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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Friðþjófs saga ins frœkna (Frið) - 41

Friðþjófs saga ins frœkna (Frið)

Skaldic vol. 8; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross

verse introduction manuscripts contents

Friðþjófs saga ins frækna ‘The Saga of Friðþjófr the Bold’ (Frið) is generally classified as a fornaldarsaga although it has a number of qualities that align it with indigenous riddarasögur ‘sagas of knights’, most notably its bridal-quest theme (cf. Kalinke 1990, 109-29; Mitchell 1991, 25-9). However, the saga’s Norwegian and Orcadian setting in the Viking Age and the presence of a substantial quantity of poetry within the text mean that its classification fits better among the fornaldarsögur. There is also some overlap in subject matter with two other fornaldarsögur, Gautr and ÞorstVík (cf. Frið 1901, xviii-xix).

The saga begins with old King Beli of Sogn and his sons, Helgi and Hálfdan and their beautiful sister Ingibjǫrg. On the other side of Sognefjorden is the dwelling of an old commoner, Þorsteinn Víkingsson, who has a very promising son, Friðþjófr, who is in love with Ingibjǫrg, and she with him. Both Beli and Þorsteinn die early in the narrative and bequeath their inheritances to their sons. The brothers Helgi and Hálfdan go off to visit King Hringr in Ringerike, who has demanded tribute from them, and, while they are gone, leave Ingibjǫrg and her attendants at a sanctuary, Baldrshagi ‘Baldr’s pasture’, where they consider she will be safe from Friðþjófr’s attentions. However, he disregards the sanctity of the place and visits her there. To punish him, the brothers send him off on a long and dangerous sea voyage to collect tribute from the Orkney islands in his ship Elliði. While he is away, they burn down his farm and marry Ingibjǫrg to King Hringr. Upon his return to Norway, Friðþjófr goes straight to Baldrshagi, where he finds the brothers attending to pagan rites and he throws the Orkney tribute in Helgi’s face, knocking out two of his teeth. He then recovers a ring he had given Ingibjǫrg and sets fire to the sanctuary. He is now a wanted man. He escapes back to the Orkneys but is declared an outlaw in Norway. Eventually, tiring of a life on the run, he returns in disguise to King Hringr’s court, where he can be close to Ingibjǫrg, who recognises the ring he had once given her. Hringr makes Friðþjófr his heir, both in respect of his wife and his kingdom (the latter until his young sons are old enough to inherit), but, after Hringr’s death, Helgi and Hálfdan fight Friðþjófr for possession of the kingdom. Friðþjófr kills Helgi while Hálfdan is spared to live as a subordinate under his rule.

Frið enjoyed an extraordinary popularity in Scandinavia and in Europe more generally during the nineteenth century (Wawn 2000, 117-32; Zernack 1997, 68-72) as the quintessential Viking adventure story, complete with heroic action, arduous sea voyages to exotic lands, romance and a good dash of the pagan supernatural. Bishop Esias Tegnér’s Swedish epic poem, Frithiofs saga, published in 1825 and loosely based on the Old Icelandic saga, did much to sustain an interest in Frið that had already been aroused. The saga’s poetry also contributed to its popularity, especially the sequence concerning the hero’s hazardous voyage to Orkney (Wawn 2000, 130-1).

Frið is an anonymous work, now extant in two distinct redactions, a longer (B) and a shorter (A). All of the saga’s modern editors have considered the shorter version (A) the older of the two. The relationship of the longer version to Friðþjófs rímur (Frið 1893, 92-133; Finnur Jónsson 1905-22, I, 411-54) has been debated. Friðþjófs rímur is a composition possibly of the early fifteenth century, and is extant in the unique ms. AM 604 4°ˣ of the first half of the sixteenth century (Frið 1893, xxxii). While it shows considerable similarities at certain points to the B text, it is unlikely, as Larsson (Frið 1901, xiii-xvii) suggested, to have been the basis for it; rather, both rímur and B redaction appear to have developed independently from a version that descended from the older A redaction (cf. Björn K. Þórólfsson 1934, 307-9).

Editors have expressed differing views of the likely age of composition of the shorter version of Frið, whose extant mss can in any case be divided into two branches, usually named A1 and A2. Larsson (Frið 1901, xix) puts the date of composition of A as between c. 1270 and 1400, while Falk (1890, 97) suggested a narrower dating to the end of the thirteenth or the beginning of the fourteenth century. The earliest ms. of the A1 version is the fragmentary Holm perg 10 VI 8° (Holm10 VI) of c. 1500-25, which comprises only three vellum leaves, while AM 568 4°ˣ (568ˣ) of c. 1600-50 is a copy of this text made when Holm10 VI was still intact, and is thus of great value in establishing the text of this branch of the A recension (Frið 1893, xxx-xxxi). The earliest ms. of the A2 version of the saga is AM 510 4° (510), a vellum ms. of c. 1550, which Wenz (Frið 1914, lxiv-lxxi) takes as the basis for his edition of the A text, arguing, against Larsson and Falk, that the A2 version is more representative of the A redaction than the A1 mss, from which the B redaction probably derived. Other mss belonging to the A2 redaction, but not directly descended from 510, are JS 27 folˣ (27ˣ) of c. 1670 (?), ÍB 121 4°ˣ (121ˣ) of 1796-7 and the eighteenth-century ms. BLAdd 4860 fol (4860ˣ), the latter two probably copies of 27ˣ (for Larsson’s and Wenz’s proposed stemmata, see respectively Frið 1893, xxxii and Frið 1914, lxv).

The B version of Frið exists in at least twenty mss, many more than the A version, and many of these are from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, thus attesting to the continuing popularity of Frið after the Middle Ages. Larsson (Frið 1893, xxvi) presents a stemma of the mss of the B redaction, from which it is apparent that there are two main branches of descent. The first, on which AM 109a II 8᷎°ˣ (109a IIˣ), of 1660, is high, would have been used by Larsson as his main text if the ms. had not contained a large lacuna (cf. Frið 1893, xxiii). Two mss descend indirectly in this line, AM 342 4°ˣ (342ˣ) and Holm papp 17 4°ˣ (papp17ˣ), the former dated 1653, the latter 1671. The second branch of descent of the B redaction has as its main exemplar GKS 1006 folˣ (1006ˣ), a ms. dated c. 1600-1700 containing many sagas, for the most part written by Jón Erlendsson (1538-1672) (Frið 1893, xxiv-xxv). Other mss of the second branch include AM 172 b folˣ (172bˣ) and AM173 folˣ (173ˣ), both copies of 1006ˣ by Ásgeir Jónsson (Frið 1893, iv-v). Other mss of the B redaction include Berlin MS Germ 25 4°ˣ (Berlin25ˣ), ÍB 43 fol (43ˣ) and BLAdd 24972 4°ˣ (24972ˣ).

Following Rafn’s (FSN 2, 61-100) publication of the longer redaction, based on 173ˣ, this ms. came to be reckoned the best witness of the B text, and was presented as main ms. by Finnur Jónsson in Skj A, though he also gives B-text readings there from papp17ˣ and 1006ˣ. However, Larsson (Frið 1893, iv-vi) had shown that 173ˣ was a copy of 1006ˣ and asserted the priority of papp17ˣ as the main ms. of B. Wenz (Frið 1914, xii-xiii), however, argued for the priority of 1006ˣ over papp17ˣ as the best witness to the B recension.

The earliest edition of Frið was in Nordiska kämpa dater (Björner 1737), based on the B recension ms. Holm papp 56ˣ (papp56ˣ), which is a copy of papp17ˣ. The saga next appeared in the second volume of Rafn’s FSN (1829-30) and here versions of both recensions were published, B being represented by a text based on 173ˣ (FSN 2, 63-100), and A by a text based on 510 (FSN 2, 488-503). In volume 2 of his edition, Valdimar Ásmundarson (1885-9) gave a text of the A redaction from 27ˣ, arguing that it contained a better treatment of the poetry than 510. Ludvig Larsson produced two editions of Frið around the turn of the nineteenth century, a period that saw intensive study of the saga (e.g. Calaminus 1887; Falk 1890). Larsson’s first edition (Frið 1893) presents diplomatic texts of both short and long versions, B being represented by the text of papp17ˣ (Frið 1893, 1-37) with variant readings from other B mss (109a IIˣ, 342ˣ, 1006ˣ, 43ˣ and ÍB 65 4°ˣ (65ˣ)). Larsson also gives 510’s text of the A version (Frið 1893, 38-61), followed by that of 568ˣ on pp. 62-91, with the parallel fragmentary text of Holm10 VI (Frið 1893, 64-8, 75-80, 85-90). Frið 1893 also has a text of Friðþjófs rímur (Frið 1893, 92-133). Larsson’s second edition (Frið 1901) is a critical, normalised edition of the saga’s B recension based on papp17ˣ, with variant readings from the A recension based on 510 and 568ˣ. In 1914 Gustav Wenz published an edition of the A recension alone (Frið 1914) based on 510, with variant readings from 568ˣ, Holm10 VI and 27ˣ. Separate editions of twenty-one of the stanzas of Frið without the accompanying saga prose were published in 1903 by Heusler and Ranisch (Edd. Min. 97-103) and of thirty-nine stanzas by Finnur Jónsson in Skj A and B (1912-15). In Skj A Finnur bases his diplomatic text of the A redaction on 510, giving readings from Holm10 VI and 568ˣ, while basing his text of the B redaction on 173ˣ, but also giving readings from papp17ˣ and 1006ˣ. Where stanzas occur in both A and B redactions, 510 is usually used as base text, though Finnur often either emends the text or adopts material from the B redaction mss. Kock (Skald) does not give diplomatic readings and mostly follows Finnur’s Skj B text.

Forty-one separate stanzas in total occur across the extant mss of Frið, but neither redaction, nor any one ms., contains all forty-one stanzas. There are twenty-nine individual stanzas in A recension mss, though not all A version mss contain all twenty-nine stanzas. Thirty-five stanzas are in B recension mss. Six stanzas (Frið 14, 20, 30, 31, 34 and 35) are in A texts alone, while eleven others (Frið 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 13, 17, 28, 29, 33 and 36) are only in B recension mss. The remaining twenty-four stanzas (Frið 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 32, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41) are extant in mss of both recensions. According to a list of correspondences (Frið 1901, xiv n. 1), there are twenty-one stanzas that show some correspondence with stanzas in Friðþjófs rímur, all of them with stanzas that occur in B redaction or AB redaction mss.

Editions cited in the present edition are as follows: Skj A and B, Skald and NN; Falk 1890 treated as an edition; Frið 1893, Frið 1901, Frið 1914 and Edd. Min. The present edition adopts the following procedures. In editing the twenty-four stanzas that occur in both A and B redactions, priority is given to the A text, as representing an earlier form of the saga, and 510 is used as the main ms., having the best text of this redaction. Ms. 510 is also used as best text for the six stanzas that occur only in A mss. Other A recension mss used in this edition are Holm10 VI (where available), 568ˣ and 27ˣ. B redaction mss used for this edition are papp17ˣ, 109a IIˣ, 1006ˣ and 173ˣ, and the following is used selectively: ÍB 65 4°ˣ (ÍB65ˣ). When stanzas are extant only in B redaction mss, papp17ˣ is used as main ms. It should be observed here that the state of the ms. paradosis for a number of the stanzas in Frið makes editing very difficult. Even though the A redaction mss probably represent an earlier version of many of the stanzas, the mss are clearly often corrupted and sense is difficult to establish. The B redaction mss, on the other hand, while sometimes clearer in their general sense than the corresponding A texts, are probably sometimes at least simplifications of material that redactors did not understand. Hence the principle of the lectio facilior applies to a number of readings in B text mss.

The question of the normalisation of the stanzas from Frið is a complex one, given that the B redaction probably stems from the fifteenth century, even though its stanzas are likely to be based for the most part on versions of the A redaction, which is probably at least a century older. In keeping with the policy adopted by the editors of SkP to normalise all fornaldarsaga stanzas to the period 1250-1300, this standard has been adopted for all Frið stanzas, whether they occur in A, B or A and B mss. From a metrical point of view, the mss of Frið in both versions display the usual licences that characterise late Icelandic versification, including the inclusion of free-standing personal pronouns and non-cliticised forms of verbs. The metres used are often irregular in their observance (or lack of it) of regular alliteration and hendingar. The most common metre in the forty-one stanzas of Frið is fornyrðislag, followed by málaháttr. A number of stanzas are in irregular variants of dróttkvætt.

The editor should like to place on record her debt to Jonathan Grove of the University of Cambridge for passing on to her some notes and a trial edition of the first two stanzas that he had made towards an edition of Frið. He was the original editor of these stanzas but found he was too busy with other editing tasks to continue with them. The editor has incorporated as much as she could of his material in the present edition.

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.