chapter
9 Pages

Narrative Functions of Landscape in the Old Icelandic Family Sagas

WithIan Wyatt

This chapter explains the role of topographic references in sagas as literary devices that function as elements within the narrative grammar of the family sagas. By highlighting the narrative functions of saga landscapes, it suggests that saga landscape references should be treated with great caution if used in archaeological or historical discussions. Areas in which a saga landscape description appeared to correlate with the physical topography of Iceland proved, for Kalund, the historical validity of the saga. The problem facing Icelandic intellectuals was how to lift the sagas from their status as traditions of unlettered storytellers and elevate them to the rank of world literature. Some scholars continue to perceive geographic accuracy in the landscape descriptions of sagas. In preparation for the recent millennial celebrations the Icelandic government decided to build a visitor centre to commemorate the discovery of America by Leifr Eiriksson; this prestigious centre was to be built in Haukadalur where Leifr is believed to have been born.