Norway Literature Part I

By | December 17, 2021

The oldest Norwegian literary monuments preserved to this day probably date back to the 10th century. VIII d. C. Already long before this time, in the century. II or III d. C., in the Nordic countries began to engrave on stone, with runic characters, funeral inscriptions, magical forms, etc. The runic inscriptions are generally very short: some have metric form, and the oldest of them are generally assigned to the 4th and 5th centuries. The runic inscription of Eggjum (discovered in 1917) which has 200 runes and probably dates back to around 700 d. C., however, must be considered the first that brings together in itself a magical mentality and a poetic fantasy. From the obscure verses rich in images of Eggium’s inscription to the poetry of the Edda and that of the scalds, the step is not great.

The Edda it includes more than 30 poems, some of considerable length, of which almost half of mythical content, the others of heroic and legendary subject matter. These compositions were written in writing by Icelanders and are essentially known to us from a large collection contained in a manuscript of the century. XIII. There is no doubt, however, that most of the Edda poems are much older. The most common dating assigns most of them to 900-1050; some may date back to the 8th and 9th centuries. The oldest are certainly of Norwegian origin; among the more recent it is mostly difficult to distinguish the purely Norwegian element from what may be produced by the poetic imagination of the Norwegian settlers of Iceland or the North Sea islands. Only during the eleventh and twelfth centuries the Norwegians of Iceland have come to the full development of an Icelandic national individuality. During the century XII Icelandic literature begins to reveal its characteristic features; however up to the sec. XIV the Norwegian and Icelandic literatures can to a certain extent be considered a unity, which, in any case, at the time of the composition of the Edda is practically inseparable. For Norway 2000, please check

The first poem in the Edda collection, Voluspå, is also the most important. It is placed in the mouth of an ancient sibyl-type seer, who in picturesque words and in resounding stanzas traces the image of the whole world of Norwegian paganism: how the world was created, the looming twilight of the gods, finally the new blessed land that will arise from the great catastrophe. A masterpiece of Edda poetry is also the Håvåmal, where the practical philosophy of the ancient Norse is expounded by the god Odin in compelling stanzas. Among the other mythical compositions of the Edda, the tales of the deeds and sayings of the god Tor are particularly noteworthy, of a rather rough humor: Hårbardsljod, Trymskvida,. Rigstula is very interesting for the history of costumes, while Skirnismål and a whole series of heroic poems, in which love and revenge are often dominant motifs, have great lyric qualities. Several of these heroic songs deal with the same subject that is the subject of the Germanic cycle of the Nibelungs. The story of Attila king of the Huns gave rise to the monumental and tragic poem of Atlakvida.

The poetry of the Edda is anonymous and certainly has been handed down for a long time in the mouth of the people until the conversion to Christianity in the century. XI destroyed ancient religion and pagan traditions. The dramatic energy and epigrammatic focus of this poem made it easy to understand and remember. The poetry of the skalds, on the other hand, is the work of noble poets, whose names are known; elaborated in artistic rhythms, it is filled with conceptual images, strained, difficult to understand. The oldest skald known so far, Brage the Elder, lived around 800, and until the end of the century. XIII at the court of the kings of Norway there were always several skalds charged with composing commendatory poems in honor of the sovereigns. The earliest warmths are mostly Norse, the more recent Icelandic. Håraldskvadi of Torbiörn Hornklove, the Håkonarmål Eyvind Skaldaspiller, the Sonatorrek, consisting of Egil Skallagrímsson for the death of his favorite son, the Bersoglisvisur political argument Sigvat Tordsson, the amorous poems Kormak and Tormod Kolbrunarskald, the Geisli, composed by Einar Skulason in honor of the holy martyr king Olaf.

After Christianization, the Norwegians and the Icelanders in the course of the century. XI made more intimate contact with the civilization of the rest of Europe, and in the century. XII begins the written literature, of mainly historical content. The earliest Norwegian historical works are composed in Latin, but the Icelanders soon took on the task of recording the history of the motherland, mostly using their own Norwegian-Icelandic language. Specialty of Iceland are the noble sagas, partly history and partly novel, many of which belong to the masterpieces of world literature. Intimately connected with Norwegian literature are the Icelandic sagas of the kings of Norway, p. ex. the Sverres Saga of Karl Jonsson, and especially the Heimskringla, a wonderfully rich and masterfully composed work from the point of view of psychology and style, which deals with the history of Norway from the earliest times to 1177; its author is Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), the most imposing figure of the ancient Norwegian-Icelandic literature, notable not only as a historian, but also as a poet, critic and politician.

Norway Literature