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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Útsteinn Útkv 1VIII (Hálf 39)

Hubert Seelow (ed.) 2017, ‘Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka 39 (Útsteinn Gunnlaðarson, Útsteinskviða 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 336.

Útsteinn GunnlaðarsonÚtsteinskviða


The following twelve stanzas, in contrast to the preceding Innkv, do not correspond to any part of the prose saga of Hálfr and the Hálfsrekkar. Rather, like the following Hrókskviða, they describe an episode from the life of one of the surviving Hálfsrekkar at a foreign king’s court. Although there is frequent mention of the bravery and heroic deeds of the Hálfsrekkar, no mention is made of their last fight against Ásmundr, but it is clear from certain references (e.g. Hálf 40/3-4, Hálf 43 and 46) that most of them are no longer alive. Considerably later in the prose saga, mention is made of how King Eysteinn and Útsteinn took part in a successful revenge expedition against Ásmundr, who is killed (cf. Hálf 1981, 197), but this is not referred to in Útkv. The only connection with the main plot of the saga is the person of Útsteinn himself; the deeds of the Hálfsrekkar are of importance only to the extent that mention of them helps to emphasise their outstanding bravery in contrast to the implied cowardice of Úlfr and his sons.

Útkv comprises two parts. The first (Hálf 39-46) is a dialogue between Útsteinn and Úlfr inn rauði which resembles the Old Norse compositional unit mannjafnaðr ‘comparison of men’. The prose text (cf. Hálf 1981, 186) speaks of a verbal dispute over drinking at a feast (kappmæli við drykkju) and that Úlfr egged Útsteinn on to this (eggjaði hann). If so, the first stanza of Útkv, in which Útsteinn already refers to a physical combat with weapons, must represent an advanced stage of the dispute with Úlfr which is widened to include his sons, who become Útsteinn’s actual antagonists in the fight that apparently ensues offstage.

The second part of Útkv (Hálf 47-50) is played out after the conclusion of the battle between Útsteinn and the eight sons of Úlfr, who all lose their lives. Stanza 47 is spoken by Útsteinn as he returns from the fight; the first helmingr explains the situation, while the second is addressed to King Eysteinn, at whose court Útsteinn is staying. Until this point Eysteinn has been merely mentioned in the prose text (cf. Hálf 1981, 186) and has played no part in the verbal dispute between Útsteinn and Úlfr; here he abruptly takes over Úlfr’s place as Útsteinn’s discussant, even though he is not in fact hostile to him.

text and translation

Upp skulum rísa,         út skulum ganga
ok ramligar         randir knýja.
Hygg við hjálmum         hingat komnar
til Danmarkar         dísir várar.

Skulum rísa upp, skulum ganga út ok knýja ramligar randir. Hygg dísir várar komnar hingat til Danmarkar við hjálmum.
‘Let us arise, let us go out and bash our strong shields. I believe that our dísir have come here to Denmark with helmets.

notes and context

The stanza is preceded by the sentence: Útsteinn kvað, er Úlfr jafnaði sér við hann ok eggjaði hann ‘Útsteinn said, when Úlfr compared himself to him and provoked him’.



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 VIII 2: AII, 263, BII, 284, Skald II, 149; Hálf 1864, 26-7, Hálf 1909, 114, FSGJ 2, 119, Hálf 1981, 128, 187; Edd. Min. 71.


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