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The sagas (word originating from Old Norse) are stories about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history, about early Viking voyages, the battles that took place during the voyages, about migration to Iceland and of feuds between Icelandic families. They were written in the Old Norse language, mainly in Iceland.

The texts are epic tales in prose, ...often with stanzas or whole poems in alliterative verse embedded in the text, of heroic deeds of days long gone, "tales of worthy men," who were often Vikings, sometimes Pagan, sometimes Christian. The tales are usually realistic, except legendary sagas, sagas of saints, sagas of bishops and translated or recomposed romances. They are sometimes romanticised and fantastic, but always dealing with human beings one can understand.



Excerpt from Njáls saga in the Möðruvallabók (AM 132 folio 13r) circa 1350.

The term saga originates from the Norse saga (pl. sögur), and refers to (1) "what is said, statement" or (2) "story, tale, history". It is cognate with the English word "say", and the German sagen. Icelandic sagas are based on oral traditions and much research has focused on what is real and what is fiction within each tale. The accuracy of the sagas is often hotly disputed. Most of the manuscripts in which the sagas are preserved were taken to Denmark and Sweden in the 17th century, but later returned to Iceland.

There are plenty of tales of kings (e.g. Heimskringla), everyday people (e.g. Bandamanna saga) and larger than life characters (e. g. Egils saga). The sagas describe a part of the history of some of the Nordic countries (e.g. the last chapter of Hervarar saga). The British Isles, northern France and North America are also mentioned. It was only recently (start of 20th century) that the tales of the voyages to America were authenticated.

Most sagas of Icelanders take place in the period 930–1030, which is called söguöld (Age of the Sagas) in Icelandic history. The sagas of kings, bishops, contemporary sagas have their own time frame. Most were written down between 1190 to 1320, sometimes existing as oral traditions long before, others are pure fiction, and for some we do know the sources: the author of King Sverrir's saga had met the king and used him as a source.


Snorri Sturluson, perhaps the greatest saga recorder[says who?]; portrait by Christian Krohg.

Norse sagas are generally classified as: the Kings' sagas (Konungasögur), Icelanders' sagas (Íslendinga sögur), Short tales of Icelanders (Íslendingaþættir), Contemporary sagas (Samtíðarsögur or Samtímasögur), Legendary sagas (Fornaldarsögur), Chivalric sagas (Riddarasögur) and Saga of the Greenlanders (Grœnlendingasögur).

Queen Ragnhild's dream.

The Kings' Sagas are of the lives of Scandinavian kings. They were composed in the 12th to 14th centuries. The Icelanders' sagas (Íslendinga sögur) are heroic prose narratives written in the 12th to 14th centuries of the great families of Iceland from 930 to 1030. These are the highest form of the classical Icelandic saga writing. Some well-known examples include Njáls saga, Laxdœla saga and Grettis saga. The material of the Short tales of Icelanders sagas is similar to Íslendinga sögur, in shorter form. The narratives of the Contemporary Sagas are set in 12th- and 13th-century Iceland, and were written soon after the events they describe. Most are preserved in the compilation Sturlunga saga. The Legendary Sagas blend remote history with myth or legend. The aim is on a lively narrative and entertainment. Scandinavia's pagan past was a proud and heroic history for the Icelanders. The Chivalric Sagas are translations of Latin pseudo-historical works and French chansons de geste as well as native creations in the same style.


The term in contemporary Nordic languages

Through the centuries, the word saga has gained a broader meaning in Nordic languages. In contemporary Swedish and Danish it describes a non-realistic or epic work of fiction. Folksaga means folk tale; a fairy tale by an unknown author, in Swedish and Danish. Konstsaga is the Swedish term for a fairy tale by a known author, such as H. C. Andersen or Astrid Lindgren, while the Danish and Norwegian term is eventyr ("adventure"). A saga can also be a work of fantasy fiction. J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series was translated to Swedish by Åke Ohlmarks by the title Sagan om ringen: "The Saga of the Ring". Tolkien knew enough Swedish to be dissatisfied with the Swedish title (and the translation work in general), and the 2004 translation was titled Ringarnas herre, a literal translation from the original.

In Swedish history, the term sagokung, "saga king" is intended to be ambiguous, as it describes the semi-legendary kings of Sweden, who are known only from unreliable, probably fictional, sources.

In Faroese, the word underwent U-umlaut becoming søga, and adopted a wider meaning. In addition to saga, it also covers terms such as history, tale, story.

A modern example of a saga is George Lucas's classic film trilogy, The Star Wars Saga. The Lord of the Rings novels by J.R.R. Tolkien are also a saga.

External links and references

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • saga — saga …   Dictionnaire des rimes

  • saga — [ saga ] n. f. • av. 1740; a. nord. saga « dit, conte »; cf. all. sagen, angl. to say « dire » 1 ♦ Littér. Récit historique ou mythologique de la littérature médiévale scandinave. Sagas islandaises, norvégiennes. Par ext. Récit légendaire dans d… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • şagă — ŞÁGĂ, şăgi, s.f. (pop.) Glumă. ♢ loc. adv. În şagă = fără seriozitate, într o doară. Fără şagă = în mod serios. ♢ loc. vb. A face şagă = a şugui; a glumi. ♢ expr. Nu i vreme de şagă = nu i momentul potrivit pentru glumit. A se întrece cu şaga = a …   Dicționar Român

  • saga — SÁGA s.f. Povestire aparţinând vechii literaturi scandinave, în care faptele istorice se împletesc cu elementele mitologice. – Din. fr. saga, germ. Saga. Trimis de ana zecheru, 02.04.2003. Sursa: DEX 98  sága s. f. invar. Trimis de siveco, 10.08 …   Dicționar Român

  • Saga — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Para el artículo sobre la Ásynjur, véase Saga (mitología). Para el artículo sobre el género literario cultivado en Islandia, véase Saga (literatura). Para el artículo sobre la ciudad de éste nombre, véase Saga… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Saga — Связать? Saga Годы с 2000 …   Википедия

  • SaGa — may refer to: * Makai Toushi Sa·Ga , a video game known as The Final Fantasy Legend outside of Japan * SaGa (series), a video game series by Square Enixee also* [ List of Wikipedia articles… …   Wikipedia

  • saga — The traditional use of the term saga to refer to medieval Norse narrative poems, especially those written in Iceland, dates from the early 18c and continues untroubled by more recent extensions of meaning, first to long novels or series of novels …   Modern English usage

  • saga — sustantivo femenino 1. Área: mitología Cada una de las leyendas poéticas de las dos colecciones de primitivas tradiciones heroicas y mitológicas de la antigua Escandinavia. 2. Uso/registro: literario. Narración de la historia de dos o más… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • Saga [1] — Saga (Plural Sogur, altnord.), eine Erzählung, soviel wie unser »Sage«, doch ohne den Nebenbegriff des Ungeschichtlichen. Eine kleinere Erzählung heißt Tháttr. Die reiche Sagaliteratur, in wohl ausgebildeter einheimischer Prosa, ist die… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • saga — sȃga ž DEFINICIJA knjiž. 1. herojska pripovijetka u staroskandinavskim književnostima o podvizima bogova, kraljeva itd. [saga o Nibelunzima] 2. dugo pripovjedno prozno djelo, ob. u više knjiga [saga o Forsyteima] 3. razg. dug opis zanimljivog… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

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