Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Magnfl 9II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Magnússflokkr 9’ 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, pp. 74-5.

Þjóðólfr ArnórssonMagnússflokkr

Skotit frák skeptiflettum
skjótt ok mǫrgu spjóti,
— brôð fekk hrafn — þars hôðum
hjaldr, á breiða skjǫldu.
Neyttu mest sem môttu
menn at vápna sennu,
baugs en barðir lôgu
bǫrvar, grjóts ok ǫrva.

Frák skeptiflettum ok mǫrgu spjóti skotit skjótt á breiða skjǫldu, þars hôðum hjaldr; hrafn fekk brôð. Menn neyttu, sem môttu mest, grjóts ok ǫrva {at sennu vápna}, en {bǫrvar baugs} lôgu barðir.

I have learned that shafted javelins and many a spear were shot swiftly onto broad shields, where we joined battle; the raven got meat. Men made the best use they could of stones and arrows {in the slander-match of weapons} [BATTLE], and {trees of the ring} [MEN] lay beaten down.

Mss: (513v), papp18ˣ(219v), 39(17ra), F(40va), E(8r), J2ˣ(251v) (Hkr); H(11r), Hr(10rb) (H-Hr)

Readings: [1] frák (‘fra ec’): sá ek E, J2ˣ;    skeptiflettum: flettiskeftum J2ˣ    [2] mǫrgu spjóti: mǫrgum spjótum H, Hr    [3] þars (‘þar er’): þar Hr    [4] breiða skjǫldu: breiðum skjaldi H, Hr    [5] mest: mjǫg F, næst Hr    [6] vápna: hjǫrva F;    sennu: spennu Hr

Editions: Skj AI, 363, Skj BI, 334, Skald I, 169; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 54, IV, 196, ÍF 28, 48-9, Hkr 1991, 588 (Mgóð ch. 30), F 1871, 185, E 1916, 27; Fms 6, 77 (Mgóð ch. 38), Fms 12, 134.

Context: In the battle of Århus (Áróss), only the men in the stems (prow and stern) can fight by contact, while those further aft use axes, spears, stones and (from aft of the sail) arrows.

Notes: [1] skeptiflettum ‘shafted javelins’: This word, unique to this context, seems to be equivalent to flettiskepta (the reading of J2ˣ), and to refer to throwing-weapons with shafts (skepti n. ‘shaft’), but their exact nature is disputed. The shaft may be cloven (flett sundur, ÍF 27, 379 n. 1), with the barbed head or some other attachment set in, as seemingly envisaged in Fritzner: flettiskepta and LP: skeptifletta, and in ÍF 27, 379 n. 1. Falk suggested that the head may anciently have been of stone (flint, 1914, 76-7), and cf. AEW: fletta, which derives fletta from Proto-Scandinavian *flinta-. CVC on the other hand prints skeptiflétta and associates the second element with the verb flétta ‘braid’ and flétta f. ‘braid, string’, suggesting ‘a kind of shaft with a cord’. — [3] hôðum ‘we joined’: This is textually unproblematic, except that there is no other reference in the poem to Þjóðólfr’s presence at this battle, and frák ‘I have learned’ (l. 1) might be taken to imply that he was not present. Perhaps the thought is of ‘us, our side’; cf. st. 12/5. — [7, 8] bǫrvar baugs ‘trees of the ring [MEN]’: Baugr probably refers to arm- or neck-rings, which commonly qualify words referring to trees in order to form man-kennings. Baugr can also refer to rings painted on shields, and hence shields themselves, which would be fitting in this military context, but the examples of this are late according to LP. Bǫrr ‘tree’ may refer specifically to conifers, but this is not certain (ONP).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  5. 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.
  6. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  7. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  8. ONP = Degnbol, Helle et al., eds. 1989-. A Dictionary of Old Norse Prose / Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog. 1-. Copenhagen: The Arnamagnæan Commission.
  9. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  10. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  11. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  12. F 1871 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1871. Fríssbók: Codex Frisianus. En samling af norske konge-sagaer. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  13. E 1916 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1916. Eirspennill: AM 47 fol. Nóregs konunga sǫgur: Magnús góði – Hákon gamli. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske historiske kildeskriftskommission.

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