Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Guthormr sindri (Gsind)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Russell Poole;

Skj info: Goþþormr sindri, Norsk. Det 10. årh. (AI, 61-63, BI, 55-56).

Skj poems:

Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 273) lists Guthormr (Gsind) among the skalds serving the following kings: Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’; Hálfdan svarti ‘the Black’ Haraldsson (no other skalds listed; omitted in the U text of Skáldatal); and Hákon góði ‘the Good’. Of the poems he may have composed for these rulers, only eight stanzas are extant, all apparently from Hákonardrápa (Hákdr).

Little is otherwise known about Guthormr’s identity, life and career. His place of origin is unknown, but Icelandic birth is hardly likely at this early date, and the name was always much commoner in Norway than in Iceland (Lind 1905-15, 397); equally unknown are his patronymic or matronymic. On the basis of internal evidence in Hákdr, he must have survived the battle at Rastarkálfr on the island of Fræði (Frei) c. 955; he is not mentioned after the death of King Hákon (c. 961), by which time, if he indeed composed for Haraldr hárfagri, he would have been an old man. The sole anecdote about Guthormr, transmitted in Hkr (HHárf, ÍF 26, 141-2) and ÓT (1958-2000, I, 12-13), tells that he was a good skald and a member of the following of Hálfdan svarti. He had earlier been in the entourage of Hálfdan’s father Haraldr hárfagri, was a friend of both men, and had composed a poem about each of them, for which he declined any reward, asking instead that the two men grant a special request from him on some future occasion. When Haraldr and Hálfdan subsequently fell out, his request was that they reconcile with one another, which they did. Credence is lent to this story by the Sendibítr of Jórunn skáldmær (Jór Send), which makes allusion to Guthormr and his stratagem with evident approval, though the details remain obscure (Kreutzer 1972; Jesch 1987, 6-10).

The spelling of the skald’s given name varies (Lind 1905-15, 397) and it is often abbreviated in references to him. The variation may reflect dual origins, in compounds of goð ‘god’ with either þormr ‘protector’ or ormr ‘snake’; alternatively the ‑ormr variant may derive from ‑þormr (AEW: Guðþormr). The name is mentioned in Jór Send 5/3 (see below) but the internal rhyming there provides no means of determining whether the first syllable terminated in ‑t or ‑ð. The standard spelling for the name when used in reference to this individual in the kings’ sagas was apparently Guthormr (Finnur Jónsson, LH I, 442), and that has been adopted in this edition. His nickname is vouched for in Jór Send 4/8. It may mean ‘Spark’ but its exact significance remains unclear. The name Sindri appears in SnE ms. R (added in a later hand) in reference to a dwarf craftsman (SnE 1998, I, 141) and is etymologically related to sindr n. ‘slag, dross’ (CVC: sindr; cf. LH I, 442 n. 4) and sindra ‘to sparkle’ (Lind 1920-1, 308). The nickname may therefore relate to smithing and crafts, perhaps meaning ‘metal-worker’, though the sense ‘shining’ is also possible, given that a mythical hall made of gold is said to be either owned by Sindri’s kin (Vsp 37/3-4) or named Sindri (SnE 2005, 53).

 Hákonardrápa   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 

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