From Epic to Ballad: the Faroese ‘Sjurður Cycle

Yuri Kleiner, Dmitry Piotrovsky

Research output


The story of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer exists in the major Germanic traditions (except Old English), represented by texts recorded between the second half of the 13th and the mid-19th centuries, viz. the Old Icelandic Eddas and the Vǫlsungasaga, the German Nibelungenlied and the three Faroese ballads recorded by V. U. Hammershaimb. One part of the Faroese cycle (up to the assassination of Sjúrður) is similar to the Icelandic version of the story, the rest being reminiscent of the German tradition. (The boundary lies within the second ballad.) In the Icelandic tradition, plots either make up a succession implying continuation and pre-history (heroic epic) or they may be confined within the boundaries of one poem (mythological epic). The Faroese Sjúrður ballads, although heroic, are closer to the latter type (the limits of the poem and the plot coincide). Both the ballads and the epic show traits of orality (formulaic style, repetitions, etc.), suggesting variability and, hence, lack of fixity typical of literary tradition. Normally, orality is put an end to as a result of recording. In the ballad tradition, the process is characterized by a specificity connected with the circumstances of performance (dance combined with singing), and the active role of the audience, who were active participants, which implied some knowledge of the texts sung. In this way, the ballads acquired stability to become, later on, fixed texts and a special genre within literary tradition.
Translated title of the contributionОт эпоса к балладе: фарерский "Сигурдовский цикл"
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-145
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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