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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon (ÓT) 1I

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar in mesta 1’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1082.

Anonymous LausavísurLausavísur from Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar in mesta


This stanza (Anon (ÓT) 1) credits the pagan gods with causing damage to Stefnir Þorgilsson’s ship, and it is preserved within narratives of the Christian missionary activity in Iceland in the late tenth century in ÓT (main ms. 61, Bb, 325IX 1 bˣ, 62, Flat) and Kristni saga (Kristni, ms. Hb). The section is headed (normalised) Þáttr Stefnis Þorgilssonar in Flat (1860-8, I, 285).

text and translation

Nú hefr stafnval Stefnis
— straumr ferr of hol knerri —
felliveðr af fjalli
fjallrœnt brotit allan.
Heldr kveðk víst, at valdi
— vesa munu bǫnd í landi —
— geisar ô með ísi —
ásríki gný slíkum.

Nú hefr fjallrœnt felliveðr brotit {allan stafnval} Stefnis; straumr ferr af fjalli of hol knerri. Kveðk heldr víst, at ásríki valdi slíkum gný; bǫnd munu vesa í landi; ô geisar með ísi.
‘Now destructive weather from the mountain has smashed the whole stem-steed [SHIP] of Stefnir; the torrent flows from the mountain over the hull of the vessel. I declare it rather certainly that divine power may cause such tumult; the gods must be in the land; the river is gushing with ice.

notes and context

Stefnir Þorgilsson, getting nowhere with his Christian preaching in his native Iceland, turns to attacking pagan temples and icons. A force of pagans, including his relatives, force him to Kjalarnes (Kristni) or simply prosecute him (ÓT). His ship is in the Gufá estuary and is washed out to sea by storms. Feeling (according to ÓT) that this shows the fury of the gods, the pagans recite a stanza about this. After the citation it is remarked that the ship came ashore with little damage. 

[1]: A regular number of syllables in the line can be obtained in various ways. (a) In the Text above, hefr is not elided, and stafnvalinn in the mss is normalised to -val, on the assumption that the suffixed ‑inn, which would be extraordinary in the late C10th, is scribal. (b) Elision of nú hefr to núfr would be possible, but the loss of a syllable would have to be compensated either by assuming -inn to be original, or by emending to val stafna ‘steed of stems [SHIP]’ as in Skj B and Skald.



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: Anonyme digte og vers [X], I. B. 8. Om Stefnirs skib: AI, 179, BI, 169, Skald I, 91; Fms 1, 286, Fms 12, 48, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 311 (ch. 143), ÍF 15, II, 106-7, Flat 1868, I, 287; Biskupa sögur 1858-78, I, 10, Hb 1892-6, I, 131-2, Kristni 1905, 17-18, ÍF 15, II, 16 (ch. 6).


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