Gesta Danorum

Gesta DanorumEtbindsudgave Af Storv Rket Fra Den Danske Middelalder I Peter Zeebergs Roste Nyovers Ttelse Smukt Illustreret Af Maja Lisa EngelhardtSaxos V Rk Skulle Bef Ste Danmarks Plads Blandt Europas Civiliserede Lande Omkring R Blodige Heltesagn, Muntre Anekdoter Og Bev Gende K Rlighedshistorier Fletter Sig Sammen I Den Store Beretning Om Danskernes Vej Fra Hedenskab Til Kristendom Udgivet I Samarbejde Med Det Danske Sprog Og Litteraturselskab

Saxo Grammaticus c 1150 1220 also known as Saxo cognomine Longus was a Danish historian, thought to have been a secular clerk or secretary to Absalon, Archbishop of Lund, foremost advisor to Valdemar I of Denmark He is the author of the Gesta Danorum, the first full history of Denmark.

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  • Paperback
  • 416 pages
  • Gesta Danorum
  • Saxo Grammaticus
  • English
  • 06 May 2018
  • 9781426400452

10 thoughts on “Gesta Danorum

  1. says:

    Saxo Grammaticus is far from a pleasant read but is a treasure trove of Germanic legend, although sometimes odd and giving very different versions to the legends contained in Eddic poetry and saga material, it s still essential reading The added bonus to the Brewer edition is the inclusion of Davidson s book length introduction and commentary The commentary provides a useful tool for readers wishing to compare Saxo s legends with the Old English, Icelandic and German versions.

  2. says:

    Gloom occasionally ends in joy and inauspicious beginnings turn into brilliant conclusions Good ol Saxo, or as I like to call him Good ol Rocky Schoolteacher I don t think it s right to begin a discourse on Saxo that doesn t feature Michie s rousing ode Huggery muggerySaxo GrammaticusAs a historianHadn t much flair One might have said he wasSupererogatoryHad he not mentioned theHamlet Affair James Michie, self proclaimed master of dissing obscure authors in historyAnd it s true Saxo s claim to fame is largely because of that Hamlet story he retells, although for those in the know of which I can now count myself it was not Hamlet but Amleth However, as Peter Fisher, the translator of this book goes on to explain in the introduction, actually Saxo has some other insights to offer as well And Davidson, for her part, rigorously perhaps too rigorously and not rigorously enough the constant companion complaint of any commentary supports Saxo s relevance with ample notes.Rather than starting at the beginning, let s start with the most famous stuff Hamlet So this is probably where Shakespeare was inspired cough stole cough his story of Hamlet or at least from a French summary of it or something It s a decent story, certainly one of the better organized of the lot There s a ghost and avenging the father by killing the uncle The nice old switcheroo with the letter that says kill the messenger But it also contains tropes reused from other chapters or from older poetic or prose works that make it a bit flavorless.The other most famous thing is Ragnar Lothbrook or Regner Lothbrog as Saxo likes to call him According to him, Lothbrog was a nickname based on his ratty clothes Regner does some of the most famous things like marrying Lagertha Lathgertha , uniting Denmark under peaceful rule though he is a dirty pagan , and dying by being bitten by poisonous snakes He also says that famous line about the boar dying and the piglets coming to avenge him And they do They blood eagle poor old King Aella Ella like good Viking sons Again, a decent story, some of his sons have some character to them, but aside from having similar tropes, Saxo spends less time on the story Davidson says this Book IX was written last and so it could be indicative of the late work of Saxo or that he was ready to end this Whatever the case may be, I think Regner deserves a little attention Oh and King Knut comes up briefly I think I saw him in a museum once Okay those are the two most famous things everything else is pretty run of the mill some combination of I m a real scholar so I m writing in LATIN and imitating the CLASSICAL authors, trying to make a Danish history for Danish people to be excited about, appeasing his patron, making sure the pagans don t look too cool cuz Christianity is the true faith, a dash of Euhemerism because the pagan gods were really just exaggerated stories about mortals although he s totally fine with wizards and magic, giants, dragons, and herculean feats of strength Come on, Anders, there s gotta be some fun in the age of heroes Like I said, lots of tropes and when it s not tropes it s almost like a catalogue of people ruling, doing some challenge to get a wife, enduring some form of betrayal or suffering, and then passing on the lineage Always, however, there is the endgame of Denmark being really cool Some of the other Scandinavian countries get some play Sweden gets almost the coolest hero in the work, Erik the Eloquent Norway does some stuff Iceland is where a lot of the stories that Saxo pulls from have been preserved Finland is that spooky place on the fringe where Danish heroes go to kill people and become even cooler Same for Russia and the Hellespont, although less spooky and contemporary.Overall, the stories are really not that compelling Most of the book readings like a flimsily organized mishmash of history, stories cobbled together, lineages recited, tropes repeated Based on merely that, Saxo is not held very high in my estimation as an author or historian Herodotus does similar sorts of ethnographic stuff but better Be that as it may, a few of the stories are gems Starkather s book is maybe the best, but it takes a while to warm up and never really hits a stride Starkather also features some of the best written poetry while the rest of the poetry of the work is hit or miss And then there is the simple fact that Saxo did do a lot of research His text lets us know all of the stuff he knew about, even though he changed the names to fit his jumbled narrative If I knew about the Scandinavian tradition of folktales and history I might be impressed As it is, reading Saxo just makes me want to go back to the original sources which I assume are better written and, focusing on just one thing and being of quite a different style and period, are cohesive as works themselves like the Prose or Poetic Edda, Njal s Saga, The Volsungs, The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, even The Nibelungenlied But I don t think this was a total waste of time by any means I ve had this book on my shelf for a long time so long I don t even remember the circumstances of getting it I know my parents got it for me for some Xmas or another I keep thinking it must have been before I went to college and said gotta hold off on the Scandinavian stuff until I ve read all of the Greco Roman world yes I know, an inestimably feasible goal But it would have been a peculiar book for me to read in high school I vaguely do remember starting it and then putting it down 10 pages in which sounds like exactly what I would have done based on reading it now Wait this is supposed to be awesome Danish legends Why is it so boring and random Hello teenager Anders.Anyway, I m glad I got around to reading it and now it can rest comfortably on my shelf, having been read Some final miscellaneous comments Peter Fisher s translation seems competent if a bit bland I d have to look at the Latin to say or be critical Davidson s commentary is useful for some things She certainly does a great job telling you what sources Saxo is mining and, for the most part, helpfully summarizing scholarly conclusions about dubious details On the other hand, it gets a bit too chockablock with random bits where at points I just skipped whole books of the commentary a sin I know, but I was running out of patience with dear old Rocky Schoolteacher Davidson clearly knows her stuff and I m sure if I were acquainted with 13th century Denmark or the tradition of Danish histories, legends, folktales, and mythology, I would appreciate it Like I ve already said throughout it s a bit jumbled and only comes together for 3 or 4 narrative arcs, but along the way there are some charming aphorisms evocative of Viking customs.This book is rather difficult to recommend being so niche, so take that as you will My final verdict is not quite supererogatory, but you have to know some stuff for it to be relevant Otherwise it s a bit of a slog and only has a few arcs that pull you in.My absolute favorite quote When inconsolable grief falls on people they often make for strange and unknown retreats as though these might provide an antidote to their sadness swamped by misery they are unable to cope with the society of men, for solitude is generally a friend to the heart sick Davidson unwittingly describing all of Saxo How far this was a mainly literary exercise, based on Roman prototypes, and how far it may have been taken from Saxo s own military experience, is one of the most tantalising of the many problems which he has left for us to solve Saxo s Euhemerism That the gods were overcome by men might strain belief, but ancient report testifies it We say gods from supposition than truth, and give them the title of deities by popular custom, not through their nature Viking morals Weakness is generally recognised by the way it needs others help Everyone sets life before property, for nothing is dearer than breath to mortal creatures In general, Fortune takes revenge savagely for underhand achievements.

  3. says:

    That particular people, the tribe of Dan from the Old Testament, who gave birth to the Jutes and the Angles to their south, and held the peninsula against challenges from land and sea, is a thrilling historical epic The original was written about the same time Snorri was recording the history of the Icelanders and, by extension, the Norse, so the tone and style are similar, but the content is less mythical, of course, reading like an earlier Roman study of the borderland barbarians, as Tacitus might have written it For those of us of English ancestry in part or full, take heed these are your ancestors The ones who WON, any way.

  4. says:

    Interesting stories including the earliest of the legend kings of Denmark My personal favourite story in this book is the story of the coolest shieldmaiden of all time Svanhvide.

  5. says:

    Important as this is as the earliest record of the history of the Danes, it has a much wider interest than that alone Norse mythology, the Sagas, and the pre Christian beliefs of the Scandinavians are all given some illumination by Saxo, even if the illumination is akin to the flickering shadow of a candle in a draughty stone cell, rather than the clear glare of modern electric light Saxo was an intelligent and capable 12th century ecclesiastic whose writing has a certain colourful barbarism, but is also inclined to tedium, pomposity and verbosity And he has some bizarre prejudices he hates fancy cooking which includes anything roasted, or any kind of sauce , and he hates actors There is a certain irony in the latter, as Shakespeare took Saxo s account of King Amleth to turn it into his magnificent Hamlet something which has given employment to countless actors ever since How Saxo would have gnashed his teeth at that

  6. says:

    Not the easiest read, and some chapters books were easier to follow than others Chapter Book 2 consisted of the story of a prince who attempted to avenge the killing of his father by his uncle, which Shakespeare took some significant elements from and turned into Hamlet Chapter Book 9 was about Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons which is always fun to read about There was a lot of singing, drinking, killing goodtimes I might wait a while before rereading it, but I m definitely glad that I did.

  7. says:

    This book is a mess But book 3, about Prince Hamlet of Denmark, was awesome The rest of it I won t be reading to my next kid My seven year old says, This book is goodish It s an okay book I feel the same way It was fine Wars, dragons, heroes, some good stuff But a mess.We are now reading Snorri Sturluson s Heimskringla, and I wish we had read that first If I had read Heimskringla first, I would not have had any patience for this book.

  8. says:

    A unique view of Germanic mythology, history, and worldview While anything written by an individual affiliated with the Church is subject to some degree of scrutiny for bias, Saxo seems to have an affinity for his homeland and its rich, pre Christian history I m not sure if I m overlooking the bias, but I appreciate that quality in his writing Fair warning Saxo is verbose.

  9. says:

    The edition I am reviewing is of an old translation by Oliver Elton Although it uses the English we know from the King James bible, it still has its charm Here is a book that all lovers of Norse mythology should have The stories are less of the dealings of the gods as we find in the Eddas, and with the legendary history of Denmark Think of it as Denmark s version of Geoffrey of Monmouth s History of the Kings of England Here are the stories of Frode, Starkad and Ragner Lodbrok, made famous recently due to the show Viking It even has the earliest version Hamlet here called Amleth A bit hard to get through sometimes due to the repeating names and denseness of text, but worth it.

  10. says:

    Saxo Grammaticus s early 13th century HISTORY OF THE DANES is a fascinating account of the mostly legendary Danish kings, and versions of many of the same stories are found in the Icelandic sagas and poetry THE HISTORY OF THE DANES is perhaps best known as the earliest source for the Hamlet story, and for many people, that alone should be worth the price of admission The only drawback to the book is that the footnotes, although extensive and quite useful, are printed as a separate volume.

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