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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. VIII. Poetry in the fornaldarsǫgur

7.1. Genres of fornaldarsaga poetry
7.2. Poetic Diction
7.3. Fornaldarsaga poetry and rímur
7.4. The relationship between poetry and prose in fornaldarsögur

(Vol. VIII. Poetry in the fornaldarsǫgur > 7. Introduction > 7. Structure, style and diction of fornaldarsaga poetry > 7.3. Fornaldarsaga poetry and rímur)

7.3. Fornaldarsaga poetry and rímur

There is considerable evidence in several of the fornaldarsögur whose poetry is edited in this volume of the similarities between the poetry in late examples of this saga type and the new narrative poetic genre of the rímur ‘rhymes’ (sg. ríma), which made their appearance in Iceland during the fourteenth century (Davíð Erlingsson 1987; Jorgensen 1993). The first recorded ríma is the mid-fourteenth-century Óláfs ríma Haraldssonar in Flateyjarbók, attributed to the poet Einarr Gilsson, who was also the composer of several skaldic poems (see his Biography in Volume IV of SkP). Though most of the early rímur were not recorded in writing until the sixteenth century and later, their popularity appears to have taken off quickly. In a number of cases of both riddarasögur and fornaldarsögur, rímur versions of these saga narratives came into being, and it has been suggested that in some cases, where more than one version of a fornaldarsaga exists, the reworking of the saga may have been inspired by the existence of rímur on the same subject.

As with some of the fourteenth-century poetry edited in SkP VII, there is ample evidence of the influence of the vocabulary of rímur on the poetry of fornaldarsögur, and the ríma influence may also be responsible for the greater interest in topics of romantic love detectable in the poetry of later sagas like HjǪ (albeit in a parodic mode), ÞJ and Frið. Where early rímur have been recorded (cf. Finnur Jónsson 1905-22; Björn K. Þórólfsson 1934), it is possible to compare their presentation of a narrative with that of the corresponding saga. Many of these parallels have been pointed out in the Notes to the editions of, for example, HjǪ and Frið. Generally speaking, the rímur style allows for a greater expansiveness and a greater degree of repetition than do eddic or skaldic verse-forms. In terms of vocabulary it is hard to tell whether new words that appear in both rímur and late sagas (e.g. beigla ‘lumber about’ Ket 24/9; klén ‘nice’ HjǪ 6/6) show the influence of one genre on the other or simply the use by poets in both media of a newly available linguistic resource. There are other instances, however, observed in both Volume VII and this volume, in which a probably late stanza shows a changed usage in the formation of kennings corresponding to the ways in which certain kenning patterns are formed in rímur (examples are given above in Section 7.2). In such cases the influence of rímur upon the poetry of fornaldarsögur seems probable.

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