A Case of an Odd Saga: Structure in Bjarnar saga Hítdælakappa

A Case of an Odd Saga: Structure in Bjarnar saga Hítdælakappa

By Daria Glebova

MA Thesis, University of Iceland, 2017

Detail of a miniature from a 13th-century Icelandic manuscript.

Abstract: The discussion of Bjarnar saga Hítdælakappa structure has resulted in Bjarnar saga being described either as a clumsily made saga or as an odd, non-mainstream saga. It has been called loose, especially in the part of the exchange of insults and violence between the poets.

However, a scholastic attempt to find the narrative strategy behind the veil of clumsiness has shown that the seemingly loosely constructed narrative of the “Icelandic” part appears to be planned in a rather sophisticated and artistic way. However, it did not solve all of the Bjarnar saga’s structural puzzles. It was also argued that the looseness of the ‘Icelandic’ part contrasts with the tightness of the ‘Norwegian’ beginning. The contrast between the parts can be supported by further research on the narrator’s guidance in the saga.


In this work the contrasts, and also repetitions, in the ‘Norwegian’ beginning and the ‘Icelandic’ part of Bjarnar saga are considered as the indications of the bipartite structure, which often can be found in medieval European and Scandinavian literature. The analysis builds upon research on structure and narrative strategy in Bjarnar saga, as well as previous structural and narratological research in the field of saga studies. Special attention is paid to the so far overlooked architecture of the “Norwegian” part and its connection to the ‘Icelandic narrative’ in order to determine its place in the overall structure of Bjarnar saga.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Iceland


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