The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180–1280)
Publication Year: 2006
In this book, Theodore M. Andersson, a leading scholar of the Norse sagas, introduces readers to the development of the Icelandic sagas between 1180 and 1280, a crucial period that witnessed a gradual shift of emphasis from tales of adventure and personal distinction to the analysis of political and historical propositions. Beginning with the first full-length sagas and culminating in the acknowledged masterpiece Njáls saga, Andersson emphasizes a historical perspective, establishing a chronology for seventeen of the most important sagas and showing how they evolve thematically and stylistically over the century under study.
Revisiting the long-standing debate about the oral and literary components of the sagas, Andersson argues that there is a clear progression from the somewhat mechanical gathering of oral lore in the early sagas to an increasingly tight and authorially controlled composition in the later sagas. The early sagas-including The Legendary Saga of Saint Olaf and Odd Snorrason's Saga of Olaf Tryggvason-focus on conspicuous individuals and their memorable deeds; later works are more apt to formulate the abstract problems and ideas that preoccupied their authors. As the authors begin to impose their views on the inherited narratives, the sagas become more and more critical and self-conscious, to the point where Njáls saga may be considered not only to approximate a novel in our sense of the term but also to comment on the saga form.
Published by: Cornell University Press
Download PDF (1.0 MB)
Title Page, Copyright
Download PDF (54.7 KB)
Download PDF (44.2 KB)
From Hagiography to Hero: Odd Snorrason’s Saga of Olaf TryggvasonSanctifying a Viking Chieftain: The Oldest/Legendary Saga of Saint OlafDefining Political Identities: The Saga of King Magnús and King HaraldTwo Views of Icelandic History: Eyrbyggja saga and Vatnsdœla saga...
A NOTE ON ORTHOGRAPHY
Download PDF (63.3 KB)
Because this book is intended to be accessible to the nonspecialistreader, I have for the most part Latinized the special Icelandic conso-nant characters “ﬁ (ﬂ)” and “›,” rendering them as “th” and “d.” Fol-lowing a widespread convention, I have also simplified pronunciationby dropping the nominative “r” ending following a consonant. Thus...
Download PDF (89.9 KB)
Introductory Essays Introductory Essays on Egils saga and Njáls saga.MHN Monumenta Historica Norvegiae: Latinske kildeskrifter til Norgeshistorie i middelalderen. Ed. Gustav Storm. 1880. Rpt. Oslo: Aas &ONIL Old Norse-Icelandic Literature: A Critical Guide. Ed. Carol J.Clover and John Lindow. Islandica 45. Ithaca: Cornell University...
Download PDF (94.7 KB)
This work sets out to clarify how the book-length sagas of medievalIceland evolved in literary terms from circa 1180 to circa 1280. This ap-proach is a departure from previous practice to the extent that thesagas, in particular those about early Iceland, have seemed to defychronological treatment.1 The dating indices are normally not clear...
From Hagiography to Hero
Download PDF (103.1 KB)
There is no evidence of professional or quasi-professional saga tellersin Iceland, but there are some indications that historical lore was in thehands of persons with special qualifications. When Ari Thorgilsson be-gan the process of recording Icelandic history in the 1120s, he referredto three of his informants in the very first sentence of his extant book-...
Sanctifying a Viking Chieftain
Download PDF (82.3 KB)
There are some indications that the Icelanders had less oral traditionabout Olaf Haraldsson than they had about Olaf Tryggvason, althoughthe former ruled longer and later (1015–30) and should have been inmore recent memory. The difference may have been that Olaf Trygg-vason enjoyed some quasi-official status as the apostle of Christianity...
Download PDF (119.9 KB)
...as great promoters of the faith and men of heroic dimensions, but it isdifficult for a reader of their sagas to assess their personal qualities be-yond the accomplishments required by their roles. They occasionally in-teract with their wives or their followers, though almost never in a waythat is revealing about these relationships. Neither thoughts, reflections,...
Defining Political Identities
Download PDF (81.9 KB)
If the estimate of 1200 is about right for the dating of The Oldest Sagaof Saint Olaf, there elapsed some twenty years between its compositionand the writing of The Saga of King Magnús and King Harald, the firstand by far the longest section of the kings’ saga compilation known asMorkinskinna.1 These were the crucial years in the development of saga...
Download PDF (86.1 KB)
The continuity between the kings’ sagas discussed above and Egilssaga has often gone unnoticed because they have traditionally been as-signed to different genres and are therefore not studied together. Itcould be argued, however, that Egils saga merely inverts the paradigmestablished in the kings’ sagas. The latter are overtly about Norwegian...
Download PDF (73.8 KB)
Scholars have traditionally distinguished between kings’ sagas andsagas about early Icelanders. I depart from that tradition with a viewto tracing a continuity from three kings’ sagas and five native sagasthrough the transitional Egils saga to the full-blown and justly famousmiddle and late thirteenth-century sagas about early Icelanders. I pos-...
Gilding an Age
Download PDF (86.7 KB)
Laxdœla saga, like Ljósvetninga saga, is a regional saga, set in the innerreaches of Hvammsfjord on the west coast of Iceland, to the north ofthe area settled by Skallagrím in Egils saga. Like Ljósvetninga saga it toois organized by generations, but whereas the author of Ljósvetningasaga seems determined to avoid the colonial period in order to focus...
Two Views of Icelandic History
Download PDF (75.9 KB)
Laxdœla saga and Eyrbyggja saga are linked, but the relationship be-tween them is notoriously difficult to disentangle. The difficulty mayperhaps be of our own making, because toward the end of Eyrbyggjasaga the text refers in so many words to Laxdœla saga and Hei›arvígasaga. The editor Einar Ólafur Sveinsson took the latter reference at face...
Download PDF (102.7 KB)
The three sagas under study in this chapter are among the most el-egant of the shorter texts. They are generally dated in the middle orlate thirteenth century, although the criteria are, as usual, tenuous.1 Tothe extent that we see saga writing as having evolved and improvedover time, we may be tempted to think that the sharp contours and nar-...
Demythologizing the Tradition
Download PDF (104.1 KB)
By common agreement, Njáls saga occupies a transcendent place inthe Icelandic tradition as the greatest, if not quite the latest, of the clas-sical sagas.1 It represents such a pinnacle of style, range, and dramathat it tends to overshadow the earlier sagas and relegate them to thestatus of preliminary attempts at a form that matures only in Njáls...
Download PDF (61.2 KB)
It should come as no surprise that the Icelandic sagas are centrallyabout Iceland, more particularly about stages in Icelandic self-con-sciousness. The first sagas appear at the end of the twelfth century, acentury literarily dominated by the appropriation of Christian writ-ings. They capitalize on that tradition by exalting the conversion kings,...
Download PDF (133.8 KB)
...Ágrip af Nóregskonungasƒgum: A Twelfth-Century Synoptic History of the Kingsof Norway. Ed. and trans. M. [Matthew] J. Driscoll. London: Viking SocietyBiskupa sögur, gefnar út af Hinu Íslenzka Bókmenntafèlagi. 2 vols. Copen-The Complete Sagas of Icelanders including 49 Tales. 5 vols. Ed. Vi›ar Hreinsson.The Disciplina Clericalis of Petrus Alphonsi. Trans. and ed. Eberhard Hermes;...
Download PDF (110.3 KB)
Note: The special Icelandic characters ﬂ and ƒ are alphabetized at the end of the Index.The umlauted vowels ä, ö, and ü are treated as if they were a, o, and u....
Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2006