Guðrún Nordal. Attraction of opposites: skaldic verse in Njáls saga
- Author: Guðrún Nordal
- Title: Attraction of Opposites: Skaldic Verse in Njáls Saga
- Place, Publisher: Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark
- Year: 2005
- Pages: 211-236
- Reference: Nordal, Guðrún. “Attraction of Opposites: Skaldic Verse in Njáls Saga.” Literacy in Medieval and Early Modern Scandinavian Culture, pp. 211-236. Ed. Pernille Hermann. Odense, Denmark: University Press of Southern Denmark, 2005.
- Key words:
This article traces the changing approach to skaldic verse in the earliest medieval mansuscripts of Njáls saga, questioning why some verses were given a permanent place in the narrative while others were confined to the margins of the manuscipts and eventually left out all together. These questions bring us closer to the moment of writing down, and therefore the interchange between the oral and the literary. The author asserts that skaldic verse could have found its way into Njála by different routes, but is particularly interested in the idea that some of the verse was both composed and inserted into manuscripts after the saga had already been written and compiled. The article argues that the manuscript variance of Njála ’s skaldic verse indicates varied and conflicting concepts of characterisation in the transmission of the saga. For example, the stanzas attributed to Gunnarr and Skarphéðinn in the margins of Reykjabók – which were omitted from the main text of Einar Ól. Sveinsson’s 1954 Íslenzk fornrit edition of Njála – allow the characters a chance to speak their mind. In Möðruvallabók, however, these stanzas are absent, and the stanzas that are attributed to Gunnarr and Skarphéðinn are spoken as if by heroes from a distant past – they are presented as figures of legend. This sheds light on the different ways the saga’s oral and literary components have interacted, ultimately highlighting an active fourteenth century interest in the representation and interpretation of saga characters, and therefore in remembering the past.
Chapter 54: mér þykir meira fyrir en öðrum mönnum að vega menn: "The absence of Gunnarr’s heroic and calculating stanzas … soften his portrayal in Njáls saga. In the verses he steps forward as a typical fighter and schemer, whereas his acclamation that he found it difficult to kill men … stands unattested in Möðruvallabók … The poetic profile of Njáls saga … underscores the importance of judging the sagas in their correct manuscript context." (p. 229)
Chapter 132: minnigur: "Kári’s actions are driven by his memory, by remembering the past. To the very end of the saga, the tragedy of Bergþórshváll is evoked in his stanzas; his poetic utterances keep alive the memory of the dead, while actual deeds fulfil his obligation of vengeance." (p. 231)
- Written by: Jack Hartley
- Icelandic/English translation: