Eiríks saga víðfǫrla in Medieval Manuscripts

  • Kolbrún Haraldsdóttir Friedrich-Alexander-Universität
Keywords: textual criticism, codicology, epilogue to Eiríks saga víðfǫrla in Flateyjarbók, salvation history, initial sagas in medieval codices


Eiríks saga víðfǫrla tells the story of the Norwegian kingʼs son Eiríkr, who sets out into the world to seek Paradise. The saga is preserved in four different versions, A, B, C and D, in some 60 manuscripts. Of these, the A and B versions are from the Middle Ages; the C version, which is preserved only in 17th-century manuscripts, dates also from that era, while the D version is a hybrid, probably from the 17th century. From the Middle Ages there are only five Eiríks saga version A and B manuscripts which have been preserved: Version A: 1. GKS 1005 fol., Flateyjarbók, from 1387 (the entire saga); 2. AM 720 a VIII 4to, from the first half of the 15th century (just over one-third of the saga); 3. AM 557 4to, Skálholtsbók, from around 1420 (almost half the saga). Version B: 4. AM 657 c 4to, from 1340–1390 (the entire saga); 5. GKS 2845 4to from around 1420–1450 (just over half the saga).

This article examines why Eiríks saga víðfǫrla was recorded in the five medieval manuscripts and why it was placed in its position in these works. In Flateyjarbók, the scribe/compiler says in an epilogue to the saga that he had placed this saga at the beginning of the book to remind people that “there is no true trust except in God,” and that this is the key to eternal life. From this it can be concluded that, just as Eiríks saga víðfǫrla is a story of the search for Paradise, every saga – a history of Norway like Flateyjarbók or any other history – is the story of the search for Paradise, i.e. a story of salvation. Eiríks saga víðfǫrla was therefore placed foremost in Flateyjarbók to remind people of the salvation history. – AM 720 a VIII 4to is a fragment of two originally connected leaves, the former containing the conclusion of a Mary miracle story and the beginning of Eiríks saga víðfǫrla, and the latter a fragment of Lilja. The manuscript probably originally began with the Mary miracle and Eiríks saga víðfǫrla, which were typical introductions to medieval books. – In AM 557 4to, Skálholtsbók, Eiríks saga víðfǫrla now follows directly after Hróa þáttr heimska, at the beginning of the eighth and final quire of the manuscript. It has been argued that the eighth quire was originally at the beginning of the manuscript and was written earlier than the sagas which are now foremost. In this case, Eiríks saga víðfǫrla was originally near or almost at the beginning of the manuscript. – In AM 657 c 4to Guðmundar saga byskups follows immediately after the manuscriptʼs initial sagas, Mikjáls saga hǫfuðengils, Maríu saga egypzku and Eiríks saga víðfǫrla, typical introductory sagas of medieval books. These place the vita of Bishop Guðmundr within a frame of the salvation history. – GKS 2845 4to contains nine sagas and þættir, some with lacunae, of which Eiríks saga víðfǫrla is the eighth. It has been shown that the manuscript originally began with Yngvars saga víðfǫrla, Eiríks saga víðfǫrla and Heiðreks saga, followed by the sagas and þættir which are now foremost. – The conclusion of this examination of the five medieval manuscripts is that Eiríks saga víðfǫrla was included in them and accorded an introductory position – in most if not all of them – to place the subsequent sagas in the framework of salvation history.