Bright dreams and bitter experiences : dreams in six sagas of Icelanders
This thesis is a contribution to the ongoing discussion of dreams in the islendingasogur. Most previous scholarship on this subject has dealt with one of the following: either attempted to identify a scheme to explain the origin of saga dreams (e.g. identifying influence from European dream-book theory on saga dreams), or attempted to explain the saga dreams using what can be referred to as the "matching approach", that is taking specific elements from the dream and seeking to understand their relevance to the rest of the text. My thesis hangs upon the following two hypotheses: 1. saga dreams are essentially inconsistent in their nature and therefore saga readers were required to bring to bear a variety of interpretative techniques when seeking to understand them, and 2. saga dreams use complex and multi-layered symbolism. The imagination of the medieval saga readership allowed and even expected dream-symbolism to operate on a number of levels and for dream-symbols to have a number of referents elsewhere in the text. In order to test these hypotheses, I have reviewed all of the dreams in all of the islendingasogur, but chosen six particular texts to seek to understand how these authors used dreams. These texts are as follows: Droplaugarsona saga; Njdls saga; Laxdoela saga; Viga-Glums saga; Gisla saga; Surssonar Hardar saga. I have devoted a chapter to each of these six sagas. For each dream I have written a 'context' that allows the dream to be understood. I have then presented a text of the dream alongside an English translation. Following this I have written a short commentary dealing with some of the textual problems in the passage, identifying the role of the dream and seeking to understand the way in which the medieval reader would have understood it, suggesting loans, analogues and analogies elsewhere in Norse literature.