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The Poetics of CommemorationSkaldic Verse and Social Memory, c. 890–1070$
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Erin Michelle Goeres

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198745747

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198745747.001.0001

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The Afterlife of Kings

The Afterlife of Kings

Eiríkr blóðøx, Hákon inn góði, and Óláfr Tryggvason

(p.54) 2 The Afterlife of Kings
The Poetics of Commemoration

Erin Michelle Goeres

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines three commemorative poems in which skalds focus on a king’s death and the moments immediately following his downfall. In the anonymous Eiríksmál and in Eyvindr skáldaspillir’s Hákonarmál, the kings commemorated are depicted as they enter the pagan afterlife and become, like the inhabitants of that world, subjects suitable for heroic verse. In contrast, the Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar by Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld commemorates the final battle of a Christian king who is unable to journey to the pagan Valhǫll. Rather than depicting the king’s entrance into the afterlife, the poet describes the moments following his death from the point of view of his surviving followers, who hear conflicting rumours about the king’s fate. The poet demonstrates that only the ordered structure of poetic language can control the chaos that follows the loss of a king.

Keywords:   Eiríksmál, Hákonarmál, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar, Eyvindr skáldaspillir, Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld, Eiríkr blóðøx, Hákon inn góði, Óláfr Tryggvason

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