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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Magnfl 6II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Magnússflokkr 6’ 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, pp. 70-2.

Þjóðólfr ArnórssonMagnússflokkr

Minn vá sigr fyr sunnan
snjallr Heiðabý spjalli;
nær frák skarpa skœru
Skotborgarô gotna.
Unði ótal Vinða
Ellu konr at fella;
hvar hafi gumnar gǫrva
geirhríð fregit meiri?

Snjallr spjalli minn vá sigr fyr sunnan Heiðabý; frák skarpa skœru gotna nær Skotborgarô. {Konr Ellu} unði at fella ótal Vinða; hvar hafi gumnar fregit gǫrva {meiri geirhríð}?

My valiant confidant won victory south of Hedeby (Heiðabýr); I learned of a bitter conflict of men near the Kongeå (Skotborgará). {The descendant of Ella <legendary king>} [= Magnús] relished cutting down countless Wends; where might men have heard of {a greater spear-storm} [BATTLE] being made?

Mss: H(8v), Hr(8vb) (H-Hr); Flat(191va) (Flat)

Readings: [1] Minn: ‘Vímt’ or ‘Vnnt’ Hr;    vá: var Flat    [4] gotna: ‘gioruar’ Flat    [6] Ellu: ‘elle’ Flat    [7] hafi: hafa Flat;    gumnar: ‘gumnar’ or ‘gunmar’ Hr, gunnar Flat    [8] fregit: framit Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 362, Skj BI, 333, Skald I, 168, NN §§849, 3083; Fms 6, 64 (Mgóð ch. 32), Fms 12, 132; Flat 1860-8, III, 281, Andersson and Gade 2000, 120, 469 (MH).

Context: Magnús takes on a massive army of heathen Wends at Lyrskovshede (Hlýskógsheiðr); the clash takes place by the Kongeå (Skotborgará), south [sic] of Hedeby (Heiðabýr). In H-Hr but not Flat the two helmingar are separated by the remark that the battle was ferocious, and Magnús killed almost numberless men. The traditions reported there are credited to the Icelander Oddr Gellisson.

Notes: [All]: The two helmingar, slightly separated in H-Hr (see Context) but joined in Flat, are neither crucially similar or dissimilar, but they both describe the victory against the Wends and are reasonably taken as a single st. — [All]: Like st. 5, this is anonymous in Flat. — [1, 2, 3, 4] fyr sunnan Heiðabý; nær Skotborgarô ‘south of Hedeby (Heiðabýr)’; ‘near the Kongeå (Skotborgará)’: Arnórr also commemorates Magnús’s defeat of the Wends við skíra Skotborgar ‘by the gleaming Kongeå (Skotborgará)’ (Arn Hryn 13), but the prose sources locate this victory specifically on Lyrskovshede (Hlýrskógsheiðr), west of Hedeby, and neither of these places is near the river Kongeå (Skotborgará). (a) Bjarni Aðalbjarnason favours assuming two battles with a northwards pursuit in between (ÍF 28, 42 n. 1), but the st. seems to report a single battle, at least if the helmingar belong together, and there is no clear evidence of a second battle. (b) This leaves an uncomfortable choice between awkward geography and awkward language, and the solution adopted here has the disadvantage that it places the action both near the river and south of Hedeby, although the river lies well north of Hedeby. The compiler of H-Hr seems to have understood the st. this way, and believes that the river is south of Hedeby (see Context). (c) It is presumably for this geographical reason that some scholars construe these phrases the other way round: fyr sunnan ... Skotborgar ‘south of the river Kongeå’ and Heiðabý ... nær ‘near Hedeby’ (SHI 6, 58 and Skj B; Fms 12, 132 favours this but the punctuation in Fms 6, 64 does not match). However, this assumes an extremely complicated cl. arrangement in which an audience hearing Heiðabý mid-l. and following fyr sunnan ‘south of’ would have to realise that it belonged in an entirely different cl. (cf. NN §849 for Kock’s spirited objection to this), and this interpretation only slightly improves the geographical logic, since Hedeby and the river are still a long way apart. — [4] gotna ‘of men’: This is here taken with skœru ‘conflict’. It would alternatively, as assumed in Fms and Skj B, form a natural phrasal unit with spjalli ‘confidant’, as it does in Arn Hryn 8, and indeed in all instances in LP it is accompanied by a noun or name in the gen. However, spjalli occurs alone in a list of man-heiti (Þul Manna 9/6III), and if taken with gotna in the present context it produces an awkward cl. arrangement and an overloaded phrase, minn snjallr spjalli gotna ‘my valiant confidant of men’. — [6] konr Ellu ‘descendant of Ella <legendary king> [= Magnús]’: Ella was a C9th king of Northumbria, and adversary of Ragnarr loðbrók, but unconnected with Magnús Óláfsson, and hence here figures as a generalised, legendary, king; see also ESk Hardr II 3/1 and Note. — [7] hafi ‘might have’: The verb is subj., hence the translation. — [7] gǫrva ‘made’: (a) This is construed as a p. p. of gørva ‘do, make’, f. acc. sg. agreeing with geirhríð, hence ‘spear-storm [BATTLE] (being) made’. The verb is common with terms for ‘battle’: see LP: gørva 1, including st. 8 below. (b) Kock, pointing out the frequency with which adv. gǫrva co-occurs with verbs of saying or hearing, took it instead as the adv., qualifying fregit ‘learned of’ with the sense ‘certainly, reliably’ (NN §3083).


  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. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  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. 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.
  7. Andersson, Theodore M. and Kari Ellen Gade, trans. 2000. Morkinskinna: The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030-1157). Islandica 51. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  8. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  9. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  10. SHI = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1828-46. Scripta historica islandorum de rebus gestis veterum borealium, latine reddita et apparatu critico instructa, curante Societate regia antiquariorum septentrionalium. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp etc. and London: John & Arthur Arch.
  11. Internal references
  12. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Flateyjarbók (Flat)’ 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, pp. clxi-clxii.
  13. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Hulda and Hrokkinskinna (H-Hr)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  14. Not published: do not cite (MHII)
  15. Not published: do not cite (RloðVIII)
  16. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Manna heiti 9’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 784.
  17. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa 13’ 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, pp. 198-200.
  18. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa 8’ 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, pp. 192-3.
  19. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Haraldsdrápa II 3’ 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, pp. 546-7.

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