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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Alrekr Lv 1VIII (Hálf 1)

Hubert Seelow (ed.) 2017, ‘Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka 1 (Alrekr konungr, Lausavísa 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 305.

Alrekr konungrLausavísa1


The first, very brief section of Hálf describes the conflict between two petty kings in Norway named Alrekr and Ǫgvaldr. The stanza below, spoken by Alrekr, refers to the circumstances of his son Víkarr’s conception and his father’s premonition of Víkarr’s ultimate fate as a sacrifice to Óðinn.

text and translation

Geirhildr, getta,         gott er öl þetta,
ef því annmarkar         öngvir fylgja.
Ek sé hanga         á háum gálga
son þinn, kona,         seldan Óðni.

Geirhildr, getta, þetta öl er gott, ef öngvir annmarkar fylgja því. Ek sé son þinn, kona, hanga á háum gálga, seldan Óðni.
‘Geirhildr, girl, this ale is good, if there are no faults connected with it. I see your son, woman, hanging on the high gallows, handed over to Óðinn.

notes and context

King Alrekr’s two wives, Signý and Geirhildr, are on such bad terms that he feels he has to get rid of one of them. He arranges a beer-brewing contest, declaring that he will keep the one whose beer turns out the better. The stanza is introduced by the words: Þær kepptuzt um ölgerðina. Signý hét á Freyju, en Geirhildr á Hött. Hann lagði fyrir dregg hráka sinn ok kvezt vilja fyrir tilkomu sína þat, er milli var kersins ok hennar, en þat reyndizt gott öl. Þá kvað Alrekr … ‘They [the two women] competed in ale-brewing. Signý invoked Freyja and Geirhildr [invoked] Hǫttr [Óðinn]. He used his spittle as yeast and said that for his intervening he wanted what was between the [brewing] vessel and her, and the ale proved to be good. Then Alrekr said …’. The stanza is followed by the words: Á þeim misserum var fæddr Víkarr, son Alreks ok Geirhildar ‘During that year Víkarr, the son of Alrekr and Geirhildr, was born’.

The prose text makes it clear, before the introduction of this stanza, that Hǫttr ‘Hood’ (another name for Óðinn) had made a bargain with Geirhildr that he would help her to marry Alrekr but in return she had to promise to call upon him in all things. His role in brewing good ale by spitting into the brew is reminiscent of the myth of the gods’ creation of the wise being Kvasir, precursor to the mead of poetry, out of their spittle (SnE 1998, I, 3; cf. Boberg 1966, 193 (M 201.3) and 36 (A 1211.3.1); Lassen 2011, 166-7). — It is not evident from the prose text that King Alrekr is aware of Geirhildr’s pact with Óðinn, yet the stanza strongly implies his awareness both of the god’s involvement and the ultimate fate of his son, Víkarr, who is elsewhere (notably in the longer version of Gautreks saga) a king of Agder (Agðir), sacrificed to Óðinn by his foster-brother Starkaðr, who hangs him from a tree and pierces him with a reed-stalk that turns into a spear (cf. StarkSt Vík 26 (Gautr 34) and Note to [All]). Both the composer of Hálf and his audience must have known the story of Víkarr’s death, although it is not directly mentioned in either prose or poetry, and his parentage and circumstances are different here from what is given in Gautr.


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. 6. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Hálfssaga I: AII, 256-7, BII, 276, Skald II, 144; Hálf 1864, 4, Hálf 1909, 71-2, FSGJ 2, 96, Hálf 1981, 108, 170; Edd. Min. 89.


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