, abbot of the monastery of Munkaþverá in northern Iceland; Finnur Jónsson (LH III, 96) doubted this, but subsequent commentators are more convinced (see Sverrir Tómasson 2003). Bergr died c. 1350, so if he was its author, ÓT would date from the first half of the fourteenth century.

ÓT takes much of its shape and wording from a y-class Hkr text, and whole paragraphs are often copied almost verbatim (see Ólafur Halldórsson 2001). The compiler also made use of ÓH mss: one ‘similar to the archetype of the B- and C-class manuscripts’ (ibid., xix), and for the later part a ms. of the A class. But he also inserted (and sometimes preferred) material from other written sources, including Gunnlaugr Leifsson’s lost Latin life (vita) of Óláfr Tryggvason, ÓTOdd, Fær, Hallfr and Landnámabók (Ldn). The main rationale guiding this editorial work was the greater glory of Óláfr, but the compiler seems also to have thought of his work as a history of the conversion of Norway and Iceland, with the consequence that the king sometimes recedes rather into the background (Sverrir Tómasson 2003).

As shown above, a comparatively large number of medieval mss of ÓT is extant. Ólafur Halldórsson, in his magisterial diplomatic edition (ÓT 1958-2000, III, cclxix), identifies four classes and two redactions, one of which is a substantial revision. The unrevised redaction is represented in the A-, B- and C-class mss, and is best represented in the A-class 61 (see ÓT 1958-2000, III, cccix; AM 61, 31), which is taken as the main text in ÓT 1958-2000. Errors and deviations in 61 can be controlled to some extent by reference to two other late fourteenth-century mss of the unrevised redaction, 53 and 54. These belong for the most part to the B and C classes, respectively, of ÓT mss, though 53 has some text akin to 61 and part of 54 has an interpolated text (see Introduction to Hfr ErfÓl). The revised redaction is represented by the D-class mss, the best of which is 62, while the text of ÓT in Flat represents a further recasting of this revised version. Ólafur’s edition, complete with its detailed account of the mss (ÓT 1958-2000, III, xvii-cclxvii, cccxxxv-cccxlvii) and their relationships (cclxviii-cccxxiii; cccxlvii-cccl), has thrown new light on the relations between the mss, particularly in the complex C class. Here, 54 (together with 325IX 1 a, a fragment of the same vellum) and 325VIII 2 b are closest to the C-class archetype and the most valuable textual witnesses. All remaining mss appear to be descended from 54 and hence not of independent value except where 54 is incomplete, but because of the possibility that scribes had access to other versions of the skaldic stanzas (as may be the case, for instance, with Bb; pers. comm. Ólafur Halldórsson) and because their readings are cited in ÓT 1958-2000, they are included in the editions in this volume. For a table showing coverage of the ÓT mss, see ÓT 1958-2000, III, xviii-xxi.


ÓT contains some 215 stanzas, most of which derive, along with their prose contexts, from Hkr or Hallfr and/or are preserved elsewhere in the kings’ sagas. For a late and derivative work, however, it preserves a surprising number of unique stanzas, including sixteen stanzas of Hfr ErfÓl and major historical poems of the twelfth century or later. ÞGísl Búdr is unique to ÓT, as are sts 41-5 of Bjbp Jóms. Both are cited within a narrative of the battle of Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen), c. 985, interwoven with poetry composed closer to the events. Similarly ÓT is an important witness to poetry about the battle of Svǫlðr (c. 1000), citing from the twelfth-century HSt Rst, alongside contemporary poems such as Hfr ErfÓl. Some stanzas of Rst punctuate the narrative and it is also written out in extenso in the ÓT ms. Bb, whose collection of long poems devoted to the two Óláfrs also contains the only text of the twelfth-century Anon Óldr (see further Heslop 2006a). Finally, Anon (ÓT) 1 is preserved in Stefn, Bárðr Lv is in Þorvalds þáttr tasalda (ÞorvT), Anon (ÓT) 2-3 is in an untitled þáttr-like episode, and ÓTr Lv 2 is in Helg (D-class mss only). The compendious nature of ÓT produces overlap with other genres and ms. traditions, and hence with other volumes of this edition. The ÓT text of Hallfr contains several lausavísur, mainly by Hallfreðr himself, which are edited in SkP V (Poetry in Sagas of Icelanders), as well as Hfr ErfÓl 28 in this volume; and stanzas relating to the conversion of Iceland are preserved in ÓT as well as in Ldn, Kristni saga (Kristni) or Njáls saga (Nj), and appear in SkP IV (Poetry on Icelandic History) or SkP V.

5. Hauksbók (Hb)


Hb:      Hauksbók, AM 371 4° (371), AM 544 4° (544), AM 675 4° (675) (Icelandic, c. 1290-1350).

Facsimile and editions: Hb 1960; Hb 1892-6.

Hauksbók (Hb) is a compendium that belonged to the Icelandic lawman and scholar Haukr Erlendsson (d. 3 June 1334), and was in part written by him. For a summary of his life, see Hb 1892-6, i-v. The codex contains numerous sagas and þættir concerning Iceland and Norway, many of them containing poetry, as well as geographical and scientific material, such sagas as Breta sögur and Trójumanna saga, and the poems Merlínusspá (GunnLeif Merl I-IIVIII) and the eddic Vǫluspá. See Finnur Jónsson’s detailed discussion of the content in Hb 1892-6, lxiii-cxxxvi.


Hb contains (in ms. 371) Stefnir Lv and Anon (ÓT) 1 within the text of Kristni; and (in ms. 544) Auðunn Lv 2, Þhorn Lv 1 and Ǫlvir Lv within Skálda saga Haralds konungs hárfagra (Skáld, unique to Hb); Þorm Lv 15/5-8, 18, 19/1-4, 20-4 within the text of Fbr; and Sigv Knútdr 1 within the text of Ragnars sona þáttr (RagnSon). On the poetry relating to events after c. 1035, see SkP II, lxii-lxiii, and further poetry from Hb will appear in SkP IV, V and VIII.

6. Heimskringla (Hkr)

Stemma (from ÍF 28, xciv)

Manuscripts: The Kringla group (x class)

K:        Kringla, almost destroyed in the Copenhagen fire in 1728. One leaf remains, Lbs frg 82, formerly Holm perg 9 I fol, in Kungliga biblioteket, Stockholm (Icelandic, c. 1258-64). Copies of Kringla made before the fire:

a) :     Comprising AM 35 folˣ = Hkr I (used in SkP I), AM 36 folˣ = ÓHHkr (Hkr II, used in SkP I), AM 63 folˣ = Hkr III (used in SkP II). All are c. 1675-1700, in the hand of Ásgeir Jónsson. Normally considered to give the most reliable text (Jørgensen 2000, 231-2; Jørgensen 2007, 318).

b) 521ˣ: OsloUB 521ˣ (c. 1700). Hkr I copied from K, Hkr II from Jöfraskinna (J), but from K where J had lacunae.

c) 70ˣ:    AM 70 folˣ (c. 1675-1700; Hkr II only)

d) papp18ˣ: Holm papp 18 folˣ (c. 1650-1700, in the hand of Jón Eggertsson).

e) J2ˣ:     AM 38 folˣ (c. 1675-1700; by Ásgeir Jónsson). K was used in places to fill out lacunae; see Jöfraskinna group and discussion below.

f) Bb:     Bergsbók, Holm perg 1 fol (Icelandic, c. 1400-25). Partly a Hkr ms: see discussion below.

39:       AM 39 fol (Icelandic, c. 1300). 43 leaves. The first ten leaves have defective and difficult text from the first part of Hkr. The remainder extends from ÓHHkr ch. 245 to HsonaHkr ch. 2.

22ˣmarg: Holm papp 22 folˣ, marginalia (early C17th). Variants in the margins of the ÓT ms. 22ˣ, apparently copied from a now lost folio of 39 (Ólafur Halldórsson 1976; ÓT 1958-2000, III, ccx).

F:         Codex Frisianus or Fríssbók, AM 45 fol (Icelandic with Norwegian features, c. 1300-25). Preserves Hkr I and III, but not Hkr II, i.e. ÓHHkr. Contaminated by a text from the y-branch.

Manuscripts: The Jöfraskinna group (y class)

J:         Jöfraskinna, almost destroyed in the fire in Copenhagen in 1728. Four leaves from Óláfs saga helga survive, Holm perg 9 II fol (Icelandic, c. 1300-25). Other fragments in AM 325 VIII 3 d 4° and NRA 55 A (both used in SkP II). Copies of J made before the fire:

a) J1ˣ:     AM 37 folˣ (made 1567-8 by Jens Nielsen, and continued c. 1700). Óláfs saga helga follows ÓH, not Hkr redaction; ends at ch. 74.

b) J2ˣ:    AM 38 folˣ (c. 1675-1700; by Ásgeir Jónsson). Óláfs saga helga follows the Separate ÓH redaction, not Hkr; lacunae filled from K ms. of Hkr.

E:        Eirspennill, AM 47 fol (c. 1300-25). Considered the best of this group. Contains the last chapter of ÓHHkr, Hkr III, Sverris saga and Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar. Used in SkP II and minimally in this volume.

325VIII 1: AM 325 VIII 1 4° (c. 1300-25). Fragment.

325XI 1: AM 325 XI 1 4° (c. 1300-25). Fragment.

G:        Gullinskinna. Destroyed in the Copenhagen fire of 1728. One leaf from c. 1400 preserved in AM 325 VIII 5 c 4° (325VIII 5 c). Used in SkP II. G was copied in:

42ˣ:      AM 42 folˣ (c. 1675-1700; in the hand of Ásgeir Jónsson). Used in SkP II.

325XI 2 e, 2 f: AM 325 XI 2 e (c. 1250-1300), AM 325 XI 2 f (c. 1350-1400). Fragments containing one stanza each edited in SkP II and tentatively assigned there to Hkr (see SkP II, lxxix).

Facsimiles and editions: K 1895, F 1932, J 1895; Hkr 1893-1901, I-IV, ÍF 26-8, Hkr 1991, I-III [Modern Icelandic orthography], F 1871, E 1916, Veland 1997, Yng 2000, Jørgensen 2007, Kyrkjebø 2001.

Hkr is a cycle of sagas about Norwegian kings from prehistorical times to c. 1177. It takes its (modern) title from the words heims kringla ‘The circle of the world’ with which the opening geographical description starts in the Kringla ms. The Icelandic chieftain Snorri Sturluson, author of SnE, is normally credited with Hkr’s composition c. 1230. Although no medieval source attributes Hkr to Snorri there is a good deal of evidence in favour of his authorship (summarised, e.g., in Whaley 1991, 13-19), and it is accepted throughout this volume, though the theory of later compilation noted below should be kept in mind.

When Snorri came to write Hkr the stories of the earlier kings of Norway had undergone a long process of textualisation: writing down, compiling, editing and refining. His sources were therefore primarily written. Although Snorri emphasises ‘model predecessors’ (Whaley 1999, 242) such as Eiríkr Oddsson’s *Hryggjarstikki (c. 1150) and Ari Þorgilsson’s Íslendingabók (before 1133), he in fact depended heavily on late twelfth-century or thirteenth-century works such as Ágr, Fsk, Fær, Mork, ÓHLeg, Orkn, ÓTOdd and Skjǫldunga saga (Skjǫld), often in earlier versions than those known to us. Also used were a now-lost *Hlaðajarla saga and the Lífssaga Óláfs helga written by Snorri’s contemporary Styrmir Kárason (on which, see Flat above). Hkr’s dramatic yet sober and plausible style and the well-integrated organisation of its material have been much admired, though recent scholarship emphasises how these qualities also frequently characterise Snorri’s sources. The high medieval estimation of Hkr is demonstrated both by the number of times it was copied, and by the indebtedness to it of later compilations such as the Greatest Saga of Óláfr Tryggvason (ÓT) and Flat.

The centrepiece of Hkr and its longest component saga is Óláfs saga helga (ÓHHkr), and Hkr falls naturally into three parts: I, from the Prologue to Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar, ending with the battle of Svǫlðr (c. 1000); II, Óláfs saga helga; III, from Magnúss saga góða to Magnúss saga Erlingssonar, i.e. from c. 1035 to the accession of Sverrir Sigurðarson in 1177. The comments here focus on parts I and II, as major sources for poetry in SkP I; for further details of mss of part III and the stanzas it contains, see SkP II, lxiii-lxv.

The mss that are relevant to the editions in SkP I are the following: (AM 35 folˣ, 36 folˣ, 63ˣ (minimally)), 39, F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, E (minimally) and the fragmentary 325VIII 1, 325XI 1. The ms. preservation of the three parts of Hkr differs radically, and of the mss shown in the composite stemma above only contains all three parts. Nevertheless, for parts I and III the ms. relationships can be represented as a two-branched stemma, comprising the x or Kringla class, thought to be closer to the archetype, and the y or Jöfraskinna class. The exemplars of both classes are lost, except for a single vellum leaf of Kringla (K), which preserves a text of Ótt Knútdr 11 and ÞSjár Róðdr, and four leaves of Jöfraskinna (J), which preserve Ótt Hfl 18/8 and 19. Within the x class the K text is closest to the lost exemplar and is almost complete, and Ásgeir Jónsson’s careful copies in are the most reliable witness to K. The transcripts papp18ˣ and 521ˣ have also been consulted selectively in this edition, particularly where it is important to establish the reading of K (see Jørgensen 2000, 232 for a list of the transcripts of K covering Hkr I ranked according to accuracy). Text from K was also copied into J2ˣ to fill lacunae in both Hkr I (Hgráf ch. 13 to ÓTHkr ch. 63) and Hkr II (five smaller sections; see Jørgensen 2000, 39, 232). Further, the text of ÓHHkr chs 57-119 (ÓH chs 43-107) in the ÓH ms. Bergsbók (Bb) was evidently copied from a ms. close to K, and hence is a valuable witness in cases of disagreement between K and the ÓH mss (ÓH 1941, II, 1116). The Hkr I text in F descends from the same x-class exemplar as that of 39, but the scribe was also evidently influenced by a y-class text (Ólafur Halldórsson 2001, xxxi-xliii, lvi). Much of Hkr I is preserved only in the K transcripts, though the ÓT mss, which contain y-class text, are also invaluable witnesses (Ólafur Halldórsson 2001, lvi). In the y class, Jöfraskinna was the closest ms. to the lost exemplar, and again there are careful paper copies, in J1ˣ and J2ˣ, of which J2ˣ has been regarded as superior. The text of Óláfs saga helga (= Hkr II) in Jöfraskinna is not that of Hkr, but rather a shortened version of an A-class text of the Separate ÓH, except for the lacunae mentioned above. Ms. E is the only well-preserved medieval representative of the y-class, but is used little in this volume since it commences close to the end of Hkr II while G contains only part of Hkr III so is not relevant to the poetry in this volume. A number of fragmentary mss, from one to five leaves in length, also exist (see stemma and table) but most are not relevant to this volume.

As noted above, of the known medieval mss only K contained all three parts of Hkr, perhaps because scribes or their patrons already owned a copy of the Separate Saga of S. Óláfr (ÓH), so could leave out Óláfs saga helga when copying Hkr. Indeed it has been argued that Hkr is not a unitary composition by Snorri Sturluson but an assemblage that post-dates him (Louis-Jensen 1997; cf. Jørgensen 2000, 70 and Kyrkjebø 2001, 128-34, who regards Hkr as Hkr I and III together with a version of the saga of Óláfs saga helga). On this view the Óláfs saga helga in K may be regarded not as the Hkr version of the saga but simply as the K version, with a similar status to that of the J version of Óláfs saga helga (Louis-Jensen 1997, 239 et passim; Jørgensen 2000, 10, 63-70).

The status of Hkr within the konungasögur ‘kings’ sagas’ calls for a brief comment here. The priority given in Skj and elsewhere to the evidence of Hkr is justified by such factors as the quantity of poetry preserved there, and the range and quality of ms. witnesses. However, just as Hkr as a literary and historical work has perhaps been prized among the kings’ sagas at the expense of the others, it is possible to exaggerate its importance as a textual witness, and the editing of the poetry needs to evaluate the evidence of Hkr mss carefully in the light of groupings such as the Fsk mss and those of earlier versions of the sagas of Óláfr helgi and Óláfr Tryggvason.

The textual relationship of Hkr to the Separate Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in sérstaka (ÓH) is also an important and difficult issue. Since the publication of Sigurður Nordal’s 1914 monograph Om Olaf den helliges saga, it has been generally accepted that ÓH was the work of Snorri Sturluson and was the basis for the same saga in Hkr (see Whaley 1991, 54-5 for summary of the case). Jöfraskinna, a Hkr ms. in its parts I and III, has a text of Óláfs saga helga belonging to the A class of ÓH, while Kringla has an adapted version. This has therefore been regarded as a distinctive ‘Hkr’ redaction, and it is referred to as ÓHHkr in this edition, though as noted above a case can be made for regarding it merely as a distinctive ‘Kringla’ redaction. In either case, the implication for text-critical purposes is that where there is disagreement among the ÓH mss, a reading supported by the K transcripts of Hkr is likely to be the original, and this holds good in the great majority of cases. So much is stated by Johnsen and Jón Helgason (ÓH 1941, II, 1093), who also describe Kringla as having i det hele en god og opprinnelig tekst ‘on the whole a good and original text’. However, is also clear that even the lost original was not error-free (ibid., 1123) and that there are exceptions where the Kringla text is altered, sometimes in a way that by chance concurs with certain ÓH mss (ibid., 1093). Meanwhile no individual ms. or class of mss within the ÓH stemma gives a consistently reliable witness, for Holm2, the oldest and generally the best, has unique errors (ibid., 1103). Hence for practical purposes an edition might reasonably proceed by adopting either or Holm2 as a main ms, always bearing in mind that if we seek to get back to Snorri’s original text, the whole transmission must be investigated in every case (ibid., 1123).

Important work by Jonna Louis-Jensen takes the analysis a step further by suggesting that Kringla (K) might be accommodated within the ÓH stemma in the following way (1997, 240):


Hkr makes very extensive use of skaldic poetry, citing some 380 stanzas in parts I and II, and it is our richest source for Old Norse encomiastic poetry prior to c. 1035, even if, like Fsk, it took many of its citations from written sources (see Fidjestøl 1982, 29-30 for a list). Most appear as authenticating quotations of single stanzas, but there are also some extended extracts from long poems. Hkr I contains the whole of Þjóð Yt and is the sole source for all but one stanza; it also cites substantial amounts of Þhorn Gldr, Þhorn Harkv, Glúmr Gráf, Gsind Hákdr, Eyv Hák, Eskál Vell, Hfr Óldr, ÞKolb Eirdr, Tindr Hákdr, Edáð Banddr, Hókr Eirfl and Hfr ErfÓl,  together with some lausavísur. Hkr II has virtually the same complement of poetry as ÓH including the bulk of Sigvatr Þórðarson’s work: see the listing below. On the poetry in Hkr III, see SkP II, lxiv-lxv.

7. Hulda and Hrokkinskinna (H-Hr)


H:        Hulda, AM 66 fol (Icelandic; c. 1350-75). The beginning is missing.

Hr:       Hrokkinskinna, GKS 1010 fol (c. 1400-50 to fol. 91va, c. 1500-1600 thereafter).

Facsimile and editions: H 1968; Fms 6-7.

The compilation covers the lives of kings of Norway c. 1035-1177.


H-Hr preserves only Sigv Lv 8 of the poetry edited in SkP I, but a large number of stanzas edited in SkP II.

8. Jómsvíkinga saga (Jvs)

Manuscripts: A group

291:     AM 291 4° (c. 1275-1300). The oldest ms. and considered the best.

Flat:      GKS 1005 fol (c. 1387-95). Abridged and interpolated version of Jvs within ÓT. See also separate entry for Flat.

7:         Holm perg 7 4° (c. 1300-25). Abridged and interpolated Jvs.

310:     AM 310 4° (c. 1250-75). Two sections of Jvs incorporated into ÓTOdd (1932, 47-53 and 109-12), with a text close to that of 291 but containing no poetry.

Manuscripts: B group

No mss survive, but a B-text is believed to be among the sources for Fsk, Hkr and the poem BjBp Jóms.

Manuscript: A and B versions combined

510:     AM 510 4° (c. 1550).

(Cf. also Arngrímur Jónsson’s Latin translation, 1592-3, in Jakob Benediktsson, ed., 1950-7, I, 87-140, IV, 117-40, 171-80.)

Editions: Fms 11, Jvs 1875 [ms. 7], Jvs 1879 [ms. 510], Jvs 1882 [ms. 291], Jvs 1962 [ms. 7], Jvs 1969 [ms. 291].

The saga, normally dated c. 1200, is an account of the Danish royal house, mainly in the tenth century. The second part foregrounds the Danes’ allies, the Jómsvíkingar, a warrior fraternity based at Jóm or Jómsborg on the Baltic island of Wolin. The climactic event is their fatal sea-battle c. 985 at Hjǫrungavágr (Liåvagen) against Hákon jarl Sigurðarson’s force (see Section 4.1 ‘Ruler biographies’ below). From the vows that instigate the action to the beheadings of the captured Jómsvíkingar, which they meet with unflinching defiance, the narrative is highly coloured and full of extravagant heroics. The turning-point of the battle is ascribed to Hákon jarl’s sacrifice of his son to the female deity Þorgerðr Hǫlgabrúðr, which is followed by a freak hailstorm, and the Jómsvíkingr Búi digri ‘the Stout’ is depicted leaping overboard and calling to his men to follow; he grasps a treasure-chest in his wrists, his hands having been hacked off. Some of these motifs enter into the historical poems ÞGísl Búdr and Bjbp Jóms, which may be contemporary with versions of the prose saga, and diverse accounts of the Jómsvíkingar are given in Fsk, Hkr, ÓTOdd, ÓT and Knýtlinga saga (Knýtl).

The genesis of the saga is elusive and the relationships between the five different redactions exceptionally complex (see Jakob Benediktsson 1962, 607-8; Ólafur Halldórsson, Jvs 1969, 7-12; Megaard 2000a). The scheme above represents a traditional consensus and is particularly indebted to Ólafur Halldórsson (1993, 343). Megaard (2000a) has proposed a more complex stemma with less clear differentiation between mss of the A and B groups.


The redactions of the saga preserve very different complements of stanzas. Ms. 510 contains all eleven extant stanzas of Tindr Hákdr, together with ÞKolb Eirdr 2, 3, Eskál Lv 1a, 2a, 3, Þskúm Lv, Vígf Lv, Vagn Lv, Vígf Hák and Anon (Fsk). Ms. 7 contains only six of the lausavísur; 291 has seven, and alone preserves EValg Lv.

9. The Legendary Saga of S. Óláfr / Helgisaga Óláfs konungs Haraldssonar (ÓHLeg)


DG8:    DG 8 (Norwegian; c. 1225-50).

Facsimile and editions: DG8 1956; ÓHLeg 1922, ÓHLeg 1982.

This saga, known as ‘legendary’ because of its hagiographic character, is a revision, incorporating much additional material, of ÓHÆ (see below). The sole extant ms., DG 8, was written in northern Norway c. 1225-50, but opinion is divided as to whether the compiler of the saga was a Norwegian or an Icelander. ÓHLeg presents Óláfr’s entire life history, followed by a collection of his posthumous miracles (probably from the Gamal norsk homiliebok), and sets out to demonstrate how the king combines the attributes of secular military leader and Christian saint. The saga’s sometimes chaotic structure may be attributed to its inclusion of material from a wide variety of now-lost sources. Identifiable interpolated passages include Kristni þáttr, about Óláfr’s missionary activities, and some short sections from Ágr which may already have been interpolated into ÓHÆ.


ÓHLeg cites sixty-three skaldic stanzas, including eighteen by Sigvatr Þórðarson and twelve by Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld. About half of the stanzas appear in anecdotes about skalds, with the other half cited as evidence in support of the narrator’s assertions about historical events. Three poems, Anon Liðs, Sigv Knútdr and Þloft Tøgdr, are cited in extenso. Most of the poetry is also preserved elsewhere, but Sigv Nesv 6 is unique to ÓHLeg, and Anon Liðs 1, 3-7, 8/1-4, 9/5-8, 10 and Sigv Erlfl 8 are shared only with Flat. A single stanza from ÓHLeg, Hharð Lv 1, is edited in SkP II.

10. Morkinskinna (Mork)


Mork:   Morkinskinna, GKS 1009 fol (Icelandic, c. 1275).

Facsimile and editions: Mork 1934; Mork 1867, Mork 1928-32, ÍF 23-4. See also Andersson and Gade 2000.

The compilation covers the lives of kings of Norway c. 1035-1155.


The extant version of Mork preserves 265 skaldic stanzas, but of these only Sigv Lv 8 is edited in SkP I and the remainder in SkP II.

For a full discussion of Mork, see Introduction to SkP II, lxvi-lxvii.

11. Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar by Oddr Snorrason (ÓTOdd)


Holm18: Holm perg 18 4° (c. 1300).

310:     AM 310 4° (Norwegian, c. 1250-75).

4-7:      DG 4-7 (c. 1270). Fragment.

Facsimile and editions: AM 310 1974; Fms 10, ÓTOdd 1932, ÍF 25 (Fær and ÓTOdd).

ÓTOdd is a medieval Icelandic translation of a Latin vita which was composed c. 1180-1200, or conceivably 1177-1206 (Andersson 2003, 4) and is now lost. The vita is attributed in medieval sources to Oddr Snorrason, a monk at the Benedictine house of Þingeyrar in northern Iceland. Oddr’s original Latin text was based both on the reports of oral informants (a list of whom is appended to the ÓTOdd text in 310) and the now-lost written works of Sæmundr Sigfússon and Ari Þorgilsson. His narrative often closely parallels the Historia de antiquitate regum Norwagiensum of Theodoricus, but whether this is due to direct influence or common sources is debated (see discussion in Andersson 2003, 1-20). Oddr’s saga focuses on Óláfr as missionary, the apostle of the north, and as forerunner to Óláfr helgi, a John the Baptist to Óláfr helgi’s Christ, and it includes many hagiographic motifs.

The three medieval mss represent three redactions of an anonymous translation into the Old Norse vernacular, and the internal relations between the three, and their relationship to the lost Latin original, have been much debated. The version of the saga in Holm18 has a shorter text, although even it is interpolated, e.g. from Ágr (Fidjestøl 1982, 14). Earlier researchers thought 310 was closer to the original than Holm18 (ÓTOdd 1932, viii-xix; Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson 1936, 57-68; Holtsmark in AM 310 1974, 9). However, the basis for this is challenged by Ólafur Halldórsson (ÍF 25, clxvi-clxx), who finds nothing against the view that the Holm18 scribe retained the text of his original unshortened and for the most part unchanged (ibid., clxix). Holm18 accordingly supplies the main text in ÍF 25. The versions in 310 and 4-7 are further recastings of the Old Norse translation mixed with material from a wide variety of other sources (including two sections from Jvs in 310).


Oddr’s original Latin text most likely only contained one stanza: the Latin skaldic stanza which may well be his own translation of Stefnir Lv 1, and is edited as OSnorr Lv in this volume. In the mss of the Old Norse translation of the saga there are twenty-nine stanzas, all in the later part, and drawn mainly from Hallfreðr’s two great panegyrics for Óláfr Tryggvason (Hfr Óldr, Hfr ErfÓl) and from Hókr Eirfl. Stefnir Lv 2 is unique to ÓTOdd and may have been known to the translator from oral tradition. There are fairly strong circumstantial reasons to believe the remaining stanzas were taken from written sources, either by the translator or by one of the three redactors (Fidjestøl 1982, 24-6). Fsk appears to be the main source, and there is persuasive evidence of this in the case of the six stanzas from Hfr Óldr preserved in 310 but not the other ÓTOdd mss (ÍF 25, clxxxii-clxxxiii). For poetry in ÓTOdd relating to events after c. 1035, see SkP II, lxxii.

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.

13. The Separate Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in sérstaka (ÓH)

A class stemma (adapted from ÓH 1941, II, 1103)

Manuscripts: A class

Holm2: Holm perg 2 4° (Icelandic, c. 1250-1300).

325V:   AM 325 V 4° (Icelandic, c. 1300-20). The greater part belongs to the C class (see below).

*U:       Uppsala ms. De la Gardie 3, a ms. closely related to Holm2 that was destroyed in the fire in Uppsala in 1702. Materials from *U survive in:

a) 972ˣ: Thott 972 folˣ (two Swedish scribes). A dual copy (in the a and b columns) of poor textual quality, but going back to Holm2, with some text and marginal notes from *U.

b) Hkr 1697: Peringskiöld’s edition of Hkr. Contains poetic material from *U.

c) R686ˣ: UppsUB R686ˣ (c. 1650-1700).

J:         Jöfraskinna. Óláfs saga helga in J is a shortened text belonging to the Separate (ÓH) redaction, except where lacunae are filled from the K ms. of Hkr (Jørgensen 2000, 39, 232); the remainder of the ms. contains Hkr I and III (see Hkr above)

325VI:  AM 325 VI 4° (Icelandic, in three main hands, c. 1350-1400).

75a:      AM 75 a fol. Bæjarbók í Borgarfirði (Icelandic, c. 1300). Defective.

321ˣ:    AM 321 4°ˣ (c. 1650-1700 by Halldór Jónsson of Reykholt). A paper copy of 75a made when it was more complete than presently; beginning copied from 325VI.

Bæb:     Bæjarbók á Rauðasandi, AM 73 b fol (c. 1370-90). Four extant leaves.

73aˣ:     AM 73 a folˣ (c. 1700, three Icelandic copyists). A copy of Bæb with text from 325V where Bæb had a lacuna.

71ˣ:      AM 71 folˣ (c. 1700). A copy of the lost *Ástríðarbók transcript of Bæb

76aˣ:     AM 76a folˣ (c. 1700). A copy of the lost *Gottrupsbók transcript of Bæb

78aˣ:     AM 78 a folˣ (c. 1700). Partial copy of *Codex Resenianus.

Manuscripts: B class

61:       AM 61 fol (Icelandic, c. 1350-75 to fol. 109v, c. 1400-50 thereafter). Parts belong to the C class (below). Also contains ÓT.

68:       AM 68 fol (Icelandic, c. 1300-50). Defective.

325XI 2 p: AM 325 XI 2 p 4° (c. 1300-1400).

C class stemma (from ÓH 1941, II, 1112)

Manuscripts: C class

Holm4: Holm perg 4 4° (Icelandic, c. 1320-40). Many lacunae.

61:       AM 61 fol. See B above. The later part is a C-class text from C15th.

75c:      AM 75 c fol (Icelandic, c. 1325). Fragment in poor condition.

75e4:    AM 75 e 4 fol (Icelandic, c. 1350-1400). One leaf.

325V:   AM 325 V 4°. See A above. The first sixth and final half belong to the C class.

325VII: AM 325 VII 4° (Icelandic, with Norwegian orthography; c. 1250-1300). The oldest ms. after Holm2; some damage.

Bb:       Bergsbók, Holm perg 1 fol (Icelandic, c. 1400-25). Partly a Hkr ms.; see Hkr above. Also contains ÓT.

Flat:      Flateyjarbók, GKS 1005 fol. (Icelandic, mainly c. 1387-95). Also contains ÓT. See separate entry.

Tóm:    Tómasskinna, GKS 1008 fol (Icelandic; c. 1450-1500 in relevant part). Three hands. Also contains ÓT.

Parts of Bb, Tóm, and 325VI cannot be assigned to any of the three main classes (on Bb, see also Hkr). The following fragments are not included in the stemma, and in at least one case (325XI 2 i), contain text belonging to the Hkr redaction as well as ÓH. Fragments containing no poetry are not listed here.

325XI 1: AM 325 XI 1 4° (c. 1300)

325XI 2 b: AM 325 XI 2 b 4° (c. 1330-1370)

325XI 2 g: AM 325 XI 2 g 4° (c. 1300)

325XI 2 i: AM 325 XI 2 i 4° (c. 1350-1400)

325XI 2 l: AM 325 XI 2 l 4° (c. 1400)

325XI 2 n: AM 325 XI 2 n 4 (c. 1275-1300)

Facsimiles and editions: Holm2 1942, AM 61 1982, Bb 1963, Tóm 1964, Flat 1930; Hkr 1697, Fms 4-6, ÓH 1941, I-II, Flat 1860-8, II.

This biography of King Óláfr inn helgi Haraldsson (S. Óláfr) is conventionally attributed to Snorri Sturluson. Although no medieval source supports this supposition, the case for it is well grounded, and it is generally thought that Snorri composed ÓH as an independent entity before he began work on Hkr (cf. Hkr entry above). If correct, this would date ÓH’s composition to the late 1220s, shortly after a journey to Norway and Sweden which gave Snorri a familiarity with local traditions and geography. ÓH consists of a Prologue, a preliminary section on the history of Norway before Óláfr’s accession, the narrative of his life, deeds and death, and an outline of the reigns of his descendants, which forms a framework for the recounting of Óláfr’s posthumous miracles.

As shown above, ÓH is found in a considerable number of medieval mss, some of which expand the narrative with various interpolations. The stemma is complex, but the mss have been divided into three main classes, A, B and C (for invaluable discussion of the mss and their textual relations, see the account of O. A. Johnsen and Jón Helgason in ÓH 1941, II, 871-1131; pp. 872-7 tabulate the coverage of the saga in the various mss). Holm2, from the later thirteenth century, is the earliest ms. and the best of the A class; it is the main ms. in ÓH 1941. The B class contains only 61 (except where a C text) and 68, both fourteenth-century mss. Holm4 is the best C-class ms. The textual relationship between ÓH and Hkr is discussed in the context of skaldic editing under Hkr above.


ÓH cites over 240 stanzas, most of which are also found in the same order and the same narrative context in Hkr, including substantial citations from: Ótt Hfl, Sigv Víkv, ÞKolb Eirdr, Sigv Erlfl, Sigv Nesv, Bersi Ólfl, Sigv Austv, Sigv Vestv, Sigv Knútdr, Þloft Tøgdr, BjHall Kálffl, Sigv ErfÓl, Þloft Glækv. Lausavísur are also well represented, especially those by Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld relating to the battle of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad, 1030) and by Sigvatr relating to a range of events, though the more informal end of the spectrum is hardly represented. In this volume, Jór Send 3-5, Eþver Lv 1, Sigv Vestv 8, Sigv Lv 1 and HalldR Lv are unique to ÓH mss. In addition, certain skaldic citations appear not in the main text of ÓH but only in þættir preserved in one or more interpolated mss: Þjóð Yt 26 in Óláfs þáttr Geirstaðaálfs (ÓGeir) and Þorm Lv 10, 11, 15, 16 in Þorm. Flat (ms. Flat) is particularly rich in additional þættir containing poetry: see separate entry above. Over twenty stanzas concern events after 1035 and are edited in SkP II (see p. lxx), while a small number are edited in SkP III or SkP VII since they are preserved mainly outside the kings’ sagas.

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