Bardar saga Snaefellsass: A Translation
Ewing, Lynn Olive
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Bardar saga Snaefellsass is, on the surface, an account of the lives of Bardr Snaefellsass and his son, Gestr, two pagan supermen who occupy themselves wit their performance of good deeds in medieval Iceland and Norway. In his story, however, which contains much blending of styles and borrowing, the author attempts a description of the passing of an era: the transition from paganism to Christianity. At the same time, the author's depiction of these noble pagans allows him to evangelize while using the very trappings of the pagan world order itself. The purpose of this thesis is to provide a translation which is as entertaining, in its way, as the original was for medieval readers. In an introduction I discuss the literacy aspects of the saga. This introduction is divided into eight sections. in "Manuscripts and Editions" I summarize the scholarly work that has preceded this translation. In so doing, I consider a recent edition that has appeared but was not available to me during the preparation of my translation; it contains the first published English translation of this saga. The contribution of this work is evaluated. I provide a synopsis of the plot towards a demonstration of single authorship in the section, "Unity of the Work". In "Background" I place the saga in an historical and generic context. "Authorship" details sources available to the anonymous writer of this saga, allowing certain general speculations on his identity to emerge. In the section "Style" I consider writing devices typical in Old Icelandic literature that this writer uses to create a cohesive piece of fiction. In "The Writer's Purpose" I speculate on the reasons for the various blendings, both stylistic and thematic, that occur in the work. In "Problems of Translation" I consider some of the difficulties that confront all translators, especially those who translate medieval, Scandinavian languages like Old Icelandic into English. I close the introduction with a description of the verses in the text which includes a discussion of drottkvoett, the prevailing type of poetic stanza in the work. I attempt to show how the writer's use and adaptation of this verse form mirrors his blending of sub-genres and themes within the prose to suit his literary purpose. To aid the reader's understanding of the translation I provide explanatory footnotes that expand the meaning of difficult terms or concepts contained in the text. A genealogy of main characters and maps of Norway and Iceland appear in the appendices as further aids to understanding.