Karl G. Johansson og Else Mundal (red.):
The Translation of European Court Culture in Medieval Scandinavia
Chivalric literature was introduced to the North early in the thirteenth century. We know that Tristrams saga ok Ísǫndar was translated into Old Norse in the year 1226 by a certain Brother Robert, and in the prologue where the translator names himself, he claims that he did the translation at the request of King Hákon Hákonarson. In four other translations, Elíss saga, Ívens saga, Mǫttuls saga and Strengleikar, it is said that the work was done at the king’s request. It has been a matter of discussion whether references to the king can be trusted or should be taken as literary clichés. References to authorities are in many cases false. However, if such references stem from translations in the king’s own time and in his milieu, they are most likely reliable, since it would be an insult to honour the king for something he had not done. It cannot be proven that references to King Hákon are original and stem from the king’s own time in these five works, but the only surviving manuscript of Strengleikar, Uppsala, De la Gardie 4–7 fol, was probably written only a few years after the king’s death, and the mentioning of the translator as Brother Robert in Tristrams saga ok Ísǫndar and as Abbot Robert in Elíss saga – who in all likelihood is the same man as Brother Robert after his promotion to Abbot – do also indicate that the prologue with the reference to King Hákon is original. This little detail with the titles indicates at least that the prologues were written in the time of Robert, the translator. The direct references to the king in the prologues of these translations, as well as what we know about the milieu in the Norwegian court in King Hákon’s time from other sources, indicate that the king himself and the circles around him were the driving forces behind the introduction of chivalric literature to the North.