Types of Norse sagas

The hundreds of surviving Norse sagas were mostly written in Iceland and Norway during the 12th to 15th centuries. They are grouped into the following 9 types of sagas:

  • The Kings’ sagas (Konungasögur)Written in the 12th to 14th centuries, these sagas tell of the lives and deeds of Scandinavian kings. Examples include Heimskringla and Jómsvíkinga saga.
  • Sagas of Icelanders (Íslendinga sögur)Written in the 13th and 14th centuries, these narratives cover the main families of Iceland in the period of c930 to c1030. Examples include Egil’s saga and Erik the Red saga. A variant is Short tales of Icelanders (Íslendingaþættir) with similar topics but shorter in length.
  • Contemporary sagas (Samtímasögur)Written in 13th and 14th centuries, these sagas are about Iceland in the 12th and 13th centuries. Examples include Sturlunga saga and Arons saga Hjörleifssonar.
  • Legendary sagas (Fornaldarsögur)Written later in the Middle Ages, these sagas mix distant history with myths of a pagan past with the aim to entertain. Examples include Edda and Hrólfs saga kraka.
  • Chivalric sagas (Riddarasögur)Written later in the Middle Ages, these sagas are translations of primarily the French chansons de geste (and other Latin pseudo histories) with added Scandinavian embellishments. Examples include Karlamagnús saga and Olger the Dane.
  • Saga of the Greenlanders (Grænlendingasögur)Written in the 13th or 14th century, this is a saga in 8 parts concerning the colonization of Greenland and the voyages further west (to North America) in the period c970 to c1030.
  • Saints’ sagas (Heilagra manna sögur)As the name implies, these are sagas about those who achieved Christian sainthood. Examples include Olaf’s saga and Stephanus saga.
  • Bishops’ sagas (Biskupa sögur)Biographical accounts of the lives of prominent Icelandic bishops in the 11th to 12th centuries. Examples include Árna saga biskups and Lárentius saga biskups.

Source: Article written by AllThingsViking (August, 2014)

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