The prose literature of the Old Norse world is often referred to as ‘sagas’, which comes from the Old Nose world saga (pl. sǫgur), meaning ‘what is said,’ or even ‘the events which gave rise to the story.’ But, most simply, the word means ‘story’ or ‘history’.1 While the accuracy of their accounts are subject to questions of accuracy, they are still tremendously valuable for historians. Yet, they are also beautiful and meaningful in their own right.
There are several types of sagas (genres, if you prefer): narrative histories, such as Heimskringla; epic and heroic histories, such as Vǫlsunga saga; myths, such as the Prose Edda; the so-called ‘family sagas’, such as Brennu-njáls saga; contemporary sagas (regarding the thirteenth century), such as the Sturlunga compilation; sagas of bishops and saints; romances; and much else.
This section of my Hall is home to resources pertaining to these various saga-genres. Currently there is a page dedicated to where one can find copies of any family saga of tale (ON: þættr). Soon, I hope to begin one for other popular genres, such as the heroic sagas.
I often hold events called sagnaskemmtun (ON: sagnaskemtan), which is Icelandic for ‘storytelling’, which has roots from long ago. During these events, I take passages from various saga-genres and retell them for my guests here in the Hall. It is meant to raise awareness to the Sagas, exposing folk to their content. But, more importantly, such events continue to make the Sagas meaningful and enjoyable for us today. Each event like this offers a slight retelling of the saga passage, so it is not quite the same as it appears in the translated text.
- Geir T. Zoëga, A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004), 346.