Book Series Mediaeval Sources in Translation, vol. 61

Pious Fictions and Pseudo-Saints in the Late Middle Ages: Selected Legends from an Icelandic Legendary

  • Pages: xii + 282 p.
  • Size:152 x 229 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2023



This volume provides English translations of selected legends from a remarkable sixteenth-century Icelandic collection known as the Reykjahólabók. The Middle Low German originals it translates are no longer extant, apocryphal wholly or in part, and wondrous strange. The eight legends translated here detail the adventures of St Oswald and his quest for a bride by a garrulous raven; Henry and Cunegund, and her accusation of infidelity and trial by ordeal; John Chrysostom, the Golden-mouthed, and his hairy-anchorite tale; Jerome and an injured lion, who herds asses for the monastery; Christopher, the giant Reprobus, who bears the Christ child across deep waters; George, the Dragon-slayer, who saves a princess from the devouring monster; the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, who escape persecution by Emperor Decius through centuries-long slumber; and Gregorius, the Good Sinner, in a tale of double incest. In fictionalizing the lives of established saints, and in the creation of fictitious saints, these legends represent the concluding chapter of medieval hagiography. The volume also includes a wide-ranging introduction that surveys the historical and literary contexts for the translation of Catholic saints’ lives on the eve of the Protestant Reformation in Iceland, as well as normalized editions of the legends accessible to readers of contemporary Icelandic.