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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ótt Hfl 16I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn 16’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 761.

Óttarr svartiHǫfuðlausn

Blágjóða, tókt, bræðir
bengjalfrs, ok þá sjalfa,
skatti gnœgðr, með skreyttu
skeið Hôkonar reiði.
Ungr sóttir þú, Þróttar
þings mágrennir, hingat,
(máttit jarl) þaus ôttuð,
áttlǫnd (fyr því standa).

{Bræðir {blágjóða {bengjalfrs}}}, gnœgðr skatti, tókt skeið Hôkonar með skreyttu reiði ok þá sjalfa. {{{Þróttar þings} má}grennir}, þú sóttir ungr áttlǫnd hingat, þaus ôttuð; jarl máttit standa fyr því.

{Feeder {of the dark ospreys {of the wound-sea}}} [BLOOD > RAVENS/EAGLES > WARRIOR = Óláfr], replete with tribute, you captured the warship of Hákon with [its] ornamented tackle, and the men themselves. {Feeder {of the gull {of the assembly of Þróttr <= Óðinn>}}} [(lit. ‘gull-feeder of the assembly of Þróttr’) BATTLE > RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIOR = Óláfr], you sought [when] young your ancestral lands here, which you owned; the jarl could not stand in the way of that.

Mss: (234v-235r) (Hkr); Holm2(9r), J1ˣ(147r), J2ˣ(127v), 325VI(7rb), 321ˣ(39), 73aˣ(26r), 78aˣ(26r), 68(8r), 61(82ra), Holm4(1ra) (ll. 2-8), 75c(6v), 325V(11va), Bb(131ra), Flat(82ra), Tóm(98v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Blá‑: ‘Bía’ 321ˣ, ‘Hia‑’ 78aˣ;    ‑gjóða: ‘‑gæida’ Flat, ‑greiða Tóm;    tókt (‘toctu’): tóku 73aˣ;    bræðir: beiðir J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 78aˣ, beiðir with bræðir in margin in later hand 325VI    [2] bengjalfrs: ‘[…]frs’ Holm4;    ‑gjalfrs: ‑gjalfr 321ˣ, 78aˣ, ‑gjalfs 61;    ok: sé 321ˣ    [3] skatti: skapti J1ˣ, J2ˣ, Flat, skipti Tóm;    gnœgðr: ‘gnégr’ 75c, gnógs Flat, Tóm;    skreyttu: skreyttum 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325V, skreyttri 61    [6] má‑: ‘mai‑’ 73aˣ, már‑ 68, 61;    ‑grennir: ‘‑grennr’ 325VI, ‑greinir 73aˣ    [7] máttit: ‘ma[…]’ Bb, môttut Flat, Tóm;    þaus (‘þꜹ er’): þar er 325VI, 325V, Flat, Tóm, sá er 61, þá er Bb;    ôttuð: átti 61    [8] átt‑: ætt‑ J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 325V, á Tóm;    ‑lǫnd: land or ‘lǫ̨nd’ 325VI, 321ˣ, 61, Flat, land 78aˣ, Holm4, landi Tóm;    því: þér 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, þeim 68, om. 325V, sér Tóm

Editions: Skj AI, 294, Skj BI, 271, Skald I, 139; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 38-9, IV, 117, ÍF 27, 37 (ÓHHkr ch. 30); ÓH 1941, I, 63 (ch. 32), Flat 1860-8, II, 32.

Context: The stanza is quoted in an account of Óláfr’s ambush of Hákon jarl Eiríksson’s warship in Sauðungssund (Sauesund).

Notes: [All]: For Óláfr’s encounter with Hákon, see also Sigv Víkv 15, which Snorri quotes shortly after this stanza. — [2] ok þá sjalfa ‘and the men themselves’: If þá sjalfa is to be construed as demonstrative + adj., then the phrase must be either m. acc. pl. or f. acc. sg. Skeið ‘warship’ supplies a f. noun, but is itself specified as an object for tókt ‘you captured’ (l. 4), and the use of ok ‘and’ suggests that tókt should have at least two different objects. So þá sjalfa is likely to be m. acc. pl., and the usual assumption (Skj B, ÍF 27 and here) is that it refers to the men on board the skeið, as opposed to the skeið itself. — [3, 4] með skreyttu reiði ‘with [its] ornamented tackle’: Reiði is a general term for ‘tackle, rigging’; Jesch (2001a, 165) suggests a reference here to the craftsmanship of the blocks used to control the rigging. — [4] Hôkonar ‘of Hákon’: Hákon Eiríksson was the oldest son of Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson of Hlaðir (Lade) and Gyða, daughter of King Sveinn tjúguskegg Haraldsson of Denmark. Later he was Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson’s regent in Norway after Óláfr had gone into exile (c. 1028); there was thus to be a long history of hostility between Hákon and Óláfr. — [8] áttlǫnd ‘ancestral lands’: As with áttstuðill ‘prop of the family’ in st. 13/7, the mss show fluctuation between the variant forms átt- and ætt-. Ættlǫnd occurs in st. 19/6. — [8] standa fyr því ‘stand in the way of this’: The translation is taken from Rainford (1995, 70). Some mss have þér instead of því, hence ‘stand in the way of you’– a very plausible reading, and there could well have been confusion over ms. abbreviations in transmission.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  5. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  6. ÓH 1941 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert and Jón Helgason, eds. 1941. Saga Óláfs konungs hins helga: Den store saga om Olav den hellige efter pergamenthåndskrift i Kungliga biblioteket i Stockholm nr. 2 4to med varianter fra andre håndskrifter. 2 vols. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 53. Oslo: Dybwad.
  7. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  8. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  9. Rainford, Jessica. 1995. ‘Óláfr Haraldsson, King and Saint of Norway, and the Development of Skaldic Style (ca.1015-ca.1153)’. D. Phil. thesis. University of Oxford.
  10. Internal references
  11. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  12. Matthew Townend 2012, ‘(Biography of) Sveinn tjúguskegg Haraldsson’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 378.
  13. Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 15’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 554.

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