Popular Culture and Royal Propaganda in Norway and Iceland in the 13th century
By Stefka Georgieva Eriksen
Collegium Medievale, Vol.20 (2007)
Abstract: One of the main topics of discussion in research on the translated riddrasögur has been their intended purpose and function. Earlier research on the subject has suggested that the translations of the European romances were commissioned by King Hákon Hákonarason in order to present a new European royal ideological model to the Scandinavian society. In this article I wish to investigate this hypothesis further by studying the royal ideology in Strengleikar. Do the kings presented in Strengleikar appear as the European Christian rex justus kings, which was the dominant medieval royal model, or do they convey another image – an image that may be interpreted to explain both the intended function and the popularity of the translations in Norway and Iceland?
Introduction: This article will address the theme of royal ideology in the collection of short stories Strengleikar, which is the Old Norse translation of the lais by the French poet Marie de France. The collection was one of the first examples of European vernacular literature introduced to the Norwegian court, and according to its prologue, translated under the commission of King Hákon Hákonarson. The king commissioned the translations of other romances as well, like for example Ívens saga, Elis saga, Möttuls saga, Tristrams saga, as it is written in their prologue/epilogue.
One interesting question that has been discussed by many scholars is why King Hákon commissioned the translations of the riddarasögur. The plausible theories are numerous and diverse, but in this article, I will relate to only one of them, the hypothesis that King Hákon undertook this cultural enterprise in order to Europeanise his own court and image and, in this way, to legitimate a transformation of his kingship, from a local Norse type to a more European type.