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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bragi Lv 1bVIII (Hálf 78)

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka 78 (Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Lausavísur 1b)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 365.

Bragi inn gamli BoddasonLausavísur


This stanza, edited here by Margaret Clunies Ross, is extant in three separate prose sources, and is attributed to Bragi skáld ‘Bragi the Poet’ in all three: Ldn, Geir (in Stu), and Hálf. For a summary of the narrative in which the stanza is embedded, see Introduction to Lv 1aIV.

In all sources this narrative, a version of a folktale type (cf. Boberg 1966, 183, K1921.3; Mitchell 1987; Thompson 1955-8 IV, K1921.1-3; H41.5) in which lower-class infants are substituted for royal or aristocratic ones, serves to give background to the vitae of the twins Geirmundr and Hámundr heljarskinn ‘Dark-skin’, who were both among the most important settlers in Iceland and had many high-ranking descendants. Whereas Ldn and Geir use this narrative to enhance Geirmundr’s status in particular, its function in Hálf is to provide a fitting conclusion to a fornaldarsaga about the brothers’ legendary ancestors.

The Bragi skáld of this narrative has been traditionally identified with Bragi inn gamli ‘the Old’ Boddason (see his Biography in Vol. III). His role (all versions) is that of a seer and moral adviser, and is comparable to that played by seeresses elsewhere in Old Icelandic literature; cf. Vsp and the lítil vǫlva ‘little seeress’ Þorbjǫrg in Eir. There is a particular similarity to an episode in Hrólf in which a vǫlva ‘seeress’ recites verses disclosing the true identity and whereabouts of two brothers whose father has been killed by King Fróði; there are verbal similarities between Bragi’s stanza and Heiðr Lv 1 and 3 (Hrólf 2 and 4). Like a vǫlva, whose name derives from vǫlr ‘wand, switch’, Bragi has a rod (sproti) which he uses to emphasise his message and direct it to the queen. In all versions of the verse text he affirms the royal birth of Hámundr and Geirmundr, while confirming the slave stock of Leifr.

The textual relationship between the three prose sources’ versions of the narrative is complex. It is described in detail in the Introduction to Lv 1aIV. This edn of Lv 1b is based upon 2845, while the Melabók (Mb) version has been taken as base text for Lv 1aIV.

Unlike all the other stanzas from Hálf, which have been normalised to the Old Icelandic of the period 1250-1300, it is presumed that Bragi’s stanza belongs to the period pre-1200 and has been normalised accordingly. The metre of the stanza is in a somewhat irregular version of fornyrðislag. There is considerable variation across the versions in ll. 1-2 and, in particular, ll. 7-8. Not all of the versions are regular metrically, and it is difficult to establish a stemma (or stemmata) that will give a basis for the variations of the final two lines, which presumably differ as a result of oral transmission.

text and translation

Tveir eru inni,         trúik bôðum vel,
Hámundr ok Geirmundr,         Hjǫrvi bornir;
en Leifr þriði,         Loðhattar son;
fœddirat þú         þann mǫg, kona.

Tveir eru inni, trúik bôðum vel, Hámundr ok Geirmundr, bornir Hjǫrvi; en Leifr, son Loðhattar, þriði: fœddirat þú þann mǫg, kona.
‘There are two inside, I trust both well, Hámundr and Geirmundr, born to Hjǫrr; but Leifr, son of Loðhǫttr [is] the third; you did not give birth to that youth, woman.

notes and context

While her husband is away, the wife of King Hjǫrr, son of Hálfr, has exchanged her dark-skinned twin sons for Leifr, the fair son of a slave-woman. Some time later Bragi, on a visit to the court, sees how the twins dominate the slave’s son who has taken their place as a legitimate heir. Bragi discovers the true identity of the boys and reveals it to the queen, who is forced to confess the twins’ identity to their father. See further Introduction to Lv 1aIV.

The version of this stanza in Hálf differs considerably from that in the mss of Ldn and Stu, not only in ll. 7-8, where the greatest variation occurs across the mss, but in ll. 1-2 as well. For a text of the Mb version, and Notes on this and other witnesses, see Bragi Lv 1aIV. — [1-2]: The first two lines of this stanza in 2845 are clearly unmetrical, while the version of the other mss tveir ró inni, | trúik bôðum vel ‘two are inside, I trust both well’ is superior in sense and regular in metre and has been adopted here. The version of 2845, tveir eru, | ok trúik vel bôðum can be translated ‘there are two, and I trust both well’. — [7] fœddirat ‘[you] did not give birth’: The text has been normalised from the ms. ‘fœddir eigi þú’, which is unmetrical, by substituting the suffixed negative particle ‑at for the negative adv. eigi ‘not’.



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Bragi enn gamli, 3. Lausavísur 1: AI, 5, BI, 5, Skald I, 3; H́álf 1981, 198 (Hálf); Ldn 1900, 38, 162, 239, Ldn 1921, 67, ÍF 1, I, 151 (Ldn); Stu 1878 I, 2, Stu1906 I, 1, Stu1946 I, 6, Stu 1988 I, 2 (Stu).


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