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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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HSt Rst 22I

Rolf Stavnem (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallar-Steinn, Rekstefja 22’ 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. 922.


Randsíks remmilauka
rógsvellir bað fella
— styrr þreifsk — stœrri aska
strangr á Orm inn langa.
Ættstórr ella mætti
Eirekr í dyn geira
oflinn aldri vinna.
Óláfr und veg sólar.

{Strangr rógsvellir} bað {remmilauka {randsíks}} fella stœrri aska á Orm inn langa; styrr þreifsk. Ella mætti ættstórr Eirekr aldri vinna oflinn í {dyn geira}. Óláfr und {veg sólar} …

{The tough strife-sweller} [WARRIOR = Eiríkr] ordered {the forceful masts {of the shield-whitefish}} [SWORD > WARRIORS] to make larger ash-timbers fall onto Ormr inn langi (‘the Long Serpent’); battle flourished. Otherwise, the high-born Eiríkr would never have been able to defeat the mighty snake in {the din of spears} [BATTLE]. Óláfr under {the path of the sun} [SKY] …

Mss: Bb(112ra); 61(68va-b), 54(66ra), Bb(101vb), Flat(65va) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] Rand‑: rann Bb(112ra), Bb(101vb), Rán 61, 54, rans Flat;    ‑síks remmi‑: so 61, harri reins Bb(112ra), 54, harri róins or harri reins Bb(101vb), ríki remmi Flat    [2] rógsvellir: ‘rauk spellir’ Flat;    bað: vað 54, ‘bat’ Flat    [3] styrr: styrs Flat;    þreifsk: om. Flat;    aska: haska Flat    [5] mætti: mátti 61, 54, Flat    [7] oflinn: ‘olínn’ Bb(112ra), 54, ‘o᷎flinn’ 61, ‘olín’ Bb(101vb), ítran Flat    [8] Óláfr: Óláf Bb(112ra), 54, Bb(101vb), ‘Ol’ 61, Flat;    veg: vegg 61

Editions: Skj AI, 549, Skj BI, 530-1, Skald I, 258, NN §3121; ÓT 1958-2000, II, 283 (ch. 255), Flat 1860-8, I, 491; SHI 3, 258-61, CPB II, 298, Wisén 1886-9, I, 48-9, Finnur Jónsson 1893b, 164, Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 259-62.

Context: Eiríkr jarl has his men hoist up (vinda upp) great timbers on his ship Barði and throw them onto (fella á) Ormr inn langi; it is said that the ship would never have been overcome except for this ploy suggested by Þorkell inn hávi.

Notes: [1] randsíks ‘of the shield-whitefish [SWORD]’: (a) This edn follows Kock (Skald) in emending to rand ‘shield’. Síkr is houting, a type of whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus; CVC: síkr; Þul Fiska 2/3III), and together the two elements produce a standard sword-kenning (cf. Meissner 154). Like other analyses this results in the finite verb bað ‘ordered’ in l. 2 being preceded by both its subject and its object, a word order that is abnormal in standard dróttkvætt but not in Rst; see Note to st. 7/1-4. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends instead to Ránsóks ‘Rán-fire’, i.e. ‘sea-fire [GOLD]’. (c) Konráð Gíslason (1895-7) assumes that síkr means fire, but this does not seem to be the case. — [1] remmilauka randsíks ‘the forceful masts of the shield-whitefish [SWORD > WARRIORS]’: This line from 61 (partly supported by Flat) is preferable to the highly problematical line in Bb(112ra) (partly supported by 54), rann harri reins lauka. The latter line is unmetrical and also lacks the oddhending in the penultimate syllable which is usual in Rst (and dróttkvætt generally), although that is also true of l. 3; cf. M. Kristensen (1928, 276). Further, the line apparently only makes sense when construed as part of Harri, rógsvellir, bað fella stœrri lauka aska Rán-reins ‘The ruler, strife-sweller [WARRIOR], ordered the larger masts of the ash-trees of the land of Rán <goddess> [SEA > SHIPS > MEN] to be killed’, but ‘larger masts’ is unexpected, the kenning Rán-rein ‘land of Rán [SEA]’ only works with tmesis, and the general meaning of the stanza is not consonant with the prose context. In contrast the line from 61 is satisfactory both on metrical and contextual grounds. — [2, 3] fella stœrri aska ‘to make larger ash-timbers fall’: The stanza presents Eiríkr jarl’s order to fella stœrri aska as the decisive action that enables him to conquer Ormr inn langi, but the sense of this is elusive. Fella, the causative verb from falla ‘fall’, means ‘to make fall’ and its specific meaning here depends on the interpretation of aska. Stœrri ‘larger’ is grammatically comp., but the point of the comparison remains unclear, unless it simply means ‘larger than normal’. What is meant by aska is also obscure. The word askr means ‘ash-tree, ash-timber’ and therefore objects made of ash, or the objects themselves, whether of ash or not: spear-shafts (hence spears) or ships (LP: 1. askr), though the use of askr as a nautical term is surprisingly rare, especially given that OE æsc is used of viking ships (Jesch 2001a, 135). Askr ‘(ash-)tree’ is also used as a base-word in man-kennings (Meissner 267; LP: askr). The prose context (see Context above) understands Eiríkr’s strategy as the hurling of timbers onto Ormr inn langi. Kock (NN §3121), however, doubting that Eiríkr could have brought timber from Norway for this purpose, suggests that ships are meant, and that fella á (ll. 2, 4) means ‘fall upon, attack’. Further possibilities assuming that the prose is based on a misunderstanding are that aska simply means ‘spears’, or that aska belongs to a man-kenning, and that Eiríkr’s order is simply to kill the opposition. The difficulty here is that there is no convincing determinant for such a kenning, unless it was originally styrjar ‘of battle’, which, because it echoes styr earlier in the line, was altered in the course of transmission to the problematic stœrri. — [3] þreifsk : aska: It is necessary to assume either that this pair forms an inexact skothending, or that the skothending is provided by styrr : stœrri, although in that case the placing of the second rhyming syllable is abnormal. — [4] strangr ‘tough’: The adj. is taken here with rógsvellir ‘strife-sweller’ [WARRIOR]’. It could alternatively qualify styrr ‘battle’ (l. 3, so Skj B and Skald), which makes the intercalary clause less terse and compact. — [4] Orm inn langa ‘Ormr inn langi (“the Long Serpent”)’: Óláfr’s famous longship; see Notes to sts 18/2 and 19/4. — [7] oflinn ‘the mighty snake’: Another reference to Ormr inn langi; cf. l. 4 and Note to st. 18/2. This seems the most likely interpretation of the mss, although none has precisely this reading and the word occurs nowhere else. — [8]: For this line of the refrain, see Note to st. 9/8.


  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. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  6. 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.
  7. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  8. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  9. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  10. Wisén, Theodor, ed. 1886-9. Carmina Norrœnæ: Ex reliquiis vetustioris norrœnæ poësis selecta, recognita, commentariis et glossario instructa. 2 vols. Lund: Ohlsson.
  11. Finnur Jónsson. 1893b. Carmina Norrœna: Rettet Tekst. Copenhagen: Nielsen & Lydiche.
  12. 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.
  13. Konráð Gíslason. 1895-7. Efterladte skrifter. 2 vols. I: Forelæsninger over oldnordiske skjaldekvad. II: Forelæsninger og videnskablige afhandlinger. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  14. ÓT 1958-2000 = Ólafur Halldórsson, ed. 1958-2000. Saga Óláfs Tryggvasonar en mesta. 3 vols. EA A 1-3. Copenhagen: Munksgaard (Reitzel).
  15. SHI = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1828-46. Scripta historica islandorum de rebus gestis veterum borealium, latine reddita et apparatu critico instructa, curante Societate regia antiquariorum septentrionalium. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp etc. and London: John & Arthur Arch.
  16. Kristensen, Marius. 1928. ‘Tvískelft-Skjálfhenda’. In Brøndum-Nielsen et al. 1928, 274-82.
  17. Internal references
  18. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Fiska heiti 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 853.
  19. Rolf Stavnem 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Hallar-Steinn, Rekstefja’ 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. 893.

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