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Isabelle Arseneau
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Francis Gingras

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The Old Icelandic Translation and Transformation of Thomas’ Ysolt

Karen Lurkhur

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Like Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan, the fourteenth-century Old Icelandic Tristram ok Ísodd belongs to the branch of the Tristan legend that originates from Thomas’ Anglo-Norman Tristran. It is based on Brother Robert’s Old Norse translation in 1226 of Thomas’ romance, but while the works of both Gottfried and Robert are faithful to the ethos and the content of Thomas’ Tristran, the Icelandic Tristram ok Ísodd significantly deviates from its Anglo-Norman inspiration. While Gottfried and Robert, following Thomas’ example, elevate the love between the hero and his aunt above considerations of adultery, political treachery and incest, the Icelandic author treats the affair between Tristram and Ísodd as a necessary evil. Indeed, the Icelandic text evinces only as much interest in Tristram and Ísodd’s relationship as is necessary to sustain the erotic triangle which comprises the core of the Tristan romance.

I attribute Tristram ok Ísodd’s rejection of the lovers’ affair to the influe...

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

© Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2011

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