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The skalds ( Old Norse skáld or skæld "poet") were courtly poets in medieval Scandinavia , mainly in Norway and Iceland . Their art is called Skaldendichtung or Skaldik , one of the Nordic art genres alongside the sagas and Eddic poetry . The translator Franz Seewald understands the term skalds to mean everyday occasional poets.

Origin of the word

The etymology of the word is controversial: One theory connects the word with the root of "say" and has associated it with "scolding" (Old Saxon skeldári = "Schelter" or Middle High German scolding = "author of ridicule and criminal poems" ( Lit .: M. Steblin-Kamenski)), also with the Anglo-Saxon "scop" = poet (corresponding to Old High German "scof" or "scopf" ) and Icelandic "skop , skaup" = ridicule. Another theory claims a relationship to the Latin word “scatere” = gushing out , overflowing and to the Indo-European “uat” = to be inwardly excited, showing poetic enthusiasm. ( Lit .: Olsen, p. 95).


From around 800 the we know Skaldendichtung with Bragi Boddason in Norway. Later, many skalds were recruited from Iceland at the Norwegian courts . More than 300 names of skalds are known by 1200 ( lit .: Kuhn). Many skalds came from the aristocracy. Most of the skalds were men, but there were also female skalds ( skáldkonur ), e.g. B. Jórunn skáldmær and Steinunn Refsdóttir. The early skalds were said to have been inspired by divine inspiration. Bragi Boddason was even thought to be a god.

The spoken (not sung) performed skaldic poetry ( lit .: Gade, Foote) mixed pagan and Christian elements from the 10th century . Originally it was casual poetry, a spontaneous, improvised poem ( free-standing verses ( lit .: Poole)). A popular stylistic device of the skalds was the Kenningar (singular: Kenning ) called paraphrases of simple terms.

The scald poetry is considered to be the most important historical source of medieval Scandinavian history and ranks above the sagas in terms of source value. The saga authors were already well aware of this source value and cited it as evidence for their presentation. Snorri Sturluson justifies this in his preface to Heimskringla :

“… Other things are recorded according to old skaldic poems or sagas [meaning genealogical poems like Ynglingatal ], with which people passed the time. Although we do not know exactly what is true about it, we do know for sure that knowledgeable men from ancient times believed this tradition to be true. "

and at the end:

“When King Harald Fairhair became sole ruler in Norway, Iceland was settled. The king had skalds whose poems and epics about the later kings of Norway are still known by heart. We attach great importance to what is recited in these poems recited before the chiefs themselves or their sons, and we believe everything that is found in these poems about their campaigns and battles to be true. If it was also the skaldic way of giving special praise to the men before whom they stood while they were reciting their poem, hardly any of them would have dared to tell deeds of this ruler, to all who heard them, too the ruler himself, as an obvious fantasy or lie. That would not have been a price, but rather a mockery. "

So the problem with the dial seal is not the tendency to praise, but that the material is very small.

Insofar as the sagas have processed the skaldic poetry, there is also the fact that these transferred their own realities of life and thoughts about kingship in the 12th and 13th centuries to the conditions described by the skalds and thus the poems often misunderstood and misinterpreted in their social context .

On the European mainland, the profession died out at the beginning of the 2nd millennium. However, it was able to persist in Iceland until the 13th century. The best-known old Icelandic skald is Snorri Sturluson, who tried to revive this art form with his Prose Edda or Snorra Edda as a textbook for skalds. Due to the ignorance of the old myths, the content of which was necessary for the formation of the Kenningar, these were forgotten after Christianization. In the foreground of his endeavors, however, was an antiquarian, not a pagan religious interest.

The term in modern times

In today's Icelandic and Faroese , a skáld or skald is also a contemporary poet. An Icelandic skáldsaga or a Faroese skaldsøga is not a skaldic saga, but a novel .

The three-movement violin concerto op.50 by Felix Woyrsch is entitled "Skaldic Rhapsody" (comp. Around 1900).

A band founded in Poland in 1965 , which was also popular in the GDR , is called Skaldowie . In the GDR she appeared as The Skalds .

Skalden is also the name of a university choir in Innsbruck , see University choir Skalden zu Innsbruck .

Skalden-Bücher was the name of a multi-volume series published by Schmidt & Spring (Leipzig) from the 1920s to 1940s, according to its own account a "collection of stories and reports from the past and the present, edited by Kurt Fervers". As the use of Old Norse for this series of booklets suggests, it was largely a question of folk literature.

The Skalden is also the name of a contemporary German folk group.

See also


  • Peter Foote, David M. Wilson : The Viking Achievement. The Society and Culture of early medieval Scandinavia. Sidgwick & Jackson, London 1970 ISBN 0-283-35499-2 (Several reprints).
  • Kari Ellen: On the recitation of Old Norse skaldic poetry. In: Heiko Uecker (Ed.): Studies on Old Germanic. Festschrift for Heinrich Beck (= Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde . Supplementary volumes 11). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 1994, ISBN 3-11-012978-7 , pp. 126-151.
  • Alexander Jóhannesson: Icelandic Etymological Dictionary. Francke, Bern 1956.
  • Hans Kuhn : The Dróttkvætt. Winter, Heidelberg 1983, ISBN 3-533-03204-3 .
  • M. Olsen: Skald. In: Arkiv för nordisk filologi. Vol. 38, 1922, ISSN  0066-7668 .
  • Russell Poole: Skald. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde . Volume 28: Seddin - Skringssal. 2nd, completely revised and greatly expanded edition. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 2005, ISBN 3-11-018207-6 , pp. 553-559.
  • Mikhail I. Steblin-Kamenskij: On the etymology of the word "Skáld". In: Jakob Benediktsson, Jon Samsonarson u. a. (Ed.): Afmælisrit Jóns Helgasonar. 30. júní 1969. Heimskringla, Reykjavík 1969, pp. 421-430.
  • Heiko Uecker : Skaldic. In: Heiko Uecker: History of the Old Norse Literature (= Reclams Universal Library. No. 17647). Reclam, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-15-017647-6 , pp. 233-268.
  • Felix Niedner (translator) / Daniel Huber (ed.): The songs of the Vikings. Nordic skaldic poetry in German translation. Königsbrunn 2016, ISBN 978-3-945350-02-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Skald  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: skald  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Franz Seewald: Skaldensagas (= Insel-Taschenbuch 576). Transferred from old Iceland, introduced and explained. Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1981, ISBN 3-458-32276-0 , p. 24.
  2. ( Memento from December 6, 2013 in the Internet Archive )