Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa 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. 651.
Ok Ellu bak,
at, lét, hinns sat,
Ok Ívarr, hinns sat at Jórvík, lét bak Ellu skorit ara.
‘And Ívarr, who resided at York, had Ælla’s back cut with an eagle. ’
The helmingr is quoted to illustrate the manner in which Ívarr inn beinlausi ‘the Boneless’ and his brothers put to death King Ælla of Northumbria, killer of their father Ragnarr loðbrók ‘Shaggy-breeches’; see further Notes below.
On ms. 147, see Introduction. The stanza is not preserved at the corresponding point in the main ms. of Ragn, NKS 1824 b 4° (Ragn 1906-8, 167-8). — In both sources, the stanza is introduced, Svá segir Sigvatr skáld í Knútsdrápu ‘As Sigvatr the poet says in Knútsdrápa’; the introduction to st. 2 in ÓH-Hkr and Knýtl is identical, and for st. 3, ÓH-Hkr refer to the drápa that Sigvatr composed about Knútr’s expedition. — This stanza has been central in the controversy as to whether the Vikings genuinely did practise the rite of the ‘blood-eagle’ on their victims, or whether this is a misconception and elaboration by later saga authors and scholars. The author of RagnSon intepreted the stanza as follows (FSGJ I, 298): Létu þeir nú rista örn á baki Ellu ok skera síðan rifin öll frá hrygginum með sverði, svá at þar váru lungun út dregin ‘They now had an eagle carved on the back of Ælla and afterwards had all the ribs cut from the backbone with a sword, so that the lungs were pulled out there’. However, Frank (1984a) argued that the stanza simply means that Ívarr provided Ælla’s body as carrion, able to be torn by the eagle as one of the ‘beasts of battle’. For responses and re-statements see Bjarni Einarsson (1986), Frank (1988), Bjarni Einarsson (1990) and Frank (1990b); clearly a central point is whether skera ‘cut’ (here p. p. skorit) can be used of the action of a bird, or must refer to a weapon. For earlier historians’ views see Smyth (1977, 189-94) and Wormald (1982, 140). McTurk (1994), by contrast, argues that ari here is a heiti for ‘sword’ and does not refer to an eagle at all.
Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.
Ok ellv bak at let hin | er sat ivaʀ ara iorvik skorið
Ok Ella bak,
at, lét, hinns sat,
í Jórvík, skorit.
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