The Book of Reykjaholar: The Last of the Great Medieval Legendaries
Published: August 1996© 1996
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 376 Pages
Dimensions: 6.03 x 8.98
376 Pages, 6.03 x 8.98 x 0.94 in
The Book of Reykjahólar, produced on the very eve of the Reformation, investigates what may be considered the last medieval legendary. The legendary's significance resides in its preserving in Icelandic translation a group of otherwise unattested medieval Low German saints' lives. Marianne E. Kalinke presents a literary analysis of the Reykjahólar legendary, demonstrating what kind of sources the translator used in his compilation and how he collected, combined, and adapted these texts to suit his Icelandic audience. The book also offers stylistic, thematic, and comparative analyses of the legends.
A number of these Christian myths are apocryphal, some transmit folk tales and romances, such as the legend of the hairy anchorite (St John Chrysostom), the search for the highest king (St Christopher), the tale of the grateful lion (St Jerome), the tale of the dragon-slayer (St George), and the story of the holy sinner (Gregorius peccator). The legends belong to the vast corpus of German hagiography, yet the currency of these particular versions is documented today only in translation by virtue of their inclusion in this Icelandic legendary. The book opens with a survey of the development of German hagiography, goes on to a discussion of the religious and intellectual climate in early sixteenth-century Iceland, and then follows with a consideration of the legendary's Low German sources and its production by one of the wealthiest Icelanders of the time, Björn Thorleifsson of Reykjahólar.