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Völsunga saga, Ragnars saga and romance in Old Norse

Carolyne Larrington

Völsunga saga and Ragnars saga, two fornaldarsögur dealing with the legendary Germanicand Danish past, are placed side-by-side in Copenhagen, MS NKS 1824 b 4 to, a manuscript of 80 leaves written by an Icelandic scribe (perhaps in Norway), and dating to c. 1400. That they should be regarded as separate sagas is indicated by the large illustrated initial H for ³Heimir´ on fol. 51r, and a small, extremely faded and hard-to-read title: Sagha Raghnarslodbrokar of roughly the same size as the chapter headings within the sagas. Moreover thetransition between the two sagas (fols. 50v-51) is written in a different hand from the rest of the manuscript, (one which is also responsible for 6 lines on fol. 19r). This seems suggestive,and I shall return to this crucial transition later. Klaus von See has argued that the two worksoriginated as a single text, and that the title of the second saga is a scribal correction. This article will argue that, while the structuring of the verses and prose, and the styles in particular the deployment of courtly motifs are too different for them to have been conceived as a single saga, they could well have been read as a single text in the redaction wehave in 1824 and its predecessors. von See suggests that the combined text of Völsunga saga and Ragnars saga was written down in Norway in the 1250s in the reign of Hákon IV, but notas the outcome of a royal commission, since the king’s tastes ran to the European, to works written in French, and translated at his behest into Norwegian from the 1220s onwards, and totexts written in Latin. Nevertheless, von See argues, the ‘combined saga’ was composed inorder to effect a ‘re-Scandinavianisation’ of the Sigurðr story, in response to the composition of Þiðreks saga in Bergen, also likely in the 1250s. Þiðreks saga has indeed had some limitedinfluence on Völsunga saga, as will be discussed further below.

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