Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Morkinskinna (Mork) - 271

Morkinskinna (Mork)

Skaldic vol. 2; ed. Kari Ellen Gade

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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 > 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.

Vol. II. Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: from c. 1035 to c. 1300 > 8. Introduction > 4. Sources for Skaldic Poetry Cited in the Kings' Sagas > 1. Sagas of the kings of Norway after 1035 > 9. Morkinskinna (Mork)


Mork:     Morkinskinna, GKS 1009 fol (Icelandic, c. 1275, 37 leaves).

Facsimile and editions: Mork 1934; Mork 1867, Mork 1928-32, ÍF 23-4.[18] See also Andersson and Gade 2000.

The extant Morkinskinna manuscript (Mork) consists of thirty-seven leaves and spans the period from Magnús inn góði (c. 1035) to the death of Eysteinn Haraldsson (1155), but most scholars believe that the compilation originally extended as far as the accession of Sverrir Sigurðarson (1177; see Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson 1937, 135 and ÍF xvii; Andersson and Gade 2000, 1). The manuscript is written in two hands and contains five lacunae, three of them in MH, one in Sjórs and one in MbHg (see Louis-Jensen 1977, 78-82; Andersson and Gade 2000, 5). The lacunae in MH can be filled in with the text of YFlat (see Flat above), which follows the Mork text fairly closely, although some stanzas may have been omitted in the Flat version. Mork 1928-32 and Andersson and Gade 2000 supply YFlat text in the Mork lacunae, and in such instances, these editions are grouped with Flat 1860-8, III in the Editions listings within SkP

Mork ultimately derives from a no longer extant compilation, the *Oldest Morkinskinna (*ÆMork in SkP II), which was composed sometime between 1217 and 1222 (see Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson 1937, 136-7). The relationship between Mork and *ÆMork is notoriously difficult, especially as far as the question of later interpolations is concerned (both prose and poetry; see Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson 1937, 157-8; Louis-Jensen 1977, 66-70; Andersson and Gade 2000, 25-57; Ármann Jakobsson 2000b), but recent research has shown that the text of the extant ms. appears to be closer to *ÆMork than previously assumed (see Andersson 1994; Ármann Jakobsson 1997; idem 1999; idem 2000a; idem 2000b; idem 2002; Andersson and Gade 2000, 25-57).

The text as preserved in Mork draws on several written sources, such as earlier redactions of Orkn and Ágr, Eiríkr Oddsson’s *Hryggjarstykki, a saga about Knútr inn helgi ‘the Holy’ Sveinsson of Denmark, Þinga saga and, possibly, a continuation of *Hlaðajarla saga as well as a version of an Anglo-Norman chronicle (see Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson 1937, 137-73; Louis-Jensen 1977, 68; Gade 1997; Andersson and Gade 2000, 11-24). It is also possible that written versions of some of the þættir and sagas of some of the individual kings could have been available to the Mork compiler (see Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson 1937, 154-7, 168-73; Louis Jensen 1977, 69; Gade 1998), but oral sources must have played a major role in the composition of the compendium (see Andersson and Gade 2000, 57-65).

Scholars agree that a version of Mork (most likely *ÆMork) must have been available both to Snorri and to the compiler of Fsk (see Indrebø 1917; Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson 1937, 171-3, 228-36; Louis-Jensen 1977, 66-8, Andersson and Gade 2000, 497-503). There is further consensus that a Mork text (*m; see stemma below) was used by the compiler of the exemplar for H-Hr and that the text of *m found its way into MH in YFlat (see Flat above). To complicate matters further, sections from an abbreviated Mork version (*MorkY) were interpolated into manuscript F of Hkr and also into the y-branch of the Hkr manuscripts E, J and G (see Louis-Jensen 1977, 83-94). For an extensive discussion of the textual relationships, see Louis-Jensen 1977. The sigla used in the stemmata below (*ÆMork, *Mork2, *MorkX, *MorkY, Mork, YFlat) differ somewhat from the sigla used by Louis-Jensen and Andersson and Gade 2000 (there ÆMsk, Msk2, MskX, MskY, MskMS, YFlb).

Stemma for Mork, Fsk, and Hkr (adapted from Andersson and Gade 2000, 11):

  • *ÆMork

Stemma for Mork, H, Hr, and YFlat (adapted from Louis-Jensen 1977, 72):

  • *ÆMork
    • *Mork2
      • *MorkX
        • Mork
        • *m
          • *H
            • H
            • Hr
          • YFlat, 325XI 3

Stemma for Mork and Hkr (interpolated versions) (adapted from Louis-Jensen 1977, 93):

  • *Mork2
    • *MorkY
      • *y
        • *y1
          • E
          • J
          • G
        • *y2
          • PCI
          • H-Hr [=*H]
      • F
    • *MorkX
      • Mork
      • *m
        • *H
        • YFlat, 325XI 3


The extant version of Mork contains a total of 265 stanzas, and, in addition, one may infer from the sections in Fsk, Hkr, H-Hr and Flat that cover the now-lost corresponding portions of Mork that the manuscript originally must have contained at least another seventy-one stanzas. Whether all the poetry presently found in Mork was part of the original compilation is impossible to ascertain (see Andersson and Gade 2000, 25-57). In particular, the large-scale insertion of stanzas from Ív Sig is suspect, because Hkr, Fsk and H-Hr cite only two stanzas, and if *m, the posited source of *H, had contained these stanzas, it is not clear why they would not have been included in that compendium as well (see Andersson and Gade 2000, 48-56). However, it appears that most, if not all of the poetry in Mork was part of the earliest compilation and thus available to Snorri and to the compiler of Fsk. The sagas from Mgóð to MErl in the last part of Fsk and in Hkr III on average include between fifty-one percent (excluding stanzas in fornyrðislag) or sixty-one percent (including stanzas in fornyrðislag) of the poetic material in Mork, and it is unlikely that Mork at any stage was subject to interpolation of skaldic stanzas on a large scale (see Andersson and Gade 2000, 56). A comparison of the versions of the individual stanzas in Mork, Fsk and Hkr shows that the texts in Hkr and, in particular, the texts of the Hkr x-branch (when F is a Hkr and not a Mork text), sometimes depart from the versions found in Mork and Fsk. Hence it looks like Snorri (or the scribe of *x?) took it upon himself to ‘improve’ on the poetic texts of his exemplar. Whether such changes stemmed from knowledge of different versions of the stanzas or from subjective preferences is impossible to say. In general, the poetry in Mork is well preserved, although in some cases there is scribal corruption and changes that must have occurred in the course of the manuscript transmission.

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