Chivalric sagas

Chivalric sagas

The riddarasögur, sagas of knights or chivalric sagas[1] are Norse sagas of the romance genre. Starting in the 13th century with translations of French chansons de geste the genre soon expanded to indigenous creations in a similar style. While the riddarasögur were widely read in Iceland for many centuries they are usually regarded as popular literature inferior in artistic quality to the Icelanders' sagas and other indigenous genres. Receiving little attention from scholars of Old Norse literature many remain untranslated.



The term riddarasögur (singular riddarasaga) occurs in Mágus saga jarls where there is a reference to "Frásagnir...svo sem...Þiðreks saga, Flóvenz saga eðr aðrar riddarasögur", "narratives such as the saga of Þiðrekr, the saga of Flóvent, or other knights' sagas".[2] Another technical term sometimes encountered is lygisögur (singular lygisaga), "lie sagas", applied to fictional chivalric and legendary sagas.


The first known Old Norse translations of European romances occurred under the patronage of king Hákon Hákonarson of Norway. The earliest dated work is a 1226 translation by one Brother Robert of Tristan by Thomas of Britain. The Old Norse work, Tristrams saga ok Ísöndar, is especially valuable since the original poem is only preserved in fragments. Elis saga ok Rósamundu, a translation of Elie de Saint Gille, is similarly attributed to an Abbot Robert, presumably the same man having been promoted within his order. King Hákon also commissioned Möttuls saga, an adaptation of Le mantel mautaillé, Ívens saga, a reworking of Chrétien de Troyes's Yvain and Strengleikar, a collection of ballads principally by Marie de France.[3]

Works in similar style, which may also have been commissioned by King Hákon, are Parcevals saga, Valvens þáttr and Erex saga, all derived from the works of Chrétien de Troyes. Karlamagnús saga is a compilation of more disparate origin, dealing with Charlemagne and his twelve paladins and drawing on historiographical material as well as chansons de geste. Other works believed to derive from French originals are Bevers saga, Flóres saga ok Blankiflúr, Flóvents saga and Partalopa saga.

Pseudo-historical works translated from Latin are Alexanders saga (a translation of Alexandreis), Amícus saga ok Amilíus (based on the Speculum historiale), Breta sögur (a translation of Historia Regum Britanniae), Klári saga (the original is lost but the prologue of the saga states that it was a Latin metrical work which Jón Halldórsson Bishop of Skálholt found in France) and Trójumanna saga (a translation of De excidio Troiae). Also pseudo-historical, Þiðreks saga af Bern is unusual in having been translated from German.[3]

Original compositions

The following is a partial list of original Icelandic chivalric sagas which have been published.

  • Adonias saga
  • Ála flekks saga
  • Blómstrvallasaga
  • Bærings saga
  • Dámusta saga
  • Dínus saga drambláta
  • Drauma-Jóns saga
  • Ectors saga
  • Flóres saga konungs ok sona hans
  • Gibbons saga
  • Grega saga
  • Hrings saga ok Tryggva
  • Jarlmanns saga ok Hermanns
  • Kirialax saga
  • Konráðs saga keisarasonar
  • Mágus saga jarls
  • Melkólfs saga ok Solomons konungs
  • Mírmans saga
  • Nitida saga
  • Rémundar saga keisarasonar
  • Samsons saga fagra
  • Saulus saga ok Nikanors
  • Sigrgarðs saga frækna
  • Sigrgarðs saga ok Valbrands
  • Sigurðar saga fóts
  • Sigurðar saga turnara
  • Sigurðar saga þögla
  • Valdimars saga
  • Viktors saga ok Blávus
  • Vilhjálms saga sjóðs
  • Vilmundar saga viðutan
  • Þjalar-Jóns saga


  1. ^ Also known as knights' sagas and sagas of chivalry.
  2. ^ Glauser 2005:372.
  3. ^ a b Naess 1993:34.


  • Driscoll, Matthew (2005). "Late Prose Fiction (lygisögur)" in A Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture pp. 190-204. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23502-7
  • Glauser, Jürg (2005). "Romance (Translated riddarasögur)" in A Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture pp. 372-387. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23502-7
  • Kalinke, Marianne E. (1990). Bridal-Quest Romance in Medieval Iceland,

Islandica, 46. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

  • Loth, Agnete (1962-5). Late medieval Icelandic romances (5 vols.) Den Arnamagnæanske Komission. Copenhagen.
  • Naess, Harald S. (1993). A History of Norwegian Literature. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-3317-5
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