This volume includes the first complete translation of a thirteenth-century vernacular history of Norway from the ninth to the twelfth centuries. An immediate source for the Heimskringla of Snorri Sturluson, it is a central text in the Old Norse genre of Kings’ sagas. It includes extensive citation of skaldic verses, some of them preserved nowhere else. This translation preserves many of the metrical features of this complex verse form, which are explained in the commentary along with aspects of historical and cultural interest arising from the text. The introduction places the text within the Kings’ saga tradition and examines the particular concerns of its anonymous author. The volume will be of use to historians and those interested in Old Norse literary history.
Alison Finlay, D.Phil. (1994), University of Oxford, is Senior Lecturer in English at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the author of articles on Old Norse literature and translator of The Saga of Bjorn, Champion of the Men of Hitardale (Hisarlik, 2000).
'Because of its proximity to Heimskringla, Fagrskinna has often been compared with Snorri’s famous opus, and the comparison has not been in Fagrskinna’s favor; the work has often been judged somewhat unsophisticated in terms of composition and style. Finlay demonstrates that the criticisms may not be altogether just, and, certainly, any stylistic shortcomings on the part of the author of Fagrskinna are not apparent in the translation, which is eminently readable, even enjoyable. Yet Finlay has not improved upon the original text; in fact, she has taken pains to retain the flavor of the Old Norse-Icelandic original...The most remarkable and admirable feature about Finlay’s translation is, however, her rendering of the 271 skaldic verses or parts of verses that are quoted in Fagrskinna. In order to adequately show the importance of skaldic verse in the text, Finlay has attempted to preserve the metrical constraints of this complicated verse form...The translation is prefaced by a brief but critical introduction, into which Finlay has managed to compress a wealth of information...Alison Finlay has done exemplary work with her translation of Fagrskinna, and the volume will prove useful to historians with an interest in northern Europe in the Middle Ages and to scholars and students within the field of Old Norse-Icelandic literature.'
Kirsten Wolf, Speculum, Vol. 80, No. 4, 2005.