Tiódels saga

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Tiódels saga (also Tíódéls saga, Tiodielis saga, and various other forms in manuscripts) is an Old Icelandic chivalric saga, based on the Old Norwegian translation, Bisclaretz ljóð, of Marie de France's Breton lai Bisclavret . [1]

Old Norwegian, also called Norwegian Norse, is an early form of the Norwegian language that was spoken between the 11th and 14th century; it is a transitional stage between Old West Norse and Middle Norwegian, and also Old Norn and Old Faroese. Its distinction from Old West Norse is a matter of convention. Traditionally, Old Norwegian has been divided into the main dialect areas of North Western, Outer South Western, Inner South Western, Trøndersk, North Eastern, and South Eastern.

Marie de France medieval poet

Marie de France was a poet who was probably born in France and lived in England during the late 12th century. She lived and wrote at an unknown court, but she and her work were almost certainly known at the royal court of King Henry II of England. Virtually nothing is known of her life; both her given name and its geographical specification come from her manuscripts. However, one written description of her work and popularity from her own era still exists. She is considered by scholars to be the first female French poet.

Breton lai short, rhymed tales of love and chivalry

A Breton lai, also known as a narrative lay or simply a lay, is a form of medieval French and English romance literature. Lais are short, rhymed tales of love and chivalry, often involving supernatural and fairy-world Celtic motifs. The word "lay" or "lai" is thought to be derived from the Old High German and/or Old Middle German leich, which means play, melody, or song, or as suggested by Jack Zipes in The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, the Irish word laid (song).



In the summary of Tove Hovn Ohlsson,

A knight disappears several days every week, and no-body knows where he goes. His wife succeeds in wresting his secret from him--that he is a werewolf and lives among wild animals. After she learns that his clothes are necessary for his return to human form, she contacts another knight, who for a long time has been her admirer (in Tíódél her lover), and asks him to help her to get rid of the husband's clothes. When Tíódél fails to re-appear, the two get married. Out hunting one day the king notices an animal that seems to be asking for mercy. Instead of shooting it, he lets the animal follow him home, where it becomes the king's pet. At a celebration the animal sets eyes on the knight, who is now married to his wife, and attacks him. Out hunting again the king and his company look for accommodation for the night at the home of the couple. The animal attacks her too (and bites off her nose, Lai de Bisclavret and Tíódéls saga). The king gets angry and wants to kill it. A third knight explains to the king that the animal must have a reason to attack those two people, and suggests that the reason might be that the wife could have hidden her first husband's clothes. She is forced to go and get the clothes, but at first the animal will not accept them. Only after the clothes and the knight are put into a separate room does the transformation take place, and the king and his company recognize the lost knight. The wife and her second husband are driven away, and their children are born without noses. [2]

Manuscripts and stemma

Stemma of the manuscript transmission of the Old Icelandic Tiodels saga, visualised from the discussion in Tove Hovn Ohlsson (ed.), Tiodelis saga, Stofnun Arna Magnussonar i Islenskum Fraedum, rit, 72 (Reykjavik: Stofnun Arna Magnussonar, 2009). MSS held in Reykjavik unless otherwise stated. Dotted lines indicate ambiguous relationships in Ohlsson's work. Tiodels saga stemma after Tove Hovn Ohlsson.svg
Stemma of the manuscript transmission of the Old Icelandic Tiódels saga, visualised from the discussion in Tove Hovn Ohlsson (ed.), Tiodelis saga, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í Íslenskum Fræðum, rit, 72 (Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, 2009). MSS held in Reykjavík unless otherwise stated. Dotted lines indicate ambiguous relationships in Ohlsson's work.

Tiódels saga derives from Bisclaretz ljóð, but details where it is closer to the Old French original than surviving manuscripts of Bisclarets ljóð (principally De la Gardie, 4-7) show that the copy of Bisclaretz ljóð on which it is based is independent of other surviving witnesses. [3] The saga survives in 24 manuscripts from the early modern period onwards, most originally produced in Iceland. [4]

Uppsala University Library, De la Gardie, 4-7, a thirteenth-century Norwegian manuscript, is 'our oldest and most important source of so-called "courtly literature" in Old Norse translation'. It is now fragmentary; four leaves, once part of the last gathering, now survive separately as AM 666 b, 4° in the Arnamagnæan Collection, Copenhagen.

Editions and translations


Tiódels saga was the basis for three rímur , as yet unpublished: one by Kolbeinn Grímsson (c. 1600-83), preserved in three manuscripts; one by Jón Sigurðsson and his son Símon á Veðramót (c. 1644-1709), from Skagafjörður, preserved in ten manuscripts; and one by Magnús Jónsson í Magnússkógar (1763-1840) from Dalasýsla, preserved in three autograph manuscripts and ten others. [5]

In Icelandic literature, a ríma is an epic poem written in any of the so-called rímnahættir. They are rhymed, they alliterate and consist of two to four lines per stanza. The plural, rímur, is either used as an ordinary plural, denoting any two or more rímur, but is also used for more expansive works, containing more than one ríma as a whole. Thus Ólafs ríma Haraldssonar denotes an epic about Ólafr Haraldsson in one ríma, while Núma rímur are a multi-part epic on Numa Pompilius.

Skagafjörður Place in Iceland

Skagafjörður is a deep bay in northern Iceland.

Dalasýsla County in Western Region, Iceland

Dalasýsla was one of the pre-1988 traditional Counties of Iceland, located in the Western Region of the country. Its only town is Búðardalur.

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Fóstbrœðra saga or The Saga of the Sworn Brothers is one of the Icelanders' sagas. It relates the deeds of the sworn brothers Þorgeirr and Þormóðr in early 11th century Iceland and abroad. Þorgeirr is a capable and insanely brave warrior. He kills people for trifles and for sport. Þormóðr is a more complicated character; warrior, trouble-maker, womanizer and poet. The saga contains poetry attributed to him, including parts of a lay on his blood brother.

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Bisclavret one of the twelve Lais of Marie de France

"Bisclavret" is one of the twelve Lais of Marie de France written in the 12th century. Originally written in French, it tells the story of a werewolf who is trapped in lupine form by the treachery of his wife. The tale was popular and was reworked as The Lay of Melion, and is probably referenced in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur with the tale of Sir Marrok, who has a similar story.

Chivalric sagas group of Norse prose sagas translated from or inspired by medieval chasons de geste

The riddarasögur are Norse prose sagas of the romance genre. Starting in the thirteenth century with Norse translations of French chansons de geste and Latin romances and histories, the genre expanded in Iceland to indigenous creations in a similar style.

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Strengleikar is a collection of twenty-one Old Norse prose tales based on the Old French Lais of Marie de France. It is one of the literary works commissioned by King Haakon IV of Norway for the Norwegian court, and is counted among the Old Norse Chivalric sagas. The collection is anonymous. It has been attributed to Brother Robert, a cleric who adapted several French works into Norse under Haakon, the best known of which is Tristrams saga ok Ísöndar, but there is also reason to think that the collection may be a gathering of the work of several different translators. Unlike many medieval translations, the Strengleikar are generally extremely close in sense to the Old French originals; the text which differs most is Milun, which is abridged to half its original length.

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  1. Marianne E. Kalinke and P. M. Mitchell, Bibliography of Old Norse–Icelandic Romances, Islandica, 44 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 114.
  2. Tove Hovn Ohlsson (ed.), Tiodelis saga, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í Íslenskum Fræðum, rit, 72 (Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, 2009), p. cxxix-cxxx.
  3. Tove Hovn Ohlsson (ed.), Tiodelis saga, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í Íslenskum Fræðum, rit, 72 (Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, 2009), p. cxxix.
  4. Marianne E. Kalinke and P. M. Mitchell, Bibliography of Old Norse–Icelandic Romances, Islandica, 44 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 114; Tove Hovn Ohlsson (ed.), Tiodelis saga, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í Íslenskum Fræðum, rit, 72 (Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, 2009), p. cxxxi.
  5. Tove Hovn Ohlsson (ed.), Tiodelis saga, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í Íslenskum Fræðum, rit, 72 (Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, 2009), p. xi.