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Icelandic Online Dictionary and Readings

Carry On Icelandic: Culture [selections] (2004)

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Blómaskeiđ á miđöldum - Heyday in Medieval Iceland

Blómaskeiđ á miđöldum

Mikil gróska var í íslenskri sagnaritun á 13. öld. Ţá voru Íslendingasögurnar skrifađar, en ţćr eru án efa ţekktastar og vinsćlastar allra íslenskra fornsagna. Ţćr gerast á tímabilinu frá landnámi og fram um miđbik 11. aldar en eru fćrđar í letur löngu síđar, á 13. og 14 öld.

Color illustration

Íslendingasögurnar eru oft sögur átaka, hetjudáđa og dramatískra atburđa (Íslendingasögur are often tales of combat, heroic deeds and dramatic events).

Íslendingasögurnar fjalla um Íslendinga og gerast ađ mestu leyti á Íslandi. Ţćr lýsa illdeilum og átökum manna á milli ţar sem mannleg reisn og sćmd var ţađ sem öllu máli skipti. Stíll ţeirra, frásagnarlist og mannlýsingar hafa aflađ ţeim vinsćlda um aldir, ekki einungis međal Íslendinga, heldur um víđa veröld. Frćgust ţeirra er Brennu-Njáls saga eđa Njála, eins og hún er einnig nefnd. Njála er rituđ á kálfsskinn eins og önnur íslensk fornhandrit.

Úr Njálu:

"Gunnar Hámundarson bjó ađ Hlíđarenda í Fljótshlíđ. Hann var mikill mađur vexti og sterkur og allra manna best vígur. Hann hjó báđum höndum og skaut ef hann vildi og hann vó svo skjótt međ sverđi ađ ţrjú ţóttu á lofti ađ sjá. Hann skaut manna best af boga og hćfđi allt ţađ er hann skaut til. Hann hljóp meir en hćđ sína međ öllum herklćđum og eigi skemmra aftur en fram fyrir sig. Hann var syndur sem selur. Og eigi var sá leikur ađ nokkur ţyrfti viđ hann ađ keppa og hefir svo veriđ sagt ađ engi vćri hans jafningi. Hann var vćnn ađ yfirliti og ljóslitađur, rétt nefiđ og hafiđ upp í framanvert, bláeygur og snareygur og rjóđur í kinnum, háriđ mikiđ, gult, og fór vel. Manna var hann kurteisastur, harđger í öllu, ráđhollur og góđgjarn, mildur og stilltur vel, vinfastur og vinavandur. Hann var vel auđigur ađ fé."

Ţannig er Gunnari Hámundarsyni, einni mestu hetju Íslendingasagnanna, lýst í Brennu-Njáls sögu.

Ţekktasti rithöfundur Íslendinga á miđöldum var Snorri Sturluson.

Heyday in Medieval Iceland

There was a great increase in Icelandic saga writing during the thirteenth-century. At that time, the Íslendingasögur (literally the Sagas of Icelanders but generally referred to as the family sagas in English) were written, without doubt the best-known and most popular of all Old Icelandic literature. Family saga events occur in the period from settlement to the middle of the eleventh-century, but were put down in writing much later, in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-centuries.

The family sagas are about the lives of Icelanders and are, for the most part, set in Iceland. They illuminate the hostilities and conflicts between people; human status and honour were the most important social factors of all. The style of the sagas, their narrative skill, and their use of characterization have secured their popularity over the centuries, not just amongst Icelanders but throughout the world. The most famous of them is Brennu-Njáls saga, or Njáls saga as it is also called. Njála (the more informal name which Icelanders have given the saga) is, like other Old Icelandic literature, written on vellum made from calf skin.

From Njála:

Gunnar Hamundarson lived at Hlidarendi in Fljotshlid. He was big and strong and an excellent fighter. He could swing a sword and throw a spear with either hand, if he wished, and he was so swift with a sword that there seemed to be three in the air at once. He could shoot with a bow better than anyone else, and he always hit what he aimed at. He could jump higher than his own height, in full fighting gear, and just as far backward as forward. He swam like a seal, and there was no sport in which there was any point in competing with him. It was said that no man was his match.

He was handsome and fair of skin and had a straight nose, turned up at its tip. He was blue-eyed and keen-eyed and ruddy-cheeked. His hair was thick, blond, and well-combed. He was very courteous, firm in all ways, generous and even-tempered, a true friend but a discriminating friend. He was very well off for property.

(Translation by Robert Cook. The Complete Sagas of Icelanders. Volume 3. Reykjavík: Leifur Eiríksson Publishing, 1997, page 24.)

Thus, Gunnar Hámundarson, one of the greatest heroes of the Icelandic family sagas, is described in Brennu-Njáls saga.

The most famous Icelandic author of the Middle Ages was Snorri Sturluson.

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