TYPES OF OLD NORSE LITERATURE

Eddic Poetry: Anonymous. Simple meter with assonance and alliteration as a unifying principle. Probably from oral tradition. Tells of myths and heroes. Skaldic Poetry: From a specific poet or "skald." Complex meters, syllables are counted strictly. Strictly regulated internal assonance and rime. Extensive use of kennings (the ship of the desert). Subject varies: mythological, heroic, occasional. Þættir: Short narrative prose. Etymologically related to "strand in a rope." King Sagas: Commissioned authors. Describe the lives of the kings of Norway. Influence from continental saints' lives. Bishop Sagas: Commissioned authors. Describes the lives of Nordic Bishops. Influence from continental saints' lives. Contemporary sagas: Known authors. Sagas written about current events of the 13th century. (Saga of the Sturlungs) Family Sagas: Mostly anonymous. Events take place during the Saga Age (930-1030). Deal with the foundation of Iceland and the conversion to Christianity. Legendary Sagas: (Fornaldarssögur). Anonymous. Fantastic narratives. Deal with "ancient times" before the Saga Age. Influence from continental romance. Although they have roots in oral tradition, they were written down late, after the Family Sagas had decreased in popularity. Other terms used to describe this group include: Lygisögur (Lying Stories), Märchensagas, and Adventure Sagas. Translations of foreign material: (Riddarsögur). Material like Tristan and Isolde and Arthurian legends. Misc. Texts: Landnámabok (1180): (Land-taking Book). Gives a listing of the first settlers of Iceland and their descendants. Considered historically reliable. First Grammatical Treatise (1150) Islendingabók (1120) by Ari the Wise, a generally reliable historical chronicle of Iceland from the time of the settlement. Grágás (late 1100s): Earliest legal codex.

SURVEY OF USEFUL STRUCTURES FOR SAGA STUDY

STRUCTURE OF THE ICELANDIC FAMILY SAGAS (Feud Structure) Andersson, Theodore M. The Icelandic Family Saga: An Analytic Reading. Cambridge: Harvard U. Pr., 1967. 1) Introduction 2) Conflict 3) Climax 4) Revenge 5) Reconciliation 6) Aftermath

ÞETTIR STRUCTURE (Travel Pattern) Harris, Joseph. "Genre and Narrative Structure in Some Islendiga pFttir." Scandinavian Studies, 44 (1972): 1-27. 1) Introduction 2) Journey in 3) Alienation 4) Reconciliation 5) Journey out 6) Conclusion

STRUCTURE OF FEMALE BIOGRAPHY IN THE SAGAS Conroy, Patricia. "Laxdoela saga and Eiríks saga rauda: Narrative Structure." Arkiv för nordisk filologi, 95 (1980): 116-25. 1) Pioneer story about the ancestor of the woman 2) Family history of the first of the prominent husbands 3) Introduction of the woman and her father 4) Foretelling of the woman's marriages 5) Introduction of the first prominent husband and his brother or foster brother 6) Marriage to the prominent husbands in turn 7) Epilogue about the woman and the genealogy of her descendants

COMMON RHETORICAL FEATURES OF THE FAMILY SAGAS

1) Litotes: dramatic understatement 2) Lack of gratuitous nature description 3) No transparent minds 4) Escalation: staggering the episodes in the conflict in such a way as to make the dénouement appear increasingly immanent 5) Retardation: narrative material, unusually protracted or nonessential to the story, is included only for effect. 6) Foreshadowing: events are foreshadowed, often in dreams 7) Shift of scene: often occurs as we approach the climax, the scene shifts between the parties approaching each other in combat. 8) Straightforward, unembellished sentences 9) The basic structure of a saga scene is: Introduction (descriptive) - Dramatic encounter (shown) - Conclusion (descriptive) 10) Intrusions of narrator are extremely rare. Gleaned from: Theodore Andersson, The Icelandic Family Saga (1967), Peter Hallberg, The Icelandic Saga (1962), Carol Clover, "Scene in Saga Composition" AFN, 89 (1974): 57-83, and my own observations.

STOCK SCENES FROM THE FAMILY SAGAS Lönnroth, Lars. Njáls Saga: A Critical Introduction. Berkeley: U. of California Pr., 1976 and personal observations. 1) A hero is presented at a foreign court and accepted as one of the king's men 2) A woman goads her kinsman to take revenge on her enemy by suggesting that he is a coward if he does not 3) A man encounters his enemy and kills him 4) Two heroes exchange boasts and insults at a feast or at the Althing 5) A woman encounters her kinsman (or lover) as he is returning with a bloodied weapon after having killed his enemy 6) Two heroes make a settlement at the Althing 7) A man visits a kinsman or neighbor to solicit his support before a meeting at the Althing. 8) Somebody tells another person about an ominous dream 9) Marriage proposal

FOLKTALE STRUCTURE Propp, Vladimir. Morphology of the Folktale. Austin: U. of Texas Pr., 1968. A simplified version: 0) Harmony 1) Lack 2) Quest 3) Magical Helpers or Opponents 4) Tests 5) Reward All or part of this structure may be repeated in various "moves" of the tale. ORAL THEORY Lord, Albert B. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge: Harvard U. Pr., 1960. Albert Lord and his teacher, Milman Parry, developed oral formulaic theory, with regard to the compositional principles of oral poetic epic. The singer of tales knows a basic story which is sung using a number of standard formulae. For this reason, oral epics were rarely told the same way twice. Lord, Albert B. Epic Singers and Oral Tradition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991. Mythic Patterns from Oral Epic: a) lack of a father b) challenge to the hero c) helper/donor to the hero d) hero borrows equipment (from divinity) e) journey or quest f) near death/death of companion g) identity or recognition of the hero EPIC LAWS OF FOLK NARRATIVE Axel Olrik. "Epische Gesetze der Volksdichtung." Zeitschrift für Deutsches Altertum, Vol, 52 (1909), 1-12. The Law of Opening and Closing (Folk narrative does not begin with sudden action or end abruptly) The Law of Repetition (Events are repeated, often 3 times) The Law of Three (Things come in threes) The Law of Two to a Scene (Each scene will contain only two speaking characters. Any other characters present will remain mute.) The Law of Contrast (Folk narrative loves contrasts: weak & strong, poor & rich, man & monster, good & evil) The Law of Twins (Folk narrative is fond of twins, however, if they play a major role, they will probably be subject to the Law of Contrast [one bright, one gloomy])

The Importance of Final Position (The youngest son will have our sympathy, the last test will be decisive) The Law of the Single Strand (Folk narrative follows one temporal strand of action. It does not shift scenes to follow parallel actions) The Law of Patterning (Repeated scenes will be as similar to each other as possible) The Use of Tableaux Scenes (Certain moments of folk narrative evoke a strong visual image.) The Logic of the Sage (Folk narratives find their plausibility not in their sense of reality, but in a certain internal narrative logic) The Unity of Plot The Concentration on a Leading Character

BERSERK SUITOR THEME Blaney, Benjamin. "The Berserk Suitor: The Literary Application of a Stereotyped Theme." Scandinavian Studies, 54 (1982): 279-94. 1) A berserk (sometimes with 12 followers) challenges a man for 2) Woman and wealth 3) The hero, a guest, substitutes for the challenged man 4) The berserk bellows and bites the rim of his shield 5) The hero has a second sword or magic weapon, because 6) The berserk is invulnerable to normal weapons 7) The hero kills the berserk by slicing off his leg.

THE BEAR SON TALE PATTERN 1) Hero fights monster in a closed space 2) has a magic sword 3) cuts off the monster's arm 4) companions run away 5) returns with a trophy

HAGIOGRAPHY STRUCTURE 1) Marvelous aspects of childhood and education 2) His way of life and outstanding deeds, including miracles 3) Old age and death 4) Miracles worked by the saint after death.

FABLIAUX: SEDUCTION AND EROTIC NAIVETÉ TYPE 1) Strangers arrive at a house with a lovely daughter 2) They are given food and drink 3) Flirtation with the daughter 4) Household goes to bed. 5) Stranger comes over to the daughter's bed and lifts the bedcovers. 6) Stranger coaxes the daughter into having sex, often giving her a ring in exchange. Other pertinent fabliaux types: The clever arrangement of marital fidelity The clever rescue from a threatened danger BIOGRAPHY OF A HERO From Lord Raglan's The Hero, New York, 1956: The Story of the Hero of Tradition 1. His mother is a royal virgin 2. His father is a king, and 3. Often a near relative of his mother, but 4. The circumstances of his conception are unusual, and 5. He is reputed to be the son of a god. 6. At birth a attempt is made, often by his father, to kill him, but 7. He is spirited away, and 8. Reared by foster parents in a far country. 9. We are told nothing of his childhood, but 10. On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future kingdom. 11. After a victory over the king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beast, 12. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor, and 13. Becomes king. 14. For a time he reigns uneventfully, and 15. Prescribes laws, but 16. Later he loses favor with the gods and/or his subjects, and 17. Is driven from the throne and city. 18. He meets with a mysterious death, 19. Often at the top of a hill, 20. His children, if any, do not succeed him. 21. His body is not buried, but nevertheless 22. He has one or more holy sepulchers.

Oedipus: His mother Jocasta is (1) a princess, and his father is (2) King Laius, who has sworn to have no connection with her but 940 does so when drunk, probably (5) in the character of Dionysus. Laius (6) tries to kill him, but (7) he is spirited away, and (8) reared by the king of Corinth. (9) We hear nothing of his childhood, but (10) on reaching manhood he returns to Thebes, gaining (11) victories over his father and the Sphinx. He (12) marries Jocasta and (13) becomes king. (14) For some years he reigns uneventfully, but (16) later comes to be regarded as the cause of a plague, and (17) is deposed and driven into exile. He meets with (18) a mysterious death at (19) a place near Athens called the Steep Pavement. (20) He is succeeded by Creon, by whose means he was deposed, and (21) though the place of his burial is uncertain, he has (22) several holy sepulchers.