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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon (Ólkyrr) 2II

Kari Ellen Gade and Diana Whaley (eds) 2009, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Óláfs saga kyrra 2’ 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. 825.

Anonymous LausavísurLausavísur from Óláfs saga kyrra


This st. (Anon (Ólkyrr) 2) is recorded in Mork (Mork), H, Hr (H-Hr) as well as in the interpolated Hkr mss F, E, J2ˣ and 42ˣ. Mork is partly damaged, and H is the main ms. The metre is fornyrðislag.

text and translation

Segr vetrgǫmul,         — veit ekki sú —
ok tvévetr segr,         — trúik eigi at heldr —
en þrévetr segr,         — þykkira mér glíkligt —
kveðr mik róa        á merar hǫfði,
en þik, konungr,         þjóf míns féar!

Vetrgǫmul segr—sú veit ekki—, ok tvévetr segr—trúik eigi at heldr—, en þrévetr segr—þykkira mér glíkligt—, kveðr mik róa á hǫfði merar, en þik, konungr, þjóf féar míns!
‘The one-year-old says—she knows nothing—, and the two-year-old says—I don’t believe it either—, but the three-year-old says—it doesn’t seem likely to me—, she claims I’m rocking on a mare’s head, and that you, king, are the thief of my property!

notes and context

King Óláfr puts a farmer to the test to find out whether he can divine birds’ talk. He cuts the head off the farmer’s mare, wraps it, puts it on his ship and seats the farmer on top of the bundle. Three crows fly over the ship cawing, and the king asks the farmer what they say. The farmer replies with this st.

This episode is very much out of keeping with what we know about the character of Óláfr kyrri from prose and poetic sources, and the tenor of the st. itself is profoundly sceptical and anti-royal. It is possible that the anecdote derives from echoes of the Dan. tradition about King Óláfr Tryggvason of Norway (r. 995-1000). According to Saxo (2005, I, 10, 11, 6, pp. 648-9), Óláfr, despite his baptism and conversion to Christianity, was beholden to sooth-sayers who helped him divine the future, and Adam of Bremen (ed. Schmeidler 1917, 101) tells us that Óláfr relied on the prognostication of birds, which earned him the nickname Craccabben ‘Crows’ Bones’.



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 om historiske personer og begivenheder [XI], [7]. Lausavísur 13: AI, 427, BI, 397, Skald I, 196, NN §2983; Fms 6, 446-7 (Ólkyrr ch. 7); Mork 1867, 129, Mork 1928-32, 295, Andersson and Gade 2000, 283-4, 483 (Ólkyrr); F 1871, 260, E 1916, 107 (Ólkyrr).


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