,,Grettir vondum vættum, veitti Hel og þreytti"

Grettir Ásmundarson og vinsældir Grettis sögu

  • Guðvarður Már Gunnlaugsson
Keywords: Sagas, Text analysis


This paper examines the popularity of Grettir Ásmundarson and his saga which has existed among Icelanders for centuries. This leads to a discussion of the evidence of his popularity and what it may reveal. The vísur (verses), kvæði (poems, among them kappakvæði or heroic poems), rímur and sagnir (tales) about Grettir, the numerous place-names associated with Grettir, and the marginal comments which we find in the manuscripts of Grettis saga indicate the strong interest in the figure. A further indication of his popularity is the large number of manuscripts which preserve Grettir's saga. Furthermore, it is likely that Grettir was well-known before his saga was written. Kirsten Hastrup (1986:304—309) has proposed six stages in the development of Icelanders' attitudes to Grettir. In the main, Hastrup's argument is convincing. However, if (as ÖmólfurThorsson has argued, 1994a:918-919) Grettir's saga was written in the fifteenthcentury, the second stage in Hastrup's analysis may need to be omitted (1986:305-306). Hastrup has some difficulty linking that stage to the early sources of Grettir's popularity, especially given the supposed age of the manuscripts, of the rímur and tales (sagnir) about Grettir, and the use of his name in the middle ages. The origin of the manuscipts of Grettir's saga suggests the saga was more popular in the north-west of Iceland than elsewhere.