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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson (TorfE)

9th century; volume 1; ed. Russell Poole;

Lausavísur (Lv) - 5

Skj info: Torf-Einarr jarl, Jarl på Orknøerne; omkr. 900. (AI, 31-32, BI, 27-28).

Skj poems:

Einarr jarl Rǫgnvaldsson (TorfE) ruled over the Orkneys at some time in the early tenth century. Our knowledge of him derives largely from Orkn, Fsk, and HHárf in Hkr; the relevant part of ÓT essentially derives from Hkr. All three principal compilations incorporate lausavísur ascribed to Einarr which are printed below as his five lausavísur. Additionally, Orkn and Hkr give a brief account of his life and of the events that the lausavísur relate to. Parts of the story are also told in Ldn (ÍF 1, 314, 316) but without the lausavísur (Mundal 1993, 248). His more familiar name, Torf-Einarr ‘Turf-Einarr’, is explained as due to his adoption of peat as a fuel in Orkney (ÍF 34, 11; ÍF 26, 129).

Einarr was a son of Rǫgnvaldr Mœrajarl ‘Jarl of Møre’, his mother being a concubine (see Note to Lv 1 [All] on Rǫgnvaldr’s sons). When King Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ awarded Rǫgnvaldr the rule of Orkney and Shetland in compensation for the killing of his son Ívarr, Rǫgnvaldr initially delegated it to his brother Sigurðr, then to Sigurðr’s son Guttormr, and after their deaths to his own son Hallaðr. Only after Hallaðr failed in the task did Rǫgnvaldr grudgingly assent to Einarr’s offer to take it on (ÍF 34, 10-11). Torf-Einarr established himself as lord of the islands, having first defeated two viking leaders; see Anon (Hhárf). The killing of Rǫgnvaldr, possibly at Haraldr’s instigation, precipitated the vengeance on Einarr’s part recounted in the lausavísur.

Lausavísur — TorfE LvI

Russell Poole 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson, Lausavísur’ 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. 129.

 1   2   3   4   5 

Skj: Torf-Einarr jarl: Lausavísur (AI, 31-2, BI, 27-8); stanzas (if different): 2 | 4 | 5

SkP info: I, 131

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — TorfE Lv 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson, Lausavísur 1’ 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. 131.

Sékat Hrolfs ór hendi
Hrollaugi fljúga
dǫrr á dolga mengi;
dugir oss fǫður hefna.
En í kveld, meðan knýjum,
of kerstraumi, rómu,
þegjandi sitr þetta
Þórir jarl á Mœri.


I do not see spears flying from Hrólfr’s hand nor from Hrollaugr’s in the throng of enemies; it is right for us to avenge our father. Yet this evening, while we [I] press our [my] attack, Þórir jarl ignores this in silence over {his cup-stream} [DRINK] in Møre.

context: Orkn tells that as the sons of Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ come of age they attack the king’s jarls, killing some and driving others from their lands. Among their victims is Rǫgnvaldr Mœrajarl, who is killed by two of Haraldr’s sons by Snæfríðr: Hálfdan háleggr ‘Long-legged’ and Guðrøðr ljómi ‘Beam of light’ (cf. ÍF 26, 126). Haraldr expresses fury at the jarl’s death, restores Rǫgnvaldr’s title of jarl and hereditary lands in Mœrr (Møre) and Raumsdalr (Romsdalen) to his son and successor Þórir, and pursues his own sons. Hálfdan flees to the Orkneys, causing terror among the inhabitants. Torf-Einarr retreats from Orkney to Scotland but returns later the same year to win a victory against Hálfdan, who subsequently escapes, whereupon Torf-Einarr speaks Lv 1. Hkr describes the battle against Hálfdan, which culminates in his escape and later capture. It is stated that Torf-Einarr had spoken Lv 1 the evening before the battle. In Fsk the stanzas are appended to a passage about William the Conqueror and his descent from Gǫngu-Hrólfr. It is explained that Hrólfr was the son of Rǫgnvaldr Mœrajarl and brother of Þórir jarl þegjandi ‘the Silent’ and of Torf-Einarr of the Orkneys, and that there was another brother, Hrollaugr, as Torf-Einarr said when he had killed Hálfdan háleggr to avenge his killing of Torf-Einarr’s father. Lv 1, 4 and 3 are then cited without interruption.

notes: The lausavísa complains of the failure of Torf-Einarr’s brothers Hrólfr, Þórir, and Hrollaugr to join him in avenging their father. The narrative is pres.-tense, suggestive of impromptu verse-making in the thick of the action. In Hkr the stanza is interpreted instead as a prediction of future events. Prose traditions about the sons of Rǫgnvaldr Mœrajarl are not unanimous, and no doubt include semi-legendary material (cf. Mundal 1993, 248-51). Fsk (Context above) seems to know nothing more about them, while Orkn (ÍF 34, 7) and Hkr (ÍF 26, 123) represent Rǫgnvaldr as having Hallaðr, Hrollaugr and Einarr by a concubine and Hrólfr and Þórir by his wife (Ragnhildr in Orkn, Hildr in Hkr); Orkn names Ívarr as another legitimate son. The lausavísa makes no distinction between legitimate and illegitimate sons.

texts: Flat 235, Fsk 244, HHárf 21 (I 53), Orkn 2, Hkr 63 (I 53)

editions: Skj Torf-Einarr jarl: Lausavísur 1 (AI, 31; BI, 27-8);

Skald I, 17, NN §§2411, 2985G; ÍF 26, 131-2 (HHárf ch. 30), F 1871, 55; Orkn 1913-16, 11, ÍF 34, 12 (ch. 8), Flat 1860-8, I, 223; Fsk 1902-3, 296-7 (ch. 64), ÍF 29, 291-2 (ch. 74); von See 1960, 34.


AM 35 folx (Kx) 70r, 19 - 70r, 26 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 45 fol (F) 12rb, 13 - 12rb, 16 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  image  image  image  
AM 37 folx (J1x) 40r, 19 - 40r, 22 (Hkr)  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 40r, 8 - 40r, 15 (Hkr)  image  
AM 332 4°x (332x) 11, 2 - 11, 9 (Orkn)  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 29va, 46 - 29va, 47 (Orkn)  image  image  image  
AM 303 4°x (FskAx) 313, 14 - 313, 21 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 301 4°x (301x) 116r, 2 - 116r, 5 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 761 b 4°x (761bx) 395r - 395r (Lv)  image  
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