The Bookish Riddarasogur

Writing Romance in Late Mediaeval Iceland

By Geraldine Barnes

This book deals with a fascinating, but largely neglected, area of late medieval Icelandic literature: the indigenous prose romances, generally known as riddarasogur (i.e. sagas of knights), a group of some 30 sagas composed in Iceland from the late 13th or early 14th century onwards. These sagas take place in an exotic (non-Scandinavian), vaguely chivalric, milieu and are characterized by the extensive use of foreign motifs and a strong supernatural or fabulous element. Although the riddarasogur are clearly modeled on continental chivalric romances and are influenced by the 'translated' riddarasogur (in terms of subject matter, style, and ethos), that debt tends to be limited largely to the surface attributes of romance - typically, princes on quests in exotic foreign lands which ultimately bring material rewards, noble brides, and the acquisition of new kingdoms. Contrary to European chivalric romance, however, the Icelandic riddarasogur manifest a substantial debt to medieval encyclopedic and historiographical traditions. One effect of this is to bring an element of 'biculturalism' to the textual landscapes of the riddarasogur, which suggests that their authors, and, by implication, their audiences, were familiar with both learned tradition and traditional lore, and accustomed to moving back and forth between them in creative literary composition. The author, Geraldine Barnes, has written extensively on the riddarasogur throughout her long career. The book represents the culmination of Barnes's work in this area and presents an interesting 'take' on the riddarasogur, focusing on their learned or 'bookish' elements. (Series: The Viking Collection: Studies in Northern Civilization - Vol. 21)

Publication Date: 4/1/2014
Format: Cloth
ISBN: 9788776747916