|Depiction of the Stave church, the oldest known image of the Norwegian Church.|
Sunday, July 31, 2016
The Arthurian Sagas of Scandinavia (Notes:16)
A clash between a courtly ethos and a civilized one; the Arthurian tradition among the Norse territories introduced new concepts into the Arthur legend. Upon first imagining, the pillaging and seafaring clichés typically associated with Norse raiders appears an ill-fit for King Arthur.
Of the manuscript translations, which happened in the 1200s, the manuscripts had been long in the past, so it is impossible to tell if quirks about the texts are part of the translator’s issues or if it is the original scribe’s fault. So, scholars are unsure of how the Norse Arthurian texts progressed and whether their issues are a result of momentary but powerful superimposition, or if it was more of a process.
“Sagas of Knights” was the name given to the collection of Arthurian Romances in the Norse tradition. Although this lordly commissioned text bundle was an important entry point for Arthurian legend, evidence suggests that a monetary was also a vital passage way for Arthurian texts. The earliest entry point for Arthurian literature goes to Iceland who has a translation of a Merlin portion of Geoffrey of Month’s ‘History of the Kings of Britain, around the year 1200; this was due to the travelling of the Arthurian literature which, outside of Britain, came to be known as ‘The Matter of Britain.’
By 1300, these Arthurian tales were popular enough to rival the well-established literary traditions of France (tales of Charlemagne and Rome, in other words). When the complete translation of Geoffrey’s history was published, translated, likely, by a Monk, in Scandinavia, it was dubbed ‘Sagas of the Britains.’ Some of the changes include: the account of Arthur’s conquest as him conquering and them setting up rulers who were paid tribute toward. This is because the text was translated into Old Icelandic with Geoffrey’s prose translated into verse, giving it a distinct identity within the Norse tradition.
The reason why the Arthurian legend was commissioned by a Norwegian king was because of a program of self-improvement which he thought was vital to his military conquests and expansionism. The year 1226 was the year in which the first translation of the “Tristen” story appears whose original author is signed as a Thomas of Britain. Later he would commission the stories of Chretien de Troyes and Marie de France as part of what scholars believe was his emphasis on texts which promoted an ideal kingship.
Part of the culture clash was that the 12th century feudal structure and values of the original texts were impossible to map onto 13th century Scandinavian territories. Several changes: fishing was emphasized and so the Perceval story with the Fisher King is switched where the Fisher King does catch fish. Additionally, virtual kingship is displayed directly instead of debate and swooning—for the most part, chivalry and courtly love has been pruned. Berserkers take a prominent place in the re-orientation of values as the texts are adapted into the Norse setting.
Much of the pedagogical emphasis is secular in nature with a great deal of the religious and spiritual focus is cut down, with characters like Perceval being revered as a good husband and knight, with his training and questing part of his moral virtual, not religious in origin. Most of the courtly material is discarded. In some texts, however, there does seem to be a proto-feminist arrangement in those texts which keep some aspects of courtly politics.
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