Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035

3.1. Sagas of the kings of Norway to c. 1035

1. Ágrip af Nóregs konunga sǫgum (Ágr) (DW)
2. Fagrskinna (Fsk) (DW)
3. Flateyjarbók (Flat) (DW)
4. The Greatest Saga of Óláfr Tryggvason / Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar in mesta (ÓT) (DW)
5. Hauksbók (Hb) (DW)
6. Heimskringla (Hkr) (DW)
7. Hulda and Hrokkinskinna (H-Hr) (DW)
8. Jómsvíkinga saga (Jvs)
9. The Legendary Saga of S. Óláfr / Helgisaga Óláfs konungs Haraldssonar (ÓHLeg) (DW)
10. Morkinskinna (Mork) (KEG)
11. Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar by Oddr Snorrason (ÓTOdd) (DW)
12. The Oldest Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in elzta (ÓHÆ)
13. The Separate Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in sérstaka (ÓH) (DW)

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

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

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.

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