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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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FriðÞ Lv 30VIII (Frið 36)

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Friðþjófs saga ins frœkna 36 (Friðþjófr Þorsteinsson, Lausavísur 30)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 234.

Friðþjófr ÞorsteinssonLausavísur


The final section of the saga includes six stanzas that focus on Friðþjófr’s encounter with King Hringr and Ingibjǫrg, now married to the king. Friðþjófr approaches the court in disguise but the king soon sees through it and recognises his visitor, whom he treats with extraordinary generosity, to the extent that he eventually offers him both his wife and his position as ruler. Friðþjófr indicates that he will accept this only if Hringr is mortally ill, and in the prose text, as if to order, the king develops an illness and dies. The conclusion to the saga is told in the prose only: Helgi and Hálfdan hear of Friðþjófr’s good fortune and hurry to deprive him of his new position. Friðþjófr kills Helgi but spares Hálfdan to be hersir in Sogn under him. He and Ingibjǫrg have two sons (B version) or many children (A version). Ingibjǫrg’s feelings throughout this final section of the saga are rather negative, but she acquiesces in whatever Friðþjófr has in mind, though she hardly acts as a heroine of romance.

text and translation

Þá hét ek Friðþjófr,         er ek fór með víkingum,
en Herþjófr,         er ek ekkjur grætta,
Geirþjófr,         er ek gaflökum fleygða,
Gunnþjófr,         er ek gekk at fylki,
Eyþjófr,         er ek útsker rænta,
Helþjófr,         er ek henta smáb*örn*,
Valþjófr,         þá ek var æðri mönnum.
Nú hef ek sveimat síðan         með saltkörlum,
hjálpar þurfandi,         áðr en hingat kom.

Ek hét Friðþjófr, þá er ek fór með víkingum, en Herþjófr, er ek grætta ekkjur, Geirþjófr, er ek fleygða gaflökum, Gunnþjófr, er ek gekk at fylki, Eyþjófr, er ek rænta útsker, Helþjófr, er ek henta smáb*örn*, Valþjófr, þá ek var æðri mönnum. Nú hef ek sveimat síðan með saltkörlum, þurfandi hjálpar, áðr en kom hingat.
‘I was called Friðþjófr (‘Peace-thief’), when I travelled with vikings, and Herþjófr (‘Army-thief’), when I made widows weep, Geirþjófr (‘Spear-thief’), when I let fly throwing spears, Gunnþjófr (‘Battle-thief’), when I went towards the host, Eyþjófr (‘Island-thief’), when I plundered outlying skerries, Helþjófr (‘Hel-thief’), when I seized little children, Valþjófr (‘Slain men-thief’), when I was higher than [other] men. Now I have since roamed around with salt burners, needing help, before I came here.

notes and context

Friðþjófr approaches King Hringr’s court disguised as a wayfarer in a shaggy cloak. He claims to be engaged in the burning of salt (saltbrenna). When he comes before the king, Hringr asks him his name, and this stanza forms the answer.

This stanza, together with the surrounding prose, is only in the B redaction mss. Metrically and stylistically, it is unlike all the other stanzas in Frið, and clearly belongs to an enumerative model, in which an individual, usually in disguise, tells about his many adventures by means of a long list of names he has acquired on account of them. The god Óðinn is the prototype of this kind of figure, and Grí 48-50, quoted by Snorri Sturluson with commentary in Gylf (SnE 2005, 21-2), is the prototypical poetic realisation of this motif. It is a moot point as to how ll. 5-14 of the text should be divided metrically, as here (with Edd. Min., observing that er ek would normally be in dip) or after er ek (so Frið 1901 and Skald). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) gives up on this question and places ll. 3-12 in square brackets, presumably to indicate that he sees them as a late interpolation. The stanza is a mixture of metres, fornyrðislag, málaháttr and kviðuháttr. — The Odinic model does not really suit the chivalrous character of Friðþjófr, as presented in the rest of the saga, both prose and poetry; however, the figure of the wandering hero in disguise is a conventional motif in other fornaldarsögur, such as Ǫrv, where the wanderer calls himself by a pseudonym (often Víðfǫrull ‘Widely-travelled’ or, in some mss of Ǫrv, Næframaðr ‘Bark-man’). In Frið 36, the many names Friðþjófr calls himself are all based on the semantic sense of the second element of his name ‑þjófr ‘thief’, while the first elements vary appropriately according to the activities with which they are associated. Most of these activities are of a martial or aggressive nature, which does not fit particularly well with Friðþjófr’s character in the saga. On names in ‑þjófr, see Bugge (1890, 225-36).



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 [XIII], E. 7. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Friðþjófssaga ens frækna II 3: AII, 277, BII, 299, Skald II, 158, FF §22, NN §2837; Falk 1890, 84-6, Frið 1893, 30, Frið 1901, 43; Edd. Min. 102.


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