The author was an unnamed Austrian poet, but the story itself belongs to the cycle of sagas, which originated on the shores of the North Sea.
It was Ablabius, apparently, who had first used the Gothic sagas (prisca carmina); it was he who had constructed the stem of the Amals.
A list of its birds, with some notes, bibliographical and biological, has been given as an Appendix to Baring-Gould's Iceland, its Scenes and Sagas (8vo, 1862); and Shepherd's North-west Peninsula of Iceland (8vo, 1867) recounts a somewhat profitless expedition made thither expressly for ornithological objects.
The basis of this growth is partly the story-telling instinct innate in all men, which loves to heighten an effect, sharpen a point or increase a contrast - the instinct which breathes in Icelandic sagas like that of Burnt Njal; partly the instinct of idolization, if it may be so called, which leads to the perversion into impossible greatness of an approved character, and has created, in this instance, the legendary figures of Peter the Hermit and Godfrey of Bouillon (qq.v.); partly the religious impulse, which counted nothing wonderful in a holy war, and imported miraculous elements even into the sober pages of the Gesta.
When the Norsemen came to Greenland they found various remains indicating, as the old sagas say, that there had been people of a similar kind as those they met with in Vinland, in America, whom they called Skraeling (the meaning of the word is uncertain, it means possibly weak people); but the sagas do not report that they actually met the natives then.
As to the origin of the heroic sagas as we now have them, Tacitus tells us that the deeds of Arminius were still celebrated in song a hundred years after his death (Annals, ii.
88) and in the Germania he speaks of " old songs " as the only kind of " annals " which the ancient Germans possessed; but, whatever relics of the old songs may be embedded in the Teutonic sagas, they have left no recognizable mark on the heroic poetry of the German peoples.
Sivrit), the hero of the Niebelungenlied, the Sigurd of the related northern sagas, is usually regarded as a purely mythical figure, a hero of light who is ultimately overcome by the powers of darkness, the mist-people (Niebelungen).
Theodor Abeling (Das Nibelungenlied, Leipzig, 1907) traces the Nibelung sagas to three groups of Burgundian legends, each based on fact: the Frankish-Burgundian tradition of the murder of Segeric, son of the Burgundian king Sigimund, who was slain by his father at the instigation of his stepmother; the Frankish-Burgundian story, as told by Gregory of Tours (iii.
Herr Abeling identifies Siegfried (Sigurd) with Segeric, while - according to him - the heroine of the Nibelung sagas, Kriemhild (Gudrun), represents a conf.usion of two historical persons: Chrothildis, the wife of Clovis, and Ildico (Hilde), the wife of Attila.
He attended lectures on grammar, and his favourite work was St Augustine's De civitate Dei, He caused Frankish sagas to be collected, began a grammar of his native tongue, and spent some of his last hours in correcting a text of the Vulgate.
Of these we may mention LOgsogumannatal og LOgmanna a Islandi (" Speakers of the Law and Law-men in Iceland"); his edition of Landneima and other sagas in Islendinga SOgur, i.
But the Greenland colony was obscure, the country was believed to form part of Europe, and the records of the farther explorations were contained in sagas which were only rediscovered by modern scholarship. Throughout the middle ages, legendary tales of mythical lands lying in the western ocean - the Isle of St Brandan, of Brazil and Antilia - had been handed down.
He is frequently introduced in legendary sagas, generally in disguise, imparting secret instructions to his favourites or presenting them with weapons by which victory is assured.
Such in particular were the Greek Isles of the Blest, or Fortunate Islands, the Welsh Avalon, the Portuguese Antilia or Isle of Seven Cities, and St Brendan's island, the subject of many sagas in many languages.
Snorri is the author of the great prose Edda (see Edda), and of the Heimskringla or Sagas of the Norwegian Kings, a connected series of biographies of the kings of Norway down to Sverri in 1177.
After the 6th century cremation seems not to have been common, if we may trust the sagas, but isolated instances occur as late as the 10th century.
A special form of funeral rite peculiar to the North was that of cremation on a ship. Generally the ship was drawn up on land; but occasionally we hear, in legendary sagas, of the burning ship being sent out to sea.
To these must be added a large number of Old Norse writings including the older Edda and the prose Edda (the chief authorities for Northern mythology), Islands Landnamabok and many sagas dealing with the history of families in Iceland (such as Eyrbyggia Saga) or with the lives of Norwegian and other kings, both historical and legendary (in Heimskringla, Fornmanna Sogur and Rafn's Fornaldar Sogur Norr landa).
High at the other, in which two rooms have been artificially hollowed out, traditionally believed to be the bed-chambers of Trolld, the dwarf of the sagas, and his wife.
The poets, and the poetically minded authors of the sagas, who are the only authorities, have told the story with many circumstances of romance.
The fact that the Icelandic sagas concerning Vinland are not contemporaneous written records has caused them to be viewed by many with suspicion; hence such a significant allusion as that by Adam of Bremen is not to be overlooked.
To the student of the Norse sources, Adam's reference is not so important, as the internal evidence of the sagas is such as to give easy credence to them as records of exploration in regions previously unknown to civilization.
Among them the Vinland sagas, also a Norwegian work of the 13th century, called Speculum regale (The King's Mirror), and some papal letters, give interesting glimpses of the life of this colony.
Icelandic literature consists mainly of the so-called "sagas," or prose narratives, and is rich in historical lore.
In the case of the Vinland sagas, however, there are two independent narratives of the same events, which clash in the record of details.
This collection of sagas, completed in about 1380, is "the most extensive and most perfect of Icelandic manuscripts," and was sent to Denmark in 1662 as a gift to the king.
The Vinland story was doubtless a cherished family possession, and was put into writing, when writing sagas, instead of telling them, came into fashion.
We are left to affirm, on account of definite references in various sagas and annals to Leif Ericsson and the discovery of Vinland, that the saga as preserved in Hank's Book (and also in No.
Vigfusson, in speaking of the sagas in general, says: "We believe that when once the first saga was written down, the others were in quick succession committed to parchment; some still keeping their form through a succession of copies, other changed..
134, in which he contends that it is most probable that the "vinber" of the sagas were not "grapes," but "wineberries," also known as the mountain or rock cranberries.
The "self-sown wheat" of the sagas he identifies as strand wheat, instead of Indian corn, or wild rice, and the mdsur trees as the canoe birch.
Professor Fernald concludes his paper by saying that: "The mass of evidence which the writer has in hand, and which will soon be ready for publication, makes it clear that, if we read the sagas in the light of what we know of the abundant occurrence north of the St Lawrence of the vinber' (Vaccinium Vitis-Idaea or possibly Ribes triste, R.
Papyrifera of many botanists), the discrepancies in geography, ethnology and zoology, which have been so troublesome in the past, will disappear; other features, usually considered obscure, will become luminous; and the older and less distorted sagas, at least in their main incidents, will become vivid records of actual geographic exploration."
At any rate, the incontrovertible facts of the Vinland voyages are that Leif and Thorfinn were historical characters, that they visited, in the early part of the 11th century, some part of the American continent south-west of Greenland, that they found natives whose hostility prevented the founding of a permanent settlement, and that the sagas telling of these things are, on the whole, trustworthy descriptions of actual experience.
In Scandinavia a custom, alluded to in the sagas, of burying the viking in his ship, drawn up on land, and raising a barrow over it, is exemplified by the ship-burials discovered in Norway.
In 1872 appeared Love is Enough, structurally the most elaborate of his poems for its combination of the epic and dramatic spirits; and in the autumn he began to translate the shorter Icelandic sagas, to which his enthusiasm had been directed by two inspiring journeys to Iceland..
Morris now became sole manager and proprietor, although the other members of the old firm continued, in varying degrees, to give him the advantage of their assistance and advice. !; Meanwhile the epic mood had possessed Morris very strongly, and, in addition to his work upon the sagas, he had actually finished and (in 1875) published a verse translation of the Aeneid, which is interesting rather for its individuality than for any fidelity to the spirit of the original.
What we can alone describe as a literature, first the early Eddic verse, next the habit of narrating sagas: these things the Norsemen learned probably from their Celtic subjects, partly in Ireland, partly in the western islands of Scotland; and they first developed the new literature on the soil of Iceland.
The accounts of naval battles in the sagas show us, too, that this was the case.
Ng /(' Z) s a l Il I!l l/ll JIM 1 11 111 1111 11111 n The form of the ogam alphabet made it easy to carve hastily; hence in the old sagas, when a hero is killed we find the common formula, '` His grave was dug and his stone was raised, and his name was written in ogam."
Beyond these facts, the Norse sagas and chronicles contribute little that is certain (cf.
Olof Verelius (1618-1682) had led the way for Rudbeck, by his translations of Icelandic sagas, a work which was carried on with greater intelligence by Johan PeringskjOld (1654-1720), the editor of the Heimskringla (1697), and J.
But there also developed a rather extensive Pahlavi literature, not limited to religious subjects, but containing works in belles letires, modernizations of the old Iranian sagas and native traditions, e.g.
Nor can we deny to the Yashts, in their depiction of the Zoroastrian angels and their presentment of the old sagas, a certain poetic feeling, at times, and a pleasant diction.
His later series of editions (1874-85) included Orkneyinga and Hdconar Saga, the great and complex mass of Icelandic historical sagas, known as Sturlunga, and the Corpus Poeticum Boreale, in which he edited the whole body of classic Scandinavian poetry.