Today's translators face harsh criticism if they take too large interpretation freedoms. In the Middle Ages it was the opposite.

Various renditions of the same thing did not mean that the translators in the Middle Ages did a bad job. Freedom of interpreting and applying the new was a matter of course.

- The audience expected and accepted that the translators adapted and rewrote.

The saga says researcher Stefka Georgieva Eriksen of the University of Oslo.

She has taken a deep dive into the saga, Elissa Knight saga. This is a Norwegian medieval tale of the Christian hero of Elis and his Muslim lover, Rosamund.

With a French, a Norwegian and an Icelandic version of the saga, no later, she found three very different literary works - both in terms of approach, illustration and thought recipients.

Record to create something new

- When Elissa saga was recreated in Old Norse from the French original work Elye de Saint-Gille in around 1270, did the Norwegian printers more than just translate, "says Eriksen.

- They also adapted the story of the Norwegian society, "she said.

- The common denominator for the three texts I have seen is that they are written in a hermeneutical tradition. This means that you interpreted the existing text, and produced something new.

Saga researcher says that while the French version is about the Crusades, kings and politics, is the Norwegian version of the hero's personal travel, friendship and love.

- Even in the Icelandic text, which, like the Norwegian is written in Old Norse, there are large differences from the Norwegian both in rhythm and rhetoric.

- These adjustments were very conscious, "says Eriksen.

She refutes thus researchers who believe that the different interpretations is a sign of poor knowledge among translators.

- Today we often see on translating and copying texts as a precise science. In the Middle Ages, it was expected that you should improve and adapt to the country's written tradition and culture, "says Eriksen.

Icelandic happiness and French politics

Elissa saga is an adventure that is about the Crusades. The Christians are taking over new land and Christian people. The story is full of struggles. But one of the points is that the Christian knight is rescued by the Muslim princess.

- They fall in love - she is Christian, and they live happily ever after. In the Icelandic version, that is, "says Eriksen.

- In the French version they do not get each other to finish, while in the Norwegian version, it says nothing about getting married or not, she adds.

In the French manuscript is the main focus, however, politics. It is perhaps not so surprising, according to the researcher.

- The manuscript was written for an audience that quite effectively participated in the Crusades. Based on the manuscript's good looks, one can envisage that the work was read at a court for an audience that could relate to the events, "she said.

- This manuscript also contains a total of four texts, all political-didactic texts with the same problem and message.

Norwegian ethics

The production of manuscripts took place usually at their centers with highly skilled specialists such as font and decoration.
In the Norwegian translation, by contrast, is personal ethical issues and moral dilemmas high on the agenda.

How you can buy in certain situations, how can the love between Christian and non-Christian tackled?

There are conflicts between father and son, and between the knight and his friend. And it's a love brewing.

- Ethics was a central theme in the literature in Norway at this time. To read about the ethical dilemmas were more important than coming with the solution.

- You can find such an example of an ethical dialogue between courage and fear in the Norwegian version, "says Eriksen.

- These manuscripts give us an insight into medieval society, and opening up new ways to understand other medieval writings on, "she adds.

Editorial thinking

By investigating the relationship between the manuscript's appearance, text and graphical tools, the saga researcher also interpreted how our ancestors may have used and understood stories.

- The work was read in many different ways, depending on how the scribes put the focus, and how the work was presented, "says Eriksen.

How much diligence was put in illustrations and handwriting? Where were the illustrations used? The text was meant to be read aloud? Was used as an exhibition or for private use most? Was it written in terms of reading, or for private use - over time with several interruptions, or one? asks the scientist.

She compares the way the fonts are carried on with today's editorial thinking in which images and illustrations used to build up the text and reinforce a message.

- I was almost an eye-opening experience when I noticed the same trend in medieval manuscripts as well, "she says.

- In a modern newspaper bulletin explains the use of headlines and photos on any message to be conveyed, and who your audience is. The same applies to medieval texts.

The recipients ranged

Saga Research Stefka Georgieva Eriksen has led through the first special study of the Norwegian knight saga of the Christian hero Elis and Rosamund, his Muslim lover.
(Photo: Annica Thomsson)
- I have found that the intention behind these manuscripts was very different. This led possibly to them being read in different ways, "says Eriksen.

She says that in the French manuscript is clearly revealed that the manuscript is a status object in itself. It contains beautiful illustrations in gold.

- One can imagine that someone high up in the aristocracy has ordered the manuscript, and that it has been read aloud, or made out because of the great pictures, "she said.

The same applies to the Norwegian manuscript, which, without comparison with the French, too, is a magnificent book.

- The receiver here is a reading public who knew the trends and ideals in the distance of Europe. This paper also has a possible owner: One of the king's men have probably ordered it, "says Eriksen.

Wrote for his own use

The Icelandic manuscript differs significantly from the other two with its simple style and the fact that it is part of a collection of similar adventures.

- This is definitely a different type of manuscript. It's simpler, rougher and adds up to a more casual reading. Here, we also know who was the owner. There was a monk who has written other great manuscripts. My hypothesis is that he wrote this text for their own use, "says Eriksen.

- Ultimately, these findings emphasize that even in medieval times was a manuscript translated, written and illustrated in terms of how it should be used and who was the recipient saga concludes the researcher.