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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hjálm Lv 1VIII (Ǫrv 5)

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Ǫrvar-Odds saga 5 (Hjálmarr inn hugumstóri, Lausavísur 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 816.

Hjálmarr inn hugumstóriLausavísur


Ǫrv 5-12 is a series of eight lausavísur in fornyrðislag constituting (according to both Ǫrv and Heiðr) a dialogue between the heroes Hjálmarr inn hugumstóri ‘the Great-minded’ and Ǫrvar-Oddr immediately before they fight a battle on the Danish island of Sámsey (Samsø) with twelve berserks, all of whom are brothers. One stanza in Ǫrv (not Heiðr) is attributed to the oldest of the brothers, the hero Angantýr. An account of this battle is also given in Heiðr, accompanied in two of the main mss (2845 and R715ˣ) by versions of some of the same stanzas as are present in Ǫrv, though Ǫrv contains stanzas not in any other source. As mentioned in the general Introduction to the stanzas from Ǫrv, Saxo preserves a version of the story of this battle. In all three versions there is a general similarity between the names of the protagonists, and the outcome of the battle is the same, the deaths of all twelve brothers at the hands of Oddr alone (Saxo) or Oddr and Hjálmarr (Heiðr, Ǫrv). In all versions, too, Hjálmarr dies in the battle after having fought a single combat with Angantýr, who also dies. A difference between them, however, concerns the motivation of the fight. In both Saxo and Ǫrv the encounter happens by chance; the berserks come upon Hjálmarr’s and Oddr’s ships by the shore, kill the men on board, but not the two heroes, who have gone inland to cut wood to repair part of their damaged ship. In Heiðr, on the other hand, the conflict is fuelled by rivalry between either Angantýr or (probably originally) Hjǫrvarðr, the second of the berserk brothers, and Hjálmarr for the hand of Ingibjǫrg, daughter of the king of Sweden. RvHbreiðm Hl 49-50III celebrates Hjálmarr as a hero eager for battle who killed fǫrsnjǫll kyn fira ‘attack-clever kin of men’ (49/7-8), a probable allusion to the twelve berserk brothers.

There is great variability in the order and content of these stanzas, both between the mss of Heiðr and Ǫrv and among the mss of Ǫrv alone. This is likely to reflect a considerable diversity within the oral traditions that presumably underlay the various saga compilations. Even though he omitted the stanzas altogether in his edition of Heiðr stanzas in Skj, Finnur Jónsson, followed by Kock, implicitly treated the Heiðr stanzas (at least in the version of 2845) as having superior status to the versions of Ǫrv mss where the stanzas are present in both sagas, because, wherever a stanza occurs in Heiðr as well as in Ǫrv, Skj and Skald follow the text and ordering of Heiðr, not Ǫrv. As Andrews (1920, 30) pointed out, Finnur seriously underrated the versions of the stanzas in R715ˣ to the point of omitting them entirely. Neither he nor Kock used any readings from this ms., even though it sometimes has better readings than those of 2845, and can be seen to preserve versions of the text that are sometimes closer to the Ǫrv mss than to 2845. Edd. Min. and Ǫrv 1888 likewise omit mention of R715ˣ.

The disposition of the stanzas Ǫrv 5-12 and their continuation 13-29 (Hjálmarr’s death-song) across the mss of both Ǫrv and Heiðr can be seen in Table 1. To summarise the ms. disposition of Ǫrv 5-12, none of them are present in 7; 344a has all eight stanzas and has been used as the base ms. for this group of stanzas except for Ǫrv 8 and Ǫrv 10. Stanzas 5-8 and 11-12 are also in 343a and 471, but these mss do not have sts 9-10, while 173ˣ lacks sts 9-12. Ǫrv 8-10 and 12 are also in the Heiðr mss 2845 and R715ˣ and readings from these mss are included. The third main ms. of Heiðr, Hauksbók (Hb), AM 544 4°, does not include any of the stanzas. Instead, it summarises the Samsø episode, referring to Ǫrv. For Ǫrv 8, 9 and 10, the version of 2845 has been taken as the base ms. because it gives a more coherent text.

Disposition of stanzas concerning the fight on Samsø and Hjálmarr’s death-song across the manuscripts of Heiðr and Ǫrv
SkP sigla    






Ǫrv 5

Ǫrv 6

Ǫrv 7

Ǫrv 8

Ǫrv 9

Ǫrv 10

Ǫrv 11

Ǫrv 12

Ǫrv 13

Ǫrv 14

Ǫrv 15

Ǫrv 16

Ǫrv 17

Ǫrv 18

Ǫrv 19

Ǫrv 20

Ǫrv 21

Ǫrv 22

Ǫrv 23

Ǫrv 24

Ǫrv 25

Ǫrv 26

Ǫrv 27

Ǫrv 28

Ǫrv 29

text and translation

Hervarðr, Hjörvarðr,         Hrani, Angantýr,
Bildr ok Bófi,         Barri ok Tóki,
Tindr ok Tyrfingr,         tveir Haddingjar:
þeir í Bólm austr         bornir váru,
Arngríms synir         ok Eyfuru.

Hervarðr, Hjörvarðr, Hrani, Angantýr, Bildr ok Bófi, Barri ok Tóki, Tindr ok Tyrfingr, tveir Haddingjar: þeir váru bornir austr í Bólm, synir Arngríms ok Eyfuru.
‘Hervarðr, Hjǫrvarðr, Hrani, Angantýr, Bildr and Bófi, Barri and Tóki, Tindr and Tyrfingr, the two Haddingjar: they were born in the east in Bólm, sons of Arngrímr and Eyfura.

notes and context

This stanza is spoken by Hjálmarr in response to Oddr’s question of where some strange howling noises he can hear can be coming from. Hjálmarr identifies the twelve berserks as producing the weird noises and tells Oddr their names.

The stanza lists the names of the twelve berserks and the last two lines give the names of their parents and their birthplace. The prose of Heiðr in 2845, probably reflecting a version of this stanza, gives the names of six of them, Angantýr, the eldest, Hjǫrvarðr, Hervarðr, Hrani and the two Haddingjar (Heiðr 1924, 4; Heiðr 1960, 3). However, the versions of Heiðr in Hb (Hb 1892-6, 353) and R715ˣ (Heiðr 1924, 93) give twelve names: Angantýr, Hervarðr, Hjǫrvarðr, Sæmingr, Hrani, Brámi, Barri, Reifnir, Tindr, Búi and the two Haddingjar. Lines 1-2 of this stanza are exactly paralleled by Herv Lv 9 and 11(Heiðr 26 and 28). Hyndl 23-4 (NK 292) also has a version of this list as Búi ok Brámi, | Barri ok Reifnir, | Tindr ok Tyrfingr, | [ok] tveir HaddingjarÁni, Ómi | vóro bornir, | Arngríms synir | ok Eyfuro. Saxo has the following list of twelve (Saxo 2015, I, v. 13. 4, pp. 344-5): Brander, Biarbi, Brodder, Hiarrandi, Tander, Tiruingar, duo Haddingi, Hiorthuar, Hiarthwar, Rani, Angantir. For a comparative analysis of the various lists see Kommentar III, 750-61.



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. 10. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ǫrvar-Oddssaga III 1: AII, 290, BII, 311, Skald II, 165, NN §3179; Ǫrv 1888, 97, Ǫrv 1892, 52, FSGJ 2, 252; Edd. Min. 105.


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