Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Sverris saga (Sv)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
Stemma (adapted from ÍF 30, xlv)
327: AM 327 4° (Icelandic, with Norwegian inﬂuence on orthography and morphology, c. 1300). 92 leaves.
304ˣ: AM 304 4°ˣ. See Hák. Sv: 182r-251r.
325VIII 4 a: AM 325 VIII 4 a 4° (two-leaf fragment, c. 1300-25).
Parts of Sv are also preserved in 42ˣ (see Hkr), AM 325VIII 3 a-c 4°, AM 325VIII 3 d 4° (Jöfraskinna; see Hkr), AM 325 VIII 4 b-c 4°, AM 325 X 4° and NRA 54, but these mss and fragments contain no poetry. For a full list of later paper mss, see ÍF 30, 314‑15.
Sv describes the life of Sverrir Sigurðarson (see ‘Royal Biographies’ below). The ﬁrst ﬁve chapters deal brieﬂy with events that took place prior to Sverrir’s arrival in Norway in 1176, and the saga ends with his death on 9 March 1202 (ch. 182). According to the preface of Sv, the ﬁrst part of the saga (called Grýla ‘troll-woman’) was written by the Icelander Karl Jónsson, abbot of Þingeyrar monastery (1169-81 and c. 1189-1207; d. 1212 or 1213). Karl spent the years 1185-8 in Norway, and the preface states that Sverrir commissioned the saga and dictated the ﬁrst part of the saga to him (ÍF 30, 3): ok er þat upphaf bókarinnar er ritat er eftir þeiri bók er fyrst ritaði Karl ábóti Jónsson, en yﬁr sat sjálfr Sverrir konungr ok réð fyrir hvat rita skyldi ‘and that is the beginning of the book which is copied from that book which Abbot Karl Jónsson was the ﬁrst to write, but King Sverrir himself supervised it and decided what should be written’. There has been considerable scholarly debate as to how far Grýla extended—up to chapter 43 (including the battle of Kalvskinnet in 1179 and the death of Erlingr skakki) or up to chapter 100 (including the battle of Fimreite in 1184 and the death of Magnús Erlingsson). For an overview of the controversy, see Þorleifur Hauksson in ÍF 30, liii-lx; see also Indrebø in Sv 1920, li-lxxvii. Because of the statement in the preface to the effect that Karl Jónsson was the author of the ﬁrst part of the saga (Grýla), scholars also disagree on whether the last part of Sv was the work of Karl or of another author (see ÍF 30, lx-lxiv; Sv 1920, lxxvii). If the entire Sv was authored by Karl, the saga must have been completed prior to 1212 or 1213.
Sv contains seventeen stanzas (Anon (Sv) 1-6; HSn Lv 1-2; BjKálf Lv 1; Nefari Lv 1; Blakkr Breiðdr 1-2; Blakkr Lv 1-2; Máni Lv 1-3) plus three lines in ljóðaháttr metre from the eddic poem Fáfnismál (Fáfn 6/4-6; NK 181), which have not been included in SkP II. The ﬁrst stanza is recorded in chapter 44 and the last in chapter 161, spanning the years 1180-1200. It is characteristic of the stanzas in Sv that, unlike the poetry in the earlier kings’ sagas, they are not used for historical documentation. Rather, most of them are lausavísur, and they are incorporated into the text as immediate comments on or reactions to an event, or inserted into Sverrir’s speeches for rhetorical purposes (see Anon (Sv) 2-3, 6 and the lines from Fáfn). Even the two stanzas of Blakkr’s Breiðdr lack the features that distinguish encomia, and they serve to highlight the poet’s contempt for the royal pretender Þorleifr breiðskeggr ‘Broad-beard’. According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 255, 257, 264, 266, 277-8, 281), both Sverrir and his adversaries were eulogised by a number of skalds, but no stanzas from their praise poetry have been incorporated into the prose of Sv. It is clear that the author (or authors) of Sv, who based his (or their) version of the events on eyewitness accounts, deemed it unnecessary to support the narrative with poetic material. Only one stanza (Anon (Sv) 1), the ﬁrst stanza in the saga, is used to document the contingents of warriors who accompanied Magnús Erlingsson on his journey to Trondheim in 1180.