Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.



Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

Menu Search

Hfr Hákdr 2III

Kate Heslop (ed.) 2017, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Hákonardrápa 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 216.

Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ÓttarssonHákonardrápa

Ólítit brestr úti
unndýrs sumum runnum
hart á Hamðis skyrtum
hryngráp Egils vápna.
Þaðan verða fǫt fyrða
— fregnk gǫrla þat — Sǫrla
rjóðask bjǫrt í blóði
benfúr méilskúrum.

{Ólítit hryngráp {vápna Egils}} brestr hart á {skyrtum Hamðis} {sumum runnum {unndýrs}} úti. Þaðan verða {bjǫrt fǫt Sǫrla} rjóðask í blóði fyrða {benfúr} {méilskúrum}; fregnk þat gǫrla.

{Not a little ringing hail {of Egill’s <legendary archer’s> weapons}} [BOWS > ARROWS] crashes hard against {Hamðir’s <legendary hero’s> shirts} [MAIL-SHIRTS] {of some bushes {of the wave-beast}} [SHIP > SEAFARERS] out at sea. As a result {the bright garments of Sǫrli <legendary hero>} [MAIL-SHIRTS] must be reddened in the blood of men {by wound-fire} [SWORD] {in missile-showers} [BATTLE]; I learn clearly of that.

Mss: R(34r), Tˣ(35v), W(77), U(33r), A(11r), C(5v) (SnE)

Readings: [1] Ólítit: Ólítinn U    [2] unndýrs: und fúrs U, ‘unn dvrs’ A;    sumum: svinnum Tˣ, ‘[…]vls’ U, frǫmum A;    runnum: ‘runom’ Tˣ, ‘[…]unnvm’ U    [3] á: í C;    skyrtum: skyrtur U    [4] ‑gráp: ‑gráps Tˣ, gjalp U, ‘‑grapn’ C;    Egils: ‘eg[…]ls’ U    [5] fǫt: fǫr A    [6] gǫrla: ‘[…]orla’ U    [7] bjǫrt: so Tˣ, W, U, A, bjǫrk R, C    [8] ‑fúr: so Tˣ, W, U, fyrir R, fúr við A, ‑fúr fyrir C;    méil‑: ‘mell’ C, méils C

Editions: Skj AI, 156, Skj BI, 148, Skald I, 81, NN §1834; SnE 1848-87, I, 422-5, II, 328, 439, 588, III, 79, SnE 1931, 150-1, SnE 1998, I, 68; Davidson 1983, 448, 479-86.

Context: Skm quotes the helmingar of this stanza in succession as instances of kennings for weapons and armour, here skyrtur Hamðis ‘Hamðir’s shirts’ and fǫt Sǫrla ‘Sǫrli’s garments’. In ms. A, the second helmingr follows directly with no intervening prose.

Notes: [2] sumum ‘of some’: Skj B, followed by Skald, prefers A’s frǫmum (nom. framr) ‘of brave’, but the majority reading, contrary to Davidson’s (1983, 480) objections, is perfectly comprehensible. — [3] skyrtum Hamðis ‘Hamðir’s <legendary hero’s> shirts [MAIL-SHIRTS]’: Hamðir and his brother Sǫrli (mentioned in l. 6) were given mail-shirts impenetrable to iron weapons by their mother Guðrún Gjúkadóttir before she sent them to avenge the killing of their sister Svanhildr (Vǫls ch. 44 (42), Vǫls 1906-8, 108-9). ‘Hamðir’ is a common determinant in kennings for ‘mail-shirt’. — [4] hryngráp vápna Egils ‘ringing hail of Egill’s <legendary archer’s> weapons [BOWS > ARROWS]’: Egill, brother of the legendary smith Vǫlundr, is associated with arrows at one other point in the skaldic corpus (Eyv Lv 14/8I) and is portrayed as a mighty archer in Þiðreks saga af Bern (chs 127-8, Þiðr 1905-11, 123-4). He is also depicted on the lid of the Franks Casket (English, Northumbrian, C8th). The extended metaphor of hail and rain continues in ll. 5-8 (méilskúrum ‘in missile-showers’) and is also prominent in Eskál Vell 10-11I. Davidson (1983, 199-200, 481) draws a parallel between this imagery and Jómsvíkinga saga’s description of two troll-women sending a magical hailstorm against Hákon’s enemies and shooting arrows from their fingertips at the battle of Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen; Jvs ch. 45, Jvs 1879, 80-1). — [5-8]: The crucial issue here is the gender of benfúr ‘wound-fire’ in l. 8 (ms. R’s ben fyr spoils the aðalhending and must be rejected). (a) If the second element is taken as (an inflected form of) fúrr m. ‘fire’, as is conventional, it must be acc. or dat. sg., so it cannot be the subject of rjóðask ‘are reddened’. The interpretation in the Text, that of Faulkes (SnE 1998), solves this by taking benfúr as instr. with verða rjóðask (ll. 5, 7), where rjóðask is an inf. (b) Following Konráð Gíslason (1895-7, I, 114-15), Reichardt (1928, 62-4) suggests that fúr is n. (and so nom. pl.). He also adopts C’s fyr in l. 8, and reads: Þaðan verða Sǫrla fǫt fyrða fyr méilskúrum; fregnk gǫrla þat; bjǫrt benfúr rjóðask í blóði ‘As a result the mail-shirts of the warriors are exposed to missiles; I learn clearly of that; bright swords are reddened with blood’. Reichardt’s reading is undeniably attractive (NN §1834 and Davidson follow him), but there are several problems with it: ms. C’s ‘fvr fyrir’ is unsupported by the other mss and looks like dittography; the identity of disyllabic méil with monosyllabic mél is questionable (see Note to l. 8 below); and there are a few unambiguous instances of fúrr m. but none, save the one Reichardt posits in the present verse, of fúr n. (c) Skj B takes l. 8 as part of the stef, and so does not include it in the syntax of the helmingr (ll. 5-7 are interpreted as above): this is unsatisfactory. — [5, 6] fǫt Sǫrla ‘garments of Sǫrli <legendary hero> [MAIL-SHIRTS]’: The name of the legendary hero Sǫrli, like that of his brother Hamðir (cf. skyrtum Hamðis ‘Hamðir’s shirts’, l. 3), is used as a determinant in armour-kennings, though Sǫrli is much the rarer of the two, occurring otherwise only in Tindr Hákdr 3/6I and Eskál Vell 30/4I. — [7] bjǫrt ‘bright’: So , W, U, A. The reading of R and C must be rejected as bjǫrk ‘birch’ will not form a kenning with the available determinants; nor can it agree with the pl. verbs verða or rjóðask (if the latter is taken as 3rd pers. pl. pres. indic. rather than as an inf.). — [8] méilskúrum ‘in missile-showers [BATTLE]’: Méil- is only otherwise attested in the cpd méilregni ‘with missile-rain’, Eskál Vell 10/4I, where it must be disyllabic. Reichardt (1928, 60; cf. ÍF 26, 211 n.) asserts that méil- is identical to monosyllabic mél ‘bit [of a bridle]’, and argues that méil- may be either disyllabic or, as here, monosyllabic (cf. C’s ‘mell’). This renders metrical C’s text of l. 8, benfúr fyr méilskúrum, which is the basis of Reichardt’s interpretation of the half-stanza (see Note to ll. 5-8 above). But the exact meaning and etymology of méil- are unclear (Kristensen 1907, 235-40; AEW: méilregn; ÍO: méil-), and Hallfreðr’s self-conscious imitation of Eskál Vell makes it improbable that méil- should be monosyllabic here when it is disyllabic in the same metrical position in Vell 10/4I.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  7. ÍO = Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússon. 1989. Íslensk orðsifjabók. Reykjavík: Orðabók Háskólans.
  8. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  9. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  10. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  11. Davidson, Daphne L. 1983. ‘Earl Hákon and his Poets’. D. Phil. thesis. Oxford.
  12. Konráð Gíslason. 1895-7. Efterladte skrifter. 2 vols. I: Forelæsninger over oldnordiske skjaldekvad. II: Forelæsninger og videnskablige afhandlinger. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  13. Reichardt, Konstantin. 1928. Studien zu den Skalden des 9. und 10. Jahrhunderts. Palaestra 159. Leipzig: Mayer & Müller.
  14. Jvs 1879 = Petersens, Carl af, ed. 1879. Jómsvíkinga saga (efter Cod. AM. 510, 4:to) samt Jómsvíkinga drápa. Lund: Gleerup.
  15. Þiðr 1905-11 = Bertelsen, Henrik, ed. 1905-11. Þiðriks saga af Bern. SUGNL 34. Copenhagen: Møller.
  16. Kristensen, Marius. 1907. ‘Skjaldenes sprog. Nogle småbemærkninger’. ANF 23, 235-45.
  17. Vǫls 1906-8 = Olsen, Magnus, ed. 1906-8. Vǫlsunga saga ok Ragnars saga loðbrókar. SUGNL 36. Copenhagen: Møller.
  18. Vǫls = Vǫlsunga saga.
  19. Internal references
  20. 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Sǫrla þáttr’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 785.
  21. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  22. Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla’ 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. 280.
  23. Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 10’ 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. 295.
  24. Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 30’ 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. 321.
  25. Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Lausavísur 14’ 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. 234.
  26. Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Tindr Hallkelsson, Hákonardrápa 3’ 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. 343.

Log in

This service is only available to members of the relevant projects, and to purchasers of the skaldic volumes published by Brepols.
This service uses cookies. By logging in you agree to the use of cookies on your browser.


Stanza/chapter/text segment

Use the buttons at the top of the page to navigate between stanzas in a poem.

Information tab

Interactive tab

The text and translation are given here, with buttons to toggle whether the text is shown in the verse order or prose word order. Clicking on indiviudal words gives dictionary links, variant readings, kennings and notes, where relevant.

Full text tab

This is the text of the edition in a similar format to how the edition appears in the printed volumes.

Chapter/text segment

This view is also used for chapters and other text segments. Not all the headings shown are relevant to such sections.