The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2017-2018, 422-442

The Prosaic Chronicle: a Monument of Swedish Late Medieval Historical Thought

A. D. Scheglov

The so-called Prosaic Chronicle is a late medieval Swedish historical work
which is especially interesting due to its ideas. This chronicle was written in the
middle of the 15th century by an unknown Swedish author. It tells about the reign
of the Swedish kings from the primordial times to the time when the author lived.
The Prosaic Chronicle is a valuable monument of the so-called Gothicist theory
which proclaimed that the Swedes were the descendants of the ancient Goths
who conquered Europe, and that the Swedes were superior to other peoples. The
Prosaic Chronicle claims that the Swedes are a special people, the heirs of the
Goths and the Scythians. Describing the glorious deeds of the Goths, the chronicler
quotes a number of celebrated authors – in particular, Jordanes and Rodrigo
Jiménez de Rada.
The Prosaic Chronicle is also interesting as a monument which shows how
the texts of the foreign historians, especially Adam of Bremen, were interpreted
in late medieval Sweden. In particular, a free interpretation of Adam’s description
of the pagan temple of Uppsala, as well as some reading mistakes, led to the
emergence of a peculiar Swedish tradition regarding the temple mentioned. According
to the Prosaic Chronicle and some other Swedish sources, the god Thor
was portrayed as a naked boy sitting in a cart and holding seven stars in his hand.
The description of the so-called Ynglinga kings, which the Prosaic Chronicle
borrowed from a Norwegian source, Historia Norwegie, was transformed in a
similar way. An extract from this source made by a late medieval scribe contained
a number of mistakes, which gave birth to a peculiar Swedish narrative tradition
regarding the Ynglinga dynasty. For instance, in one of the passages, the Latin
word nanum (‘a dwarf’) was mistakenly interpreted as manum (‘the hand’), and
the story of king Sveigdir who chased a dwarf and went into a rock, was transformed
into the story of king Sverker who hit a rock with such force that his
hand stuck in the stone.
Even though the Prosaic Chronicle has attracted scholars’ attention both in
Sweden and abroad, it has never been translated into any modern language, including
the Modern Swedish. The present publication contains a commented Russian
translation of the Prosaic Chronicle according to the Old Swedish text published
in the series Scriptores rerum svecicarum.

Sweden, The Middle Ages, literacy, historiography, chronicles, the Prosaic Chronicle

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