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Fóstbrœðra saga

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Title: Fóstbrœðra saga  
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Subject: Sagas of Icelanders, Flóamanna saga, Icelandic Sagas, Gunnars saga Keldugnúpsfífls, Ljósvetninga saga
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Fóstbrœðra saga

Fóstbrœðra saga ( listen  ) or The Saga of the Sworn Brothers is one of the Iceland and abroad. Þorgeirr is a capable and insanely brave warrior. He kills people for trifles and for sport. Þormóðr is a more complicated character; warrior, trouble-maker, womanizer and poet. The saga contains poetry attributed to him, including parts of a lay on his blood brother.

Manuscripts and dating

The saga survives in three early manuscripts. Each has a rather different version of the text:

The date of composition of the lost written archetype of Fóstbrœðra saga has been the subject of considerable dispute. Sigurður Nordal argued for ca. 1200 (Björn K. Þorólfsson and Guðni Jónsson 1943: lxxii) whereas Jónas Kristjánsson argued for the end of the century (1972, 310). There is no clear consensus, though Andersson's 2013 analysis preferred an early dating of 'presumably not much later than 1200' (2013, 72).

A long-standing controversy centers on which manuscripts represent the most original version. In particular, the debate has focused on several unusual "clauses" (Icelandic klausur) or asides in the saga which do not fit in with conventional saga style. These have been understood both as late interpolations and as signs of an early, developing saga style (Jónas Kristjánsson 1972).

The skaldic stanzas attributed to Þormóðr kolbrúnarskáld Bersason appear genuine (according to Guðni Jónsson in Björn K. Þorólfsson and Guðni Jónsson 1943: lxi); he would have composed ca. 1010-1030 (according to Guðni Jónsson in Björn K. Þorólfsson and Guðni Jónsson 1943: lxix).

Critical reception

In the words of Lee M. Hollander (1949, 75),

The saga of the Sworn Brothers, Thorgeir and Thormod, occupies a position of secondary importance among the Old Icelandic family sagas—at least, it is not a favorite. There are good reasons for this: it does not have the scope and weight of such sagas as Njála, Eigla, Laxdæla, nor the depth and classic form of such as Hrafnkels saga, Gísla saga, Thorsteins saga hvíta; nor do students of Germanic antiquities value it because of any wealth of specific information on the history, religion, culture, laws of the Old North.

However, the saga has recently come to critical attention for the range and detail of its portrayals of women (Gos 2009).



  • Björn K. Þórólfsson (ed.), Fóstbrœðra saga, Samfund til udgivelse af gammel nordisk litteratur, 49 (Copenhagen: Jørgensen, 1925–27) (a diplomatic edition of all the main MSS)
  • Digitised text at Netútgáfan


  • The Sagas of Kormák and the Sworn Brothers, trans. by Lee M. Hollander (New York: Princeton University Press, 1949), pp. 83–176.
  • The Saga of the Sworn Brothers. Translated by Martin S. Regal. In: Viðar Hreinsson (General Editor): The Complete Sagas of Icelanders including 49 Tales. Reykjavík: Leifur Eiríksson Publishing, 1997. Volume II, pp. 329–402. ISBN 9979-9293-2-4.

Secondary literature

  • Arnold, Martin, The Post-Classical Icelandic Family Saga, Scandinavian Studies, 9 (Lewiston: Mellen, 2003), pp. 141–80 (=chapter 4, ‘Beyond Independence, towards Post-Classicism, and the Case of Fóstbrœðra saga’)
  • Andersson, Theodore M., 'Redating Fóstbrœðra saga ', in Dating the Sagas: Reviews and Revisions, ed. by Else Mundal (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2013), pp. 55-76.
  • Gos, Giselle, 'Women as a Source of heilræði, 'sound counsel': Social Mediation and Community Integration in Fóstbrœðra saga ', JEGP, Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 108 (2009), 281-300,
  • Jónas Kristjánsson, Um fóstbræðrasögu, Rit (Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi), 1 (Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, 1972)
  • Poole, Russell, Skaldsagas: Text, Vocation, and Desire in the Icelandic Sagas of Poets, Erganzungsbande Zum Reallexikon Der Germanischen Altertumskunde, 27 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2001)

External links

  • Full text of the saga in Old Icelandic (with modernised spelling)
  • Information on the manuscripts of the saga
  • Fóstbrœðra sagaProverbs in
  • Full text at the Icelandic Saga Database
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