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Thread: The Sources of Skáldskaparmál

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    Lightbulb The Sources of Skáldskaparmál

    Discussion of the sources of Sk‡ldskaparm‡l in the past has mainly been concerned with two related issues, first the accuracy with which Snorri reproduces pre-Christian tradition in his work, and thus his reliability as a witness to that tradition, and secondly the extent to which his work is influenced by the Christian, Latin thought of the Middle Ages.

    With regard to the first of these issues, there has been speculation about the possibility that Snorri or people of his circle may actually have invented myths as well as altering or modifying those they inherited from the past. One particular aspect of the second issue is the question whether Snorri himself could read Latin.

    Recent work has started from the assumption that he could, and has concentrated on attempting to identify the Latin writings he may have used (Margaret Clunies Ross 1987; Ursula and Peter Dronke 1977).

    Many scholars have taken for granted that Latin books would have been available to Snorri; characteristic is Halld—r Halld—rsson in Old Icelandic heiti in Modern Icelandic (1975), who, having pointed out that Oddi, where Snorri was brought up, was a place where learning, including Latin learning, had been highly developed in the 12th century, says: Of course, these points do not suffice to prove that Snorri knew Latin.

    But the very fact that in the Skáldskaparmál he attempts to apply certain classificatory principles to the stylistic devices used in Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian poetry indicates some sort of schooling (p. 11), and adds in a footnote (on p. 12): Most scholars who have dealt with Snorra Edda, such as F. J—nsson, Heusler, Nordal, Meissner and Sveinsson disregard the question of whether Snorri knew classical rhetoric or not.

    S. Einarsson is fully aware of the fact that Snorri knew Latin. Unfortunately, S. Einarsson does not furnish any evidence for his assertion, but I think he is right. It is one of the purposes of this paper to examine whether there is any evidence for the assertion, and whether it can be upheld.

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