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Jarl Sigvaldi and the battle of Svoldr in saga tradition

Jakub Morawiec

Abstract


The battle of Svoldr is one of the most outstanding moments
in saga tradition, which preserves memory about Viking Age
Scandinavia. The fame of the battle was strictly connected with particular
personas involved in the conflict, among them the Norwegian king
Óláfr Tryggvason played the most significant role. The battle itself and its
circumstances proved that Óláfr was a great, warlike, valiant and at the
same time deeply Christian to do monarch, whose death was compared to martyrdom. The saga authors, thoroughly describing all events connected with the battle of Svoldr, included also Sigvaldi, the jarl of Jomsborg, in their narratives. According to most accounts, the jarl was member of coalition, Óláfr Tryggvason’s enemies, who planned to trap the Norwegian king, depriving him of life and power. Sigvaldi’s role was to pretend Óláfr’s friend and ally and lead him from Vindland, where he stayed, directly into trap. The saga authors created their narratives about Sigvaldi and his role in the events of
the year 1000, quoting particular skaldic stanzas, which were used to corroborate their prose accounts. The analysis of these verses leads to conclusion that the saga authors felt completely free in using them, differently and very often mistakenly understanding their content. Particular stanzas, quoted in the saga narratives, analysed once more, seem in fact to refer to completely different persons and/or events, having nothing in common with either Sigvaldi or Óláfr Tryggvason’s last battle.


Keywords


sagas; skaldic poetry; prosi metrum; Sigvaldi

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References


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