The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies hosted an unusual “family reunion” this week, where all three branches of Njáls saga manuscripts were united, likely for the first time, RÚV reports. Some of the manuscripts are around 700 years old.
Njáls saga is a 13th-century Icelandic saga that deals with blood feuds in the Icelandic Commonwealth. It is the longest and most developed of the Icelandic sagas, and is often considered the peak of the saga tradition. The “reunion” of sorts was organised in honour of the anniversary of Árni Magnússon’s death January 7. Research Associate Professor Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir said the event gave scholars a chance to look at the origin of Njáls saga.
According to Svanhildur, Njals saga was likely complied around 1280, though the oldest found manuscripts date from around 1300. The research of Einar Ólafur Sveinsson and others discovered that Njals saga manuscripts can be classified as belonging to one of three branches, called the X, Y, and Z branches. The January event at the institute was likely the first time that manuscripts from all three branches had been collected together, as the Reykjabók manuscript, belonging to the X branch, is currently on loan to Iceland from Denmark.
It’s priceless to be able to see the manuscripts together, says Svanhildur, particularly so shortly following the publication of new research on the works, titled New Studies in the Manuscript Tradition of Njáls saga.