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The King in Disguise: An International Popular Tale in Two Old Icelandic Adaptations
Islandica: 53, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Library, p. 137 through 169 ( 2008)
One of Professor Lord’s continuing concerns and an interest he has instilled in his students is the importance of relations between oral and literary traditions. The problem is controversial in many fields and nowhere more so than in the study of the saga literature where it is not always recognized how intimate are the connections between the oral-literary question and the problem of European influence, the problem of the uniqueness of the saga literature. The following essay is intended as a contribution to the current reassessment of the relationship of Old Icelandic saga literature to the European mainstream and of the ways of literary tradition in dealing with oral sources.
Part I discusses the assimilation of a widely known international tale to its place in the saga histories of Norway, while Part II shows how the same tale is adapted in a different genre. In Part III the thematic contents of the story in the two adaptations are compared with each other and with the meanings attached to a similar tale in Old Icelandic, and Part IV briefly draws some conclusions for the comparative study of saga literature.