Border images of Rus in Fornaldarsagas: intertextuality as an indication of collective memory
Keywords:Fornaldarsagas, Scythia, Collective memory, Svitjod the Great, Tattarariki
Fornaldarsagas or legendary sagas is an exemplary source to research the environment of Icelandic authors in the late Medieval time. They combine aspects of fiction writing, historical narrative, and folklore. The plots of these works had functioned in the memory a long time before reaching the pages of books. As a result of this, the meaning of these texts was constantly adapting to new conditions, leaving just some elements of the historic core. These aspects make Fornaldarsagas a valuable source for studying the collective memory and worldview of that time.
In the current article, it was attempted to research the perception of Rus and Eastern Europe in the legendary sagas. We tried to reconstruct general conceptions and intellectual tendencies through the prism of the frontier images of these lands. As a result of involving Iceland in the sphere of influence of European culture, local scientists began to use ancient and European sources in constructing their historical narratives. When translating European treatises into their language, the Icelanders not only copied them but substantially supplemented them. Unlike European authors, who had too little empirical information, Icelanders inherited elements of memory from the Migration Period, Viking Age, and Rus-Scandinavian relations of X-XI centuries. Due to this combination of traditions, Eastern Europe received new images which absorbed the symbols of different times and cultures.
An eloquent example of such symbiosis is the concept of Svíþjóð hin mikla. This term was supposed to be a translation of the ancient concept of Scythia but acquired a new meaning and turned the place into a «home of the Scandinavian gods». The idea of an Svíþjóð hin mikla became a mixture of ancient concepts and European interest in the East. At the same time, it was associated with Germanic episodes, that influenced the formation of the myth about the eastern origin of the Scandinavian gods. These ideas formed the literary canon, and the authors adhered to it when writing their works. These aspects of Icelandic writing help us better understand the intellectual environment and rethink the historicity of legendary sagas.