Whaley, Diana. Representations of Skalds in the Sagas 1: Social and Professional Relations

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  • Author: Whaley, Diana
  • Title: Representations of Skalds in the Sagas 1: Social and Professional Relations
  • Published in: Skaldsagas. Text, Vocation and Desire in the Icelandic Sagas of Poets
  • Editor: Russell Poole
  • Place, Publisher: Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter
  • Year: 2001
  • Pages: 285-308
  • E-text:
  • Reference: Whaley, Diana. "Representations of Skalds in the Sagas 1: Social and Professional Relations." Skaldsagas. Text, Vocation and Desire in the Icelandic Sagas of Poets, pp. 285–308. Ed. Russell Poole. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2001.

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Whaley's focus is primarily on “the skald’s lives as imaginatively reconstructed in the sagas, rather than with historical actuality, and… remain[s] agnostic as to the authenticity or otherwise of the verses attributed to the skald’s in these sagas” (286). Whaley’s references include Gunnlaugs saga, Fóstbroeðra saga, Barnard saga, Kormáks saga, Hallfreðar saga, and Egils saga (often presented as a unique outlier in the group). Whaley’s argument begins with the ‘Troublesome Poets’, which references the hot-headedness, violence, and libido of the various skalds in the Skald sagas, as well as the importance of a young adult’s journey abroad (287-289). Following, ‘Skalds at Court’ concerns the literary representation of the young skald’s experience travelling abroad, and the use of his craft in the sagas’ royal courts. The third section, ‘The Return Home’, briefly sums up palpable growth in skald protagonists upon their respective return trips to Iceland, and presents the variety of results. The final section is titled, ‘Court Poetry in the Skald Sagas’; Whaley discusses potential reasons for the narrator’s omission of most court poetry from the sagas. She argues that it was to keep attention on the protagonist, and off of the praise of the king; Whaley argues, “If court poetry is rarely quoted that might be because its association with narratives of a more serious historical intent would raise the wrong kind of generic expectations, rather as footnotes would in a historical novel” (303). The conclusion of Whaley’s work summarizes many of the aforementioned arguments. She ends by presenting a series of unanswered questions focusing specifically on the views of the saga-writers’ contemporaries (307-308).


Texta vantar

See also


Chapter 40: fór hann utan með honum um sumarið: "Meanwhile a trip overseas can, if things go well, give a restless character the space he needs, away from the simmering troubles of a close neighborhood…. Egill goes abroad after an ugly killing by his father provokes him to retaliate against Skalla-Grímr’s much favoured steward. His brother Þórólfr’s agreement to take him is only secured by some spiteful manipulation, and in defiance of Þórólfr’s comment on the unwisdom of someone of such uncontrollable temperament venturing abroad." (p. 289)

Chapter 55: borið: "In an absurd exaggeration of the importance of these foreign farmers’ sons, they are held in the highest regard by the king and placed in command of the first two cohorts in the vanguard at Vínheiðr (ch.. 54). Permanent honours are similarly offered to Egill in ch. 62. The compensation for Þórólf’s death in battle is equally overdone: two chests of silver (ch. 55). It is therefore fitting that the surest example of ‘straight’ praise from Egill’s lips seems to be a poem about the English king, of which a specimen is quoted in ch. 55. It is said to bring a reward of two rings, each worth a mark, together with a cloak which the king himself had worn." (p. 298)


  • Written by: Benjamin S. C. Sibley
  • Icelandic/English translation:
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