Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

Menu Search

Sigv Knútdr 1I

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.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonKnútsdrápa

text and translation

Ok Ellu bak,
at, lét, hinns sat,
Ívarr ara,
Jórvík, skorit.

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.

notes and context

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.

editions and texts

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 10. Knútsdrápa 1: AI, 248, BI, 232, Skald I, 120, NN §3224; Hb 1892-6, 464, FSGJ I, 298 (RagnSon); Ragn 1906-8, 193.


Log in

This service is only available to members of the relevant projects, and to purchasers of the skaldic volumes published by Brepols.
This service uses cookies. By logging in you agree to the use of cookies on your browser.


Stanza/chapter/text segment

Use the buttons at the top of the page to navigate between stanzas in a poem.

Information tab

Interactive tab

The text and translation are given here, with buttons to toggle whether the text is shown in the verse order or prose word order. Clicking on indiviudal words gives dictionary links, variant readings, kennings and notes, where relevant.

Full text tab

This is the text of the edition in a similar format to how the edition appears in the printed volumes.

Chapter/text segment

This view is also used for chapters and other text segments. Not all the headings shown are relevant to such sections.