Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/405

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Custom and Belief in Icelandic Sagas. 389

the present form of Kormaks Saga must be ascribed ; HafQar Saga, Hoensa-thoris Saga, Vapnfir^inga and Hei'Sarviga also give evidence from style of early date, and, together with Kormaks Saga, of having existed orally before the period of the saga writing, that is before the close of the eleventh century. The accounts in Floamanna of the difficulties and hardships of early settlers in Greenland are too graphic not to be authentic. The Waterdale Saga is an old story worked over, and the same is true of Thorskfir'^inga. Gisla is a beautifully told story belonging to the best period of saga-com- position, though, as in Viga-Glum's Saga, the subject is old. Such stories as Thorstein the White, Thorstein Hall of Side's Son, and Thidrandi, are examples of the small sagas which provided the material from which longer compilations were made. Of the two versions of the story of Droplaug's sons {Fljotsdcela), one is old, the other a very diffuse and inferior late composition. The Kings' Lives were compiled by Snorri in the thirteenth century from older versions ; but his honesty, learning, and complete absence of bias make his testimony of great value. In all the sagas any approach to Christian prejudice is easily recognised, the more so from its rarity.

I. The Gods.

The Asgard hierarchy, as systematised during the Viking age, contains, according to Snorri, thirty or thirty- one gods and goddesses. Some of these are merely personified epithets, and the list can be reduced to about twenty who have a real existence in myth : Odin, the chief, a wind or storm-god ; Thor, the thunder-god ; Baldr, a tree-spirit ; Njord, Frey, and Freyja, agricultural deities ; Tyr, an ancient sky-god ; Loki, a primitive fire- spirit; Frigg, the Hera of the Norse hierarchy; Heimdal and Hoeni, whose characters are not made clear ; Gefjon,