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The Names of Islands in the Old Norse Faereyinga Saga and Orkeyinga Saga

Hilda Radzin (St. John’s University)

Literary Onomastics Studies: Volume 5, Article 7 (1978)

In the Old Norse language the word saga denoted any kind of story or history in prose, whether written or oral. Used in this sense, the word saga applies to a wide range of literary works. Used in a stricter sense, however, the term is confined to legendary and historical fictions, in which the authors present an imaginative reconstruction of the past. Considering the characterisrics of the hero as guidelines, the Old Norse sagas can be classified as: (4) kings’ sagas, (2) legendary sagas, and (3) sagas of Icelanders.  The kings’ sagas fall into two groups: (1) contemporary biographies and (2) histories of remoter past. Icelandic and Norwegian authors explored the history of Scandinavia in terms of royal families and rulers. Related to the lives of the kings of Norway are Faereyinga and Orkneyinga· The texts of these sagas are contained in the Flateyjarbok, a codex from the end of the fourteenth century. The sagas of the kings exist in other texts, but much of the interpolated matter is not found elsewhere. The Flateyjarbok was written by the priests Jon Podarson (A.D. 1387) and Magnus Porhallson (c. 1388-1394). The Faereyinga, written about A.D.1200, portrays the resistance of Faeroese leaders to the interference of Norwegian kings during the first part of the eleventh century. These Faeroese”leaders were descendants of settlers who had came from NOrway in· the ninth century. There ·was a rmn called Grime Kanban. He was the first who settled in the Faeroe Islands in the days of Harald Fairhair. “Madr er nefndr Grime Kamban, hann bygdi fyrst Faereyjar a dogtmi Haralds hins harfagri.” The dates of Harold Fairhair of Norway are uncertain, Icelandic sources suggest A.·D. 85G-933.

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