Timur, 'The Wrath of God'

An Unknown Source of Oddverjaannáll and the Vindication of a Tyrant in Ambáles saga and Ambáles rímur

  • Philip Lavender University of Gothenburg
Keywords: annals, post-Reformation sagas, rímur, Hamlet, Saxo Grammaticus, representations of the East, Ottomans, Tamburlaine


Timur was a renowned Central Asian conqueror who fascinated Early Modern writers, and this article takes up the question of the source of the description of him found in Oddverjaannáll. Robert Cook, in an article from 1985, suggested several possible candidates. These are analysed and a new candidate is proposed, that being Sebastian Franck’s Chronica, Zeitbuch und Geschichtsbibell (1531). Following this, an example is given of how such historiographical material came to be used in saga- and rímur-literature of the seventeenth century, namely in Ambáles saga and Ambáles rímur. These works adapt the well-known story of Hamlet, but have him sent to Timur (Tamerláus) instead of to the King of Britain. An analysis is made of how the representation of Timur in these works (in particular in the witness AM 521 c 4to) functions as a kind of vindication of the earlier gruesome accounts of Timur the tyrant. Moreover, an attempt is made to explain how such a vindication would have been welcome in an Iceland reeling from the recent Tyrkjarán.