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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ótt Hfl 13I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn 13’ 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. 757.

Óttarr svartiHǫfuðlausn

text and translation

Komt í land ok lendir,
láðvǫrðr, Aðalráði;
þín naut rekka rúni
ríki efldr at slíku.
Harðr vas fundr, sás fœrðuð
friðlands á vit niðja
(réð áttstuðill áðan)
Játmundar (þar grundu).

{Láðvǫrðr}, komt Aðalráði í land ok lendir; efldr ríki, naut {rúni rekka} þín at slíku. Fundr vas harðr, sás fœrðuð {niðja Játmundar} á vit friðlands; áttstuðill réð grundu þar áðan.
‘Land-guardian [KING], you brought Æthelred into the land and gave [him] land; strengthened with a kingdom, the counsellor of warriors [KING = Æthelred] had help from you in this. The fighting was hard, by which you brought the kinsman of Eadmund [= Æthelred] into a land of peace; the prop of the family ruled the land there previously.

notes and context

In Hkr and ÓH, the stanza immediately follows st. 8 within an account of fighting in London, and Fsk assumes the same context (see Notes below). In Knýtl, the stanza is the first to be quoted in the saga, and it is placed in a different, and more historically correct, context, of King Aðalráðr (Æthelred) returning home and recovering his kingdom with Óláfr’s support.

As is known from the ASC and other sources, King Æthelred II went into exile in Normandy in 1013, and the English throne was assumed by the Danish conqueror Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ Haraldsson. However, following Sveinn’s death in early 1014, Æthelred was invited back and he himself resumed the throne (not his sons, as Snorri and Fsk claim, in the mistaken belief that Æthelred was already dead). The current stanza, then, concerns Óláfr’s role in Æthelred’s return to England in spring 1014. Relative ignorance of the details of this phase of Anglo-Saxon history led Snorri in ÓH and Hkr and the author of Fsk to place this stanza out of position, with those detailing Óláfr’s earlier English adventures, rather than with his role in the re-establishment of the English dynasty; the placing in Skj follows this tradition. The author of Knýtl, however, who quotes no other verses from Óttarr’s Hfl (but many from his Knútdr), correctly places the stanza at the time of Æthelred’s return to England after Sveinn’s death. Similarly, it is clear that the author of ÓHLeg knew this stanza and interpreted it correctly, even though he does not quote it (see ÓHLeg 1982, 44). For further discussion see A. Campbell (1971, 11-12); Campbell (1998, 77-82) and Poole (1980, 273-5).



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: Óttarr svarti, 2. Hǫfuðlausn 8: AI, 292, BI, 269, Skald I, 138, NN §§172, 2486B; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 18-19, IV, 109, ÍF 27, 17 (ÓHHkr ch. 13); ÓH 1941, I, 45 (ch. 23), Flat 1860-8, II, 19; Fsk 1902-3, 141 (ch. 25), ÍF 29, 168 (ch. 27); 1741, 8-9, Knýtl 1919-25, 34, ÍF 35, 99 (ch. 7).


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