Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/227

This page has been validated.


THE

OLDEST ICELANDIC FOLK-LORE.

____________

THE Landnámabók, or History of the Settlement of Iceland, a document such as no other country can boast of, is of value not only for the student of Northern history, but also for the folk-lorist. The interminable genealogies which form the bulk of the work (comprising over 5,000 names in all) are relieved now and then by anecdotes concerning the persons named, and in most instances these stories, when they are not merely ones of quarrel and bloodshed, contain some trait of popular belief, which is thus at least as old as the eleventh century, and may very well go back to the tenth or ninth. In general, these tales agree with the common folk-lore of Scandinavia, at least as we find it in the other sagas of Iceland and Norway ; and, beyond the few Christian elements in connection with Christian settlers from the Hebrides, etc., show no trace of the Celtic influence which some have thought must have resulted from contact with Celts and from settlers of Celtic descent. These latter, however, do not number one per cent, of the persons named in the Landnáma, and so their influence was not likely to be very extensive.

To extract and arrange these tales is the object of this article, and, beyond the translation, few notes have been added ; but the exact meaning of the original terms is explained in the index. In some cases the stories apparently do not go back to the original version of the Landnáma, but have been inserted by later scribes, sometimes perhaps from local tradition, but sometimes from