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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 > 2. Fagrskinna (Fsk))

2. Fagrskinna (Fsk) (DW)

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.

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