Fóstbræðra saga: A Missing Link?

  • Mikael Males University of Oslo
Keywords: Fóstbræðra saga, sagas of Icelanders, kings' sagas, prosimetrum


This article argues that Fóstbrœðra saga constitutes a link between kings’ sagas and sagas of Icelanders, and that it is the first prosimetrical saga of Icelanders. It evaluates Sven B.F. Jansson’s arguments regarding the long and the short version and whether the 'digressions’ were found in the archetype. It is argued that Jansson’s analysis is partly flawed, but that his claim that the digressions were found in the archetype is probably right, except for the last five. In addition, Theodore Andersson has argued convincingly against Jónas Kristjánsson that Fóstbrœðra saga must be older than Heimskringla. The present author accepts Andersson’s arguments, but since Fóstbrœðra saga – like most sagas of Icelanders – offers few dating criteria, additional parameters would be valuable. Under favourable circumstances, the poetry in the sagas may offer some clues, and this article takes two poetic features into account. Fóstbrœðra saga is unique among sagas of Icelanders both in its high proportion of authenticating quotations of poetry, which is reminiscent of kings’ sagas, and in using kennings that require skaldic competence as part of the overblown language of the digressions. A comparison with the treatment of poetry in the kings’ sagas suggests that these features indicate an early, experimental approach.