The Genesis of a Saga Narrative: Verse and Prose in Kormaks Saga

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The origins of many of the Icelandic sagas have long been the subject of critical speculation and controversy. This book demonstrates that an investigation of the relationship between verse and prose in saga narrative can be used to reconstruct how Icelandic sagas were composed; to this end it provides a detailed analysis of Kormaks saga, whose hero Kormakr is one of the most celebrated of Icelandic poets. Over sixty of his passionate, cryptic skaldic stanzas are quoted in the saga, and the way they and the saga prose are fitted together reveals that Kormaks saga, far from being a seamless narrative of either pre-Christian oral tradition or later medieval fiction, is in fact a patchwork of different kinds of literary materials. This book offers an original and productive way of understanding not only the compositional method and distinctive aesthetic qualities of Kormaks saga, but also the genesis of many other Icelandic saga narratives.