Andersson, Theodore M.. The King of Iceland

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  • Author: Andersson, Theodore M.
  • Title: The King of Iceland
  • Published in: Speculum 74/4
  • Year: 1999
  • Pages: 923-34
  • E-text: JSTOR
  • Reference: Andersson, Theodore M. "The King of Iceland." Speculum 74/4 (1999): 923-34.

  • Key words: characterization, social reality (persónusköpun, samfélagsmynd)


Contents

Annotation

In this article, Theodore M. Andersson looks into the relation between Icelandic attitude to kingship and Icelandic literature, and argues that the increasing threat the Norwegian king represented to Iceland had an influence on the redaction of the sagas. He reviews the main renditions of kings’ lives produced in Iceland in the 13th century, and compares the tone of Morkinskinna, Fagrskinna and Heimskringla, reading them as a gradation going from an anti-royalist and patriotic text to a “censored” version suitable for a Norwegian audience. Andersson then moves on to family sagas, and posits that skalds’ sagas, such as Egils saga, can be perceived as an evolution of the þættir (as found in Morkinskinna), where Icelanders outwit Norwegian kings. He asserts that the reasons for writing down sagas about skalds must have been both the recording of skaldic verses and the will to keep alive memory of prominent forefathers involved in dealings with the Norwegian crown. He points that most of the family sagas were written in the 1220-60’s, and that they tend to anchor Icelandic history into the Norwegian one, emphasising the departure of the characters from Norway and their settlement in Iceland, which is interpreted by Andersson as a way to build Iceland’s identity and independent status. Thus, he proposes to understand Icelandic literature as “a brilliantly productive resistance." (p. 932). To conclude, he mentions later sagas, such as Njála, which, if written in the 1280’s as supposed, he interprets as a dark commentary on the failure of the Icelandic Commonwealth.


Lýsing

Í þessari grein lítur Theodore M. Andersson á sambandið milli viðhorfs Íslendinga til konungsvaldsins og birtingarmynd þess í bókmenntum. Hann heldur því fram að eftir því sem íhlutanir Noregskonunga aukist á Íslandi því sterkari áhrif hafi það á sagnaritun Íslendinga. Andersson lítur á helstu verk Íslendinga á 13. öld sem fjalla um líf konunga þ.e. Morkinskinnu, Fagurskinnu og Heimskringlu. Hann kemst að þeirri niðurstöðu að í verkunum megi finna þróun sem hefst á þjóðerniskenndum textum sem upphefja neikvæð viðhorf gagnvart konungsvaldinu en enda í ritskoðuðum textum sem falla vel að áheyrendum norsku hirðarinnar. Andersson fjallar einnig um Íslendingasögurnar og gerir ráð fyrir því að sögur um skáld eins og Egla geti verið hluti af seinni tíma þróun Íslendingaþátta (eins og í Morkinskinnu) þar sem Íslendingar sýna klæki í samskiptum við Noregskonunga. Hann heldur því fram að hvatinn fyrir ritun sagna sem fjölluðu um skáld sé tvíþættur. Annars vegar hafi það verið varðveisla dróttkvæðanna og hins vegar til að halda lifandi minningu um forfeður, sérstaklega þeirra sem áttu í skrautlegum samskiptum við konungsvaldið. Andersson bendir á að Íslendingasögurnar hafi verið ritaðar milli 1220-1260 og í þeim komi fram áhersla á ferðalag persóna frá Noregi til Íslands. Andersson túlkar brottflutninginn frá Noregi sem hluta af því að skapa sjálfsmynd Íslands og undirstrika sjálfstæði þjóðarinnar. Hann lítur sagnaritun Íslendinga sem „einstaklega frjóa mótspyrnu.“ (s. 932) gegn konungsvaldinu. Í lok greinarinnar nefnir hann yngri sögur eins og Njálu og segir að ef sagan er rituð eftir 1280, eins og margir halda fram, sé hægt að túlka söguna sem myrka skýringu á falli Þjóðveldisins.


See also

References

Egils saga

Chapter 25: Staðfestist það helst um ráðagerð þeirra að þeir mundu bregða búi sínu og fara af landi á brott. : "The Icelandic sagas tell the story of how Iceland separated from Norway, how it grew into its own, in short, how Iceland became a nation. In the very period in which Iceland experienced growing pressure to unite with Norway, Icelandic writers set themselves the task of creating a narrative of separateness." (p. 932).

Chapter 45: Konungur var hinn reiðasti: "It is tempting to suggest that the saga is in fact delicately calculated for a double audience, a Norwegian audience that would have read it as a humorous send-up of a self-willed Icelander and an Icelandic audience that would have read it as a serious celebration of an ancestral hero who could stand up to the kings of Norway, not unlike those Icelandic individualists who people the digressions of Morkinskinna." (p. 929).

Njáls saga

Chapter 75: að þú rjúfir sætt þína: "Njáls saga is often understood as the great general compendium of Icelandic experience, but it might also be viewed as a rather pointed comment on the ultimate failure of that experience. It foregrounds the unsurpassed hero Gunnarr of Hliðarendi, who makes the wrong decision and elects to stay in Iceland in contravention of a legal agreement, or, metaphorically, who elects to remain within the confines of an Icelandic heroic tradition that is doomed." (p. 933).

Links

  • Written by: Katelin Parsons
  • Icelandic translation: Jón Karl Helgason
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