Skaldic poetry

In the 1990s I undertook an analysis of Skaldic stanzas in the body of King sagas and contemporary Sagas. Usually, it is maintained that Skaldic stanzas are authentic or at least considerably older than the prosaic narratives they are inserted in,  if prosaic comments to a stanza or a block of stanzes is inadequate and points to some anachronisms. A major problem is just that not only medieval narrators, but also modern commentators who see some anachronisms in a saga text, often overlook substantial motifs both in skaldic poetry and in prosaic saga narratives.

One of the most interesting issues is the mechanism of transmitting oral skaldic stanzas: some scholars believe they were memorized together with prosaic comments, while other scholars insist that they could be memorized independently from Saga-like narratives. My 1997 paper  published in the proceedings of the Saga Conference in Trondheim (1997) is addressed a situations, where one and the same motif gets a different treatment in the skaldic tradition and in historical saga-writing. At least one part of comtemporary listeners still could keep these lines apart in the beginning of the XIIIth century.  The majority of modern scholars cannot.


The main character of the Fóstbræðra saga, Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld (d. 1030) allegedly recited a presumably Eddic (in any case, not skaldic poem) called Bjarkamál it fórna. This text and the situation are analyzed in my Russian paper published in Atlantica, vol. 3 (1997: Древние речи Бьярки: Опыт толкования,   3-22).

Skaldic poetry and the basic skaldic metres have been widely quoted as an example of a poetic tradition not influenced by the medieval Latin poetry and Latin metre. I am expressing my scepticism against this idea and am attempting to trace the sources of metric innovations by the Skalds and to locate them outside Old Nordic culture. A paper of mine Порядок. метр, прием (“Order, Metre, Device”) was published in the 2003 volume of the series ‘Logical Analysis’, Nina D. Arutyunova (ed.), Moscow, 2003, 621-634.

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