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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Áns saga bogsveigis — Án


Áns saga bogsveigis ‘The Saga of Án Bow-bender’ (Án) is a fornaldarsaga associated with the Hrafnistumannasögur ‘sagas of the men of Hrafnista’ (for this group, see Introduction to stanzas from Ket and GrL and, for the intricacies of the genealogical connections between Án and the other Hrafnistumenn, Hughes 1976, 212-15). It is set in Norway in the time preceding the unification of regional kingdoms under a single ruler. It tells the story of Án, a young good-for-nothing with enormous physical strength. In his youth he meets a dwarf, Litr, whom he forces to give him a great bow and five arrows that always hit their target. When he reaches adulthood, his brother Þórir takes him to the court of King Ingjaldr, where he earns himself the nickname bogsveigir ‘Bow-bender’ because he cannot get his bow through the doorway of the royal hall. However, he later becomes involved in hostilities with the king because he kills the latter’s two half-brothers, as a consequence of which he is outlawed. The ensuing feud is eventually settled by Án’s son Þórir háleggr ‘Long-leg’, who kills Ingjaldr.

The earliest extant recension of Án is preserved in the fifteenth-century ms. AM 343 a 4° (343a) of c. 1450-75, although scholars have dated the original saga to ‘not later than 1300’ (LH II, 818). The hero of the saga, Án bogsveigir, is however probably identical with a figure named Ano sagittarius ‘Ano the Archer’ mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1200), who is a protagonist in a story which shares some motifs, plot structure and names with the saga (Saxo 2015, I, vi, 4. 8-11, pp. 372-5; cf. Hughes 1972, 1-2, 81-93, 104-8; Hughes 1976). A figure with the synonymous name Án skyti ‘Án the Archer’ is also mentioned in Hkr (on this and on motifs, etc. common to this saga and other Old Norse texts see Hughes loc. cit.).

There is only one surviving parchment ms. of the saga, AM 343 a 4° (343a), and the forty-six extant paper mss all ultimately derive from it (Campbell 1993, 16; Ólafur Halldórsson 1973, 74). Chief among them are AM 109 a I 8°ˣ (109a Iˣ, C17th); AM 173 folˣ (173ˣ, c. 1700); AM 340 4°ˣ (340ˣ, C17th); AM 560 c 4°ˣ (560cˣ, c. 1700-1725) and AM 395 folˣ (C18th). Ms. 343a supplies the best text of the five stanzas contained in the saga and is used here as the base ms., while readings from 109a Iˣ are also given. An eight-fit ríma (Áns ríma bogsveigis) was composed in the fifteenth century, apparently based on a longer version of the saga than the one preserved in 343a (Ólafur Halldórsson 1973, 74-5, 81-2). This ríma appears to have been used by the redactor or scribe of the oldest saga ms., and a second version of the saga exists which in turn is based upon the ríma (Ólafur Halldórsson 1973, 60, 81). In the nineteenth century two further rímur about Án were composed, and these are based upon the text of the saga as it appears in Rafn’s FSN edition of 1829 (Hughes 1976, 197-8).

Since the ríma from the fifteenth century corresponds closely to the saga as it appears in 343a, it is possible to say that the version of the saga used by the ríma poet contained all of the stanzas we know from the saga with the exception of Án 4 (Ólafur Halldórsson 1973, 76, 79). But although the ríma is based upon the saga, the adaptation of the material and text of the saga to the ríma form makes it impossible to draw conclusions about the wording of the saga text used (Ólafur Halldórsson 1973, 79, 81). Thus the wording of the passages in the ríma which correspond to the stanzas from the saga we know provides no basis for emendation of lines in the stanzas which appear faulty or incomplete (cf. Notes to Án 2).

The five stanzas edited here are preserved only in Án, where they are all spoken by Án as lausavísur, each in a different situation and in chs 4 or 5. They therefore appear below in the same order as they appear in the saga. The stanzas are diverse in character and in metre: Án 1 and 3 are composed in irregular variants of dróttkvætt; Án 2 may originally have been in ljóðaháttr (Ólafur Halldórsson 1973, 80 n.); Án 4 and 5 are in fornyrðislag. The character of Án 2 and 5 has led some scholars to conclude that Án 2 may originally have been a love stanza spoken by a woman (cf. st. 2 Note to [All]), whilst it has been suggested that Án 5 may in fact be a riddle (cf. Notes to this stanza).

The following editions have been cited: FSN 2, 334, 336-7, 341, 343, FSGJ 2, 376, 378-9, 383, 385; Edd. Min. lxxxiv, lxxxvii-viii, 97, 104.


  1. Bibliography
  2. FSN = Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1829-30. Fornaldar sögur nordrlanda. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  3. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  4. LP (1860) = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1860. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis. Copenhagen: Societas Regia antiquariorum septentrionalium.
  5. Attwood, Katrina. 1996a. ‘The Poems of MS AM 757a 4to: An Edition and Contextual Study’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds.
  6. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  7. Schottmann, Hans. 1973. Die isländische Mariendichtung. Untersuchungen zur volkssprachigen Mariendichtung des Mittelalters. Münchner germanistische Beiträge 9. Munich: Fink.
  8. LH = Finnur Jónsson. 1920-4. Den oldnorske og oldislandske litteraturs historie. 3 vols. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Gad.
  9. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  10. 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.
  11. Campbell, Calum. 1993. ‘Áns saga bogsveigis’. In MedS, 16-17.
  12. Hughes, Shaun F. D. 1972. ‘Áns rímur bogsveigis: Two Nineteenth Century Icelandic Metrical Romances. Edited from Manuscripts ÍB. 38, 8vo and Lbs. 2466, 8vo of the Landsbókasafn Íslands’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Washington…
  13. Hughes, Shaun F. D. 1976. ‘The Literary Antecedents of Áns saga bogsveigis’. MS 9, 196-235.
  14. Ólafur Halldórsson. 1973. Áns rímur bogsveigis. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árnamagnússonar á Íslandi.
  15. Saxo 2015 = Friis-Jensen, Karsten, ed. 2015. Saxo Grammaticus: Gesta Danorum: The History of the Danes. Trans. Peter Fisher. Oxford Medieval Texts. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.
  16. Internal references
  17. (forthcoming), ‘ Unattributed, Heimskringla’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, p. . <> (accessed 17 September 2021)
  18. 2017, ‘ Anonymous, Ketils saga hœngs’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 548. <> (accessed 17 September 2021)
  19. 2017, ‘ Anonymous, Gríms saga loðinkinna’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 288. <> (accessed 17 September 2021)
  20. Not published: do not cite (ÁnVIII)
  21. Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2017, ‘Áns saga bogsveigis 1 (Án bogsveigir, Lausavísur 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 4.
  22. Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2017, ‘Áns saga bogsveigis 2 (Án bogsveigir, Lausavísur 2)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 7.
  23. Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2017, ‘Áns saga bogsveigis 4 (Án bogsveigir, Lausavísur 4)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 11.
  24. Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2017, ‘Áns saga bogsveigis 5 (Án bogsveigir, Lausavísur 5)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 12.

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