Saga de Hrafnkell
The saga of Hrafnkell, priest of Freyr ( Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða in Icelandic) is a Icelandic Saga whose action proceeds at the 10th century and recalling the confrontation of chiefs of clans in the east of the island. The hero éponyme of work, Hrafnkell, cuts a solid reputation of duellist and dedicates a worship very particular to the God Freyr. A succession of defeats and humiliations, as well as the destruction of sound Temple however will make him lose the faith and direct it towards the Athéisme. Its personality is some modified, and the hero learns how to interact in a peaceful way with others. Having thus gained gradually the confidence of new companions, he manages to take his revenge on his enemies, and finishes his life as a powerful and respected chief. The pragmatic morals of the account is thus that the true source of the capacity does not lie as well in the divine faith as in the honesty of its own subordinates. The saga of Hrafnkell, always read and appreciated today, allured by its logical structure, its probability and by the relief of the characters. For all these reasons, work occupies a central place in the debate on the origin of the Icelandic sagas.
The history begin with the voyage from a Norwegian , Hallfredhr ( Hallfreðr ), which takes part about the year 900 in the very first waves of colonization of the Iceland. It takes foot in the east of the island in company of his son, Hrafnkell, an young man with promising courage. Hrafnkell has ambition and decides very quickly, in agreement with his/her father, to found his own camping. It chooses an uninhabited valley to establish its to with it firm, and names the place Adhalból ( Aðalból , “Noble Hearth”). This valley, duly identified, will be later renamed Hrafnkelsdalr (“Valley of Hrafnkell”).
Hrafnkell in addition made there set up large a Temple, where it carries out sumptuous sacrificial ceremonies. The best heads of sound Bétail are thus offered to Freyr, the God which he venerates more than very other. It also places under the protection of this divinity her Icelandic Cheval preferred, Freyfaxi, and swears that it will put at dead whoever will overlap it without its permission. These demonstrations of religious enthusiasm save to him the nickname of Freysgodhi ( Freysgoði , “Priest of Freyr”).
Hrafnkell nourishes a great thirst for being able, and is essential as chief of clan by tyrannizing the inhabitants of the surrounding valleys. It is prompt to fight in Duel, and never pays the price of blood (the Wergild ) after having killed somebody.
The saga leans then on Einarr, one of the Berger S of Hrafnkell. An urgent business obliges it one day to go up to Cheval, but all the animals flee with its approach except for Freyfaxi. It is thus on the back of the latter that it leaves for the day. Thereafter, the horse turns over itself to Adhalból and starts to neigh: Hrafnkell, seeing its dirty animal and in sweat, realizes what occurred. It leaves then with its Hache and keep silent Einarr from back-plate, in order to respect its oath.
The father of Einarr, Thorbjörn ( Þorbjörn ), is devastated by the death of his son and will find Hrafnkell to claim the price of blood. This last retorts to him that it does not pay the wergild for any man. He admits nevertheless which this murder is among most atrocious that he made, and says itself ready to make amend. He then proposes in Thorbjörn to place it and look after it for the remainder of his days. Thorbjörn, however, feels reluctant with this act of tender and at least requires a formal agreement between people of equal row. Vis-a-vis the refusal of Hrafnkell, Thorbjörn does not lose patience and seeks a manner of managing to get along.
The laws of the Icelandic community, indeed, guaranteed to each free man the same rights. But because of absence of a executive authority central, an ordinary man could encounter difficulties vis-a-vis a chief of clan. He was to then seek the support of another chief, at the same time to help it in the already complex legal steps at the time and to make then apply the verdict in the event of success to the assembly.
Thorbjörn requests the assistance of his/her Bjarni brother, who refuses to engage in an argument with powerful Hrafnkell. It tries then its chance at Sámr, the son of Bjarni. This last, in its turn, rather advises to him to accept the offer of Hrafnkell, without managing to inflect the determination of the old man. Sámr, which did not have at the beginning any intention to mix with the conflict, feels finally constrained to accept vis-a-vis the insistence of his/her uncle. The young man formally agrees to deal with the case of Thorbjörn in the Procès which is announced, and thus becomes the plaintiff one.
Sámr prepares its charge against Hrafnkell and convenes it with the Althing ( Alþing ) for the be according to, which does not fail to make laugh the powerful chief. When Sámr and Thorbjörn arrive at Thingvellir ( Þingvellir ), where the assembly is held, they discover quickly that no big boss of clan wishes to offer his assistance to them. Thorbjörn is this time close to wanting to give up, but Sámr insists that the business is concluded its in one way or another.
Sámr and Thorbjörn fall then by chance on Thorkell ( Þorkell ), a young adventurer originating in Vestfirdhir ( Vestfirðir , “Fjord S of the west”). The man sympathizes with their cause and the assistance to obtain the support of his brother Thorgeirr ( Þorgeirr ), a powerful chief. Thanks to this support, Sámr can engage the lawsuit and show all its competence there. Hrafnkell is recognized guilty, and under the terms of this judgment, Sámr has the right to kill Hrafnkell and to confiscate its goods and its grounds. The young man, accompanied by Thorgeirr and Thorkell, arrives at Adhalból very early a morning, surprises Hrafnkell in his sleep and manages to capture it.
One leaves two possibilities to Hrafnkell: either it is carried out at once, or it will become the subordinate of Sámr, stripped of its honor and its goods. Hrafnkell, in spite of what it costs, chooses to live. Thorkell then predicts in Sámr that he will regret to have saved its enemy.
Sámr takes officially possession of Adhalból and invites the local inhabitants with a great festival, during which they recognize the young man like their new chief. Hrafnkell, as for him, share to build a new residence in another valley. Its ambition remained intact and its moral of steel allow him, after a few years of hard labor, to become a sizeable farmer.
Thorkell and Thorgeirr, for which the thirst for revenge is not appeased yet, decide “to return Freyfaxi to its owner” and throw the Cheval top of a cliff. They also put fire at the Temple of Hrafnkell. Having learned all that, Hrafnkell concludes from it that “it is a madness to accept the gods”, and consequently does not carry out any more any Sacrifice. Its behavior becomes more civilized, and the former tyrannical chief is done much more pleasant with his servants. He acquires popularity thus and attracts himself the honesty of his entourage.
After six years of peace, Hrafnkell estimates that the hour of its revenge sounded. He discovers that the brother of Sámr, Eyvindr, accomplishes a voyage in the vicinity with some companions. Hrafnkell gathers its own men and launches out to the attack. Sámr, as soon as that he learns the ambush, street using his/her brother with some men, but arrives too late.
The next morning, Hrafnkell surprises Sámr in its sleep and the same choice offers to him as that which it had received from him six years before. Just like its enemy formerly, Sámr prefers food: Hrafnkell is reinstalled with Adhalból, its old residence, and takes again its functions of chief of clan.
Sámr leaves for the western to again seek the support of Thorkell and Thorgeirr, but the latter retort to him that it is the only one to blame for its own misfortune: it should have killed Hrafnkell as long as it on the occasion of it. This is why they refuse to support Sámr in a new fight against its rival. They offer to him, in compensation, to remain to live at their sides. Sámr declines the invitation and sets out again at Hrafnkell, which it will serve until the end of its life without being able to be avenged.
Hrafnkell, as for him, remains a chief respected until he dies in peace, surrounded as of his. Its sons become chiefs of clans to his continuation.
Of the original writer to the modern reader
Safeguarding of the account
The author of the saga of Hrafnkell, to date, remains completely unknown. The text itself does not name it, not more than other sources of the time. It was without any doubt Icelandic, and was to live close to the place where the adventures of the Saga proceed.
The exact date of composition of the work is also difficult to determine: the end of the 13th century seems to be the most probable assumption. Oldest Manuscrit remaining of the saga is made of Parchemin in Vélin and dates from first half of the 15th century: it could be the direct copy of the original text. Only one of its pages unfortunately arrived to us. Copies of this manuscript nevertheless were made in manuscripts in Papier carried out later on, and could preserve the entirety of the saga thus. Initial work thus was well preserved, and had to undergo in only light rewritings or errors of copying.
One of the families of paper manuscripts, called C and C1 in the diagram opposite, contains a version appreciably different from the saga, with several minor additions. The majority of the researchers connect these works to the same original text on vellum, but think that the additions are the work of the author of the Saga de Fljótsdæla. A more constant attention is thus paid to the shorter versions of the history of Hrafnkell compared to the longer versions, judged apocryphal books.
P. G. Thorsen and Konrádh Gíslason ( Konráð Gíslason ) published the Saga for the first time in 1839, with Copenhagen. Other erudite editions followed, in particular that of J. Jakobsen in 1902 - 1903 and that of Jón Jóhannesson in 1950.
The saga of Hrafnkell moreover knew many popular editions, as well as translations in very varied languages. The edition published by Halldór Laxness in 1942 was particularly daring in the sense that for the first time, the Orthographe of the modern Icelandic was applied to a text in Vieux norrois. Several detractors transfer a perversion of the original text there. The partisans of this choice, on the contrary, made the point that the orthography of the old man norrois was itself an artificial construction, not nearer to the old manuscripts than the modern orthography, while being definitely more painful for the reader. This thesis since largely carried it, and the current editions of the Saga S generally have recourse to the typographical conventions modern.
The reception by the modern reader
Today, the saga of Hrafnkell remains one of the Icelandic Saga S the most read in the world. The readers appreciate in particular his logical and coherent intrigue, which makes this short saga a first ideal reading for which wants to discover this literary Genre so particular. The text is studied in-depth in the Lycée S Icelandic, and constitutes also a good text of introduction for the students in Vieux norrois. Sigurdhur Nordal ( Sigurður Nordal ) was until seeing “one of the there Romance S the most perfect courts of the world literature”.
The fact that the saga of Hrafnkell is also accessible in precisely was a subject of study privileged to discover the exact origin of the Icelandic Saga S . Sometimes in fact, the same elements are used to support very different theories.
The commentators a long time regarded the saga S as faithful reports of historical events, which would have been transmitted orally during several hundred years before being lying on paper by Copiste S concerned of the veracity of the facts. The researchers of the 19th century, in particular, were allured by this theory. The idea nevertheless was given up by the academic world towards 1940, and only some enthusiastic amateurs still support it.
Many continues to see in the saga of Hrafnkell a typical example of oral history preserved with exactitude. The probability of the account, the realism of the protagonists and their reactions plead in favor of this assumption, just as the absence of supernatural elements. In addition, the brevity of the text makes probable that its contents could be transmitted by oral way in a coherent way over one chronological long period: the modern reader itself, after two or three readings, would be able to tell the history with precision.
But this historical interpretation meets a certain number of difficulties. When one compares the saga with other sources of the same time, in particular the Landnámabók , several inconsistencies appear immediately. To quote only one example, the Landnámabók teaches us that Hrafnkell had a father of the name of Hrafn, whereas the saga calls it Hallfreðr. The way in which the saga presents the Loi S of the time and the manner of applying them, in the same way, often enters in contradiction with other more reliable sources.
The historical inconsistencies of the saga, as well as other elements, led Sigurdur Nordal ( Sigurður Nordal ) to formulate an innovative theory in one entitled book Hrafnkatla , published in 1940. The work nourishes criticisms previously formulated and gathers the information glanées through the Iceland to cancel the thesis of the historical veracity definitively.
Beyond the divergences recorded with the Landnámabók and legal reality of this time, Sigurdhur adds that the also milked saga the geographical data in an incorrect way. The valleys in which the adventures of the account proceed, in particular, could not have accommodated a population as important as the text seems to imply it. As for cliff located close to Adhalból ( Aðalból ) and where the horse Freyfaxi would have found death, the author notes that it does not exist quite simply.
With wrong way of the old theories, Sigurdhur sees in the probability and the coherence of the saga an index letting think that only one and talented author would be in the beginning. According to the researcher, the author worried little about historical exactitude: if it can certainly have consulted some old documents, it probably adapted their contents so as to make it agree with the intrigue of its account.
Another school of thought concerning the origin of the Saga S appeared in second half of the 20th century: it attempts to underline the elements of Folklore present in these texts and to highlight the survival of very old Légende S.
This current, in certain points, approaches the old idea relating to oral safeguarding of the sagas, but without necessarily focusing themselves on the question of the historical veracity. The academics use the methods of modern research to determine, in a history, the elements likely to persist with the wire of time, contrary to those being only transitory. The experiment seems to suggest that the central intrigue of the sagas can be preserved by oral transmission without difficulty on the long run, while details more anecdotic as the name of the supporting characters can evolve/move during the centuries.
The researcher Icelandic Óskar Halldórsson wrote a short study on the saga of Hrafnkell, in which he criticizes work of Sigurður Nordal. According to Halldórsson, inaccuracies such that the error on the name of the father of the hero do not prove in only the saga is only a Fiction entirely invented at the 13th century. One can on the contrary see there the confirmation which the history of Hrafnkell could orally preserve over a long period by undergoing only secondary deteriorations, well after the drafting of the Landnámabók .
Óskar Halldórsson in addition establishes a bond between the episode of Freyfaxi and the veneration of the horses, tradition largely widespread at all the Indo-European people. The presence of this type of mythical or folk topics , according to him, indicates that many elements of the saga of Hrafnkell actually come from the time pre-Christian woman.
The debate relating to the saga of Hrafnkell remains open. In a book published in 1988, Hermann Pálsson again completely refutes the thesis of the oral transmission, and seeks to bind work to the large currents of ideas of the medieval Europe . Contrary to the preceding studies, this examination was carried out starting from the long version of the saga. (to see above)
Jón Hnefill Adhalsteinsson ( Jón Hnefill Aðalsteinsson ), in its study carried out in 2000, underlines the omnipresence of the pagan topics in the text. While admitting that most of the history can be invented at the 13th century, the researcher highlighted several elements seeming to raise of the oral tradition, like the sacrificial rites achieved by Hrafnkell or the personality of Freyfaxi.
Jónas Kristjánsson, in a passage of its general work of 1988 on the Saga S, effectively reconciled the various theses in presence about the saga of Hrafnkell: the principal interest of the latter, recalls it, resides in what “it caused of curiosity for other texts. It became an academic case, a traditional example in the discussions on the relation between the rudimentary oral tradition and the cultivated copyists, between the traditional pragmatism of the attitudes and the ethical news Christian”.
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