There are 13 refereed articles in Gripla XXI, along with a short note by Ólafur Halldórsson on the Iceland settlement of Þórólfr Mostrarskeggr and Auðr djúpúðga. Topics include text editions, post-Reformation scribes, the early modern publication of medieval texts, codicology, literary analysis, intellectual history and the dating of medieval and early modern poetry.
Towards the end of his life the late Bjarni Einarsson worked on editions of different versions of Egils saga Skallagrímssonar. In his article Bjarni examines Guðmundur Magnússon's contribution to the 1809 edition of the saga, published in Copenhagen under the auspices of the Arnamagnaean Commission. In particular Bjarni identifies the sources from which the Möðruvallabók lacunae were filled and the texts of Egill's three lengthy poems were improved.
Susanne Miriam Fahn and Gottskálk Jensson provide a new edition of the Latin panegyric for Saint Þorlákr in AM 382 4to, a mid fourteenth-century manuscript that represents the sole witness for the B-version of Þorláks saga helga. The article includes a transcription of the Latin text, an English translation, and a detailed discussion of the poem, the manuscript and the B-version of the saga, whose redactor, they suggest, may have been Berg Sokkason. Three imperfect editions of the poem have been published previously; it now appears for the first time in an accurate version.
Kirsten Wolf presents an edition of Margrétar saga II, which tells of the life of Saint Margaret of Antioch. The edition draws in part on Peter Rasmussen's unpublished research into the manuscripts of the saga. Margaret of Antioch was among the most popular medieval saints, with tales about her circulating in manuscript form well after the Reformation. The belief was widespread that it could be beneficial to have a small manuscript copy of the work nearby during childbirth.
Lasse Mårtensson discusses the function of the Háttatal summary in the Uppsala Edda. He challenges Finnur Jónsson's 1931 view that the summary was based solely on the Uppsala Hattatál text, arguing that other early texts were also drawn on.
Michael Chesnutt examines the arrangement of material within Möðruvallabók and the preservation history of the manuscript. He suggests that the unbound quires in the manuscript represent independent items intended for sale, and that the ambitious presentation of Íslendingasögur in mid fourteenth-century manuscripts reflects the growing power of the Icelandic aristocracy and their interest in appropriating traditional history.
Heimir Pálsson discusses the verses and female spirits in Víga-Glúms saga, and seeks to explain all the verses ascribed to Glúmr without emending the Möðruvallabók texts. The representation of the supernatural in the verses is examined, notably how little distinction is drawn between mythological figures such as dísir, ásynjur and valkyrjur.
Jamie Cochrane examines the various extant sources concerning Síðu-Hallr Þorsteinsson, and argues that they preserve a fairly coherent and consistent picture of his life and ancestry. He suggests that the origin and development of Síðu-Hallr narratives may lie in oral tradition, even though the immanent saga that emerged was never written up. The evidence relating to Síðu-Hallr may help to explain the creative process behind those Icelandic sagas that did achieve written form.
Álfrún Gunnlaugsdóttir provides a detailed account of the three extant Icelandic sagas about James the apostle, the saint from whom the medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela derives its name. The interrelationships of the sagas are discussed, and very close correspondences are identified between the Norse miracle book attached to the Tveggja postola saga Jóns ok Jacobs in Skarðsbók and the Latin text in Codex Calixtinus, one of Spain's most famous medieval manuscripts.
Árni Einarsson makes use of Rauðúlfs þáttr and Hrafns saga Sveinbjarnarsonar in his discussion of the technological and symbolical use of sunstones in the Middle Ages. Though these narratives exploit the symbolic significance of the mineral, thus rendering their evidential value problematic, sunstones are nevertheless mentioned in ecclesiastical and monastic inventories, and it is thus difficult to deny their existence as physical objects. Associating them with viking voyaging represents an over-interpretation of the sources.
Haukur Þorgeirsson argues for a continuous tradition of fornyrðislag poetry in Icelandic from Eddic pieces through to the post-Reformation period. He focuses on Gullkársljóð and Hrafnagaldur, poems that survive only in seventeenth-century (and later) manuscripts. Linguistic and metrical evidence is adduced in support of a mid fourteenth-century date for Gullkársljóð, and a post-Reformation date for Hrafnagaldur. The occult and antiquarian emphases in the latter poem serve to link it with seventeenth-century interest in such matters. The age of Hrafnagaldur has been much debated in recent times, and Haukur's conclusions represent an important contribution to that discussion.
Gísli Baldur Róbertsson discusses Bjarni Jónsson, a scribe from Snæfjallaströnd. Nine seventeenth-century law-book manuscripts in his hand survive, while Bjarni himself claims to have copied at least eighteen. The article adds significantly to our knowledge of the scribe, not least in respect of the cover-ups and cliquishness associated with the accusations of rape directed against him — Bjarni was found guilty by Ari í Ögri at the Unaðsdal court on 11 April 1635, in spite of his repeated assertions of innocence.