The Icelandic Online Dictionary defines kvöldvaka as “evening entertainment (on Icelandic farms in former times).” It refers to the Icelandic custom of reading stories out loud or singing songs to each other to pass the time during the long dark Winter months in Iceland. In the same spirit, Marjolein Stern and I have set up an Old Norse reading and translation group named Kvöldvaka. Kvöldvaka brings together a small eclectic group of people from Belgium and the Netherlands who share a love for and interest in all things Viking and Old Norse.

All set and ready for our Kvöldvaka meeting in Ghent.

Since October, we try to meet up once a month in Ghent to read and translate Old Norse texts. This year, we focus on making a modern Dutch translation of the legendary saga Ragnars saga loðbrókar. 

There are two major medieval recensions of this saga. One, the so-called X redaction and presumably older version, is preserved fragmentary in AM 147 4to (ca. 1490). 

The other recension is the one we’re translating, since no paraphrase of this version is available in Dutch. This is the so-called Y redaction and is preserved in its entirety in NKS 1284b 4to (ca. 1400). This version was edited as “Ragnars saga loðbrókar,” in Vǫlsunga saga ok Ragnars saga loðbrókar, edited by Magnus Olsen, STUAGNL 36 (København: Samfund til udgivelse af gammel nordisk litteratur, 1906-1908), 111-222; and as “Ragnars saga loðbrókar ok sona hans,” in Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda,  edited by Guðni Jónsson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson, 3 vols (Reykjavík: Bókaútgáfan Forni, 1943-1944), 1: 93-148

In 1841, the Flemish writer Prudens Van Duyse (1804-1859) translated the saga to Dutch (X redaction). It was published the same year in the Flemish journal Belgisch museum voor de Nederduitsche tael- en letterkunde en de geschiedenis des vaderlands as Ragnar Lodbrog: Yslandsche saga(Prudens Van Duyse, “Ragnar Lodbrog: Yslandsche saga,” in Belgisch museum voor de Nederduitsche tael- en letterkunde en de geschiedenis des vaderlands 5 (1841): 14-30) This translation lacks the introductory chapter on Áslaug’s childhood, but includes a translation and musical notation of Krákumál.

Our translation is based on  Guðni Jónsson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson’s edition Ragnars saga loðbrókar ok sona hans,” and will include the introductory chapter on Áslaug and Heimir as well as Krákumál. Our aim is to provide a readable and modern translation in the same vein as Marcel Otten’s Dutch translations of Gísla saga, Njáls saga and the Poetic Edda. Keep an eye on this page to learn more about our progress. 

If you are keen to find out more about Ragnars saga, then do check-out the website of the Stories for all time: The Icelandic fornaldarsögur project. On this site Matthew Driscoll and Silvia Hufnagel compiled a comprehensive bibliography on Ragnars saga loðbrókar, including a list of manuscripts, editions, translations and relevant secondary literature.


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