Three Icelandic Sagas: Gunnlaugs Saga Ormstungu, Translated by M. H. Scargill Bandamanna Saga [And] Droplaugarsona Saga

Three Icelandic Sagas: Gunnlaugs Saga Ormstungu, Translated by M. H. Scargill Bandamanna Saga [And] Droplaugarsona Saga

Three Icelandic Sagas: Gunnlaugs Saga Ormstungu, Translated by M. H. Scargill Bandamanna Saga [And] Droplaugarsona Saga

Three Icelandic Sagas: Gunnlaugs Saga Ormstungu, Translated by M. H. Scargill Bandamanna Saga [And] Droplaugarsona Saga

Excerpt

The short saga about the lawsuit of eight confederated Icelandic leaders versus Odd Ófeig's son of Mel (called in the original the Bandamanna saga) is a jewel of prose narrative art. It is a simple story, if we consider the plot alone: a father (Ófeig) and son (Odd) separate under terms of latent hostility; the son makes good in another part of Iceland and develops into a rich and powerful chieftain; as a consequence of association with a violent and ambitious upstart (Óspak) he is faced with catastrophe through a crushing lawsuit brought against him by eight district leaders. But his neglected old father appears in the nick of time, and by astutely playing on the weaknesses of the men combined against his son--a little flattery here, a tactfully offered bribe there, the suggestion of a desirable marriage, a playing on the tensions and doubts within the group throughout--he splits the confederation, changes threatening defeat into ultimate victory, and establishes the firm basis for affectionate friendship with his son for the first time in their lives. What distinguishes the saga as an outstanding example of Icelandic storytelling is the easy skill with which it is delivered--the smooth concatenation of incidents, the steady building up of effects, the gratifying resolution at the end--and above all the virtuosity with which rhetorical and psychological effects are achieved in the transforming of situations from auspicious to inauspicious and back again.

The text has been frequently edited and commented upon. It involves a certain number of critical problems, some of which are important for an appreciation of its artistic merits and its relation to the social and cultural milieu from which it sprang. The essential facts may be briefly summarized.

First, as to the historicity of the main characters. It has been established by careful comparison with other sagas that most of these people were historic Icelanders, and that all of them were alive in the first half of the eleventh century. In the saga, Ófeig remarks that one of the confederates, Skeggbroddi, had served under King Harald Sigurd's son of Norway, commonly called Harald Hardrádi or "Hard-ruler. . . . . . ."

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