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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035

3.2. Sagas relating to Denmark and Orkney to c. 1035

1. Knýtlinga saga (Knýtl)
2. Orkneyinga saga (Orkn)

(Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 > 8. Volume Introduction > 3. Sources for skaldic poetry cited in the kings’ sagas: manuscripts, facsimiles and editions > 3.2. Sagas relating to Denmark and Orkney to c. 1035 > 2. Orkneyinga saga (Orkn))

2. Orkneyinga saga (Orkn)

Stemma (from ÍF 34, cxxvi; Whaley 1998, 18)


*Cod. Ac.: Codex Academicus (Icelandic, c. 1250-1300). Vellum ms. that burned in the Copenhagen fire of 1728, but previously had been used for:

a) 332ˣ: AM 332 4°ˣ (c. 1700, in the hand of Ásgeir Jónsson). Copy of *Cod. Ac.

b) 48ˣmarg: AM 48 folˣ, marginalia (end C17th, in the hand of Ásgeir Jónsson). Copy of parts of Flat. The main text has no independent value but the marginal additions and corrections preserve readings from *Cod. Ac.

325I:    AM 325 I 4° (c. 1300).

Flat:      Flateyjarbók, GKS 1005 fol (Icelandic, mainly c. 1387-95). See separate entry.

325III α: AM 325 III α 4° (Icelandic, c. 1300-50). Two vellum leaves.

R702ˣUppsUB R 702ˣ (hand of Magnús Ólafsson (1573-1636)). A collection of stanzas from various sources, including Orkn, with contexts and comments.

762ˣ:    AM 762 4°ˣ. A selection by Magnús Ólafsson from the stanzas in R702ˣ. Used in Skj A, but has no independent value.

SLR:     Worm 1650. Specimen Lexici Runici. A glossary of words and phrases, including over one hundred from Orkn, largely the work of Magnús Ólafsson but published by Ole Worm. The orthography of the mss is not reproduced.

325III β: AM 325 III β 4° (Icelandic, c. 1300). One leaf.

Facsimile and editions: Flat 1930; Orkn 1887, Orkn 1913-16, ÍF 34, Bibire 1988.

The saga, known to medieval scribes as Jarla saga ‘Saga of the (Orkney) jarls’, encompasses disparate materials spanning over three centuries from mythical times to c. 1171. It appears to have been compiled c. 1200, and hence is one of the earlier kings’ sagas, though the extant version is dated to c. 1230. The author is anonymous, likely an Icelander but one familiar with the topography and traditions of Orkney.


The early part of Orkn contains little skaldic poetry, and only TorfE Lv 1-5, Ótt Hfl 20 and BjHall Kálffl 8 are edited in this volume; all of these are also preserved elsewhere. Seventy-four further stanzas in Orkn pertaining to events after c. 1035 are edited in SkP II (see p. lxxvi).

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