Full text: Iceland 1930

They show a mastery of the art of story-telling such as has perhaps 
never since been equalled in any literature till the nineteenth century. 
A separate saga (Kristni saga) was written about the introduction 
of Christianity in Iceland and the formal acceptance of that religion 
by the community, and another (Hungurvaka) relating the career of 
the first five bishops who held the see of Skalholt. Hungurvaka and 
Kristni saga are continued by separate sagas of some of the leading 
bishops, two of which, both of considerable historical interest, date from 
the fourteenth century. ‘The Lives of the Bishops‘ are veritable mines 
of information, and for about two-thirds of the eleventh century they 
are our chief authorities for the civil history of the country. From the 
first quarter of the twelfth century onwards, almost to the close of 
the thirteenth, we have a steadily increasing saga literature dealing 
with secular chiefs and extending from 1117—1284. These sagas are 
preserved in the great composite work known by the title of Sturl- 
ungasaga or the history of the Sturlungs, written by different authors, 
but the main part of it is the work of Sturla Thérdarson (1214— 
1284), Smorri Sturluson’s nephew, and is called the /slendingasaga. 
It is the general history of Iceland during Sturla’s own time, where 
special prominence is given to the saga of the author's own family, 
the Sturlungs, and it furnishes an admirable description of Icelandic 
life and manners during this troubled period, when the factions of the 
godar (chiefs) and their unremitting contentions for power exceeded 
all bounds and ultimately led to the fall of the Icelandic republic. The 
{slendingasaga is written with the utmost minuteness of detail and 
such impartiality that the compiler of the Sturlunga says of Sturla: 
‘and we trust him both as regards wisdom and frankness to tell the 
story (truthfully), for we knew him to be the wisest and most mode- 
rate of men’. 
Now, turning to the other main branch of our historical literature, 
Ari, as already stated, was the first man who wrote in Icelandic a 
work on the kings of Norway. Others took up his work, and at first 
stories of individual kings were written and certain periods of Nor- 
wegian history dealt with. Some of the authors of these sagas are 
known to us, as abbot Karl Jonsson who put together the Sverrir's 
saga; others are anonymous works, now lost in their original shape 
or embodied in compilations of Norwegian history which are still 
extant and go down to the year 1177, when Sverrir’s saga begins. But 
the most famous recension of the lives of the Norwegian kings and 
earls is that written by Snorsi Sturluson (1178 —1241), the great chief

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