A stylistic study of the sagas of Sturla Þórðarson and their relationship to some other thirteenth century Icelandic historical and literary sagas
It is the object of this thesis to present the chief stylistic and structural characteristics of five thirteenth century Norse sagas selected as representative of Sturla Þórðarson's literary background; to show in what ways and to suggest why he did or did not follow their examples; and on the basis of this, to offer a new interpretation of the style and structure of Sturla's Íslendinga Saga. The five sagas are considered chronologically in the order they are believed to have been written. Sverris Saga is a partisan record of an unconventional Norwegian king's reign (1177-1202) based on the king's personal experience and contemporary witness. Knytlinga Saga (c. 1260), a celebration of Danish Christian princes (940-1187), has an unadorned style, at times not unlike Sturla's, but its concentration on the single theme makes it too constricted for Sturla's complex material. In Heimskringla (c. 1230), a history of Norwegian kings up to 1177, Snorri Sturluson freely adapts and selects from his source material to produce a wellreasoned pattern of events. Sturla's material for Íslendinga Saga was too close to him to be manipulated in this fashion. He probably learned most from his own experience of writing Hákonar Saga in 1263. Although this was written under the constraints of diplomacy, Sturla was confronted with the task of ordering a mass of virtually contemporary material. Njáls Saga, an almost wholly fictional work, depends for its unity on complex interactions between figures motivated by their inner temperaments. Sturla also records diverse human emotions, but his narrative must depend on actual happenings and therefore lacks the contrived flawlessness of Njáls Saga. Yet Sturla's selection and arrangement of his authentic material - a dense mass of facts - show that his control is perfect. He writes with awesome sobriety and psychological insight, and he rejects any artificial structure.