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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hrólfs saga kraka — Hrólf


Hrólfs saga kraka ‘The saga of Hrólfr Pole-ladder’ (Hrólf) is an anonymous fornaldarsaga based on Danish legendary history. Although the subject-matter has connections with earlier Old English (Beowulf, Wīdsīð) and other Scandinavian literatures, including Saxo’s Gesta Danorum, it is generally held that the composition of the extant version of the saga may be placed in the fourteenth century. Parts of the subject-matter may be very old in origin, but the prose and the poetry match, except perhaps in the first and last two stanzas. In the latter case, there are versions of the text in the mss of SnE, and these have been chosen as the basis for this edition on the grounds of metrical superiority. Otherwise the poetry is normalised to the same standard as the rest of the poetry in this volume (see discussion of normalisation in the Introduction to SkP VIII, Section 8).

There are forty-five known mss of Hrólf. The conclusion reached in Hrólf 1960 and the companion volume (Slay 1960b) is that all the mss known then, which date from the seventeenth century and later, are derived from one lost common original, which itself may have been from the sixteenth century. This is not modified by three later articles on further mss (Slay 1970, 260-8; 1981, 432-9; 1994, 59-61). For both the prose of the saga and the stanzas in it, there are fourteen primary mss, but they are not of equal value, and for practical purposes it is permissible to confine attention to five mss; a sixth was given a place in Hrólf 1960, but it was not very useful in textual criticism. The five are: AM 285 4°ˣ (285ˣ), AM 9 folˣ (), AM 11 folˣ (11ˣ), AM 109 a II 8°ˣ (109a IIˣ) and Holm papp 17 4°ˣ (papp17ˣ); 285ˣ is the main ms. for this edition. It is also the basis for an electronic edition of the saga (Driscoll et al. 2013) on the Stories for All Time web site. The other primary mss, which are not used in this edition, are: AM 10 folˣ, AM 12 b folˣ, GKS 1002 folˣ, NKS 339 8°ˣ, Holm papp 1 folˣ, Holm papp 13 4°ˣ, Lbs 633 folˣ, Adv 21 4 17ˣ and Add 11,162 4°ˣ. The remaining thirty-one mss, judged to be secondary mss, are not listed here. References to the saga are given below only to Hrólf 1960, which superseded earlier editions for textual matters. Stanzas 1-6 are edited in Edd. Min. with the title Aus der Vaterrache der Hálfdanssöhne ‘From the revenge of the Hálfdanarsynir for their father’.

The single lines given here as sts 10 and 11 also occur in Skm (SnE 1998 I, 59), in mss R (GKS 2367 4°, c. 1300), (Codex Trajectinus, Traj 1374ˣ, c. 1595), W (Codex Wormianus, AM 242 fol, c. 1350), U (Codex Upsaliensis, DG 11, c. 1300-25) and C (AM 748 II 4°, c. 1400). The lines are worded differently in several respects in this older work. Ms. R is the main ms. for sts 10-11.

All eleven stanzas or parts of stanzas are in the metre fornyrðislag. All stanzas are attributed in Hrólf to various protagonists in the saga, and have been treated as their compositions in this edition. Consequently they have been divided into single lausavísur or groups of lausavísur according to speaker.


  1. Bibliography
  2. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  3. SkP VII = Poetry on Christian Subjects. Ed. Margaret Clunies Ross. 2007.
  4. Edd. Min. = Heusler, Andreas and Wilhelm Ranisch, eds. 1903. Eddica Minora: Dichtungen eddischer Art aus den Fornaldarsögur und anderen Prosawerken. Dortmund: Ruhfus. Rpt. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
  5. Hrólf 1960 = Slay, Desmond, ed. 1960a. Hrólfs saga kráka. EA B 1. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  6. Stories For All Time = Stories for All Time: The Icelandic fornaldarsögur. <>
  7. Slay, Desmond. 1960b. ‘On the Origin of Two Icelandic Manuscripts in the Royal Library in Copenhagen’. Opuscula 1, 144-50.
  8. Slay, Desmond. 1970. ‘Hitherto Unused Manuscripts of Hrólfs Saga Kraka’. Opuscula 4, 260-8. BA 30. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  9. Slay, Desmond. 1981. ‘More Manuscripts of Hrólfs saga kraka’. In Dronke et al. 1981, 432-9.
  10. Slay, Desmond. 1994. ‘Perhaps the last Hrólfs saga kraka manuscript’. In Margrét Eggertsdóttir et al. 1994, 59-61.
  11. Driscoll, Matthew, et al. eds. 2013. Hrólfs saga kraka: An Electronic Edition from AM 285 4to. Stories for All Time: the Icelandic fornaldarsögur. <>
  12. Internal references
  13. Edith Marold 2017, ‘Snorra Edda (Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál)’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  14. (forthcoming), ‘ Snorri Sturluson, Skáldskaparmál’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. . <> (accessed 29 September 2021)
  15. Not published: do not cite ()
  16. Not published: do not cite ()

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Information about a text: poem, sequence of stanzas, or prose work

This page is used for different resources. For groups of stanzas such as poems, you will see the verse text and, where published, the translation of each stanza. These are also links to information about the individual stanzas.

For prose works you will see a list of the stanzas and fragments in that prose work, where relevant, providing links to the individual stanzas.

Where you have access to introduction(s) to the poem or prose work in the database, these will appear in the ‘introduction’ section.

The final section, ‘sources’ is a list of the manuscripts that contain the prose work, as well as manuscripts and prose works linked to stanzas and sections of a text.