Fridthjof's Saga, by Esaias Tegnér

Note by the Translators

Tegnér’s poem, “Fridthjof’s Saga,” has been printed in Sweden in many large editions and in almost every possible style. It has been illustrated, and it has been set to music. It has been translated into nearly all the modern European languages. Moreover it has been rendered into English by eighteen different translators, and has been twice reprinted in America. Bayard Taylor edited an American edition of a translation by Rev. William L. Blackley of Dublin, and published it about ten years ago. Professor R. B. Anderson has just published in his “Viking Tales,” a translation made by Professor George Stephens of Copenhagen, and which received the sanction of Bishop Tegnér himself.

And yet we venture to add another, and present here the first_complete American translation. Mr. Taylor said in his preface to Blackley’s version that there had never been an English Fridthjof’s Saga which was satisfactory to Swedes. This is probably owing to the fact that the Swedes have become so familiar with its original measures and so accustomed to its peculiar rhythm, that they cannot willingly dispense with any part of the form which Tegnér gave it. Several of the metres employed by him were unknown to Swedish readers until they appeared in this poem. Tegnér’s experiment of introducing them was a successful one; and they are now, in the minds of Swedes, as much a part of the work as the story itself. The feminine rhymes, occurring in fifteen of the twenty-four cantos, are so melodious that no one who had heard the original, even if he did not understand a word of it, could be quite satisfied with a version which does not reproduce them. The feminine rhymes and the alliteration of Canto XXI have presented obstacles which no single translation has hitherto overcome.

The original measures the feminine rhymes and the alliteration of “Ring’s Drapa,” are, in our estimation, essential features of a good rendering of the poem, and if we have done our work well we do not fear that any one will think there are too many translations.

For a fuller history of “Fridthjof ‘s Saga” than can be given in this note, we refer the reader to Anderson’s “Viking Tales,” where the sagas on which this story is founded appear in full.

The preparation of this translation has been a home work which has brightened for us the firelight of many a pleasant evening. We publish it in full faith that it will have a like happy effect in whatever home it may be read.

October, 1876.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00