Heill Llama!

> Yes, the H redaction is attested earlier, but shares a lot of
changes in style and story with the U version. R is usually
considered closest to the original and more reminiscent of oral
tales. Have you read Alaric Hall's paper "Changing style and
changing meaning: Icelandic historiography and the medieval
redactions of Heiðreks saga"
[ http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/2889/ ]?

No, but I will :-)

> In spite of the courtly elements in places (particularly in the
second half), I think Völsunga saga still tells a powerful story much
in the spirit of the Eddic poems it was based on.

Yes. One of my projects is producing a stripped-down version of VS,
just the bare essentials in clean language. I've taken out courtly
elements and adjusted the phrasing more toward, for example, R. I
think that VS, based on the language-innovations alone, was probably
produced in Norway, somehow connected to the translation of Þiðriks
Saga. Younger forms have crept in. Where VS uses both Atlakviða and
Atlamál, I'm only using the prose in as much as it derives from
Atlakviða, for example. Alternatively, I'm also marking the sections
that can be used between verse/poems in version based on the poetry.
It's not composition, more a kind of editing based on elimination,
substitution, phonology. Snorri did something similar when he wrote
a stripped down version of parts of VS in his Edda, perhaps based on
the lost *Sigurðar Saga that scholars mention as a possible source.

> Hroólfs saga kraka is only preserved in post-medieval manuscripts,
but it's lively and simply told, and shifts deftly between humour
and heroic tragedy. It deals with characters and stories that were
known to Snorri and Saxo and in some form probably to the maker of
Beowulf, although no doubt changed in lots of ways to suit later

Hrólfs is one of the best remaining ones, indeed, both in style and
content. I like it very much.

> For all that, the strength of the old legends is still there and
stands out against the more trivial subject matter of many
fornaldarsögur that owe more to later invention.

YEs, there is a fairly clear line between the sagas with real roots
in ancient legend and the later inventions. Hálfs Saga, Gautreks
Saga, etc. also stand out with regard to ancient content, numbers of
verses, etc..

> Another fornaldarsögur of interest for potentially ancient material
is Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka which contains a lot of fornyrðislag
strophes and probably existed in some shape, or parts of it at
least, as early as the 13th century.

Yes, see above :-) Funny that we should name the same Saga.

> The story of Hámundr and Geirmundr heljarskinn is told in Landná
mabók and at the beginning of Sturlunga (along with two strophes
attributed to Bragi (Boddason)) where there's reference to a Hróks
saga svarta. The idea that King Half's death was caused by
fire (even though he doesn't actually die by burning in the surviving
version from the 15th century) is reflected in the kenning 'Hálfs
bani' for "fire".

It seems that real oral tradition from pre-1000 was the necessary
ingredient for success in this genre. It probably had a lot to do
with who remembered what, and how many, verses. The common folk were
used as a resource for the writers of sagas in general, I think. A
person who could write in Latin letters, almost always connected to
a monestary but perhaps a priest or chieftain's son, would hear and
learn a remarkable story at some gathering. Later, he would commit
it to writing. The degree to which the writer injected his own style
and learning into the story, as opposed to more or less just going
after the spoken word, seems to have had a lot to say about how we
today judge the quality of the written sources. The fact is, there
wasn't much learning available then that most modern folk would
consider learning, let alone agree with, which is why the more oral,
the better. The plain tale wins.

Incidentally, have you seen, or used, Junicode?

It can produce diplomatic edition of mideaval texts, and has almost
any textual variant character one can imagine for Old English and
Old Norse. Splendid. Unicode lack many things needed for mideaval
scholarship of the western stripe, so the authors of Junicode came
along and solved the problem, essentially. Best of all, it's free.
It also contains a huge range of diacritics that can be attached to
any character. Lastly, it has full runic alphabets for OE, ON and
the continent.