Saga to Sailor King

Saga, the goddess of history.—Scandinavian Mythology.

Saga and Edda. The Edda is the Bible of the ancient Scandinavians. A saga is a book of instruction, generally but not always in the form of a tale, like a Welsh “mabinogi.” In the Edda there are numerous sagas. As our Bible contains the history of the Jews, religious songs, moral proverbs, and religious stories, so the Edda contained the history of Norway, religious songs, a book of proverbs, and numerous stories. The original Edda was compiled and edited by Sæmund Sigfusson, an Icelandic priest and scald, in the eleventh century. It contains twenty-eight parts or books, all of which are in verse.

Two hundred years later, Snorro Sturleson of Iceland abridged, rearranged, and reduced to prose the Edda, giving the various parts a kind of dramatic form, like the dialogues of Plato. It then became needful to distinguish these two works; so the old poetical compilation is called the Elder or Rhythmical Edda, and sometimes the Sæmud Edda, while the more modern work is called the Younger or Prose Edda, and sometimes the Snorro Edda. The Younger Edda is, however, partly original. Pt. i. is the old Edda reduced to prose, but pt. ii. is Sturleson’s own collection. This part contains “The Discourse of Bragi” (the scald of the gods) on the origin of poetry; and here, too, we find the famous story called by the Germans the Nibelungen Lied.

Sagas. Besides the sagas contained in the Eddas, there are numerous others. Indeed, the whole saga literature extends over 200 volumes.

I. The Edda Sagas. The Edda is divided into two parts and twenty-eight lays or poetical sagas. The first part relates to the gods and heroes of Scandinavia, creation, and the early history of Norway. The Scandinavian “Books of Genesis” are the “Voluspa Saga” or “prophecy of Vola” (about 230 verses), “Vafthrudner’s Saga,” and “Grimner’s Saga.” These three resemble the Sibylline books of ancient Rome, and gave a description of chaos, the formation of the world, the creation of all animals (including dwarfs, giants, and fairies), the general conflagration, and the renewal of the world, when, like the new Jerusalem, it will appear all glorious, and there shall in no wise enter therein “anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.”

The “Book of Proverbs” in the Edda is called the “Hâvamâl Saga,” and sometimes “The High Song of Odin.”

The “Völsunga Saga” is a collection of lays about the early Teutonic heroes.

The “Saga of St. Olaf” is the history of this Norwegian king. He was a savage tyrant, hated by his subjects; but because he aided the priests in forcing Christianity on his subjects, he was canonized.

The other sagas in the Edda are “The Song of Lodbrok” or “Lodbrog,” “Hervara Saga,” the “Vilkina Saga,” the “Blomsturvalla Saga,” the “Ynglinga Saga” (all relating to Norway), the “Jomsvikingia Saga” and the “Knytlinga Saga” (which pertain to Denmark), the “Sturlunga Saga” and the “Eryrbiggia Saga” (which pertain to Iceland). All the above were compiled and edited by Sæmund Sigfusson, and are in verse; but Snorro Sturleson reduced them to prose in his prose version of the old Edda.

II. Sagas not in the Edda. Snorro Sturleson, at the close of the twelfth century, made the second great collection of chronicles in verse, called the Heimskringla Saga, or the book of the kings of Norway from the remotest period to the year 1177. This is a most valuable record of the laws, customs, and manners of the ancient Scandinavians. Samuel Laing published his English translation of it in 1844.

1. The Icelandic Sagas. Besides the two Icelandic sagas collected by Sæmund Sigfusson, numerous others were subsequently embodied in the Landama Bok, set on foot by Ari hinn Frondê, and continued by various hands.

2. Frithjof’s Saga contains the life and adventures of Frithjof of Iceland, who fell in love with Ingeborg, the beautiful wife of Hring king of Norway. On the death of Hring the young widow married her Icelandic

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