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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ESk Hardr II 3II

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Haraldsdrápa II 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 546-7.

Einarr SkúlasonHaraldsdrápa II

Alls varð Ellu
ungr geitunga
lofaðr lífgjafi
lands ráðandi.

{Ungr, lofaðr lífgjafi {geitunga Ellu}} varð ráðandi alls lands.

{The young, lauded life-giver {of Ælle’s <Northumbrian king’s> birds}} [EAGLES > WARRIOR] became the ruler of the entire country.

Mss: Mork(32r) (Mork)

Editions: Skj AI, 458, Skj BI, 426, Skald I, 210; Mork 1867, 200, Mork 1928-32, 402, Andersson and Gade 2000, 364-5, 490 (MbHg).

Context: The helmingr documents Haraldr becoming the sole ruler of Norway (1135).

Notes: [1, 2] geitunga Ellu ‘of Ælle’s <Northumbrian king’s> birds [EAGLES]’: See also ÞjóðA Magnfl 6/6. Ælle (Ella) was king of Northumbria (d. 867). He was captured by the sons of Ragnarr loðbrók ‘Shaggy-breeches’, whom Ælle had killed. To avenge their father, they are said to have tortured him to death by carving an eagle on his back, cutting the ribs from the spine and pulling the lungs out through the wound (see Hb 1892-6, 464). For this type of torture, see Frank 1984a. In skaldic poetry, Ælle came to be used as a virtual shorthand for ‘English king’ (see ÞjóðA Magnfl 6/6; Townend 1997), and if the name is used in this generic sense here, his ‘birds’ would be a kenning for ‘birds of battle’ in general. — [2] geitunga ‘birds’: Given as a heiti for ‘bird’ in Þul Fugla 1/5III. In ModIcel. geitungur means ‘wasp’ (cf. Dan. dialects geding ‘wasp’). The word is formed from ON geit ‘goat’, most likely because the feelers of a wasp looked like horns, and the term then came to be understood as denoting some type of bird (see AEW: geitungr; LP: geitungr).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  4. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  5. Andersson, Theodore M. and Kari Ellen Gade, trans. 2000. Morkinskinna: The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030-1157). Islandica 51. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  6. Mork 1928-32 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1928-32. Morkinskinna. SUGNL 53. Copenhagen: Jørgensen.
  7. Frank, Roberta. 1984a. ‘Viking Atrocity and Skaldic Verse: The Rite of the Blood-Eagle’. English Historical Review 99, 332-43.
  8. Hb 1892-6 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1892-6. Hauksbók udgiven efter de Arnamagnæanske håndskrifter no. 371, 544 og 675, 4° samt forskellige papirshåndskrifter. Copenhagen: Det kongelige nordiske oldskrift-selskab.
  9. Mork 1867 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1867. Morkinskinna: Pergamentsbog fra første halvdel af det trettende aarhundrede. Indeholdende en af de ældste optegnelser af norske kongesagaer. Oslo: Bentzen.
  10. Townend, Matthew. 1997. ‘Ella: An Old English Name in Old Norse Poetry’. Nomina 20, 23-35.
  11. Internal references
  12. Not published: do not cite (MbHgII)
  13. Not published: do not cite (RloðVIII)
  14. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Fugla heiti 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 952.
  15. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Magnússflokkr 6’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 70-2.

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