Archives de catégorie : Islande / Iceland

Boestad, Tobias


Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) 
Continuer la lecture de Boestad, Tobias

Écrire l’histoire d’une faide dans l’Islande du XIIIe siècle. Quelques remarques sur la Saga des Svínfellingar

Écrire l’histoire d’une faide dans l’Islande du XIIIe siècle. Quelques remarques sur la Saga des Svínfellingar

Writing the history of a feud in 13th century Iceland. Some remarks on the Saga of the Men of Svínafell

Scrivere la storia di una faida nell’Islanda del XIII secolo. Osservazioni sulla Saga dei Svínfellingar

Grégory CATTANEO, Universités de Paris IV Sorbonne et d’Islande, UMR 8596

Article dans Tabularia :

Résumé :
Cette étude répond à un double objectif : analyser les mécanismes de la faide dans une contrée de l’est de l’Islande au milieu du XIIIe siècle et démontrer la valeur d’une saga de contemporains comme source historique. L’affrontement entre les élites locales apparaît à la lueur de deux sources : les annales islandaises et la Saga des Svínfellingar (Svínfellinga saga). Après un examen approfondi des sources de cette faide, force est de constater l’importance du témoignage fourni par la saga. Ce texte narratif permet de reconstruire les étapes de la faide et de comprendre comment l’élite locale est dépeinte dans la saga. Les alliances entre les puissants et la limitation de la violence sont examinées comme un aspect fondamental du jeu de la faide. Les processus de résolution du conflit et ses enjeux sociaux sont reconstitués à travers une étude minutieuse des acteurs de la médiation. Quand cela se révèle pertinent, on établit un parallèle entre le système faidal décrit dans la Saga des Svínfellingar et des exemples issus de sociétés faideuses, que ce soit dans l’Islande des sagas ou dans la France féodale.

Mots-clés : faide, système faidal, négociations de paix, élites locales, sagas de contemporains

This study is based on two purposes. First, it analyses the mechanism of a feud in an area of Eastern Iceland in the middle of the 13th century. Then it demonstrates the value of a contemporary saga as a historical source. The feud between the local elites appears in two written sources: the Icelandic Annals and the Saga of the Men of Svínafell (Svínfellinga saga). After a careful inspection of the sources of this feud, one can observe the importance of the saga testimony. The coalitions between the elite and the limitation of violence are analysed as a fundamental aspect of the feuding game. The process of conflict resolution and its social stakes are reconstituted through a meticulous study of the mediation. When it is relevant, one establishes a parallel between this feuding system and other examples, taken from other feuding societies, in Saga Age Iceland and in Feudal France.

Keywords: feud, feuding system, peacemaking, local elites, contemporary sagas

Riassunto :
Questo studio risponde a un doppio obiettivo : analizzare i meccanismi della faida in una contrada dell’Islanda dell’est in pieno XIII secolo e mostrare il valore di una saga di contemporanei comme fonte storica. L’affronto tra l’élite locale si manifesta alla luce di due fonti : gli annali islandesi e la Saga dei Svínfelligar (Svínfelliga saga). Dopo un esame approfondito delle fonti di questa faida, pare inevitabile costatare l’importanza della testimonianza fornita dalla saga. Questo testo a carattere narrativo permette di ricostruire le tappe della faida e di comprendere come l’élite locale è dipinta nella saga. Le alleanze tra i potenti e l’arginamento della violenza sono esaminati comme un aspetto fondamentale del gioco della faida. Il processo di risoluzione del conflitto e la sua posta in gioco sociale sono ricostituiti attraverso uno studio minuzioso degli attori della mediazione. Se pertinente, si è stabilito un parallelo tra il sistema della faida descritto nella Saga dei Svínfelligar e gli esempi provenienti dalle società vendicative, tanto nell’Islanda delle saghe quanto nella Francia feudale.

Parole chiave : faida, sistema della faida, trattative di pace, élites locali, saga di contemporanei

Koch Madsen Christian, Pastoral Settlement. Farming and Hierarchy in Norse Vatnahverfi, South Greenland

Koch Madsen Christian, Pastoral Settlement. Farming and Hierarchy in Norse Vatnahverfi, South Greenland, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2014, (Université de Copenhague)

Résumé/abstract :

Norse farmers settled Greenland around AD 1000. They established two settlements, where the southernmost – the Eastern Settlement – was the largest and lasted until ca. AD 1450, where after it was depopulated for unknown reasons. Through an archaeological study of one of the Eastern Settlement’s core areas – ‘Vatnahverfi’ – this dissertation analyses and discusses how the settlement was organized and changed throughout time. New precision surveys of 157 sites and 1308 individual ruins show that the dispersed settlement was organized after strongly hierarchical patterns. The Norse pastoral farming system relied on extensive land use practices organized around shielings, and apparently after unique Greenlandic patterns. A population estimate based on these settlement patterns implies an average population in Vatnahverfi of only ca. 225-550 people, and an average maximum population of ca. 1400-1940 in the whole of the Eastern Settlement. New and old 14C-dates show that the settlement expanded in two phases: the best agricultural areas were quickly occupied around AD 1000, more marginal areas about a century later. The settlement reached a maximum between AD 1100-1200, where after it quickly contracted and power was centralized on fewer manors. Already by AD 1250 the settlement was again concentrated on those areas that had initially been settled, and after AD 1350 even these areas witnessed a decline in land use. Although climatic deterioration towards the ‘Little Ice Age’ undoubtedly made it harder to be a farmer in South Greenland, this study implies that low population densities – and a very unequal access to resources and options – was perhaps the major problem facing the Norse and ultimately a key reason for the abandonment of the settlements.

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Lavender Philip Thomas, Whatever Happened to Illuga saga Gríðarfóstra ? Origin, Transmission and Reception of a Fornaldarsaga

Lavender Philip Thomas, Whatever Happened to Illuga saga Gríðarfóstra ? Origin, Transmission and Reception of a Fornaldarsaga, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2015, (Université de Copenhague)

Résumé/abstract :

Never heard of Illuga saga Gríðarfóstra? You’re not alone. Alongside the canon of world literary treasures there lies a shady world of forgotten and abandoned texts. The focus of my doctoral research has been the revindication of one such work, not simply because humanities research revels in the excavation of recondite relics of yesteryear, but also because behind every currently unpopular work there can lie a prehistory of untold entertainment and edification. Illuga saga Gríðarfóstra tells the story of a viking hero and his encounter with a lewd and troublesome trollwoman in the far north. It is found in 37 manuscript witnesses, but also in a number of other literary and textual formats. The relationships between these various formats – a passage from Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum, Faroese ballads, Swedish ‘Stormaktstiden’ academic interventions and post-medieval Icelandic rímur – will be adumbrated and their production contexts analyzed in an attempt to account for how past audiences interacted with this quirky saga. The result hopefully provides a partial blueprint for the salvaging of similar literary flotsam and jetsam.

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Kedwards Dale, Cartography and Culture in Medieval Iceland

Kedwards Dale, Cartography and Culture in Medieval Iceland, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2015, (Université d’York)

Résumé/abstract :

While previous studies of the medieval Icelandic world maps have tended to be cursorily descriptive, and focus on their roles as representatives of the geographical information available to medieval Icelanders, this thesis directs attention towards their manuscript contexts. Rather than narrowly approaching the maps as vehicles for geographical information, the chapters assembled in this thesis explore their relevance to other areas: pan-European histories of astronomy and the computus (chapters 1 and 2), Icelandic literary history (chapter 4), and the history of the Icelandic Commonwealth (chapter 5). Ultimately, this thesis attempts to rehabilitate the Icelandic maps as sources for the cultural history of medieval Iceland, and demonstrates that they connect with more textual worlds than has previously been supposed. Chapter 1 presents an examination of the Icelandic hemispherical world map, preserved in two manuscripts: the encyclopaedic fragments in Copenhagen’s Arnamagnæan Institute with the shelf marks AM 736 I 4to (c. 1300) and AM 732b 4to (c. 1300-25). I demonstrate that this map’s primary function was to illustrate the configurations of the sun and moon responsible for variations in tidal range. Chapter 2 presents an examination of the Icelandic zonal map, preserved in the large illustrated encyclopaedia in Reykjavík’s Stofnun Árna Magnússonar with the shelf mark GkS 1812 I 4to (1315-c. 1400). This map also shows the structure of the ocean and the mechanisms responsible for the tides. These two chapters restore these maps to their manuscript contexts, and demonstrate that they sustain a complex suite of relationships with the items preserved alongside them. Chapter 3 concerns the relationship between the two world maps preserved in Reykjavík, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, GkS 1812 III 4to (c. 1225-50). Although these two maps are preserved on the recto and verso of the same manuscript folio, the relationship between them has not hitherto been examined. The two chapters that follow concern different aspects of these paired maps, and foreground their implications for Icelandic national identity at the time of their production. Chapter 4 concerns their depiction of Europe, with a particular focus on Iceland. Chapter 5 concerns the relationship between the two maps and a register of forty highborn Icelandic priests preserved alongside them, and calls attention to the secular uses to which maps might have been put in thirteenth-century Iceland.

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Legendary sagas as historical sources, Hans Jacob Orning

Legendary sagas as historical sources
Les sagas en tant que sources historiques
Le saghe come fonti storiche

Hans Jacob ORNING

Professor of Medieval History, University of Oslo

Article dans Tabularia :

This article advocates using legendary sagas as historical sources, since these texts in spite of their non-realistic content, can tell historians a lot about the context in which the stories were written, and hence about the conditions that the people listening to them lived under. Using legendary sagas this way presupposes that they are read in their manuscript context, in line with the methodology of New Philology. However, this approach also brings along several challenges, some of which are addressed in this article. One practical challenge is to situating the manuscript historically, but in this field paleographists have done extensive work. Second, sagas are normally contained in manuscripts containing numerous sagas. This article argues that sagas should not be isolated from their manuscript context, and that manuscripts should be interpreted as totalities, not as random collections of sagas. Finally, legendary sagas deal with adventurous, allegedly “unhistorical”, events. Yet, using the handling of these themes as keys to mentalities can open up new venues for historians, provided that they abandon a narrow definition of what should be considered “historical”.

Keywords: legendary sagas, New Philology, mentality, manuscripts, late medieval Iceland

Résumé :
Cet article préconise l’utilisation des sagas comme sources historiques, puisqu’elles donnent aux historiens, en dépit de leur contenu peu réaliste, de nombreuses informations sur le contexte dans lequel elles ont été écrites et donc sur les conditions de vie de ceux qui les écoutaient. Cette utilisation des sagas suppose qu’elles sont lues en lien avec les méthodes de la Nouvelle philologie. Cependant, cette approche soulève également plusieurs défis, dont certains sont abordés dans cet article. Un premier défi est de dater historiquement les manuscrits, mais les paléographes ont déjà bien avancé le travail. Ensuite, les sagas se trouvent dans les manuscrits aux côtés de nombreuses autres sagas. L’auteur soutient que les sagas ne doivent pas être isolées de leur contexte manuscrit, et que les manuscrits doivent être interprétés comme des touts, pas comme des collections constituées de manière aléatoire. Enfin, les sagas, relatent des événements prétendument « non historiques ». Pourtant, en considérant le traitement de ces thèmes comme des clés pour l’étude des mentalités, on peut ouvrir de nouvelles pistes pour les historiens, à condition d’abandonner une définition trop étroite de ce qui devrait être considéré comme « historique ». Continuer la lecture de Legendary sagas as historical sources, Hans Jacob Orning

McLeod, Shane. The Beginning of Scandinavian Settlement in England. The Viking ‘Great Army’ and Early Settlers, c. 865-90

McLeod, Shane. The Beginning of Scandinavian Settlement in England. The Viking ‘Great Army’ and Early Settlers, c. 865-900

Turnhout: Brepols, 2014. Pp. xv, 319, 8 figures, 6 maps, 3 tables. EUR 80.00.  ISBN: 978-2-503-54556-1.

  Reviewed by P. Holm, Trinity College Dublin

  In The Medieval review

Historians, archaeologists, and philologists have debated the character and extent of Scandinavian settlement like hardly any other phenomenon in Anglo-Saxon England, and more than seventy years after the publication of F.M. Stenton’s ground-breaking Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford, 1943) agreement on the main issues seems far away. McLeod therefore does all parties a great service by assembling and reviewing a good deal of the pieces that make up the puzzle. He boldly imagines some new pieces to make a full picture emerge. Many readers will value McLeod’s book for its up-to-date review, while the model suggested may encourage further research. Continuer la lecture de McLeod, Shane. The Beginning of Scandinavian Settlement in England. The Viking ‘Great Army’ and Early Settlers, c. 865-90

Viking Archaeology in Iceland: Mosfell Archaeological Project

Zori, Davide and Jesse Byock. Viking Archaeology in Iceland: Mosfell Archaeological Project. Cursor Mundi, 20. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014. Pp. xxvi, 256. $156.00 (paperback). 9782503544007 (paperback).

Reviewed by: Neil Price (University of Uppsala)

In The Medieval Review :

This book represents the full publication of a remarkable archaeological excavation project, conducted over multiple seasons in the Mosfell Valley and its central church and farm at Hrísbrú, a spectacular landscape environment not far from Reykjavík in south-western Iceland. Mosfell is well-known from the medieval saga literature, Iceland’s great national literary tradition, and is described in the anonymous saga of Egill Skalla-Grímsson as the location of the hero’s home. Egill is one of the most spectacular figures of the Viking period, even by the standards of a dramatic age, a quintessential warrior-poet, sorcerer and worshipper of the war-god Odin. While the veracity of the saga has long been open to question, the print-the-Legend story has a power all its own. Many Icelanders today are blood relatives of the man himself, and it is fair to say that any archaeological investigation of the reality behind the myth is a subject of national concern in this North Atlantic country of just over 300,000 people.

Continuer la lecture de Viking Archaeology in Iceland: Mosfell Archaeological Project

Dillmann, François-Xavier

Directeur d’études

École pratique des Hautes Études 

Continuer la lecture de Dillmann, François-Xavier

66 Manuscripts from the Arnamagnæan Collection

2015, 248 pp., hb
159 illustrations
ISBN 978-87-635-4264-7

This volume commemorates the three-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the Icelandic scholar and antiquarian Árni Magnússon, who served as secretary of the Royal Archives and professor of Danish antiquities at the University of Copenhagen, in addition to building the most important collection of early Scandinavian manuscripts in existence.

The book presents descriptions of sixty-six manuscripts from the collection, one for each year of Magnússon’s life, complemented by high-quality color photographs, a comprehensive introduction to Magnússon’s life, and a chapter on book production in the medieval period.

Published in collaboration with the Arnamagnæan Institute at the Department of Nordic Research, Copenhagen and the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, Reykjavík.

M.J. Driscoll is senior lecturer in Old Norse philology at the University of Copenhagen and head of the Arnamagnæan Institute.

Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir is head of the Manuscript Department at the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Interpreting Eddic Poetry Project

Interpreting Eddic Poetry Project

Responsables du projet/Project leaders :

Carolyne Larrington (, Judy Quinn (

Établissements principaux/Main institutions :

University of Oxford, University of Cambridge

Projet en cours/Project in progress

Description :

Old Norse-Icelandic medieval literature is, alongside medieval French literature, the richest corpus of vernacular texts preserved from 850-1450. It incorporates an extraordinary range of genres, from early, oral poetry of praise and mourning to later indigenous prose romances making creative use of native and European narrative motifs. It also includes the unparalleled prose narratives of the sagas (many of which contain extensive quotations of poetry), contemporary histories and chronicles, poetry manuals and learned encyclopedic works, as well as a varied body of translated and native religious texts. Mediating insights into early Germanic and Scandinavian history, mythology, legend and society, and above all, crucial in reconstructing pre- and post-Conversion mentalités, the Norse literary heritage is becoming increasingly important in the study of medieval Europe.

The focus of this major new international research project is the unique genre of eddic poetry, a substantial body of literature preserved in a variety of disparate contexts. One major anthology survives, as well as single poems within compilation manuscripts and scattered quotations within treatises and a large number of sagas. The primary objectives of the ‘Interpreting Eddic Poetry’ Project are the redefinition of the extent and scope of this corpus and the reassessment of its significance in the light of recent advances in interdisciplinary research into different aspects of the culture of medieval Europe.

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Matveeva Elizaveta, Reconsidering the tradition: the Odinic hero as saga-protagonist

Matveeva Elizaveta, Reconsidering the tradition: the Odinic hero as saga-protagonist, (dir. J. Jesch, University of Nottingham)

En cours depuis ?/In preparation since ?

Résumé/abstract :

My project centres upon the representation of late Icelandic saga characters that are connected with Odinic motifs, and are usually based upon an earlier tradition of depicting a mortal hero consecrated to Óðinn. The major examples of such characters include Sigmundr, Sinfjötli and Sigurðr of Völsunga saga that goes back to Eddic poetry, and the eponymous kings and their champions in Hrólfs saga kraka and Halfs saga ok Halfsrekka. The aim of my thesis is to look at the perception and interpretation of these traditional storylines and their pagan theme in saga narrative of the Christian era, from both literary-critical and historical points of view.

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Shortt Butler Joanne, The portrayal of ójafnaðarmenn and Ofsamenn in the Íslendingasögur

Shortt Butler Joanne, The portrayal of ójafnaðarmenn and Ofsamenn in the Íslendingasögur, (dir. J. Quinn, University of Cambridge)

En cours depuis ?/In preparation since ?

Aucun résumé retrouvé/No abstract available

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Ramandi Maria Teresa, Latin and Norse in medieval Icelandic culture

Ramandi Maria Teresa, Latin and Norse in medieval Icelandic culture: a comparative analysis of some translated saints’ lives, (dir. E. Rowe, University of Cambridge)

En cours depuis ?/In preparation since ?

Aucun résumé retrouvé/No abstract available

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Patterson Simon, The perception of prophecy in the ‘Íslendingasögur’

Patterson Simon, The perception of prophecy in the ‘Íslendingasögur’, (dir. J. Quinn, University of Cambridge)

En cours depuis ?/In preparation since ?

Aucun résumé retrouvé/No abstract available

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