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The Death Songs of Örvar-Odds saga

Helen F. Leslie

In the book “Cartografies de l’ànima. Indentitat, memòria i escriptura.” Ed. Isabel Grifoll et al. Lleida: Pagès editors, 2014. Pp. 231-244.

This paper deals with autobiographical poetry in Old Norse sagas, particularly with a kind of poem known as the ‘death song,’ a poem that a character recites shortly before he dies. I will consider two in-stances of this poetry in Örvar-Odds saga, a fornaldarsaga (‘saga of ancient times’) and will consider two topics: firstly, what areas of life the poems memorialise or comment upon, and secondly how the poems contribute to the structure of the saga, or their narrative roles. I suggest that ana-lysing the narrative role of this genre of poem could be a useful tool in helping to determine the genesis of the sagas that contain such poems and that a more nuanced view of the ‘types’ of death song is necessary to appreciate fully the role that these poems plays as part of the saga’s prosimetric form.

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