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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sturlaugs saga starfsama (StSt) - 2

Sturlaugs saga starfsama (StSt)

Skaldic vol. 8; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross

verse introduction manuscripts contents

Sturlaugs saga starfsama ‘The Saga of Sturlaugr the Industrious’ (StSt) is a fornaldarsaga generally considered to have been composed in the early part of the fourteenth century (StSt 1969, 5-6; Zitzelsberger 1993, 614; Busch 2002, 82-4). It is extant in two versions, usually designated A and B, of which the A version is normally reckoned to be the earlier. The B version is extant only in paper mss, whereas there are three extant vellum mss of the A version, two of them (AM 589 f 4° and AM 567 XXI 4°) incomplete. Altogether there are currently fifty known mss of this saga (Stories for All Time database, accessed 9 November 2014). Two fornyrðislag stanzas occur in mss of the A version of the saga and are edited below. Several rímur about Sturlaugr also exist (for details, see Stories for All Time database; Finnur Jónsson 1905-22, I, 455-513, translated into English by Zitzelsberger in StSt 1969, 412-39).

The saga plot involves the hero, Sturlaugr, son of Ingólfr, a hersir ‘district chieftain’ from Naumudalr (Namdalen) in Norway, in multiple adventures, many of which are occasioned by his wooing of Ása, daughter of Jarl Hringr, who has been betrothed to the aged King Haraldr gullmuðr ‘Gold-mouth’ of Þrándheimr (Trondheim), in whose territory Hringr lives. As Haraldr is too old to fight a rival suitor, Kolr, Sturlaugr takes on the fight on condition that the king relinquish his claim to Ása. Various tests and adventures follow, and King Haraldr imposes a difficult task upon Sturlaugr before he can have his beloved: he has to recover an aurochs horn from a pagan temple, whose custodians are a group of thirty women, led by a gigantic and sinister priestess. It is at the point when the hero enters the pagan temple that the two stanzas occur in mss of the A text. The rest of the saga details further adventures of the hero, many of which take place in Sweden.

Two vellum mss of the A text have been used as the basis of this edition, AM 335 4° (335) of c. 1400 and AM 589 f 4° (589f) of the second half of the fifteenth century, the latter lacking the saga’s beginning. Two paper mss from the seventeenth century have been consulted and mentioned selectively in the Notes. These are GKS 1006 folˣ (1006ˣ), written by Jón Erlendsson (d. 1672) and Holm papp 30 4°ˣ (30ˣ), written by Guðmundur Ólafsson between 1681-95.

The editio princeps of StSt was published by Guðmundur Ólafsson (StSt 1694) while he was working at the Swedish Antikvitetskollegiet (on this institution and its involvement in the copying and publication of Icelandic manuscripts see Busch 2002, 14-31). It was an unfortunate choice as a text intended to demonstrate Swedish ‘Gothic’ history, as there is little of historical value in the saga. It was printed in Uppsala on Olof Rudbeck’s private press (Busch 2002, 19-23). It has an Icelandic text taken from the A-version ms. Holm papp 56 folˣ (56ˣ), written by Arngrímur Jónsson with notes by Guðmundur, and with the latter’s facing Swedish translation. There followed editions by C. C. Rafn (FSN 3, 592-647, based on the B-version ms. AM 173 fol, with variants from 335 and 589f), Valdimar Ásmundarson (1885-9, 3, 459-502), Bjarni Vilhjálmsson and Guðni Jónsson (1943-4, 2, 309-55), Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ 3, 105-60), Otto J. Zitzelsberger (StSt 1969) and Galína Glazyrína (1996). There is a facsimile edition of AM 589f by Agnete Loth (1977). Editions of the two stanzas are in Skj and Skald. Edd. Min. (cf. Edd. Min. iii) omits them on the ground that they are of very late date.

Zitzelsberger’s edition also includes an English translation of both A and B versions, while Glazyrína’s has a Russian translation. In addition there are translations into French by Ásdís Rósa Magnúsdóttir (2002) and into Norwegian by Kjell Tore Nilssen and Árni Ólafsson (2006).

The present edition cites the earlier editions of Guðmundur Ólafsson (StSt 1694), Rafn (FSN 3, 592-647), Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ 3, 105-60), Zitzelsberger (StSt 1969) and the separate editions of the two stanzas in Skj and Skald.

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