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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rloð Lv 9VIII (Ragn 26)

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 26 (Ragnarr loðbrók, Lausavísur 9)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 676.

Ragnarr loðbrókLausavísur


These two stanzas, recited by Ragnarr in King Ælle’s snake-pit, clearly belong together and are reminiscent of the last six stanzas of Krm (24-9), which Ragnarr is presented as having recited in the same predicament. In both, he claims to have conducted fifty-one battles (Ragn 26/1-4 and Krm 28/2-4) and expresses surprise at the circumstances of his death (Ragn 26/5-6 and Krm 24/5-6, 28/5-8). Ragnarr’s striking comparison of himself and his sons to a boar-pig and porkers in Ragn 27/1-5, however, does not occur in Krm.

text and translation

Orrostur hefi ek áttar,
þær er ágætar þóttu
— görða ek mörgum mönnum
mein — fimm tigu ok eina.
Eigi hugðumz orma
at aldrlagi mínu;
* mjök verðr mörgu sinni,
þat er minst varir sjálfan.

Ek hefi áttar fimm tigu orrostur ok eina, þær er þóttu ágætar; ek görða mörgum mönnum mein. Hugðumz eigi orma at aldrlagi mínu; verðr * mjök mörgu sinni, þat er minst varir sjálfan.
‘I have engaged in fifty-one battles, which were reckoned magnificent; I did many people harm. I did not think that snakes would cause my death; very often that which oneself least expects comes to pass.

notes and context

Ragnarr sails to England, where he is defeated by King Ælle and captured, but refuses to say his name. He is thrown into a snake-pit, where his magic shirt keeps him safe from the snakes until it is removed. He then says, in the prose introducing this stanza (Ragn 1906-8, 158): ‘Gnydia mundu nu grisir, ef þeir visse, hvat enn gamle þyldi’ ‘“The young pigs would grunt if they knew what the old one was suffering”’ (cf. Ragn 27, below).

The notion of Ragnarr’s death in a snake-pit seems to have been influenced by traditions of the hero Gunnarr’s death in the same circumstances, reflected in Akv 31 and Vǫls ch. 39 (Ragn 1906-8, 101) and elsewhere in Norse tradition, as well as in Þiðr (Þiðr 1905-11, II, 314), which is based predominantly on German sources (Finch 1993b). As applied to Gunnarr the snake-pit motif seems to be of German origin, though it is likely to have had its ultimate origin in the Orient or North Africa (Krappe 1940-1; cf. Dronke 1969, 65-7). According to de Vries (1923a, 252-3), it was the similarity of the names Ælle (Ella) and Atli that attracted the motif to the biography of Ragnarr; according to Krappe (1940-1, 24), it was the fact that Ragnarr was known to have slain a serpent (cf. Ragn 1, above). — The first half-stanza bears a striking resemblance to Krm 28/2-4, as do ll. 5-6 to Krm 24/5-6 and to a lesser extent to Krm 28/5-8. On various theories about the possible relationships between Krm and these Ragn stanzas, see the Introduction to Krm. A common source for these stanzas seems likely. — [7-8]: Rafn (FSN) and Örnólfur Thorsson (Ragn 1985) follow 1824b in reading þat verðr mjök mörgu sinni | er … (with mjök supplied from above the line) ‘(there) very often happens that which …’. Valdimar Ásmundarson (Ragn 1891; cf. also Vigfusson and Powell, CPB) emends to þat verðr mörgum manni | er … ‘to many a man happens that which …’. Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 212) and Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) read verðr mjǫk mǫrgu sinni | þats … ‘(there) very often happens that which …’, with þat ‘that’ moved from the beginning of l. 7 to that of l. 8; Eskeland (Ragn 1944), Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ) and Ebel (Ragn 2003) follow them in this respect. Kock (Skald; NN §2372) differs here from Olsen and Finnur only in placing mjǫk ‘very’ at the beginning of the line, before rather than after verðr ‘happens’, in order to let the alliteration fall on the first and third syllables in a line of A-type (cf. Gade 1995a, 131-4). Kock is followed here by the present ed. Whatever word order is assumed, þat ‘that’ is clearly the nom. subject of verðr ‘happens’ and the verb varir ‘expects’ in the rel. clause introduced by er ‘which’ in l. 8 is most simply described as impersonal, with m. acc. sg. sjálfan ‘oneself’ as its ‘logical subject’ (cf. Stefán Einarsson 1945, 169-70).



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. 2. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ragnarssaga loðbrókar VII 1: AII, 238, BII, 257-8, Skald II, 134, NN §2372; FSN 1, 282 (Ragn ch. 15), Ragn 1891, 211 (ch. 15), Ragn 1906-8, 158, 189, 212-13 (ch. 15), Ragn 1944, 100-1 (ch. 16), FSGJ 1, 269 (Ragn ch. 15), Ragn 1985, 139 (ch. 15), Ragn 2003, 52-3 (ch. 15), CPB II, 350.


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