Vikings in Russia: Yngvar's Saga and Eymund's Saga

Vikings in Russia: Yngvar's Saga and Eymund's Saga

Vikings in Russia: Yngvar's Saga and Eymund's Saga

Vikings in Russia: Yngvar's Saga and Eymund's Saga

Excerpt

The two Icelandic sagas in this volume open a small window on the hazy world of Scandinavian Vikings in eleventh-century Russia. The brief glimpses they give us of an obscure corner of European history are intriguing, not so much because of the light they throw on the lives of Yngvar Eymundsson and Eymund Hringsson as for the elusive quality of narrative. Although these sagas appear to contain references to actual events, they include so many purely fictive elements that it is not always possible to separate facts from the products of the authors' fertile imagination; the two elements that went into the making of the sagas, historical fact and creative story-writing, are sometimes barely perceptibly, sometimes extravagantly, fused together. In other words, we are dealing with authors whose concern for historical accuracy was not allowed to interfere with the serious business of providing suitable material for entertainment. However, even the most tenuous links with historical events are essential for the purpose of making sense of the sagas; their thirteenth-century audiences would probably enjoy these tales both for their entertainment value and for what they taught, or seemed to teach, about the world and the past.

The principal aim of this introduction is to explore the intellectual background of the two sagas. We shall attempt to indicate their relationship to each other and to medieval Icelandic saga writing as a whole. The reader will find it helpful to bear in mind that not only Russia and remoter regions were very distant from the authors and their audience, but that even Scandinavia itself lay far beyond the horizon of most Icelanders at the time.

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