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Author Topic: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?  (Read 1848 times)

Cinuodca

The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« on: March 17, 2013, 10:42:30 pm »
I just watched a BBC documentary that was fascinating.  It was titled the Viking Sagas.  After watching it, I have a question about the Laxdaela saga, where Kjartan and Bolli are free to return to Iceland after being prisoner for some time and Kjartan who once was engaged to Guoran, marries another woman and Bolli marries Guoran, who I felt may be jealous of Kjartan's relationship with his new wife, because she asks Bolli to kill Kjartan, which he does.  And in turn, a few men are sent out to kill Bolli for his wrongdoing.  I was following this story, wrapped up in it, and then it all ended very suddenly with Guoran suddenly becoming a Christian nun and that was it, nothing further.  I guess my question is...what do you guys think about this?  Do you really think she suddenly decided to convert to Christianity and why?  I thought the purpose of the sagas was to show and teach the right way to live one's life, under the heathenry faith?  Or could it be that the Christians got ahold of the stories over time and changed the ending to portray their faith as being the answer to how to live one's life?  If the Christians did put their own ending to this story, was this a typical practice?  Would the old version be then lost forever?
Thanks so much for any thoughts and I apologize for my rambling!!

hlewagastir

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Re: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2013, 09:53:44 am »
Quote from: Cinuodca;101728
I thought the purpose of the sagas was to show and teach the right way to live one's life, under the heathenry faith?  Or could it be that the Christians got ahold of the stories over time and changed the ending to portray their faith as being the answer to how to live one's life?  If the Christians did put their own ending to this story, was this a typical practice?  Would the old version be then lost forever?


Yo Cinuodca,

The saga is usually dated to the middle of the 13th century, that´s 250 years after Icelands conversion!.
IOW it was written by a Christian dude who may or may not have been a man of the cloth. Laxdæla saga is influenced by chivalric romances, which were often imported from England and France, or inspired from native translations of such romances.
This means that qualities, themes and values were, to a certain degree, borrowed from these romances.

There are several theories on the themes, perspectives and goals of Laxdæla - and the sagas in general.
Since I do not have much time I´m just going to cite Margaret Clunies Ross in her The Cambridge Introduction to the Old Norse-Icelandic Saga

"(...) sets up a contrast between the foreign world of romances and the reality of life in Iceland, a society in which concepts of honour and shame, conflict, vengeance and resolution dominate the lives of both men and woman." p. 130

Quote
I thought the purpose of the sagas was to show and teach the right way to live one's life, under the heathenry faith?

The purpose of the sagas is to do several of the following things, with a different emphasis on them depending on the particular saga:
1) Treating/commenting on/inventing historiography, biography, genealogy.
2) Entertaining an audience.
3) Commenting on/treating moral themes in both Christian and Heathen times (but from a medieval, Christian perspective!!!).
Sometimes: 4) Using 1 and 3 to glorify or slander certain ancestors, persons, geographic areas and families - often to further ones own goal in the present power struggles or commenting on morals and other peoples.

Maybe I´ll come up with more...

Bottom line is: There is a lot of useful Heathen material in the medieval sagas but you have to dig and pick. And to dig the right places and pick the right material, the material which can genuinely be assessed to have Heathen roots, you have to do a broader study to know the context - a study which includes academic material such as the book I quoted above (I can recommend that particular book btw.).
« Last Edit: March 18, 2013, 10:02:45 am by hlewagastir »

Cinuodca

Re: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2013, 04:10:40 pm »
Quote from: hlewagastir;101759
Yo Cinuodca,

The saga is usually dated to the middle of the 13th century, that´s 250 years after Icelands conversion!.
IOW it was written by a Christian dude who may or may not have been a man of the cloth. Laxdæla saga is influenced by chivalric romances, which were often imported from England and France, or inspired from native translations of such romances.
This means that qualities, themes and values were, to a certain degree, borrowed from these romances.

There are several theories on the themes, perspectives and goals of Laxdæla - and the sagas in general.
Since I do not have much time I´m just going to cite Margaret Clunies Ross in her The Cambridge Introduction to the Old Norse-Icelandic Saga

"(...) sets up a contrast between the foreign world of romances and the reality of life in Iceland, a society in which concepts of honour and shame, conflict, vengeance and resolution dominate the lives of both men and woman." p. 130



The purpose of the sagas is to do several of the following things, with a different emphasis on them depending on the particular saga:
1) Treating/commenting on/inventing historiography, biography, genealogy.
2) Entertaining an audience.
3) Commenting on/treating moral themes in both Christian and Heathen times (but from a medieval, Christian perspective!!!).
Sometimes: 4) Using 1 and 3 to glorify or slander certain ancestors, persons, geographic areas and families - often to further ones own goal in the present power struggles or commenting on morals and other peoples.

Maybe I´ll come up with more...

Bottom line is: There is a lot of useful Heathen material in the medieval sagas but you have to dig and pick. And to dig the right places and pick the right material, the material which can genuinely be assessed to have Heathen roots, you have to do a broader study to know the context - a study which includes academic material such as the book I quoted above (I can recommend that particular book btw.).

 
Hi Hlewagastir!
How do you guys copy certain parts of the previous message?  I am trying to break this up to address parts of your post and I dont know how to do that?  My apologies, I know this is going to look screwy :o

Here are a few of my thoughts.
1.  Oh gosh, I had NO idea that these sagas were written after the Christian conversion!  
2.  What does IOW mean?
3.  The part where you mentioned that these sagas were in part stories coming in from outside countries....in the movie, they showed certain locations in Iceland where the story unfolded.  For example, they showed a well and said that was where Kjartan and Guoran fell in love.  But if these were stories from outside countries that were integrated into the sagas, then how could the physical location be inside Iceland?  Were they just making guesses?
4.  Margaret Clunies Ross....thank you!  I found this on Amazon and am going to pick it up.  
5.  Picking the right material to read...Being new and uninformed, I assumed that the written works were all directly from the Heathen people with no Christian intrusion.  I think I was romanticizing that a bit :ashamed:.  So I am going to buy the book you mentioned and another question for you....if I were to buy the Poetic Edda, which authur should I choose?  I like this.  I am interested!  It's taking me no where near where I thought I was going a few weeks ago lol (actually the Asatru religion is really calling me).  But I question myself... to truly understand and enjoy the literature, am I capable of understanding the eddas along with other heathen literature?  I was able to read a bit of the interior of the Poetic Edda on Amazon and at first glance, the language confused me.    
6.  One last question, do we know how many times the literature changed over the years?  random thought...like the eddas.  Are they the same today as they were a thousand years ago?  

Thank you so much Hlewagastir for responding and helping to open my eyes a bit!!  I hope what I am saying makes sense.  I think I am horrible at putting my thoughts into words, particularly with a subject that I know so little about :(

hlewagastir

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Re: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2013, 07:02:15 pm »
Quote from: Cinuodca;101795
Hi Hlewagastir!
How do you guys copy certain parts of the previous message?  I am trying to break this up to address parts of your post and I dont know how to do that?  My apologies, I know this is going to look screwy :o

Not a problem. When writing a reply there are several icons just above the  box with text. One of them is a speech bubble, so when you highlight some text and press that the text will be in quote. You can just copy paste paragraphs outside of the original quote bubble, then highlight them and press the speech bubble icon - that´s what I do.

Quote
Here are a few of my thoughts.
1.  Oh gosh, I had NO idea that these sagas were written after the Christian conversion!  
2.  What does IOW mean?

1. ;)
2. In Other Words

Quote
3.  The part where you mentioned that these sagas were in part stories coming in from outside countries....in the movie, they showed certain locations in Iceland where the story unfolded.  For example, they showed a well and said that was where Kjartan and Guoran fell in love.  But if these were stories from outside countries that were integrated into the sagas, then how could the physical location be inside Iceland?  Were they just making guesses?

When foreign influence is present (which it often is at some level) there are a few possibilities.
A) It might be a direct translation from the foreign language into native language.
B) Pretty much all the text is directly more or less directly translated but there are some modifications to accommodate the demand and knowledge of the native audience.
C) Chunks of a story/text are more or less directly translated (in the form of A or B) but other parts are native or the imagination of the author, and the translated parts might be taken out of their original context.
D) Cultural influences (such as Christian or chivalric moral judgements), basic plots or structures, of foreign literature, are imported into the native text, however; the text also contains a varying amount of native material (native geography, moral values, characters, storylines and so on).

This is not a clear cut schematic since several of the categories have grey areas and overlap... A category such as D ranges from sagas laced with references to other cultures and literature, to sagas which just mention a few Christian angels and think Heathenism is an outdated thing of the past.

I constructed these categories to give you an idea about how many levels this influence can be present on.

Using the sagas as historic sources requires a good deal of knowledge about the literature and the time and context in which it arose...
Take the well thing you mentioned. The author can easily have borrowed a lot of moral themes and chivalric plots, and then mixed it with native material (such as geography).
The saga author might have known the geographic area intimately and placed a completely fictive story in it... Or Kjartan and Guoran might have been historic figures, but maybe they never met... Or Kjartan and Guoran might have been lovers, but the author choose to pep up the story to make it more interesting.

It is important to take what we are told with a grain of salt - especially when watching documentaries or films since history in those media, in my experience, tend to uncritically focus on romanticized history with bold battles, brutal vikings, great kings, discovery and fair maidens...


Quote
4.  Margaret Clunies Ross....thank you!  I found this on Amazon and am going to pick it up.  

Good call, she is one of the big scholars in the field! It is not as heavy as other academic texts but you might have to use a dictionary once in a while - it is worth it if you get through it though!


Quote
So I am going to buy the book you mentioned and another question for you....if I were to buy the Poetic Edda, which authur should I choose?

Larrington is one possibility: http://www.amazon.com/Poetic-Edda-Oxford-Worlds-Classics/dp/0199538387/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1363645293&sr=8-8&keywords=Edda

What you need to look out for, until you are familiar with certain authors in the field, is the publisher.
University publishers such as Cambridge and Oxford are often preferable, others such as Routledge, D. S. Brewer and Penguin range from good to acceptable.

If you are buying stuff from unknown authors or publishers the google it first... Or ask for comments on it here or in the Asatru SIG.


Quote
5.  Picking the right material to read...Being new and uninformed, I assumed that the written works were all directly from the Heathen people with no Christian intrusion.  I think I was romanticizing that a bit :ashamed:.  (...)  I like this.  I am interested!  It's taking me no where near where I thought I was going a few weeks ago lol (actually the Asatru religion is really calling me).  But I question myself...


It´s a hard process and everybody has been new and had somekind of help at some points. Don´t be ashamed about it. I have heard worse and you are sporting the right attitude - besides, this is in the Paganism For Beginners section ;)

Continue questioning yourself, your stance on things and your knowledge about them, I do that too, just do not let it be a hindrance for further study and development - use it as a reason for further study and development...
I might be the one with experience on this topic today, but tomorrow I´ll get my ass handed to me at the university classes I´m attending ;)

Quote
to truly understand and enjoy the literature, am I capable of understanding the eddas along with other heathen literature?  I was able to read a bit of the interior of the Poetic Edda on Amazon and at first glance, the language confused me.    

That´s how it is at first, just continue to press on, and check out the concepts and words that you don´t understand in dictionaries and on google - eventually you´ll get used to the language :)
As I said: You have the right attitude so far and to read that style of writing can be learned. I have been at this for several years and I still have to take steps back and reread lines occasionally.


Quote
6.  One last question, do we know how many times the literature changed over the years?  random thought...like the eddas.  Are they the same today as they were a thousand years ago?  

We don´t know. I is a gradual process though, with many big and small alterings, from several versions in oral culture to several versions in literature, and then from manuscript to manuscript... Even though we know several versions of some stories, from several geographic locations and time periods, we do not know how many there are lost. All we can say is that changes occur and we always have to factor in that potential margin of error, especially on those occasions where we actually have several different versions.

Quote
Thank you so much Hlewagastir for responding and helping to open my eyes a bit!!  I hope what I am saying makes sense.  I think I am horrible at putting my thoughts into words, particularly with a subject that I know so little about :(

No problem.
You´re doing well, have not had any problems understanding you so far :)

A general note: I´m not advocating that everybody should be scholars or experts, and I´m certainly not prefessing to being one myself, however, if you like the more historic approach you might wanna check out asatrulore.org or the Asatru SIG on this board.
Asatrulore.org contains a ton of knowledge with an academic bent - use the search function - but take it slow at first; the fellas over there have a reputation for being a little rough ;)
It is worth the visit though, even if you just visit to read, I consider it one of the best academic sources outside of university :)
« Last Edit: March 18, 2013, 07:11:42 pm by hlewagastir »

hlewagastir

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Re: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2013, 07:22:04 pm »
Quote from: hlewagastir;101826


Apologies for the poor grammar in the last part of post #4... I forgot that this board only allows 10 minutes of editing - which can be quite a challenge when English is not your first language.

If you need me to explain anything, or if you have further questions, just ask.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2013, 07:57:23 pm by SunflowerP »

Cinuodca

Re: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2013, 04:13:45 am »
Quote from: hlewagastir;101826
Not a problem.
Quote
When writing a reply there are several icons just above the  box with text. One of them is a speech bubble, so when you highlight some text and press that the text will be in quote. You can just copy paste paragraphs outside of the original quote bubble, then highlight them and press the speech bubble icon - that´s what I do.


Thank you!  Hopefully I will get the quoting part down now :)




Quote
I constructed these categories to give you an idea about how many levels this influence can be present on.


Ahhh.  This does make sense!  So many levels, so many opportunities for influence...It makes me want to take a time machine back into that time to witness the recording of the stories myself!  But I will have to rely on our available literature today to help me along the way!


Quote
It is important to take what we are told with a grain of salt - especially when watching documentaries or films since history in those media, in my experience, tend to uncritically focus on romanticized history with bold battles, brutal vikings, great kings, discovery and fair maidens...


I know and that is why outside of the BBC documentary, I have made it a point to stay away from the movies and documentaries as much as possible.  I want to learn the right way, with the accurate knowledge heading my way.  I admit it is hard because I am a visual learner, but at the same time, if an author writes well, I can form the picture in my head and learn that way.  But I want to make sure I pick up the right literature too.  And I think you have helped me sooo much in that quest so far.  Hopefully these two books wont take too long to arrive!



Quote
What you need to look out for, until you are familiar with certain authors in the field, is the publisher.
University publishers such as Cambridge and Oxford are often preferable...
,
Thank you for this piece of advice as well!  :)

Quote
If you are buying stuff from unknown authors or publishers the google it first... Or ask for comments on it here or in the Asatru SIG.

Is it ok to enter in to the Asatru SIG, given that I am a newbie and will most likely ask mundane questions?  I have felt safe within the beginner area here and have only gone as far as peeking into the other forums, but havent dared ask a question yet.  

 

Quote
A general note: I´m not advocating that everybody should be scholars or experts, and I´m certainly not prefessing to being one myself, however, if you like the more historic approach you might wanna check out asatrulore.org or the Asatru SIG on this board.

I definitely do prefer the more historical route.  I tried to get an account set up for the asatrulore forum today because I really wanted to see what kind of material was on there, but for some reason the confirmation email I need isnt making its way into my inbox :confused:  Tomorrow I am going to try and find a contact person over there who can help me.  

Quote
Asatrulore.org contains a ton of knowledge with an academic bent - use the search function - but take it slow at first; the fellas over there have a reputation for being a little rough ;)

Yikes!  Well, if I can get an account set up, I'll probably just read and watch from afar for awhile!

Cinuodca

Re: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2013, 04:16:08 am »
Quote from: hlewagastir;101833
Apologies for the poor grammar in the last part of post #4... I forgot that this board only allows 10 minutes of editing - which can be quite a challenge when English is not your first language.

If you need me to explain anything, or if you have further questions, just ask.


No worries :)  I completely understood you and I cant thank you enough for all the help you have given me :D  Thank you for taking the time to read through my questions and offer your guidance along the way.  Thank you thank you!!  :)

hlewagastir

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Re: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2013, 06:41:11 am »
Quote from: Cinuodca;101881

I know and that is why outside of the BBC documentary, I have made it a point to stay away from the movies and documentaries as much as possible.  I want to learn the right way, with the accurate knowledge heading my way.  I admit it is hard because I am a visual learner, but at the same time, if an author writes well, I can form the picture in my head and learn that way.  But I want to make sure I pick up the right literature too.  And I think you have helped me sooo much in that quest so far.  Hopefully these two books wont take too long to arrive!


Glad you are willing to press on :) Check out this free journal, made by some very capable Heathens: http://odroerirjournal.com/?page_id=52
It also has bookreviews and suggestions for further reading.


Quote
Is it ok to enter in to the Asatru SIG, given that I am a newbie and will most likely ask mundane questions?  I have felt safe within the beginner area here and have only gone as far as peeking into the other forums, but havent dared ask a question yet.  

 
Yes you are welcome, just do a quick search first to see if the question has been answered before, or if a thread on the topic already exists :)

 
Quote
I definitely do prefer the more historical route.  I tried to get an account set up for the asatrulore forum today because I really wanted to see what kind of material was on there, but for some reason the confirmation email I need isnt making its way into my inbox :confused:  Tomorrow I am going to try and find a contact person over there who can help me.  


Cool:) Yes, do that. Remember to check your spam box ;)


Quote

Yikes!  Well, if I can get an account set up, I'll probably just read and watch from afar for awhile!


As I said; take it slow at first, and remember to do a search before asking questions:)
You´ll be all right.

Cinuodca

Re: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2013, 03:16:39 am »
Quote
Check out this free journal, made by some very capable Heathens: http://odroerirjournal.com/?page_id=52
It also has bookreviews and suggestions for further reading.

Thank you so much for sharing this with me!  I have some time to sit down and read now, so I am heading over there next :)


 
Quote
Yes you are welcome, just do a quick search first to see if the question has been answered before, or if a thread on the topic already exists :)

Sounds good!  Will definitely use the search function first :)
 


Quote
Cool:) Yes, do that. Remember to check your spam box ;)

Still working this out.  Nothing showed in my spam box.  I emailed someone from AsatruLore and waiting for a response.   The only other thing I am thinking of is to start a new account with a different email address...


Quote
As I said; take it slow at first, and remember to do a search before asking questions:)
You´ll be all right.



Will do, thank you again!! :)

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Re: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2013, 06:00:28 am »
Quote from: Cinuodca;101881
Hopefully I will get the quoting part down now :)

 
You have the basic idea that Hlewagastir explained, but you don't quite "have the quoting part down". You still have to make sure that the first bit you're quoting includes the trackback part of the code (that's the bit with the name of the person you're quoting and a number).

So you don't want to use the quote icon above the reply box for the first quote - instead, use what comes up automatically when you hit "reply with quote", because it does include the trackback.  At the point at which you want the first quote to end, type /quote in square brackets (so, , except with square rather than pointy brackets).

After that, you can use the method Hlewagastir suggested - but for the first one, it's really important to have the trackback code.

If you're still uncertain how this works, you can try experimenting with it in the Test Forum (that's what it's for!), or contact a staff member with any further questions.

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Cinuodca

Re: The Laxdaela Saga, maybe a Heathenry question?
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2013, 02:20:20 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;102009
You have the basic idea that Hlewagastir explained, but you don't quite "have the quoting part down". You still have to make sure that the first bit you're quoting includes the trackback part of the code (that's the bit with the name of the person you're quoting and a number).


My apologies, SunflowerP!! I will head over there and practice for a bit.

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