A Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture by Rory McTurk

By Rory McTurk

This significant survey of previous Norse-Icelandic literature and tradition contains 29 chapters written by means of best students within the box, over a 3rd of whom are Icelanders. even as, it conveys a feeling of the mainland Scandinavian origins of the Icelandic humans, and displays the continuing touch among Iceland and different nations and cultures.

The quantity highlights present debates between outdated Norse-Icelandic students focusing on various features of the topic. insurance of conventional subject matters is complemented by way of fabric on formerly ignored parts of analysis, corresponding to the sagas of Icelandic bishops and the translated knights’ sagas. Chapters on ‘archaeology’, ‘social institutions’ and ‘geography and travel’ give the opportunity to view the literature in its wider cultural context whereas chapters on ‘reception’ and ‘continuity’ exhibit the ways that medieval Norse-Icelandic literature and tradition overflow into the fashionable interval.

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Example text

6 In the case of St Jo´n, we know the author of his vita: the same Gunnlaugr Leifsson ´ la´fr Tryggvason. He also composed an office of St who composed the second vita of O Ambrose and wrote up (presumably in Latin) some visions in which St Þorla´kr appeared. It is worth noting that he was a vernacular poet as well; Gunnlaugr made a verse translation of the ‘Prophecy of Merlin’ (Merlı´nusspa´) from book 7 of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae. Early Thirteenth-Century Sagas of Native Bishops The early translated sagas were for the most part based on a single source and rendered into simple prose that could be understood by an audience without formal education; their authors are unknown.

Here many things are collected concerning various events which have taken place in various countries according to the indication of the annals which contain the most learning, and also many things have been inserted concerning bishops and other secular leaders who were contemporary with this account. ] (BS III, p. 216) It is not uncommon to read that saints’ lives are more edifying than secular literature, but to find the motif applied to annals within an episcopal biography is distinctly odd.

This introductory þa´ttr is reminiscent of the ‘prehistories’ of such sagas as Egils saga or Gı´sla saga, but contains something not met before in Icelandic literature: the date (three nights after Michaelmas) of the hero’s birth. The next part of the saga is more or less a summary of events that may be found in the annals – including episodes in the life of Ari Þorgeirsson which had just been related – interspersed with notes on the doings of Guðmundr and his immediate relatives. The year of Guðmundr’s birth is now given, and although the author claims to be using the reckoning of Bede, it is in fact that of Gerlandus.

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