Sigurðar saga fóts (The Saga of Sigurðr Foot)
Hall, Alaric (University of Leeds)
MIRATOR 11:1 (2010)
This is the first English translation of the short Icelandic romance Sigurðar saga fóts, with an introduction presenting the evidence for its dating and immediate literary context. Like most Icelandic romances, Sigurðar saga is a bridal-quest story; the support of a foster-brother is key to the hero winning the bride; and the foster-brothers start out as opponents before recognising their mutual excellence and swearing foster-brotherhood. Uniquely, however, the men who become foster-brothers begin by competing for the same bride (Signý): the eponymous Sigurðr fótr wins Signý only because Ásmundr gives her to him in exchange for foster-brotherhood. Ásmundr’s decision can be read as demonstrating with unusual starkness the superior importance in much Icelandic romance of homosocial relationships over heterosexual ones, giving the saga a certain paradigmatic status. Translating the saga in an open-access forum and reconstructing its literary context will, we hope, encourage further analyses.
Excerpt: It is the beginning of a certain short saga, which was found written on the stone wall in Cologne, that there was a king called Knútr who ruled over Zeeland. He was a noble king in looks and leadership, glory and governance, spirit and steadiness, and in all those chiefly accomplishments which can adorn an honourable lord, and he was somewhat advanced in years at the time that this adventure began
He had a noble queen, a daughter of the king of Flanders, and had with her one daughter, who was named Signý. She was both wise and honest, fair and fine, kind and courteous, proud and well composed, mild and modest. She knew, also, all the arts that a woman should, so that it was universally agreed, both in ancient stories and new, that no woman was ever born fairer in the northern region of the world, or wiser in all respects, or in more numerous accomplishments. An excellent bower was erected for her, with great skill and expense. Many beautiful girls were appointed to wait on her there.