Scandinavian folk legends and Icelandic sagas
2014 (English)In: New Focus on Retrospective Methods: Resuming Methodological Discussions - Case Studies from Northern Eurpoe, 2014, no 307, 76-88 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
The article argues that Scandinavian folk legends recorded in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries often explain supernatural episodes in Icelandic sagas better than comparison with other medieval sagas. Saga scholars have in several cases come to the wrong conclusions from too narrow a focus on written texts contemporary with the sagas. The interest in supernatural motifs is a characteristic feature of the 'post-classical' Islendingasogur. This is an important reason why they are usually seen as fundamentally different from the 'classical' Islendingasogur, whose realism is linked to an origin in oral tradition that was perceived as essentially historical. The 'post-classical' sagas with their many fantastic motifs are in contrast seen as unhistorical, pure fiction, influenced primarily by written literature like fomaldarsogur and riddarastigur. Sometimes this is certainly correct. But in many 'post-classical' Islendingasogur such parallels are few and superficial. In the article some concrete examples from the sagas are given where late recorded legends seem to provide much better parallels than any contemporary saga text. The conclusion is that the time gap of c. 600 years should not prevent us from using these sources if they seem to be more conclusive than the contemporary ones. This conclusion also has consequences for the perception of Islendingasogur in general. The view of the 'post-classical' saga as bookish fiction which emerged under the influence of the written fornaldarsaga is hardly sustainable. Nor is the contrast between the supernatural orientation and the realism of the classical saga evident. The stories in the later folk legends about encounters with the supernatural were also seen as basically true, and these stories were part of the image people had of a real past. There is reason to believe that this applied to many of the motifs of the 'post-classical' sagas as well.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. no 307, 76-88 p.
, FF Communications, ISSN 0014-5815
Languages and Literature
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-246511ISI: 000348878300005ISBN: 978-951-41-1093-1OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-246511DiVA: diva2:793854
Conference on New Focus on Retrospective Methods, SEP 27-28, 2010, Bergen, NORWAY