The Arthur of the North
The Arthur of the North is the first book-length study of the Arthurian literature that was translated from French and Latin into Old Norse-Icelandic in the thirteenth century, which has been preserved mostly in Icelandic manuscripts, and which in early modern times inspired the composition of narrative poems and chapbooks in Denmark, Iceland, and Norway, chiefly of the Tristan legend. The importation of Arthurian literature in the North, primarily French romances and lais, is indebted largely to the efforts of King Hákon Hákonarson (r. 1217–63) of Norway, who commissioned the translation of Thomas de Bretagne’s Tristan in 1226 and subsequently several Arthurian romances by Chrétien de Troyes and a number of Breton lais. The translations are unique in that the French metrical narratives were rendered in prose, the traditional form of narrative in the North. Only one work was translated into verse in Norway, namely Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain, which was commissioned by Queen Eufemia (d. 1312), the German wife of the Norwegian king Hákon Magnússon (r. 1299–1319), and which is the only Arthurian romance in Old Swedish. The earliest Arthurian texts to have been translated antedate King Hákon’s program of translation, however. The Prophetiae Merlini in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae were rendered by the Icelandic monk Gunnlaugr Leifsson in Merlínússpá, around the year 1200. Presumably at the same time, or a little later, Geoffrey’s Historia was also translated in Iceland and entitled Breta sögur. The book concludes with a chapter on Arthurian literature in the Rus’ area, precisely East Slavic, with a focus on the Belarusian Trysčan.
All ex GB, US, CA