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OE31: Atlamál in grœnlenzku
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OE31: Atlamál in grœnlenzku
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1. Preface
2. Bibliography
3. Credits



Atlamál in grœnlenzku is the thirty-first part of the Older Edda (OE) or Poetic Edda.


INTRODUCTORY NOTE by Henry Adams Bellows


Many of the chief facts regarding the Atlamol, which follows the Atlakvitha in the Codex Regius, are outlined in the introductory note to the earlier Atli lay. That the superscription in the manuscript is correct, and that the poem was actually composed in Greenland, is generally accepted; the specific reference to polar bears (stanza 17), and the general color of the entire poem make this origin exceedingly likely. Most critics, again, agree in dating the poem nearer 1100 than 1050. As to its state of preservation there is some dispute, but, barring one or two possible gaps of some importance, and the usual number of passages in which the interpolation or omission of one or two lines may be suspected, the Atlamol has clearly come down to us in fairly good shape.


Throughout the poem the epic quality of the story itself is overshadowed by the romantically sentimental tendencies of the poet, and by his desire to adapt the narrative to the understanding of his fellow-Greenlanders. The substance of the poem is the same as that of the Atlakvitha; it tells of Atli's message to the sons of Gjuki, their journey to Atli's home, the slaying of Hogni and Gunnar, Guthrun's bitterness over the death of her brothers, and her bloody revenge on Atli. Thus in its bare out line the Atlamol represents simply the Frankish blending of the legends of the slaughter of the Burgundians and the death of Attila (cf. Gripisspo, introductory note). But here the resemblance ends. The poet has added characters, apparently of his own creation, for the sake of episodes which would appeal to both the men and the women of the Greenland settlement. Sea voyages take the place of journeys by land; Atli is reproached, not for cowardice in battle, but for weakness at the Thing or great council. The additions made by the poet are responsible for the Atlamol's being the longest of all the heroic poems in the Eddic collection, and they give it a kind of emotional vivid ness, but it has little of the compressed intensity of the older poems. Its greatest interest lies in its demonstration of the manner in which a story brought to the North from the South Germanic lands could be adapted to the understanding and tastes of its eleventh century hearers without any material change of the basic narrative.


In what form or forms the story of the Gjukungs and Atli reached the Greenland poet cannot be determined, but it seems likely that he was familiar with older poems on the subject, and possibly with the Atlakvitha itself. That the details which are peculiar to the Atlamol, such as the figures of Kostbera and Glaumvor, existed in earlier tradition seems doubtful, but the son of Hogni, who aids Guthrun in the slaying of Atli, appears, though under another name, in other late versions of the story, and it is impossible to say just how much the poet relied on his own imagination and how far he found suggestions and hints in the prose or verse stories of Atli with which he was familiar.


The poem is in Malahattr (cf. Introduction) throughout, the verse being far more regular than in the Atlakvitha. The compilers of the Volsungasaga evidently knew it in very much the form in which we now have it, for in the main it is paraphrased with great fidelity.

Abbreviations for the whole library.



Eddukvæði II, Hetjukvæði, Jónas Kristjánsson og Vésteinn Ólason gáfu út, p. 383-401, Íslenzk fornrit, Reykjavík 2014.


Grønlandske Atle-ord (Atlamǫ́l en grœnlenzko), tr. G.A Gjessing, Kristiania 1899.


ATLAMOL EN GRönlenzku, The Greenland Ballad of Atli, tr. Henry Adams Bellows, in the Poetic Edda, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1936.


Input by Angela Kowalczyk, August 21st, 2016.

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