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The original version is attributed to Þjóðólfr af Hvini who was the skald of a Norwegian petty king named Ragnvald the Mountain-High, described in later sagas as cousin of Harald Fairhair. It describes the lives of a long line of legendary and semi-legendary Swedish kings, the Yngling dynasty, as well as the foundation of the Norwegian petty kingdom of Vestfold by an Ingling scion and its expansion through conquest and marriage alliance over the succeeding six generations, ending with Ragnvald.
Ynglingatal survives in three versions of which the best known is the Ynglinga saga in Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla, written ca. 1230. Of the two other versions, one is found in Historia Norwegiae, a translation into Latin which contains essentially the same information, recorded in the late 12th or the early 13th century, and as the other in Íslendingabók, consisting just of a listing of the names, recorded in the early 12th century.
The historicity of the matter Yngling dynasty has been a contention among scholars since the 19th century. Krag (1991) also questioned the dating of the poem, suggesting that it may have originally been composed only in the early 12th century.
The late origin hypothesis
The authenticity of this poem has been questioned by Krag (1991), who believed it to be a 12th-century propaganda work fabricated to enhance the legitimacy of the Norwegian kings.
Krag claimed that it was based on the teaching of the four elements by Empedocles, in that the first four kings' deaths (Fjölnir, Sveigðir, Vanlandi and Vísburr) are associated with such elements. According to Krag this suggests that Ynglingatal is not from the 9th century, but a much later work. He also pointed out that there is an euhemeristic approach in the early parts.
Krag's thesis had a certain success among Scandinavian scholars, during the 1990s, and it became the point of view presented in Nationalencyklopedin when the articles were written in the early 90s. However, since then, many critics and other studies have shown serious problems and deficiencies with Krag's thesis.
Evidence against the late hypothesis
Many have asked, if the work actually is a propaganda work from the 12th century, why does it not end with a famous king such as Harald Fairhair? Instead it ends with the less known king Ragnvald the Mountain-High. Krag's defense that it was an old text about Ragnvald that had been inserted is considered farfetched and it actually contradicts his thesis.
Hägerdal (1994) doubts that Christian ideas were unknown in Scandinavia before the 11th century and he (1994:4) has pointed out that Borre and Skiringssal, in the part about the kings of Vestfold, were archaeologically important locations during the Viking Age but not later.
Sapp (2002:2, 85-98) has studied the language of Ynglingatal and other skaldic poems in kviðuháttr. He found that the expletive particle of had stopped being productive in the 11th century. Sapp's conclusion is that the poem fits the language of the 9th century best, and to a lesser degree that of the 10th century. Sapp excludes the possibility that the language is an imitation of old language, because the linguistic markers are unambiguous. Moreover, other linguistic traits show the same results: the 9th century.
Sundquist (2004) who has done the most thorough and extensive study of Ynglingatal, claims that Krag's arguments are rigid and erroneous. Instead Sundquist points out that there are obvious Swedish traditions in Ynglingatal. This concerns both kennings, place names and proper names. Some traditions go back to the Vendel Age and may be even older, such as the king's role as the keeper of sanctuaries, an aristocratic mounted culture, the divine origins of the kings, presaging, and many other peculiarities. Moreover, some of Krag's objections are not based on Ynglingatal but on the version given by Snorri in the Ynglinga saga, and consequently Krag criticizes the wrong version. Sundquist's conclusion is that Þjóðólfr of Hvinir based his work on an active Swedish tradition in the 9th century.
- Odelberg, Maj (1995), "Ynglingatal", Vikingatidens ABC, Swedish Museum of National Antiquities, ISBN 9171929843
Åkerlund, W. Studier över Ynglingatal (Lund 1939).
Janson, H. Templum nobilissimum (Göteborg 1998).
Dómaldi's Death and the Myth of Sacral Kingship, in J. Lindow et al. (Eds.), Structure and Meaning in Old Norse Literature (Odense 1986).
Krag, C. Ynglingatal og Ynglingesaga: en studie i historiske kilder (Oslo 1991).
Magerøy, H. 'Ynglingatal', in Kulturhistoriskt lexikon för nordisk medeltid 20 (Malmö 1976), p. 362-63.
Sapp, C.D. 'Dating Ynglingatal. Chronological Metrical Developments in Kviduhattr', Skandinavistik 2002:2, s. 85-98
Schück, H. De senaste undersökningarna rörande ynglingasagan' [Svensk] Historisk tidskrift 1895:1, p. 39-88.
Sundquist, O. "Freyr"s offspring. Rulers and religion in ancient Svea society". (2004)
Wallette, A. Sagans svenskar (Malmö 2004).
- Ynglingatal in Old Norse from «Kulturformidlingen norrøne tekster og kvad» Norway.
- Two editions of the Old Norse text
- Ynglingatal in the manuscript spelling with textual notes, and in normalised Old Norse spelling with prose translation into modern Danish.
- Svenska Dagbladet