Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þjóð Yt 9I

Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, Ynglingatal 9’ 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. 22.

Þjóðólfr ór HviniYnglingatal

Þat telk undr,
ef Agna her
Skjalfar rôð
at skǫpum þóttu,
þás gœðing
með gollmeni
Loga dís
at lopti hóf,
hinns við †tꜹr†
temja skyldi
svalan hest
Signýjar vers.

Þat telk undr, ef rôð Skjalfar þóttu her Agna at skǫpum, þás {dís Loga} hóf gœðing at lopti með gollmeni, hinns skyldi temja {svalan hest {vers Signýjar}} við †tꜹr†.

I call it a wonder if Skjǫlf’s plans seemed to the liking of Agni’s troop when {the sister of Logi} [= Skjǫlf] heaved the prince aloft with the gold neck-ring, the one who had to tame {the cool horse {of the lover of Signý}} [= Hagbarðr > GALLOWS] near …

Mss: (21r-v), papp18ˣ(6r), 521ˣ(21-22), F(3vb), J2ˣ(11r-v), R685ˣ(12v) (Hkr); 761aˣ(57r-v)

Readings: [1] telk (‘tel ec’): tel papp18ˣ, J2ˣ, R685ˣ    [2] ef: er J2ˣ, R685ˣ    [5] gœðing: ‘gædinn’ F, ‘giǫðing’ J2ˣ, R685ˣ    [7] Loga: ‘lolka’ J2ˣ, R685ˣ    [9] tꜹr: ‘taur’ 521ˣ, R685ˣ, 761aˣ    [10] temja: tæma R685ˣ    [12] Signýjar: ‘sig(m)ar’(?) F, Sigynjar J2ˣ, R685ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 9, Skj BI, 9, Skald I, 5, NN §1012; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 36, IV, 10-11, ÍF 26, 38-9, Hkr 1991, I, 21-2 (Yng ch. 19), F 1871, 14; Yng 1912, 25, 60, Yng 2000, 26; Yt 1914, 5, Yt 1925, 200, 225-8.

Context: King Agni, son of Dagr, conquers Finnland (the land of the Saami). King Frosti (‘Frost’) falls in battle, and Agni takes his daughter Skjálf and son Logi captive. On the return journey the king overnights in Stokksund and lies in his tent after a great feast. Skjálf has persuaded him to protect his gold neck-ring, a precious inheritance, by wearing it even when he sleeps. Skjálf and her men fasten a rope to this gold neck-ring and hang the king from a tree behind his tent. The king’s body is cremated in Stokksund at a place afterwards called Agnafit (see ÍF 26, 38 n. on the uncertain location of these).

Notes: [2] Agna ‘Agni’s’: The pers. name Agni is in ONorw. and OIcel. only attested as the Yngling king’s name, but in OSwed. it is found in two runic inscriptions from Uppland (Peterson 2007, 17). In Yt, Agni is first in the series of Swedish Yngling kings whose names alliterate on initial vowels (see Introduction). By contrast, HN (2003, 76) makes him a son of Alrekr, who is the first in the series. The lack of reliable sources makes any certainty about Agni’s historicity impossible. Evans (1981, 105) assumes his existence to have been inferred from the p. n. Agnafit, found in Yng and in HN (2003, 76). — [3] Skjalfar ‘Skjǫlf’s’: (a) The most obvious interpretation of rôð Skjalfar, ‘the plans, decisions or actions of Skjǫlf’, would suggest that Skjǫlf (later form Skjálf) is a woman’s name, though it is otherwise only attested as a name of Freyja (Þul Ásynja 3/5III). The Yt stanza would permit the view that Skjǫlf was directly or indirectly the agent of Agni’s death, but it provides no clarity as to Skjǫlf’s identity, and the claim in Yng and in HN (2003, 76) that she was Agni’s wife cannot be proven or disproven. Numerous etymologies for the woman’s name (often associated with overall interpretations of the stanza involving myth, ritual or genealogy) have been suggested. Gade (1985b, 65-9) derives it from an Indo-European root *skel5 referring to sound or noise. Others suggest derivation from the p. n. Skjǫlf (see (b) below), perhaps as a result of a misunderstanding, or from the tribal name of the Skilfingar, which has been related to the p. n. Skjǫlf (though see Gade 1985b, 64). Noreen (1892, 215-16) suggested a starting point in the verb skjalfa ‘shiver’, hence Skjǫlf ‘the shivering one’ as a personification of the aurora borealis. (b) A p. n. is also possible, since Skjǫlf as a p. n. meaning ‘hill, rise’ (OSwed. Skialf, ONorw. Skiolf) is common in Sweden (Läffler 1894, 168-71; Brate 1913, 102-5; Björkman 1919, 170-1; and see Gade 1985b, 60-1 for a survey of the literature); the p. n. is also known in Norway (Olsen 1926, 274). — [3] rôð ‘plans’: On the assumption that Skjǫlf is a woman’s name (see Note above), rôð has been rendered as ‘deed, act’ (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; NN §1012; Strömbäck 1959, 386-92), and as ‘decision, plan’ (ÍF 26; Hkr 1991). — [4] at skǫpum ‘to the liking’: Following Kock (NN §1012), this is taken here as equivalent to e-m at skapi ‘to one’s mind, liking’. Since skǫp in the pl. normally means ‘fate’, several scholars take at skǫpum rather to mean ‘as determined by fate’ or ‘natural’ (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; Strömbäck 1959, 388-9), giving the sense that dying at the hands of his wife went against the king’s original fate. But a manipulation of preordained fate is a contradiction in terms, so this interpretation is unlikely. — [7] dís Loga ‘the sister of Logi [= Skjǫlf]’: The phrase dís Loga is problematic and highly contentious, as neither dís nor loga can be certainly defined. All agree that it must be a female being, but not all agree on whether dís Loga is identical to the Skjǫlf of l. 3. Snorri in Yng and numerous scholars following him take dís as ‘sister’, and hence understand Logi as Skjǫlf’s brother. The sense ‘sister’ is tentatively assumed here, though it is rare at best, and dís normally refers to a range of female figures, human and supernatural, either as a heiti or the base-word of a kenning (see LP: dís and Note to st. 7/5-6). How scholars interpret dís Loga therefore depends chiefly on their understanding of Logi/logi. A Logi is mentioned as a son of the king of Finnland and Kvenland in Orkn ch. 1 (ÍF 34, 3), and (with different detail) in the Þáttr Hversu Norégr byggðisk in Flat (1860-8, I, 21) and the Yng context to this stanza, though it is uncertain whether Yt’s Logi is connected with these figures. Other interpretations rest on suggested connections with logi ‘fire, flame’, lóg ‘use, using up, rations’, or an unattested *log ‘marriage’, but none is wholly convincing. — [9] við †tꜹr† ‘near …’: Snorri, in Yng, understood †tꜹr† as the p. n. Taur, the site of Agni’s hanging, and this is followed in Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B; ÍF 26; Skald. The assumption was that it referred to the peninsula between Mörköfjord, Mälaren and the Baltic, now called Södertörn. This has been disputed on orthographic grounds (Noreen 1892, 214; Yt 1925; Evans 1981, 92) but defended by Moberg (1951, 26-7) and Dillmann (2000, 45; see below). (b) A very early interpretation understood taur as ‘ring’ (Säve 1854, 23 n. 3; Eggert Ó. Brím 1895, 9; Falk 1914b, 61). Indications favouring this are taurarr ‘ringed’ (Þul Sverða 6/3III), a word for sword (cf. Yt 1925), and perhaps also taurar ‘treasure’ (KormǪ Lv 47/3V (Korm 68)). This would give the sense that Agni was hanged with the neck-ring, which is satisfactory in general terms, but the expression ‘with the neck-ring’ seems not to fit the metaphor for ‘hanging’ used in this helmingr, although the use of collars for leading horses is not uncommon. Dillmann (2000, 45) brings further arguments against the ‘neck-ring’ interpretation. He thinks a p. n. tǫr or tør possible, and Elmevik (1986, 14-17) assumes such forms as these as the basis for the Swed. p. n. Södertörn. The balance of probability therefore returns to the p. n. interpretation. — [10, 11-12] temja svalan hest vers Signýjar ‘tame the cool horse of the lover of Signý [= Hagbarðr > GALLOWS]’: The image is comparable to the widespread expression ‘ride the gallows’; cf. st. 12/5-6 and, with similar use of the verb temja ‘tame’, Eyv Hál 4/1-4; cf. also OE þæt his byre rīde giong on galgan ‘that his son should ride, young, on the gallows’ (Beowulf ll. 2445-6, Beowulf 2008, 84), and Early ModGer. ir müst den galgen raiten ‘you must ride the gallows’ (Keller 1853, 428; cf. also Amira 1922, 100). The determinant of the kenning, vers Signýjar ‘the lover of Signý’, is based on the Danish legend of Hagbarðr, who was hanged by his lover’s father. The story is known from Saxo Grammaticus (Saxo 2005, I, 7, 7, 1-17, pp. 464-77) and forms the basis for several skaldic kennings (Meissner 435).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  6. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  7. Evans, David A. H. 1981. ‘King Agni: Myth, History or Legend?’. In Dronke et al. 1981, 89-105.
  8. Gade, Kari Ellen. 1985b. ‘Skjalf’. ANF 100, 59-71.
  9. ÍF 34 = Orkneyinga saga. Ed. Finnbogi Guðmundsson. 1965.
  10. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  11. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  12. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  13. F 1871 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1871. Fríssbók: Codex Frisianus. En samling af norske konge-sagaer. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  14. Beowulf 2008 = Fulk, Robert D., Robert E. Bjork and John D. Niles, eds. 2008. Klaeber’s Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. 4th rev. edn of Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, ed. Fr. Klaeber. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press.
  15. Falk, Hjalmar. 1914b. Altnordische Waffenkunde. Videnskapsselskapets skrifter, II. Hist.-filos. kl. 1914, 6. Kristiania (Oslo): Dybwad.
  16. HN = Historia Norwegiæ. In MHN 69-124.
  17. Saxo 2005 = Friis-Jensen, Karsten, ed. 2005. Saxo Grammaticus: Gesta Danorum / Danmarkshistorien. Trans. Peter Zeeberg. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Det danske sprog- og litteraturselskab & Gads forlag.
  18. Eggert Ó. Brím. 1895. ‘Bemærkninger angående en del vers i “Noregs konungasögur” (Reykjavík 1892)’. ANF 11, 1-32.
  19. Yng 2000 = Jørgensen, Jon Gunnar, ed. 2000b. Ynglinga saga etter Kringla (AM 35 fol). Series of Dissertations submitted to the Faculty of Arts, University of Oslo 80. Oslo: Unipub forlag.
  20. Yt 1914 = Grape, Anders and Birger Nerman, eds. 1914. Ynglingatal I-IV. Meddelanden från Nordiska Seminariet 3. Uppsala: Berling.
  21. Yng 1912 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912. Ynglingasaga. Copenhagen: Gad.
  22. Yt 1925 = Noreen, Adolf, ed. 1925. Ynglingatal: Text, översättning och kommentar. Stockholm: Lagerström.
  23. Amira, Karl von. 1922. Die germanischen Todesstrafen: Untersuchungen zur Rechts- und Religionsgeschichte. Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Philologische und Historische Kl. 31.3. . München: Verlag der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
  24. Björkman, Erik. 1919. ‘Skialf och Skilfing’. NoB 7, 163-81.
  25. Brate, Erik. 1913. ‘Betydelsen av ortnamnet Skälv’. NoB 1, 102-8.
  26. Dillmann, François-Xavier. 2000. ‘Ad noen geografiske navn i Heimskringla’. In Sandnes et al. 2000, 43-54.
  27. Elmevik, Lennart. 1986. ‘Fornisl. við taur, á austanverðum Taurinum och det svenska ortnamnet Södertörn’. In Naumann 1986, 11-17.
  28. Läffler, Leopold Frederik. 1894. ‘Svänska ortnamn på skialf [skælf]’. ANF 10, 166-72.
  29. Moberg, Lennart. 1951. ‘Långtora’. NoB 39, 22-31.
  30. Noreen, Adolf. 1892. ‘Mytiska beståndsdelar i Ynglingatal’. In Uppsalastudier tillegnade Sophus Bugge på hans 60-åra födelsedag den 5 januari 1893. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 194-225.
  31. Olsen, Magnus. 1926. Ættegård og helligdom: norske stedsnavn sosialt og religionshistorisk belyst. Oslo etc. Aschehoug etc.
  32. Peterson, Lena. 2007. Nordiskt runnamnslexikon. 5th edn. Uppsala: Institutet för språk och folkminnen.
  33. Säve, Carl. 1854. Snorre Sturlesons Ynglinga-Saga öfversatt och förklarad. Uppsala: Leffler.
  34. Strömbäck, Dag. 1959. ‘Till Ynglingatal 10 och nordisk ödestro’. In Septentrionalia et Orientalia: Studia Bernhardo Karlgren a. d. III non oct anno MCMLIX dedicate. Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademiens Handlingar 91. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 386-92.
  35. Keller, Adelbert. 1853. Fastnachtspiele aus dem fünfzehnten Jahrhundert. Stuttgart: Litterarischer Verein.
  36. Internal references
  37. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Flateyjarbók (Flat)’ 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, pp. clxi-clxii.
  38. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Orkneyinga saga (Orkn)’ 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].
  39. Not published: do not cite (YngII)
  40. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Ásynja heiti 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 768.
  41. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Sverða heiti 6’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 800.
  42. Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, Ynglingatal’ 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. 3.
  43. Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Háleygjatal 4’ 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. 202.
  44. Not published: do not cite (KormǪ Lv 47V (Korm 68))
  45. Not published: do not cite ()

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