Citing Snorri has to be OK

+4 votes
When I got my pre-1500 I noticed someone said "we use Cawley". Eventually I found out what that meant. Cawley cites Snorri so presumably it's ok to cite Snorri directly since I have it in translation. Anyone who wants an online source can cite Cawley but I find it a bear. There are an awful lot of unsourced profiles from the period, could get through quite a lot in a day.
WikiTree profile: Snorri Sturluson
in Genealogy Help by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (292k points)

5 Answers

+8 votes

It worries me when you say "There are an awful lot of unsourced profiles from the period, could get through quite a lot in a day."

The sagas/legends of Snorre Sturlasson is not to be considered as a reliable source in my opinion. He did not live at the same time as the "persons" he writes of. We all know how "diluted" facts can be after 4 (or more) generations. 

For example did Sweden not have kings of any kingdom of Sweden, they were most probably chieftans/kings of a smaller area. A broad description is that none of the Scandinavian countries (as we know today) were ruled by only one king, not until christianity came to Scandinavia and replaced the pagan gods.

by Maggie Andersson G2G6 Pilot (139k points)
That's all very well if we were talking about profiles that haven't arrived on the tree yet. They're here and unsourced. Probably came from Snorri originally anyway. If they're cited to Snorri then at least we all know what we're talking about.

You could add the category "Norse Mythology" to gather the profiles belonging to the sagas, you could even create more sub-categories for the saga they belong to if not Heimskringla or Ynglingasagan is the correct one.

There is also the template for "Uncertain Existence" that I apply to those profiles belonging to the legends.

Labelling everything from Snorri as mythology seems to me unnecessarily harsh and dismissive. A lot of it is better characterized as oral history - which these old guys were a lot better at than we are. Then, of course, there may be a certain amount of "improvement upon history" when tracing lineages back to kings.

I found this bit about the provenience of Snorri's genealogies interesting.
He wrote the prose Edda which is norse mythology. And not sure what you mean by "these old guys were a lot better than we are today"? Are you speaking of oral history? Oral history has
Oral history has?
For those who have commented that Snorriā€™s work is mythological, Snorri did not just write mytholgical Eddas. He also wrote sagas of the Norse kings, and some of the sagas of medieval kings are of some historical value, even if they need to be treated with caution. He drew to some extent on earlier written sources which have not survived. Yes, he was writing several centuries later - modern historians are writing more centuries later.
Yes but modern constructed studies, in groups of systematic critical scholars per academic subject upon examining what evidence actually exists wasn't a thing back in the 12th century. Some ancient texts that right about there times have a lot of credible facts backed up by what has been dug up archeologically,and or transcribed and radio carbon dated. We use science now too examine what may of happen and what factually did happen.
+5 votes
Well obviously everything has to come from "primary" sources, or it's just made up.  Trouble is though, the primary sources are full of errors and ambiguities, so they have to be cross-examined before they're taken on trust.

But the witness has to take the stand first, so if a profile comes from Snorri then this needs to be noted.  It doesn't follow that we're taking it as proved.

The alternative is just to wipe whole areas where the historical evidence is deemed inadequate. But that would be big and brave and a minefield. It should have been done before a lot of work was put in on prehistoric profiles.
by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (572k points)
Wasn't actually thinking about the prehistory ones but I guess the same thing goes. I'm surprised those are here at all!
"Prehistoric" = before contemporary records.  Chronicles, fake annals etc.  In Europe, almost everything pre-Christian, but monks wrote a lot of junk as well.
Yes RJ that is correct indeed. Like you said it needs a recent expert level cross examination too determine its overall accuracy based on facts that are known today,or were proven archeologically or with an authenticated historical artifact. Stuff like that can help determine some of,hopefully 60% of the accounts accuracy as fairly documented. It also helps when the writer is proven too be writing about their own time as they live in it. Like Korwin on "The life of saint Hishlop" XD
+6 votes
Very often the best way around any controversy in such matters is to attribute whatever you are sourcing in a clear way. For example, "According to Saga-writer Snorri..." or "According to Fox News...". Just stating a fact with a footnote can in contrast lead to misunderstandings and controversy.

Looking further, whole articles need to be structured to show the fragments of a puzzle sometimes, keeping it simple but not misleading. A good format for such articles is the one used by the Henry II Ancestry project. See for example:
by Andrew Lancaster G2G6 Pilot (116k points)
American high-school homework seems to encourage a style of writing that's all its own.
Not necessarily a bad thing?
+4 votes
As others have commented, there are a lot of mythical profiles on WikiTree.  With the advent of pre-1500 certification we don't create new ones, but WikiTree policy is not to delete old profiles.  

Therefore the idea of categorizing these old profiles as to what myth they appeared in is an excellent one;  subcategories under Norse Mythology.  That way the profile does what WikiTree needs it to do -- it tells the truth, although this time the truth is not about a life lived, but about a legend developed.

Myths often start out with a god or two, work down through completely fictional names, then through real people with embellished stories, and finally several generations of real stories about real people.  All can get the myth category, because the biography will identify what is real and what is not.

Since WikiTree adopted the standard formatting of Biography (mandatory), Research Notes (optional), Sources (mandatory) and Acknowledgements (optional), I have been formatting mythical profiles with just a sentence under biography stating that this person never existed, and then under Research Notes starting to identify a chronology of what sources carry the legend and what they say about the character;  often the legend is short and simple in the earliest version and expands in the latest.  The profile then becomes the story of the character in legend, rather than the story of a real person who was born, married, fought battles, had children, and died.

Once you are describing a legend or a character in a legend, and what the legend says that person does, it would seem that Snorri becomes a quite useful -- and legitimate -- source.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (385k points)
Snorri did not just write about mythology. He also wrote a set of sagas of Norse kings, drawing on earlier now lost sources. The sagas of the earliest kings are basically legendary; those of the later ones contain a lot of historical material, though they need to be treated with caution, and the kings they relate to were real people.
+5 votes

I see nothing wrong in citing Snorri directly. In his Heimskringla, the Sagas of the Norse Kings, he was seeking to write history, albeit shaped in saga form, and drew on earlier written sources. What he wrote about the earliest kings of Norway is largely legendary. For the later kings, he is a valid historical source, if - like all medieval historians - one to be treated with caution - and there is valuable information to be found.

by Michael Cayley G2G6 Pilot (147k points)

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