Byock, Jesse L.. Social Memory and the Sagas
- Author: Byock, Jesse L.
- Title: Social Memory and the Sagas. The Case of Egils saga
- Published in: Scandinavian Studies 76.3
- Year: 2004
- Pages: 299-316
- E-text: ebscohost
- Reference: Byock, Jesse L. "Social Memory and the Sagas. The Case of Egils saga." Scandinavian Studies 76.3 (2004): 299-316.
- Key words:
The author argues that Egils saga, as well as other family sagas, are much more than creative, literary invention. They give also a picture of social and historical issues and therefore the concept of social memory has to be kept in mind when analyzing sagas within the context of medieval society which produced them. Icelandic sagas emphasize issues of concern to members of the society of the period they were written. To illustrate how it works the author gives a few examples from Egils saga that focus on three generations of Egil‘s family and three generations of Norwegian kings. (1) King Haraldr Fairhair and Egil's grandfather Kveld-Úlfur representing the concept of loyalty (both political and economic) of Icelanders to the king of Norway; (2) Egil, King Eirík Bloodaxe and Queen Gunnhildur showing that memory patterns are important in the saga: Egill gets into the same situation as his forefathers encountering complicated relationship between Norway and Iceland on his travels to Norway, e.g. when he wants to have his wife's right to her inheritance in Norway where he relies on laws of freeman ownership, but faces the queen who sees it as disloyalty to the royalty of Norway; (3) Egil and King Hákon Aðalsteinn's Foster Son continues portraying contrast relationship between Iceland and Norway: Egil gets his inheritance but unsuccessfully claims money that was confiscated by King's men.
Höfundurinn heldur því fram að Egils saga, sem og aðrar Íslendingasögur, sé miklu meira en bara frjór skáldskapur. Þær gefa einnig mynd af félagslegum og sögulegum atriðum og þess vegna er gagnlegt að hafa hugtakið félagslegt minni í huga þegar sögur eru greindar í samhengi við miðaldasamfélagið sem skapaði þær.Íslendingasögur leggja áherslu á þau mál sem brunnu á mönnum í samfélaginu á þeim tíma þegar þær voru skrifaðar niður. Til að sýna hvernig það virkar gefur höfundurinn nokkur dæmi úr Egils sögu sem fjalla um þrjár kynslóðir fjölskyldu Egils og þrjár kynslóðir norskra konunga. (1) Haraldur konungur og Kveld-Úlfur: gefur mynd tryggðar (bæði pólitískrar og efnahagslegrar) Íslendinga við konung Noregs; (2) Egill, Eiríkur konungur og Gunnhildur drottning: sýnir að minni er mikilvægt mynstur í sögunni: Egill finnur sig í sömu stöðu og forfeður hans og stendur frammi fyrir erfiðum tengslum þegar hann ferðast til Noregs, t.d. þegar hann vill fá rétt til arfs konu sinnar hittir hann drottningu sem túlkar það sem ótryggð fyrir konungsvald í Noregi; (3) Egill og Hákon konungur Aðalsteinsfóstri: heldur áfram að gefa mynd af erfiðum tengslum milli Íslands og Noregs: Egill fær arf sinn en árangalaust gerir hann kröfu um að fá þá peninga sem konungsmenn hirtu.
Chapter 5: mun eg ekki fara á fund hans: “Kveld-Úlfr's concept of loyalty corresponds roughly to the weak allegiance owed by Icelandic thingmen to their goði, a leader who negotiated rather than ruled (sec Bagge). Haraldr Fairhair, a liege lord, expected loyalty. The saga teller had historical reality and narrative conflict with which to work” (p. 304).
Chapter 16: hann hafði þar skatt: “Stories of quarrels with Norwegian royalty, such as the contention that arose between Thórólfr and King Haraldr over the lucrative trade with Lappland in furs, skins, and forest products are a case in point illustrating an extensive understanding among thirteenth-century Icelanders of the wealth required to maintain royal power in Norway during the earlier Viking Age ... But why are internal Norwegian issues such as the above given so much space in the Icelandic saga? The answer is that Iceland's social memory was inextricably bound with Norway. For Icelanders, such information defined not just the limits of royal authority, but who they were as a people” (p. 307-308).
- Written by: Giedre Razgute
- Icelandic translation: Giedre Razgute