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Between History and MythStories of Harald Fairhair and the Founding of the State$
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Bruce Lincoln

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226140926

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226141084.001.0001

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(p.104) 11 Conclusions
Between History and Myth

Bruce Lincoln

University of Chicago Press

This book has explored how stories of Harald Fairhair, who ruled as king of a unified Norway from the mid-870s, have been altered as they were told and retold by narrators of different statuses, nationalities, and interests over time. By considering medieval Scandinavian data, it has demonstrated how early variants of the story took the form of skaldic poems and oral traditions, each introducing novel characters, episodes, subplots, intertextual allusions, and subtextual suggestions for one purpose or another. In both Norway and Iceland, there are prose versions of Harald’s story that began to be written only in the twelfth century. One source, Fagrskinna, explicitly mentions Harald’s oath. It also sought to advance state interests by projecting the state’s ideal image of itself, its origins, essential purpose and nature.

Keywords:   state, Harald Fairhair, king, Norway, skaldic poems, oral traditions, Iceland, Fagrskinna, oath, prose

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