H I S T O R I C A L N A R R AT I V E O R R E G I S T E R ?
Melabók as the most original version of the Book of Settlements
Just over a century ago, the hypothesis was advanced that the vellum manuscript
Melabók was the closest text to the original Landnámabók (Book of Settlements), and
nothing has been done since to dispute that claim. The author of this article, how-
ever, is of the opinion that this conception of Melabók has been accorded far too
much weight among Icelandic philologists and distorts people?s understanding
of the connections between the various versions and their origins. The three
medieval versions come from the same root, and there is little evidence that
Sturlubók, or an older version, has been transformed with the aim of changing a
brief register into an historical work, as scholars have for some time maintained.
The principal reason for assuming this was the approach taken by Sturla (or
some other older compiler of Landnámabók) is the fact that Melabók has a differ-
ent type of arrangement of material, together with its more limited historical
reports. This assumption has become practically an undisputed fact among
philologists and the differing texts in Sturlubók or Hauksbók by turns dismissed
as interpolations from known and unknown sagas, with the justification that the
text did not occur in Melabók. There is nothing to indicate that the age of the
original text used by the compiler of Melabók is older or more original than that
used e.g. by Sturla Þórðarson, in his Landnáma. The author?s conclusion is that
the more extensive versions, Sturlubók and Hauksbók, should be considered
more authentic sources on medieval period than has previously been the case.
S A G N A R I T E Ð A S K R Á? 119
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