Fyrirlesarar — Presenters

A

Sirpa Kristiina Aalto
Lesley Abrams
Alexandre Veloso de Abreu
Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir
Malo Adeux
Klas Wikström af Edholm
Ben Allport
Christine Amling
Joel Anderson
Kimberly Anderson
Theodore M Andersson
Arngrímur Vídalín
David Ashurst
Auður Ingvarsdóttir
Agnieszka Backman

B

Sverre Bagge
Burkhard Bärner
Santiago Francisco Barreiro
Grzegorz Józef Bartusik
Caroline R. Batten
Simonetta Battista
Karen Bek-Pedersen
Maths Bertell
William Joseph Biel
Renan Marques Birro
Bjarni Gunnar Ásgeirsson
Anja Ute Blode
Sophie Bønding
Rosalind Bonte
Timothy Bourns
Stefan Brink
Brynja Þorgeirsdóttir
Anthony Jay Bunker
Hannah Burrows
Jesse Byock

C

Chris Callow
Adam J Carl
Edward Bengt Carlsson Browne
Martina Ceolin
Carol Clover
Margaret Clunies Ross
Jamie Cochrane
Richard Cole
Lisa Collinson
Lee Colwill
Colin Gioia Connors
Margaret Cormack
Jonathan Fernando Correa
Christopher Crocker
Robert Edward Cutrer

D

Roderick Dale
Barbora Davídková
Cyril de Pins
Laurent Di Filippo
Stefan Andreas Drechsler
Matthew James Driscoll

E

Einar Gunnar Pétursson
Elín Bára Magnúsdóttir
Caitlin Ellis
Stefka G. Eriksen
Harriet Jean Evans
Gareth Lloyd Evans

F

Oren Falk
Patrick Aaron Farrugia
Alison Finley
Michael George Frost

G

Ines Garcia Lopez
Irene García Losquiño
Leszek Gardela
Jürg Glauser
Erin Michelle Goeres
Tom Grant
Sian Elizabeth Grønlie
Lukas Gabriel Grzybowski
Guðrún Harðardóttir
Guðrún Nordal
Guðrún Dröfn Whitehead
Guðvarður Már Gunnlaugsson
Fernando Guerrero
Deniz Cem Gulen
Terry Gunnell
Gylfi Gunnlaugsson
Viktória Gyönki

H

Kathryn Ania Haley-Halinski
Simon Halink
Alaric Hall
Jessica Clare Hancock
Haukur Þorgeirsson
Eleanor Heans-Głogowska
Eldar Heide
Anna Katharina Heiniger
Katharina Heinz
Helga Hilmisdóttir
Helgi Skúli Kjartansson
Helgi Þorláksson
Pernille Hermann
Kate Heslop
Verena Höfig
Anna Catharina Horn
Shaun F.D. Hughes

I

Arsena Ianeva-Lockney
Ingibjörg Eyþórsdóttir
Ingunn Ásdísardóttir
Tsukusu Jinn Itó

J

Gottskálk Jensson
Judith Jesch
Ellert Jóhannsson
Karl G. Johansson
Ryan E Johnson
Brent Landon Johnson
Jón Karl Helgason
Jon Gunnar Jørgensen
Regina Jucknies

K

Kirsi Tuulia Kanerva
Katarzyna Anna Kapitan
Merrill Kaplan
Dale Kedwards
Vera Hannalore Kemper
John Kennedy
Elise Kleivane
Gwendolyne Knight
Sara Ann Knutson
Lucie Korecká
Jan Kozak
Mart Kuldkepp
Sarah Künzler

L

Triin Laidoner
Carolyne Larrington
Annette Lassen
Philip Lavender
Sean Lawing
Helen F. Leslie-Jacobsen
Anatoly Liberman
Anne Lind
John Lindow
Maria Cristina Lombardi
Lars Lönnroth
Felix Lummer
Arendse Lund
Peter S. Lunga

M

Michael MacPherson
Mikael Males
Sayaka Matsumoto
Inna Matyushina
Miriam Mayburd
Bernadine McCreesh
Sheryl McDonald Werronen
Andrew McGillivray
Rory McTurk
Elena Melnikova
Rebecca Merkelbach
Blake Middleton
Fraser Lucas Miller
Kristen Mills
Jakub Morawiec
Tom Morcom
Else Mundal
Luke John Murphy
Karin Fjäll Murray-Bergquist
Klaus Johan Myrvoll

N

Max Naderer
Agneta Ney
Asger Mathias Valentin Nordvig
William Norman
Richard North
Marie Novotná
Simon Nygaard
Hilde Andrea Nysether

O

Katherine Marie Olley
Minoru Ozawa

P

Katelin Parsons
Paul Peterson
Alexandra Petrulevich
Andrew M. Pfrenger
Carl Luke Phelpstead
Jules Piet
Marion Poilvez
Edel Maria Porter
Lauren Elissa Poyer

Q

John Quanrud
Judy Quinn

R

Eduardo Ramos
Marta Rey-Radlińska
Katherine Rich
Friederike Richter
Anne Irene Riisøy
Matthew Roby
Andrea Roche
Beth Rogers
Lena Rohrbach
Lukas Rösli
Timothy Rowbotham
Elizabeth Ashman Rowe
Keith Nicholas Ruiter

S

Anita Sauckel
Daniel Sävborg
Roland Scheel
Jens Peter Schjødt
Andreas Schmidt
Jens Eike Schnall
Brittany Erin Schorn
John P. Sexton
Joanne Shortt Butler
Sif Ríkharðsdóttir
Rudolf Simek
Anna Solovyeva
Thomas Spray
Pierre-Brice Stahl
Zuzana Stankovitsová
Beeke Stegmann
Heidi Lea Stoner
Minjie Su
Olof Sundqvist
Ilya V. Sverdlov
Sverrir Jakobsson

T

Declan Taggart
Matteo Tarsi
Rosie S. Taylor
Louisa Taylor
Teresa Dröfn Njarðvík
Yoav Tirosh
Torfi H. Tulinius
Matthew Townend

U

Fjodor Uspenskij

V

Valgerður Sólnes
Natalie Van Deusen
Jan Alexander van Nahl
Sofie Vanherpen
Védís Ragnheiðardóttir
Giovanni Verri
Vésteinn Ólason
Pragya Vohra

W

Randi Bjørshol Wærdahl
Elizabeth Walgenbach
Sabine Heidi Walther
Elisabeth I. Ward
Robin Waugh
Andrew Wawn
Jonas Wellendorf
Romina Werth
Eirik Westcoat
Tiffany Nicole White
Tarrin Wills
Kendra Jean Willson
Alexander James Wilson
Kirsten Wolf
Jon Wright

Y

Yekaterina Borissovna Yakovenko
N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Yelena Sesselja Helgadóttir

Z

Ludger Zeevaert
Kristel Zilmer

Þ

Þórdís Edda Jóhannesdóttir
Þorgeir Sigurðsson
Þorleifur Hauksson


Ágrip — Abstracts


[A11] Saga Origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origins

Sirpa Kristiina Aalto
University of Oulu, Finland
sirpa.aalto@oulu.fi

Jómsvíkinga saga as historiography

In recent years Jómsvíkinga saga has got more scholarly attention than ever before. Special seminars and conferences dedicated to this saga have taken place and translations of the saga in various languages are about come out. Origins of the Jómsvíkinga saga are partly intertwined with the question of its genre and relationship to Færeyinga saga, Orkneyinga saga and Kings’ saga. The author of the paper concentrates on investigating the historiographical side of the Jómsvíkinga saga. She presents those features that connect the saga to Old Norse historiography and discusses how the saga was used in works that are supposed to have been written later. The paper invites discussion about the development of Old Norse historiography.

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[C15] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Lesley Abrams
Oxford and Cambridge
lesley.abrams@balliol.ox.ac.uk

‘A Common Custom’: Egill’s Baptism Overseas

This paper will examine the way in which saga authors presented a crucial transitional stage in the religious history of Iceland. In chapter 50 of Egils saga, Egill and his brother Thorolfr accept provisional baptism in order to fight for the English king — ‘a common custom’, according to the text. How would such a condition of dual religious allegiance have worked in the world of tenth-century viking politics? My paper will investigate the way that Egils saga presents the question of religious identity in the context of military and political relationships overseas. Also interesting to consider is the impact back home in Iceland of the exposure to the Christian religion abroad. How might the kind of encounter with elite-level Christianity that Egill and his brother experienced overseas have played out at home? These and other questions touching on the perspective of thirteenth-century Icelanders on an earlier world of religious diversity have been examined before, of course, but I will draw on little-known sources from tenth-century Francia that show in action religious conversion in the political sphere, comparing their account with the perspective of saga authors on the subject.

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[E29] Saga Origins and Media: Reception and Media

Alexandre Veloso de Abreu
Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais
velosodeabreu@msn.com

The influence of Icelandic Sagas in João Guimarães Rosa’s Sagarana

Abstract João Guimarães Rosa created the lexical “Sagarana” as the title of his first book published in 1946. Sagas are generally understood as long and convoluted narratives usually containing epical traits, together with elements of the marvelous and the fantastic. The suffix -rana derives from Tupi, language of the Brazilian indigenous tribes of the North and Southeast coast, meaning something “simple that expresses similitude”. Hence, Sagarana could be seen as: “simple stories that remind us of a Saga.” This paper focuses on how narrative elements presented in Icelandic sagas such as pacing, time and space appear in the Brazilian author’s fictional exercise. One of the most exploited strategies concerns how animal characters anthropomorphically interfere in the narrative, enhancing the relations between humans and animals, providing insight into exploring human-animal dichotomy and how the narratives connect them with mythical or folkloric fantasy. Also having in mind the Proppian structure presented in The Morphology of Folktale and Arisitotelic syllogisms, it is understood that Rosa explores the structure of Sagas and philosophy as a pertinent literary strategy, refusing literature as an ephemeral art, considering it constant and cyclical, and as a resource for existential recognition.

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[F25] Saga Origins and Media: Reception and Media

Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir
University of Iceland
adalh@hi.is

Orð af orði: um sagnamenn og miðlun munnmælasagna

Nokkrir Íslendingaþættir greina frá eða geta um íslenska sagnaþuli og hvernig söguþekking þeirra og frásagnargáfa gat komið þeim til góða við hirðir erlendra konunga og annarra höfðingja. Þættirnir gefa til kynna að góður sagnamaður hafi verið konungunum hið mesta þarfaþing, og að hlutverk sagnamanna hafi ýmist falist í að hafa ofan af fyrir hirðinni, eða þá jafnvel að skemmta konungi einum fyrir svefninn. Í fyrirlestrinum verða sagnamenn á borð við Þorstein sögufróða, Halldór Snorrason, Stúf blinda Þórðarson og fleiri söguhetjur Íslendingaþátta og -sagna skoðaðir og settir í samhengi við sagna- og eða kvæðaþuli sem frá segir í annars konar miðaldabókmenntum, jafnt sem síðari tíma heimildum. Í fyrsta lagi verður getið um umfang heimildanna og hversu ítarlega þær lýsa lífi og starfsemi sagnaþula og í öðru lagi verða upplýsingarnar skoðaðar í ljósi nýrra og nýlegra kenninga í þjóðsagnafræðum, þar sem virkni sagnaþula frá 19. öld og fram á okkar daga er skoðuð út frá minni, frásagnartækni og samfélagslegum aðstæðum. Spurt verður að hve miklu leyti hægt sé að heimfæra slíkar rannsóknir upp á efni frá miðöldum og með hvaða hætti samanburðurinn dýpki sýn okkar á munnlega miðlun sagnaefnis fyrr á öldum.

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[C31] Ideas and Worldview: Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Roles

Malo Adeux
Université de Bretagne Occidentale (UBO), Brest
malo.adeux@gmail.com

Love and Friendship in Njáls saga: revisiting social forms of interaction in the Íslendingasögur

There has been a recent trend in academia towards analysing relationships featured in Njáls saga on the basis of social interactions. In these last decades our vision of this masterpiece has changed, revisited by new approaches such as gender studies, history of sexuality, psychoanalysis and feminism. The relationships between characters from the point of view of gender has been an important aspect to focus on, either to point out the misogynist aspect of the saga, or to put into question the nature of the relationship between Njáll and his very good friend Gunnarr.

In this paper I want to focus on these two aspects of love and friendship, the first being a privileged relationship involving a man and a woman, the second being as privileged, but in a different way, as it involves only men. Starting from the possibility that the saga could be less misogynist than a useful description of the social behaviour by comparing the characters of Bergþóra and Hallgerðr, I will draw on love as a social norm using the theory of the public and private area described by Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition (1958). I will then compare this love norm and the special relationship (described as ‘homosocial’ by Ármann Jakobsson in his article of 2008) between Njáll and Gunnarr as a relationship going beyond the social norms, a bond that we can relate to a celebration of friendship represented in European culture and literature throughout the centuries. In this I intend to go beyond the concept of social friendship (or vinfengi) and I will suggest that one of the impulses behind Njáls saga’s composition was to set a more universal model for the concept.

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[D12] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Klas Wikström af Edholm
Stockholm University
klas.af.edholm@rel.su.se

Att rista blodörn — Blodörnsriten sedd som offer och ritualiserad våldspraktik i samband med maktskiften i fornnordisk tradition

Ristandet av blodörn som en form av rituellt dödande och offer av människor i fornnordisk religion har varit ett förvånansvärt outforskat ämne. Under de senaste tre decennierna har man oftast valt att undvika en diskussion kring fenomenet och endast refererat till källtexter. Två undantag finner man i Roberta Frank som avvisat fenomenet som ett litterärt motiv utan verklighetsförankring och Bjarni Einarsson som argumenterat för att det kan ha utgjort en historisk praktik. Skriftliga källor som omtalar människooffer i en fornnordisk kontext saknas inte, men deras autenticitet kan diskuteras. Detta paper ämnar visa hur Orkneyinga sagas beskrivning av hur jarlen Torf-Einarr ristade blodörn på Hálfdan háleggr överensstämmer med andra skriftliga källor som omnämner eller beskriver människooffer och hur en sammantagen bild, som ser till den kontextuella helheten kan ge stöd åt en omdebatterad källas trovärdighet. Den sammantagna bilden av källmaterialet stärker uppfattningen att människooffer sannolikt förekom som (om än exceptionell) praktik in i vikingatid bland skandinaver. Särskilt guden Oden framträder som kopplad till offrandet av människor i de skriftliga källorna. Blodörnsriten såsom den framstår i källmaterialet överensstämmer med kulten av Oden i stort, och krigarideologin som denna anknyter till. Blodörnriten har en koppling till Oden genom dennes förhållande till örnen, men även genom att det är en aristokratisk person som får genomgå en sådan blodig och, liksom hängningen, förnedrande död. Den utförs efter en strid, när slaget är vunnet och Oden tydligt visat vem som är hans (nya) gunstling. Att Torf-Einarr offrar Hálfdan till Oden refererar både till att Hálfdan har förlorat sitt stöd från guden och att Einarr nu regerar med detta stöd. Att visa att man har övertagit makten genom strid och ytterligare med spektakulära metoder offra tronpretendenten till Oden ligger i fas med det större ideologiska mönstret. Man har inom tidigare forskning velat se blodörnsristningen som en grym avrättningsmetod kopplad till ett hämndmotiv, men möjligen når vi en bättre förståelse av fenomenet genom att studera det i relation till offerpraktiken och som en del av det ritualiserade våld som kan ha medföljt ett maktskifte under yngre järnålder.

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[C23] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Ben Allport
University of Cambridge
benjunum@gmail.com

Friends, Foreigners and the Fantastic: Saga portrayals of Western Scandinavian identity groups

The blossoming of Icelandic saga literature in the thirteenth century came at a time (and maybe as a consequence) of significant social and political change. As Iceland itself became increasingly divided, and the possibility of submission to Norway became ever more crystallised, Icelandic literature became ever more concerned with questions of identity. The explosion in enthusiasm for the traditions of Iceland’s Golden Age heroes which produced the Íslendinga sögur must in part be attributed to this need for self-definition. Through the narrative of their travels abroad, the early Icelanders encountered and interacted with diverse groups of people, and in so doing reaffirmed thirteenth-century Icelandic identity. Furthermore, the konunga sögur, composed by a mobile Icelandic élite, demonstrate the continuity of these interactions, and the continued need to define those they encountered and, in so doing, themselves. Consequently, the Icelandic sagas depict the world beyond their own shores as one densely populated with distinct peoples, with characteristics ranging from the mundane and familiar to the supernatural. This paper will present on broader research into the use of terms expressing collective identity – whether they are assumed to be regional, national, or familial; familiar or alien – in the Icelandic saga corpus. Drawing upon data collected from the konunga sögur and those Íslendinga sögur which devote large amounts of narrative space to their protagonists travels abroad, this paper will construct a map of the identity groups which Icelanders perceived to lie beyond their bordering oceans. In particular, it will focus on the peoples with whom the Icelanders are likely to have been most familiar – the inhabitants of Western Scandinavia – and will enlarge upon two key themes. First, it will assess the ways in which saga authors defined the regional identity groups of Norway in relation to their own Icelandic identity, increasingly as equal members of an overarching identity. Secondly, this paper will consider the supernatural dimension of the Icelandic depiction of Western Scandinavian identities and the fluid boundaries between identity groups with which Icelanders were familiar and those that populated the landscape of myths and legends.

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[Poster session] Ideas and Worldview: Other Genres

Christine Amling
Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main
chamling@stud.uni-frankfurt.de

The promised land across the sea — Icelandic and American Foundation Myths in contrast

Jan Assmann’s theory of cultural memory defines foundation myths as a sum of events a certain group of individuals remembers not only to create its own identity but also to describe its own beginnings. Medieval Old Norse texts that contain narratives on the settlement of Iceland can thus be read as Icelandic foundation myths in Assmann’s sense. Notable examples for these texts are Íslendingabók, Landnámabók and several Íslendingasögur that contain a so-called ‘Norwegian prequel’, i.e., the narration of a certain family’s emigration to Iceland. To generalize slightly it could be said that these texts tell of an uninhabited land across the sea. The ordeal of crossing the sea to reach this new land is mainly undertaken by free and upright people who want to escape the tyranny of king Harald hárfagri’s reign. Providence, religion and rituals play a great role in the settler’s search for a right place to settle. Notably the beginnings of North American settlement are described similarly in contemporary sources: a group of righteous people need to cross the dangerous sea to settle in an uninhabited land. Instead of the tyranny of a Norwegian king the American sources tell the story of religious prosecution by the English crown. Furthermore, the concept of divine providence is something that is still prevalent in American self-understanding today. This current study wants to compare the aforementioned Old Norse texts with a selection of contemporary American sources based on the similarities described above. The research focus is on three distinct aspects, namely the description of the physical properties of the land to be settled, the depiction of the monarchy and the role of religion to create a convincing foundation narrative.Although it can clearly be stated that the American sources have never been influenced by the Icelandic ones the study’s aim is to receive a better understanding of the beginnings of Iceland and America on the one hand and the concept of foundation myths in general on the other hand.

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[D9] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Joel Anderson
The University of Maine
joel.anderson@maine.edu

Legal Document as Public Spectacle: Making a Scene in the Medieval Icelandic Church

Whether encountered in a bound volume or on a digital screen, the Diplomatarium Islandicum remains the modern scholar’s most common interface with the documentary record of medieval Iceland. In this work, all species of administrative and legal records—bréf, máldagar, epistolae, inter alia—are transcribed and ordered for the benefit of historical reconstruction. Like other edited collections, the Diplomatarium offers a convenient tool for situating the lexical content of extant medieval documents in relation to the nation’s political and legal history. Certain aspects of documentary practice, however, are rendered far less visible. As recent scholarship has emphasized, medieval documents made their meaning not only in their contents or appearances, but also through the actions and protocols that surrounded their publication. Especially over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, as the northern peripheries of Europe became more fully integrated into the governmental structures of the universal Church, Icelandic clerics began to imagine, debate, and fight over what might be achieved with and through documents. This paper will examine some of the ways in which audience, physical setting, and delivery interacted in the public construction of a document’s meaning in medieval Iceland. In particular, several episodes in the biskupasögur indicate that the reading of a judicial sentence or writ during Church services was a charged act with binding juridical significance. Lárentíus saga, for instance, describes its title character going to great pains to avoid hearing a summons brought to Hólar by two deacons from Skálholt. The deacons first approached the bishop in the vestry. When one of them began reading the letter, Lárentíus sprang up and left immediately. On the following day, the deacons saddled their horses and pretended to return to Skálholt. As soon as Mass began inside the cathedral, one of the deacons entered and again started reading his letter. A brawl ensued. Such accounts, I argue, allow us to see documents as part of a medieval legal culture suffused with dramatic set pieces and public spectacle. In order to imbue a sheet of parchment with legal force, tactical considerations surrounding the form and place of delivery often mattered as much as the words on the page.

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[D19] Seminar Session: Law and Legal Culture in Medieval Iceland

Kimberly Anderson
Cambridge University
aneuteeda@yahoo.co.uk

Legal Culture and Advice Giving in the Íslendingasögur

The giving of advice often proves a turning point in decision-making within the Íslendingasögur, yet little has been said of its cultural and narrative significance. The process of advice giving is often concentrated around legal proceedings, wherein conflict is paced so that characters may seek counsel before making decisions. In these sagas, Icelanders direct either wariness or respect at those who can manipulate legal proceedings. This investigation will focus on the particularly notable occasions wherein skilled lawmen characters become advice givers. This study will examine the loyalty or obligation inherent in a relationship between advice giver and receiver, and how that relationship is disturbed by the giving of destructive advice or by the ignoring of beneficial advice in a legal context. This research therefore will ask to what extent is the giving of advice a narrative tool, for the purpose of advancing saga events, and to what extent it reveals the relationships between characters. It will ascertain whether different representations for solicited and unsolicited advice exist. Likewise, there will be an exploration into how much giving good legal or extra-legal advice in a court setting enhances a character’s status. By investigating the exchanges between advice giver and receiver, this research will seek to establish if there is a tradition comprised of rituals and expectations surrounding the transaction, and if there is an element of reciprocity involved. This research is situated within a social framework, such as gift exchange, examining if there is also a set of social guidelines or reciprocation surrounding the advice transaction. It explores whether advice giving in legal circumstances is for the benefit of the narrative rather than enlightenment of the character, and whether the source of advice is as important as the advice itself. Assessing the effects of advice giving on the practice of law in saga literature will contribute to further research towards law in Old Icelandic society.

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[C5] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Theodore M. Andersson
Indiana University
tma@stanford.edu

Old Icelandic Literature as a National Literature

In recent years there has been considerable discussion, especially in Iceland, about the moment at which some form of national consciousness first appears in Old Icelandic literature. I believe that it appeared early and became a dominant force. Skaldic verse presumably originated in Norway but soon became an exclusively Icelandic phenomenon. Much effort has been devoted to establishing the home of Eddic poetry, but we might invoke the precept that possession is nine tenths of the law and note that all remnants of the Eddic traditions belong to Iceland. The most famous branch of Old Icelandic letters, the sagas about early Icelanders, were not only written by Icelanders but are predominantly about Icelanders. Although the kings’ sagas are ostensibly about Norwegians, they are written by Icelanders and exhibit a disproportionate presence of Icelanders. The Norwegian kings are an Icelandic creation. The bishops’ sagas have some overlap with saints’ lives, but they are more centrally about Icelandic politics. National literature, more narrowly national epic, became a standard concept in the romantic era, embraced by Wilhelm Grimm and August Wilhelm Schlegel in Germany and Gaston Paris in France. The Nibelungenlied was classified as a national epic despite the fact that not a single line suggests a national orientation and despite the fact that the story differs widely in southern Germany and northern Germany (Þiðreks saga). Similarly, the Chanson de Roland, was classified as a national epic despite the fact that the recurrent words “la douce France” should probably be translated “sweet Francia,” that is, the western extension of the Carolingian empire, not “sweet France,” suggesting a false analogy to the modern state. No German or French “nation” existed in the twelfth century. On the other hand, Iceland bore a close likeness to a nation, a community bound together by a common language, a common law, common governmental institutions, and a common literature. Historians have rejected a national outlook before the eighteenth century, perhaps because they have been too narrowly focused on England, France, and Germany, where a sense of nationhood grew slowly. These pre-national entities cultivated ancient and timeless Migration-Age narratives, Arthurian, Carolingian, Nibelung, Tristan, and Dietrich legends. Iceland preserved these stories too, in their Eddic traditions and their translated literature, but Icelanders wrote most conspicuously about themselves. For them national literature (or “national epic”) was not a figment of the romantic imagination but a prized reality.

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[C7] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Arngrímur Vídalín
University of Iceland
avs1@hi.is

Racism in the Íslendingasögur

The view that racism originated in the 19th century with the advent of the race concept has dominated scholarship for a long time. This view holds that without the systematic thought which categorizes humankind into different races based on their place of birth and appearance, racism cannot exist. In recent years, scholars have increasingly taken into consideration the binary oppositional pair of self and other, not least as it appears in classic and medieval literature, and come to the conclusion that descriptions of peoples who would have been considered exotic by past standards mirror modern racist discourse to a great degree. The theory has thus been put forward that racism is the result of cognitive processes that are peculiar to humankind in all times, rather than it being inextricably linked with national romanticism and ideals of the nation state which only came about in the last centuries.

In this light the several instances in Íslendingasögur of blámenn, skrælingar and other figures of the exotic foreigner – with points of comparison being made to their appearance in other genres – will be taken into consideration. It will be argued that their rather negative descriptions in the sagas is evidence of what recent scholarship has defined as pre-racial thought. This includes, among other things, negative traits such as poor or even „evil“ appearance, cultural inferiority, lack of a language, and likeness to animals. It will be concluded that reading racial thought into medieval literature is not anachronistic as has often been claimed and that the dominant view, that racism hinges on the race concept, has been shown to be unfounded.

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[F1] Artistry: New Theoretical Approaches and Perspectives

David Ashurst
Durham University
david.ashurst@durham.ac.uk

Íslendingasögur: The Art of Attitudinal Ambivalence

The final stanza of Atlakviða says of Guðrún Gjúkadóttir, Hon hefir þriggja/ þjóðkonunga/banorð borit /björt, áðr sylti. Thus it prompts in us a species of admiration for a woman we have just seen kill her own children before feeding them to her husband, actions of which we have to disapprove. The dissonant response we therefore make is what psychologists call ‘attitudinal ambivalence’ (Conner and Armitage, in Crano and Prislin, 2010). It is not a vacillating or uncertain response, but one in which conflicting attitudes are held simultaneously and with full force.

The Íslendingasögur frequently stimulate attitudinal ambivalence in the reader: think of Flosi, in Njála, telling his men how terrible it is for Christians to burn people, ok munum vér láta taka eld sem skjótast, or Guðrún, in Laxdæla, reassuring her doomed husband that only the things she was able to watch would happen. The paper will multiply examples to show that the prompting of attitudinal ambivalence is key to the art of the sagas and encompasses not just individual moments but whole narrative sequences and characters: think of Egill Skalla-Grímsson. It is preeminent in the Íslendingasögur but is widespread in other genres: think of the doings of Guðmundr Arason in the contemporary/bishops sagas, or indeed of Óláfr helgi Haraldsson in the konungasögur. In fact, its prevalence suggests a deep-seated habit of mind.

The paper will suggest factors in the development of this habit and will conclude by reflecting on ways in which the recognition of it should inform critical work. Important to the latter is the fact that attitudinal ambivalence creates anxiety in those who experience it; there is a tendency, therefore, to rationalise matters so as to weaken one component of the ambivalent response, e.g. by downplaying the apparent glory of violence in favour of a ‘real’ message that is pacific (or vice versa). Scholarship must tease out all the complexities, all the nuances, of a situation, but the result must not eliminate attitudinal ambivalence, for that would be to falsify the literature.

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[A27] Saga Origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Auður Ingvarsdóttir
Reykjavíkurakademían
audur@akademia.is

„sem segir í Landnámabók“ — Uppruni og tengsl landnámsfrásagna

Þegar menn byrjuðu að rita fræðilega um samsetningu Landnámabókar var gert ráð fyrir því að höfundur hefði notast við fjölda sagna en þá voru sögurnar taldar áreiðanlegar og sannar mest megnis og mun eldri og áreiðanlegri en nútímamenn hafa fyrir satt. Það var jafnvel talið til marks um áreiðanleika sögu að hún hefði verið notuð í Landnámu. Menn báru svo takmarkalausa virðingu fyrir fræðimennsku 12. aldar mannsins sem gert var ráð fyrir að hefði fyrstur dregið saman þetta sagnfræðilega verk sem stundum hefur verið kallað Frum-Landnáma. Þessa hugmynd um Landnámu sem sagnfræðilegt verk sem byggði á skriflegum heimildum má sjá strax hjá Árna Magnússyni. Hann gerði á sínum tíma ráð fyrir því að í Landnámu hefði verið safnað efni úr mörgum sögum: „munu óefad teknar vera úr skrifuðum sógum, þótt vær þær nú ecki allar hófum“. Þessi skilningur á samsetningu Landnámabókar hélt svo velli um aldir. Undir lok 19. aldar var gerð hörð hríð að heimildargildi Íslendingasagna sem varð til þess að tekið var til við að endurskoða Landnámu. Hugmyndin um stutta og ágripskennda „upphaflega Landnámu“ fór að verða áberandi. Þar var þá gerður greinarmunur á markvissri og fræðilegri gerð sem fjallaði hnitmiðað um landnám og landnámsmenn og hins vegar gerðum eins og Landnámabók Sturlu Þórðarsonar sem hefði skotið inn í og bætt við efni úr lítt áreiðanlegum sögum. Áfram héldu menn þó að hreinar landnámsfrásagnir að minnsta kosti hluti þeirra væru upprunnar úr fornri Landnámabók. Í Eyrbyggju er fjallað um marga landnámsmenn og landnámsmörk. Má ekki telja það líklegt að höfundur Eyrbyggju hafi einmitt þegið af einhverri Landnámagerð? Það var einmitt skoðun Einars Ólafs Sveinssonar en hann taldi hann að höfundur Eyrbyggju hefði stuðst við heimild um landnám. Hann fer þó varlega í sakirnar: hvort notuð er regluleg „landnámabók“ eða aðeins drög af slíku riti (frá hendi Ara og Brands príors m.a.).“ Flestar af Íslendingasögunum hafa allmikið efni um landnám, fyrstu för manna hingað til lands og um ættir þeirra og uppruna. Nefna má Flóamannasögu sem dæmi þar sem beinlínis er gefið til kynna hver heimildin er: „sem segir í Landnámabók.“ Notuðust þá höfundar Íslendingasagna þá við Landnámabók þegar þeir rituðu um landnámsmenn? Hvaðan höfðu þeir upplýsingar um landnám Skallagríms, Auðar djúpúðgu, Ingimundar gamla, Ketils hængs, Bjarnar gullbera svo nokkrir séu nefndir?

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[F34] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Agnieszka Backman and Alexandra Petrulevich
Uppsala University
agnieszka.backman@nordiska.uu.se — alexandra.petrulevich@nordiska.uu.se

Same same but different — Spatiality in East vs. West Norse

The study of spatial thinking and knowledge in medieval Scandinavia and its development as an area of enquiry are hampered by a dearth of information on place names in East Norse compared to West Norse literary texts. “The Norse perception of the world: A mapping and analysis of foreign place names in medieval Swedish and Danish texts” is a project based at Uppsala University that uses toponymy and other location-based items such as inhabitant designations in East Norse texts as the point of departure for visualizing the world-view of the medievals in Eastern Scandinavia. Comparing our project with the Icelandic Saga Map, an interactive mapping resource with a West Norse focus, shows differences in aim, material, and composition of the corpora. For instance, our project collects a wider range of location-based information including place names as attested in the manuscripts, their variant and normalized forms as well as metadata about the manuscript sources. The place names are further categorized according to type of name and locality which makes it possible to search for very specific information. Additionally, the Saga Map’s purpose is to “aid new readings of the sagas” which is mirrored in how the text of the sagas is placed alongside the map, while our focus is on the location-based data, and how these represent medieval world-views. For instance, the perception of Iceland as shown in the Swedish and Danish texts is markedly limited. On the whole Iceland is entirely absent from the world-view shown in East Norse texts, a result of the literature mostly being translated from mainland European sources, whereas Icelanders wrote their own history with the Íslendinga sǫgur and konungasǫgur, spatially covering both Western and Eastern Scandinavia. This paper addresses the discrepancy between the East and West representations in the two corpora and questions whether the picture actually reflects the medievals’ knowledge of the neighbouring areas. References: Icelandic Saga Map, The Norse perception of the world.

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[D22] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Sverre Bagge
University of Bergen
sverre.bagge@uib.no

Homicide in the Norwegian Code of the Realm

The paper forms part of an ongoing project on King Magnus’ Code of the Realm from the 1270s, in connection with the anniversary in 2024. The project will deal with the law as a whole, its background in earlier legislation, the various manuscripts in which it has been preserved and the differences between them. My own part of the project is the mannhelgarbolkr, which contains one of greatest novelties of the law, compared to the old regional laws, namely the introduction of public justice, including the ban against feuds. This reform was anticipated by series of revisions and new provisions during the previous decades. The paper will examine the development of these changes and the main principles underlying them, as well the organization of this part of the Code. In this way, I hope to give a better understanding of the character of the reforms in this field as well as the way in which the king and his co-workers tried to carry them out.

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[Poster session] Ideas and Worldview: Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Roles

Burkhard Bärner
University of Vienna
burkhard.baerner@univie.ac.at

The Literary Function of Sexual Violence in the Sagas of Icelanders

In the Sagas of Icelanders violence seems to be the driving force for the plot. Several episodes feature violence directly linked to sexuality. This paper aims to illuminate what kind of literary function these passages may have had as part of one individual saga, as well as for the whole literary genre. To obtain a broader view into the characters’ interactions sociological models, e.g., Reemtsma’s triad of physical violence are used. Deeper insight into the characters’ psyche is obtained by literary psychoanalysis. Relevant episodes are also compared to other literature, when necessary, and in the case of female self-exposure even with visual art. The most obvious form of sexual violence, rape, can serve many different purposes. One function is to take revenge on an opponent, like in Víglundar saga, where attempted rape against the wife of a political enemy occurs. The second objective is to punish a female victim, as depicted in Grettis saga, where Grettir rapes a free woman who was mocking him and his penis. The third type can be described as last resort tactical move against one’s enemy. This can be obtained in Króka-Refs saga where Refr slyly defies his opponents until his wife is threatened to be raped. Other forms of sexual violence in the sagas are, on one hand the insinuation of passive homosexuality against men, on the other promiscuity against women. These are productive to start family feuds, to vent one’s rage on somebody, or to show dominance. These incriminations carry not only political meaning, but also allow us insight into the psyche of the saga heros. Although sexually connoted violence is mostly performed by men, there are also women who intimidate men in sexually charged ways. They expose their breasts or genitalia, and their fully armed male targets are portrayed as deeply scared and even fleeing. These incidents show resemblances to Tacitus’ Germania and to Otto van Veen’s painting The Persian Women from the 16th century. The latter obviously portrays powerfull women, who are not unfamiliar to the Sagas of Icelanders.

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[D16] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Santiago Francisco Barreiro
CONICET, Universidad de Buenos Aires
santiagobarreiro@filo.uba.ar

Tenants farmers and social conflict in Hœnsa-Þóris saga

The aim of this paper is to analyse the actions of a subaltern group in Hœnsa-Þóris saga. This short saga, usually dated to the last quarter of the thirteenth century, focuses on the conflict between a respected farmer and an arrogant merchant. While much attention has been paid to the main conflict and its relationship with the changes in the Icelandic social structure during the thirteenth century, much less has been said about the role tenant farmers play in the early chapters of the saga. While both narratively and socially subaltern, they play an important role in the saga and their tie with Blund-Ketill gives some clues about vertical social relationships in the insular rural society. My hypothesis is that the saga reveals tenants as an unusually independent group which is able to successfully negotiate and press their landlord (here represented by the rich bóndi, Blund-Ketill) into acting in their benefit, without later paying any of the costs derived from kindling the conflict between the farmer and the titular character of the saga. Moreover, it is likely that the negotiation between Blund-Ketill and his landsetar represents a type of social conflict usually hidden in the narrative of the feud-driven Íslendingasögur. Finally, I will consider in which way a perspective focusing on labour as a defining factor of economic relationships can help us explain the relatively strong position held by tenant farmers in this saga.

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[C1] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Grzegorz Józef Bartusik
University of Silesia, Katowice
gr.bartusik@gmail.com

The Latin Influences on the Cognitive World of Íslendingasögur

The Network of Relations between Sallustius, Lucanus, Rómverja saga and the Indigenous Icelandic Sagas

Literary contacts between the continental Europe and Scandinavia intensified when the North underwent Christianisation, the first profound colonial civilizing process. The Scandinavian elites opened up to the Latin culture and the main intellectual stream of the Middle Ages: the translatio studii et imperii, a cross-cultural exchange of knowledge between European societies, which consequently led to the Europeanisation of Scandinavia. The Mediterranean culture has been brought to Scandinavia via the textual movement from the South. Through a Latin-based education and Latin–Old Norse-Icelandic translations, mediaeval Northmen incorporated the ancient Graeco-Roman ideas into their own vernacular culture. The ON-I textual culture consequently became embedded in a network of intertextual and genological relations with the Latin literature and language. While these intertextual and genological relations gained general recognition among scholars, the question of Latin influences is yet to be studied in the light of the cognitive linguistics theory, as well as in the light of its counterpart among literary sciences – the cognitive poetics theory, which allows to dig deeper and into different strata of texts. Therefore, it seems worthwhile to contemplate over the extent to which ON-I cognitive world was influenced by the cognitive structures derived from the Graeco-Roman classics which, imported to mediaeval Scandinavia, finally became the texti recepti to many of the vernacular sagas. The Latin manuscripts imported to the North are nowadays extinct; however, some of their translations have been preserved as relics of once powerful currents of cultural transfer of the Mediterranean culture. On the basis of ancient Roman literature, the corpus of canonical works known and studied by the mediaeval Icelanders, and their translations into ON-I known as Antikensagas, I will investigate the Ancient Roman/Latin substrata in ON-I cognitive world, looking for the elements of the cognitive models of personality and the world as understood by Romans, that were integrated into the vernacular Icelandic texts. I will mainly address the networks of relations between Sallustius, Lucanus, Rómverja saga and the vernacular Icelandic sagas, the probe perfectly showing the process of cultural transfer in cross section, how and how far Latin elements were disseminated into the Icelandic literary polysystem, and consequently into the culture.

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[C30] Ideas and Worldview: Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Roles

Caroline R. Batten
University of Oxford
caroline.batten@ell.ox.ac.uk

Flögð í fögru skinni: Violence and the Feminine Principle in an Episode of Eyrbyggja saga

In Eyrbyggja saga, the young man Gunnlaugr is found unconscious and bloodied outside the door of his house. His injuries have been caused by the witch Katla, who has ‘ridden’ him during the night. Katla is described as a kveldriða (‘evening rider’), a word which elsewhere describes a woman with supernatural powers who physically assaults a male victim, and which Catharina Raudvere has argued is synonymous with the creature called a mara, who commits near-identical acts of nocturnal aggression in Ynglingatal. Previous scholarship on this episode has often evaded discussion of the precise nature of Katla’s attack, or has drawn on a false etymological connection between the words mara and marr (‘mare’) to suggest that Katla has trampled Gunnlaugr with a horse. Indeed, previous discussions of the mara and related supernatural ‘riders’ in Old Norse texts more broadly do not seek to parse the mara’s nature and often translate her name as ‘nightmare’ without further comment. Raudvere’s extensive work on the mara of eighteenth-century Scandinavian folklore has illuminated this being’s identity in the modern period, but a close analysis of the medieval mara has not yet been attempted. This paper will argue that Katla’s assault on Gunnlaugr, and the activity of the Old Norse mara wherever she appears, is an instance of profound erotic violence. Using the Eyrbyggja saga episode as a centerpiece, the paper will examine skaldic and eddic verse, episodes from Íslendingasögur and the rarely-discussed Illuga saga Gríðarfóstra, along with Old English texts using the cognate word mære, to define the creature or creatures referred to as a mara or kveldriða as monstrous, feminine sexual assailants or rapists. The paper will then turn to the social and literary implications of Katla’s attack on Gunnlaugr and her extralegal execution. Drawing on the work of Ármann Jakobsson and Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, I will discuss the ways in which the text — and the saga-society it depicts — engages with female masculinity, anti-sociality, and abjection in the figure of the kveldriða, and the ways in which mara-episodes illuminate little- discussed relationships between women in Old Norse texts.

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[G12] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Karen Bek-Pedersen
Independent scholar
karen@bek-pedersen.dk

Sveigðir and the Dwarfie Stane

In this paper, I present an interpretation of the Old Norse story about the legendary Swedish King Sveigðir who disappears into a rock after an encounter with a dwarf.
There are three extant versions of this story, two in Old Norse and one in Latin; the former two are in focus here. A detailed survey of the prose version in Ynglinga saga and the poetic version in Ynglingatal reveals that a number of details are mentioned only in one version but not the other. Following this, I will carry out an interpretive comparison. Especially Sveigðir’s links to the pre-Christian deity Óðinn are investigated as well as the liminal nature of his encounter with the dwarf. The stone, which the dwarf is able to open for Sveigðir, is regarded as a portal to the Otherworld into which the king disappears.

It seems possible to relate at least some of the features of this story to more modern folkloric accounts, especially Joannem Ben’s 16th century description of the Dwarfie Stane in the island of Hoy, Orkney, but also much more recent Icelandic folklore.
The central argument is that the story contains a belief-related dimension that is unlikely to have remained visible on the surface into Christian times when the story was committed to writing, but which must have played a central part in a pre-Christian understanding of the story.

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[C10] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Maths Bertell
Mid-Sweden University, Sundsvall
maths.bertell@miun.se

Every source is an island: Theorizing regions, social groups and time in Old Norse religion in a comparative perspective

The Old Norse pantheon of gods as presented by Snorri has been questioned and also the possibility to recreate a uniform religion of the Viking Age. By introducing the term religiolect (time period + region + social position + religion) in its two variants (lived religiolect and the reflection of the lived religiolect), we may get a better understanding of the diverse Old Norse religion and its development through time and space. The development of the Old Norse religion is not limited in time or space, and with no clear boundaries towards neighboring cultures or missionary religions. Taking this into account, it opens up for new understanding of the external relationships between Old Norse speaking and Fenno-Ugric groups, and contacts between indigenous Scandinavian religion and Christianity and Islam, and the impact on development and change from these encounters. By comparing the Old Norse religion to similar polytheistic and indigenous religions, instead of Christianity, is a new perspective with a new set of questions. It will cast new light on internal relationships between the aristocratic warrior religion and the fertility religion of the farmers, the religion of the west and of the east, and gendered religion. In this paper, I will discuss these possibilities and use examples both from the Old Norse sphere (poetry, sagas and travel accounts) and from other polytheistic religions in the history of religion.

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[G16] 3d Ideas and Worldview: Other Genres

William Joseph Biel
University of Connecticut
william.biel@uconn.edu

Ætt and Æventýr: Family Fantasy in Vatnsdæla saga

While genealogy is important throughout Old Norse literature, scholars note that Vatnsdæla saga stands out as one of the most developed of family sagas. Whereas many sagas provided detailed family trees in order to emphasize a singular protagonist, Vatnsdæla saga is committed to narrating the deeds of whole generations descending from Þorsteinn Ketilsson. At the same time, Vatnsdæla saga is remarkable for its fascination with the supernatural. Although those magical episodes occurring in Iceland are largely typical of the Íslendingasögur, the introductory chapters set in Norway conform to the genre conventions of romance more familiar from the fornaldarsögur. In this paper, I suggest these initial romance motifs facilitate the saga’s dominant theme of advancing familial power through unity. I read these early chapters against the historical background of late 13th and early 14th century Iceland, in which ideologies of familial advancement had been altered by the violence of the Sturlung Age and annexation to the Norwegian monarchy. In this context, the interests of powerful landed families in Iceland can understood similarly to those of the landed classes in kingdoms such as England. This correlation includes investment in romance as a genre for not only the promotion but also the testing and questioning of ideologies. I therefore focus on those chapters concerning Þorsteinn Ketilsson, whose adventures are essential for his consolidation of power through family. Yet I contend the saga is as interested in the grounds of intergenerational conflict as it is in unity. These chapters of Vatnsdæla saga repeatedly depict hostility between fathers and sons especially. However, the saga nonetheless resolves these tensions in such a way that Þorstein’s family unerringly coheres and gains. But these successes come at a cost, often in the form of physical violence. The romance motifs of the introductory chapters allow these costs to be placed largely on the giant-like Jökull Ingimundarson, whose fantastic body becomes the site of multiple substitutions between otherwise hostile fathers and sons. Therefore, I conclude Vatnsdæla saga turns to romance to negotiate fantasies of familial power; but nonetheless exposes the grounds of disintegration both inside and outside the kin group.

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[F32] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Renan Marques Birro
Federal University of Amapá, Brazil
rbirro@unifap.br

Seeing Sigurðr on manx crosses: archaeological representations and the recreation of insular past

After many years of forgetfulness, antiquarians and scholars of the nineteenth century developed a deep interest on crosses carved and erected during the Viking Age in the Isle of Man. For them, these monuments were memories of Scandinavian heritage of the island, a symbol and reminder of this ancestral bond. Of these memorial stones, an expressive part of them were carved with ornaments and figurative motives; and, between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, they have seen the hero Sigurðr Fáfnisbani represented in a small group of Manx stone crosses, giving birth to an intense graphical representation and creating an academic “foundation stone” repeated many times in articles and books. Meanwhile, scholars have debated — and still do, in an intense way — if these monuments were intended to be pagan (in a naive and romantic-minded point of view), Christian or secular. On the other hand, a second debate rolls around why and how the first carvings of the semilegendary hero were carved in the middle of Irish sea during the tenth and eleventh centuries. However, after more than one hundred and thirty years of academics’ works, few scholars have attempted to understand the construction of this interpretation, representation and, why not, the recreation of Manx past as a relevant factor to produce this starting point. Based on this, my purpose is to remember the historical context of the Isle of Man in the nineteenth century and oxygenate the first discussion, putting in doubt the interpretative axiom about Sigurðr Fáfnisbani. In short, the Manx academic tradition needed to see Sigurðr on Manx crosses to create a national history and culture minimally detached of their insular counterparts, i.e., England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales; furthermore, they needed a different bulk of cultural links to push the British imperial impulse and its tendency for cultural homogenization at that time.

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[A31] Saga Origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Bjarni Gunnar Ásgeirsson
University of Iceland
bga1@hi.is

The x2-class of Njáls saga manuscripts

In the 1950’s, Einar Ólafur Sveinsson classified the Pre-Reformation manuscripts of Njáls saga into three branches; the X-class, the Y-class, and the Z-class. The X-class holds the highest number of manuscripts and includes two further branches: the x2-class and the x3-class. What the manuscripts of the x2-class have in common, according to Einar Ólafur (1953: 117), is ‘a somewhat freer treatment of the text’ than in other manuscripts of the X-class, and a different choice of the so-called ‘additional verses’. This group of seven manuscripts (or parts of manuscripts) is very fragmentary, and it is therefore often impossible to compare texts of different manuscripts directly, but a detailed analysis does reveal some interesting patterns common to the group. Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir and Ludger Zeevaert (2014) have shown that one of the x2-class manuscripts, Þormóðsbók, has changes made to the text that make the connection to Christian discourse more prominent. I have shown that the same phenomenon can be found in another manuscript of the x2-class: Sveinsbók 1 (forthcoming). Another interesting element that seems to be common to the x2-class of manuscripts is that less emphasis is placed on legal jurisprudence and whole passages even removed. Einar Ólafur described many instances where manuscripts of the x2-class have unique text, but rather than ascribe these peculiarities to the parent manuscript, *x2, he viewed them as changes made in that particular manuscript or its direct exemplar. The distribution of such changes and abridgments throughout the x2-class of manuscripts may, however, suggest that they are not the work of the scribes of extant manuscripts or their immediate exemplars, but should perhaps rather be traced to the parent manuscript: *x2. In my paper, I will take a closer look at the family of the x2-class with the aim of establishing which textual peculiarities they share that might be original to the parent manuscript *x2.

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[C4] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Anja Ute Blode
Universität zu Köln
anja.blode@uni-koeln.de

Stranger in a Strange Land? Attitudes towards Icelanders in medieval Denmark and Sweden

During the Middle Ages, Denmark was the dominant kingdom in the North. Despite this supremacy, Icelanders were more interested in the kingdom of Norway and most in the history of their own country. This interest is clearly shown in the Íslendinga sǫgur. Sweden and Denmark play a smaller role in these sagas. Nevertheless, contacts between Iceland and these countries existed in various forms. Icelanders came to the East Norse countries for trade, plunder, for winter or as a stopover for journeys into more distant lands. In this paper I want to examine the Icelandic journeys to Denmark and Sweden. Although most of the other saga genres give more detailed information on this matter, the Íslendinga sǫgur provide nevertheless a rich source to this matter. They show a wide spectrum from the poorest people to the rich and from occasional visits to repeated journeys. One question concerns the purpose of these travels and how the Icelanders were received in these foreign countries. A special focus will be on the communication, the social intercourse and especially the attitudes and behaviour towards others. How did Danes and Swedes behave towards the Icelanders? Even though they all were Scandinavians and spoke almost the same language, Icelanders were in most cases strangers to them and not often seen in these countries. Otherwise, how were the people from the East Norse countries described? Especially the Danish and Swedish kings were often mentioned in the sagas. Visits at the royal courts are for instance depicted in Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu and Króka-Refs saga. The depiction of kings alternates between stereotypes as it was common for continental literature of this time and individual descriptions. Is there a difference between encounters in these lands and Norway, which was more often visited? This paper will contribute to a more detailed insight into the relations between Iceland, Sweden and Denmark during the time of the Íslendinga sǫgur. It will also add new details to the understanding of attitudes towards strangers in the Middle Ages.

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[C13] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Sophie Bønding
Aarhus University
socb@cas.au.dk

“Kosti mun ek gera yðr … at þér skuluð reyna, hvár betri er trúan”: ‘Accumulation’ and ‘Eradication’ as Strategies of Christianisation

This paper addresses the nature of early Christianity in Scandinavia. The Christianisation was a long and complex transition, which occurred in different tempi in the various parts of Scandinavia. The question of what constituted early Christianity is a much-debated matter (e.g., Nilsson 1996, ed; Sanmark 2004; Tveito 2005). In this paper, I approach the issue through an investigation of the missionary strategies applied in the Christianisation, focusing on the accounts of Þangbrandr’s mission in Iceland (specifically in Njáls saga).

Whereas, traditionally, studies of missionary strategies apply the dichotomy of ‘accommodation’ versus ‘confrontation’ (e.g., Tveito 2005), I propose the concepts of ‘accumulation’ and ‘eradication’. In doing so, I draw on Robert N. Bellah’s model of religious evolution (2011), which identifies a close connection between the type of society and the type of religion, which can arise and persist in a given society. The evolution of religion is described through three fundamental stages — tribal, archaic and axial; the latter entailing a radical break with the world-affirming focus of the former two, which it substitutes for a world-rejecting attitude, focusing on a higher truth beyond this world. Contrary to the evolutionary theories of the early 20th century, Bellah’s model views evolution as a cumulative process where new types of religion do not primarily replace former ones but layer themselves on top of them, so that they co-exist – although not always in a frictionless manner. In light of this model, early Christianity as presented in the missionary sources is analysed as a ‘post-axial’ hybrid between elements typologically pertaining to pre-axial and axial religion, respectively. As such, I propose a framework, which is fruitful when seeking to conceptualise the relation between elements belonging to different types of religion in the missionary encounters.

The paper is structured as follows: I open with a presentation of the analytical framework, including a critical evaluation of the evolutionary approach. This is followed by an analysis of the missionary strategies attested in the accounts concerning Þangbrandr, focusing on the relation between elements pertaining to pre-axial (world-affirming) and axial (world-rejecting) types of religion. Finally, I discuss the implications of my findings for our understanding of the nature of early Christianity in Scandinavia.

  • Bellah, Robert N. (2011). Religion in Human Evolution. From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge & London.
    Nilsson, Bertil, ed. (1996). Kristnandet i Sverige Gamla källor och nya perspektiv, Lunne Böcker, Uppsala.
  • Sanmark, Alexandra (2004). Power and Conversion. A comparative study of Christinization in Scandinavia, Occasional Papers in Archaeology 34, Uppsala Universitet, Uppsala.
  • Tveito, Olav (2005). Ad fines orbis terrae – like til jordens ender. En studie i primær trosformidling i nordisk kristnigskontekst, Acta Humaniora nr. 209, Det historisk-filosofiske fakultet, Universitetet i Oslo, Oslo.

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[E16] Saga Origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Rosalind Bonte and Eleanor Heans-Głogowska
Brepols Publishers / Durham University
rosie.bonte@brepols.net — ebhglogowska@gmail.com

The King and the Icelanders: Rewriting Óláfr Tryggvason

Óláfr Tryggvason ruled Norway for just five short years, from 995 to 1000, before he was killed in battle at Svǫldr fighting against the kings of Denmark and Sweden, and his Norwegian rival for power, jarl Eiríkr of Hlaðir. Yet, despite the brevity of his reign, Óláfr became a source of fascination for medieval writers, feted not only as a great Christianizing king in Norway, but also as the ‘Apostle of the North’, a missionary responsible for converting the wider Norse-speaking North Atlantic. Icelandic works about Óláfr Tryggvason written in the eleventh century precede even the first hagiographical writings about his namesake, the saint-king Óláfr Haraldsson, and he continued to enthral writers into the fourteenth century, when great compilations such as Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta and Flateyjarbók were produced. But how and why was this king of Norway so important to medieval Icelanders, and why did they continue to produce texts about him? In this paper, we aim to examine the presentation of Óláfr Tryggvason as he appears in major Icelandic vernacular texts, and we explore how his role shifts from contemporary skaldic poetry, via writings set down during the turmoil of the Sturungaǫld and Iceland’s submission to Norway, right up to the manuscript compilations created during the fourteenth century as Iceland’s relationship with Norway continued to alter. By tracing presentations of Óláfr over time, we suggest that depictions and understanding of this king were in fact far from fixed, but were instead mutable and strongly influenced by the historical context in which these texts were produced: Óláfr’s presentation as both king and missionary was transformed by successive saga authors who harnessed these narratives as a medium for discourse on contemporary issues. In this way, we suggest, our literary accounts of Óláfr Tryggvasonar may not shed much light on the real historical figure of the king, they do nonetheless provide a conduit through which we might better understand the world view of the medieval Icelanders who made him their subject.

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[G10] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Timothy Bourns
University of Oxford
timothy.bourns@sjc.ox.ac.uk

Animal Cognition in the Íslendingasǫgur

This paper examines the natural, preternatural, and supernatural cognitive abilities of animals in a selection of Íslendingasǫgur. It forms part of a larger project that explores how humans and animals are interconnected in the sagas, how the boundary between these two categories is constructed and deconstructed, and how these literary representations reflect medieval Icelandic ideas, values, and beliefs about animals. In Hrafnkels saga, Freyfaxi makes the decision to repeatedly roll in mud, return to Hrafnkell in Aðalból, and neigh at the front door. These events – strange and improbable, but within the bounds of possibility – are best described as preternatural: they are neither natural nor supernatural, but rest between the two categories. Freyfaxi uncannily understands and obeys Hrafnkell’s instructions. In human-animal communication, the categories of ‘human’ and ‘animal’ are both established and disrupted. When Finnbogi encounters an outlawed bear in Finnboga saga and speaks to the beast, it understands his words and communicates in turn through body language – a supernatural display of anthropomorphic intellect that gives the animal a quasi-human status. The sagas explore and extend the bounds of canine cognition in particular. In Njáls saga, Sámr has manns vit (‘man’s wits’), inhabiting a space in the borderlands between animal and human, natural and supernatural. He demonstrates his quasi-human intelligence and preternatural abilities by perceiving Þorkell’s intention to harm Gunnarr; in a sophisticated example of anthropomorphism, he draws an inference, realises Þorkell’s betrayal, and subsequently attacks him. The hominine behaviour of saga-dogs moves from the preternatural to the supernatural in Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss. Gestr’s canine companion, Snati, is endowed with speki (‘wisdom’): he understands human language, establishes his cunning and strategic thinking, and uses initiative, thereby revealing non-canine ingenuity. Supernatural qualities attributed to animals and human-animal relations indicate a worldview that is psychologically connected to animal lives. The emerging results of this study challenge the existence of a human-animal dichotomy in the world of the sagas. The literary supernatural emerges as a tool for author and audience to think about what makes us human, what makes them animal, and perhaps to question whether we are so different after all.

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[A19] Seminar Session: Freyr — a God of fertility or kingship?

Stefan Brink
University of Aberdeen
s.brink@abdn.ac.uk

Freyr: His Role and Function in Pre-Christian Scandinavian Religion

In my part of the discussion I would like to focus on two aspects regarding the god Freyr, not as he is depicted and described by Snorri and in the Eddas, but instead by consulting other non-written sources. The two aspects are firstly the occurrence of a cult of Freyr according to toponyms, and secondly – which is related to the distribution of theophoric place names in Scandinavia, with a heavy concentration of these names to central eastern Sweden – the link between Freyr and *Ingi, known from the saga literature in the form of Yngvi-Freyr. The distribution of Freyr names to especially eastern central Sweden is however to be complemented to another concentration of Freyr names around Viken in Norway, and the question to be asked is, of course, why? Is this to have anything to do with the background of e.g. Ynglingatal? I hopefully will be able to produce several questions which will bewilder the audience, and hopefully we can have a fruitful discussion around these questions.

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[B25] Artistry: Semiotics and Interpretation

Brynja Þorgeirsdóttir
University of Cambridge
bt346@cam.ac.uk

Ideas of Body and Emotion: Accessing Feelings in Íslendingasögur

This paper explores the prevalent epistemology of emotions and the body in Iceland at the time that Íslendingasögur were written, in order to provide a deeper understanding of the literary depiction of feelings in the sagas. At the centre lies the view that the sagas and their emotional signifiers are inextricably bound to the culture, time, and space that the sagas grew out of.

Íslendingasögur are certainly not known for excess in their depiction of emotions; a characteristic which is at a sharp contrast with the contemporary courtly literature. Emotions are implied in the sagas – only their poetry sometimes offers a rare glimpse into the internal world of the characters. In the prose, an external perspective is maintained; the emotional state of characters is alluded to in third-party conversations, or expressed by action, gestures and somatic reactions. In sum, emotions are signified with, and through, the body.

The long twelfth century in Europe brought large-scale changes to intellectual thought throughout the continent, and created a flow of new knowledge and thinking to Scandinavia and Iceland. This is manifested in surviving Old Norse learned texts, such as Old Norse medical books, encyclopaedias, historical and ecclesiastical material and other learned texts.

This learned material provides a tool to gain an understanding of the ‘emotional community’ (Rosenwein 2015:3) of the learned elite that presumably wrote the Íslendingasögur in the form they have come down to us. In this paper, the exploration of this material with a cultural-historical perspective will be used to analyse selected emotional scenes in Brennu- Njáls saga and Egils saga Skallagrímssonar, in the hope of providing new insights into the emotional life of their characters.

  • Rosenwein, Barbara H., Generations of Feeling: A History of Emotions, 600-1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

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[C9] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Anthony Jay Bunker
University of Iceland
ajb11@hi.is

“And if your right hand causes you to sin …”: Giants, Dismemberment, and Legalistic Fantasy in the Translated Riddarasögur

The translated riddarasögur have sometimes been written off or ignored wholesale by scholars of Medieval Norse-Icelandic literature for various reasons. The reason of primary concern for my proposed talk is that these works, as translations, do not represent the “literary spirit” of the medieval Icelandic and Norwegian scribes but rather their ability as mere copyists. As some scholars have pointed out in recent years, however, the translations of courtly romance which occurred under the commission of Hákon Hákonarson in the thirteenth century were greatly dependent on a variety of influences involving personal literary touches and decisions. These influences include the scribe’s style and taste, the sensibilities of the King and his court, and possibly even the discursive intentions of Hákon as he attempted to bring the peripheral Norwegian realm into the fold of courtly, contemporary Europe. I wish to examine a particular element from the translated riddarasögur; the giants. Specifically, I will examine the punishments meted out by the heroes and protagonists of these sagas upon the giants, as well as what sort of crimes and transgressions the giants have committed in order to merit these repercussions. The giants are often maimed or dismembered before being dispatched, sometimes with a beheading. The verbal bout between giant and knight leading up to such dismemberment often frames the physical combat in legalistic terms, focusing on the infringed rights of a third party as a way to justify the knight’s ferocity. The giants also engage in grotesque sexual crime and transgression. They are an Other in the courtly universe, beholding themselves not to the confines of human law and customs of society. This status as an Other, combined with the nature and severity of their crimes, makes their summary and specific destruction not merely justified. To the audience, this specific destruction of body is expected due to legal relegations of outsiders and committers of heinous crimes.

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[D19] Seminar Session: Law and Legal Culture in Medieval Iceland

Hannah Burrows
University of Aberdeen
hannah.burrows@abdn.ac.uk

Poetic Justice: Legal and poetic culture in the Íslendingasögur and in medieval Iceland

I will explore connections between legal and poetic culture in medieval Iceland and in the literary world of the sagas. I have written before (2009) on the six Commonwealth-period lawspeakers who have extant skaldic verse attributed to them, and the potential overlap in skills, status, and training that might account for this correspondence. In this new discussion, however, I will particularly consider the use of poetry in legal contexts. I have previously found (2015) that approximately 13% of scenes set at an assembly (in Iceland) in the pre-1300 Íslendingasögur contain poetry said to have been recited there. This poetry has a variety of functions, including complementing or contradicting the legal action, commentary, and commemoration. Ófeigr in Bandamanna saga (ch. 10) may have been mocking a common practice when, in outwitting eight chieftains in a legal case, he states, Nú vil ek kveða yðr vísu eina, ok hafa þá fleiri at minnum þing þetta ok málalok þessi er hér eru orðin (Magerøy 1981: 32) ‘Now I’ll recite you a verse, so more people will have a reminder of this assembly and the case’s conclusions’. In fact, a similar motivation is found, apparently without irony, in Þorgils saga ok Hafliða (ch. 31): Ok þá er lokit var málum þessum, þá var sjá vísa kveðin (Jón Jóhannesson et al. 1946: 49) ‘When this case was concluded, these verses were recited’. (Poetry related to legal concerns is indeed a prominent features of Þorgils saga, while Hafliði Másson’s hosting of the 1117-18 codification of the law is not mentioned.) On the other hand, poetry may also be used to portray an alternative to the legal outcome, as in Egill Skallagrímsson’s outburst at the Gulaþing, when he uses legal terminology to condemn Eiríkr and Gunnhildr and their refusal to hear his case fairly (ch. 57). This paper will widen the scope to include poetry recited in any legal connection, and will consider the construction of law and justice in selected poetic examples from the Íslendingasögur and Sturlunga saga (especially Þorgils saga), the narrative effects of such poetry, and its possible political implications in early Iceland.

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[E15] Saga Origins and Media: Saga Landscapes

Jesse Byock
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
byock@humnet.ucla.edu

Landscapes of Power, Death, and Sagas in the Mosfell Valley (Mosfellsdalur)

The Mosfell Valley (Mosfellsdalur) lies just north of Reykjavík, where it opens onto the coast at Leiruvogur Bay and runs inland on an east-west axis leading over the Mosfell heaths to Þingvellir. The valley remains today largely rural, and with an eye to archaeological survey one can still see the saga landscape. Mosfellsdalur has been inhabited since the early landnám, and the valley or dale is a setting in several sagas, including Egils saga, Gunnlaugs saga, and Hallfreðar saga. In addition, landnámsmenn and later chieftains and a lawspeaker from the valley are mentioned in Landnámabók, Íslendingabók and other medieval sources. Mosfellsdalur is also the site of extensive and unusually well-preserved archaeological remains dating from the 9th to 13th century. Together the written sources and the archaeology, including analysis of significant human remains, are providing a nuanced picture of an early Icelandic landscape of life, death, power, and mixed religious belief in the Mosfell Valley. My lecture discusses the recent findings of the Mosfell Archaeological Project (MAP). The talk focuses on the interplay between medieval texts and the excavations at Hrísbrú, the farm of the Mosfell chieftains. In forming our analysis, MAP focuses on what we term the “valley system,” that is, the valley set within and including the geographical and human landscapes of the surrounding highlands and lowland coasts. MAP’s research at Hrísbrú has discovered a Viking chieftain’s farmstead with many core features of Viking Age and saga life. The finds include a large longhouse from Iceland’s early settlement period, a pagan cremation grave, a conversion-era stave church, and an early Christian graveyard with pagan features. There are also pagan burial mounds and ship settings. The finds provide a wealth of new evidence about life in Viking Age Iceland, including health, inter-personal violence, and the presence of a mixed pagan and Christian community with mixed ritual practices. On the coast at the mouth of the Mosfell Valley, MAP is a Viking Age port within sight of the great hall of the Mosfell chieftains. This harbor, is frequently mentioned in the sagas, and we have recently located it with oceanographic and coastal analysis. An essential piece in the landscape (and a gem of Viking Archaeology), the Leiruvogur Harbor fueled the wealth of the Mosfell chieftains and connected this medieval community to the wider Viking Age world.

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[A1] Saga Origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origins

Chris Callow
University of Birmingham
c.p.callow@bham.ac.uk

Termini post quem? Revisiting the ‘historical’ evidence in Íslendingasögur for their dating

This paper reconsiders the various pieces of information in Íslendingasögur which potentially provide a terminus post quem for the composition or redaction of each saga or manuscript. It is notable that some recent studies of the dating of the Íslendingasögur have paid little attention to this evidence. Arguably this makes good sense because references to post-1100 people or events in these texts could easily have been added to the text at a later date. This paper considers such references to later events in their context to consider what purpose such inclusions of later, often genealogical, information might serve, either within the saga, the manuscript or, perhaps, as a means of providing a real guide to the likely date of composition for some sagas. Sixty years ago Einar Ólafur Sveinsson made some very cautious and judicious comments on some of these references but it is the contention here that these references should be analysed further, both individually and collectively.

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[F23] Artistry: Literary Composition

Adam J Carl
University of California, Berkeley
adamjcarl@berkeley.edu

From hamr to hugr: Laxdæla saga’s Cross-sectioning Narrative Gaze

Though the saga genre has long been regarded as shallow and surface in the depictions of character profiles, Laxdæla saga takes physical exception to this with a piercing narrative gaze. Although Avicenna popularized the intromission theory of vision in Europe during the 12th century, an extramissive vision theory persisted throughout Eurasia. Laxdæla saga would seem to have an extramissive preference in at least four cases. Surface clothing betrays the identities of Þorgils Hǫlluson’s attack party, while Helgi Harðbeinsson gazes through both cloth and skin to see a prenatal killer in Guðrún Ósvífsdóttir‘s womb. Innards are made outwardly visible in the case of Án hrísmagi, following Án’s psychological encounter with a dream-woman. Taken together, these cross-sectional moments in Laxdæla saga show both proficiency in translating a scientific model into a literary style as well as an anatomical curiosity for the layers of the human body. This cross-sectional gaze, as I will term it, has implications for previous studies that have explored the relationship between clothing, skin, and shapeshifting; bodily layers are extremely porous in the saga world.

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[D1] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Power and Political Culture

Edward Bengt Carlsson Browne
Independent scholar
edwardcarlssonbrowne@gmail.com

en með ólögum eyða — Law and Joint Kingship in Þinga saga

Law in medieval Iceland is commonly presented as a collaborative, community-developed institution in which all elements of society had an influence and which functioned as a stabilising social force. Whilst we may accept that this is an oversimplification, this attitude is well described by the quote from Njála which acts as the title of one of this conference’s themes, með lögum skal land byggja. In a similar vein, a scholion in Adam of Bremen declares that ‘apud illos non est rex, nisi tantum lex.’ The rest of Scandinavia, on the other hand, did have a king, and hence there was no vacancy for law to occupy this role. How then did law function when royal power was pre-eminent? My paper will look at the Þinga saga episode of Morkinskinna. This þáttr in an Old Icelandic konungasaga records a dispute between the joint kings of Norway, the brothers Sigurðr Jórsalafari and Eysteinn Magnússon, which took place at a number of þing meetings during their reign. On multiple occasions, King Sigurðr brings suit against his uncle, Sigurðr Hranason, but on each occasion King Eysteinn has the suit invalidated on the grounds of procedural irregularities and hence frustrates his brother’s attempts to gain legal satisfaction. Each invalidation increases the tension between the brothers and brings them closer and closer to armed conflict, despite the attempts of their retainers to negotiate a peaceful settlement. I will argue that these can be read as attempts to forge an ‘Icelandic’ solution to the conflict, based upon trusted mediators and a negotiated settlement respecting the social status of each party, and that this is the reason why each attempt fails. Joint kingship could succeed only so long as the kings were perceived to be of equal status and hence any settlement which could be read as giving an advantage to one ruler over another could not be accepted. Such kingship functioned as an endless game of one-upmanship and in this context law, far from acting as a socially stabilising institution, was simply another weapon one brother could use in an attempt to show his superiority over another.

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[B32] Artistry: Semiotics and Interpretation

Martina Ceolin
University of Iceland
mac21@hi.is

The Vibrancy of Time in Medieval Iceland

Time has always been a universal human concern, notably one of philosophical and social significance. However, the particular ways in which it has been conceptualized, measured and organized over time have always been influenced by specific cultural and historical circumstances, among others. The multi-faceted and variable nature of time holds especially true for the Middle Ages, which were characterized by a multiplicity of time notions and reckoning strategies that were both diverse and more sophisticated than they are commonly assumed to have been. This paper investigates the complexity of time specific to medieval Icelandic culture and society as it is represented in, thus communicated by, a selection of Old Icelandic texts dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, namely Íslendingabók and two Íslendingasögur, Eyrbyggja saga and Laxdæla saga. The time patterns these texts convey will be explored both singularly and in conjunction with one another, in order to build up an understanding of how time was constructed and conceived of both in the narratives of the texts themselves and as concerns medieval Icelanders’ actual organization and conception of time, notably during the centuries in which the texts were composed. The ideological significance that the representations of time in question may have will also be considered.

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Plenary Lecture on Monday

Carol Clover
University of California Berkeley
clover@berkeley.edu

Proving Facts in Njáls Saga

Modern readers of Njáls saga’s trials cannot but be struck by their lavish attention to procedure at the expense of substantive matters. There are pleadings galore but virtually no considerations of evidence, proof, facts. But if those things are missing in trials proper, they can be found elsewhere in the pre-trial text, in systematic and sometimes quite developed forms—forms that might even satisfy modern lawyers. These “proof segments,” as I call them, tell us a good deal about both legal and narrative expectations at the time Njála took its final shape.

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[B3] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Margaret Clunies Ross
The University of Sydney/The University of Adelaide
margaret.cluniesross@sydney.edu.au

Strategies of poetic communication: Íslendingasögur and fornaldarsögur

This paper examines several important strategies of poetic communication in two of the major sub-genres of the Icelandic saga, the Íslendingasögur and the fornaldarsögur, and discusses the differences and similarities between them. It also asks how significant it was for the composers of saga prosimetrum to develop communicative resources specific to each of the two sub-genres, and how those resources contributed to the overall character of each one. If time allows, a further comparison with the prosimetrum of kings’ sagas (konungasögur) will be sketched.

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[D7] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Jamie Cochrane
Independent scholar
slagrabbit@hotmail.com

Lawyer as Hero (and Villain) in the Íslendinga sögur

At a recent lecture in the University of London, Carole Clover – keynote speaker at this 17th Saga Conference – described court room drama as one of the key story types shared by Icelandic sagas and modern cinema. The law is at the heart of the narrative in the sagas of Icelanders to such an extent, that characters battle with words and legal technicalities as regularly as (and often as a precursor to) battling with weapons. In fact, these legal duels are presented in very much the same terms and using the same narrative techniques as the sagas use to describe physical confrontations; characters are described arriving at the court as if a field, mustering their troops and preparing their tactics. In these confrontations first one side, then the other, can be seen with the upper hand as the tide of the legal battle ebbs and flows, before one side eventually wins.
In this paper, I give a brief historical overview from sagas thought to be among the earliest of the Íslendinga sögur (such as Hœnsa Þóris saga and Víga-Glúms saga), tracing the development of this tradition of court-room drama to later sagas (such as Bandamanna saga). The latter part of the paper focuses on Njáls saga by which time lawyers have become the heroes and villains of the text and the law the weapon that they use. The saga treats the law in entirely heroic terms, outlining from where lawyers have learnt their skills and comparing their legal acumen as if comparing the prowess of champions. At the heart of the text is Njáll himself manipulating the events about himself, attempting to use the law to control the world about him and passing on his gift to his chosen successors as if a prized sword. Njáll ultimately transcends this role as lawyer (i.e., one who knows and uses the law), to become a legislator remaking the law entirely for his own ends. In the final part of the paper, I consider whether it is a final posthumous victory or a defeat for Njáll; that the law he creates (the additional judges to support the fifth court) is the spark that ignites the conflict at the Alþingi after his death.

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[G28] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Richard Cole
University College London
richardcole@alumni.harvard.edu

Mírmanns saga, Islamophobia, and Alternate History Fiction

In the fourteenth-century Icelandic Mírmanns saga, the titular hero, Mírmann, grows up in a version of sixth-century Europe rather different to the one in our history books. The religion of Mírmann’s Europe is not Christianity, but instead a slightly ill-defined sort of heiðni “heathenism”. England, France, Germany, Spain, and quite possibly the rest of Europe all adhere to this imaginary faith. Mírmann summarises the religion, as practiced by his father, thus:

“ … þu taladir vm Maumet at þat gæfi þer heilsu. þa er slikt hofut hegomi. þui at þat vita marger menn at sa madr var j ferd med drottni vorum er Nichulas Athemas h(et). enn sidann drottin let pinaz til lausnar ollu mannkyni ok ste vpp til himna j dyrd sina. þa for þessi Athemas [t]il Fracklandz enn litlo sidar giordi hann sionhuerfinger med fiandans krapti ok kalladiz gud vera ok vilti svo þat vesla folk at þat trudi  hann ok hefir sv villa hinn illa farit svo vida ath naliga er af þui allr heimr gabbadr.“ (Mírmanns saga. Ed. Desmond Slay. Editiones Arnamagnæanæ A, 17. Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Forlag, 1997, p. 23.)

… you talked about Mohammend, that he gave you health. That is such a cardinal vanity, because many people know that there was a man who accompanied Our Lord who was called Nichulas Athemas. And when the Lord allowed himself to be tortured for the redemption of all mankind, and ascended to heaven in His glory, then this Athemas went to France, and a little later he performed great illusions with the power of the devil, and was said to be a God, and so he led this wretched people astray, because they believed in him, and this evil heresy has since circulated so widely that nearly all the world has been deceived.”

The paganism of Mírmanns saga mostly exhibits traits attributable to a medieval Christian understanding of Islam: the chief deity is said to be one Maúmet, i.e. Mohammed. Its prophet is one Nichulas Athemas, a renegade Christian. This is a common medieval motif, originally probably based on the figure of Baḥīrā, which also appears in the Ræða gegn biskupum (c. 1200). The religion in question is also apparently polytheistic, as medieval Christians sometimes considered Islam to be. The pagans speak in the plural of goða várra “our gods”. However, at times an interpretatio nordica of Islam appears to be in effect, such as when the pagans offer a somewhat Scandinavian-sounding blót to their gods. In the timeline of Mírmanns saga, King Clovis I of the Franks (r. 509-511) does not convert to Christianity from paganism (as the historical Clovis did) but instead from Judaism.

In this paper, I propose that one way to understand the artistry of Mírmanns saga is to consider it as an early precursor to the genre of Alternate History Fiction. A crucial aspect of the saga is its imagining of how the world might have looked if certain historical variables had turned out otherwise, for example if the legendary Nichulas Athemas had preached in France instead of the Middle East. Moreover, the saga’s depiction of a Europe conquered by a (sort of) Islam chimes with the modern fantasy of “Eurabia”: a morbid fascination on the part of Islamophobes which is often articulated through the medium of Alternate History Fiction.

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[D35] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Lisa Collinson
University of Aberdeen
l.a.collinson@abdn.ac.uk

Hor and Legr in the Swedish Older Law of Västergötland (Äldre Västgötalagen) and Younger Law of Västergötland (Yngre Västgötalagen)

The thirteenth-century Older Law of Västergötland (Äldre Västgötalagen) and Younger Law of Västergötland (Yngre Västgötalagen), from Sweden, contain references to offences labelled hor and legr (or similar). Normally, these terms are understood to mean ‘adultery’ and ‘fornication’ respectively, but the immediate aim of this paper is to explore how sure we can be that the offences in question were distinctly understood in these ways, at every stage in the development of the specific texts under examination. The deeper purpose of this exploration is to shed new light on the conceptualization and labelling of sexual offences in one region of late thirteenth-century Sweden, in comparison with other regions, at a similar time.

In this paper, I will build on my recent argument that the relevant passages in the Older and Younger Law of Västergötland were borrowed from Wales, via England, in the late thirteenth century. I will explore the level of definition in the Welsh source texts and the Swedish laws, and based on this, I will suggest that it seems to have been both possible and desirable for the creator (or creators) of the laws of Västergötland to label some potentially ambiguous sexual offences relatively quickly after their arrival in Sweden, as either hor or legr. My argument will be that the content of the laws sorted under these headings seems to have been altered to either fit them (in the case of hor) or keep clear of them (in the case of legr), hinting that there might well have been some impulse towards keeping these categories fairly distinct in the law-writing of late thirteenth-century Västergötland. The question of whether or not these categories are likely to have been kept distinct in practice, too, will remain open for discussion at the close of the paper.

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[A18] Saga Origins and Media: Reception and Media

Lee Colwill
University of Iceland
lec5@hi.is

Hann hefir verit lengst í sekð einnhverr manna: The Long Life of Grettir Ásmundarson in Prose and Poetry

In recent years, there has been a shift in saga studies towards an emphasis on later texts, such as ‘post-classical’ Íslendingasögur, fornaldarsögur and riddarasögur. Such scholarship has largely focused on rehabilitating these texts after their dismissal by earlier scholars as products of inferior craftsmanship, as well as on drawing attention to the post-medieval manuscript traditions of these sagas. However, comparatively little work has been undertaken in the field of cross-genre narrative transmission: narratives which are first recorded as a saga and which subsequent authors adapt into variant forms. This paper therefore aims to explore one instance of this form of transmission, namely the many rímur deriving from Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar. In Iceland, the rímur tradition has been especially vigorous, resulting in saga material being promulgated across the centuries in new and vibrant forms. Although rímur-poets seem to have drawn the most inspiration from riddarasögur and other texts originating outside Iceland, a number do rework Íslendingasögur. Of these, Grettis saga was a particular favourite, resulting in no fewer than five rímur retellings of various sections of the saga: the oldest, anonymous, from the 15th-century Kollsbók; the youngest composed in 1912 by Sigfús Sigfússon. These poets take very different approaches to the story of Grettir, expanding upon and omitting material as it suits their interests; for example, the 15th-century rímur end at a high point in Grettir’s career, covering only approximately a quarter of the material in the saga. Meanwhile, the youngest two sets of rímur, Ríma um síðasta fundur Grettis Ásmundssonar og móður hans, Ásdísar á Bjargi and Gláms-rímur, both centre their action around their titular episodes, in this respect resembling ballads more than sagas in their approach to narrative.

Through close examination of the ways in which rímur-poets develop or ignore the themes and events of Grettis saga, this paper aims to shed light on the continuous process of reception and interaction with Íslendingasögur over the centuries.

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[E11] Saga Origins and Media: Saga Landscapes

Colin Gioia Connors
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Cgconnors@wisc.edu

The Social Life of Place-Names in the Austfirðinga sögur

The relationship between place and meaning is vital to the narration of many of the Íslendingasögur. Place-names anchor narratives to land, and narratives transform places into sites of collective memory. Communities are made of individual voices that shape old memories into new narratives with every telling. Each telling adapts various versions of the past to serve new purposes in the present. With every performance of narrative memory, local communities imbue their landscape with meaning. This meaning can define a shared history and shape the formation of a collective identity, but it can also define social differences. Place-names define who is welcome where. Narratives about place-names are thus a tool to build identity, express authority, and articulate the right to the land itself. In this paper I examine examples from the Austfirðinga sögur that demonstrate both how saga texts express property boundaries and rights of ownership and how they enforce social relationships in narratives tied to place-names. The Austfirðinga sögur contain competing narratives about single events involving the same characters in the same landscape. By comparing the variations between sagas and what is significant about those variations, I explore how individual sagas might have served the landed interests of different voices in the Middle Ages. I argue that the act of saga writing served these interests by giving preeminence to textual narratives of the past that foreground characters and events that bind lands to families.

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[D31] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Margaret Cormack
College of Charleston/University of Iceland
cormackm@cofc.edu

At fremja heiðni: Ecclesiastical and Legal Culture in Medieval Iceland and Norway

Throughout Europe north of the alps, the recording of law in manuscripts was a result of the adoption of Christianity, and with it, written literacy. The Church must have had a strong influence on the way legal culture was recorded, and on its own self-definition. The Christian Laws sections of both Grágás (initially composed 1122-33) and the earliest Norwegian codes define the difference(s) between Christianity and paganism, and prohibit certain activities that are considered pagan and/or magical. The Icelandic code Jónsbók, adopted in 1281, contains a passage derived from Norwegian codes with very different context and definitions from those found in Grágás, and identifies certain practices which modern scholars might call ‘magical’ as being ‘pagan’. My attention was first brought to this passage by a mis-translation (the word ‘fremja’ should be translated as ‘practice’ rather than ‘promote’ heathendom — an error found in most English translations of Norwegian law-codes and Jónsbók). Aside from the implication that heathendom was being promoted in late thirteenth-century Iceland, a position that I doubt modern historians would accept, this passage is significant for the religious, legal, and literary cultures of Iceland and Norway in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; it also provides evidence for the overlapping definitions of ‘paganism’ and ‘magic’, an issue relevant to another session of this conference. In particular, the details found in Jónsbók and the Norwegian law codes correspond much better to the accounts of magic and paganism found in the sagas than do the provisions of Grágás, though the latter are more consistent with later Icelandic folk beliefs and practices. In my paper I will compare the likely representatives and creators of legal culture in Norway, where early kings were promoters of ecclesiastical, as well as secular, law, and Iceland, where churchmen from powerful families probably had a freer hand. I will consider the extent to which legal specialists and/or ecclesiastics may have influenced both the written laws and, directly or indirectly, the Icelandic sagas’ representations of ‘pagan’ practices.

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[G21] Ideas and Worldview: Other Genres

Jonathan Fernando Correa
Pennsylvania State University
jfc30@psu.edu

A Monstrous Hero?

It is to be expected for the heroes of the stories produced by a community centered around a warrior culture to prove themselves worthy by accomplishing feats of might. As a result, strength is valued highly and many of the sagas follow the deeds of well-renowned warriors. However, in the saga universe strength does not only belong to heroes; it is also possessed by many characters that pose a menace to the hero and his community. Among these we find the berserkir. The berserkir are recurring characters in the saga universe who are stronger than the average man. However, these strong warriors are not motivated by loyalty to a lord or a chieftain, but rather by their own impulses, commonly lascivious in nature. The fact that these battle-frenzied warriors appear so often throughout saga literature suggests that they had a role not only within the story, but also as an image of the Other created by the saga writers. Following a psychoanalytical reading of some of the sagas, I believe the berserkir functions as a cultural projection representing something beyond itself. By studying the berserkir as a monstrous body we might improve our understanding of the original audience for whom these texts were intended. Did they perhaps serve as cautionary tales warning about the importance of self-control? Were they the product of real problems or anxieties that medieval Icelanders faced? This paper aims to discuss the figure of the berserkir by looking at their representation in Eyrbyggja saga and Egils saga Skallagrímssonar. I want to discuss the berserkir because they serve as a perfect example of how a warrior becomes a monster, an Other that threatens the safety of a community. And yet, even though they are usually represented as external agents, they are a product of the society that fears them. Thus I want to discuss what these recurring characters tell us about the communities that kept bringing them back in their narratives.

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[E35] Saga Origins and Media: Reception and Media

Christopher Crocker
Independent researcher
cwecrocker@gmail.com

Come to New-Vínland! Historical and cultural discourses in modern Newfoundland and Labrador

The matter of Vínland and notions relating to a medieval Norse presence in the area now referred to as North America have fascinated scholars and the public for many centuries in many different places. Though many important historical questions are yet to be resolved definitively and still inspire spirited debate, the early Norse presence in what is now North America – related, of course, in the medieval sagas and referred to in a few other early Norse and continental sources – was confirmed by the important archeological work first conducted by Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad at L’Anse aux Meadows in the area now known as Newfoundland during the early 1960s. Historical and cultural discourses concerning the notion of an early Norse presence in Newfoundland, however, long predate the Ingstad’s important work, relying mostly upon the medieval saga narratives and figuring, for example, at the earliest stages of modern Newfoundland and Labrador historiographical traditions during the mid- to late-eighteenth century and exercising a profound cultural influence in both pre- and post-confederation Newfoundland and Labrador.

In this paper, I will explore certain aspects of modern (18thc.–present) historical and cultural discourses on the matter of Vínland and the medieval Norse presence in what is now Newfoundland and Labrador including certain of its political, economic, cultural, and social dimensions in colonial, post-colonial and, in light of late-20th and early 21st-century Indigenous activism in Newfoundland and Labrador, perhaps even de-colonial contexts.

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[B19] Seminar Session: Emotions in the Íslendingasǫgur

Robert Edward Cutrer
University of Sydney
robert.cutrer@sydney.edu.au

Undvargr ok vingameiðr: Masculine Grieving in Egils saga

Skaldic poetry, a masculine sphere of bullying and boasting, weapons, women, and wealth, plays a prominent role within Egils saga, but there is a subtler side to its verse. A close examination of select skaldic poems by Skalla-Grímr and Egill will reveal poignant, emotional expressions as both characters utilize skaldic poetry as an unorthodox outlet for their grief. Looking first at other examples of lamentation helps situate masculine expressions of grief before turning attention to Skalla-Grímr and Egill’s skaldic verses relating to Þórólfr. Their lamentations at his departure and death are veiled within the construct of typical skaldic verse. Within the poems, the complexity and diversity of kenning construction allows for multiple levels of interpretation. What typifies a successful praise poem on a deeper level belies the suffering the poets experienced. Skalla-Grímr and Egill masterfully craft their poems to be literal pieces about objects such as an axe or a ring, but the complex imagery of the kenning revolves around deeper images of grief, loss, and suffering. In multivalent poems, Skalla-Grímr and Egill give the trappings and appearance of discussing a traditional theme while using the verse as a therapeutic outpouring of their honest emotion. In addition to the kennings, the flexibility of word order also allows for dramatic manipulation of how images enter the mind. One of the key aspects of skaldic poetry is unpacking the verse to make sense of the syntax. This fluidity, however, creates associations between words based on order for which regular syntax does not permit. This temporal connection enables the skaldic poem to imply one idea before it resolves and conveys a different idea altogether. Egill and Skalla-Grímr both use this to great effect in their poems of grief. This close reading of Skalla-Grímr and Egill’s verses shows their mastery of skaldic poetry by the variety of functions for which they utilize it. The analysis also gives a deeper insight into the characters themselves-who express deep, profound grief and guilt within this masculine sphere.

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[D10] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Roderick Dale
University of Nottingham
roderick.dale@nottingham.ac.uk

Death and the Berserkr: The social role of legal duels in the Íslendingasögur

Berserkir in Old Norse literature are often considered to be outlaw figures whose sole role is to challenge people and then die at the hands of the hero. However, this analysis does not fit all appearances of characters identified as berserkir, and wider analysis suggests that a number of characters in the Íslendingasögur may have been identified as berserkir by the medieval audience despite never being given that epithet (Dale, 2014). This paper focuses on berserkir in the holmganga narrative in the Íslendingasögur, to discuss medieval perceptions of berserkir, and considers how contemporary understanding of the law, alongside comments by the saga’s narrator regarding the state of the law at the time of the action, may have informed the medieval audience’s relationship to the events depicted. It discusses who, in these narratives might be berserkir, what their actual legal status was at the time of the duel, and what being a berserkr really meant to the medieval audience. It places the duelling episodes into context and argues that most duelling episodes may be interpreted as a coming-of-age ceremony, but not the initiation ritual that Danielli (1945), Blaney (1982) and others have argued for. It considers how the duel may have had legal force related to that coming-of-age ceremony that would have been recognisable to the medieval audience given the requirement for a man to be holmfœrr before he could inherit, according to the laws of Magnús Hákonarson lagabætir (Norges gamle love, II, 90). Finally, the discussion will also consider the ramifications of these elements for interpreting the place of holmganga in the Íslendingasögur, and what that means for understanding berserkir.

Select bibliography:

  • Norges Gamle Love indtil 1387, ed. by R. Keyser and P. A. Munch, 5 vols (Christiania: Grondahl, 1846-1895)
  • Blaney, Benjamin, ‘The Berserk Suitor: The Literary Application of a Stereotyped Theme’, Scandinavian Studies, 54 (1982), 279-94.
  • Dale, Roderick, Berserkir: A re-examination of the phenomenon in literature and life. (Unpublished PhD thesis: Nottingham, 2014)
  • Danielli, Mary, ‘Initiation Ceremonial from Norse Literature’, Folklore, 56.2 (June 1945), 229-245.

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[D2] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Power and Political Culture

Barbora Davídková
University of Iceland and University of Oslo
barbora.davidek@gmail.com

New and Danish: Álfífa’s laws and the king’s power

Laws are an important part of how political communities are defined. Old Norse konungasögur present many examples of how laws are linked to a king’s power; they appear as a central theme at the beginning of kings’ rules, and usually the rulers’ attitude to ancient laws establishes the appreciation they will receive, from the narrator and from the people. Consequently, this gives the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the interplay between laws, power, and legitimacy. In the Separate saga of Saint Óláfr, the death of Óláfr Haraldsson brings Danish overrule to Norway, which is embodied by Sveinn Knútsson, his mother Álfífa, and the laws they impose. These laws are said to be new, and harsher than the Danish model they are based on, and the narrator then goes on describing the power they gave to the new king, especially regarding his possibilities to gain wealth at his subjects’ expenses. This information is closely followed by a mention of people blaming Álfífa for all the unwanted changes, and their regrets of having lost Óláfr Haraldsson. Based on this passage, I will start by exploring which negative connotations are linked to each of the two adjectives describing the new laws; I will discuss their novelty in the context of customary law, and their ‘Danishness’ in the context of the attitude the saga displays towards Norway’s neighbours and their power. I will then see how these two themes intertwine and how they underline aspects of the wider discourse on the political culture the saga builds and the place the laws have in it. Following this, I will argue that the description of these laws and of the people’s reaction to them also produce a subtext on the arrival of a new political culture, the more centralised monarchy. It will be furthermore discussed how this new centralised power is symbolised by a foreign female ruler, explicitly compared to the Norwegian Óláfr Haraldsson, who respected the ‘old laws’. This in turn will show the importance that the establishment of laws and a respect for the ancient traditions had in the construction and legitimation of a ruler’s power.

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[D27] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Cyril de Pins
cdepins@gmail.com

Law and sound: the question of mál in The First Grammatical Treatise

In the beginning of the First Grammatical Treatise (Hreinn Benediktsson 1972, 206-207), the First Grammarian states that „men record in books either the (historical) lore (relating to events) that have come to pass in that country, or any other (lore) that seems memorable (…), or men commit their laws to writing, each nation in its own tongue.“ We know that the Icelandic Law had been committed to writing in the winter 1117-1118, and the summer 1118, the Law had been recited no by the lögsögumaðr, but by clerics, from the book in which the Law had been written down.

The First Grammatical Treatise was written at least 30 years (probably rather 60 years) later. It contains many allusions to the written law and the hypothetical problems that may arise from the bad reading of the text put down into writing. This paper wishes to analyse the importance of the right phonetic interpretation of written words for legal reasons, as it is expressed in the First Grammatical Treatise. It will focus on the word mál which can mean according to the context either language or discourse or meaning, but also a case. In a few passages of the treatise, it seems that the change of discourse or meaning can change the case to a great extent.

We would like therefore to suggest that one of the main reasons that led to the writing of the First Grammatical Treatisewas not linguistic per se, but legal, as the linguistic ambiguities might be used to twist the law, therefore create injustice.

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[E31] Saga Origins and Media: Reception and Media

Laurent Di Filippo
Ernestine studio Universität Basel Université de Lorraine
laurent@di-filippo.fr

Dungeons and Dragons: A Cultural Phenomenon contributing to the Reception of Old Norse Tales

Playing a dwarf, an elf, a berserker barbarian, or fighting wargs, frost giants and trolls, are among the many situations where direct or indirect references to Old Norse literature may be expressed during a game session of Dungeons and Dragons. This game is considered as one of the very first tabletop role playing games (Fine, 1983; Ewalt, 2013). This paper offers to analyse how references to Old Norse tales (sagas and Eddas) appear in productions of the cultural industries and echoes research about mythical and religious elements in contemporary games (Bainbridge, 2013). In order to show the relevance of Dungeons and Dragons as a case study to understand contemporary reception of Old Norse traditions, I will develop a cultural approach using anthropology and communication sciences (Di Filippo, 2016). In the first part, I will show how Dungeons and Dragons borrows elements from Old Norse literature among other cultural traditions. Such elements can be more or less explicit references, whether if they derive from intermediary works such as fantasy literature written by J. R. R. Tolkien (Simek, 2005), Robert E. Howard and other writers, or if they try to offer a mise en scene of medieval Scandinavia, within accessories such as Legends and Lore and Historical references — Vikings. This first section will allow to understand how the meaning and the form of traditional elements have evolved in a process that the philosopher Hans Blumenberg (1979) has called “Work on myth” (see also Di Filippo, 2016). In the second part, I will address the question of the cultural impact and influences that Dungeons and dragons has had until nowadays and how it has contributed to the spreading of Old Norse references. The famous table top role playing game indeed has a huge influence on nowadays culture: in literature, movies, TV shows, and several kinds of games : videogames, card games or other type of tabletop games (Barton, 2008). D&D can therefore be considered as a cultural crossroad regarding Old Norse reception. Moreover, roleplayers participate in a “community of practices”, which interrogates the social dimension of this cultural phenomenon. Through those different parts, this paper offers a first insight into the multi-dimensional aspect of the reception of Old Norse traditions within roleplaying games as a cultural phenomenon.

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[F30] Saga Origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Stefan Andreas Drechsler
University of Aberdeen
s.drechsler@abdn.ac.uk

The Þingfararbálkr in illuminated Icelandic Jónsbók manuscripts

On the basis of a number of historiated initials found in the Þingfararbálkur of the widely copied medieval Icelandic law code Jónsbók, this paper proposes to give a new impulse to current art historical and philological approaches to Old Norse-Icelandic manuscript research. In this paper, the iconographic variety of the Þingfararbálkr will be discussed in relation to the suggested places and areas of production. In the spirit of the New Philology, and with the help of a critical approach to the Social Network Theory as proposed by Latour (2005), the work of the various illuminators will be presented in the same focus as that of the scribes and the used textual redactions of Jónsbók. It will be shown that the iconographic models for these initials are more subject to change than the text itself, while still being dependent on the relation of the individual texts to other texts from the same workshops and areas. Following the assumption that artistic influences between manuscripts might not only have operated directly from one manuscript to another, but also indirectly, it will be shown that the various illuminators of these law manuscripts might have shared their motifs and ideas independently from the writers and even seemed to possess an innovative spirit. This independence, however, is affected by the overall cultural identity of the illuminator through the structural patterns of shared images and textual transmissions.

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[E2] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Matthew James Driscoll
University of Copenhagen
mjd@hum.ku.dk

Magnús Jónsson and the Íslendingasögur

Magnús Jónsson í Tjaldanesi (1835-1922) was among the very last in a long line of „popular scribes“, ordinary people with little or no formal education who spent the long winter months carefully copying out texts. Magnús’s life work was his collection „Fornmannasögur Norðurlanda“: twenty volumes, each of exactly 800 pages, containing the texts of 162 individual sagas. Magnús himself sold a full set to Landsbókasafn in 1909, but copies of many of the volumes survive separately, often more than one. The collection contains, in essence, everything that was in circulation in late 19th-century Iceland. And yet, there is not a single Íslendingasaga. This is, to say the least, odd, and indeed it appears that Magnús collected the Íslendingasögur separately, as there is another manuscript preserved in his hand, Lbs 1511 4to, which was sold to Landsbókasafn at the same time and bears the title “Íslendíngasögur, þriðja bindi”. It is the same size as the “Fornmannasögur” volumes and contains texts of nine sagas, chiefly, but not exclusively, younger, „spurious“ Íslendingasögur such as Sagan af Skáld-Helga and Sagan af Hellismönnum, the latter written by Gísli Konráðsson in 1830. No other volumes have survived but it seems reasonable to assume another two; if they contained a similar number of texts the total for the three volumes would have been around 30. My paper will examine the texts included by Magnús in the surviving volume and his treatment of them, and speculate on the contents of the missing volumes, and more generally on the status of the Íslendingasögur in the last phase of manuscript transmission in Iceland.

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[F12] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Einar Gunnar Pétursson
Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum
egp@hi.is

Miðaldatextar í ritum Jóns Guðmundssonar lærða

Í fyrirlestrinum verður reynt að gera grein fyrir ella ókunnum miðaldatextum og -gerðum í ritum Jóns Guðmundssonar lærða. Ekki verður fjallað um erlent efni í ritum Jóns, m. a. bæn á lágþýsku, latneskar klausur og bæn á latínu. Jón nefndi fyrstur Sæmundar-Eddu í Grænlands annálum 1623 og endurtekur það í Samantektum um skilning á Eddu 1641. Litlu yngri eru skýringar Jóns á Brynhildarljóðum í Völsunga sögu, Ristingar, en þar og víðar eru tilvitnanir í Eddukvæði en ekki úr Konungsbók. Jón var lykilmaður í Eddufræðum á 17. öld. Tíðfordríf tíndi hann saman 1644. Í Samantektum er texti Duggals leiðslu, sem Jón lærði notaði, heill, nú óheill, og vitnað er í ókunnan texta Furseuss leiðslu. Tíðfordríf er fjölbreyttara að efni en Samantektir. Vitnað er í Hólmverja sögu, öðru nafni Harðar sögu. Hugsanlega er þar vísað í styttri, glataða gerð sögunnar. Þrjár frásagnir eru í Tíðfordrífi: Úr gamalli annálsbók öðru nafni Reimleiki á Vatnshorni. Atburðir tveir: Atburður gamall og Annar atburður verða hér taldar vera uppskriftir Jóns lærða af miðaldatextum, en þeir eru prentaðir í þjóðsögum Jóns Árnasonar, seinni útgáfan, I. 250, I. 510–511. Þrjár síðastnefndu frásagnir greina frá atburðum á Sturlungaöld. Í flokki gamalla texta verður hér einnig talin Marbendils sagan, prentuð hjá Jóni Árnasyni I. 126–127. Þetta eru frumsamdar íslenskar fornbókmenntir í Tíðfordrífi. Óljóst hvort álfasagan af Bergþóri bóndasyn og Bergljótu vænu er úr bók.Um þýddar sögur er helst: Basilius saga, lengri texti en annars staðar. *Sjösofenda saga annars ókunn. Helgir þrír kóngar, sagan er í Reykjahólabók, textinn sjálfstæður. *Clariss rímur keisarasonar ella ókunnar. Vitnað er í kvæðið Reinke der Fuchs á lágþýsku. Í Tíðfordrífi er um marga steina úr gamalli þýðingu og er fyllri texti en annars staðar hefur áður verið kunnur.

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[A5] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Elín Bára Magnúsdóttir
University of Bergen
elinbmagnusdottir@gmail.com

Forfatterforskning og Grettis saga: Motstridende resultater eller hva?

Sturla Þórðarson (1214–1284) har lenge vært ansett som forfatteren av Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar, eller i hvert fall den første versjonen av sagaen (jf. Sigurður Nordal 1938 op.cit.). Bakgrunnen for tesen er at det i sagaen henvises til Sturla og at han her fremstår som forfatterens kilde. Nylige forfatterstudier av Eyrbyggja saga og Þorskfirðinga saga støtter Nordals tese (jf. Elín Bára Magnúsdóttir 2015a og 2015b: 87–127). Disse studiene viser at det er stor grad av sammenfall av språk og stil i disse sagaene og Grettla, og det inkluderer stilistiske likheter med Sturlas litterære verker, Íslendinga saga og Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar. Disse resultatene gir derfor grunn til å forske mer på Grettla med henblikk på Sturlas eventuelle forfatterskap av sagaen.

Forfatterforskning på Grettis saga kan imidlertid se problematisk ut på grunn av overleveringen av sagaen. Den er bevart i fire pergamenthåndskrifter fra sent på 1400-tallet til ca. 1500 (jf. Guðni Jónsson 1936: lxxv–lxxix). Hvis Sturla har skrevet sagaen er det merkelig at ingenting er overlevert av den før ca. to hundreår etter hans død. Det dreier seg derfor om lang tid fra tidspunktet sagaen antas å ha blitt skrevet på og til det eldste overleverte håndskriftet, men med utgangspunkt i attribusjonen til Sturla må vi gå ut i fra at sagaen i hvert fall er skrevet sent på 1200-tallet.

En studie av såkalte sérorð i Grettis saga kan tyde påat teksten er blitt endret siden sagaen ble opprinnelig skrevet (jf. Örnólfur Thorsson 1994: 919–927; se også 1993).I dette tilfellet er særord ord som kun forekommer i én av islendingesagaene. Denne studien viser at  Grettla har flest særord blant sine søstre, ca. 600 ord. En sammenligning av særord i Grettla og Sturlunga saga viser at kun 11% av dem forekommer i Sturlunga saga, og det betyr at få av disse ordene forekommer i Sturlas Íslendinga saga (jf. Örnólfur Thorsson 1994: 926-27). Målet med foredraget er å sammenligne særord i Grettla med Sturlas kjente verker. Et interessant spørsmål er om resultatene støtter de ovennevnte forfatterstudiene av  Eyrbyggja og Þorskfirðinga saga eller viser motstridende resultater som man eventuelt kunne ha forventet.

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[C22] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Caitlin Ellis
University of Cambridge
cme38@cam.ac.uk

Degrees of Separation: Icelandic perceptions of other Scandinavian settlements in the North Atlantic

Scholars have long recognised the westwards migration from Scandinavia as part of the same ‘Viking Age’ phenomenon. But how conscious were medieval Icelanders of a shared heritage with the areas settled as a result? My paper will explore the perspective of the Íslendingasögur on the ‘Norseness’ of Iceland’s cousin colonies in the North Atlantic. I will also consider how other kinds of evidence support, refute or complicate the saga testimonies. The most famous appearance of the Hiberno-Scandinavian town of Dublin in the sagas is the Battle of Clontarf episode in Njáls saga and Þorsteins saga Síðu-Hallsonar. Incidental references are also worth considering, however, and are more revealing of mundane, interpersonal relations, including economic dealings, than the dramatic events of 1014. Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar describes sailing to Dublin as ferð frægst (‘the most renowned journey’). Interestingly, such comments were recorded when direct contact with Ireland had diminished quite significantly; Dublin’s takeover during the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland must have hastened its separation from the Scandinavian world. In contrast, ties to the earldom of Orkney remained fairly strong: we know from Sturlunga saga, for example, that the family at Oddi had Orcadian connections. This may have contributed to the Icelandic preservation of skaldic verse from Orkney, unlike that from Dublin: Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu portrays Dublin’s king as unsure of how to reward correctly the first skald who has honoured him with a poem. Matthew Townend observes that since no Icelanders claimed descent from the York–Dublin dynasty, they were ‘dropped from the Icelandic world-view’. Compared to other foreigners they encountered, Orcadians are not depicted in the Íslendingasögur as so different from Icelanders, remaining part of the Norway–Iceland axis. People from the Hebrides had more mixed cultural affiliations, and are often presented in the sagas as sorcerers and as socially disruptive. This may seem surprising given that many Icelandic ancestor figures from the settlement period are connected with the Hebrides; the passage of time and decrease in tangible connections with the area must have contributed to the othering of the Hebrideans.

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[F2] Artistry: New Theoretical Approaches and Perspectives

Stefka G. Eriksen
Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research
stefka.eriksen@niku.no

Representations of the Self in Medieval Scandinavia: a case-study of Njáls saga

In this paper I will address the main topic of the conference – Íslendingasögur – by presenting a study of the representation of the self in various versions of Njáls saga. The saga is seen as narrative about physical, cognitive, and religious transformative processes of the self and is a main text of investigation in the research project “The Self in Social Spaces: Representations and Contextualizations in Textual and Material Culture of Medieval Scandinavia”. The self, in the project and in the paper, is defined, based on cognitive theory, as the result of a continuous cognitive process of self-identification, which is simultaneously embodied in the individual’s physicality, embedded in the individual’s geo-natural surroundings, and distributed within the individual’s socio-cultural context. The self will be studied on four levels, which will be seen in connection to each other: (1) the self of the literary character will be analyzed by tracing the motif of self-reflection and self-awareness in the various versions; (2) the self of the narrator, seen as a literary filter through which the scribe expresses his own sense of self and freedom of agency; (3) the self of the manuscript as a cultural artefact, which will be discussed by charting the various texts the manuscript contains; and (4) the self of the creative agents behind the various versions of the text will be reconstructed as much as the material allows, by tracing whether they are responsible for other texts in other manuscripts or whether they play other social roles in the socio-cultural context. The four-stage analysis will be conducted on two or three versions of Njáls saga. By tracing the differences in representations of the self in various versions of Njáls saga, I will address the question of how the self is related to language, the cultural context, and the historical development of political structures in medieval Scandinavia. These are not chosen yet, as work on my project has not progressed that far. I am presently working on the conceptualization of the self in other Old Norse texts. I wish therefore to keep my options with regard to manuscripts open.

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[F6] Artistry: New Theoretical Approaches and Perspectives

Harriet Jean Evans
University of York
harriet.jean.evans@gmail.com

Reading animal-human relations: homosocial bonds between Sámr and Gunnarr

Óláfr pái’s gift to Gunnarr of an Irish dog in chapter 70 of Brennu-Njáls saga has been discussed in the context of honour exchange and gift-giving (Rohrbach, 2009; Sayers, 1997) or sentimental attachment (Miller, 2014). However, Rohrbach acknowledges Sámr’s apparent attribution of characteristics vital in a loyal human companion and the presentation of dogs in the sagas as the human companion par excellence (Rohrbach, 2009, pp. 101, 268-269). This paper builds on this attribution by considering the relationship between Gunnarr and Sámr in terms of homosocial networks. Rather than simply perceived as a gift between one man and another, or a representation of the ideal animal companion, this paper will approach the introduction of Sámr as laying the foundation for a relationship between Gunnarr and Sámr characterised by features of human homosocial relationships in the Íslendinga sǫgur. This paper will discuss the figure of Sámr and his relationship with Gunnarr, in the context of other close animal-human relationships in the Íslendinga sǫgur. In particular, the paper will highlight the role of mutual communication and understanding between animals and humans in these relationships, and the support and development of bonds that are depicted in a way similar to the human homosocial networks of relations between men. This paper will explore the term fóstri, used by Gunnarr to describe Sámr at the moment of his death, as more than an expression of sentiment. It will be argued that the relationship between Gunnarr and Sámr not only shows features shared by other animal-human relationships portrayed in the Íslendinga sǫgur, but also relationships depicted between so-called sworn-brothers. The use of fóstri in this case therefore, may be indicative of such a relationship.

  • Miller, W., 2014. “Why is your axe bloody?” A reading of Njáls saga. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Rohrbach, L., 2009. Der tierische Blick: Mensch-Tier-Relationen in der Sagaliteratur. Francke Verlag, Tübingen.
  • Sayers, W., 1997. Gunnarr, his Irish Wolfhound Sámr, and the Passing of the Old Heroic Order in Njáls saga. Arkiv för nordisk filologi 112, 43–66.

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[B19] Seminar Session: Emotions in the Íslendingasǫgur

Gareth Lloyd Evans
University of Oxford
gareth.evans@ell.ox.ac.uk

Mixed Feelings: Interpreting Ambiguous Emotions in Saga Narrative

This paper will consider the representation of emotion through bodily signs in Íslendingasaga narrative. The characteristically objective, externally focalized narrative style of saga prose is often commented upon and, for the most part, this style means that although saga narrative may be laconic there is little room for misinterpretation. This is not to say that ambiguity is not possible – nor indeed common – in the Íslendingasǫgur, however. Textual ambiguities of various types have been identified and, moreover, have been considered central to a poetics of the Íslendingasǫgur (Ármann Jakobsson 2004; Torfi Tulinius 2001). But when it comes to the representation of emotion through somatic indices, ambiguities in meaning or difficulties in interpretation are rarely – if ever – recognised. Discussions of emotion in sagas tend to assume that we are able to read emotion easily from the somatic indicators (such as facial reddening or tears) that would suggest that an emotion event is taking place, that we are able to infer unproblematically – using common sense, our own experiences of emotions, or historical context – motive and emotion (see especially Miller 1993, 2014). But to infer emotion in this way is to ignore the purposeful – literary – ambiguity that is created through the representation of somatic signifiers in saga narrative. In this presentation, I will consider the literary and aesthetic effects produced by the characteristic reticence of saga prose in depicting emotion. By examining a range of Íslendingasaga episodes in which emotion is suggested through a somatic semiotics, I will demonstrate that it is often unclear how we should read a given bodily signifier. Bodily signifiers of emotion that are either illegible or polysemous need not be seen as problems to be solved; instead, I will argue, they may be seen as an inherent and functional feature of the artistry of the sagas.

  • Ármann Jakobsson, ‘Some Types of Ambiguities in the Sagas of Icelanders’, Arkiv för Nordisk Filologi 119 (2004), 37-54.
  • Torfi H. Tulinius, ‘Towards a Poetics of the Sagas of Icelanders: The Examples of Hallfreðar saga, Egils saga, and Grettis saga’, in Annegret Heitmann (ed.), Arbeiten zur Skandinavistik 14: Arbeitstagung der deutschsprachigen Skandinavistik, 1.-5.9.1999 in München (New York, 2001), 45-59.
  • Miller, William Ian, ‘Emotions, Honor, and the Affective Life of the Heroic’, in Humiliation: And Other Essays on Honor, Social Discomfort, and Violence (Ithaca and London, 1993), 93-130.
  • Miller, William Ian, Why is Your Axe Bloody? A Reading of Njáls saga (Oxford, 2014).

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[D11] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Oren Falk
Cornell University
of24@cornell.edu

Hólmganga í aptrgǫngu: the afterlife of duelling in the Íslendingasögur and beyond

The Icelandic hólmganga, a traditional mode of formal duelling, is supposed to have died out in the early eleventh century; yet echoes of the hólmganga resurface centuries later, right down to the present. This paper seeks to flesh out the medieval afterlife of this institution. After defining what it is, precisely, that we might look for, the paper uncovers evidence for the endurance of the hólmganga into the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and concludes by considering the changing meanings it acquired over the centuries.

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[A35] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Patrick Aaron Farrugia
University of Bergen
paf3@hi.is

A Study in Scribal Identification: A Comparative Philological Analysis of Selected Sections of Holm. Perg. 8vo nr. 10 IX, AM 573 4to, and Reynistaðarbók AM 764 4to

In previous scholarship it has been suggested that Holm. Perg. 8vo nr. 10 IX, AM 573 4to, and Reynistaðarbók AM 764 4to share a common scribal hand. The primary research goal of this study was to either vindicate or challenge the notion of a common scribe using a comparative analysis of paleographic, orthographic, and phonological features. At the behest of the increasing demand for reproducible results in philology, a statistics-based analysis of various features is employed. I will discuss issues of the amount of paleographic and orthographic changes and variation that we could conceivably see over the course of a scribe’s career, as well as address some of the methodological and epistemological concerns regarding the use and interpretation of philological data within the context of a field that is becoming increasingly digitalized. With the aid of statistics tables containing percentage distributions of each orthographic / phonological and paleographic feature, I will argue that it is indeed a single scribe responsible for Holm. Perg. 8vo nr. 10 IX, a fragment of Laxdæla saga, the redaction of Trójumanna saga found in AM 573 4to, and section G of AM 764 4to. There are trends and congruencies in the philological data to support this conclusion, each of which will be discussed individually. However, this assertion has challenging implications, as it suggests that the alleged scribe copied texts of a wide variety, namely Íslendingasögur, religious didactic material, as well as a Classical text adapted into a saga. Additionally, there are what appear to be philological anomalies in the data, such as a consistent representation of word-medial voiced velar fricatives as ‘gh’, relative of lack of u-epenthesis before -r ending, and lack of evidence for the diphthongization of long a after v (‘svá-svo’ change). The possibility that the scribe perhaps spoke a localized dialect, which perhaps exhibited lingering influence from Norwegian, will be explored.

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[A10] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Alison Finley
uble010@mail.bbk.ac.uk

Jómsvíkinga saga and Jómsvíkinga drápa

The 45 stanzas or part-stanzas of Jómsvíkinga drápa, attributed to the twelfth-century Bishop of Orkney Bjarni Kolbeinsson, is presented as a sǫgukvæði or narrative poem, giving a version of the history of the Jómsvíkingar that closely mirrors accounts in the various redactions of Jómsvíkinga saga. Despite a high degree of narrative detail, its style is allusive, clearly implying that the audience was familiar with the characters and their story; stanza 8, for instance, announcing Vagn Ákason as pre-eminent among the warrior band, refers to him not by his first name but as syni Áka. Nevertheless, it is not possible to identify an extant text of the saga as its source, or even to rule out that the drápa may have preceded, and acted as a source for, surviving versions of the saga. This paper maps the narrative of the poem onto the saga in order to identify the themes that must have dominated the version of the saga known to the poet, bringing out differences in emphasis with the extant saga versions: for instance, the drápa lacks the malevolent intentions of Sveinn tjúguskegg in sending the Jómsvíkingar to their fate, and the famous ‘beheading scene’ at the close of the saga is heavily compressed. The framing of the narrative by the poet’s references to his own unhappy experiences in love will not be considered in detail, but the paper will consider the irony of juxtaposing this material with the striking absence of emphasis on romantic love in the saga.

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[G19] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Michael George Frost
University of Aberdeen
mgfrost5@aol.com

Two Bishops and a Witch: The 1343 Burning at Kirkjubær

In 1343 a nun of Kirkjubær by the name of Katrín was burnt at the stake for witchcraft, the earliest recorded witch-burning in Iceland by many years and also one of the earliest in Scandinavia as a whole. The ideological and cultural context surrounding Katrín’s execution has been explored by Stephen Mitchell in his recent study of witchcraft in Scandinavia in the Middle Ages, but there is much about these remarkable events that remains unclear. For a start not only was the method of execution a novel one, but both of the two alternative accusations recorded against Katrín in the Icelandic annals, namely that she either blasphemed against the Pope or made a pact with the Devil, were also unprecedented in the Icelandic legal tradition, and it is difficult to see why this single case should have involved so many apparently novel ideas about witchcraft and the appropriate punishment thereof. The obvious answer is that these concepts had recently been imported from continental Europe or at least Norway by the incumbent bishops, Jón Sigurðsson and Ormr Ásláksson, both of whom had first arrived in Iceland from Norway the previous year, and indeed Jón was personally involved in the proceedings against Katrín. However, this paper seeks to investigate the alternative possibility that these ideas were already established in Iceland before this time, and in the case of the diabolic pact at least may have been influenced by local tradition. To this end the paper will examine the presentation of witchcraft in the Íslendingasögur, as well as other saga genres, in order to substantiate or refute this potential link to the 1343 case. Attention will also be paid to later cases of reported witchcraft in Iceland, during the Early Modern period, to attempt to identify characteristics which might indicate the continued influence of the concepts about witchcraft exhibited in the Íslendingasögur into this later period.

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[G24] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Ines Garcia Lopez
University of Barcelona
inesgarcia@ub.edu

Enter the dragon: Eireks saga víðförla and the narration of other worlds

This paper will analyse the narration technique in both Eireks saga víðförla and Snorra Edda in relation to the literary representation of mythical places as geographical spaces. Similarities and divergences will be observed between the Eireks saga and the Prose Edda’s euhemerized Prologue and Gylfaginning when narrating space. The common structures between the Prologue’s geographical replacement of the cosmos represented in the Eddic poems and Eirek’s quest for the Ódáinsakr will be brought to discussion. Both Eirek and Gylfi show wisdom’s willingness to inquire into the origin and the dimensions of certain earthly and cosmic places. This information will be displayed in both texts in a dialogic frame where certain elements as the deceit, the religious conversion or the encounter with fantastic creatures will accompany the main characters of these narrations in their spatial transitions.

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[C16] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Irene García Losquiño
University of Alicante
i.garcialosquino@gmail.com

The Vikings in Galicia and Leon: New developments and interdisciplinary approaches

The Viking presence along the coast of Spain and Portugal is well-known from sagas like Knytlinga saga, which introduces the character of Ulf the Galician (Galizu-Úlfr). These sources, combined with the more comprehensive accounts of viking attacks in Christian and Muslim sources from medieval Iberia, point to constant assaults on Galicia, Portugal and Seville, as well as other locations in Andalucia and the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. However, research into the presence of Vikings in the Iberian Peninsula has, until recently, been able to rely only on these written sources. In this paper, I will challenge traditional conceptions of the viking contact in Spain by presenting the results that my interdisciplinary research project, Vikings in Spain, has yielded so far. I will present new material that brings about a novel understanding of two types of Viking presence in Galicia and Leon: mercenary activities and the long-term/permanent settlement of Viking groups in the abovesaid territories. Firstly, I will summarise the state of the question, combining Scandinavia, Christian and Muslim sources. Secondly, I will focus on different types of evidence for viking mercenary presence in the regions of Galicia and Leon, proposing a mutually-beneficial contact that in some cases led to permanent settlement. Thirdly, I will present the ways in which my combination of sagas and other historical documents, innovative toponymic analysis and archaeology can provide groundbreaking information about viking settlements in Galicia.

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[C34] Ideas and Worldview: Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Roles

Leszek Gardela
University of Rzeszow, Poland/Snorrastofa
leszekgardela@archeologia.rzeszow.pl

Amazons of the North: The Search for Armed Females in the Viking World

This paper will examine the motif of armed females in the Viking Age through an interdisciplinary approach to written sources and archaeological finds. In traditional studies, Norse women were seen as confined mainly to the domestic sphere, with only a very limited role in the social arena. However, a number of medieval textual accounts written in Latin, Old Norse and other languages describe women who actively engaged in martial activities, led men, and fought savagely at the forefront of armies. For example, in his Gesta Danorum the Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus included a remarkable passage about females who preferred ‘conflicts instead of kisses, tasted blood not lips’, and ‘sought the clash of arms rather than the arm’s embrace’. Intriguing examples of human and supernatural females using weapons for various purposes are also well known from different genres of Old Norse literature (e.g. Íslendingasögur, fornaldarsögur and Eddic poetry), but in scholarly debates, their descriptions have been usually regarded as products vivid imagination of medieval writers and as having no reflection in reality. Recently, the clichés about the roles of Viking Age women have undergone major transformations due to an increased interest in how gender roles and identities were conceptualised and negotiated in the North. In this paper, it is argued that in order to better understand the phenomenon of warrior women it is essential to explore it in a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary way. New paths of inquiry can open up when we consider this material in the light of archaeological discoveries. Over the last thirty years or so, archaeological excavations in Scandinavia and Iceland have revealed a number of graves of women buried with weapons, and there is a growing corpus of iconographic depictions of armed females. All these discoveries have the capacity to offer new answers to question whether and in what way warrior women may have existed in the Viking Age. This paper will summarise the author’s ongoing research on the motif of “Amazons of the North” and will critically combine the rich textual heritage with specialist studies of Viking Age archaeological materials, including results of new museum-based analyses.

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[B28–30] Seminar Session „Memory Studies and Íslendingasögur

Jürg Glauser
Universität Zürich
jglauser@ds.uzh.ch

Seminar Session: Memory Studies and Íslendingasögur

Chair: Jürg Glauser (Zürich /Basel)
Panel: Pernille Hermann, Kate Heslop, Sarah Künzler, Stephen Mitchell, Torfi Tulinius, Úlfar Bragason

It is no exaggeration to say that during the last 15–20 years memory studies emerged as a new field in saga scholarship and is still attracting considerable interest among scholars from different disciplines. Examples of this varied activity are among many others a series of international workshops, organised since 2012 by “Memory and the Pre-Modern North: An International Memory Studies Research Network Focussing on Viking Age and Medieval Scandinavia (MPMN)” (http://premodern-memory.org/); the general theme of the Fifteenth International Saga Conference, “Sagas and the Use of the Past”, held in Aarhus in 2012; a number of publications such as Memory and Remembering: Past Awareness in the Medieval North, ed. Pernille Hermann and Stephen Mitchell. Special issue of Scandinavian Studies, 85:3, 2013; or Minni and Muninn. Memory in Medieval Nordic Culture, ed. Pernille Hermann, Stephen A. Mitchell and Agnes S. Arnórsdóttir. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014; or the Handbook of Pre-Modern Nordic Memory Studies. Interdisciplinary Approaches, ed. Jürg Glauser, Pernille Hermann, Stephen A. Mitchell. Berlin: de Gruyter (planned for 2018).

The seminar session “Memory Studies and the Íslendingasögur” proposes to analyse the intellectual background of this development in international memory studies and the present status as well as the potential and main perspectives of the study of Viking Age and Medieval Nordic literature and culture via memory studies. The six members of the panel–Pernille Hermann, Kate Heslop, Sarah Künzler, Stephen Mitchell, Torfi Tulinius, Úlfar Bragason–will in their short initial presentations display a variety of different approaches to memory studies, while the following panel discussion will focus on methodological and interdisciplinary aspects of current memory studies and its application to the Old Norse-Icelandic studies on a more general level.

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[B5] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Erin Michelle Goeres
University College London
e.goeres@ucl.ac.uk

Giffarðs þáttr and the Unreliability of Skaldic Verse

Giffarðs þáttr contains many of the hallmarks of the Icelandic þættir: Recorded only in Morkinskinna and in a couple of later manuscripts, it relates the adventures of a stranger who appears at the court of a Norwegian king, seeking to acquire both wealth and reputation. Like many of the þættir, poetry lies at the heart of the narrative, but the protagonist in this story is not an Icelandic skald but a Norman knight. Declaring himself a riddari góðr (good knight), the Norman Giffarðr offers his service to King Magnús berfœttr Óláfsson, but flees at the first sign of battle. His failure to live up to the knightly identity he so proudly claims is explored through a series of poetic dialogues, first between King Magnús and his court poet, and then as part of a legal case in which Giffarðr accuses a second Icelandic skald of slandering him. Poetry is shown to be an effective way of exposing the Norman knight’s weaknesses and of ostracising him from the Norwegian courtly community. When he returns to England, a humiliated Giffarðr discovers that even the law can offer no redress for the ridicule he has faced: when asked to repeat a particularly scurrilous verse at a meeting with the town reeve, the Icelandic poet simply changes the words so that his verse appears to contain praise rather than blame. In a narrative replete with unreliable and shifting verbal utterances, the Norman knight proves no match for his wily Scandinavian opponents. Weaving together poetry and prose, the saga-author explores the gaps between what happens and what is said to have happened, between what is said and what is said to have been said. The episode makes a mockery of the hapless Giffarðr and in so doing exposes not only the unreliability of skaldic verse, but the legal processes and historical narratives that rely upon it as well.

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[F4] Artistry: New Theoretical Approaches and Perspectives

Tom Grant
University of Cambridge
tog26@cam.ac.uk

Creating Problems: The Smith-Poet Figure in the Íslendingasögur

The figure of the poet looms large in the Íslendingasögur. Gísli Súrsson, Egill Skallagrímsson and Króka-Refr are some of the most memorable figures in Icelandic saga literature, and scholars have long occupied themselves with the fascinating egotism, tenacity and ferocity of these characters. But one often-ignored quality which all these skalds share is their proficiency in physical crafts, mainly metal- and wood-working, which further distinguishes them from their peers. It is time we question why this parallelism between verbal and material crafting is so prevalent across the Íslendingasögur, and what kind of characters this parallelism creates. My paper aims to provide an answer to both questions. In order to understand the genesis and character of the smith-poet in the Íslendingasögur, it will be necessary to talk briefly about smiths and skalds more widely, as well as the creative processes in which they specialise. I will demonstrate that these agents were perceived as innately threatening, both on account of their otherworldly creative abilities, and also because they could directly affect the socio-political influence of ancient Scandinavian rulers. The deep-seated negativity of these parallel figures will be an important consideration moving forward. In this paper, I will chiefly be analysing the perception and nature of the most significant smith-poets of the Íslendingasögur in light of the above factors. I intend to demonstrate that the natural fusion of the related roles of smith and poet culminates in, and can be used to understand, some of the most enigmatic and ambivalent characters in the sagas. The most famous representatives of the smith-poet type are the son, father and grandfather Egill, Skallagrímr and Kveld-Úlfr, but I will show that this character-type abounds across the Íslendingasögur. In identifying, accounting for and analysing the distinct group of smith-poets in the sagas, my paper takes a new theoretical approach. I will offer a framework by which it is possible to read these figures across the corpus of Íslendingasögur, and it is likely that my findings will have significant implications beyond these immediate sagas themselves.

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[C3] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Sian Elizabeth Grønlie
Oxford University
sian.gronlie@ell.ox.ac.uk

Biblical Feud and Family Drama: Old Testament Narrative and the Sagas

Very little has been written about the influence of biblical literature on the sagas of Icelanders, even though Kirby has argued that there was a translation of the Old Testament and a harmony of the gospels in circulation by c. 1200, the time when the sagas began to be written down. Scholars have suggested models for individual scenes in Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar, Njáls saga and, above all, Flóamanna saga – but these are identified mostly on the level of theme and motif, rather than verbal correspondence or style. This is, perhaps, because the Old Testament translations survive in much younger manuscripts, from c. 1340 on, long after the time of the classical ‘family saga’. This raises the possibility that influence could have been exercised either way – while saga authors may occasionally have drawn on well-known Old Testament stories, the later translators or compilers of biblical narratives may have been influenced by the sagas. This is particularly likely for those Old Testament stories that closely resemble saga narrative, in the family feuds and dramas of Genesis and Exodus: Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Moses and Aaron. In this paper, I would like to look at the extent to which these stories shape and/or are shaped by the conventions and values of saga narrative. The Old Testament translations are gathered into a single volume, known since the seventeenth century as Stjórn (‘Guidance’), which may refer to God’s guidance of his chosen people, or the moral guidance provided by the stories themselves. This volume, however, is composite, containing several different translations: a translation of Genesis 1 to Exodus 18, dated in the Prologue to the reign of King Hákon Magnússon (1299-1319): an early ‘naked’ (i.e. without commentary) translation from Exodus 19 to Deuteronomy, and a mid-thirteenth century translation covering Joshua and the books of Kings, which may have been influenced by Old English homilies. It is with the first (and youngest) of these translations, Stjórn I, with its dependence on Peter Comestor’s Historia scholastica (c. 1170), that this paper is concerned.

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[G3] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Lukas Gabriel Grzybowski
Universidade Estadual de Londrina
lukasgg@gmail.com

Perceptions of Scandinavian Paganism and Christian Religion in Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis and Rimbert’s Vita Anskarii

Scandinavian paganism is among the most visited non-Christian religious phenomena of the Middle Ages. It deserves such attention partly because of its relatively well-documented transmission, and partly due to its recreational (ab)use in the modern cultic landscape. There is a long-standing debate on what constitutes northern paganism, mostly due to the variety its of sources, narrative, material, linguistic, among others. However, it seems to me that there is a fundamental issue that has not yet been given its proper attention. When dealing with narrative sources, scholars tend to either “accept” the contents without much critical reflection, as in former investigations on the Sagas and Latin historiography; or to approach these texts by proposing their deconstruction as information vehicles for the study of northern paganism. This is especially true in the analysis of Latin sources, which are mostly discredited as biased and attached to an agenda, and thus unreliable. In my paper, I intend to approach this issue from another angle, drawing on both Guy Halsall’s dealings with the “barbarian” in Late Antique and Hans-Werner Goetz’ work on the Perception of other religions by Christian authors in the Early and High Middle Ages. The central thesis is that Rimbert and Adam in their respective narratives are not so much describing a religious practice as they are constructing an idea about religious practice, which is rooted both in ancient images of a “barbarous” or “savage” north, and in the religious prejudice – or at least pre-judgement – of their own faith. This contains serious implications to the study of the Scandinavian paganism since it only de facto exists in the way it is described in Rimbert’s and Adam’s imagining of it. Another approach to its meanings is therefore necessary. The investigation of northern paganism in these narratives should no longer be the search for an objective reality, but an approach to understanding the subjective formation of the Christian identity inside the somewhat indefinite framework posed by religious diversity in the northern missionary landscape.

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[Poster session] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Guðrún Harðardóttir
University of Iceland
gudrun.hardardottir@gmail.com

Seal images as means of cultural contact

Seals were used to verify important documents in the middle ages. Because of this, medieval seals are in nature an expression of the identity of their owners. Seals often contained both an image of some kind which was somehow related to the owner as well as a written legend around the edges. For example, bishops’ seals usually contained an image of a bishop and kings were usually either shown sitting on a throne or riding a horse. Seals travelled by being attached to correspondence between people and institutions and seal pictures could therefore introduce ideas of styles between countries. For example it is known that one seal of a powerful person having such strong influence that the style of certain types of seals in 14th century England were changed. (E.g. Heslop “Second seal of Richard of Bury, bishop of Durham” Age of Chivalry 1987, 496.) Seals are therefore a very useful source material for certain aspects of cultural contact between individuals and areas. In this poster the focus will be on the imagery in medieval Icelandic ecclesiastic seals and how they mirror visual styles according to the standards of the Nidaros archdiocese. A special focus will be put on exploring stylistic trends in the seals of bishops and monastic chapters. Similarities and dissimilarities between dioceses will be drawn to light, especially of seals from Norway, Iceland and the British Isles. There is already some supported evidence of direct similarities between certain Norwegian and Scottish seals. (E.g. Trætteberg, “Geistlige segl i Björgvin bispedömme”, Björgvin bispestol 1968, 100-101) In the light of this there is a reason to further explore these factors and compare the Icelandic seals with the seals from Orkney and Sodor which were also part of the Nidaros archdiocese in the Middle Ages. The result of such a comparative study will hopefully bring forth some specific pattern which can be useful to other areas of study of the cultural history of the North Atlantic area.

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[B6] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Guðrún Nordal
Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum
gnordal@hi.is

The implied audience: a qualitative analysis of the verse in Njáls saga

Skaldic citations in the sagas of Icelanders contain, it will be argued in this paper, significant and fascinating clues to the intended audience. Half of the sagas make extensive use of verse, while the other half includes only a handful of stanzas or none at all. This paper offers a qualitative study of poetic expression in the verse in the fourteenth-century transmission of Njáls saga with special reference to the contemporary sagas and the sagas of the Scandinavian kings. The study utilises the ‘big data’ generated by the international project ‘Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages’ to discuss the following questions: What is the nature and extent of the difference in the language of skaldic poetry when composed on specifically Icelandic subjects; is it different from the verse incorporated in sagas about the Norwegian kings? Can we presume a more localised, mixed audience for the material concerning Iceland, in comparison with the material concerning high-ranking Norwegians and others? How is the implied audience reflected in the complexity and sophistication of the poetic language?

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[E34] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Guðrún Dröfn Whitehead
University of Iceland
gdw@hi.is

Skelfilegur sagnaarfur: Sögusafnið, ótti og ógn

Sögusafnið, Granda er einstakt safn í Íslenskri safnaflóru. Þar er að finna goðsagnakennd augnablik (sönn og ósönn) úr sögu landsins, frosin í sílíkoni. Gengið er inn í sýningarsalinn í gegnum þungar járndyr, þar sem gestum mætir drungalegt myrkur og eldgos. Andrúmsloftið verður sífellt uggvænlegra eftir því sem lengra er haldið inn í söguna. Drungalegir einstaklingar leynast í myrkrinu, í skuggum og skúmaskotum. Sýningin skapar vísvitandi óþægilegt andrúmsloft til þess að hafa áhrif á tilfinningar, líðan og upplifun fólks af sögu landsins og sagnaarfinum. Í þessu samhengi má sérstaklega nefna markmið stofnenda safnsins að stuðla að áhuga ungs fólks á Íslendingasögunum, en lestur þeirra hefur farið talsvert minnkandi á undanförnum árum. Sýningar sá borð við Sögusafnið geta boðið upp á leikræna aðferð við að ná til nýrrar kynslóðar Íslendinga (Gísli Sigurðsson, 2006: 36). Hér er því verið að bjóða upp á fræðslu þar sem tilfinningar og upplifun eru metin fram yfir sögulegt sanngildi (í búningagerð, uppsetningu og textagerð). Í þessu erindi verður fjallað sérstaklega um þátt Íslendingasagnanna í Sögusafninu. Fyrst verður fjallað um hvernig sýningin skapar ótta, óhugnað og drunga og í framhaldi af því hvernig þessar neikvæðu tilfinningar eru nýttar til þess að miðla ákveðnum skilaboðum um Íslenska sögu, land og þjóð. Hvað er verið að segja um líf fólks fyrr á öldum? Hvernig má nýta þessa leikrænu uppsetningu sagnaarfinum til framdráttar? Fyrirlesturinn byggir á núverandi rannsókn minni, sem unnin verður í kafla bókar, væntanlega gefin út af Routledge á næstu árum. Eftirfarandi úrdráttur byggir á núverandi rannsóknum, sem unnin verður í bók í kafla, væntanlega boðin Routledge til útgáfu síðar á árinu. Í erindi í SIEF 2017 fjallaði ég einnig um Sögusafnið, en þar var um almenna yfirferð á safninu og rannsókninni að ræða. Hér er um viðameiri umræðu á takmarkaðri efni rannsóknarinnar að ræða.

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[F10] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Guðvarður Már Gunnlaugsson
Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum
gudvardr@hi.is

Af heimildum um Grettis sögu á 16. og 17. öld

Grettis saga er varðveitt í um 50 handritum og skiptast þau í nokkra flokka. Hún er í fjórum skinnhandritum frá því um 1500 auk brots á skinni frá miðri 16. öld. Eftir það verður eyða í varðveislu sögunnar, og er elsta pappírshandritið allt að 100 árum yngra, eða frá því um 1640. Svipaða sögu er að segja um aðrar Íslendingasögur, þar sem fá eða engin handrit eru varðveitt frá miðri 16. öld og fram um 1630. Þessi sérstæða varðveislusaga jafngildir því þó ekki að sögurnar — og Grettis saga í þessu tilviki — hafi ekki verið lesnar og notaðar þennan tíma. Magnús Ólafsson prestur í Laufási notaði t.d. Grettluhandrit þegar hann samdi orðabók sína, sem Ole Worm gaf út árið 1650 (Specimen Lexici Runici), og einnig þegar hann umritaði Snorra-Eddu (sbr. Laufás-Eddu). Þótt ekkert þessara rita feli í sér texta Grettis sögu í heild sinni, bera þau vott um að ólík handrit sögunnar hafi verið í umferð á þessum tíma. Í þessum fyrirlestri verður fjallað um verk frá síðari hluta 16. aldar og fyrri hluta 17. aldar sem vísa til eða fjalla um Grettis sögu með einum eða öðrum hætti og leitast verður við að sýna fram á hvaða handrit sögunnar viðkomandi fræðimenn studdust við. Í sumum tilvikum eru tilvísanir til Grettis sögu svo stuttar eða almennar að ekki verða dregnar af þeim ályktanir um forrit höfundar og í öðrum tilvikum er augljóslega stuðst við nú glötuð handrit; í slíkum tilvikum verður a.m.k. reynt að komast að því af hvaða handritaflokki þau eru. Sérstök áhersla verður lögð á að finna það handrit sem Björn Jónsson á Skarðsá notaði þegar hann samdi tímatal sögunnar, handritið sem Jón Guðmundsson í Rauðseyjum studdist við þegar hann orti rímur eftir sögunni um miðja 17. öld og að lokum forrit Ketils Jörundssonar sem bætti sjö vísum úr Grettis sögu við Laufás-Eddu fyrir miðja 17. öld. Með rannsókninni verður að auki sýnt fram á að aldur og fjöldi handrita segir ekki alla söguna um varðveisluferil sagna í gegnum aldirnar og þau ólíku hlutverk sem sögur gegndu í hugum þeirra sem nutu þeirra eða nýttu sér við fræðastörf.

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[D30] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Power and Political Culture

Fernando Guerrero
Universidad Juarez del Estado de Durango
fguerrero@ujed.mx

Where I Lay My Head Is Home: Literary and Legal Roles of Homeless and Itinerant Communities in Commonwealth Iceland

The Sagas of Icelanders stand out among most medieval narrative for many reasons, one of them being that they recount the life and deeds of farmers instead of those of the nobility. And among those stories of feuds there are a few glimpses of the life and circumstances of the lowest stratum of society: vagrants and destitute people. These groups of people seem to have a rather stereotypical role in the Íslendinga sögur. Whenever they appear, they are usually, but not exclusively, type-casted as hitmen, robbers or gossip carriers. But they also offer a brief and, perhaps, unbiased portrait of these characters, a bit more similar to the evidence left in the law corpus known as Grágás. This paper, part of an ongoing research on the subject, has the intention of creating a taxonomy of the destitute in literature with the purpose of furthering our understanding of how medieval Icelanders perceived the poor in the past and in their present. Thus, in the paper, I will discuss the typology of such characters by literary group, that is, fornaldar and Íslendinga sagas, taking into consideration the type, causes and literary role of destitution in each group of sagas in order to understand how the literary perception of poverty varied according to the period in which it is narrated. According to the legal evidence, poverty was a huge problem during the commonwealth period, and many measures, from castration to outlawry, were taken in order to counteract it and to limit its social effects. In this paper I will also look for evidences of such legislations in the literature.The Sagas of Icelanders stand out among most medieval narrative for many reasons, one of them being that they recount the life and deeds of farmers instead of those of the nobility. And among those stories of feuds there are a few glimpses of the life and circumstances of the lowest stratum of society: vagrants and destitute people. These groups of people seem to have a rather stereotypical role in the Íslendinga sögur. Whenever they appear, they are usually, but not exclusively, type-casted as hitmen, robbers or gossip carriers. But they also offer a brief and, perhaps, unbiased portrait of these characters, a bit more similar to the evidence left in the law corpus known as Grágás. This paper, part of an ongoing research on the subject, has the intention of creating a taxonomy of the destitute in literature with the purpose of furthering our understanding of how medieval Icelanders perceived the poor in the past and in their present. Thus, in the paper, I will discuss the typology of such characters by literary group, that is, fornaldar and Íslendinga sagas, taking into consideration the type, causes and literary role of destitution in each group of sagas in order to understand how the literary perception of poverty varied according to the period in which it is narrated. According to the legal evidence, poverty was a huge problem during the commonwealth period, and many measures, from castration to outlawry, were taken in order to counteract it and to limit its social effects. In this paper I will also look for evidences of such legislations in the literature.

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[A8] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Deniz Cem Gülen
University of Aberdeen
r01dcg15@abdn.ac.uk

Óláfr Þórðarson, not the author but the complier of Knýtlinga saga

Knýtlinga saga is a great literary source for a portion of medieval Danish history. The studies of the saga, however, are rather scarce and most of the time their conclusions are open to discussion. The authorship of the saga is not different.

The studies on this issue usually focus on Óláfr Þórðarson. What is known about Óláfr is rather limited, however, his surviving writings and three sagas (Knýtlinga saga, Sturlunga saga and Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar) help us to create a timeline about his life. After spending most of his young life in his uncle Snorri’s house, Óláfr travelled around Scandinavia and visited the court of Valdemar II among other kings where he became familiar with Danish history.

Using this information, scholars argued that Óláfr must be the author of the saga for several reasons; his visit to Scandinavia where he gathered information about Denmark, family ties and being taught by Snorri, and the consistency of the vocabulary in the saga which demonstrates that it is a work of a single author. Although these arguments are well thought out and convincing, several scholars challenged Óláfr’s role as the saga author for three reasons; the saga’s description of the events which occurred after Óláfr’s visit to Scandinavia, the end date of the saga, and the stylistic differences between the sections of the saga.

This paper offers a different perspective regarding the authorship issue. After exploring the current literature, the paper shall suggest Óláfr’s role was as saga compiler. Following his visit to the Danish royal court, Óláfr had enough source material to construct a saga on Danish history. In Iceland, Óláfr composed the saga of Cnut the Saint and asked his students to compose the rest of the saga by using the materials he brought from Denmark and even his memories, explaining the stylistic differences, some telling inconsistencies in the vocabulary, and Óláfr’s impact on the saga.

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[A19] Seminar Session: Freyr — a God of fertility or kingship?

Terry Gunnell
University of Iceland
terry@hi.is

Freyr – A Fertility God in a Wider Pantheon or an All-Purpose Solo ‘Tribal’ God

Over the last decades, several key developments have taken place in the understanding of Old Nordic ‘religions’, not least with regard to central questions being raised about the udeas of there ever having been a single Old Nordic religion (such as that implied by Snorri, and to some extent, also later scholars such as Jacob Grimm, Jan de Vries, and Turville Petre). This new approach is seen particularly in the work of Georgés Dumezíl, who envisioned close parallels existing between the class/caste-related Indo-European pantheons and that suggested for the Nordic and Germanic worlds. The general consensus now is that ‘religion’, in the form of beliefs, ritual practices and mythologies, would have followed an ‘ethnic’ model of religion rather than a ‘universal’ one. It would thus have varied by placee, time, and social circumstances as well as under varying kinds of external influence, around some shared core features (see a range of works by McKinnell, DuBois, Brink, Vikstrand, Sundqvist, Nordberg, Schjödt, Andrén and Gunnell). In this short talk, which is meant to form part of the round table mentioned above, the focus will be placed on the Vanir gods which play a key role in several Icelandic family sagas. Building on arguments made in several articles over the last years by the current author, the paper will make a case for Freyr having essentially been (like Þórr) an all-purpose ‘tribal’ god who had his epicentre in southern Sweden. This was a god who was called on for guidance and assistance in a range of fields which were not only related to fertility (as Adam of Bremen and Snorri suggest) but was also concerned with warfare, animal husbandry, law and various seasonally-related rites of passage, a god who was not solely related to chieftains but also the average farmer. It will also be stressed that the ‘religion’ of the Vanir (practised by a number of settlers, especially in Eastern Iceland) was seen as being different in nature to that practised by Þórr and Óðinn worhsippers. This applied not only to the use of ritual but also the role played bt women.

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[E25] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Gylfi Gunnlaugsson
gylfigun@centrum.is

Icelandic philology and cultural nationalisms in the long 19th century

In my paper I intend to survey the findings of an international research project, funded by a three-year grant from The Icelandic Research Fund in 2014, in which Clarence Glad and I were the principal investigators. The main focus will be on findings connected with the Íslend­ingasögur. I introduced the project under the title ‘Icelandic Philology and National Culture 1780-1918’ at the 16th Saga Conference in 2015, where it generated great interest.

The purpose of this project was to investigate the work of Icelandic philologists who were engaged in the study and/or editing of Old Norse-Icelandic literature during the period, with a specific focus on the nationalist thinking revealed therein. Emphasis was placed on establishing the nationalist discourse of these scholars as a separate issue from the political discourse which accompanied the struggle for Iceland’s independence from Denmark. One of our primary aims was, nonetheless, to answer the question of what role the scholarly work on this literary heritage played in Icelandic nation-building and whether it prepared the ground for the creation of an Icelandic nation-state. This had not previously been examined in any systematic way. The project established that the research and publishing activities of Icelandic philologists were indeed of significance for nation-building in Iceland. But it also revealed that they saw their work in a far more nuanced national context than we realised in advance. What is significant here is how closely they collaborated with their foreign colleagues. It must be borne in mind that most of these scholars were working in Copenhagen. Consequently, we expanded the project to include the work of more non-Ice­landic scholars than we had originally planned. The heritage found in medieval Icelandic manuscripts (or copies thereof) was important not only for the national self-image of the Icelanders, of course, but also for that of other Nordic peoples and even other nations in Northern Europe. All these nations recurrently claimed parts of it as their own national heritage. It was used both to highlight the separate characters of the individual nations and also to identify what they had in common with their neighbours. The contribution made by Icelandic philologists to this broader national discourse assumed greater importance as our project progressed.

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[D29] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Viktória Gyönki
Eötvös Loránd University
gy.viktoria.86@gmail.com

Outlaws as Wild Animals in Old Norse Law and Literature

Outlawry was one of the hardest punishments of medieval Scandinavia with the idea of pushing criminals out from society. Strict regulations made sure that no-one will help the outlaws. This concept of complete isolation created an association with wild animals which are living in forest, but have a disrupting effect on society. Calling outlaws vargr ‘wolf’ has evidences in both law and literature. In my paper I would like to discuss scholarly debates from the 19th century until recent ones about the connection between wild animals and outlaws. I will present terminologies both in Icelandic and Norwegian lawcodes in connection with the word vargr, including parallel ideas in other Germanic law codes and the mythological background. I will discuss the inhuman nature of outlaws called wolves, and argue why they were even more excluded from society than others. I will present evidences from Icelandic and Norwegian legal material, and also, how this image faded away with time, but lived on in literature. A short summary will introduce poetry, but the focus will be on the Sagas of the Icelanders. In the second part of my paper I will present how the image of the wolf lived on in literature by help of two late Icelandic sagas, Grettis saga and Króka-Refs saga. The aim of this comparative approach to show a tragic outlaw on the one hand who can not fit into the society, and a somewhat smarter one on the other hand. Grettir is looking for adventures constantly. He ends up in troubles and becomes an outlaw. No matter of his physical strenght he cannot avoid a tragic end. On the other hand Refr, who has similar problems with society, is able to survive. Despite outlawry is present only once in Króka-Refs saga, it tells a lot about those who ended up on the margins of society.

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[B10] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Kathryn Ania Haley-Halinski
Cambridge University
kathryn.halinski@gmail.com

Worlds Apart: complement and contradiction between verse and prose in the Íslendingasögur

One of the most intriguing relationships between prose and poetry in the Íslendingasögur is arguably that found in Grettis saga. Scholars including Ursula Dronke and Heather O’Donoghue have written about the tension between the world portrayed by the saga narrative, and that portrayed by Grettir in his own verse, both remarking upon the ways in which this exhibits a literary self-consciousness that marks Grettis saga as one of the most “literary” of the Íslendingasögur. In my MA thesis, on cognitive poetic approaches to skaldic poetry’s use of kennings, I looked at Grettir’s Ævikviða and the ways it uses the text worlds generated by kennings to disrupt the conventions of the kenning-system and draw recipients’ attention to the ways in which the ofljóst kennings pertaining to the character Þórbjǫrg add nuance to her characterisation through recourse to mythological allusions and vocabulary usually reserved for warriors. This presentation will seek to apply this text world theory approach to the prosimetric form of Íslendingasögur in a more general sense, looking at how the use of language prompts recipients to model “realities.” In doing so, it will seek to develop present understanding of the relationships between multiple ontological realms as expressed in the text worlds of the verses in the Íslendingasögur, which could complement the text worlds of the fictional/pseudo-historical narratives themselves, or contradict them. This could grant further insight into how the conflict and agreement within the prosimetric form could be used to generate a variety of effects for the audience, from belief in the narrative itself, to scepticism, to the search for alternative and/or figurative readings of such relationships between the worlds generated by these texts’ two forms.

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[A16] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Simon Halink
University of Iceland
halink@hi.is

Traitor or Hero? On the Afterlife of Snorri Sturluson in the Cultural Memory of Modern Scandinavia

Few Icelanders have been the subject of so much praise and slander as the medieval writer, poet and chieftain Snorri Sturluson (1178/9-1241) in the nearly eight centuries since his death. Already the medieval sources present the reader with an ambiguous image of a man, who was simultaneously a brilliant scholar and a great political strategist, but also a betrayer of his people and a puppet of the Norwegian king. In this contribution, I will chart the posthumous reception, or the afterlife of a man who was, as Tim Machan stated in a recent publication, so important, that he “would have to have been invented if he had not lived” (2016). Especially his History of the Norwegian Kings (Heimskringla) and the mythological contents of the Prose Edda attributed to him, have determined the image of ancient Scandinavia well beyond his native Iceland. Yet, Snorri’s rise to prominence is by no means self-evident, and did not begin until several centuries after his death. What is easily forgotten, is that Snorri was not always considered the ‘greatest of all Scandinavian geniuses’, nor was his legacy (both literary and political) always received in a positive light. It is my intention to demonstrate how processes of secular canonisation, and nationally inspired veneration which developed around his persona and his (presumed) oeuvre in the course of the long nineteenth century (entailing the establishment of a corpus and the organisation of commemorations among other things) could transform the memory of a long-dead medieval poet like Snorri into an instrument for articulating cultural identities in modernity. In order to do so, I will examine the profoundly ambivalent and divergent images of Snorri Sturluson in Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and in the context of more universal discourses, while focussing on an intricate ‘traitor-hero complex’ that many of these narratives appear to revolve around. How does Snorri’s role in the cultural memory of the Scandinavians differ from country to country? And how can this divergence of modern receptions be explained in the context of national identity formation?

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[A29] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Alaric Hall
University of Leeds
alaric@cantab.net

‘Crowdsourcing’ the stemmas of Njáls saga

Making stemmas of the manuscripts of a given medieval text fell out of fashion a few decades ago for two main reasons, one often stated, and one seldom stated. The often stated reason is that stemmas are associated with trying to reconstruct lost archetypes of medieval texts, which is now frequently seen as a less important enterprise than interpreting the actual texts that survive. The seldom stated reason is that making stemmas is often very difficult, not to say boring. However, discovering which manuscripts of a text are copied from which is enormously useful for understanding scribal and literary cultures, and linguistic change. For example, stemmatic research shows how texts were transmitted, how they were altered, and what they meant to their readers. This paper, therefore, discusses innovations in making stemmas developed through the Arnamagnæan Manuscript Summer Schools in order to make the creation of stemmas easier—and less boring! We drew inspiration from work on crowdsourcing both in manuscript studies and in phylogenetic science. While the well prepared, highly motivated, and closely supervised students at the Manuscript Summer School hardly constitute a ‘crowd’, it might be possible to adapt the methods we used at the Summer Schools to draw in wider groups of participants in future. At each Summer School, we identified a different passage of Njáls saga and rendered the text of Konráð Gíslason’s edition as a Google Docs spreadsheet. Participants then transcribed all manuscripts of the same passage into the spreadsheet, creating a sample of data that could be readily analysed for making a stemma. We applied phylogenetic software to this data to produce a rough stemma that students could then check, working gradually from the ends of the branches down to the root. Thus we have created the first near-complete stemma of the saga. We were able to test medieval sections of our stemmas against Einar Ólafur Sveinsson’s findings, verifying his work and validating our findings for manuscripts that he did not investigate.

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[C28] Ideas and Worldview: Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Roles

Jessica Clare Hancock
City University of London
jessycar@gmail.com

Helga, it was really nothing: gender and illicit love in the skáldasögur

This paper analyses the effect of illicit love on gender identities in the Íslendingasögur, and particularly the skáldasögur. Using poststructuralist gender-theory, it will examine how illicit love permits the exploration of different forms of masculinity and femininity. Illicit love occurs in many of the Íslendingasögur but is especially central in the skáldasögur. Several critics have addressed illicit love and its effects on gender in the Íslendingasögur: in particular Jenny Jochens, and Bjørn Bandlien in Strategies of Passion. This research, however, takes a traditional approach and reads illicit love as concerned with male competition over women, and gender as being fixed as a binary opposition between male and female. My paper will, instead, address the opportunity for alternative gender identities that is created by an extra-marital relationship. I will initially examine the patriarchal nature of marriage in the Íslendingasögur, where women have little control over their choice of husband; for example, in Kormáks saga Steingerðr is not told about her engagement to Bersi until her wedding day. An analysis of the structure of marriage will reveal the gender roles that appear to be adhered to: a passive femininity, and a heroic masculinity. I will then explore how illicit-love relationships in the skáldasögur allow a more diverse range of femininities and masculinities to be performed. The paper will examine the possibilities for women to take a more active identity, in pursuing or rejecting lovers (Russell Poole, for example, has noted that women in the skáldasögur are far less passive than in most Íslendingasögur), and for men to eschew heroism for a role as a lover (Helga Kress has observed that this can lead to the reversal of common narrative devices such as the male gaze); thus, this paper will extend the commonly accepted notions of saga men and women and reveal the extent to which gender identities are affected by different types of relationships.

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[B14] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Haukur Þorgeirsson
Stofnun Árna Magnússonar
haukurth@hi.is

When was the poetry in the Íslendinga sǫgur composed?

The Íslendinga sǫgur contain a large amount of poetry, mostly in the dróttkvætt metre, which the sagas attribute to the protagonists and other characters. The authenticity of these stanzas has long been a subject of debate, especially in comparison with the verse in the kings’ sagas. The kings’ sagas cite stanzas from long poems by professional court poets and it seems quite plausible that those are authentic survivals through an oral tradition from the 10th century on. But the verse in the Íslendinga sǫgur is typically portrayed as improvisational individual stanzas composed and performed when a memorable event takes place, even during battles. The survival of such poetry is less plausible on the face of it. However, a major class of arguments for the authenticity of the verse in sagas such as Egils saga, Gísla saga and Kormáks saga is that it shares various archaic linguistic and metrical features with 10th century court poetry – features such as full rhyme between a and ǫ and heavy usage of the expletive particle of. Would poets working in the 12th and 13th centuries have been able to imtitate such features? The discovery of a previously unstudied archaic linguistic feature has the potential to throw light on this. The court poets of the 10th century treated what later became /jó/ and /jú/ as a separate vowel that only rhymed with itself. Einarr skálaglamm, for example, rhymes grjót with þrjóti and hljóð with þjóðir; he also rhymes móts with blóta and góðr with Fróði but left no rhymes such as grjót-blóta or hljóð-Fróði. The existence of a separate vowel phoneme in words that later had /jó/ and /jú/ was posited already by Noreen on the basis of evidence from mainland Scandinavia and is confirmed by the skaldic evidence. While the court poets avoided rhymes between /jó/ and /ó/ there are many such rhymes in the poetry of the Íslendinga sǫgur, suggesting its inauthenticity. The paper will discuss the implications of this and, in particular, why this feature behaves so differently from features such as the expletive particle and a-ǫ rhyme.

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[B16] Artistry: Literary Composition

Eldar Heide
Western Norway University of Applied Sciences
eldar.heide@hvl.no

Land hopping in search of a better life: A literary reading of Eiríks saga rauða

Eiríks saga rauða has attracted attention mainly as a source of information about the Vinland voyages. I will undertake a literary interpretation of the saga, aided by a comparison to how material from a closely related tradition has been used and structured in the probably older Grǿnlendinga saga. I agree with Patricia Conroy that Eiríks saga has clear structural parallels to Laxdǿla saga, but this does not tell us why that pattern was chosen. The following characteristics of Eiríks saga may help us understand what the author had in mind: — In contrast to other sagas of Icelanders, many of the characters in Eiríks saga do not settle once they have reached the land they initially head for, but move on and on and on. The saga takes up only about 30 pages in modern print, but the characters taken together relocate more than 30 times, more or less permanently. — In Grǿnlendinga saga, when the characters move, they do so with no discernable pattern, and they travel between Iceland and Greenland via Norway several times. In Eiríks saga, movement is generally linear, step by step farther and farther away from starting-points in Norway and Ireland, to the most remote settlement in Vinland, then step by step back to Iceland. — In Eiríks saga, there is an antagonism between the incoming Christianity and paganism; the latter represented by the men most intimately connected to the remote Greenland, and the remotest lands in themselves. The saga seems to view Greenland and the lands beyond it in light of the Medieval Christian idea that nature and remote or sparsely populated areas are by definition un-Christian or demonic. I suggest that Eiríks saga discusses the idea of breaking up and moving to another country to find a better life there, and that the saga arrives at a patriotic Icelandic conclusion: There is no point in going beyond Iceland, this country is just right – far enough away from the problems that brought people there, but properly Christian = civilized, because it is not too remote.

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[B23] Artistry: New Theoretical Approaches and Perspectives

Anna Katharina Heiniger
University of Iceland
akh18@hi.is

Experiencing Liminality in the Íslendingasögur

The intriguing concept of liminality was first introduced to scholarship in 1909 when the French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep (1873-1957) published his famous monograph Les rites de passage. For several decades van Gennep’s work remained neglected until the Scottish anthropologist Victor W. Turner (1920-83) re-discovered it in the 1960s and focused his main research on the liminal mid-phase of the rites of passage. It has only been during the past few years though that the topic of liminality has increasingly stirred interest within Old Norse studies. When liminality has been used within Old Norse studies, the definitions and understandings of the concept have often been insufficient as they neither grasp nor render the kernel of how van Gennep and Turner designed and developed the concept. Consequently liminality tends to be used synonymously with ‘marginal’, ‘supernatural’, ‘magical’ or any element that is considered ‘in-between’. By going back to van Gennep’s and Turner’s understandings and definitions of liminality, this paper will thus venture to discuss to what extent and how this concept can be used and adapted in the context of the Íslendingasögur. Special attention will be devoted to the application of liminality to a range of spatial categories in a selection of Íslendingasögur. The question of which places could be called liminal in these sagas is interesting because neither van Gennep nor Turner promote any specific place as inherently liminal. The paper thus explores the connection of liminality and space in the Íslendingasögur by looking at settings in which saga figures (potentially) experience liminality. Such constellations confront us with a chicken-or-the-egg-situation, namely whether it is the liminal experience that makes the place liminal or whether the place that makes the event liminal. In this regard, the paper hopes to shed light on questions such as: What qualities do spaces need to have in order to be considered liminal? Do the spaces found in the sagas feature (all of) these qualities? And if so, are the spaces genuinely or only situationally liminal?

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[F22] Artistry: Literary Composition

Katharina Heinz
University of Oslo
katharina.heinz@iln.uio.no

Rhetorical practices in Old Norse textual culture

While textual relations and influences between ancient Latin treatises on the art of rhetoric and medieval Old Norse texts, such as the Third Grammatical Treatise, have been objects of recent scholarly discussions (e.g., Males 2016), this paper will contribute with a comparative investigation of rhetorical techniques in two Old Norse texts from different literary genres, Njáls saga and the Old Norwegian eductional text of Konungs skuggsjá.

Previous studies pointed to selective traces of Latin rhetoric in saga literature, being either explicit by referring to particular episodes, as the juxtaposition of the well-known scene of burning Njáll’s house with the rhetorical anecdote of Simonides and the collapse of a gathering hall (Glauser, 2007), or implicit by indicating rhetorical traits in narrative methods as in the case of «staging» (Lönnroth, 1970). Based on the assumption that theories of rhetoric were prevalent, at least to some extent, among medieval writers from Iceland and Norway, this paper will address three main questions: A) How did medieval authors incorporate rhetorical practices in their textual compositions, and what may the primary intentions of using these practices have been? B) Assuming noticable influence of Christian ethical thought in both textual examples, can the use of rhetorical principles be related to underlying or implied didactic objectives, and if so, what are these? C) Comparing the two texts, may there be a difference in the way means of rhetoric were applied in different genres?

Approaching the texts with the theoretical framework of ars rhetorica and its perception in a medieval ethical context, I aim to investigate the medieval idea of the art of rhetoric reaching over literary Iceland and Norway. To substantiate my hypothesis, I will make use of explicit examples from the texts, such as the presentation of Njáll as a rhetorician. By discussing both texts in the light of Christian moral attitudes, this paper will show common traits and shared knowledge of rhetoric in two geographically, but not intellectually, separated literary cultures in Iceland and Norway.

  • Glauser, Jürg (2007), The Speaking Bodies of Saga Texts, in: Learning and Understanding in the Old Norse World. Essays in Honour of Margaret Clunies Ross, ed. Judy Quinn, Kate Heslop, and Tarrin Wills, Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 13-26.
  • Lönnroth, Lars (1970), Rhetorical Persuasion in the Sagas. Scandinavian Studies, 42/2, pp. 157-189.
  • Males, Mikael (2016), Applied Grammatica: Conjuring Up the Native Poetae, in: Intellectual Culture in Medieval Scandinavia, c. 1100-1350, ed. Stefka G. Eriksen, Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 263-307.

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[F18] Saga origins and Media: Sagas in Translation

Helga Hilmisdóttir
Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum
helgahi@hi.is

Interpreting byrja in the Sagas of Icelanders: An action verb or an aspectual marker?

According to Cleasby and Vigfússon (1874), the verb byrja has four different meanings in Old Icelandic: 1) to plead one’s cause, 2) to begin a journey or a speech (with a subject in nom.); 3) to be begotten (mostly in passive), and 4) to behove, beseem, be due (impersonal with dat.) A fifth meaning is listed in Zoega (1910): one gets fair (foul) wind (impersonal with dat.). Surprisingly, the fifth and last category is the most common one in the Íslendingasögur with 34 instances out of 48. In this paper, I will argue that the verb byrja was going through a grammaticalization process during the saga era. I will analyse examples of byrja in Íslendingasögur and look at the contexts in which the verb is used. I will show that although the majority of instances refer to journeys by boat, some of them refer to journeys by land. I will also demonstrate that there is a correlation between the means of transportation and sentence structure. In instances in which a person is travelling by sea, byrja is used either as an impersonal verb (honum byrjaði vel) or with a subject in the nominative case (hann byrjaði ferð sína). When a person is travelling by land, as a contrast, byrja is only used with a subject in the nominative case. Using theories of grammaticaliztion (e.g. Hopper and Traugott 1993), I will argue that the auxiliary verb byrja in contemporary Icelandic has gone through the following stages: get wind in the sails > begin a journey by boat > begin a journey > begin a process > auxiliary. With this in mind, I will look at modern translations of Íslendingasögur to English and Swedish and investigate whether the earlier grammatical stages are somehow reflected in the translations or whether translators have translated the verb as modern aspectual markers.

  • Claesby, Richard and Vigfusson, Gudbrand (1874). An Icelandic-English Dictionary. Oxford Clarendon Press.
  • Hopper, Paul and Traugott, Elizabeth (1993). Grammaticalization. Cambridge University Press.
  • Zoega, Geir T. (1910). A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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[E10] Saga origins and Media: Saga Landscapes

Helgi Skúli Kjartansson
University of Iceland
helgisk@hi.is

Náttúrunafnakenning, vættatrú og ímyndaður uppruni

Ég byrja á lýsa, í mjög grófum dráttum, „náttúrunafnakenningu“ Þórhalls Vilmundarsonar, grundvelli hennar og niðurstöðum. En þær eru kerfisbundnar, standa ekki né falla með skýringum einstakra nafna, en má í almennum atriðum telja mjög traustar. Nafnaskýringar Landnámu og Íslendingasagna bera þá vott um róttækan misskilning Íslendinga á því hvernig forfeður þeirra mynduðu örnefni aðeins tveimur til þremur öldum áður. Síðan bendi ég á, með allmörgum dæmum, hvernig Þórhallur gerir ráð fyrir (og styðst þar við skjalfestar hliðstæður) að sumar nafnmyndir hafi breyst samfara endurtúlkun á uppruna þeirra: *Skálarfell > Skálafell, *Brynnudalur > Brynjudalur o.s.frv. Ég bendi sérstaklega á nokkrar af þessum ætluðu breytingum sem minna á orðmyndun gælunafna: *Skorardalur > Skorradalur, *Bolastaðir > Bollastaðir o.fl. Hugsanlegt er að í einhverjum slíkum tilvikum sé um raunverulegt gælunafn að ræða sem í heiðnum sið hafi táknað „vætt“ staðarins. Um slíka vættatrú skortir að sjálfsögðu beinar heimildir, og lauslegar hliðstæður, norrænar og klassískar, veita hugmyndinni takmakaðan stuðning. Það virðist þó mögulegt að t.d. af sveitarnöfnunum *Skorardalur og Flókadalur hafi sprottið hugmyndir um vættirnar „Skorra“ og „Flóka“ sem minningin hafi, eftir kristnitöku, breytt í mannlegar persónur. Þannig kynnu staðarvættir í einhverjum tilvikum að vera milliliðir raunverulegra náttúrunafna og þeirra ímynduðu „mannanafnaskýringa“ sem Landnáma og Íslendingasögur eru svo auðugar af.

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[D13] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Helgi Þorláksson
University of Iceland
htho@hi.is

Laws, inlaws and outlaws: The state, revenge and sagas

According to Grágás, the law-codex of the Commonwealth (930‒1262), revenge was limited. Not so in the sagas, neither the comtemporary sagas, nor the 13th century Sagas of Icelanders. According to Jónsbók, the new law of 1280, revenge was even more limited. However, sources of the 14th and 15th centuries do not bear this out, killing a man in revenge was quite common. Revenge is still prominent in later Sagas of Icelanders, generally thought to be composed in the 14th and 15th century. Of some interest are the three sagas of outlawry since this form of punishment was supposed to be abolished with Jónsbók. All the same there still was some considerable interest in outlawry in the 14th and 15th centuries and longer as the manuscripts of the sagas show. It will be suggested that this may have had something to do with ideas of honour and revenge which prevailed and old customs which lingered on.

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[B28–30] Seminar Session „Memory Studies and Íslendingasögur“

Pernille Hermann
Aarhus University
norph@cc.au.dk

Project Presentation: Handbook of Pre-Modern Nordic Memory Studies

Initial investigations have shown that international and interdisciplinary Memory Studies provide a useful methodological and theoretical framework for understanding Old Norse literature and culture in new ways. Old Norse literature, being significantly preoccupied with the past, offers a unique opportunity to investigate such themes as construction and identity, as well as medieval ideas of memory; consequently, the interest in combining Memory Studies with Old Norse literature and culture is growing steadily. One of the results of this interest is the soon-to-be published Handbook of Pre-Modern Nordic Memory Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches, a multi-authored, more than 1000-page volume, which is edited by Jürg Glauser, Pernille Hermann, and Stephen A. Mitchell. This paper will present the content and structure of the handbook, as well as the background of, and the motivation for, the project.

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[B28–30] Seminar Session „Memory Studies and Íslendingasögur

Kate Heslop
University of California, Berkeley
heslop@berkeley.edu

Brimsorfit grjót: sagas – memory – media

Chapter 30 of Egils saga describes how, having failed to find a suitable local rock, Skalla-Grímr rows out to sea, dives down, and retrieves a boulder that still lies by his smithy, ok þat er brimsorfit grjót ok ekki því grjóti glíkt ǫðru er þar er ok munu nú ekki meira hefja fjórir menn (and that is a surf-worn rock and not like the other rock that is there, and now four men may not lift anything greater). Worked both by the waves and by Skalla-Grímr’s energetic hammering, the stone bears mute witness to central themes in the premodern mediation of memory: the co-creation of memory places, especially in a new land, by human and non-human agents; a ‘dynamic between reactivating the sedimented and the sedimentation of activity’ (Klaver, 157); the negotiation of the past’s alterity. Skalla-Grímr’s stone is both a saga representation of a memory medium, and a suggestive reflection on the Íslendingasögur’s own mediation of memory. My presentation will discuss memory in the sagas, and sagas as memory, from the perspective of media theory. Premodern Scandinavian memory media include, but are not limited to, rocks and landscapes; graves and monuments; buildings; inscriptions; images; poetry and other performances; names; weapons; textiles and clothing; and of course, written texts. A surprising number of them appear in the Íslendingasögur. As Skalla-Grímr’s stone suggests, these memory media, like the sagas themselves, are processual, unfinished, perhaps even ruins, and as such ‘rescue a forgotten past, not as heritage … but as a special kind of involuntary memory. This memory illuminates not only what conventional cultural history has left behind, but also what is made redundant by habitual memory. These things bring forth and actualize the abject memories that both the recollective and the habitual have displaced.’ (Olsen, 151). One question I would like to ask is, do memory media in the sagas actualize abject or counter-memories?

  • Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman. Minneapolis: U. Minnesota Press, 2015.
  • Klaver, Irene. “Phenomenology on (the) Rocks.” In Eco-Phenomenology: Back to the Earth Itself, ed. by Charles S. Brown and Ted Toadvine, 155–69. Albany: SUNY Press, 2003.
  • Olsen, Bjørnar, In Defense of Things: Archaeology and the Ontology of Objects. California: AltaMira, 2010.

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[G13] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Verena Höfig
University of Illinois
verena@illinois.edu

Making and Breaking Grave Mounds in Old Norse Texts

A presentation focused on the function of grave mounds in Norse texts, mostly in the sagas, but also in eddic poetry, legal documents, and runic inscriptions. Of particular interest will be the startling practice of ritual internment of living companions, the presence of supernatural trémenn in the mound, and the surprising number of extant stories revolving around brothers, blood-brothers, and pairs of princes buried in grave mounds.

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[E24] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Anna Catharina Horn
Universitetet i Bergen
anna.catharina.horn@gmail.com

The Problem of Járnsíða in Norwegian History Writing – a Historiographic Review of the Law Revisions of Magnús Hákonarson

The aim of this paper is to examine the 19th century scholarly discussion of what I call the narrative of the law revisions of King Magnús Hákonarson (the Law Mender) in the 1260s–1270s. I argue that the notion of Norwegian superiority to Iceland in the Middle Ages formed the narrative. As P.A. Munch (1858) stated, „[at] man nu ikke godt kan antage, at et Hast­verks-Arbejde af en Islænding skulde være lagt til Grund for en rigtig og gjennem­gribende Lovforandring i Norge […]“. The outline of the narrative is as follows: King Magnús revised the old provincial laws, and in 1267, the Gulaþingsbók was accepted at the Gulathing, as is stated in Annales regii (1885). Like­wise, in 1268, law books were accepted at Eidsivathing and Borgarthing. In 1269 at Frosta­thing, the archbishop Jon Rauðe blocked the King by refusing to accept a Christian bólkr. King Magnús then decided to make a new law, equal for the whole country. Thus, the Code of the Realm was completed and accepted in 1274. During this last period of revision, the law book Járnsíða was sent to Iceland in 1271. Several scholars published varying interpretations of the sources on the revision process in the late 19th century (Munch 1858; Maurer 1878; Brandt 1880; Hertzberg 1890; Taranger 1898). Maurer formed the above-mentioned narrative and received support from Taranger. Hertzberg, on the other hand, argued that the revised laws of 1267–1269 were to a large extent equal, and that even Járnsíða was a part of the revision program. Magnús based these revisions on legislation provided by his father, King Hákon Hákonar­son. I make the claim that Maurer misunderstood the term Gulaþingsbók, which in turn made it difficult to explain the many similarities between Járnsíða and the Code of 1274. He described Járnsíða as poor work (ynkelig Beskaffenhed). Hertzberg’s view was largely ignored, while Maurer’s view, on the other hand, fit neatly into the dominant 19th century Norwegian ideology that Norway was both politically and culturally superior to Iceland in the high Middle Ages.

  • ‘Annales regii’. In: Storm, Gustav (ed.) 1885. Islandske annaler indtil 1578. Det norske historiske Kildeskriftfond. Christiania.
  • Brandt, Fredrik 1880. Forelæsninger over den norske Retshistorie. Bind I. Kristiania.
  • Hertzberg, Ebbe 1890. Nordisk Retsencyklopædi. Bind I. Kjøbenhavn: Gyldendalske Boghandels Forlag.
  • Maurer, Konrad. 1878. Udsigt over de nordgermaniske Retskilders Historie. Kristiania: Den norske Historiske Forening.
  • Munch, P.A. 1858. Det norske Folks Historie. Første bind, fjerde Deel. Christiania: Chr. Tønsbergs Forlag.
  • Taranger, Absalon. 1898. Utsigt over den norske Rets Historie. Bind 1. Forlagt af Cammermeyers Boghandel. Christiania.

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[E3] Artistry: Literary Composition

Shaun F.D. Hughes
Purdue University
sfdh@purdue.edu

Atla saga Ótryggssonar: Old Wine in a New Bottle

In March 2017, I gave a lecture in the Miðaldastofa entitled “‘The Never-Ending Story’: Saga Writing from Ari Þorgilsson to Bergsveinn Birgisson.” I concluded by arguing: “Let us pay more attention to the sagas composed after 1400 and to the way in which saga texts in general were re-written over the centuries and how they continued to evolve.” Since the theme of the 17th International Saga Conference is the “Íslendingasögur” (without any time limit specified), this seems an appropriate place to respond to the challenge to take seriously those Íslendingasögur written after 1500. Or at least to take them as as seriously as did many readers in the time these sagas were composed. To this end I have selected Atla saga Ótryggssonar as a test case. This saga appears to have been composed in the north-east of Iceland in the early 19th century. The earliest MS dates from around 1817 and I possess a manuscript of the saga, dated 1860 missing the final page and containing the text with only one stanza written by Jónas Benjamínsson (1841-1893), barnakennari from Garðhorn in Svarfaðardalur. The saga was first published in 1886 in of all places Seyðisfjörður (Prentsmiðjan “Austra” ― B.M. Stephansson) and edited by Þórleifur Jónsson (1845-1911) (who edited numerous other volumes, mostly classical Íslendingasögur in the period 1874-1904. publishing them in Copenhagen, Reykjavík, and Akureyri). The saga was printed by Guðni Jónsson in the 4th volume of his edition of the Íslendinga sögur, 451-71, based on one MS from 1817 and another from around the same time. Both MSS contain only one stanza of verse, suggesting that Þórleifur Jónsson who included 5 stanzas in his printed edition may have known more about the authorship of the saga than he lets on in his Preface. He was informed about the saga by Símon Bjarnason Dalaskáld (1844-1916) who along with Jón Sigurðsson (1853-1922) was to publish the Rímur af Atla Ótryggssyni (Akureyri: Björn Jónsson, 1889). This paper evaluates Atla saga according to the standards and approaches that have been established with respect to the “classical” Íslendingasögur as well as placing it within socio-political concerns of the early 19th century.

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[F17] Saga origins and Media: Sagas in Translation

Arsena Ianeva-Lockney
University of Minnesota
ianev001@umn.edu

Time and Tense in the Íslendingasǫgur: Does Tense Switching Matter?

This paper focuses on the use of present tense in indirect discourse and in narration in the Íslendingasǫgur, and on the possible implications of this narrative feature in translations. The phenomenon of changing from present to past tenses of verbs and back again is referred to as “tense switching”. Every introduction to the Íslendingasǫgur in translation makes mention of this feature, and nearly all studies have perpetuated the notion of “abruptness” and “randomness”. The availability of saga texts in electronic version and the advances of computerized research have made it possible to use statistical methods for a quantitatively-­‐informed analysis. However, the initial hypotheses in such studies are based on the existing theories of narrative and performance and the authors’ position on the bookprose/freeprose debate not only shapes their attitude toward the problem of tense switching, but also influences their attempts to interpret the statistical results.

Tense switching as a narrative devise has been of interest to me ever since I started studying Old Icelandic. In my PhD thesis, I focused on one of the sagas in Möðruvallabók, Laxdæla saga, and pointed out the difficulties in determining sentence boundaries in manuscripts. I also argued that the abbreviation of the verb segir was used in dialogues as a cue that it was a different speaker’s turn. In this current study, I want to expand the scope of the research and to explore the following three topics.

  1. Text Syntax: comparison of sentence units in manuscripts vs. sentences in printed editions.
  2. Old Icelandic Paleography: distinctions of past and present tense in abbreviated verbs in manuscripts.
  3. Verb Typology: what verbs are exhibiting tense switching and what is the correlation between the semantics of verbs and their syntactic behavior?

The last topic is central to the question about the significance of tense switching. If certain types of verbs repeatedly occur in present tense, then it may be argued that their use forms a narrative pattern within the structure of the saga.

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[G5] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Ingibjörg Eyþórsdóttir
University of Iceland
ine11@hi.is

Darraðarljóð: galdur, seiður, leiðsla eða sýn?

Darraðarljóð eru galdra- og furðukvæði sem á engan sinn líka. Það hefur verið flokkað með eddukvæðum enda á það margt sameiginlegt með þeim, eins og bragarháttinn og umfjöllunarefni þar sem valkyrjur koma við sögu og eru nefndar á nafn, en varðveislustaður kvæðisins tengir það aftur á móti ákveðnum sögulegum atburði sem varð á ákveðnum stað og stund. Kvæðið er að finna undir lok Brennu-Njáls sögu og er eingöngu varðveitt þar, en það er varðveitt í öllum miðaldahandritum sögunnar. Í sögunni er það kveðið á sama tíma og Brjánsbardagi fer fram við Clontarf skammt frá Dyflinni á Írlandi, á föstudaginn langa árið 1014. Kvæðið er hins vegar kveðið á Katanesi í Skotlandi og aðrir atburðir tengdir bardaganum verða fjarri vettvangi hans. Sjónarvottur er að flutningi kvæðisins en það er maðurinn Dörruður, sem hvergi er nefndur annars staðar í sögunni. Hann sér tólf menn koma ríðandi, sem hverfa inn í dyngju. Kannski eru þetta valkyrjur, sem setja upp vef úr görnum manna, þær hafa mannshöfuð fyrir kljásteina og slá vefinn með vopnum, til sigurs hinum unga siklingi, sem nefndur er svo í kvæðinu, en því er beint gegn ríkum grami – jafnvel Bjáni sem bardaginn er kenndur við. Allur sá hluti sögunnar sem geymir kvæðið, sem nefndur hefur verið Brjánsþáttur, er fullur með yfirnáttúrlega atburði og furður svo hvergi innan Njálu er saman að jafna. Í kvæðinu opnast glufa inn í goðsögulega veröld eddukvæðanna, Dörruður sér inn í annan heim, þar sem valkyrjur slá blóðugan vefinn og kveða konungi sínum sigur. En vegna bæði sögulegs tíma Njálu og ritunartíma sögunnar er einnig forvitnilegt að horfa á kvæðið með augum þeirra sem hafa sagt og skráð söguna. Hvaða augum hefur fólk þess tíma litið kvæði af þessu tagi? Er kvæðið vitnisburður um leifar frá heiðnum tíma, eða hafa kristnar leiðslubókmenntir samtímans hér haft áhrif – má líta á þann hluta Brjánsþáttar sem rammar inn kvæðið sem leiðslu í þeirra anda? Nokkur önnur kvæði frá íslenskum miðöldum verða einnig athuguð út frá svipuðum forsendum og spurt: hvenær er kvæði leiðsla og hvenær ekki?

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[G18] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Ingunn Ásdísardóttir
University of Iceland
ingunn@akademia.is

„in arma“ in Þrymskviða

In this paper I intend to present a new interpretation of the ending of Þrymskviða as an illustrative example of my research: on the one hand I suggest that here we can see an until-now unrealized course of action in the poem, in which a jötunn-woman plays a more significant role than has hereto been acknowledged; and on the other hand that the action in the final strophes of the poem shows a close connection with certain other Eddic poems. In previous scholarship the jötnar have mostly been looked at in connection with other beings of the mythological world, such a Óðinn, Þórr or the vanir gods, who were the main research-subject in question. Rather than looking at the interactions between the jötnar and other beings, the purpose in my PhD project was to explore the jötnar independently. In doing so, I have aimed to probe beneath the layers of literary partiality which favour the gods – in some cases from an obvious Christian point of view – and to disconnect the jötnar from the impediment of the essentially æsir-viewpoint that predominates in many of the texts. The sources used are the Eddic mythologial peoms and skaldic mythological material (mainly the four oldest skaldic poems, Ragnarsdrápa, Haustlöng, Húsdrápa and Þórsdrápa, as well as other individual strophes and kennings with mythological references), as well as Snorri Sturluson’s Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál. My research has yielded some new conclusions, sometimes regarding only certain figures or events, solitary strophes or interprative angles, in other cases regarding interpretations of whole poems. In this paper I will, as outlined above, present an illustrative example of how looking at the research subject from an unconventional angle allows studies to yield new interpretations and reassess the worth of the fixed frames and attitudes in which previous scholarly discussiona has placed them.

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[E32] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Tsukusu Jinn Itó
Shinshū University
j-tksito@shinshu-u.ac.jp

From a Time-leaper ‘Urðr-Verðandi-Skuld’ to a Ragnarǫk Prophesied in a High-School Class Room: Varieties of Old Norse Mythological Gimmicks in Manga

This paper will scrutinize the general structure of Manga media in Japan, from the viewpoint of the reception study of Scandinavian mythology. In this paper, the methods of over-all adaptation of Scandinavian mythology are classified into three categories: 1. Historical Frame-works for Adaptation of Old Scandinavian Mythology; 2. Sci-Fi Frame-works for Naming from Mythological Onomasticon; 3. Present-Day Frame-works for Borrowings of Scandinavian Mythological Elements.

Category 1 is a traditional as well as ‘faithful’ way to adapt mythological anecdotes, objects and characters. The mythological elements are designed to be accommodated to the historical and geographical backdrop of a Manga story. Most stories in this category are set in the Middle Ages, and the characters come from Scandinavian countries or the Germanic spheres.

Category 2 has the settings either in the future or in the futuristic space world. Characters and weapons are named after Scandinavian mythological beings or objects.

Category 3 borrows any elements of Scandinavian Mythology freely in the daily-life contexts. Some references to Scandinavian mythological elements are abruptly inserted into the story telling, even if any logical connections are hardly found in the context. The elements are usually referred to without any explanations, but the readers are supposed to understand how the elements should work in the story, in accordance with their original functions in the medieval literature.

The keys of the three categories are also analysed through the mechanism of explanation and interpretation of the Scandinavian mythological elements. Some elements require the author/narrator to explain what they are in the original Old Norse myth, and the others are illustrated without any verbal explanation. In the latter case, the readers are supposed to have acquired pertinent knowledge concerning Scandinavian mythological background, which indicates to what extent Old Norse myth has already diffused among the Japanese readership.

The attractiveness of the Scandinavian mythology derives from its paganism, with reincarnation or transmigration of human beings as a sympathetic facet. With an unrigorous structure of the mythological world panoramic views, the Scandinavian mythological elements are flexibly available for the sufficiently Westernized but still pagan society of even present-day Japan.

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[E22] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Gottskálk Jensson
Árnasafn í Kaupmannahöfn
gottskalk@hum.ku.dk

The invention of the Sagas of Icelanders in nineteenth-century Copenhagen

After the foundation of the Arnamagnæan Commission in 1772, Copenhagen soon became the center of Old Norse-Icelandic philology. The preeminence of Copenhagen in this area, which lasted at least until the historic transfer of manuscripts to Reykjavík began in 1971, was no doubt owed to the incomparable richness of the city’s medieval manuscript collections. At first Danish government officials, some recruited in Iceland and Norway, were prominent in editorial projects. These often had the explicit goal of justifying Danish rule in Norway by exemplifying, through mostly Icelandic texts, the historic and linguistic relations of the two realms. In 1814, however, Norway was unexpectedly and permanently lost to the Danish crown, as a consequence of the country’s unhappy embroilment in the Napoleonic wars. According to the stipulations of the Kiel Treaty, Norway now entered into a personal union with the Swedish crown, which as it happened became occupied by a Marshal from Napoleon’s army, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. Iceland, however, was devorced from Norway and remained under Danish rule. Arguably the loss of Norway encouraged in Copenhagen a genuine reappreciation of Icelandic literature and language, which no longer was treated as simple source material for Scandinavian history. Editors and interpreters were increasingly professionals and free of overt patriotic agendas. French republicanism eventually led to constitutional reform in Scandinavia and the Enlightenment inspired scientific rationalism at the university. Such currents now informed a new fascination with the Sagas of Icelanders, a genre which was not fully defined until the editorial projects of the nineteenth century, since it had garnered limited interest in the Dano-Swedish historiographical feuds of previous centuries. The obscurity of these texts indeed facilitated their reinvention as exemplary prototypes of a pristine Nordic civilization, unspoilt by monarchical vices and ecclesiastical delusions. Divested of their slightly awkward specificities, i.e. their Icelandic genealogies and local history, the genre would be remade into timeless tales about tragic nobility in a free Nordic republic, true World Literature belonging to all and sundry.

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[E6] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Judith Jesch
University of Nottingham
judith.jesch@nottingham.ac.uk

‘En kaart sandferdig historie, om fire oc trediue Jerler oc høffdinger’ – more on the history and development of Orkneyinga saga

The two most complete surviving versions of the text we call Orkneyinga saga are in the late fourteenth-century Flateyjarbók, which forms the basis of modern editions, and in a sixteenth-century translation into Danish which survives in the seventeenth-century manuscript Holm papp 39 fol. Despite being a nearly-complete version of the saga, the latter has received relatively little scholarly attention in its own right, mainly being used by editors to plug gaps in the other manuscripts. This is most likely because it is after all only a translation of a medieval text rather than a copy of one, and it is for obvious reasons especially unreliable when it comes to the extensive verse quotations in the saga. Nevertheless, Holm Papp 39 fol. is an important manuscript, and deserving of scholarly attention, not only for its relative completeness as a text of the saga, but also because, along with the fragmentary early modern copy AM 332 4to, it derives from a medieval manuscript known as Codex Academicus which was destroyed in the Copenhagen fire of 1728. Both 39 and 332 are thus important witnesses to what was once a continuous and coherent version of Orkneyinga saga at an earlier stage than the dismembered and adapted text of Flateyjarbók. As 332 consists of only 34 leaves, and all other manuscripts of the saga are highly fragmentary, the early modern translation in 39 is the nearest we can get to what the saga might have looked like when it was conceived of as a coherent and undivided whole in the thirteenth century. Building on the work of Sigurður Nordal and Finnbogi Guðmundsson on the origins and history of 39, the paper will explore what this manuscript and 332 can tell us about the textual development of Orkneyinga saga in terms of its structure, genre and audience, at a time before the appropriation of the saga into the Flateyjarbók compilation.

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[E27] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Ellert Jóhannsson and Simonetta Battista
Dictionary of Old Norse Prose, University of Copenhagen
nkv950@hum.ku.dk — sb@hum.ku.dk

Icelandic sagas as dictionary material

A Dictionary of Old Norse Prose (ONP) is a project at the Institute for Nordic Research at the University of Copenhagen. ONP registers the vocabulary of Old Norse prose texts, which have been preserved in Norwegian and Icelandic manuscripts from approx. 1150 to the end of the Middle Ages. An initial planned publication of 13 volumes was put on hold in 2004 after the 3rd volume was released. Shortly thereafter, both published and unpublished dictionary material became available on the website: onp.ku.dk. The online version of the dictionary is gradually improving with edited dictionary entries, and the addition of new features. ONP source material consists of medieval prose vocabulary, excerpted both from text editions and unpublished manuscripts. According to ONP editorial principles, the excerpted material must reflect the original source as accurately as possible, which means that the citations are not normalized. ONP attempts to give a broad view of the entire vocabulary throughout the period with representative examples from all preserved text genres and examples of all known words. In this presentation we give an overview of ONP source material and the principles that have been used in the excerpting of texts. We discuss how the ONP collection of citations covers several text genres, time periods, and origins. We will focus on the citations taken from the Icelandic sagas and tales. Of the 800,000 citations collected in the dictionary archives, about 14% belong to this genre. We take a closer look at the vocabulary of Icelandic sagas found in the dictionary archives. We will discuss the characteristics of this excerpted material and proceed to compare and contrast it with the material from other genres. In addition, we present ONP Online and demonstrate what opportunities the user has for interacting with this dictionary material, such as different types of search options, linking to various additional information, accessing dictionary citations in a larger context, displaying scanned citation slips, and further information about particular manuscripts. Finally, we will discuss the possibilities for the further development of ONP Online, for example, how the collection of citations can be used as a corpus and how modern scholarly electronic text editions can complement the ONP database.

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[C25] Ideas and Worldview: Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Roles

Karl G. Johansson
University of Oslo
k.g.a.johansson@iln.uio.no

A Case of Two Nuns

When reading the sagas of Icelanders one cannot avoid to notice the final words of more or less every saga about the Christianization and how the surviving characters finally find peace in a new Christian society. An example close at hand is the Christian embrace of Flosi and Kári at the end of Njáls saga. In this paper I wish to scrutinise two descriptions of the first Icelandic nun, though the nun in the two cases is not the same. In Laxdœla saga Guðrún Ósvifrsdóttir is in her old age described as a Christian woman and the first einsetukona in Iceland on the farm Helgafell, while Guðríðr Þorbjarnardóttir in Grœnlendinga saga is given the same honour, living in the northern part of the country, on Reynisnes, close to the site of the later established monastery of Reynistaðir. This claim is rather special in both cases as the two women lived in a time long before the first monasteries were established in Iceland and before we would have expected any nuns, but at the same time it is intriguing that they both lived and were buried close to the two monasteries Helgafell and Reynistaðir; the suggestion that they both legitimized the monasteries lies close at hand. This possibility is interesting as it would point in the direction of a common ideological background for the two narratives. In order to pursue this line of thought it is relevant also to take a closer look at the saints’ lives preserved from the time of the two sagas as this claim for a life in piety does seem related to the descriptions of saints. Could it be that the descriptions of the two nuns are based on or inspired by the narratives of holy women found in the so called heilagra manna sögur? In my paper I will discuss the relation between the two mentioned sagas and the Cecilíu saga.

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[A22] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Ryan E. Johnson
University of Iceland
ryan.e.johns@gmail.com

Saga Origins in Medieval Icelandic Translation Culture

The topic of Icelandic saga origins has long been a debated topic, but since the Icelandic School we have come to understand sagas as a world literature in its own right. Whether or not we believe firmly in the so-called book prose theory, scholarly consensus has moved staunchly away from viewing the Icelandic sagas as purely oral history, that is to say, written as is from oral origins. While we must try to understand the role that oral culture had to play in their development, it has become apparent that it was not the only factor that created the unique culture of saga writing that has come down to us in manuscript format. This seminar session will bring scholars together to review another important facet of saga inception: Icelandic translations of continental cultural output. From the Bible to French Romance, much ground can be covered that focuses on the lines of written cultural development in Iceland, from the knowledge that Iceland required outside assistance in order to form a written culture. Indigenous oral culture, on the other hand, need not be excluded from this discussion, as an understanding of the blending of oral and written culture will ultimately aid our understanding of the development of the Íslendingasögur. Did Egill treat his brother Þórólfur like Cain treated Abel? Was Laxdæla saga with its love triangle influenced by French Romance tradition? These are questions that have been posed before, but have we fully explored this idea as a theme? Furthermore, what did it mean for Icelanders to translate Latin historiography? How did they choose what they would translate? From a manuscript perspective, we can explore magnificent documents such as those that contain Stjórn, and Gyðinga saga, exploring the lines between the clerical and the lay, and the intersections between the two. What connection can we make to the Christian conversion and the Icelanders will to spread their own culture? This seminar aims to explore all these facets and more through collaboration and with a trans-disciplinary methodology at heart.

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[F31] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Brent Landon Johnson
Signum University
brent@aldasaga.com

ÍRlendingasǫgur: the Irish Impact on the Icelandic Sagas

Beyond conventional recognition, the influence of the Old Irish saga and elements of the Irish literary tradition may have had a critical impact on the shaping of the corpus of Icelandic sagas. Key indicators include the strong role of prose in Ireland’s earliest story transcriptions (largely predating the Icelandic prose sagas by centuries), and the deeper shared past of respective Irish and Norse legendary story cycles, born from oral tradition and later collected into manuscripts (where again the Irish effort mostly predated the Icelandic one). It seems more reasonable that the nature of the written Icelandic saga was significantly formed by cues taken from the established Irish saga, than that the two traditions could have evolved so similarly yet independently. There is much to suggest that poetic proficiency was especially preeminent in both Ireland and Iceland, where bárds and skálds were revered professionals and often at least as heroic as the subjects in their verse. Not only does Iceland maintain relative geographic proximity to Ireland through its progressive stages of relationship, but it eventually boasts an unrivalled mastery of poetry and prose proximate to Ireland, such that even Norwegian nobles were recognizing Iceland’s refined artistic merit and outsourcing their literary commissions to Iceland. It stands to reason that Ireland should have reached the watershed moment of transmitting oral tradition into written manuscripts somewhat earlier than Iceland, since it was the admission of Christianity that first allowed Latin script and bookmaking into Ireland and much later into Iceland. Although the oldest extant Irish manuscript is the early 12th century Lebor na hUidre (MS 23 E 25), evidence argues that Ireland had begun to produce manuscripts of this kind likely back to the 6th century. Iceland entered into this level of manuscript production after Lebor na hUidre, when it finally had the necessary tools for such. This presentation will make a case for how Ireland could have laid the critical groundwork upon which Iceland built its rich body of sagas, and the notable exclusivity of certain elements to the two literary traditions.

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[E33] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Jón Karl Helgason
University of Iceland
jkh@hi.is

Nordic Gods, Nazis and Boys Commandos

In the period 1939-1945 several American comic magazines published stories featuring pagan Nordic gods, including Odin and Thor. These include Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s “The Shadow of Valhalla,” published in the magazine Boy Commandos in 1944. By that time, both artists had been drafted and so it’s uncertain to what degree the storyline, reportedly ghost-written by Don Cameron and ghost-drawn by Louis Cazeneuve, is a part of Kirby and Simon’s oeuvre. The heroes of the Boy Commandos series, which had kicked off in 1942, are four orphan boys from France, England, the Netherlands, and USA who, under the leadership of Rip Carter, fight the Axis Powers on different military fronts. In ‘The Shadow of Valhalla’ the action takes place in a German-occupied Norway, or more specifically in an old building where the Commandos are supposed to search for artillery. It turns out that this is the castle of Valhalla, Odin’s residence, occupied by a Nazi troop. The two parties engage in a battle, causing part of the bastion to explode. At that point, the Nordic gods Thor, Freyr, Bragi and Heimdall – they are all with yellow beards, wearing Viking clothing and horned helmets like uniforms – intervene and bring the intruders to the seat of Odin. The Nazi lieutenant claims that he represents the gods’ ‘chosen leader, Hitler!’ and adds that Carter and his Commandos ‘must be destroyed! Our fuehrer has ordered it! We shall be masters of the world.’ But Odin is not impressed. ‘Who is this upstart Hitler?’ he asks. ‘I never chose him for a leader!’ I have dealt briefly with this story in my recent book, Echoes of Valhalla (2017) but in my paper, I will place it in the context of American political cartoons relating to World War II, in particular some of Kirby and Simon’s other works, including Captain America.

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[G8] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Jon Gunnar Jørgensen
University of Oslo
j.g.jorgensen@iln.uio.no

Den døendes ord

Sagaene viser mange eksempler på kommunikasjon mellom døde og levende, der de døde formidler viktig informasjon til de levende. I dødsriket finnes kunnskap som er skjult for de levende. En særlig interessant fase er overgangen fra livet til døden. Etter at Sigurd Fåvnesbane hadde stukket sverdet sitt i monstret Fåvne og gitt ham banesår, hadde de to en lang og innholdsrik samtale, der Fåvne gav sin banemann mye nyttig informasjon og visdom. Samme motiv finner vi også i flere islendinge–sagaer, f. eks i Vatnsdæla saga. Jeg vil i mitt foredrag se nærmere på dette motivet. På sagakonferansen i Sveits presenterte jeg en enkel modell for kunnskaps–oppfatning i den norrøne kulturen, der jeg skilte mellom skjult og åpen kunnskap. Jeg vil tolke motivet «den døendes ord» i lys av denne modellen. Den døende er i et grenseland mellom liv og død. Han/hun kan fremdeles kommunisere med de levende, men har samtidig innsikt i dødsrikets hemmeligheter.

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[F11] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Regina Jucknies
Universität zu Köln
r.juck@uni-koeln.de

Saga Fragments in the Cologne Collection of Old Icelandic Prints

Heinrich Erkes (1864-1930) gathered a collection of Icelandic printed books, which he incorporated into the university library at Cologne in 1920. The “Sammlung Islandica” brought by Erkes hosted about 6,000 volumes of great thematic width, although some themes like geography and travel accounts, fiction as well as Old Norse literature and philology are quite prominent. This collection is still growing today, currently consisting of more than 13,500 volumes and forms one of the most precious collections of Cologne’s university library.

From the beginning, the collection contained about 230 books printed in Iceland before 1800. These volumes are of various content; unsurprisingly, as the only printing press in Iceland was kept in episcopal ownership for centuries, many of them are dedicated to religious instruction or generally can be counted as religious literature. Among them, there are a number of prints of the passíusálmar by Iceland’s famous baroque poet Hallgrímur Pétursson, but there are also Bibles, saga editions, legal texts and administrative writings etc. In many of the Cologne books we find binding material consisting of paper that was reused, very often bearing written text of a variety of kinds: letters, lists, exercise books, accounts and calculations etc. We even find fragments of saga texts, moreover of sagas of Icelanders, e.g. precisely in some of the Passíusálmar editions just mentioned.

These Cologne fragments that had not been investigated before I came across them some year ago, are in the centre of my paper, in which I will give an account for them, try to give an analysis of their contents, try to place and date them as well as suggest some ideas about how these fragments found their way into printed works.

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[B26] Artistry: Semiotics and Interpretation

Kirsi Tuulia Kanerva
University of Turku
kirsi.kanerva@gmail.com

Emotions of the weak and the vigorous: Emotional practices in medieval Iceland

Medieval Icelandic saga literature draws a picture of a culture where emotions were construed as bodily experiences and processes, and the distinction between the ‘mind’ and the ‘body’, or ‘emotion’ and ‘illness’, was not always clear. According to the cultural thinking models, the body as the seat of emotions was porous and vulnerable (i.e. penetrable) to extra-bodily influences. In addition, as has been discussed by Carol J. Clover, in medieval Icelandic society people were not categorized strictly by the binary opposition male-female, but between hvatr, which meant ‘powerful, vigorous and bold’ and blauðr, ‘soft, weak and powerless’. The category of blauðr thus included “most women, children, slaves, and old, disabled, or otherwise disenfranchised men” who were thus considered soft, weak and powerless compared to men, especially aristocratic men and some exceptional women who were regarded as part of the so-called hvatr-group. Bearing in mind Clover’s model, I will examine medieval Icelandic ‘emotional practices’, a term (inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s ideas of habitus), which according to Monique Scheer refers to practices that involve the mind and the body of the individual as well as language, the physical and social environment, and material artifacts. I will concentrate on the emotional practices of the people who belonged to the hvatr-group on the one hand and to the blauðr-group on the other hand, and discuss the possible differences between the emotional expression and experience of the two groups of people in medieval Iceland as reflected in medieval Icelandic sagas.

  • Clover, Carol J. 1993. Regardless of Sex. Men, Women, and Power in Early Northern Europe. Speculum 68 (1993), 363–387.
  • Scheer, Monique. 2012. Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (and Is That What Makes Them Have a History)? A Bourdieuian Approach to Understanding Emotion. History and Theory 51 (2012) 2: 193–220.

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[E4] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Katarzyna Anna Kapitan
University of Copenhagen
k.kapitan@yahoo.co.uk

Between transmission and reception: lost medieval sagas and their post-medieval manifestations.

An unknown number of medieval sagas are lost without a trace. Nevertheless, citations in other sources allow us to argue for the written existence of a number of sagas, as demonstrated by Jesch (1984) in her excellent study of lost Íslendingasögur . Yet, there is also a number of other works that possibly never had a written manifestation but still can be categorized as „lost literature“ (Wilson 1952). The research of Icelandic lost literature depends widely on rímur, which are usually based on pre-existing narratives (Björn Þórólfsson 1934). Rímur, however, were frequently transformed “back” into prose in the post-medieval period (Driscoll 1997). Thus, rímur-based narratives can be analyzed as examples of the early reception of „lost stories,” on which rímur were based on. Therefore, this paper builds on two methodological approaches: transmission studies, and reception studies. While reception studies often focus on contemporary adaptations of traditional motifs, transmission studies usually concentrate on textual variation of a given text or on its material context. Neither approach leaves much space for the discussion of the early modern reinterpretations of the sagas, their transmissions, and their meanings. This paper examines three potentially „lost“ sagas and their nineteenth-century adaptations: Þorsteins saga Geirnefjufóstra, Skáld-Helga saga and Hrómundar saga Greipssonar. These three narratives are based either on rímur or on an oral tradition, but they treat their sources differently and their manuscript context varies. These differences create an important case study of the scribal—or authorial—milieu in Húnavatnssýsla in the early nineteenth century. A comparison of the manuscript context and selected literary features of these texts, gives an insight into the process of post-medieval saga (re)writing and the early reception of these works.

  • Björn K. Þórólfsson. 1934. Rímur Fyrir 1600. Kaupmannahöfn: S.L.Möller.
  • Driscoll, M.J. 1997. The Unwashed Children of Eve. Middlesex: Hisarlik Press.
  • Jesch, J. 1984. The Lost Literature of Medieval Iceland. London: University College London.
  • Wilson, R.M. 1952. The Lost Literature of Medieval England. London: Methuen.

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[E36] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Merrill Kaplan
The Ohio State University
kaplan.103@osu.edu

The State of Vinland

The long story of the reception of Eiríks saga rauða and Grænlendinga saga continues in the present vestur um haf, where Íslendingasögur have been hitched to a machine of racialized identity production. Vinland’s entanglements with discourses of race stretch back into the nineteenth century, when the Protestant elite of Boston, wanting to maintain social superiority over recent immigrants from Catholic southern Europe, dreamed up a Vinland in their back yard. Today, Vinland is part of right-wing extremist discourse in the U.S. As I write this, it is less than a week since a man previously seen shouting “Hail Vinland!” at a far-right rally cut the throats of three men on a train in Portland, Oregon, killing two of them. The Republic of Vinland (@VinlandRepublic) has been tweeting support for a “Homeland of Colonial Europeans in North America” since February 20, 2017, using as their profile image a Nordic-cross flag designed in the 1990s by a goth band as the flag of “Vinnland.” That flag has been taken up by racist skinheads like the Vinlander Social Club and others as a white nationalist symbol. In February of 2017, an online community of meme-making jokesters pretending to be white nationalists — and white nationalists pretending to be jokesters — designed a flag for their notional, virtual homeland that merged the Vin(n)land flag with Nazi elements. Invented and promulgated on the Internet, that flag flew in real space at the massive April 15 demonstration in Berkeley, California, where hundreds of right-wing “Free Speech” demonstrators clashed with anti-fascist counter-demonstrators amid smoke and pepper spray. Today the idea of Vinland is interacting with an Alt-Right identitarianism that presents an idealized White race not as barbarian conquerors but as a beleaguered ethnic minority whose culture is in danger, a people in need of a homeland. This paper will provide an introduction to current far-right iconography that invokes a fantasy of a white Vinland. It will then examine how ideas of Vinland are playing out online, especially at sites where the virtual emerges into the material, as it does in Amazon product reviews for Vin(n)land paraphernalia. It will close with some thoughts about how we might frame the Vinland sagas for our students in light of all of the above.

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[E13] Saga origins and Media: Saga Landscapes

Dale Kedwards
Syddansk Universitet
dale.kedwards@gmail.com

Eiríks saga rauða and the medieval world image: Straumsfjörðr in its global context

Eiríks saga rauða relates how Þorfinnr karlsefni and his company twice traverse a length of coastline broken by an inlet where the currents or tides are so great (‘voru þar straumar miklir’) that they call it Straumsfjörðr (‘current or tide fjord’), and the island at its mouth Straumsey. The factual identity of this Straumsfjörðr has been a matter of intense speculation, as scholars have sought to map its description onto known North American coastlines. However, while this approach has produced dozens of plausible candidates, world descriptions in medieval literatures cannot be read as though they were straightforward and transparent attempts to describe physiogeographical realities. In this paper, I suggest that Straumsfjörðr and Straumey do not accord with any observed geographic situation, but are, like the einfætingr (‘uniped’) in the same saga, importations from Latin geographical descriptions. While the North Atlantic was situated on a global frontier that fell largely outside the Roman geographical consciousness, antique descriptions of the earth and its parts were productive in the minds of medieval Icelandic authors, who used them to think about and rationalise the regions known to them. Often, the work of their geographical descriptions was to rationalise northern observations in ways that did not break with the models they inherited from antique authorities (such as Isidore of Seville) and the medieval European curriculum authors who emulated them. This paper demonstrates that the description of Straumsfjörðr in Eiríks saga rauða parallels descriptions of the inlet through which the ocean’s tides entered the orbis terrarum (‘circle of lands’) in Latin geographical treatises. It shows how medieval Icelanders steeped in broader European intellectual traditions were able to use a shared European world image to rationalise new oceanic discoveries, and bring the North Atlantic into the spatial compass of the world familiar to other European writers.

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[Poster session] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Vera Hannalore Kemper
Háskóli Íslands
vhk5@hi.is

We don’t need another hero

Sigurd (ON Sigurðr, German Siegfried) is a heroic figure emerging in early medieval Germanic and European literature. He is in every way what would later become the blueprint for a male heroic male character in several European cultures, a development that seems to occur slowly yet steadily throughout the Middle Ages. Sigurd also makes several appearances in the Icelandic written culture, one of the most pronounced instances is in the Volsunga saga. The originating tale in this specific instance seems to be the Germanic Siegfried saga, which forms the first part of the Nibelungenlied. In this tale, wherein his strength and wealth appear otherworldly, Sigurd fights the Saxons after which he travels to Iceland to secure a marriage between his loyal patron Gunther and the Icelandic queen Brünhild. Though never translated into Icelandic, Sigurd has had a pronounced impact on the Icelandic literary production. He appears to be fitting into a larger literary development wherein European literary works found their way, mostly translated, to Iceland. One of the underlying questions is why the Siegfried saga never was translated, and how this affected its reception and cultural impact. Apart from this practical level, there are elements to be explored on the literary level itself. Sigurd appears to hold an extraordinary position within the Nordic cosmological world. This is due to the fact that he seems to maintain a specifically close relationship with the gods, despite being human himself. Now, it is easy to put this assumption aside or assume literary Christianization, yet this aspect too deserves closer attention. Where exactly does this motif in its entirety comes from, and what does Christianity have to do with it? This paper seeks to explore Sigurd as a multidimensional inter-European literary character with definite yet previously unspecified connections, or at least influence in the European North. I will resort to existing and established theories surrounding literary expansion and influence, whilst simultaneously attempting to surpass those frameworks and preconceived notions. Of the utmost interest are the origin of the specific type of hero Sigurd is, as well as his seemingly endless multitude of applications.

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[F13] Saga origins and Media: Sagas in Translation

John Kennedy
Charles Sturt University
jkennedy@csu.edu.au

Translating Egils saga Skallagrímssonar: the special challenges of a great skald saga

The bibliography ‘Translated Sagas’ maintained by the National and University Library of Iceland reveals that Egils saga has been translated in tolerably complete form numerous times and into at least eighteen languages, including all the extant North Germanic languages of Scandinavia, major world languages English, French, and Spanish, and the non-Indo-European languages Finnish, Hungarian and Japanese. The existence of four or more tolerably complete translations into at least three of these target languages, Danish, English, and Swedish, and of translations into the same language spread over three different centuries, provides an indication that the saga has been recognised as a major work of literature and one needing to be reinterpreted for different audiences in different ways at different times, as does the reissue in revised form of many translations. But the poetry associated with the saga, some of the most important of which does not form part of the text in the best preserved manuscript, makes Egils saga particularly challenging for the translator of the Íslendingasögur, arguably requiring the talents of someone himself or herself a poet. Some of the poems at least are unquestionably of the finest quality, considerably superior to the great majority of the lausavísur found in many other sagas, and the verse employs metrical, linguistic and cultural conventions which are undoubtedly alien and challenging even to readers schooled by modern poets to expect poetry to be demanding. This paper will examine the approaches to translating the saga employed by those who have translated it into two major world languages (English, with six translations dating from 1893 to 1997 and a substantial William Morris fragment, and French, with translations from 1925 and 1987), brief consideration also being given to Baldur Ragnarsson’s rendition into Esperanto. It will pay particular but not exclusive attention to their responses to the challenges provided by poetry in a saga context. It will also consider whether the hypertext possibilities opened up by the electronic presentation of texts can provide at least partial solutions to some of the problems confronting the translator, without creating an artefact appealing only to the dedicated scholar.

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[A4] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Elise Kleivane
University of Oslo
elise.kleivane@iln.uio.no

Intet nytt fra Vestfronten

Mange islendingesagaer endar forteljinga kort etter år 1000, og dermed kort etter at kristendomen var vedtatt på Alltinget som ny tru og dermed som ny lov. Ein del av islendingesagaene avsluttar forteljinga før år 1000, men ingen av dei går lenger fram enn 1060-talet, med unntak av genealogiane som avsluttar nokre av sagaene. Deretter er det stilt fram til Þorgils saga ok Hafliða og samtidssagaene. Kvifor har islandske sagaskrivarar på 1200-talet gitt oss ei mengd sagaer om tida fram til inn på 1000-talet samt detaljerte beskrivingar av perioden ca. 1150–1270, samtidig som nesten ingenting er fortalt om perioden i mellom?

Spørsmålet om kva det var ved «islendingesagaperioden» som var interessant for sagaskrivarane på 1200-talet, har vore sentralt i debatten om korleis og kvifor islendingesagaene blei til. Men i forlenginga av dette er det interessant å spørje kva som gjorde den påfølgjande perioden (tilsynelatande) så uinteressant.

Eit element kan vere at kristninga markerer ei overgang til ei ny tid. Og i mange tilfelle verkar det som om islendingesagaforfattarane gjer eit poeng ut av å føre dei mest framståande karakterane inn i denne nye tida. Sjølv der hovudhandlinga tek slutt før kristninga, blir det ofte kort referert kven som blei kristne, i kommentarar som ikkje er avgjerande for den narrative strukturen. Gísla saga Súrssonar lét to av dei attlevande kvinnene, Auðr og Gunnhild, ta den nye trua og dra på pilegrimsreise. I Víga-Glúms saga blir det fortalt at Glúmr blir døypt når kristendomen kjem til Island, etter at hovudhandlinga er over. Men kristninga fekk sannsynlegvis ikkje bukt med alle feidar og konfliktar som det ville vere verd å fortelje om, så det må vere fleire årsaker til denne stille perioden. I dette foredraget vil eg i tillegg til kristninga ta opp mellom anna historieskriving, kulturelt minne og skaldedikt, og diskutere kvifor det ikkje var noko særskild å rapportere frå vestfronten av Europa på 1000-talet.

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[D32] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Gwendolyne Knight
Stockholm University
gwendolyne.knight@historia.su.se

Witchcraft Before the Law

The study of magic and witchcraft necessarily involves considerations of its relationship with Christianity, whether this be as a sort of anti-religion or evidence of remnants of pre-Christian belief. Typically, the supernatural character of magic and witchcraft is stressed, veering not infrequently into the mythological in order to establish what the medieval Scandinavian concept of ‘magic’ entailed. Hotly debated has been the extent to which written sources reflect a pre-Christian and pre-literary past, the ritual character of magic, and the extent to which it is possible to understand the role of magic in daily life. One aspect of magic and witchcraft in medieval Scandinavia that remains to be as thoroughly explored is that of magic and witchcraft as a legal concept. Miller, Raudvere, and Meylan have all, in different ways, explored magic within the law and legal proceedings, and the topic comes up briefly in other treatments of early Scandinavian studies on witchcraft (e.g. Mitchell). However, magic and witchcraft in a specifically legal context, rather than legal elements in a supernatural one, remains a fairly unexplored area. This paper proposes to examine magic and witchcraft as legal concepts within Grágás. In understanding magic and witchcraft as legal concepts, I propose to foreground this legal context. In other words, I am not as much concerned with the daily practice of magic or with magic as a lived experience as much as I am with magic and witchcraft as legal vocabulary and as legislated objects, people, and practices. What, in short, is the legal concept of magic and witchcraft? My paper will contextualize this examination in two ways: firstly, with comparisons to provisions for magic and witchcraft in other contemporary law codes (including Gulaþing); secondly, it will compare the legal treatment of magic and witchcraft in Grágás with their appearances in legal proceedings within the Íslendingasögur.

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[D5] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Sara Ann Knutson
University of California, Berkeley
sara_knutson@berkeley.edu

Law & Order in Saga Iceland: The Formation of Legal Networks & Political Landscapes

Across the corpus of the Íslendinga sögur, much of the narrative action occurs at sites of political activity, including not least the Things. These stories have drawn attention to the intriguing legal process and political culture of saga society. The famous phrase from Njáls saga “With laws shall our land be built” particularly highlights perceptions of the law as part and parcel of life on Iceland with its inextricable connections to the land and people. Such mentalities regarding the development of legal structures generated an imagined geography of political boundaries and cohesive social networks within that framework. This paper examines the nature of kinship networks that distributed legal obligations throughout the political landscapes of the Íslendinga sögur. Such relations were based on political realities and the territorial nature of power in Commonwealth Iceland (Vésteinsson 2007). Using digital mapping technologies and network analysis, this study georeferences legal relations including land holding, communication, feud, and reconciliation in selected sagas with strong or associative societal networks (Mac Carron and Kenna 2013): Laxdæla saga, Njáls saga, Vatnsdæla saga, and Egils saga Skallagrímssonar. The visualization of these legal networks will demonstrate that in the Icelandic imagination, the land was inextricably tied to the dynamic law, that the building of one by nature meant the development of the other. Beyond the inscription of Iceland’s written law codes, the legal experience of the Commonwealth was shaped by nothing short of the Icelanders’ conceptions of the land.

  • Finsen, V. (Ed). (1852). Grágás Islœndernes Lovbog I Frisatens Tid udgivet efter det kongelige Bibliotheks Haandskrift. Copenhagen: Brødrene Berlings Bogtrykkeri.
  • Mac Carron, P. and R. Kenna (2013). „Network analysis of the Íslendinga sögur—the Sagas of the Icelanders.“ The European Physical Journal B 86(407): 1-9.
  • Miller, W. I. (1990). Bloodtaking and peacemaking feud, law, and society in Saga Iceland. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
  • Nordal, S. (Ed). (1933). Egils saga Skallagrímssonar (Vol. 2). Hið Íslenzka Fornritafélag.
  • Vésteinsson, O. (2007). „A divided society: peasants and the aristocracy in medieval Iceland.“ Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 3: 117-139.

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[F26] Artistry: Literary Composition

Lucie Korecká
Charles University in Prague
lucy.korecka@seznam.cz

Post-classical Sagas and þættir of Icelanders: Narrative Levels and Fantasy

The paper is based on Kathryn Hume’s formulation of the literary role of fantasy (Fantasy and Mimesis, 1984). Hume turns against the theories that isolate the fantastic as a separate genre or form, and argues that all literature is a product of two impulses, mimesis and fantasy, both of which are structural elements. For studying the structural elements in the Icelandic sagas specifically, I have formulated three narrative levels: realistic, adventurous, and fantastic. The main differences between them are not based simply on their relation to objective reality, but mostly on the principles that define their narrative structure. On the realistic level, the defining principle of the narrative structure is causality (cause → action → consequence); the typical example is the saga feud with the gradually increasing violence. On the adventurous level, the defining principle of the narrative structure is a pattern based on an ideal and a reward (the heroic ideal → action → another action, etc. → reward); the main reason for the hero’s quests is his wish to try his strength and gain glory, and the quests are usually not causally connected to each other, but all of them together lead to a reward. On the fantastic level, the defining principle of the narrative structure is a distortion of balance by a supernatural intervention and a re-establishment of the balance (situation → supernatural intervention → distortion → supernatural counteraction → renewal of balance). All of the levels may contain both mimesis and fantasy. In this paper I will focus on the question of how the classical and post-classical sagas and þættir combine the narrative levels, shift between them, and employ mimesis and fantasy within them. The purpose is to show that far from being products of a literary decline, the post-classical narratives of Icelanders can be seen as advanced – and in many ways modern – works of narrative sophistication. The texts in focus are Svarfdæla saga, Harðar saga ok Hólmverja, Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar, Stjörnu-Odda draumr, Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar, and Bergbúa þáttr. The paper is intended to present the results of my two-year project on the post-classical narratives of Icelanders.

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[G15] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Jan Kozák
Charles University in Prague
kozak.jan@gmail.com

Encircled by Flames – Meeting the Other in Hervarar saga and Völsunga saga

The aim of this paper is to look at two similar examples of hero’s journey across a flame barrier and an encounter with a otherworldly being in two fornaldarsögur. In the first case it is Sigurðr of Völsunga saga and in the second case Hervör of Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks konungs. Both encounters share a general setting of hero’s trial and series of similar features, however their main difference lies in the gender of the protagonist. It is interesting that the entity encountered on the other side of the flame barrier also changes gender to be complementary with the hero’s gender. I intend to interpret these changes and variations as effects of a medieval version of “commutation test” by which the symbolic system of Old Norse legendary sagas is testing its limits and possibilities. The idea that operation similar to the semiotic notion of “commutation test” (i.e. changing one element of the narrative and thus testing its implicit meaning and value) is somehow constitutive of the meaning-generation in the corpus of narratives of a given genre will be then illustrated by a series of paired narrative parallels from fornaldarsögur and eddic mythology. Towards the end of the paper I will point out several basic axes of commutation that are especially favourite in the legendary and mythological material – gender inversions, size inversions etc. and look at some interesting aspects of these kinds of variations, e.g. their comic potential.

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[G17] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Mart Kuldkepp
University College London (UCL)
m.kuldkepp@ucl.ac.uk

From Pagan to Christian Saintliness: Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss as a Religious Genealogy

This paper explores the possible contemporary societal relevance of Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, a relatively late Íslendingasaga known for its many supernatural elements (including the non-human protagonist Bárðr himself). I will consider this text as an attempt on part of an unknown 14th century Icelandic cleric to reinterpret and re-instrumentalise the category of pre-Christian superstition, trying to reconcile what were probably ’local’ folk beliefs in supernatural beings with the broader ideological tenets of the Church as they applied in late Medieval Iceland. While doing that, the cultural continuity between pagan and Christian Iceland was reasserted by the author of the saga, retaining Bárðr as a legitimate part of Icelandic history just as much as his Christian successors who superseded him. Parallels will be drawn with byskupasögur and the more hagiographical konungasögur, suggesting that the sort of pagan ’saintliness’ as is ascribed to Bárðr in Bárðar saga, was intended as a prefiguration of the two Ólafrs and the pivotal role they were going to play in Icelandic history.

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[B28–30] Seminar Session „Memory Studies and Íslendingasögur

Sarah Künzler
Trinity College Dublin
Sarah.Kuenzler@glasgow.ac.uk

Íslendinga sögur and Narrative Markers of Historicity: Some New Approaches through Memory Studies

The Íslendinga sögur are a group of sagas which had traditionally been perceived as mainstays of early Icelandic historical writing because their convincing use of literary realism avant la lettre. Recent research inspired by Memory Studies approaches has, however, opened up the possibility that these texts were consciously composed in order to equip a young nation with a past. It may be argued that it was the particular circumstances of a relatively recently founded society which engendered such interest in ‘historical’ questions: where exactly did our ancestors come from, how and where did they settle on the land, and how did they create this unique society that we now inhabit? Icelandic society, as well as Iceland itself, could have seemed to subsequent generations more than just metaphorically out of place with Europe. Their lack of a king until 1262 and their cultural as well as spatial claiming of ‘no-man’s-land’ may have inspired questions as to how a group of settles arranged itself to form a nation. This paper suggest that the Íslendinga sögur draw on ‘historicising elements’ i.e. narrative strategies and figurae that evoke a sense of historicity, in order to convey a fictional historical setting important for generating a sense of national and cultural identity. Such deliberate attempts to create authenticity in narrative texts have only recently been proposed in relation to Irish sagas and it remains to be seen whether they are equally applicable to Nordic sources. Yet they may be central in facilitating the formation of memories pertaining to the recent or distant past. Through this, the text are able to fulfil the role of myths by convincingly creating connections between the present of the sagas written emergence and the past of which they narrate. Such ‘connective structures’ were proposed by Jan Assmann as a meta-network which allows a group of people to develop a self-awareness as a culture. This study will thus argue that viewing the sagas from a Memory Studies perspective and focussing on the narrative strategies they use to appear ‘historical’ can add new dimensions to our reading of the texts. Ultimately, this will enrich our understanding of the role of literature in the formation, and continuation, of a unique culture at the fringe of Europe.

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[G14] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Triin Laidoner
University of Aberdeen (alumna)
triin_laidoner@hotmail.com

Old Norse Ancestor Beliefs among the Settlers of Iceland

Ancestor worship is often assumed by contemporary European audiences to be an outdated, distant and primitive tradition with little relevance to our societies, past and present. This paper questions that assumption and discusses whether ancestor ideology was an integral part of religion in Viking age and early medieval Scandinavia. The concept is examined from a broad socio-anthropological perspective, which has been largely ignored in Old Norse scholarship since structural-functionalist methods became dominant in anthropology. Of particular importance in this context is the concept of ‘god’, which in most traditional cultures is intimately related to the idea of family ancestors, and which has been called ‘superior ancestor worship’ by some anthropologists. The cults of gods and prominent individuals in Old Norse religion have been almost exclusively addressed in isolation from these recent socio-anthropological perspectives and discussed conventionally as cases of sacral kingship, and more recently, religious ruler ideology; both are seen as having divine or mythic associations in Old Norse scholarship. Building on the previous theories and the anthropological framework, this paper discusses the situation with the cults of prominent individuals in Iceland during its early stages of settlement. Emphasis is on mound-shaped natural formations as places where the dead were believed to pass into; it is discussed that this belief might be the continuation of deep-rooted ancestor practices in Late Iron Age Scandinavia.

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[B19] Seminar Session: Emotions in the Íslendingasǫgur

Carolyne Larrington
University of Oxford
carolyne.larrington@sjc.ox.ac.uk

Outliers and Prototypes in Íslendingasögur Emotion: Looking Beyond the Usual Suspects

It has become a truism of the study of emotion in the Íslendingasögur that the sagas are ‘unemotional’. Emotion words are rare; the objective narrator witholds comment on the emotional states of the characters, and feelings must be inferred from somatic responses or from frequently terse and indirect utterances. Study of emotion in these sagas has tended, for good reason, to concentrate on the best-known examples of the genre. W. I. Miller has written in detail on Njáls saga and Laxdœla saga, Gareth Evans has investigated Grettis saga and Egils saga, in addition to Njáls saga. My own work on sibling relations has uncovered specific kind of emotional ties in these and other prominent Íslendingasögur, but I also explored the unusual and highly foregrounded cross-gender sibling bond in the less frequently adduced Harðar saga. These sagas are indeed prototypical – to draw on a term used in psychological categorisation – with regard to the generic cultural model of emotional reticence. I want to argue however that in other less-frequently studied sagas different kinds of emotional modelling apply. Svarfdœla saga, for example, opens with a significant discussion of fractured family relations, an unloved kolbítr who suffers from ástleysi as far as his parents are concerned, and a more favoured brother who works to re-integrate the troubled young man into the community. Hrafnkels saga contains both open emotional display and comments about the emotional state of major characters. Other sagas, such as Víglundar saga, yield different ways of expressing and modelling emotion. My contribution to the seminar will be to call attention to such emotion-episodes among some of the outliers within the Íslendingasaga genre and to ask how far they problematise and modify the dominant saga-emotion model.

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[C24] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Annette Lassen
University of Copenhagen
annlass@hum.ku.dk

Perserverance and Purity in Flóamanna saga

Flóamanna saga is a young Íslendingasaga, probably written between 1290 and 1330, and perhaps with a close affinity to Haukr Erlendsson, the owner of the famous manuscript Hauksbók. The saga focuses on Þorgils orrabeinsfóstri, one of the first Icelanders to be baptised, and his disastrous attempt to settle in Greenland. Flóamanna saga is also one of a few sagas of Icelanders in which a pagan god, Þórr, plays a part, who is a true menace to the young Christian society – on par with the scoundrel Eiríkr the Red in Greenland. Flóamanna saga is often characterised as a generic hybrid and criticised for not meeting the standards of the classical Íslendingasögur. But this was probably never the intention of the writer, most likely a learned cleric, who based his saga on a large number of written works: sagas of Icelanders, legendary sagas, Landnámabók, hagiographical texts and the Bible itself. While telling the story of Þorgils, the forefather of the Icelandic St. Þorlákr, the saga is stretched between the legendary sagas, the sagas of Icelanders and the sagas of holy men. Even though the geographic centre of the saga is Southern Iceland, it is also a travelogue telling not only of Þorgils’ voyages to Norway, the British Isles, Ireland, and Greenland, but also of Þorgils’ spiritual journey towards God. As a young man Þorgils goes on viking raids; as a Christian he fights the pagan Þórr, and when in Greenland he endures hunger and hardship. Only a few of his fellow settlers in Greenland survive, and when his young wife, who had just given birth to their son, is killed, Þorgils makes incisions in his breast to feed the newborn child and save him from starvation. To stay awake, Þorgils places burning coal under his own feet. In my paper I intend to discuss the Christian motifs and ideology of the saga, their parallels and sources in Irish and Latin theological works and medical books, arguing that the saga was probably intended as the vita of a Christian pioneer, Þorgils, an almost saintly homo viator and the spiritual as well as carnal ancestor of Þorlákr.

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[A17] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Philip Lavender
University of Gothenburg
philip.t.lavender@gmail.com

How to Destroy a Saga: Jón Þorláksson’s Þóris þáttur hasts and Ármanns saga and the Critique of Post-Reformation Íslendingasögur

Íslendingasögur continued to be written in Iceland well after the Reformation, even if it is not possible to categorise them with aggrandizing epithets such as “classical” or even “post-classical”. Þóris þáttur hasts ok Bárðar birtu and Ármanns saga ok Þorsteins gála have a claim to being considered among these “beyond-post-classical” Íslendingasögur. The first narrates the conflicts which arise when a son of a pagan father adopts Christianity in the Westfjords during the settlement period; the second tells the story of the trials of a kolbítur, who is aided by a helpful cave-dweller (á la Barður Snæfellsáss) residing at Ármannsfell in Árnessýsla. Both are found in AM 551 d alpha 4to and both are attributed to Jón Þorláksson (1643–1712), at least in their extant forms. In this paper I will look at the ways in which cultural productions which fall outside of traditionally-accepted chronologies have struggled to gain acceptance among scholars of Old Norse. There is documentary evidence, for example, that shows that in the early 18th century Árni Magnússon was unimpressed with Jón Þorláksson’s role in saga dissemination (to the point of implying that he was a forger). Similarly, in the mid-19th century Guðbrandur Vigfússon referred to the same man as “söguspillir” (“saga-destroyer, plagiarist (?)). The critiques of Jón Þorláksson’s works will be considered: what exactly does it mean to “spilla” (“destroy”) a saga in this context, and how can we reconstruct an evolving normative concept of what an Íslendingasaga should be and do from such comments? Moreover, how can we use these sagas to challenge fixed categories? By rejecting certain prejudices, can we gain a clearer picture of the value and appeal which led people such as Jón Þorláksson to reproduce and rework material on the earliest generations of Icelanders even after the Middle Ages were well and truly over?

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[D8] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Sean Lawing
Bryn Athyn College
sean.lawing@brynathyn.edu

Hafliði Másson’s Fingers: Price Lists and Precedent in Medieval Iceland’s Laws

In the summer of 1120, the feud between two Icelandic chieftains, Hafliði Másson and Þorgils Oddason, reached its tipping point. Their meeting at the Alþingi, recounted in Þorgils saga ok Hafliða, ends with the loss of three of Hafliði’s fingers to Þorgils’ axe. The subsequent settlement a year later is more memorable than the deed itself. For, the amount Hafliði demands from Þorgils to compensate his injury is staggering, 200 hundreds. The sum astonishes all present. Indeed, it is the highest recorded settlement for a killing or injury case in Iceland during the 12th and 13th centuries. Hafliði’s case established a precedent and is important for other reasons as well. Hafliði Másson is equally remembered to posterity as a chief participant in a law-mending session that occurred in 1117-1118, at which Iceland’s homicide and personal injury laws, Vígslóði, were revised and written down. These new laws met acclaim and served also as a constitutional moment: iterations of medieval Iceland’s laws in Grágás were to reference Hafliði’s Ur-Text, the so-called Hafliðaskrá, in strict constructionist fashion (Lögréttuþáttr; K §117). In light of Hafliði’s legal exertions three years prior to his dismemberment, it is interesting to wonder how he determined the value of his own fingers in a process he helped lay out. After all, medieval Norway’s laws, traditionally accounted as the historical antecedent of Iceland’s, possess detailed schedules to compensate wounds and injuries to body parts. Such price lists institute stable transactional principles. In contrast, medieval Iceland relied on negotiated settlements and its laws lack price lists altogether. If not by recourse to a price list, then, just how did Hafliði Másson hit upon his figure, 200 hundreds? What were his grounds and how were others expected to follow suite? This paper attempts to answer these questions and considers Hafliði Másson’s case with specific comparative reference to dismemberment price lists in Old Norwegian law.

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[F28] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Helen F. Leslie-Jacobsen
University of Bergen
helen.leslie@gmail.com

The 1604 Danish Translation of 13th-Century Norwegian Law

The first law code for the whole of Norway was passed in 1274. This code was in force for over 400 years, during which time Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden in 1397, and became the weaker state in 1523 when Sweden left the Union. Although this 13th century law code was still in force in the 16th century (and indeed for much of the 17th), the officials administering the Norwegian legal system were largely Danish, and in the 16th century they reached a point at which they could not comfortably understand the Old Norwegian that the code was written in. This paper will consider the ‘official’ translation of the code into Danish, which appeared and was printed in 1604. There were translations before this in manuscript form, of varying provenance and quality, and therefore the intention of the 1604 translation was to set the record right in Danish, or, if not right, then at least firmly crooked. In my paper I will consider the translation strategies used by the translators of the law code. A translation strategy is the method or procedure used by a translator to produce a target text (the translation) from a source text (the original). I will consider: a) what I perceive as divergences between the Old Norwegian and Danish and how these may have come about; b) general principles followed in the making of the translation; c) specific techniques used in the translation. In conclusion, I hope to show how the production of the Danish version of the law was undertaken and what we might glean about the contemporary understanding and application of the law from the Danish translation in comparison to the Old Norwegian text.

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[A2] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Anatoly Liberman
aliber@umn.edu

Lost in translation: lygisaga (truth and lies in the sagas)

In recent years, lysögur have attracted a good deal of attention. To assess their nature, we have to decide what was fiction and was truth to those who composed the sagas. This question has occupied researchers for a long time, with the pendulum swinging between a full acceptance of some sagas as truth to a complete negation of their veracity. Between those two extremes is Steblin-Kamenskij’s view that the sagamen did not distinguish between truth and fiction. Among the works that deserve special attention are Magerøy in Syn og Segn (1958) and the widely read contributions by Sverrir Tómasson (1988: 245-250), O’Connor (2005), Driscoll (2005), and Sprukland (2012). I am also greatly indebted to Peter von Moos’s 1976 essay in PBBand Frisk’s 1936 booklet on “‘Wahrheit’ und ‘Lüge’.”

The point I‘ll make in my presentation resolves itself into the following. Medieval Icelanders had, I believe, a scale of values different from ours.  They seem to have distinguished between the epochs corresponding to the present, the immediate past, and a distant past. In literary terms, narrators would have known what can be called sannandatíð (it covered the observable present and the time within the memory of the people still living; for that time one could produce witnesses) and lygitíð, for which witnesses no longer existed. Under no circumstances did lygi- mean “lie.” The so-called sagas of Icelanders were beyond the sannandatíð, but they described the life of the ancestors of the narrator and his audience and were thus true. Yet people were ready to trace their origin to the characters of semi-mythic time, that is, lysögur. Opposed to those narratives were skröksögur, or deliberate fabrications, fraudulent stories. If the modern West European languages had a good equivalent of skrök (like Russian vrat’), the nature of lygisögur might have been understood long ago. More about all such things will be said in my forthcoming book on the saga mind and the origin of the sagas of Icelanders (Edwin Mellen, 2018).

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[G29] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Anne Lind
Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus (HiOA)
anne.lind@hioa.no

Fostermothers as a Literary Motif in the Sagas of Icelanders

Icelandic saga narratives often give examples of relations of fostering, which was a living tradition in the saga age according to lawbooks and other historical sources. Sometimes in wealthy families the task of looking after one particular child could be given to one of the family‘s servants, male or female. This is the category of fostering that I will concentrate on. To narrow the scope further I will focus on fostermothers of this category. That is a woman of low social status who is a part of a chieftain‘s household. A typical example is Þorgerðr brák who is the fostermother of Egill Skalla-Grímsson. The reading of her nickname gives different interpretations from different viewpoints. According to Norrøn ordbok (1997)the word means: ‘brák f. 1. bråk, brote, reiskap til skinnreiing‘ (’a tool to tan skins with‘). This is the same understanding of the word presented by the redaction of Íslenzk fornrit shown in the explaining footnote:

brák: hringur eða bogi úr horni, sem skinn voru elt í; það var karlmannsverk, en Þorgerður hefur haft nóg afl til þess og því verið kennd við það starf (ÍF 2: 101)(ring or bow of horn that skin was worked in; that was men’s work, but Þorgerðr had enough strength for that, and knew that work (ÍF 2:101).

Clearly the description of her work is based on the interpretation of her nickname, which makes perfect sense for someone who was doing hard work at the farm of Skalla-Grímr. But recently reading of the name as Gaelic has been proposed for instance by Gísli Sigurðsson (2009). According to the Irish dictionary (1983) the word brága has the following meaning:

1. Brága 1(a) neck, throat, gullet (…) Morund níconruc breth cin sinimabraghuit „without a chain around his neck.“ 2. Brága (development of 1 brága (…) captive prisoner, hostage.

This reading of the name gives information about her heritage and her story as a captive who possibly was brought to Iceland with a chain around her neck. If this reading was to be applied, it would give a different understanding of the relation between Egill and his fostermother than if he was brought up by a Norse servant. In this paper I will try to discuss some of the consequences of a readingthat points to a Gaelic (Irish or Scottish) heritage for the fostermother. Gaelic heritage would imply gaelic language and culture, and probably a Christian set of values. The question is whetherthe text gives support for the interpretation that Egill was brought up by a gaelic fostermother, and to what extent this can be said to have influenced him.

  • Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar. 1933. Íslenzk fornrit, II. bindi . Sigurður Nordal gaf út. Reykjavík.
  • Dictionary of the Irish language. Compact edition. 1983. Royal Irish Academy. Printed by Dublin University Press.
  • Gísli Sigurðsson. 2009. „Þögnin um gelísk áhrif á Íslandi“ Greppaminni. Vésteinn Ólason sjötugur 14. februar 2009. Rit til heiðurs Vésteini‚ Ólasyni sjötugum. Reykjavík. Hið íslenska bókmenntafélag.
  • Norrøn ordbok. 1997. Leiv Heggstad. Finn Hødnebø, Erik Simensen. Det norske samlaget. Oslo.

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[G6] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

John Lindow
University of California Berkeley
lindow@berkeley.edu

Some versifying objects in the sagas of Icelanders

Two objects in the sagas of Icelanders speak short verses, namely a head in Eyrbyggja saga and a cloak in Laxdœla saga. The head is human, trunkless and uncovered atop an old landslide near Álftafjörður, according to chapter 43 of Eyrbyggja saga. It utters a ditty overheard by Freysteinn bófi predicting that the area of the landslide will be reddened by men’s blood and will come to conceal men’s skulls. Not long thereafter a pitched battle takes place there. The cloak speaks a verse while it is spread out to dry on the wall of the booth of Þorgils Hǫlluson, its owner, at the alþingi, in ch. 67 of Laxdœla saga. It utters a ditty overheard by people mentioning two tricks and predicting that it will not be dried again. One of the tricks the cloak knows is obviously the plan to kill Þorgils while he is counting out the money to compensate the sons of Helgi for killing their father. The other would appear to be the killing of Helgi, and what joins the two is the role of Snorri goði in arranging each. Both use versions of fornyrðislag, thus giving the speakers a claim to the past (a skaldic stanza would indicate a historical individual). Most important, both are oracular. The objects present a view of the future that (like dreams or seiðr) is outside usual cognitive abilities. In this paper I unpack the narrative impact of the two instances through two points of comparison that represent a kind of spectrum: on the one hand, the famous talking head of the mythology, that of Mím[i]r, on the other hand, the talking ships of Flóamanna saga. A deserted area in the mountains accords well with the dark echoes of Óðinn, and the familiar scene of chores being carried out at an assembly matches the prose dialogue between two boats. No doubt, too, the use of a human body part pushes the episode in Eyrbyggja saga toward the mythic, whereas the use of an article of clothing pushes the episode in Laxdœla saga toward the everyday. The paper investigates these and other implications more fully.

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[F36] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Maria Cristina Lombardi
University L’Orientale Naples
macris.lomb@tin.it

Christian influence on ‘fire’ as an ambivalent symbol in Old Norse texts: war, beauty, magic and Christian knowledge

Fire as a multifunctional metaphor and as a real element frequently occurs in Old Norse texts of the Nordic Middle Ages. It is often a symbol of destruction, but also of regeneration and purification as well as the sign of a secret wisdom. Tension between fire as a natural, uncontrollable element, and domesticated fire is often present in saga narratives and in the stanzas scattered in their texts. It is associated with wars and battles in order to describe military enterprises (Kings’ sagas) and occurs as a real destructive force in some Íslendingasögur where revenges are accomplished by innibrenna: setting a fire to farms with all their inhabitants inside (Njáls saga, Ljósvetninga saga, etc.). It appears as a metaphor in skaldic poetry (as a kenning determinant) where it develops into a personified destroying force, often expressed by a nomen agentis. Fire consumes but also warms and illuminates; thus, its symbolic meaning varies widely, depending upon the context of its use. Because of the element’s potential to alter the state of other materials, fire became a vital force for the advancement of technology, but also for magic. Domestic fire as a symbol of warmth is identified with the woman (and her concern for members of the household and guests). To her it is also connected by its nature of light with gems and precious stones. This connotation explains its presence in kennings for ‘gold’, or ‘eyes’ and therefore also in kennings for women (Kormáks saga, Hallfreðar saga). The present paper aims at analyzing the metaphoric different values of fire in Old Norse texts, in particular in Íslendingasögur, by comparing prose and poetry in order to distinguish its different role in different contexts and to discover the possible influence of fire symbolism coming from Christian Sacred scriptures and homilies.

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[C6] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Lars Lönnroth
Göteborgs Universitet
lars.lonnroth@lit.gu.se

The Absence of “National Literature” in Germania and Medieval Iceland

It is a well-known fact that the Germanic heritage in northern Europe has been very much associated with nationalism, especially during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is also well known that Germanic literary classics such as Beowulf in England, Nibelungenlied in Germany, Heimskringla in Norway, or the Poetic Edda in Iceland have been regarded as “national literature”, not only in the sense that they are included in a nationally approved literary canon but also because they are believed to contain important values considered to be essentially Germanic, Teutonic, Nordic, Old Norse or Icelandic.

In a recently published book, Det germanska spåret: En västerländsk litteraturtradition från Tacitus till Tolkien (Stockholm: Natur & Kultur 2017), I have tried to show that the Germanic literature of the Middle Ages contains no trace of nationalism from the beginning. Germanic nationalism and “national literature” are to be regarded as comparatively modern phenomena that are now at last on their way out.

In my book I have also argued that early Germanic literature is not even particularly Germanic, since it is strongly influenced by Christian, Roman and other non-Germanic traditions. The early Germanic tribes did not have a common cause to fight for but were hopelessly divided and made war against each other most of the time. In their earliest heroic poetry the heroes are individualists who never represent a country or a nation but only themselves and their own kinsmen or, in many cases, Christian and chivalric values. In Beowulf the hero is not even English and the action does not take place in England but in territories that would later become Denmark and Sweden. In the Poetic Edda and the fornaldarsögur the heroic action takes place in various other countries than Iceland, and the nationality of the hero rarely matters.

What then about the konunga sögur and Íslendinga sögur? There are indeed passages in these texts that have often been interpreted as expressions of Icelandic – or Norwegian – nationalism. My intention is to discuss some of these passages and show that they have been, on the whole, misunderstood. Finally, I will argue that the literary heritage from early Germanic and Icelandic texts is likely to live on as world literature and in new universal media or genres that transcend national borders.

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[B17] Artistry: New Theoretical Approaches and Perspectives

Felix Lummer
University of Iceland
fel2@hi.is

“… því trúa heiðnir men, at í hans ríki sé Ódáinsakr” – A Question of Correlation of Guðmundr á Glasisvǫllum and Ódáinsakr

In the scholarly discussion regarding the figure of Guðmundr á Glasisvǫllum, Ódáinsakr has regularly been perceived as representing an intrinsic part of the narrative complex surrounding Guðmundr. Recent research suggests there is good reason to reassess this point of view, and consider the probability that Ódáinsakr is an independent motif that originates in Christian literature and has no firm connection to the perceptions and narratives associated with Guðmundr.

This presentation aims to focus on this question, following on from a brief discussion of the previous scholarly approaches to Guðmundr, who during the early decades of the 20th century (and since) has commonly been associated with Irish literature. As will be noted, this earlier research commonly suffers from the frequent use of broad declarations, something that applies in particular to the discussion of the association between Guðmundr and Ódáinskar.

This presentation will not only cover the Old Norse material regarding Guðmundr á Glasisvǫllum and Ódáinsakr, but also the Old Irish narratives that have been cited as offering parallels, as well as relevant example from Nordic folklore. While it seems evident that the Irish narratives (and one of the Nordic accounts) appear to share the motif of a land of the dead, focus will be placed on the angers implicit in drawing broad conclusions based on single examples. A shared motif does not need to mean a shared narrative.

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[D25] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Arendse Lund
University College London
ucralun@ucl.ac.uk

Codifying Cnut: Legitimizing Authority and Writing Power

This paper explores the construction and reconstruction of medieval legal authority through the writing and dissemination of law-codes. I will argue that the way the language of law-codes develops over time speaks to the changing power and authority of royalty and their relationship to their subjects. In particular, I will discuss the overarching differences between the Scandinavian legislation and that of the Anglo-Saxon codes; I will focus particularly on the law-codes of King Cnut as they indicate a realization of the text’s capacity to broaden governmental authority. There is evidence of language crossover between legal codes and literature. I will analyze how the relationship between subject and authority is redefined by the royal model of self-presentation expressed through the testimony statutes instead of focusing on the physical punishment aspect of the law collections. By deploying similar language and narrative, legal codes can structure the identities of its subjects; in other words, just as a king can identify himself through the discourses of a literate doctrine, so are his subjects’ identities redefined through the creation of a written set of laws. The fact that this wealth of a legislative corpus appeared during a period when writing was still limited to a relatively small portion of the population makes this issue all the more potent.

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[C33] Ideas and Worldview: Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Roles

Peter S. Lunga
Christ’s College Cambridge
peter@lunga.no

Succession, reconciliation, and kinship: Women in genealogies from Kings’ sagas

The paper considers female generations in historical genealogies from early thirteenth-century kings’ sagas. In Norway, the period was characterised by factional strife and the gradual consolidation of the Birkibeinar rule over the kingdom. Simultaneously, the writing of kings’ sagas on contemporary as well as past rulers proliferated. Kings’ sagas frequently add genealogical information to their narrative, constructing networks and kinship groups that include both past and presents kings and aristocrats. Previous scholarship has stressed the importance of agnatic relationships to former kings, and in particular Saint Óláfr Haraldsson, for legitimising the succession of a royal candidate. The question of how valued cognatic descent from kings was, however, is still disputed. Several kings and royal candidates claimed succession by cognatic descent, most notably, perhaps, King Magnús Erlingsson (1156-84) and King Ingi Bárðarson (1202-17). But despite attempts to exclude cognatic descendants from royal succession during the reign of King Hákon Hákonarson (1217-63), this was still part of Duke Skúli Bárðarson’s legitimacy during his rebellion (1239-40). Female generations in some instances also made genealogies more complex, and the paper distinguishes between two types of multilineal genealogies from the saga sources. Collateral genealogies trace several lines of descent from a single origin through both male and female generations. Bilateral genealogies trace ancestors in several branches through both male and female generations, connecting dynasties and adding prestige to its descendants. The purpose of collateral genealogies, however, such as the genealogical appendices to Fagrskinna B, was to construct kinship and encourage factional reconciliation between the Baglar and the Birkibeinar factions in the aftermath of the peace treaty of Hvítingsey (1208). There are indications that the first genealogy from Fagrskinna was composed during the reign of King Ingi Bárðarson, and only later paired with Arnmœðlingatal , in what now appears as an integrated kinship network.The paper argues that the study of women in genealogies is a necessary contribution to the understanding the overall purpose of genealogy in kings’ sagas, because women frequently bridge dynastic and chronological gaps, and since women are added to such genealogies only under circumstances posterity viewed as particularly significant.

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[A32] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Michael MacPherson
University of Iceland
mjm7@hi.is

The production and transmission of the Snorra Edda: Reconstructing textual pre-history from extant manuscript evidence

The scribes of Old Norse manuscripts often retain features from their exemplars. As a result, when stemmatic, palaeographic, and linguistic reasoning are combined, it is sometimes possible to reconstruct the scribal norms of earlier stages of copying. This provides us the means to reconstruct the history of texts pre-dating extant manuscript evidence. In this paper, I utilize this method to gain insight into the production of the Snorra Edda in the first half of the 13thcentury and its later transmission. Two recent monographs on Codex Wormianus (W) and Codex Uppsaliensis (U) by Johansson and Mårtensson respectively provide strong comparative evidence for the Codex Regius (R) and its sister manuscript, Codex Trajectinus (T). By identifying orthographic features which pre-date Snorri’s own linguistic norm, it is possible to identify textual segments which likely existed in written form as one of Snorri’s sources. When stemmatic and orthographic reasoning supports the conclusion that such segments were added during the main period of composition, we begin to build a case for the chronology of the text’s components. Such segments, such as the genealogies found in the Prologue, probably existed in the 12th century but were incorporated into the text during the main composition period.

Other textual segments can on stemmatic and stylistic grounds be argued to post-date the main period of composition, such as the first chapter of Gylfaginning or Grottasǫngr. When subjected to the same comparative orthographic analysis it is possible to reconstruct the chronology of some additions and interpolations. With this evidence I argue that the Snorra Edda underwent an intense period of copying after Snorri’s death in 1241 but in the period before certain linguistic changes occurred before c. 1250. It was likely during this intense copying activity that the major branches of the stemma came into being. The resulting reconstruction of the production and transmission of the Snorra Edda based on manuscript evidence provides a nuanced understanding of how the text came into being.

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[A23] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Mikael Males
University of Oslo
mikael.males@iln.uio.no

Varför Snorri inte är Egils sagas författare och vem som kan ta hans plats

Frågan om Egils sagas författarskap har sysselsatt många filologer, och de flesta menar att dess författare är Snorre. Fokus ligger vanligtvis antingen på stilistik eller på författarens troliga socio-kulturella bakgrund och geografiska kännedom. Idag anser många norrönforskare att frågan om författarskap är av underordnat intresse och fokuserar istället på reception och variation. Likväl kvarstår det faktum att variation bara är möjlig om någon först författar den text som senare traderas, och en riktig attribuering ger oss de bästa möjligheterna för att uttala oss om de socio-kulturella förutsättningarna för en text. Det finns därför goda skäl att åter ställa de gamla frågorna, i den mån nya metoder står att uppdriva.

Det är mycket som talar för Snorre som författare av Egils saga. Inte desto mindre är behandlingen av poesi väldigt olik den Snorre vi känner från Eddan och – troligen – Heimskringla. Skillnaderna är så stora att Snorre framstår som en osannolik författare av Egils saga, samtidigt som tidigare studier visar att författarens stil och bakgrund gör det sannolikt att författarens tillhörde samma miljö som Snorre.

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[D23] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Sayaka Matsumoto
Fukui Prefectural University
matumoto@fpu.ac.jp

When was þegngildi introduced into Norwegian and Icelandic Medieval Laws?

Þegngildi (literally ‘payment for a royal subject’) was the weregild that killers paid to the king to compensate for a homicide. This was introduced into Iceland with the promulgation of Járnsíða, the legal code instituted by the Norwegian king, in 1271. The introduction of þegngildi has been highly regarded as marking a radical change from the conventional legal culture of Iceland, which was based on feuds and blood-revenge, to the authority of Norwegian kings. However, how exactly the concept of þegngildi emerged before 1271 remains unclear. This paper examines when and how the concept of þegngildi was introduced into Norwegian-Icelandic legal culture by analyzing use of the terms þegn (‘royal subject’) and þegngildi in legal texts and sagas. Comparing five medieval laws from Norway and Iceland (Gulaþingslög, Frostaþingslög, Grágás, Járnsíða, Jónsbók), I found major differences between Gulaþingslög and Frostaþingslög. In Gulaþingslög, the term þegngildi is not used, and þegn always means ‘free-born man’, but never ‘royal subject’. In Frostaþingslög, conversely, þegngildi appears and þegn comes to mean royal subject. Frostaþingslög also indicates recognition of the concept that the Norwegian kings have the right to claim a killer’s property to compensate for the loss of their subject. Since Frostaþingslög was compiled in 1260, the concept of þegngildi as weregild must have emerged in Norway at some point before that. However, we find several earlier traces in sagas. Ólafs saga ins helga, written by Snorri Sturluson around 1230, mentions þegngildi as a payment from his subjects to King Ólafr. Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar also notes that, as a result of having submitted to King Hákon in 1261, Greenlanders must compensate the king for a homicide by paying þegngildi. Thus, the concept would have emerged before 1230 in the court of King Hákon Hákonarson (reign 1217-1263). The findings of this paper, that the concept of þegngildi may have originated as early as the 1230s, suggest that King Hákon fostered the ideal of rex iustus (‘just king’) even during the struggle with his strong rival, Duke Skúli.

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[B7] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Inna Matyushina
University of Exeter
I.Matyushina@exeter.ac.uk

Skaldic poetry as love spell

The paper is devoted to the study of the semantics of love poetry in skáldasǫgur. Hallfreðar saga vandræðaskálds contains skaldic verse stating concrete facts for the sake of boasting and libellous threat to the rival, which prevail over the praise of the object; the pragmatic function dominates over the informative. In the mansǫngr of Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar the theme is not the emotions of the skald but the external symptoms of their expression, stated as a motive for action; the rival is denigrated, although his name is still mentioned as a genre ‘signal’; the pragmatic aim is clarified by its effectiveness. In the poems of Bjarnar saga Hítdælakappa (compared to Bjǫrn Ásbrandsson breiðvíkingakappi in Eyrbyggja saga) the expression of feeling is confined to parenthetical sentences (the first centred on the woman and the second on the skáld himself), whereas the bulk of the poem is concerned with the situation itself. In Kormáks saga the modifications of the situation described in ‘Steingerðarvísur’ correspond to changes in the author’s emotional state. Uniquely for Old Norse culture Kormak’s verse introduces the description of physical beauty (through kennings and epithets), bringing together the individualisation of images, achieved by the poetics of the sagas, and the idealisation of beauty inherited from Eddic poetry. In Kormákr’s poems the description of landscape becomes motivated, developing into the correlative of feeling: the artistic function is achieved through the destruction of the conventional nature of kennings. In Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu emotions are described not only through their external manifestation, but through the internal state of the author. The acuteness of emotional perception creates the impression of immense inner tension, the description of emotions developed into emotional description. A semantic function is acquired by the change in the structural organisation of the vísa, in which parallelism is ousted by mirror organisation, bringing into prominence the cause of the poet’s feelings and creating a play on the hero’s nickname. In the anti-formulaic skaldic verse, the unique formula unni mér, reproduced from one saga to another, expresses the aim it achieves, underlining the magic aim of winning the affection of the addressee.

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[G2] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Miriam Mayburd
University of Iceland
myryamm@gmail.com

Between Hiddenness and Unconcealment: Medieval mystical theology and Íslendingasögur’s poetics of supernatural

Saga studies engaging medieval concept of supernatural still tend to invoke Thomistic scholastic formulation concerning categories of miracles and theological boundaries between what is and isn’t “supernatural” as if illustrative of the doctrine for medieval mind. Yet the rich complexity, and indeed inconclusiveness, inherent in medieval discourses concerning nature and reality is seldom problematized and brought to the fore. As has been repeatedly pointed out by medieval historians and theologists, such concepts were far from uniform, and their interpretations far from stable. Cognitive landscape of Western Europe underwent changes and developments in the so-called 12th-century Renaissance, attesting to the vibrancy and complexity of its ontological debates.

At the forefront of this paper’s focus is the emergence of Íslendingasögur within these broader intellectual currents. Taking a closer look at Íslendingasögur’s narrative mode of depicting and performing supra-natural experiences, I bring it in dialogue with continental medieval philosophical and theological discourses, not as a search of influences or borrowings but to demonstrate the liveliness and creativity of these cultural encounters in medieval Icelandic milieu. Drawing upon Augustine and Isidore’s theory of miracles, I examine medieval conceptions of supernatural not as otherness of being, but as excess of being (exceeding capacity to be understood). Thus it carries explicitly cognitive component, pointing to perceived contingency of medieval reality: human experience of it always remains incomplete. From this early theology concerned with the manifestation of miracles there developed a broader medieval aesthetic of ambiguity and ineffability which permeated all social strata, extending into literature and arts. I contend that medieval fascination with unspoken and hidden may be tied to the apophatic mode of mystical discourse, where language is used to simultaneously conceal while it reveals. The act of composing and reading becomes an act of uncovering, pointing beyond itself to the veiled potential of the unpronounced that hovers over the manifest and gives it a resonant layer of significance that immediate clarity would have spoiled.

I will consider the impact of mystical theology and apophasis upon medieval poetics of supernatural, especially as it pertains to the terse and reticent Íslendingasögur whose tone is cloaked in intentional and understated ambiguity. It will be argued that their narratives perform a referential openness allowing the unspoken and undescribed to emerge, as it were, on its own, leading to its depictions as discrete and non-linear emergences, manifestations, glimpses. This allows for a reconceptualization of the paranormal in the sagas not as experience of entities, but as experience of being and becoming which exceeds capacity to be understood. Instead of being coralled in some separate other-than-human dimension, the supernatural under this specification emerges as a constituent part of a more-than-human reality. It is a non-anthropocentric formulation that leaves open a discursive space for the unexplained, positing it as not any less real than what is intelligible, and drawing attention to limits of human comprehension concerning the workings of the world.

The paper’s primary aim is not so much to salvage any ‘authentic worldviews’ from medieval past, but rather to bring the past in dialogue with the present by problematizing and shedding light on some methodologies and critical theories that have been emerging in recent years in medieval studies due to increasing dissatisfaction with anthropocentric stermmatic models of Enlightenment-era sciences.

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[F24] Artistry: Literary Composition

Bernadine McCreesh
University of Quebec
bmccrees@uqac.ca

The Literary Uses of Weather-Descriptions in the Sagas of Icelanders

With the exception of Astrid Ogilvie and Gísli Pálsson (2003), most critics to date have either not looked at, or else been dismissive of, the literary use of weather-descriptions in Old Icelandic literature. For example, in 1962, Peter Hallberg stated: “Natural phenomena are usually mentioned only to the extent that they have significance for the action” (71). More recently, Vésteinn Ólason (1998, 82) remarked: “Settings are used primarily to serve the plot of the saga rather than as narrative decoration.” These critics are not correct. Weather-descriptions are actually used for two main literary purposes in the Sagas of Icelanders: to increase the stature of the hero and to structure the narrative. In addition, a few authors use them for purposes of their own: to indicate where the narrative is taking place, to increase our sympathy for certain characters, and even as an instigator of the action. This paper will provide illustrations of all the above.

  • Hallberg, Peter. The Icelandic Saga. Translated with an introduction and notes by Paul Schach. Lincoln:University of Nebraska Press, 1962.
  • Ogilvie, Astrid and Gísli Pálsson. “Mood, Magic, and Metaphor: Allusions to Weather and Climate in the Sagas of Icelanders.” In Weather, Climate, Culture. Ed. Sarah Strauss and Benjamin S. Orlove. 251-74. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2003.
  • Vésteinn Ólason. Dialogues with the Viking Age: Narration and Representation in the Sagas of Icelanders. Trans. Andrew Wawn. Reykjavík: Heimskringla, 1998.

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[E1] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Sheryl McDonald Werronen
University of Copenhagen
mcdonaldsheryl@gmail.com

Copying and reading the Íslendingasögur in the later 17th century

The collection of texts surviving in manuscripts commissioned by Magnús Jónsson í Vigur (1637–1702) and copied by the scribes in his employ plays a significant role in the transmission and preservation of medieval sagas. Along with sagas of all other genres, the Íslendingasögur are well represented in Magnús í Vigur’s personal library of more than 200 distinct medieval and early modern prose texts. To take one example, the large and impressive manuscript AM 426 fol. is a particularly important collection of many Íslendingasögur and þættir. This volume was copied for Magnús í Vigur over the course of multiple decades in the second half of the seventeenth century by several identifiable scribes — Magnús Þórólfsson in the 1660s, Þórður Jónsson in the 1670s and his son Jón Þórðarson in the early 1680s, and Hannes Gunnlaugsson in 1682. Magnús Ketilsson, yet another of Magnús í Vigur’s scribes, furthermore prepared a copy of Njáls saga that was intended for this collection in the late 1690s, but which is now bound separately in Nks 1220 fol. By considering the production circumstances of both the original volume (AM 426) and the later intended addition (Nks 1220), insights can be gained into how their patron wished to access and read the stories these books contained. Although Magnús í Vigur’s large folios were luxury items that are representative first and foremost of an elite consumption of the sagas in early modern Iceland, these impressive younger transcripts of what were already by then considered to be ancient and important texts also show how the creation of fresh copies invests in them new meaning as an individual’s hand-picked and tailor-made reading material — and this holds true for the humblest post-medieval copies as much as it does for Magnús í Vigur’s lavish collection.

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[G22] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Andrew McGillivray
University of Winnipeg
mcgandy@gmail.com

Throat Biting and Magic in Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar

Chapter 65 of Egils saga describes how Egill Skallagrímsson resolves the claim for his wife Ásgerðr’s inherited property in Norway. In this chapter, Egill meets Atli inn skammi at Atli’s home and states he will take the case to the Gulaþing. At the assembly, Egill challenges Atli to a duel. Atli, like his father Þorgeirr þyrnifótr, is skilled in magic, and during the duel the magic Atli commands prevents Egill from inflicting wounds. Egill has dealt with his earlier opponents in the saga handily, but now his sword cannot bite.

In the ljóðatal section of Hávamál, Óðinn recites eighteen magical charms, the third of which describes a spell that can be used to blunt the blade of an enemy: ‘eggjar ek deyfi / minna andskota, / bítat þeim vápn né velir’ (v. 148, 4–6). In the duel with Atli, Egill must counter exactly this kind of spell. Resorting to brute strength, Egill tackles Atli and bites his throat out in order to defeat him, thus settling the dispute over Ásgerðr’s inheritance. It is not magic that is the most important element here, but Egill’s ability to overcome magic used against him.

The speaker will review throat-biting examples from the Old Icelandic sources to place this episode in a comparative context (including: Völsunga saga ch. 8, Sörla saga sterka ch. 25, and Ála flekks saga ch. 16), and then look more closely at magic in Egils saga and its relation to the eddic poems Hávamál and Sigrdrífumál. Engaged in the critical discourse of magic and the paranormal in the Íslendingasögur, the conclusion will connect the motif of the throat-bite with cannibalism and magic in Old Norse-Icelandic literature.

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[F19] Artistry: Literary Composition

Rory McTurk
University of Leeds
rory@mcturk.org.uk

Hvernig á ekki að skrifa Íslendingasögur

Magnús Magnússon hefur sagt (Iceland saga, 1987, bls. 193) að Snorra Edda ‘sé ekki saga, sem slík’, og þetta má til sanns vegar færa. Hún er frábrugðin Íslendingasögum að a.m.k. fernu leyti. Þó að hún noti frásögn í kennsluskyni, er Snorra Edda í eðli sínu fræðirit, en Íslendingasögur eru fyrst og fremst frásagnarbókmenntir. Í Gylfaginningu eru söguþættir tengdir saman að utan, með frásagnarramma; í Íslendingasögum eru þeir tengdir með innra afturgripi og framgripi. Í Gylfaginningu og Skáldskaparmálum er hið yfirnáttúrlega útskýrt sem árangur sjónhverfinga, en í Íslendingasögum er það oftast án skýringar og dularfullt. Í Eddu gegna vísurnar starfi skýringa eða neðalmálsgreina; í Íslendingasögum eru þær hluti af atburðarásinni. Það eru varla ýkjur að segja að Snorra Edda komi fram sem æfing í því, hvernig á ekki að skrifa Íslendingasögu!

Almennt er talið, að Snorri hafi ritað aðalhluta Eddu í þessari röð: Háttatal, Skáldskaparmál, Gylfaginningu. Ef þetta er tilfellið, má halda því fram, að tök hans á innrammaðri frásögn hafi tekið miklum framförum á meðan hann hafi verið að verki: þesskonar frásögn, sem er framandi Íslendingasögum, er miklu betur unnin i Gylfaginningu en í fyrri hlutum Eddu. Ef Jónas Kristjánsson hefur rétt fyrir sér þegar hann leggur til að Snorri hafi skrifað Egilssögu eftir að hafa lokið Heimskringlu og mestum hluta af Eddu og þar með stofnað nýja bókmenntagrein, Íslendingasögur (Andvari, 1990), mætti halda því fram að í Eddu sé Snorri að þroska með sér í tilraunaskyni frásagnarlistir, þar á meðal innrammaða frásögn, sem hann hafni þegar hann loksins skrifi fyrstu Íslendingasöguna. En ef við aðhyllumst þá skoðun T.M. Anderssons, að ýmsar Íslendingasögur hafi þegar verið til þegar Egilssaga var rituð, ekki nauðsynlega af Snorra (The growth of the medieval Icelandic sagas, 2006), mætti líta á Snorra Eddu sem meðvitaða andstæðu við þessa bókmenntagrein, eða jafnvel ádeilu á hana.

Með slíka þanka í huga mun ég í fyrirlestrinum taka dæmi úr Snorra Eddu og ýmsum Íslendingasögum, þar á meðal Eglu, Njálu, Eyrbyggju og Grettlu, til þess að sýna mismuninn á Eddu annarsvegar og sögunum hinsvegar að því er snertir meðferð á m.a. frásagnargerð, hinu yfirnáttúrlega og vísum.

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[F35] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Elena Melnikova
Russian Academy of Sciences
melnikova_2002@mail.ru

Björn Hítdœlakappi’s duel with Kaldimarr and the ‘Varangian’ narratives in Iceland

An important part of Scandinavian and Old Russian cultural interaction in the Viking Age was the exchange of narrative motifs and plots. The adaptation of tales about Russian princes and exploits of their Scandinavian mercenaries (Varangians) can be found in Old Russian Primary Chronicle and many sagas. One of the latter is Bjarnar saga Hítdœlakappa which tells of a strife between Russian prince Valdimarr (Vladimir the Saint, † 1015) and his relative (náfrændi) Kaldimarr who lays claim to Valdimarr’s kingdom (Ch. 4). Kaldimarr suggests a duel and the winner is to obtain the kingdom. Björn Arngeirson is the only one among Valdimarr’s Varangians who volunteered fighting with Kaldimarr. In the duel the intruder is killed and the kingdom is saved. The story served as an explanation of Björn’s nickname Hítdœlakappi and thus had to refer to some event during Björn’s service in Rus’. Björn’s victory was also mentioned in two of his Lausavísur. His stay in Rus’ is not doubted contrary to the story which is viewed as a mere fantasy. However, the story seems to present a complex mixture of vague memories of real events of Vladimir’s reign contaminated with other ‘Varangian’ legends. Björn’s stay in Rus’ is dated to 1005–1015. No fraternal feuds are dated to this period, but Vladimir’s usurpation of power in 978 was accompanied by a treacherous murder of his elder brother Jaropolk, prince of Kiev, by Vladimir’s two Varangians. This event left vague traces in the tradition of Óláfr Tryggvason. Another fraternal feud burst out immediately after the death of Vladimir in 1015, and it was well remembered in Iceland (cf. Eymudar þáttr). The stories about the highest deed of valor of a Varangian – securing the kingdom for his suzerain by killing prince’s challenger-relative – could easily substitute a story of a real but less spectacular Björn’s exploit in Rus’. The duel-for-kingdom motif must have originated in the Varangian milieu in Eastern Europe as it is alien to Norse tradition but forms two plots in the Primary Chronicle, one of which is attributed to the time of Vladimir.

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[G23] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Rebecca Merkelbach
University of Tübingen
beccamerkelbach@gmail.com

Breaking Binaries, Collapsing Categories: Paranormal Heroes in the ‘Post-Classical’ Sagas of Icelanders

The so-called ‘post-classical’ Íslendingasögur — a sub-genre that consists of 14 sagas and therefore makes up more than a third of the genre as a whole — have often been neglected in scholarship. Regarded as inferior to the ‘classical’ sagas, they have been described as structured by a dichotomy consisting of an exaggerated hero figure that fights episodically appearing paranormal opponents. However, recent scholarship — e.g. Clunies Ross’s work on the ‘mixed modality’ of saga narration, and Sävborg’s reassessment of the dating-based approach to the ‘post-classical’ sagas — have started to shift long-held views. Additionally, my own research on social monstrosity in the Íslendingasögur has shown that the paranormal and the social are inseparably entwined in this genre of saga literature. Based on such new readings of the sagas, I intend to reassess the ‘post-classical’ Íslendingasögur, and especially the individuals who act and interact within them. The protagonists of the ‘post-classical’ Íslendingasögur do not only interact with the paranormal in the way often observed in the genre as a whole, but sometimes can even be considered as being paranormally connoted themselves. Grettir and especially Bárðr are prime examples of this phenomenon of the collapse between the hero and the paranormal he fights, but other characters like Búi from Kjalnesinga saga or Klaufi from Svarfdæla saga also come to mind. This collapse of categories directly contradicts the above-mentioned assessment regarding the hero–paranormal binary on which these sagas are supposedly built. In this paper, I want to address the paranormal (anti-)heroes of the ‘post-classical’ Íslendingasögur in order to show that previous attempts at reading these texts and their underlying structurations have not been able to adequately account for the complex dynamics and interactions within the late sagas. By reconsidering these characters, I hope to open up new approaches to these sagas that, rather than relying on artificial binaries, let the texts and their protagonists speak for themselves. Because of the intertwined nature of the paranormal and the social, this will ultimately allow me to suggest a new reading of the ‘post-classical’ sagas that sees these paranormally-connoted protagonists as embedded in the social structures I argue to be central to the Íslendingasögur as a whole.

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[Poster session] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Blake Middleton
University of Aberdeen
blake.middleton@abdn.ac.uk

Appellatives concerning Ymis niðja; their semantics and narrative use within the Poetic Edda and Snorra Edda

Within the eddic corpus of Norse mythology there are eight appellatives found within both the Poetic Edda and Snorra Edda denoting those beings that Finnur Jónsson labelled “the gods and mankind’s common opponent” within his 1931 Lexicon Poeticum. However, within English translations those eight terms are generally amalgamated into a single term – giant.

As a result of this consolidation of appellatives at least two issues arise: use of the term ‘giant’ brings to the modern audiences mind a specific type of enemy, one implying a certain enormity of size; and while it would be impossible to say this same image did not partially inform the eddic audiences imagination of the antagonists, do any of the appellatives reflect this, as discerned by scholars such as Randi Eldevik, who notes size as fundamental for the group’s underlying meaning. Or, if none of the terms signifies ‘giant’, what do they mean and are those meanings echoed within the sources?

Secondly, the amalgamation of terms suggests that the antagonists were one kin-group. Lotte Motz suggested the concept of separate sub-groups from a number of the substantives, which were each unique, yet connected back to a greater whole, while others, such as Frog, have noted the poetic use of said terms resulted in the clear understanding that they are little more than synonyms. Thus, do the appellatives utilized within the two Eddas connect back to a single antagonistic kin-group, or does each term reflect individual, unique groups?

This paper aims to determine the answers to these questions by identifying what each of the eight appellatives original meaning might have been through an etymological analysis of each term in partnership with examples from the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. In addition, a comparison between the Old Norse term and the relevant Old English and Old High German cognates will be used to add to this analysis.

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[Poster session] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Power and Political Culture

Fraser Lucas Miller
University of Iceland
frasermil@gmail.com

Profitable Exile? Outlawry in Grágás and the Gulaþingslǫg

From 870 on to 1262/64 when the land finally fell under the formal sway of the Norwegian king, Icelandic society existed in a state of political independence from the rest of the Norse world. With a comprehensive system of laws, and numerous chieftaincies to serve as arbitrators, the island seems to have administered itself rather effectively for the first few centuries after its political inception; all the more interestingly as its legislative structures made private enforcement a necessity. This was in contrast to Norway, whose legal system, despite having provided inspiration for the Icelandic system, would more and more come to be influenced by the institution of kingship in that realm; to the point where lawbreakers would have to settle dually with both their peers and the king in order to return into the peace. A central tenet to the laws of both societies was punishment in the form of outlawry. But despite the common legal tradition, the types of outlawry reflected in each law display some significant differences. Utilizing the oldest surviving collections of law for these two countries (those of the Konungsbók manuscript, the larger component of the collection that has come to be known as Grágás, and the Gulaþingslǫg), a comparison shall be conducted on outlawry and the punishment of law-breaking, demonstrating in the process that outlawry was a tool: shaped and utilized differently as per the requirements of the society or state in which it found itself; and a study of which can prove a remarkable tool in itself in identifying the different priorities of the two distinct political systems that existed in Iceland and Norway in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

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[G7] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Kristen Mills
University of Oslo
kristen.m.mills@gmail.com

Death, Gender, and the Afterlife

Studies of the afterlife in pre-Christian Scandinavia as depicted in post-Conversion sources have traditionally focused on how the male experience of life after death was conceptualized. This focus is largely a result of bias in the sources, and while recent scholarship has questioned the emphasis on Valhǫll’s homosocial warrior brotherhood as described in Snorra Edda, examination of female perspectives is still largely absent. In this paper, I examine medieval texts for evidence of how Scandinavian cultures conceptualized the relationship between gender and the pre-Christian afterlife, with a view towards understanding how women’s participation in the afterlife was envisioned. If aristocratic Scandinavian men imagined themselves dwelling in a paradise where they recreate the male social bonds of the comitatus and are served by beautiful female companions, what did Scandinavian women of the same social class imagine for themselves? Or, given our reliance on textual sources of unknown authorship, how did medieval authors portray a woman’s idea of the afterlife? For men it was their bonds with other men, warriors and lords, which were valorized in these texts, and a primarily male afterlife makes a great deal of sense; however, women’s social status also revolved around their male relatives, and it seems unlikely that they would imagine their husbands and male kin inhabiting an entirely separate afterlife. By reading against the grain across a range of sources, including eddic poetry, sagas, and Scandinavian Latin texts, I will argue that when texts depict women’s perspectives on life after death, they describe a afterlife that is at variance with the male view that dominates the sources material. I will conclude by bringing several of these sources into dialogue with anthropological research on the cross-cultural death rituals that associate women with the pollution of death.

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[A15] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Jakub Morawiec
University of Silesia
kubmo@wp.pl

Sveinn Forkbeard – the captured king of Denmark

Most of primary redactions of Jómsvíkinga saga feature a story of capture of Sveinn Forkbeard, the king of Denmark. The monarch was seized by Sigvaldi, jarl of Jómsborg, who, with this deed, wanted to impress both Búrisleifr, the king of Vindland and his daughter Ástríðr and win the hand of the latter. The whole story presents Sveinn as ultimately naive and helpless. It fully accords with rather anti-royal undertone of the saga, already studied by several scholars. Interestingly enough references to Sveinn being captured (even twice) and ransomed by either Northmenn or Slavs, appear in earlier accounts both in Scandinavia and beyond, starting with Thietmar’s Chronicon, through Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum, till Sveinn Aggesen’s Historia brevum. Similarly to Jómsvíkinga saga, there examples of rather negative image of the Danish king as a visible symbol of military incompetence, cowardice, apostasy and failure. The aim of my paper is to analyse various circumstances that potentially could have influenced a rise and development of the motive of Svein’s capture. It should result with display of both interesting links between complexities of royal power both in times of Jelling dynasty and in 12th-13th Scandinavia and modes of progress of medieval historiography Jómsvíkinga saga is a part of.

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[F27] Ideas and Worldview: Other Genres

Tom Morcom
Oxford University
thomas.morcom@linacre.ox.ac.uk

The Íslendingaþættir of Morkinskinna: The Structuring of the Icelandic Experience Abroad.

Morkinskinna contains forty þættir or þættir­-like episodes, the majority of which depict the intrusion of Icelanders into the Norwegian court, and their tumultuous interactions with kings and retainers. This paper argues that a redactor of the manuscript skilfully manipulated these þættir to create periods of turmoil within the manuscript’s structure that mirror, on a narratological level, the unrest that the arrival of an unruly Icelander often heralds within the narrative itself. This modal disruption is demonstrated in the þættir’s deceleration of narrative time, as their prioritisation of dialogic sparring creates moments of inertia, in which the wider concerns of the text are repressed in favour of sequences of personal interaction that extend in defiance of their unimportance to Norwegian historical chronicle. The þættir, both in the fractious content of their narratives and their fractious interference with the form of the manuscript’s text, are stutters which temporarily centre the Icelandic narrative experience, and must be socially and structurally resolved in order for the monarch, and Morkinskinna, to continue upon a linear historical progress. Furthermore, this paper will make use of Ármann Jakobsson’s contention that Morkinskinna’s þættir demonstrate a variety of anxieties regarding the lots of Icelanders abroad. This argument for consistent and complex structuring will be extended to note that the þættir are not uniformly spread throughout Morkinskinna, but rather concentrated in times of instability within Norway, while harmonious periods are comparatively lacking in dissonant episodes. The density of þættir surrounding periods where multiple kings control Norway, or during the reigns of cantankerous monarchs such as Haraldr harðráði, demonstrates the ability of Icelanders to compete combatively in Norwegian courts during unrest; similarly, on an extradiegetic level, it also represents the intrusive ability of narratives concerning Icelanders to temporarily centre concerns for their protagonists’ exploits abroad, to the detriment of a harmonious account of the Norwegian court. This paper will conclude with the suggestion that the likely completion of the manuscript by c.1220 could point to a redactor offering an optimistic analysis of the civil war era in Norway, by implying that Icelanders fare best in Norway during periods of strife.

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[D36] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Else Mundal
University of Bergen
else.mundal@uib.no

Den rettslege stillinga til kvinner som er “ein fyrir sér” etter norske mellomalderlover

Foredraget vil drøfte den rettslege stillinga til kvinner som står åleine. Desse kvinnene hadde nok ei vanskeleg stilling i samfunnet, men samstundes ser vi at dei på fleire felt hadde rettar som heilt eller delvis sidestilte dei med menn. Enkjer, og til dels jenter som har motteke arv, hadde større handlefridom enn andre kvinner innanfor heile det norrøne området, men etter norske lover har desse kvinnene ei uvanleg sterk stilling. Etter fleire lover går det fram at dei m.a. har rett til å føre sine eigne saker på tinget, dei har i nokre høve rett til å kalle saman ting, og dei har også plikter etter lovene som normalt ville tilfalle husbonden. I lovrevideringa som set inn under styringstida til Håkon Håkonsson, og vert ført vidare i Landslova, får også jenter som har motteke arv, stadig større rett til sjølve å velje ektemake. Eg vil gå gjennom dei rettar og plikter kvinner som står åleine, har etter norske mellomalderlover, men hovudvekta vil liggje på ei drøfting av kva rettsprinsipp som vert lagde til grunn når kvinner får rettar som nærmast sidestiller dei med menn. At handlefridom er knytt til økonomisk sjølvstendig stilling, synest å vere eit prinsipp som kan slå heldig ut for nokre kvinner. Det ser også ut til å vere eit rettsprinsipp, som kjem til uttrykk i nokre tilfelle, at kvinna har rett til å gå mot mannlege slektningar eller ektemann dersom dei handlar til ugunst for henne og i strid med hennar interesser, like eins at kvinna sjølv har rett til å forsvare si ære og hevde sine rettar, om nødvendig ved å føre sak sjølv, eller velje nokon til å gjere det, om ho ikkje har nære mannlege slektningar. I nokre tilfelle ser det ut for at husfrua sin rang i heimen vil gje henne forrang framfor nærmaste arving. I alle slike tilfelle vil rettsprinsipp som slår ut til gunst for kvinnene konkurrere med det rettsprinsippet som gjev forrang til mannen og ætta sine interesser, og stundom ser vi merkelege kompromissløysingar i lovene.

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[C14] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Luke John Murphy
University of Leicester
luke@luke-murphy.com

Var sú heiðni af numin: Constructing Settlement-Era Icelandic Paganism

In the study of pre-Christian Nordic religious culture, there is an increasing acceptance that Iron-Age paganism was not a single monolithic entity, but in fact varied widely according to the period, geography, and social conditions of the practitioners under study. While this has resulted in a small but growing body of scholarship examining localised articulations of pre-Christian religion, much of this work has understandably focused on high-profile cult of the type practiced by the hall-based warrior elite surrounding kings and powerful magnates in Scandinavia. This paper seeks to redress this imbalance by examining evidence for religion practiced in the green-field context of the new Icelandic society during the Settlement Era, a society commonly accepted to have been less hierarchical than the Scandinavian homelands of the Icelandic settlers. Drawing on a range of textual, toponymic, and archaeological evidence, it argues for a distinctly Icelandic religious culture that emerged in the diaspora setting of settlement-era Iceland, constructed alongside and as part of an emerging national identity. As such, it is hoped that this study will contribute to the rising awareness of variation and diversity inherent in Iron-Age paganism, as well as offering insight into the culture that so fired the imaginations of medieval saga-composers, writers, and audiences, both medieval and modern.

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[G11] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Karin Fjäll Murray-Bergquist
University of Iceland
kfm2@hi.is

Who is the Walrus? Rostungr and Hrosshvalr in the Íslendingasögur

The interactions between the categories of natural and supernatural in the Íslendingasögur are often surprising in their dynamism, and sometimes contradictory. This paper will explore these general designations through the specific terms used to signify one animal. Through the example of the walrus, referred to as rostungr in Króka-Refs saga, and in Kormáks saga as hrosshvalr, this project will examine the presence of an animal in both categories, but under different names. It will elaborate on the different terms used in translation, and the arguments for and against their being the same animal. By examining these two terms both individually and in comparison with contemporary texts, this study aims to present an aspect of the medieval Icelandic view of the natural world, questioning the place of the supernatural within it. The sagas provide crucial context for the use of words signifying natural and supernatural creatures, and the places where they overlap. In separating a valuable resource from an often-threatening being, the terms rostungr and hrosshvalr give an indication of how species were defined from one another in medieval Iceland, and how this is reflected through their roles in saga narratives. In speaking of whales, the terms most often used in the Íslendingasögur are hvalr and reyðr. The use of the term hrosshvalr is therefore significant in being distinct from both of these; although evidently one of the recognised types of whale, it is something specific. Its appearance in Kormaks saga is implied to be supernatural, an apparition connected to Þorveig, the ‘fjölkunnig’ enemy of the protagonist. This paper will argue that the distinction in terms has its origins both in the Konungs skuggsjá and in the changing fortunes of the walrus hunt, which allowed medieval Icelandic writers to develop different perceptions of the walrus as living animal and as the source of ivory. It will examine a selection of Icelandic sources beyond the Íslendingasögur, seeking to establish contextual patterns for the references to both rostungr and hrosshvalr, and questioning whether their use reflects the division of the natural and the supernatural, or simply a dual classification.

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[B15] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Klaus Johan Myrvoll
University of Oslo
k.j.myrvoll@iln.uio.no

Frå munnleg tradisjon til sjangerkonvensjon: skaldestrofor i islendingesogone

Som Guðrún Nordal hev peika på (2007, 2013), varierer innslaget av skaldestrofor i islendingesogone mykje. I sume sogor spelar skaldesitat ei viktug rolla, framfor alt i sogone um fyrsteskaldar (dei sokalla skáldasögur) og i andre sogor der hovudpersonen er ein skald (t.d. Gísla saga Súrssonar). I slike sogor kann talet på strofor verta so høgt som 85 (d.e. i Kormáks saga), men oftast ligg det ein stad millom 15 og 60. I ei onnor, like stor gruppa av sogor, som femner um både dei «høviske» Laxdœla saga og Vatnsdœla saga og seine sogor som Kjalnesinga saga, spelar poesi knapt ei rolla i det heile, og mange av deim hev ikkje ei einaste skaldestrofa.

I dette fyredraget vil eg sjå Guðrún Nordals observasjon i høve til endå ein parameter: i kva grad poesien i sogone bør reknast for å vera autentisk, d.e. frå tidi som soga fortel um, eller ikkje. På grunnlag av eit breidt spekter av dateringskriterium, henta frå språk, metrum og rimteknikk, vil eg dela dei sogone som hev poesi, inn i tvo gruppor: dei som byggjer på poesi som bør reknast for stort sét autentisk munnleg tradisjon, og dei som er utstyrde med poesi som mest truleg vart laga i samband med skriving av soga, anten av forfattaren eller seinare redaktørar, som del av ein sjangerkonvensjon.

Eg kjem til å argumentera for at denne andre gruppa av «poetiske» sogor er yngre enn den fyrste, og at systematisk komposisjon av skaldestrofor til å fylgja sogeprosaen var ein praksis som voks fram gradvis på 1200-talet. Dette hev konsekvensar for dateringi av dei einskilde sogone og ikkje minst for synet vårt på framvoksteren av islendingesogesjangeren frå nedskriving av munnleg tradisjon til meir kunstla litterære produkt.

  • Nordal, Guðrún. 2007. The Art of Poetry and the Sagas of Icelanders. In Learning and Understanding in the Old Norse World. Essays in Honour of Margaret Clunies Ross, ed. Judy Quinn, Kate Heslop & Tarrin Wills. Turnhout, 219–237.
  • Nordal, Guðrún. 2013. Skaldic citations and settlement stories as parametres for saga dating. In Dating the Sagas. Reviews and Revisions, ed. Else Mundal. Copenhagen, 195–212.

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[Poster session] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Max Naderer
University of Oslo
max.naderer@iakh.uio.no

Royal Terror of the Norwegian Kings

The ability to frighten or terrify opponents, subjects and even allies was a characteristic feature of lordship and royal power in high medieval Europe. The Christian king should, like God as the ideal ruler, be loved but also feared. Royal terror thus was a sign that a king was in possession of his sovereign power and was able to exercise it.In textual sources for high medieval Norway, the label of ‘terror-maker’ has been attributed to a number of kings. In this paper, I will discuss the strategies used by the Norwegian kings and claimants to the throne to inflict terror in order to gain or maintain power within the Kings’ sagas, the main sources for Norway’s so-called ‘Civil war’ period (c. 1130-1240). I will examine threats of violence, as well as how violence is actually shown to be used, within these texts. Additionally, I will consider how this use of violence is narrated and in which context it is presented in. Of particular interest will be how the authors of these texts presented certain violent acts, as legitimate or illegitimate.I will show that terror was imposed in a number of ways, such as through the expression of anger at assemblies, the implicit threat of a larger group of warriors in the retinue and exemplary violence, such as burnings of peasants’ homesteads.

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[C32] Ideas and Worldview: Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Roles

Agneta Ney
Uppsala University
agneta.ney@telia.com

Att berätta om kvinnor i det förflutna. Om sagaförfattares urval och historieskrivning

Homosociala band har varit föremål för ett flertal studier med bland annat Íslendingasögur som källor. Inte minst har vänskap mellan män lyfts fram som en väsentlig aspekt för den politiska och sociala struktur som dessa studier har synliggjort. Kvinnors roll har i det sammanhanget belysts, i tidigare forskning som brickor i det politiska spelet eller som pådrivande aktörer i en hämndkultur, i senare tids forskning som en viktig del av de manliga nätverken. Kvinnor har setts som en del av en allianskultur, och det har framhållits att de, till skillnad från mäns offentliga maktutövning, kan ha haft en icke-offentlig maktposition i samhället. Att kvinnor i sagalitteraturen kan vara gränsöverskridande när det gäller normer för kvinnligt och manligt, har också belysts tidigare. Mer sällan har dock band mellan kvinnor studerats. Kvinnors egna nätverk har historiskt sett varit viktiga, men medeltidens sagaförfattare kommunicerar inte i någon större utsträckning med sina lyssnare/läsare om sådana. Det är omvittnat att vissa kvinnogestalter i sagalitteraturen hyser agg mot andra kvinnor, okvädar varandra eller på annat sätt utövar ett destruktivt inflytande över dessa kvinnors liv. Detta kan som bekant utkristallisera sig i långdragna fejder och hämndaktioner, men hur är det med vänskapen? Finns den över huvud taget i den litterära kontexten? Min presentation kommer att behandla band mellan olika kategorier av kvinnor, hur dessa kan definieras och hur de i sin tur kan jämföras med manliga sociala band och nätverk. I första hand avser jag att studera relationer, som kanske inte kan definieras som vänskapliga, men i alla händelser som icke-fientliga. Jag vill ge exempel på episoder, i vilka kvinnor agerar tillsammans och/eller på dialoger, i vilka kvinnor uttrycker positiva omdömen om andra kvinnor eller har som syfte att försvara eller ge stöd och skydd åt andra kvinnor. Det sistnämnda kan handla om förpliktelser, tjänster och gentjänster. Finns kanske en uttalad välvilja? Hur uttrycks den i så fall språkligt? Frågan är också i vilka sammanhang band mellan kvinnor förekommer och hur berättaren eventuellt förhåller sig till dessa.

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[G30] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Asger Mathias Valentin Nordvig
University of Colorado, Boulder
mathias.nordvig@colorado.edu

Assholes in the Íslendingasögur

Egill Skallagrímsson is a troublesome and violent figure. Grettir Ásmundarson is characterized as a rebellious and bad-tempered man, who ends up as an outlaw. Eiríkr rauði first left Norway with his father due to a killing, and was then outlawed from Iceland for more killings. Hrafnkell Freysgoði undergoes a transformation from indignant and violent to a more even-tempered man through a process of dethroning and humiliation. The Íslendingasögur are densely populated with men who on the one hand make choices for themselves with blatant disregard for their community, and on the other hand seem justified in their actions. In Assholes. A Theory, philosopher Aaron James outlines the tenets of a universal theory of social assholes, stating that the asshole, out of an entrenched sense of entitlement, systematically allows himself special advantages, and is immune to complaints. Essentially, the asshole – as opposed to a mere jerk or an insensitive person – is distinguished by the notion that he is special, and ‘normal’ rules do not apply to him. Consequently, the asshole is the individualist taken too far. In recent years, studies of the psychological differences between East Asian societies and particularly North America have shown that frontier cultures such as the American are more prone to individualism. As a frontier society in the settlement era, Iceland may have attracted a high number of people with a penchant for individualism. Much like the fictions about America’s wild west, the Íslendingasögur are consistently concerned with the rule of law, and individual compliance therewith. This could be due to the prevalence of individualism in settlement era Iceland, and the heightened risk of assholes following in its footsteps. As such, the Íslendingasögur grabble with the establishment of the rule of law in a society with too many assholes; it is a battle of establishing collectivism in a society marred by hyper-individualism. In my presentation, I will argue that the Íslendingasögur provide a glimpse into the psychology of a frontier society, where individualism clashes with collectivism and gives rise to social assholes.

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[C8] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

William Norman
University of Cambridge
whn23@cam.ac.uk

New lands, old enemies: encountering the Other in Eiríks saga rauða and Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum

The exploration of a new land often means an encounter with an old enemy: the Other. Written over twelve hundred years apart and at opposite ends of Europe, Julius Caesar’s account of his expeditions to Britain in Bellum Gallicum and the journeys to Vínland in Eiríks saga rauða nevertheless have a great deal in common. As journeys of exploration to unknown shores their basic premise is similar, but it is in the depiction of the indigenous population that the two works come closest to each other. In their diet and clothing as well as their appearance and behaviour, and also in the way they wage war, the Skrælingar of Vínland and Caesar’s ancient Britons are strikingly similar.

This paper will examine those similarities, exploring them as expressions of Othering that are common to both cultures in their encounters with people living on the fringes of their respective worlds. The possibility of a continuous European tradition of Othering the inhabitants of the geographical periphery will be considered alongside a pragmatic understanding that the material realities of pre-urban life could make similarities in the texts coincidental.

Finally, there will be a consideration of the intriguing possibility that the author of Eiríks saga rauða, a work which displays other recognized elements of Latin learning, could have been familiar with Caesar’s writings and have used parts of them as a source of inspiration for the saga; textual echoes in descriptions of clothing and casualties in battle may suggest as much. Through the lens of Othering of indigenous populations, this paper sheds light on the connections, real and imagined, between medieval Iceland and ancient Rome.

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[A6] Ideas and Worldview: Other Genres

Richard North
University College London
richard.north@ucl.ac.uk

Oddr munkr Snorrason and the authorship of Grettis saga

Oddr, who lived in the Benedictine monastery of Þingeyrar in the late twelfth century, is known to have written a Latin life of Óláfr Tryggvason, which was probably a source for Heimskringla and for Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta.  It is also suspected that Oddr wrote Yngvars saga víðfǫrla, a work which likewise offers tales of Christian Viking adventure in the Baltic and Middle East. Did Oddr write more? He is cited by name in Grettis saga, just before the narrative takes off east for the saga’s final stretch in Norway and Constantinople. In this paper, I start by acknowledging that Oddr, directly descended from the sister of Grettir Ásmundarson, was in a position better than most others to have preserved the stories about this hero on which the saga is based.  I reconsider the date of this work with the aid of parallels with Oddr’s works and other traces of an early composition in c. 1200. Sigurður Nordal’s argument that it was first written by a different descendant of the same family, before the influence of Sturla Þórðarson in the late thirteenth century, is addressed as the third element of this paper, which finishes by proposing that Oddr wrote the initial version of Grettis saga of which the present text, possibly of the fourteenth century, was the last in a series of upgrades.

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[A14] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Marie Novotná
Charles University in Prague
marie_nov@seznam.cz

Body description as a genre marker in Jómsvíkinga saga

In Jómsvíkinga saga, researchers have found traits connecting it to different saga genres. If we here omit new genres created for this saga, such as ‘anti-royal’ or ‘political sagas’ (Jesch 1993) which do not help much in understanding of relations to other literary works, it concerns three traditional genres: konungasögur, fornaldarsögurand Íslendingasögur.

Jómsvíkinga saga, not easily fitting into any category of the saga genres, can help us to understanding the development of these genres. To that purpose, also particular stylistic details as body descriptions can contribute as they play a specific role in each literary genre and are used there according to the genre’s own goals.

In my paper, I will analyse Jómsvíkinga saga in regard to the type of body descriptions typical for each of these three saga genres. In contrast to konungasögur, the appearance of Danish kings is not described, but the descriptions of appearance of Vagn, Búi, Siguðr kápa, Sigvaldi and Þorkell (Jómsvíkinga saga, ch.16) are strikingly detailed and in the context of the Jómsvíkinga saga unique. What can we deduce from it about the theme, aim or genre of this saga? And why is Véseti and his sons who are described in the way common in the Íslendingasögur? Can they be seen as prototype of a bændr family who’s lineage becomes worthy of historiographic treatment and — according to Torfi Tulinius’s interpretation of Jómsvíkinga saga — makes thus possible the birth of Íslendingasögur? The use of body descriptions in Jómsvíkinga saga might support this theory and reveal to us the heterogeneity of this saga, its transitory position and not yet differentiated style.

  • Finlay, Alison. 2014. ‘Jómsvíkinga Saga and Genre’, Scripta Islandica, 65: 63-79.
  • Jesch, Judith. 1993. ‘History in the “Political Sagas”’, Medium Ævum, 62: 210–220.
  • Jómsvíkinga saga, ed. Ólafur Halldórsson, 1969. Jómsvíkinga saga. (Reykjavík).
  • Torfi Tulinius. 2002. The Matter of the North: The Rise of Literary Fiction on Thirteenth Century Iceland, trans. R. C. Eldvik (Odense:University Press of Southern Denmark).

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[D26] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Simon Nygaard
Aarhus University
sn@cas.au.dk

at segia up lög: The early lǫgsǫgumenn as ritual and memory specialists in pre-Conversion, oral Icelandic society

The early lǫgsǫgumenn in pre-Conversion, Icelandic society were carriers of oral law and quite powerful men. Gísli Sigurðsson has argued that the focal point of this power, however, seems to shift from the secular to the religious – that is, from their oral abilities and training to an association with the emerging Church and law-books – in the 12th and 13th Centuries. But was the role of these pre-Conversion lǫgsǫgumenn purely secular?
In Max Weber’s theory of the rationalisation and sublimation of what he calls Wertsphären (value spheres), a distinct differentiation between these value spheres takes place over time: from a more or less unified sphere of interrelated societal values (i.e. religious, political, economic and legal), to a separation of the religious and the secular. This happens with the advent of religions of salvation, which are similar to what Jan Assmann has termed secondary religions. As time passes, Weber argues, a further distinction of the secular into the value spheres of the economic, political, aesthetic, erotic and intellectual takes place. Naturally, there are problems with this model (as Guy Oakes also emphasises ), but the general idea of differentiation seems to align with the cultural evolution of societies and religions.

Following Weber’s logic, the value spheres in an oral society such as pre-Conversion Iceland, featuring a primary religion in Assmann’s terminology, should perhaps be seen as more or less unified and interrelated. Subsequently, the legal-political sphere of the lǫgsǫgumaðr should then not be imagined as being distinct from the other secular spheres – and perhaps not even from the religious value sphere. Continuing this train of thought, we might benefit from viewing the early lǫgsǫgumenn as a form of ritual and memory specialists performing oral, ritualised recitations of cultural memory to a group of bearers of pre-Christian culture. By analysing select parts of Grágás, and relevant descriptions of lǫgsǫgumenn (chiefly Þorkell máni and Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði), I will explore how this approach can aid us in understanding the role of these early lǫgsǫgumenn in pre-Conversion, oral Icelandic society.

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[D17] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Hilde Andrea Nysether
University of Oslo
h.a.nysether@iakh.uio.no

Beggja vinir ok frændr – the influence of overlapping social networks in the Nordic “civil wars”

During the period from ca. 1130 to 1162/64, the Scandinavian countries and Iceland went through different types of escalating conflicts often described at times of civil war. But how violent, destructive and comprehensive were the conflicts during this period really? What is the balance between battle and peace, and what factors limited these “wars”? Hereby, how did the actors affect the conflict situations, and how did their relationship to each other inside and across the factions influence the outcome of them? In this paper, I will study how overlapping networks of friends and kinsmen between different members of the Norwegian and Icelandic social elite (both secular and cleric) influenced different conflicts, either by helping to completely avoid the potential conflict, or helping to limit the losses during and after the conflicts. The scope of such networks was extensive, and one of the implications from this is that the enemy picture could become quite unclear. The different factions differed in time, and were often non-static. The purpose is to show to what extent such networks stabilized the warlike situations, and how these personal based networks offered various degrees of peacekeeping and conflict limiting influence in the society in this period of “civil war”, hereby questioning what significance the peacekeeping actions had in a time of increasing conflict. I will be particularly interested in showing how negotiation, mediation and arbitration between members of the networks functioned before and during the conflicts, and the situations when persons are seeking truce (grið) on the behalf of single men or whole groups of people, in both situations by activating the social networks of one or more of the participants in the fractions that were fighting each other. The main sources for the research are the Norwegian king’s sagas and contemporary sagas, and the Icelandic Sturlunga saga. I will compare the Norwegian and the Icelandic material by presenting the central concepts through some characteristic cases, showing how the networks influences the different stages of the conflicts, who was involved and their relation to each other.

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[Poster session] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Katherine Marie Olley
University of Cambridge
ko302@cam.ac.uk

Law, Authority and Conflict within the Family: A Weberian Analysis of Father-Son Relations in the Fornaldarsögur

In ‘Politics as a Vocation’ Max Weber divided authority into three categories: traditional, charismatic, and legal. Weber himself admitted that ‘pure types are rarely found in reality’, tending rather to overlap, but his classification nevertheless offers a unique perspective from which to approach the fraught and often antagonistic father-son relationship in Old Norse literature. When titular fornaldarsaga heroes like Heiðrekr, Bósi or Þorsteinn Víkingsson quarrel with their fathers, we witness a conflict between two distinct spheres of authority: first, the authority of the father, which is an essentially legal and traditional authority, something particularly emphasized by Höfundr’s judicial prowess in Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks; and second, the authority of the hero, which is fundamentally charismatic in nature, deriving from the personal qualities of the son, and which often sets him in conflict with the paternally controlled family unit. The paper will explore how far the family should be considered a legal as well as a social institution, structured by the customary law of the Father and in which the ‘charismatic’ hero struggles to find a place. Hence the difficulty many heroes experience in becoming fathers; neither Sigurðr nor Gunnarr, for example, leave any living sons to succeed them in Völsunga saga. Finally, the impact of legal considerations, such as the son’s inheritance, on the emotional and personal father-son relationship will be explored.

  • Kári Gíslason, ‘Within and Without Family in the Icelandic Sagas’, Parergon, 26 (2009), 13–33
  • Itnyre, Cathy Jorgensen, ‘The Emotional Universe of Medieval Icelandic Fathers and Sons’, in Medieval Family Roles: A Book of Essays, ed. by Cathy Jorgensen Itnyre, (New York, 1996), pp. 173–96
  • Jochens, Jenny, ‘The Politics of Reproduction: Medieval Norwegian Kingship’, The American Historical Review, 92 (1987), 327–49
  • Merkelbach, Rebecca, ‘Engi maðr skapar sik sjálfr: Fathers, Abuse and Monstrosity in the Outlaw sagas’, in Bad Boys and Wicked Women: Antagonists and Troublemakers in Old Norse Literature, ed. by Daniela Hahn and Andreas Schmidt (München, 2017), pp. 46–80
  • Weber, Max, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, trans. and ed. by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (Oxford, 1946)

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[E30] Saga origins and Media: Sagas in Translation

Minoru Ozawa
Rikkyo University
m-ozawa@rikkyo.ac.jp

Translation Movement of Icelandic Sagas in Postwar Japan: From Yamamuro Shizuka to the Present

My paper aims to place decades of Japanese translations of medieval Icelandic sagas to the present days in postwar Japanese intellectual history.

Japanese interest in pre-modern Scandinavian literature began in the 19th century. But its academic research has intensified since 1945. As a result now we can read not a few numbers of Japanese translations of Icelandic sagas such as Saga of Eric the Red, the Book of the Icelanders, Egil’s Saga, Njal’s saga, Grettir’s saga, Cormac’s Saga and Heimskringla etc. These translations have had a wide rage of influences both on the progress of academic research of humanities and on making of an image of Iceland in postwar Japan, but there are no studies of translation process of Old Norse literature and its reception in Japan.

To reveal an intellectual atmosphere Icelandic sagas were translated in postwar Japan, the analysis of my paper will concentrate mainly on three turning points. The first point is on Yamamuro Shizuka (1906-2000) who was a famous writer, critics and translator of Scandinavian modern literature and children’s literature. He was also a pioneer of saga translation into Japanese like Saga of Erik the Red. The second is on Taniguchi Yukio(1929-) who was a professor of Germanic literature and philology. He was an incomparable translator of pre-modern Scandinavian literature such as the Eddas, the work of Saxo Grammaticus and that of Olaus Magnus as well as long and short Icelandic sagas like Egil’s Saga and Heimskringla. The third is on The Society of Icelandic Studies of Japan,which was founded in 1981 for the promotion of the research of Icelandic culture in connection with the Republic of Iceland. The members of the Society, some of whom studied in Iceland, have translated many sagas into Japanese, introduced works on medieval Iceland by Aaron Grevich, Steblin Kamenskij, and Jesse Byock etc.and produced their own works on Old Norse, the Viking Age, and Medieval Scandinavia including Iceland.

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[A27] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Katelin Parsons
katelin@hi.is

Three thousand miles from home: the manuscript transmission of saga literature in Icelandic immigrant communities in North America

To date, our understanding of the reception and transmission of saga literature within Icelandic immigrant communities in North America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has been mainly limited to the medium of printed books. Unsurprisingly, the main focus of research has been on sagas dealing with themes of Iceland’s settlement and interactions between early settlers, which Icelandic-American and -Canadian writers frequently invoked to frame their own immigrant experiences. However, the territory that Icelanders encountered in the New World was not an “empty” wilderness, occupied only by transient monastics who made no claim to the land, nor did Icelandic immigrants necessarily perceive it as such.

This paper presents the findings of the three-year research project Í fótspor Árna Magnússonar í Vesturheimi (‘In the Footsteps of Árni Magnússon in the New World’), a study of manuscripts and other handwritten material belonging to Icelandic immigrants to the United States and Canada during the period 1870–1914. In this paper, I use a quantitative approach to explore the position of saga literature among Icelanders in North America and the role of manuscripts in transmitting literary texts not available in print editions. The diversity of saga texts represented in immigrants’ manuscripts suggests a nuanced engagement with the literary past: themselves Icelandic immigrants had access to a broader range of hand-copied titles than commercially published ones, and there is some evidence that local scribal networks sprang up in at least a few communities. These saga manuscripts contain strikingly few narratives of North Atlantic exploration and settlement, however, and even Iceland has an unexpectedly peripheral presence. They look east and south, not west, in depicting interactions across cultures and examining their audience’s place in the world.

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[D33] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Paul Peterson
University of Minnesota, Morris
pete2581@umn.edu

Með níðum skal land byggja: Insulting Nicknames and the Law

Nicknames used as insults could cut deeper than a brutal taunt in the style of Skarpheðinn or a wooden effigy (cf. Gísla saga). They lasted throughout one’s lifetime and beyond, permanently attaching themselves to one’s name, honor, and reputation. As such, it is extraordinary that so many insulting nicknames were preserved across the Old Norse-Icelandic literary corpus. I will detail some of the most degrading examples, and in doing so attempt to explain the possible motivations behind them and why it seems the law was either ineffective or irrelevant in regulating them. Beyond the most famous cases of taunts in the form of nicknames spurring on feuds (such as taðskegglingar in Njála, or Bróka-Auðr in Laxdæla), numerous obscene nicknames survived and stand as evidence against the effectiveness of the law. It is difficult to to avoid noticing the offensiveness of nicknames like fuðhundr ‘dog cunt’, kastandrazi ‘throwing ass’, skaðareðr ‘harm penis’, bakrauf ‘anus’, or skítráðr ‘shit-ruler’, especially when the law expressly forbids giving nicknames as a slight to one’s character.

The large volume of obscene and insulting nicknames suggests that the law was either poorly enforced or inapplicable in cases of well-taken humor or irony, and yet there is a stipulation in Grágás (Staðarhólsbók) against defamatory nicknames: Ef maðr gefr manni nafn annat enn hann eigi, ok varðar þat fjǫrbaugsgarð ef inn vill reiðask við. Svá er ok, ef maðr reiðir auknefni til háðungar honom, ok varðar þat fjǫrbaugsgarð, ok skal þat hvártveggja sœkja við tólf kvið. (From Grágás efter det Arnamagnæanske Haandskrift Nr. 334 fol., Staðarhólsbók, Vilhjálmur Finsen 1879, 391-392. Normalization and translation my own: “If someone gives a person a different name than the one he already has, it is punishable by lesser outlawry (three year exile) if the other one is angered by it. As such it is also the case if someone spreads around a nickname to degrade him, it is punishable by lesser outlawry, and it shall in both cases be decided by the verdict of twelve men.”)

This stipulation reflects the power of “calling people names” carries with it the serious sentence of lesser outlawry. It comes as little shock that such a harsh penalty existed in a society where a slight against one’s honor was often considered grounds for violent revenge. While insulting nicknames are not mentioned specifically in other law codes (this is probably no accident), defamation laws are found everywhere and regulate against such slights. Many of these may have been ironic nicknames given by their closest associations with impunity, but their enemies could have also applied the tags as mockery and committed a serious offence.

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[C19] Seminar Session: Hegemony, Alterity, Dissent

Andrew M. Pfrenger
University of Mississippi
andrew.pfrenger@gmail.com

The Intersection of Romance and Politics: Tracing the Consequences of Consent Theory in the Post-Classical Viglund’s Saga

Viglund’s Saga is often dismissed as a failed but engaging experiment in genre blending. Paul Schach describes it as “A pale imitation of the stirring thirteenth-century Íslendingasögur.” Marianne Kalinke views the saga in a more sympathetic light, concluding that it is “an unusual bridal quest romance [that] translated a narrative type commonly dominated by fantasy into the verisimilar world of the Íslendigasögur and enunciated the struggle for authority underlying surface conflict.” The author’s interest, she argues, is in “bringing to life the dynamics of family relationships.” Kalinke’s conclusion is a useful starting point for gaining a better appreciation of Viglund’s Saga. The question that scholars have not yet asked, however, is why the author chose to tell this story of love triumphing over family politics in the manner that he did and how it fits into the literary, social, political and theological contexts of the late 14th/early 15th century. What was happening at this moment in Iceland’s history that might have influenced the author’s decisions on how to construct his narrative, what themes to pursue, and how to incorporate them into the lives of his characters? The author’s work differs from the 13th-century Íslendingasögur in its handling of these issues precisely because he is concerned with the problems of his own time.I would like to present my own exploration of how Viglund’s Saga fits into and examines the complex dynamics at play for those navigating romantic relationships toward marriage. With its clear emphasis on the question of “who’s in charge,” as Kalinke described it, Viglund’s Saga fits nicely into discussions of canonical consent theory and the resulting controversies that were at last coming to a head in Iceland during the 14th and 15th centuries. A more thorough understanding of these issues help give the saga shape, purpose, and meaning. By looking at this saga within its literary contexts while also considering marriage contracts, court cases, and other contemporary documents that shed some light on the issues surrounding romance in marriage, Viglund’s Saga can be seen as far more than a pale imitation of saga writing’s golden age.

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[G1] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Carl Luke Phelpstead
Cardiff University
phelpsteadc@cf.ac.uk

A Cosmocritical Approach to the Íslendinga sögur

Contemporary scholarship continues to grapple in interesting and theoretically sophisticated ways with one of the most distinctive features of the Íslendinga sögur: their matter-of-fact and realistic narration of content that is variously characterised by critics as supernatural, preternatural, or paranormal. For readers wedded to a modern materialist ideology (according to which nothing exists ‘beyond’ natural phenomena that are amenable to scientific investigation), this combination of realism and the unbelievable can seem alien, embarrassing, or problematic. In some of my own published work I have argued, on the contrary, for an historicized understanding of the limits of plausibility in saga narrative and have taken issue with anachronistic readings of the supernatural in medieval narrative in order to advocate a more historically sensitive form of the approach known as ecocriticism. In this paper I build on this work in order to consider episodes from a range of Íslendinga sögur from the perspective of a new theoretical approach that goes beyond ecocriticism to what I call ‘cosmocriticism’, an approach that I have developed in a forthcoming essay on an Anglo-Saxon manuscript compilation and which I deploy in relation to Icelandic sagas for the first time in this paper. This cosmocritical approach engages with contemporary African critiques of Western ecocriticism in order to liberate critics from concepts and assumptions which cannot accommodate the supernatural. Saga accounts of such phenomena as ghosts or revenants, miracles, supernatural beings, portents, and visions can thus be read within a framework that does not rigidly distinguish between living and dead, sacred and profane, or matter and spirit and which is not grounded in metaphysical assumptions that are alien to the texts under consideration.

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[C12] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Jules Piet
Unviversity of Strasbourg and University of Iceland
juleslrpiet@gmail.com

Euhemerism and saga literature

Euhemerism, the belief that gods were in fact mere mortals impersonating gods, has been one the main medieval Christian approaches to consider pagan myths. This theory has been widely accepted among medieval Scandinavian authors. The most famous example is Snorri’s Ynglinga saga in which the author explains the origin of the Ynglingar dynasty. According to Snorri the kings of Norway are descendent of impostors coming from Greece and pretending to be gods. Furthermore, these impostors supposedly gave birth to the beliefs still known nowadays as the Scandinavian mythology.

This theory shaped the medieval Scandinavian conception of myths and history. It is known in other works such as the Prose Edda, the Gesta Danorum by Saxo or the Historie Norwegiae. However, euhemerism is not an indigenous Scandinavian idea. It originated during the third century BC with the Macedonian Author Euhemerus of Messene. Euhemerus tried to show that myths were mostly unrealistic because of their unnatural events, hence marvelous events must have been lies and the gods were impostors. Later, the first Christian authors used this theory as a mean to contradict the roman religion and claimed all their gods to be malicious impostors. Within Christendom this theory remained one of the most popular in order to address the origins of pagan religion, it has been used by several authors in the Middle Ages, among them, Isidore of Seville, Vincent de Beauvais, Petrus Comestor, etc.

I would like to address in this paper the question of the sources of the saga writers concerning euhemerism. This theory has been particularly influential in thirteenth century Iceland and has influenced saga production. Those authors most likely had a knowledge of Latin and continental-European literary tradition and this paper aims to show which authors and texts may have been the sources of Icelandic authors concerning their own euhemeristic theories.

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[D15] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Marion Poilvez
University of Iceland
marion.poilvez@gmail.com

Með útlögum skal land byggja: the social function(s) of outlawry in medieval Iceland

Outlawry is a legal sanction widely understood as an exclusion. Often associated with the legal apparatus of “Germanic“ pre-state societies, its main function was to punish reprehensible behaviour by making a man liable to be killed by anyone. In other words, it made revenge-killing legal. At the same time, in practice, outlawry also had the advantage to force the troublemaker to flee, and therefore restoring peace within a given lawful territory (Van Houts, 2004). Outlawry in medieval Scandinavia has been recently a source of scholarly interest, whether on its philological aspects (Riisøy, 2015), literary aspects (Ahola, 2014), its association with monstrosity (Merkelbach, 2016) or its connection to canon law and excommunication (Walgenbach, 2016). From these perspectives, outlawry was mostly analysed as punishment and marginalization, taking for granted that the sanction itself—being outside the protection of the law—was an exclusion. In many cases, however, outlaws still played a role within the dynamics of the society they were excluded from, and this especially in Iceland during the Middle Ages.

This paper aims to discuss outlawry as a social structure from an inclusive perspective. It argues that many forms of outlawry did not function as actual exclusion, but on the contrary had an active role to play within the social dynamics of the island. This role will be presented as either didactic (serving an educational purpose) or beneficial (serving the whole Icelandic society or a specific social group). Legal and literary sources will be contrasted and used to question the authenticity of outlawry as a historical social structure in Saga Age Iceland. A specific attention will be given to the possibility of orchestrated violence being channelled through outlawry, and Icelandic outlaws being used as legal scapegoats. More widely, this paper will question the purpose of punishment in stateless societies, and its evolution through social and political changes.

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[B19] Seminar Session: Emotions in the Íslendingasǫgur

Edel Maria Porter
University of Castilla — La Mancha
EdelMaria.Porter@uclm.es

How did Egill Feel? Expressions of Emotion in the Poetry of Egill Skalla-Grímsson.

Despite some famous exceptions, such as Egill Skalla-Grímsson’s Sonatorrek, skaldic verse has been traditionally seen as unemotional, especially in comparison to Eddaic poetry. However, a closer look at the rest of Egill’s corpus demonstrates a surprisingly full range of emotional expression, from anger, sadness, shame, fear and disgust, to happiness and even compassion. Indeed, in the case of the lausavísur embedded in the prose narrative of Egils saga, a poetic interlude frequently signals moments of high dramatic tension, particularly emotional agitation (Porter 2006). Thus, quite often these stanzas provide a vehicle for the manifestation of emotions that are generally suppressed in the prose. In Egill’s verse, such emotions are conveyed in a variety of ways, in the form of literal terms (e.g. harmr, óðr, reiðr), figurative or metaphorical language, physiological expression, as well as actions and gestures, which within the context of the ’emotional community’ in which they are performed/recounted (Rosenwein 2007), can be read as the manifestation of certain feelings (Porter & Manrique 2015). This paper aims to investigate instances of emotional expression in the corpus of verse traditionally attributed to Egill Skalla-Grímsson, analysing the extent to which their conceptualization is based on universal human experiences (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) and/or socio-cultural constructs (Kövecses, 2005; Díaz-Vera & Manrique Antón 2015). I also aim to assess whether it is possible to identify differences in the prevalence or type of emotions expressed Egill’s poetry over the span of his life, and across the different metres and genres in which his works are composed.

  • Kövecses, Zoltán. 2005. Metaphor in culture: Universality and variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Porter, Edel. 2006. Skaldic poetry: Making the world fantastic. In John McKinnell. David Ashurst & Donata Kick (eds.), Preprint papers of the thirteenth international saga conference vol. 2. 789-797. Durham: Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
  • Porter, Edel & Teodoro Manrique Antón. 2015. Flushing in anger, blushing in shame: Somatic markers in Old Norse emotional expressions. Cognitive Linguistic Studies 2 (1). 24-49.
  • Rosenwein, Barbara H. 2007. Emotional communities in the early Middle Ages. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press.

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[C2] PIdeas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Lauren Elissa Poyer
University of Wisconsin-Madison
lpoyer@wisc.edu

Vernacular Christianity and the Book of Jonah in Ljósvetninga saga

Most scholarship surrounding Ljósvetninga saga deals with one or both of the following questions: (1) how does this saga connect to models of saga genre-development, and (2) how historical are the legal proceedings in this saga, i.e. how believable or acceptable are these proceedings to a contemporary 13th century audience? This paper addresses the second question, but not from the perspective of legal proceedings. Instead, this paper will present Ljósvetninga saga as a possible source of evidence of a 13th century Icelandic vernacular Christian worldview by focusing on the episode of Már and his murder of his invalid kinsman. Már’s episode, a short digression embedded within Þorvarðr’s departure from Iceland immediately after his outlawry, is a micro-story of sin and social violation, repentance, and salvation that foreshadows and strengthens the Christian moral component of Þorvarðr’s outlawry. It is also a direct allusion to the story of the Prophet Jonah in the Old Testament Book of Jonah. Már’s episode exemplifies just how deeply embedded and integral Biblical and Christian themes and motifs are to both the composition and the reception of the Íslendingasögur in a 13th century Christian context.This paper aligns this reading with past approaches to Ljósvetninga saga that focus on the use of the law to regulate and correct social behavior. More emphasis, however, is placed on the implications of a Christian analogue for the episode, which may even extend to vernacular conceptions of the relationship between sea travel and salvation and to the possibility of earlier Celtic Christian influence.

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[C18] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

John Quanrud
Independent scholar
jmquanrud@gmail.com

A conundrum in Byzantium: Haraldr Sigurðarson, ‘Gyrgir’ and the Maniakatoi Latinoi

According to accounts in Heimskringla, Morkinskinna and Fagrskinna, Haraldr Sigurðarson spent several years while still a young man serving in Byzantium’s Varangian Guard. The unexpected discovery of a Byzantine historical text in Moscow in the 1870s verified a number of elements in the sagas’ versions of Harald’s career ‘among the Greeks’. It is well documented in Byzantine and other sources that from 1038–1040 the emperor sent an army to Sicily to wrest the island from Arab control. Led by the famous general Georgios Maniakes, Haraldr and his 500 ‘companions’ took part in this expedition together with regular Byzantine soldiers, a group of Norman mercenaries sent from southern Italy and a military unit consisting of Albanians (I argue) from the Balkans. The presence of this Albanian tagma in the Byzantine army raises the possibility of interaction between high status Albanians and Scandinavian elites in the early middle ages. This is intriguing, for there are a number of striking similarities between what is known of Viking Age Scandinavian law codes and the ancient and all-encompassing unwritten law of the northern Albanians – a subject not yet studied in any depth largely due to the geographical gulf separating these peoples.The Byzantine author Michael Attaleiates, writing in the 1070s, stated that ‘Albanians and Latins’ had served Maniakes together on Sicily but revolted against the emperor around the year 1040. In my paper I will present a closer analysis of this text and explore the possible identity of these ‘Latin’ soldiers. It has been widely assumed they were Norman mercenaries, but a review of the evidence may suggest instead they were more likely Varangians who broke their alliance with the emperor, joined Maniakes in his rebellion in 1043 and, after his death at Ostrovo later that year, perhaps remained in the western Balkans and became known as the Maniakatoi.

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[B2] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Judy Quinn
Cambridge University
jeq20@cam.ac.uk

The prosimetrum of Eyrbyggja saga and the generic complexity of the Íslendingasögur

The poetry quoted within the prosimetric narrative of Eyrbyggja saga is remarkable for a number of reasons that illuminate the artistry of what is generally thought to be among the earliest of the Íslendingasögur (the oldest witness, the fragmentary AM 162 E, is dated to the end of the thirteenth century). Quotations of two and five stanzas respectively come from praise poems, Illugadrápa by Oddr breiðfirðingr and Hrafnsmál by Þórmóðr Trefilsson. The style of their inquits – ‘svá kvað Oddr skáld í Illugadrápu’ and ‘svá segir Þórmóðr Trefilsson í Hrafnsmálum’ – is characteristic of the quotation style of the konungasögur, where eulogies serve an evidentiary role and bolster the authority of the prose account. In addition, a total of seventeen stanzas (conventionally dubbed the Máhlíðingavísur) are quoted, spoken one at a time by the poet Þórarinn svarti Þórólfsson to a varety of addressees at different locations as he garners support for the case that will inevitably arise from the event memorialised by his poetry. The distribution of verses from a single source bears some similarity once again to the prosimetric style of the konungasögur. Added to the prosmetric mix of the saga are seven stanzas spoken by Bjǫrn breiðvíkingakappi Ásbrandsson during a phase of the saga narrative that has much in common with the style of the skáldasögur, and indeed one verse attributed to Bjǫrn is strikingly similar to one attributed to his namesake in Bjarnar saga Hítdœlakappa. Less unusual in the context of the Íslendingasögur perhaps are quotations of verses spoken by an old woman responding to the bellowing of a bull and another spoken by a severed head. Poetry by a love-struck berserk and the father of the object of his desire after he has cruelly dispatched the berserk round out the tally of thirty-seven verses in this rich prosimetric work. Together they demonstrate the generic complexity of a saga that has developed out of the flow of contemporary narrative modes in a way that is both idiosyncratic and revealing.

  • Heslop, Kate, ‘Contest and conviviality: scenes for the performance of Íslendingasögur lausavísur’ [PhD thesis, Sydney 2002)
  • Einar Ól. Sveinsson and Matthías Þórðarson, eds. Eyrbyggja saga, Íslenzk fornrit 4 (Reykjavík, 1935)
  • O’Donoghue, Heather, Skaldic Verse and the Poetics of Saga Narrative (Oxford, 2005)
  • Poole, Russell, ‘The origins of the Máhlíðingavísur’, Scandinavian Studies 57 (1985): 244–85

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[F3] Artistry: New Theoretical Approaches and Perspectives

Eduardo Ramos
Penn State University
exr5207@psu.edu

Anxiety in Gísla saga Súrssonar

The plot of Gísla saga Súrssonar, which deals with revenge killings and elements of the supernatural, is largely moved forward by the anxieties faced by the characters in the saga. Using psychoanalytic theory, we can trace the source of the anxieties to two major themes: anxiety over divided loyalties, and anxiety caused by the conflict between Eros and Thanatos. Gisli and his siblings find themselves in situations where their loyalties are divided. These difficult circumstances drive them to make tough decisions, such as seeking vengeance against their own kin and committing killings under cover of darkness, both of which are social taboos in the world of the Íslendinga sǫgur. Gisli himself is further troubled by the internal conflict between his life instinct and his death drive. These anxieties lead Gisli to have troubled sleep, and to constantly foreshadow his future demise while also revisiting the events that set him on his deadly course. Through my use of psychoanalytic theory, I will foreground the emotional driving force behind Gísla saga’s plot, explore the primary causes of anxiety within the saga, and address how these inner conflicts lend Gísla saga a generation bridging quality that makes it a favorite with modern audiences.

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[A12] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Marta Rey-Radlińska
Jagiellonian University
martaarey@gmail.com

Saga or þáttr? A case of the “Jómsvikinga þáttr” in the Flateyjarbók GKS 1005 fol.

The story of the Vikings of Jómsborg, which was according to many scholars located on the Wolin island, is commonly known as the „Jómsvikinga saga“. However, the Flateyjarbók version of this tale bears the rubric: „Her hefr vpp Jomsvikinga þaatt“. The þættir of Flateyjarbók do not always use the rubric “þáttr” and some sagas commonly known as “sagas” are referred as “þættir”. In this paper I attempt to answer the question, how much þáttr-like this tale is. I analyse the text from the perspective of literary communication. Þættir invite their recipients to read them on many levels, as they are the texts that use their „communicative freedom“ to their most. As such they are literary phenomena that combine the opposite, as they are both independent and dependent at the same time. Their hybridity is to a considerable extent connected with the processes that led to their creation: the mingling of orality with written culture, the long tradition of telling stories on one hand and on the other the modern story-writing in the vernacular that originated in Iceland in the thirteenth century. In my paper I focus on poetics-related issues that problematize þættir primarily in terms of the poetics of reception. What falls in the parameters of this research are the construction of the analysed text, its rhetorical and narrative structure, as well as the social and historical context conditioning its functioning in the circle of communication. I argue that these centuries-old text still retain the ability to communicate with the reader.

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[E14] Saga origins and Media: Saga Landscapes

Katherine Rich
University of York
kmr522@york.ac.uk

The Poetry of Landscape: Shifting Ground in the Íslendingasögur

Recent studies by Emily Lethbridge and Eleanor Barraclough, among others, and the ongoing work on the Saga Map Project, have underlined the prominence and resonance of saga landscapes. My research examines depictions of landscape in skaldic verse in the Íslendingasögur and related þættir, and their significance in the context of these texts. The poetry of the Íslendingasögur demonstrates both a rich vocabulary of landscape and a strong sense of place, and analysis of the function of these verses within the narrative in many cases offers a fresh perspective on the sagas in question. This paper will examine verses depicting highland landscapes in such texts as Grettis saga and Bergbúa þáttr, and consider their preoccupation with the function of this particular space. In both cases we find particularly dynamic images of the Icelandic landscape. The twelve-stanza poem in Bergbúa þáttr has received some attention for its depictions of tectonic activity and volcanic eruption, but equally interesting is its preoccupation with natural boundaries and ‘between’ spaces. The speaker of this poem is the cliff-dweller of the title, who exists somewhere between wilderness and civilization, and the imagery employed to evoke the vivid sense of place is largely characterised by contrast. The relationship of this text to Grettis saga is of interest in that they not only occupy the same physical space, but share a concern with the poet’s connection to that space. The saga’s interest in highland terrain is not merely a consequence of its outlawed protagonist, but written into Grettir’s history, his ancestry, and thus his connection to Iceland, and is explored strikingly through the verses he composes. This paper proposes that, in each case, poetic depictions of landscape are concerned with the construction and negotiation of boundaries, and examines their significance to the texts’ underlying commentaries on the process of poetic composition.

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[A33] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Friederike Richter
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
friederike.richter@hu-berlin.de

Concepts of Text and Saga-Manuscripts

A notable aspect of the manuscript transmission of Íslendingasögur is that not only the wording was re-written over time and space. Further characteristics of the manuscripts were subject to change and introduced to present Íslendingasögur according to contemporary views and purposes, too. For example, the manuscript AM 426 fol. (1670–1682) singles out the saga heroes Egill Skallagrímsson, Grettir Ásmundarson and Guðmundur hinn ríki Eyjólfsson through pictorial representations. Furthermore, the re-writing is not restricted to the addition of these illuminations in the manuscript, but also regards its binding, layout, use of scripts, as well as the insertion of a title page and a table of contents. All these devices were deliberately deployed to guide and influence the perception of the Íslendingasögur. Consequently, the traditional conception of text – in the sense of the meaning of the wording of a literary work – is challenged when analysing the transmission in such a manuscript. The paper presents a new text model that allows to analyse the complex interdepending and overlapping structures of meaning formation in manuscripts. The text model distinguishes three different concepts of texts that represent different analytical perspectives on manuscripts, i.e. verbal, visual, and mental text, it is their intersection I term ‘material text’. The distinction between these concepts of text is developed on the basis of different concepts of image by Mitchell (1984) and concepts of text by Sahle (2013), but also draws on other concepts of text described by McGann (1991), Nichols (1990), Rockenberger/Röcken (2014), and Shillingsburg (1997). The paper applies the aforementioned text model to an analysis of AM 426 fol., demonstrating how its various features contribute to meaning formation. In particular, the analysis of the ‘material text’ will enable to reveal phenomena such as the canonisation of literary works, heroisation of saga protagonists and the reference to book printing as evident in this Íslendingasögur manuscript.

  • McGann, Jerome J. (1991): The Textual Condition, Princeton, NJ.
  • Mitchell, William J. Thomas (1984): “What Is an Image?” in: New Literary History 15, 503–537.
  • Nichols, Stephen (1990): “Introduction: Philology in a Manuscript Culture”, in: Speculum 65, 1–10.
  • Rockenberger, Annika and Per Röcken (2014): “Was ‘bedeutet’ ein ‘material text’?”, in: Wolfgang Lukas et al. (eds.): Text – Material – Medium. Zur Relevanz editorischer Dokumentationen für die literaturwissenschaftliche Interpretation (= Beihefte zu editio, 37), Berlin, Boston, 25–51.
  • Sahle, Patrick (2013): Digitale Editionsformen. Zum Umgang mit der Überlieferung unter den Bedingungen des Medienwandels. Teil 3: Textbegriffe und Recodierung (= Schriften des Instituts für Dokumentologie und Editorik, 9), Norderstedt. Available online: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/5013/, 12/04/2017.
  • Shillingsburg, Peter L. (1997): Resisting texts. Authority and submission in constructions of meaning (= Editorial theory and literary criticism), Ann Arbor.

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[D34] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Anne Irene Riisøy
University College of Southeast Norway
anne.irene.risoy@usn.no

Níðingsverk: a Viking Age concept of crime and punishment

Using various sources, i.e. sagas and laws, I will explore the penal concept níðingsverk (or alternatively níðingsvíg) which was applied during the Viking Age and early middle ages. This concept encompassed outrageous offences, mostly killings which entailed irredeemable and permanent outlawry, and the perpetrator was often a vargr. It is most readily detected in the Vest-Norse area, Iceland and Norway, however, since the sorces are few, and also for comparative purposes I also include the rest of Scandinavia. I will explore what is meant by níðingsverk (deeds and consequences) if it is possible to detect changes between various sources (law vs law in action – sagas) between different areas of Scandinavia, and how the introduciton of Christianiy gradually ousted this concept.

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[G9] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Matthew Roby
University of Oxford
matthew.roby@exeter.ox.ac.uk

Till (un)Death Do Us Part: Post-Menopausal Sexualities, Revenant Partners, and Romantic Foils in the Melabók Attestation of Eyrbyggja saga

One of the sustained close readings in my chapter on sexuality and senescence analyses the character of Þórgunna from Eyrbyggja saga, who, in an uncharacteristically specific assertion, is identified to be around fifty-years-old. I have dedicated numerous conference papers to individual marvels within her episode, positing their significance to the apparent disjunction between this character’s age and her hyper-sexuality. Here I examine her interactions with other romantically or sexually connoted characters, exploring how they too might illuminate Þórgunna’s problematic transition from procreative to non-procreative status. First is Þuríðr, who embodies the sexual capital so coveted by Þórgunna in her beauty and proven success in beguiling male partners. Therefore, the enmity between these two characters, particularly the latter’s unwillingness to surrender her lavish bedclothes – symbols of her proud sexual status – to Þuríðr, becomes emblematic of Þórgunna’s unwilling transition into post-menopausal life. Moreover, focusing on the Melabók attestation, a series of undead foils also seem to intersect with this commentary. As her corpse is lowered into the grave, Þórgunna grumbles about her placement beside the cold body of Mána-Ljótr, who retorts that this typifies her unpopularity. Employing Ármann Jakobsson’s assertion that the revenant, as an entity active beyond its natural lifespan, might have been a symbol of old age, and considering the elision of marriage bed and burial mound elsewhere in the corpus, it is tempting to analyse this exchange as representative of Þórgunna’s rejection of a romantic match more befitting her new senescent and non-procreative status. Additionally, this same lens may speculatively elucidate Þórgunna’s enigmatic hostility towards Þorgríma galdrakinn, another older woman who maintains a close relationship with her husband, the similarly aged Þórir viðleggr, after death. The pair are seen walking together as revenants, presenting an idyllic foil of senescent marital unity in contrast to Þórgunna’s dysfunctional relationship with her new post-mortem bedfellow. As such, this paper interprets Þórgunna’s interactions with these characters as nuancing the episode’s broader commentary, which seems to intimate the incongruity of the post-menopausal woman as an unattached and aggressive sexual agent, particularly when harbouring designs on much younger men, within the medieval Icelandic sexual episteme.

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[C35] Ideas and Worldview: Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Roles

Beth Rogers
University of Iceland
blr3@hi.is

Land of Milk and Money: Sagas, Women and the Dairy Economy

The traditional representation of women in the medieval period shows a sharp separation in which the public sphere belonged to men and the private sphere to women; This is the world of “innan stokks,” with woman as the ruler of the house and keeper of the keys, as Carol Clover and others tell us, which indicates that this binary view has been cast to some extent on the historical representation of medieval Icelandic women, however strong some appear in the sagas. This paper will demonstrate how the image of separate spheres is an anachronistic inference of modern ideas concerning gender relations. In doing so, this work will also reexamine the role of women, especially the Icelandic housewife and the servant class responsible for so much of the work in generating dairy products. It will demonstrate how gender relations in the medieval world did not begin or end at the threshold, but that they were complementary and interdependent, building upon ideas put forth in Jenny Jochen’s Women in Old Norse Society. It will provide a reinterpretation of early Icelandic economic history by focusing on dairy product production and use within the economy to demonstrate women’s key place in in the economy and also on the historical development of Iceland as a nation. This study will show the key importance of dairy products and the role of women in their production in medieval Icelandic society through scenes from the sagas such as Njáls saga, Egils saga, Grettis saga and more, and other supporting literature such as law codices. These will be used to demonstrate how milk products were essential to society and the economy from the time of early settlement to the present, although this work will focus on the period in which the saga literature was written, in the 12th and 13th centuries.

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Plenary Lecture on Wednesday

Lena Rohrbach
University of Zurich/ University of Basel
l.rohrbach@unibas.ch

Canon and Archive: Icelandic Legal Manuscripts, Premodern Textuality and Concepts of the Law

2018 marks the 900th anniversary of the writing down of Icelandic Law under the aegis of Hafliði Másson in the winter of 1117/18. Apart from a single twelfth-century fragment, we can only get indirect access to this early stage of written Icelandic law in the two mid-thirteenth codices of Konungsbók (GKS 1157 fol.) and Staðarhólsbók (AM 334 fol.). Research on these early Icelandic laws has shown that the laws in the two manuscripts reflect recent local and foreign legal developments and concepts and that the Icelandic laws of the Commonwealth are not a static, but rather a living legal corpus that underwent changes after their initial Verschriftlichung.

The same applies to the younger medieval Icelandic laws, both the secular Jónsbók and the ecclesiastical Church Law of Bishop Árni. My lecture will focus on the late-medieval transmission of these later codes and explore the fluid textuality of the law as we can grasp it in the manuscripts. After their promulgation in the last decades of the thirteenth century, these two legal codes were written down time and again in a large number of copies throughout the Middle Ages, and in the majority of cases the secular and the ecclesiastical code were handed down conjointly together with changing arrangements of accompanying texts.

In this process, the legal codes were not merely copied but rather rewritten, rearranged and merged with other texts. I will argue that the material text of the manuscripts allows for fundamental insights into contemporaneous concepts of the law that challenge our modern preconceptions of textual entitites as well as of the corpus of Icelandic law. Drawing on current notions of canon and archive in memory and literacy studies, I will suggest to approach the manuscripts not only as carriers, but also as active formations of the law of late-medieval Iceland.

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[F8] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Lukas Rösli
University of Zurich
lukas.roesli@unibas.ch

Paratextual references to the genre term Íslendingasǫgur in Old Norse-Icelandic manuscripts

Old Norse-Icelandic prose narratives are typically referred to as Íslendingasǫgur if the events narrated in these texts are set in Iceland in the time between the Landnámsöld and shortly after the Christianization of Iceland (cf. Clover 1985, Vésteinn Ólason 2005). However, the term Íslendingasǫgur – used as a genre taxonomy today – is an (early) modern scholarly invention with no generic equivalent in medieval manuscripts (cf. Bampi 2017). With regard to medieval Icelandic manuscript culture the construction of such a fixed genre seems to be rather ahistorical, and thus the term Íslendingasǫgur seems not to reflect the medieval scribal culture’s perception of these saga narratives. However, the word Íslendingasaga occurs in younger manuscripts as a paratextual addition to the actual name of a saga, or in its plural form Íslendingasǫgur as the paratextual reference to a collection or compilation of narratives. The aim of my paper is therefore to discuss these paratextual references to the genre term Íslendingasǫgur – classifying a single narrative as a part of the genre in question or labeling a compilation of narratives with this term – as they are presented to us in actual manuscripts. I will argue that these paratextual designations, which by no means point toward a strict division of the different saga genres we use today, might give us some deeper insight of how a particular manifestation of a saga narrative in a manuscript, or a compilation or collection of different narratives were understood as Íslendingasǫgur in terms of a historical genre taxonomy by the contemporary scribal culture.

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[B1] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Timothy Rowbotham
University of Southern Denmark and University of York.
tpr503@york.ac.uk

Genre and Authenticity: Forms and Functions of Prosimetrum in Three Fornaldarsǫgur

The classic Icelandic saga, in many of its most recognisable genres, is characterised by the prosimetrical form; the Íslendingasǫgur, konungasǫgur, and approximately half of the fornaldarsǫgur, to varying extents, embed verse quotation within their prose narratives. The verses quoted in these sagas have typically been categorised either as ‘authenticating’ or ‘situational,’ to borrow Diana Whaley’s nomenclature, according to their introductory formulae – either “svá segir X” or “þá kvað X,” or variants thereof – and their function in the prose, either as extraneous evidence corroborating the prose narrative, or as the speech of the saga characters, more organically integrated into the prose. The distinction between these functions of verse quotation can, to some extent, be drawn along lines of genre, between historical konungasǫgur and the “fictional end of the spectrum of saga-literature”; in particular, Bjarni Einarsson has noted the “marked qualitative difference between the role of verse” in the konungasǫgur, in which it authenticates the prose, and the Íslendingasǫgur, in which it is largely presented as situational and, by extension, to be taken as part of the literary artifice of the text. The generic associations – and the attendant implications of historicity and fictionality – of authenticating and situational verse are, however, problematic, as Whaley, among others, has suggested. This paper seeks to further critique this paradigm by analysing the form and function of verse quotation in three fornaldarsǫgur, a genre largely overlooked to date in this discourse. Vǫlsunga saga, Ragnars saga loðbrókar, and Gautreks saga each mix, to varying degrees, authenticating and situational verse quotation, and in each text the function of individual verses quoted may be ambiguous; anonymous or pseudonymous twelfth-century verse is cited as evidence of events supposed to have taken place in the fǫrn ǫld, and the situational presentation of many verses often belies their authenticating function. Analysis of these sagas, according to a paradigm usually reserved for Íslendingasǫgur and konungasǫgur, promises to shed light on questions of both saga prosimetrum and saga genre.

  • Bjarni Einarsson. “On The Rôle of Verse in Saga Literature.” Medieval Scandinavia 7, 118-25. 1974.
  • Meulengracht Sørensen, Preben. “The Prosimetrum Form I: Verses as the Voice of the Past.” In Skaldsagas: Text, Vocation, and Desire in the Icelandic Sagas of Poets, edited by Russell Poole,185-90. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2001.
  • O’Donoghue, Heather. Skaldic Verse and the Poetics of Saga Narrative. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005.
  • Whaley, Diana. “Skalds and Situational Verses in Heimskringla.” In Snorri Sturluson: Kolloquium aulässlich der 750. Wiederkehr sienes Todestages, edited by Alois Wolf, 245-66. Tübingen: G. Narr, 1993.

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[A25] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Elizabeth Ashman Rowe
University of Cambridge
ea315@cam.ac.uk

What Gottskálksannáll can tell us about the patron of Möðruvallabók

Considering the importance of Möðruvallabók (AM 132 fol.) as a compendium of Íslendingasögur, it is not surprising that attempts have been made to identify a possible patron. Recent arguments have put forward Eiríkr Magnússon á Svalbarði and/or his son-in-law Þorsteinn Eyjólfsson. Further evidence is provided by Gottskálksannáll, a set of late-sixteenth-century annals whose notices from the Incarnation to 1394 are taken from a set of late-fourteenth-century annals. The medieval work (*Gottskálksannáll) has a complex textual history, but errors in dating events as late as 1381 indicate that it was compiled after that year, and borrowings from *Gottskálksannáll by the Flateyjarbók Annals indicate that *Gottskálksannáll at least up through the notice for 1382 was compiled by 1389, when the Flateyjarbók Annals began to be compiled. *Gottskálksannáll’s attention to the activities of Þorsteinn Eyjólfsson, as well as its inclusion of a considerable amount of information for which he is a very probable source, suggests that he is the one who commissioned the annals. Most likely they were compiled in western Iceland, for throughout they record more events for western Iceland than for any other part of the country, and comparison with the other extant annals indicates that the chief source for the notices up to 1300 was a set of annals compiled in western Iceland around 1320. The use of church documents and records indicates that the place of production was an ecclesiastical center, most likely the monastery at Helgafell. Although Þorsteinn came from a prominent family in northern Iceland, his choice of scriptorium can be explained on one hand by the fact that he was lögmaðr of the West Quarter as well as of the North Quarter, and on the other hand by the fact that he had been excommunicated by the bishop of northern Iceland. As Möðruvallabók seems to be a northern production from the mid-fourteenth century, whereas *Gottskálksannáll seems to be a western production from the late fourteenth century, it is therefore more likely that Eiríkr Magnússon á Svalbarði (d. 1381) was the patron of the former, rather than that Þorsteinn Eyjólfsson (d. 1402?) was the patron of both.

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[D14] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Keith Nicholas Ruiter
University of Aberdeen
keith.ruiter@abdn.ac.uk

Pondering Pariahs: A Comparison of Gísli and Grettir From the Perspective of Normativity and Deviance

While the adage ‘með lögum skal land byggja’ carried a deep resonance across the medieval Scandinavian milieu, particularly in Iceland, those who transgressed these laws were often subject to varying degrees of outlawry and pushed outside the protections of both law and land. However, it would seem that not all outlaws are equal in this exclusion. This paper will explore two of the most famous ‘outlaw sagas,’ using three discrete normative spectrums to better understand the ways in which the eponymous heroes of these sagas navigate contemporary ideas of normativity, deviance, and expected behaviours. By comparing the careers of Gísli Súrsson and Grettir Ásmundarson, and the behaviours they exhibit in their respective sagas, comment will be made on the transgressions they commit, the societal response to those transgressions, and the relationships they are able to maintain or forge during their sentences. This approach will demonstrate a distinct difference in the careers of these famous outlaws, highlighting the importance of more nuanced approaches to issues of ‘otherness’ and a move away from the dichotomous understandings that were popularised by structuralist interpretations.

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[B34] Artistry: Semiotics and Interpretation

Anita Sauckel
University of Iceland
sauckel@hi.is

Tala þeir lengi hljótt: Geheime Beratungen in der Brennu-Njáls saga

Der geplante Vortrag widmet sich den in der Brennu-Njáls saga stattfindenden geheimen Beratungen, die häufig vor spezifischen Wendepunkten innerhalb der Handlung zu beobachten sind. Mein Beitrag verfolgt die Absicht, die narrative Funktion dieser geheimen Treffen zu ergründen: 1. Wer ist jeweils Teil der geheimen Zusammenkünfte? 2. Wie unterscheiden sich die geheimen Besprechungen von den Zusammenkünften, in denen der Inhalt der Gespräche sowohl dem Rezipienten als auch den Figuren bekannt ist? 3. In welchen Handlungsabschnitten finden geheime Beratungen statt? 4. Wie ändern sich Handlungsverlauf und Textstruktur nach diesen Zusammenkünften? 5. Lassen sich aufgrund des Handlungsverlaufes Rückschlüsse auf den Inhalt der Beratungen ziehen?

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[F5] Artistry: New Theoretical Approaches and Perspectives

Daniel Sävborg
University of Tartu
daniel.savborg@ut.ee

The Formula in the Icelandic Family Saga

In overviews of saga style the use of verbal formulas is often mentioned. In spite of that, remarkably little research has been devoted to the function, meaning and form of the saga formulas. Even less research has attempted to put the saga formulas in a context of formula use in other cultures and literary traditions, or to put them into a theoretical model. The Oral-Formulaic Theory by Milman Parry and Albert Lord has been mentioned by several scholars who have discussed the saga formulas, but since this theory is closely connected with metrical form and the (“improvised”) so-called composition in performance (e.g. Lord, The Singer of Tales, 2000, p. 4, 30-31, 68), it is of limited relevance for the written prose genre of Íslendingasögur. However, in modern linguistics there is a vital research on “formulaic language” in prose, as both a linguistic and a literary phenomenon. In Alison Wray’s influential definition of “formulaic sequence”, room is given to a less fixed form than in the Oral-Formulaic Theory – a sequence “continuous or discontinuous” in Wray’s definition – where not only recurring lexical elements form a part, but also “other elements” (Formulaic Language and the Lexicon, 2002, p. 9). Wray’s formula theory also stresses the specific meaningconnected to specific formulas, something which is lacking in Parry’s and Lord’s works. This fruitful model will in the present paper be combined with Norbert Schmitt’s and Ronald Carter’s model for variation in formulas, with slots where lexically different elements could be used although controlled by a semantic constraint (“Formulaic Sequences in Action: An Introduction”, in: Formulaic Sequences, ed. Norbert Schmitt, 2004, p. 6-7). The present paper argues that the formulas in the Íslendingasögur play an important and underestimated role for the sagas as artistic works as well as for the correct interpretation of episodes, scenes and acts in them. A selection of common saga formulas will be analyzed – skiljask með kærleik; takask með þeim góðar ástir; sitja hjá; and X vanði kvámur sínar til Y– to establish their narrative function and meaning and suggest a model for their form.

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[D6] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Roland Scheel
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
rscheel@uni-goettingen.de

Regional Voices? Differing Attitudes Towards Legal Philosophy and Legal History in the Íslendingasögur

Research in medieval legal history has seen an anthropological shift of focus from the study of law books towards narrative sources during the last decades. The Íslendingasögur may be the most striking example of a narrative genre which has come to substitute the legal texts with their uncertain status almost completely in dispute studies. Consequently, narrative imaginations of local pasts built upon collective memory form the main basis of current reconstructions of Icelandic legal thought and practice in the Middle Ages. While the anthropological approach has offered valuable insights into the wide range of disputing strategies in which following the law appears like an option rather than a normative frame, the objective has necessarily been to develop a unifying, homogenous interpretation of conflict patterns in the sagas and their representations of law and legal dealings (cf. Miller 1990; Esmark/Orning 2013). Despite its fruitfulness, socio-legal history tends to blur a marked polyphony within the genre of the Íslendingasögur. Law, legal knowledge on part of the figures and legal dealings especially at the þing are doubtlessly important to every saga, but the degree to which the single texts are permeated by legal terminology and detail varies greatly. The same applies to the degree of overlap between law as represented in the Grágás and the texts as well as the adherence of the figures to the law, the way they exploit it and the (implicit) moral assessment. It is suggested that this variation is associated with the narrative structure (one overarching conflict vs. a “loose” sequence of disputes), and that an implicit legal philosophy is expressed through this structure. It highlights either a heroic protagonist or the arbitrators, and as a consequence, it either stresses the functional or the dysfunctional aspects of the represented society. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to legal history. While some sagas represent law as rather stable (for instance Reykdœla saga ok Víga-Skútu), others (like Eyrbyggja saga) display a keen sense of historicity and anchor legal change in local history. Obviously, the narrative representation of law served different objectives in varying degrees in different contexts: the foundation of local identity, the documentation of legal expertise in certain families, and paraenetic aims. A closer comparative look at sagas from Western Iceland and from the North East around the Eyjafjörður, including a side glance at Íslendingaþættir and Samtíðarsögur, will reveal that not only the date of composition may prove vital to the differing attitudes (McKinnell 1993), but that regional traditions (cf. Andersson 2006) and political objectives in the ritöld also influenced the way law was embedded into a consciously crafted history.

  • Andersson, T. M. 2006. The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180-1280). Ithaca (N.Y.)/London.
  • Esmark, K./Orning, H. J. 2013. “General Introduction”, in Disputing Strategies in Medieval Scandinavia, ed. K. Esmark/L. Hermanson/H. J. Orning/H. Vogt. Leiden et al., 1-28.
  • McKinnell, J. 1993. “Manʼs Law and Godʼs Justice in Icelandic Literature, ca. 1130-ca. 1300”, in Le droit et sa perception dans la littérature et les mentalités médiévales, ed. D. Buschinger. Göppingen, 117-132.
  • Miller, W. I. 1990. Bloodtaking and Peacemaking. Feud, Law and Society in Saga Iceland. Chicago.

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[A19] Seminar Session: Freyr — a God of fertility or kingship?

Jens Peter Schjødt
Aarhus University
jps@cas.au.dk

Freyr – a God of Fertility or Kingship?

During recent years there has been a lot of discussion about the position of the Vanir gods, and not least that of Freyr in Old Norse mythology and religion. Thus, it has been argued by for instance Rudy Simek that the Vanir did not exist as a family of gods before Snorri himself wrote about them in Edda and Ynglinga saga. Others, such as Terry Gunnell, has argued for a geographical diversity in the North in relation to which gods were worshipped, and also Stefan Brink have been dealing with the lack of uniformity, not least in relation to some of the Vanir gods. Also Olof Sundqvist has argued against the traditional view that Freyr was exclusively a fertility god, and I myself, have discussed the relation between Óðinn and Freyr in relation to kingship. In the proposed round table discussion with the above mentioned scholars it is, therefore, the intention to see whether, and to what degree, these new contributions are opposing each other, or whether they can be, to some extent at least, reconciled , and perhaps even constitute a ‘common trend’ in the scholarship within ON religion. My own contribution in this round table session will consist of an attempt to argue that not only historical and geographical contingencies or explanations will suffice for understanding the distribution of the characterization of the gods and their worship in different parts of the North and in different source genres. I will argue that behind these differences we also find some reminiscences of religious and mythic structures going far back, probably to a common Germanic view on kingship, which has been argued by myself and others to have been‘dual’ . This perspective will certainly not be able to explain everything concerning the role of the Freyr and the vanir, but I do believe that it is necessary in order to understand the different statements that we meet in the various sources, including the Íslendinga sögur, mainly concerning Freyr.

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[F7] Artistry: New Theoretical Approaches and Perspectives

Andreas Schmidt
LMU Munich
andreas.schmidt@mnet-online.de

From Phenomenology towards Poetics: Færeyinga saga and the ‘ambiguities’ of the Íslendingasögur

Færeyinga saga has repeatedly been addressed as a saga whose generic affiliation veers somewhere in between the Konungasögur and the Íslendingasögur, its classification being ultimately beyond scientific reach. Contrary to such judgements, this paper argues that Færeyinga saga can unequivocally be classed among the Íslendingasögur on the grounds of literary characteristics, thus entailing a new suggestion to define that genre. Genre definition in Old Norse scholarship has mainly remained a rather phenomenological instead of narratological matter, which can be attributed to the long debate about saga origins, and the still influential distinction between ‘historical truth’ and ‘literary fiction’. Thus, an Íslendingasaga is first and foremost still defined by having an Icelander as protagonist. The strongly diverging interpretations Færeyinga saga has received until now, especially with regard to its stance towards Norwegian royal authority, can be resolved by drawing on recent narratological theory as coined by Albrecht Koschorke (2013), which aims at combining literary, cultural, and sociological theories, comprehending narrative itself as an essentially and necessarily ambiguous phenomenon at the basis of the construction of societal and cultural relations. Thus, Færeyinga saga constitutes at its core an open discourse on power politics, sharing some of the well known ‘ambiguities’ of the Íslendingasögur, especially the depiction of deviant protagonists and an ambivalent attitude towards Norway. Applying Koschorke’s theory of ‘indeterminate narration’ to define the genre of Íslendingasögur itself, many of these ‘ambiguities’ can be resolved as traits effectuated by the nature of the Íslendingasögur as platforms of Icelandic social discussion and cultural self-identification, on a more complex basis than focussing solely on the topics of construction of the past, social cohesion, or creation of meaning, especially considering the apparent dissolution of these matters in a number of sagas. In this theoretical notion, the texts’ inherent ambiguities can be understood as laying the ground for debate in the social context of their period of origin, openly stirring up discussion rather than judging or just mirroring topics. Approaching the genre on this theoretical basis may turn generic identification from phenomenology towards a more complex poetological definition hinging on socially significant narrative aesthetics and characteristics.

  • Koschorke, Albrecht 2013. Wahrheit und Erfindung. Grundzüge einer Allgemeinen Erzähltheorie. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer.

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[B22] Artistry: Semiotics and Interpretation

Jens Eike Schnall
University of Bergen
eike.schnall@uib.no

Food as Medium

The supply, preparation and consumption of food are of fundamental importance both for individuals and communities. Economy, technology, language, social life, law, religion, art, literature — all major aspects of human culture are in some way or the other connected to food supply and modes of consumption. In saga literature, economical backgrounds and social contexts of food culture are both mirrored and imagined. Yet, if one leaves out the stock and crop farming and intertextual references to the mead of poetry in connection with Skalds, the actual food does not seem to play a major role in the Sagas of Icelanders, even though examples can easily be provided (cf. the recent study by Eva Kraus: Undir borðum. Zur Funktionalisierung von Nahrung und Mahlzeiten in den Isländersagas. München 2013). My paper focuses on the literary uses of food in the Sagas of Icelanders in comparison with other saga genres. Food can e.g. serve as a medium to highlight or discuss attitudes and values. Combining a sociological approach (Pierre Bourdieu) and traditional literary aesthetics, I will trace forms and functions of the literary display of food and meal in different saga genres. Special attention will be given to the complex of food, senses and emotions in the framework of heroic narratives.

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[B11] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Brittany Erin Schorn
University of Cambridge
bs321@cam.ac.uk

‘Hafa villtu enn þann bragarháttinn sem fyrr meir’: eddic modes in the prosimetrum of the Íslendinga sǫgur

The artistry of the prose authors of the Íslendinga sǫgur is particularly evident in their engagement with the whole spectrum of the Old Norse poetic tradition. Studies of lausavísur within their prosimetric contexts reveal a complex and varied deployment of verses that resists broad generalisations or simple categorisation. The small corpus of lausavísur in eddic metres makes for an interesting case-study. As Carolyne Larrington has recently summarised, ‘where eddic verse is persevered in the Íslendinga sǫgur, it is usually the province of the outcast, the anti-social being, or the supernatural’. This owes, I will argue, to the role that poetic modes play in conveying more nuanced aspects of both voice and rhetorical strategy, and reflects the saga authors’ understandings of eddic poetics. The first part of my paper revisits previous surveys of the range of eddic quotations in Íslendinga sǫgur in order to suggest some further connections, but ultimately stresses their variety of purpose despite some superficial similarities. Kate Heslop’s application of concepts of performativity in analysing the rhetorical force exerted by lyric poetry with reference to skaldic lausavísur is no less applicable here. The heart of my paper will be a close reading of a series of dramatic exchanges in Bjarnar saga Hítdœlakappa, Svarfdœla saga and Harðar saga. These scenes can be most productively interpreted within the wider context of agonistic exchanges in eddic verse, and in particular parallel prosimetric sequences within the fornaldarsǫgur.

  • Heslop, K., ‘“Gab mir ein Gott zu sagen, was ich leide”: Sonatorrek and the Myth of the Skaldic Lyric’, in M. Clunies Ross and G. Barnes ed., Old Norse Myths, Literature and Society: Proceedings of the 11th International Saga Conference, 2 – 7 July 2000, University of Sydney (Sydney, 2000), pp. 152–64
  • Larrington, C., ‘Eddic poetry and heroic legend’, in C. Larrington, J. Quinn and B. Schorn ed., A Handbook to Eddic Poetry: Myths and Legends of Early Scandinavia (Cambridge, 2016), pp. 166–9

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[C19] Seminar Session: Hegemony, Alterity, Dissent

John P. Sexton
Bridgewater State University
john.sexton@bridgew.edu

Menn … sem tvau nöfn hefði: Nicknames, difference, and disability in the Íslendingasögur

Medieval disability studies grapples with the complexities of acculturated meaning that marks all identity-formation theory, but it must do so within the limitations of historicist inquiry. A key issue is the place of naming in identifying difference and, more importantly, imbuing difference with meaning. The relative flexibility of name-formation in medieval cultures allowed identity to be negotiated through naming—nicknames, hypocorisms, patronymics, and other agnomina combined with name substitutions to create evolving evaluations of an individual’s societal worth. The widely-attested use of name-formation as a means of accounting for difference offers tremendous (and nearly unstudied) insight into contemporary constructions of “disability” as a measure of an individual’s worth, essence, and, yes, character. Saga narratives, in particular, signal communal moral indices through figural representations of disability and disfigurement, while insisting on an interpretive framework that must be endlessly redeployed in response to each figure and each marker of difference. Nicknaming signals communal judgment passed by the correct understanding of individual, rather than typological, difference. Sagas thus regularly invert the assertion that, “in stories about characters with disabilities, an underlying issue is always whether the disability is the foundation of character itself” (David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder, Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), 6). by accessing character as a means to understand disability. Medieval disability studies therefore has only limited commonalities with modern and post-modern distinctions between “impairment” and “disability.” Its focus must instead be toward the nuances of socially-inscribed meaning in which difference is understood through societal judgment of the differentiated figure’s character rather than forming the foundation of that character. This papers calls for a full consideration of the spectrum of Anglo-Scandinavian representations of disfigurement and disability through name-formation, and presents some initial thoughts in this direction by presenting specific cases of naming that inscribe difference in Icelandic saga literature.

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[E5] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Joanne Shortt Butler
University of Cambridge
js616@cam.ac.uk

Minding the gaps: approaches to Jón Ólafsson’s reconstructed *Víga-Styrs saga

This paper examines a unique aspect of Heiðarvíga saga’s precarious preservation, considering the problems that face scholars and editors when dealing with Jón Ólafsson’s eighteenth-century reconstruction of the lost half of the saga. The only known medieval witness to the saga was taken from Iceland in the seventeenth century; it already lacked its opening pages. Donated to the Royal Library in Stockholm, it was soon requested for copying by Arni Magnússon and his scribe, Jón Ólafsson. Owing to some confusion about the nature of the saga (was it a single text, or two texts, separable as *Víga-Styrs saga and Heiðarvíga saga?), combined with a change of hand at the point where the narrative shifts attention from Styrr Þorgrímsson to Barði Guðmundarson, only the first portion of the medieval saga was sent to Copenhagen. This section, known as *Víga-Styrs saga, was copied by Jón, but retained in Arni’s library for future copies to be made. These had not been undertaken by 1728, however, when both the medieval part of the saga and Jón’s copy of it were destroyed in the fire of Copenhagen. By 1730, Jón had attempted to recall the content of the lost part of the saga, and his source now offers an invaluable insight into the lost material. It has, nevertheless, only been discussed by scholars with reference to its ‘accuracy’; Jón’s techniques of reconstruction and his narrative style have not been examined in detail. This paper will highlight several aspects of Jón’s text that affect how we read the narrative. Jón made use of a list of ‘archaismi’ that he had noted in the saga, but these terms have never been mapped onto his narrative; he also interjects regularly to cast doubt on names and numbers, using ‘mig minni’ to emphasise his part in the reconstruction. His account is about twenty-five percent longer than the lost medieval section, and his reconstruction relies on the memory of a narrative of which he had neither the beginning nor the end. My paper will lay out an approach to this text that considers these aspects together for the first time.

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[B19] Seminar Session: Emotions in the Íslendingasǫgur

Sif Ríkharðsdóttir
University of Iceland
sifr@hi.is

Public Behaviour — Private Emotions: The Masking of Emotions in the Íslendingasögur

The medieval Norse literary tradition is well known for its objective narrative style and an apparent lack of interest in the emotions of its characters. This has indeed become a trope in the post-medieval reception of Old Norse literature. The seemingly laconic mode of portraying emotions in the Icelandic sagas — when compared with continental romance, for instance — does, however, not negate the presence of underlying emotion. Many of the sagas are in fact no less emotionally laden than the romances. This difference suggests that the emotive force of a text does not necessarily rely on emotion words or gestures (noticeably absent in sagas, but abundant in romances), but rather on the narrative structures as means of conveying unspoken and non-gesticulatory emotive interiority. How do these texts then proclaim emotional interiority in their characters and by which means does the saga author create a self that the reader can then construe as emotive? The paper will explore the narrative means for staging emotions through somatic indicia, narratorial manipulation and emotive coding, focusing in particular on the well-known Brennu-Njáls saga. It will suggest some of the ways in which emotion is conceptualised, conveyed and configured through narrative arrangements in the text and how the author uses narrative structure, somatic indicia and expressive silence to manipulate the reader (or audience) into an empathetic stance, thereby establishing and inducing emotive presence in the text for its medieval as well as its modern reader. Ultimately this short statement paper will address the question of whether there is evidence of a public/private division when it comes to emotional behaviour in the Íslendingasǫgur and if so, what narrative techniques might be utilised to convey private or hidden emotions or, alternatively, to mask such presumed emotive interiority.

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[A19] Seminar Session: Freyr — a God of fertility or kingship?

Rudolf Simek
Universität Bonn
simek@uni-bonn.de

What do we really know about Freyr?

In recent years, especially in the discussion about the position of the Æsir, the so-called Vanir, but also various groups of beings from lower mythology, a certain „grab-and-run“ attitude towards the source material has become the order of the day. The critical evaluation and consideration of every single source, in its specific context, seems to have become unfashionably in favour of grabbing every available scrap of information, however late, irrelevant, or evidently ludicrous it may be. Thus, even the more fantastic passages of the Íslendinga sögur or the moral exempla of the þættir in the konunga sögur have been exploited as „evidence“ for pre-Christian beliefs and cults. It may thus be worthwhile to have a look what the oldest available sources, namely the Scaldic poems, have to say and what other reliable evidence we have for the character and the functions of one of the most prominent gods in the ON pantheon, namely Freyr.

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[B8] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Anna Solovyeva
University of Iceland
ans39@hi.is

Remembering the Ugly Head: On Symbolism and Significance of Höfuðlausn in the Old Icelandic Tradition about Skalds

In the famous episode of Egils saga Skallagrímssonar, Egill composes a poem in praise of his dire enemy king Eiríkr and as a reward receives his own head – which is ugly, but dear to the poet. According to Egill’s friend Arinbjörn, earlier the poet Bragi Boddason had resorted to the same device to save his own head and life from the wrath of a Swedish king. Several other instances in the Old Norse-Icelandic sagas about kings and skalds show how a poet could use his art to save himself – and to bend the laws of gods and men. A striking illustration of such behaviour can be found in Skáldatal, the list of poets and their patrons from pre-historic times to the thirteenth century. The list creates a laconic portrait of skaldic tradition and includes several short narrative passages, highlighting particular aspects of a Skald’s character, his relationship with patrons, and the character of his poetry. In one of such passages we find a dramatic example of poetic head-saving, as the obscure early poet Erpr lútandi composes a drapa to atone for the sacrilegeous murder he had commited. The power of poetry allows those who have mastered the art to transcend the limits of what is allowed and acceptable in the society – especially in the relations between a skald and a king. In this paper I propose to explore the motive of Höfuðlausn, and the bending of norms by the virtue of the skaldic art, from two perspectives. On the one hand, I will look at the significance of this motive for establishing the image of a Skald, with his unique and authoritative position in the society. On the other hand, I will outline a view of the Höfuðlausn-related episodes as powerful memorable images, firmly fixing the character of a skald in the cultural memory and contributing to the creation of a type of hero, which transcends the individual images, as well as temporal and spatial boundaries.

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[F15] Saga origins and Media: Sagas in Translation

Thomas Spray
Durham University
thomasespray@gmail.com

Social Darwinism in Old Norse Translation: George Dasent, Charles Darwin, and the Racial Politics of Burnt Njal

The second half of the nineteenth century gave birth to two works which would have long-lasting influence on their respective fields. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859 and popularised a number of pre-existing scientific and social theories regarding the history of the natural world and humanity’s place within it. Particularly influential would be comments (drawn from the works of Herbert Spencer and added to Darwin’s fifth edition) describing evolution as a process of ‘Survival of the Fittest’ – imposing a notion of pre-ordained superiority on Darwin’s theory in the minds of generations of so called “Social Darwinists” to come. In 1861, George Webbe Dasent produced the first English translation of the Old Norse Njáls saga. The Story of Burnt Njal, or Life in Iceland at the End of the Tenth Century would remain the sole English translation for almost a century, attracting poets, novelists, artists, tourists, and academics in the process. The scholarship of ‘Darwin’ Dasent (a comic alias imparted by Charles Cavendish ‘Umbra’ Clifford) held sway as expert commentary on Old Norse sagas and their importance to Victorian Britain. Yet Dasent’s seemingly objective translation was the end product of decades of pre-Darwinian theories of an ethnic-nationalist nature. For Dasent, Iceland’s literature was an ancestral record of Victorian values now returned to its rightful place under the watchful supervision of British foster-parents. This paper will offer a comparison of thematic interests across these two highly-influential Victorian works. It will examine Dasent’s application of nineteenth-century theories of racial superiority to the field of Old Norse, and consider to what extent Burnt Njal set the tone for future translation in this vein. Finally, in light of these points and the notable rise in nationalist discourse in Western society, the paper will reflect on whether examining the work of early translators such as Dasent can provide insight on the current impact of “Social Darwinist” theories on the translation and reception of Old Norse sagas.

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[E28] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Pierre-Brice Stahl
University of Paris-Sorbonne
pierrebricestahl@gmail.com

Vikings and the Íslendingasögur

Vikings is an Irish-Canadian television series written and created by Michael Hirst. The show airs on the History channel since March 2013 and is in its fifth season. As shown by the interviews with Michael Hirst, the documentary series Real Vikings, or the companion book The World of Vikings, there is a search for historical authenticity. Their sources include the Íslendingasögur used throughout the series.

Vikings rewrites the story of Ragnarr Lothbrok and his sons. It takes all known traditions and seeks to unite them into one narrative. It also lends new exploits to this family as the first expeditions in England, and introduce Rollo as the brother of Ragnarr. These new exploits and other chronological shortcuts enable the series to present the Lothbrok family as the symbol of the Viking Age, a period that we follow through this family as each episode unfold. With its fifth season we see the character Floki arriving in Iceland, thus presenting a new aspect of the Viking expansion with the settlement of Iceland.

We have an Icelandic literary genre taken and translated in another context. It is not only the place of production that changes, but also the time of its production. This cultural transfer from one setting to another leads to different kinds of ideologies and aesthetics that are applied to the story line and its images. The goal of this paper will not be to compare the two materials (sagas and series) to determine their differences and the historical inaccuracies, but to analyse which visual dimensions and narrative elements the series Vikings transmit through their use of the Íslendingasögur.

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[E7] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Zuzana Stankovitsová
University of Bergen
zus1@hi.is

“Hier Skrifast Saga Af Krooka Ref”: Króka-Refs saga and its Manuscript Transmission

With the material turn in philology in recent decades, more attention is being paid to younger manuscripts, not only as sources of text-critically relevant readings, but as objects of study in their own right providing testimonies to the continuous reproduction and transmission of Old Icelandic texts until modern times. Due to its relatively late time of composition, dated to the late 14th century, and a widely accepted consensus about its fictionality, Króka-Refs saga belongs to the group of Íslendingasögur that have received comparably little attention in scholarship. Nevertheless, its long and abundant manuscript transmission, with 46 manuscripts dating from the 15th–20th century, indicates the saga’s popularity and interest in its copying. A previous examination of the manuscripts of Króka-Refs saga by Pálmi Pálsson suggested that the text has undergone some development, but a thorough and systematic study including a stemma is lacking. This paper will examine the manuscript transmission of Króka-Refs saga from the oldest preserved medieval witnesses – including the 16th-century fragment JS fragm 6 1r-1v, which was left unexamined and unaddressed in previous academic work – down to the beginning of the 18th century. It will thus supplement the existing results of previous text-critical research with an exploration of the saga’s continuous manuscript tradition. The focus will be in particular on the 17th century, which saw a surge in manuscript copying, fuelled amongst other things by humanist interest, and generated almost half of the saga’s extant manuscript witnesses. In this presentation, I will take into account both textual variation as well as the manuscripts’ material and codicological aspects, such as their size, layout and decorative features. This will allow me to map out the transmission of the saga in the time period in question, assess the development the text has undergone in its course, and propose a tentative stemma. By applying the approaches of both “old” and “new” philology, the paper will seek to understand the transmission of the text of Króka-Refs saga within the social and economic contexts in which the manuscripts were produced, used and reproduced.

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[A28] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Beeke Stegmann
University of Copenhagen
beeke.stegmann@hum.ku.dk

Collaborative manuscript production and the added stanzas of Njáls saga in Reykjabók

Reykjabók (Copenhagen, AMS, AM 468 4to; c1300-1325) is one of the oldest and most complete manuscripts of Njáls saga. Compared to other copies of the saga, Reykjabók preserves an exceptionally high number of stanzas. However, some of the stanzas are not found in the main text, but were rather added by another scribe in the margins and at the end of the codex. This paper analyses the material features of these stanzas in order to better understand the production of Reykjabók and discusses which implications this has for the early tradition of Njáls saga. Combined palaeographical and multi-spectral analysis reveals that the added stanzas were written in the same hand and, at least in part, with similar ink as the rubrics and some other additions in the codex. Since the second scribe appears to be contemporaneous to the main scribe (Einar Ól. Sveinsson 1953, 6), he may have actively collaborated with the latter in the production of the codex. This speaks against the stanzas having been added as a later reaction to the written manuscript (cf. Guðrún Nordal 2005, 225-226). The evidence that the second scribe was responsible for paratextual features as well as the added stanzas might hint at a medieval appreciation for the textual variation of Njáls saga. Close collaboration between the two scribes implies that the first scribe may have known about the added stanzas but chose not to include them in the main text. An early awareness of textual variation in the tradition of Njáls saga may further be supported by evidence found in Copenhagen, AMS, AM 309 4to (c1500). The fragmentary copy preserves one of the added stanzas in its margins, where it was placed by the sole scribe of the manuscript.

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[A3] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Heidi Lea Stoner
Durham University
Heidi.L.Stoner@gmail.com

Sagas in Stone: interpreting heroic legends in Insular stone sculpture

Some of the earliest interpretations of scenes found on sculptures from the Insular world, particularly from the Isle of Man and the North of England, have been argued to be sourced from Sagas and heroic legends. Viking age stone monuments are, thus, argued to be some of the earliest evidence of these well known narratives that are associated with the Viking age and necessarily feature in the debate of the saga origins. Antiquarian scholars such as Kermode and Collingwood have relied on these narratives accounts, as they have survived, in order to interpret a variety of scenes that are difficult to interpret. These depictions as they have survived represent material evidence of the reception and translation of the sagas in to a visual language. This practice has been problematized as it relates to the Manx sculpture by Sue Margeson who argued the need for caution and consideration in applying a complete narrative account, as found in text, to that of fragmentary and worn sculpture. Yet, this call for caution, while often sited, in not as frequently heeded. This paper will seek to look at a large range of sculptural examples and examining the similarities in the depictions rather than identifying what is perceived as missing based on a textual record that is both temporally and chronologically distant from the creation of the monuments on which they feature. This paper will look at the narrative scenes as distinct from their textual cousins and able to provide a snapshot of the cultural relevance of the heroic narrative in the Irish sea region. Rather than use the images as illustrations to a set text, the depictions are treated as the primary source allowing us to understand the personal relationships that individuals had with these narratives and how the culture of depiction of heroic and biblical narratives in the Irish sea region is distinct and what this can tell us about saga studies as a wider field of study.

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[G20]} Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Minjie Su
University of Oxford
minjie.su@linacre.ox.ac.uk

From Lupus to Leprosus: Reading Ála flekks saga in Light of the Skin

A fifteenth-century riddarasaga, Ála flekks saga is composed of a series of ordeals, in the form of four curses thrown upon the eponymous hero by a trollish family. Áli successively becomes a trollwoman’s potential bed-mate, a werewolf, a ‘leper’, and a giant killer. At first sight, the events in the saga seem a random pile of adventures typical of the genre. On closer examination, however, the four episodes can be regrouped as ‘three and one’ and, together, present Áli’s progressive movement from a bi-natured hero to being firmly established within the central, human society. This journey of self-(re)defining, curiously, is carried and narrated on the hero’s skin, paralleling the process of recording the saga on parchment itself. This paper starts with an analysis of the saga’s structure. The first three ordeals can be visualised as climbing out of a pit or moving down a scale of humanness: Áli begins the journey as someone already with questionable identity – the cue being the epithet flekkr and his father’s desire of disposing of him – and experiences three marginal creatures representing different degrees of humanness: the troll is a humanoid monster, the werewolf a beast, and the leper a monstrous human. The final ordeal, in which Áli kills a giant and brings a troll-human blendingr to the human world – serves as confirmation of the establishment of Áli’s humanness. Then, the paper will focus on the werewolf and the leprosy episodes, and apply to the saga the concept of Skin Ego developed by Didier Anzieu. Although Áli’s first ordeal does present an image of stinking, shaggy (troll)skin, it is not until the second that Áli’s skin undertakes violent and dramatic change, heightened in his shedding of a foul, hideous wolfskin as well as a wolfish ego. The process is replayed in the third ordeal, though on a more superficial level; the psychic ‘wounds’ resulted from the man-wolf transformation is made visual by the leprous wounds. The final section will be devoted to the connection between lupus and lepra, and to how that connection plays out in Ála flekks saga.

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[A19] Seminar Session: Freyr — a God of fertility or kingship?

Olof Sundqvist
Stockholm University
Olof.Sundqvist@rel.su.se

Freyr – More than a Fertility God?

When investigating the research and sources on Freyr, it is possible to detect an interesting anomaly rather a certain imbalance between the descriptions of the god given in the various handbooks of Old Norse religion and the actual information provided about him in the original sources. While the handbooks almost exclusively stress the fertility traits of Freyr are stressed, the sources point to a much more complex image. In addition to his connections to fertility, he is also associated with rulership and warfare. The source material presents him as a “Warrior-Lord” who defends peace. They suggest that when he was worshiped it was not only for a good harvest (til árs), but also for a life in peace and harmony (til friðar). This point of view has previously been put forward by Lotte Motz in her often overlooked work The King, The Champion and The Sorcerer (1996) in which she argued that Freyr is the divine counterpart of the sacred king. While one may question Motz’ methods of handling the sources her lack of source criticism, her conclusion that “Freyr is not only a divine ancestor but also the divine model of the king” worth considering. A similar interpretation was given by Rudolf Simek made in his handbook Religion und Mythologie der Germanen (2014 [2003]). According to Simek, Freyr was one of the most important gods in the Nordic pantheon. Simek also stresses that function was not limited to fertility, noting that in the oldest sources, he is also shhown as a commander of the retinues and has martial features. Indeed, the argument for associating Freyr with rulership has recently been supported by Jens Peter Schjødt (2012) too. In line with Lotte Motz, Rudolf Simek, and Jens Peter Schjødt, I will argue in my presentation that the image of Freyr should be supplemented (cf Sundqvist 2014; 2017). If we follow the more reliable sources, he seems to have the role of is the divine Lord, who not only watches over fertility, but cosmic peace and peace in society. In order to protect Cosmos against the forces of Chaos, he nonetheless sometimes takes on the role of a “Warrior-Lord”. These characteristics and functions which appear mythic and cultic contexts, suggest that Freyr played a central role in the ruler ideology that existed in some areas of pre-Christian Scandinavia

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[B35] Artistry: Semiotics and Interpretation

Ilya V. Sverdlov
University of Helsinki
snerrir@gmail.com

Three men in a þriðjung, or, Über-math of Njáls saga between Hrútr, Mörðr and Einar Ólafur Sveinsson

The proposed paper explores the meaning of the expression þriðjungi aukask within the context of Njáls saga Ch. 2 epsiode (Mǫrðr gígja and Hrútr discussing the conditions of Mǫrðr’s daughter Unnr’s marriage)as well as generally within ON, relying on comparisons with modern Icelandic usage and similar expressions in other languages. The aim is to challenge the commonly held opinion, stemming at least from the “official” commentary of Einar Ól. Sveinsson’s Íslenzk fornrit edition of the saga, and use the correct math to suggest a new interpretation of the subsequent episode of divorce proceedings in Ch. 8.

Specifically, Mǫrðr gígja sets Unnr’s dowry (heimanfylgja) at 60 hundreds, while Hrútr’s contribution, the ‘bride-price’ (mundr), is to be calculated as a share of heimanfylgja thus: skal aukask þriðjungi [NS 9], lit. “shall be increased by a third”. This reading is supported by e.g. [ClVig 745]; one third of 60 is 20, making the total amount 80 hundreds. Yet Einar Ól. Sveinsson, commenting on this spot [NS 9, footnote 3], claims that, contrary to math, mundr must amount to a half, not a third, of the dowry, with total amount of 90 hundreds.

We aim to show the usage of þriðjungr attested in ON [ISO] and later sources contradicts this claim of the editor, blown off course by extra-linguistic considerations (alleged changes in Icelandic marriage customs [ibid]) as well as by certain features of ON numeral subsystem, and that the total worth of Unnr’s bridal contract was 80 hundreds. This interpretation, conforming to math and linguistic usage in ON & elsewhere, has a further advantage – it helps explain why, during the divorce litigation, Hrútr finds it socially acceptable to challenge Mǫrðr to a duel (otherwise a shameful action for a man in his prime against a frail old man) [Byock 2001, 20-21]: Mǫrðr exacts a return not of 80 but of 90 hundreds [NS 27], arbitrarily“ throwing in” extra 10 hundreds above and beyond what was stipulated in the marriage contract in an attempt to add pecuniary injury to moral insult of a divorce due to inability to consummate marriage.

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[C19] Seminar Session: Hegemony, Alterity, Dissent

Sverrir Jakobsson
University of Iceland
sverrirj@hi.is

Regional identities in 12th and 13th century Iceland

Traditionally and especially in scholarship focusing on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, identities are defined in relation to (European) nationalist history. The accepted markers of modern identities include language, a fixed territory, a common cultural heritage, and a shared history framed by a grand metanarrative, into which religion and ethnicity are often written. As most of the historical scholarship concerning Medieval Iceland has been located within this tradition, Icelandic medieval identities have been regarded as a relatively unproblematic field of research. In this paper, I intend to focus on regional identities within Medieval Iceland and explore questions related to the value which medieval authors and audiences attributed to regional cultural affiliations. Why is it that modern scholarship often tends to de-emphasise the significance of regional affiliations in texts, focussing instead on their construction of national identity? In Medieval Iceland there were clear and definitive boundaries within the country, both in a legal sense as well as within a cultural sense. It can be argued that the division of Iceland into quarter was not only important in a legal and political sense, but also in cultural sense as an important marker of identity. The evolution of political regions (ON. heruð) in the 12th and 13th century created a new sense of identity which is reflected in contemporary literature. In this paper, the formation of regional identities will be explored, in particular how writers dramatize anxieties over the conflicting cultural imperatives of regional, national, and other forms of identity, and how they work to resolve or further problematize these conflicts. I argue that medieval Icelandic writers conceived of the region not just in terms of topographical or political boundaries, but also as categories of identity which they mapped onto bounded spaces. Thus the region could serve as a type of meta-category encompassing other, sometimes multiple, types of identity. An analysis of medieval regional culture can also shed some light on the way space was used to understand identity in the Middle Ages and by showing how this understanding informed literary responses to legal, political, social and cultural heterogeneity.

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[C11] Artistry: New Theoretical Approaches and Perspectives

Declan Taggart
University College Cork
taggart.d.c@googlemail.com

The Science of Conceptualizing Old Gods

In 1998 and 1999, studies in India and the United States argued – and to some extent showed – that participants in various faiths produce one type of concept when allowed time to reflect, and another, less orthodox, type of concept when compelled to rapidly produce religious representations. In this paper, I will discuss the ways in which this principle, known as Theological Correctness, questions the validity of intertextual comparisons of representations of Old Norse gods, comparing and contrasting such representations in Íslendingaǫgur, eddic and skaldic poetry, ethnography and runic inscriptions. Of particular interest is a comparison of the portrayals of gods as remarkable but human-like figures in mythology with the same deities’ representations in non-mythological sources, and how views that are pre-Christian, antiquarian and antagonistic to pre-Christian religion can be separated on the basis of the cognitive pressures that have shaped them.My paper will also showcase how Old Norse sources can illuminate, challenge and modulate the theoretical framework being adopted. Juxtaposing Íslendingasǫgur, runic inscriptions and myths challenges the dualism that underpins Theological Correctness, showing that purportedly reflective ideas, such as omnipresence, are demonstrably instinctive in some domains of religious conceptualization. Similarly, theological forms of concepts can be encountered in sources that, according to Theological Correctness, should be governed by less orthodox thought.

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[E26] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Matteo Tarsi
University of Iceland
mat17@hi.is

Málið á Gerplu

Árið 1952 kom út skáldsagan Gerpla eftir Halldór Laxness. Gerpla segir sögu fóstbræðranna Þorgeirs Hávarðssonar og Þormóðs Kolbrúnarskálds. Sagan er 20. aldar endurritun Fóstbræðrasögu og má með sönnu kalla hana skopstælingu. Í fyrirlestri mínum mun ég fjalla um málið sem Halldór Laxness notar í verkinu, en það byggist á máli Íslendingasagna. Rannsóknarspurningarnar verða eftirfarandi: 1) Hversu líkt/ólíkt forníslensku er málið á Gerplu, þ.e. hvaða aðferðir notar höfundur til að fyrna mál sitt?; 2) Hvernig er orðaforði Gerplu í samanburði við orðaforða Íslendingasagna, einkum Fóstbræðrasögu?; og 3) Hver er nýsköpun höfundarins í málinu á Gerplu? Undir fyrstu spurningu mun sjónum einkum beint að beygingar- og setningarfræðilegum atriðum (t.d. notkun fornrar beygingar og beygðri sagnbót í samsettum tíðum). Undir annarri spurningu mun ég rannsaka stærð og gerð orðaforðans í Gerplu í samanburði við orðaforða Íslendingasagna annars vegar og Fóstbræðrasögu hins vegar. Markmið þessarar athugunar er að komast að því að hve miklu leyti Halldór Laxness hefur vikið frá „hefðbundinni“ forníslensku, hafi hann gert það. Undir þriðju spurningu verða þræðirnir dregnir saman og kannað í hverju listræn málsköpun höfundar felst.

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[C17] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Rosie S. Taylor
University of California, Berkeley
rosie.taylor@berkeley.edu

Home from Byzantium: The Varangians of Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða

Despite the questionable historical nature of Varangian narratives in the Íslendingasögur, the inclusion in the sagas of those who traveled the Eastern Road offers a tantalizing window into the medieval Icelandic perception of and reaction to the Byzantine legacy in Scandinavia. In this paper, I will look to Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða and its two Varangians, Eyvindr Bjarnarson and Þorkell Þjóstarsson, in considering the roles—social, political, economic, literary—they play within the text. While both characters are recognizably Norse at their core, aspects of their actions, and their presence on the page, work to set them outside the norm. Eyvindr is conspicuous amidst the saga’s cast for his display, albeit brief, of exotic wealth, martial prowess, and exalted status, while Þorkell stands out more through the nature of his rhetoric and counsel, as well as his singular outsider approach to Iceland—as an Icelander. When these two men are approached as fictional characters, the questions thus arise: Why did the saga writer choose to attach an outside culture to these figures, and what in the saga necessitates this culture to be Byzantine? A wider look at the perception of Byzantium within the world of the sagas will be critical in discerning why Eyvindr and especially Þorkell depart from their expected roles, and why their hybrid identity may have been required in the construction of the narrative in its extant form. In looking to the saga’s overall attitude toward these characters and the way in which they contribute to and influence the saga, this paper will ultimately consider the concept of a Byzanto-Norse Varangian culture and its potential impact on the Scandinavian corpus and homeland.

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[D18] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Violence and Conflict

Louisa Taylor
University of Oslo
louisa.taylor@iakh.uio.no

Violence in the contemporary sagas: The treatment of defeated opponents in high medieval Iceland

In my doctoral thesis, I argued that the granting of mercy to defeated opponents both during and after battle was an established convention within high medieval Denmark and Norway. Evidence from historical narratives shows that acts of clemency not only conveyed prestige on the grantee, they also had a tangible use on the battlefield. The expectation that those who asked for mercy would receive it served to restrain violent conflict by providing warriors with an accepted way to end their involvement in any military engagement. In contrast, offers of surrender and grants of mercy are not as prominent in the textual sources which depict later twelfth- and thirteenth-century Iceland, often referred to as the contemporary sagas. Acts of clemency are rarely highlighted, and those who do show mercy are rarely lauded for doing so. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the contemporary sagas to tell of defeated opponents being executed or mutilated, something which is rarely mentioned in sources for Denmark and Norway. In this paper, I will explore how defeated opponents are shown to be treated in contemporary sagas such as Sturlunga saga, and consider what these differences can tell us about the nature of Icelandic society in this period. Of particular interest will be the effect that the lack of a prince, or sole ruler, had upon this community and its members’ use of violence. I shall investigate whether the aims of those who engaged in conflict in Iceland were different to those who did so in Norway and Denmark, and consider the extent to which this affected how warriors were expected to behave during combat. I will also examine whether Iceland’s legal system, which allowed cases for compensation to be brought against those who engaged in some violent acts, altered warriors’ conduct during periods of violence.

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[B4] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Teresa Dröfn Njarðvík
University of Iceland
tdn1@hi.is

Í urð, ok í urð: Hlutverk og áhrif vísna í Svarfdæla sögu

Margir hafa farið ófögrum orðum um Svarfdæla sögu, sagt hana vera illa skrifaða, jafnvel skáldsögu frá 17. öld auk þess sem skrifari hennar hefur verið sakaður um ýkjur, ólæsi og fáfræði. Þessi illa meðferð manna á sögunni hefur valdið því að hún hefur ekki fengið að njóta sín í fræðilegri umræðu, fáir hafa sinnt útgáfu á textanum og fyrir vikið er hún svo illsýnileg í allri bókaflórunni að margir almennir lesendur fara á mis við hana. Þrátt fyrir neikvæða gagnrýni, þá er sagan engu að síður skemmtileg, hádramatísk og notkun hennar á vísum jafnan til að auka og dýpka áhrif frásagnarinnar. Varðveisla Svarfdæla sögu er nokkuð slæm, frá miðöldum er aðeins varðveitt eitt skinnblað, skráð um miðja 15. öld. Að öðru leyti er Svarfdæla saga aðeins varðveitt í pappírshandritum og virðast öll byggja á einu og sama handritinu, AM 161 fol. Vísur sögunnar má finna í öllum handritum, 17 vísur í pappírshandritum og 8 vísur á skinnblaðinu. Svarfdæla saga, í núverandi mynd, er talin vera sett saman á 14. öld eftir eldri, og glataðri gerð sögunnar, og munnmælum úr Svarfaðardal. Sagan segir frá Þorsteini svörfuði og landnámi hans í dalnum. Hann og sonur hans, Karl rauði, ásamt Klaufa, frænda hans, lenda í deilum við Ljótólf goða um yfirráð í dalnum og kvennamál. Klaufi, aðalpersóna sögunnar og ljóðmælandi, er ódæll í æsku, erfiður viðfangs og bráður á sér en Karl rauði er oftast með honum í för og passar að hann fari sér ekki að voða um of. Deilur þeirra við Ljótólf leiða til þess að Klaufi er veginn, en eftir það snýr hann aftur, og heldur áfram að sækja á menn og kveða vísur. Vísurnar í Svarfdæla sögu, sér í lagi vísur Klaufa, gefa lesendum innsyn og dýpka frásögnina, fyrir vikið verður sagan hádramatísk og hrollvekjandi frásögn sem á skilið meira lof en henni hefur hingað til veist. Hér er ætlunin að verja Svarfdæla sögu, syna fram á kosti hennar og útlista meðferð sögunnar á vísum og hvaða áhrifum er náð með þeim. Reynt verður að syna fram hvernig vísurnar dýpka og magna upp þessa áhrifamiklu héraðssögu Svarfaðardals.

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[F20] Artistry: Literary Composition

Yoav Tirosh
University of Iceland
tiroshyoav@yahoo.com

Location, Location, Location? – The Ljósvetninga saga Redaction Question Revisited

The question of the two distinct Ljósvetninga saga redactions has been the main topic of scholarly discussion surrounding this/these text/s since the late 19th century. The saga’s A-Redaction (represented in the fragmented 15th century manuscript AM 561 4to) and C-Redaction (represented in the few extant leaves of the 15th century manuscript AM 162 c fol. and its ca. 30 paper manuscripts) are at certain points virtually similar, at other points tell the same story in a very different way and different details, and the C-Redaction provides episodes about the main protagonist/antagonist Guðmundr inn ríki that were arguably never part of the extant A-Redaction manuscript. If the Free-Prose school, represented by the likes of Adolfine Erichsen and Knut Liestøl, stressed the oral origins of the differences between these two texts, the Book-Prose school’s main Ljósvetninga saga-champion and Íslenzk fornrit editor Björn Sigfússon (supported by Hallvard Magerøy), stressed the literary completeness of the saga’s A-Redaction, the C-Redaction seen as an almost historical novel that changes and expands the saga’s story. Theodore M. Andersson suggested a halfway solution: the saga’s A-Redaction is an abridged version of C-Redaction, and the difference in details stems from variant oral traditions. Guðvarður Már Gunnlaugsson’s recent study of AM 561 4to has stressed the distinctness of the extant Ljósvetninga saga redactions. This paper explores the idea that the differences between the two redactions stem, in actuality, from their location within the manuscript. The extant AM 561 4to also contains Reykdæla saga and Þorskfirðinga saga (Gull-Þóris saga), while the extant AM 162 c fol. also contains fragments of Vopnfirðinga saga, Droplaugarsona saga, Finnboga saga ramma, and Þorsteins þáttur stangarhöggs, with Sálus saga og Nikanórs as an addendum. The paper discusses the thematic and generic connections between these manuscripts’ sagas and their respective redactions, and to what extent this influenced the difference between the two. Prepared for negative evidence, the paper sheds light on the logic behind these manuscripts’ compilation, taking into account the localization of AM 162 c fol. Despite Lasse Mårtensson putting into question Ólafur Loftsson’s identity as its scribe, the historical and cultural context fuel this examination.

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[B28–30] Seminar Session: Memory Studies and Íslendingasögur

Torfi H. Tulinius
University of Iceland
tht@hi.is

In my contribution to the seminar session “Memory Studies and the Íslendingasögur”, I will discuss the concept of “traumatic memory” and how it might be used to add a dimension to our understanding of the relationship between the writing of the Sagas about early Icelanders and the turmoil and violence of the Sturlung age. Trauma studies is a developing field at the intersection of humanities, social sciences and neuroscience, showing that different degrees of trauma can be experienced both individually and collectively. Defined as an overwhelming event that breaches the subject’s psychological defences, the experience of trauma is always delayed, as the psyche is not able to process the traumatic event while it happens. The trauma therefore interferes with memory, even the memory of events which are not directly related to the trauma itself, having an impact on the way the past is constructed, both by individuals and groups. In my short presentation I will present aspects of my current work on traumatic memory in the Íslendingasögur.

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[F14] Saga origins and Media: Sagas in Translation

Matthew Townend
University of York
matthew.townend@york.ac.uk

E.R. Eddison’s Egil’s Saga: Translation and Scholarship in Inter-War Old Northernism

In 1930 Cambridge University Press published the translation Egil’s Saga by E.R. Eddison. There was a lengthy subtitle: Done into English out of the Icelandic with an Introduction, Notes, and an Essay on some Principles of Translation. A sumptuous production, with over 350 pages of high-quality paper, it was the first full translation into English of Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar since 1893 (by W.C. Green), and there would not be another until 1960 (by Gwyn Jones). But in spite of the academic standing of its publishers, Eddison’s Egil’s Saga has not, over the years, enjoyed a particularly lofty or honoured position in the pantheon of saga-translations, and the place of Eddison himself in the historiography of Old Norse studies is peripheral at best. He does, however, occupy a very significant position in a different literary genealogy, that of twentieth-century fantasy or heroic romance: Eddison’s four books in the embryonic genre of heroic fantasy (most famously, The Worm Ouroboros (1922)) are recognized as being among the most important such works to be produced by an English writer between William Morris and J.R.R. Tolkien.

In this paper I will examine and appraise Eddison’s Old Norse studies, primarily through a detailed examination of his translation of Egil’s Saga, and I will also make some brief observations regarding the relationship between Eddison’s Norse studies and his heroic romances. The finished version of Eddison’s Egil’s Saga is full of interest, from many points of view; but his unpublished drafts and letters (which I will draw on extensively) also reveal a great deal about the motivation and genesis of his translation. Andrew Wawn, in his magisterial work The Vikings and the Victorians (2000), took the story of what he called ‘Old Northernism’ up to the end of the nineteenth century. A close engagement with Eddison’s Egil’s Saga offers an opportunity to illuminate and understand some of the new forms and movements of Old Northernism in the first third of the twentieth century, and in the inter-war period in particular.

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[B18] Artistry: Semiotics and Interpretation

Fjodor Uspenskij
Russian Academy of Sciences
fjodor.uspenskij@gmail.com

*Hlaðajarla saga. The Russian Connection: Hákon jarl hinn ríki and his grandson Hákon Eiríksson in Icelandic Saga and Russian Chronicle

Any scholar—or just any interested reader—who deals with the cultural history of Old Rus’ in the 10th to 13th centuries, has inevitably to face a kind of paradox: while the role of Scandinavians in the political and ecclesiastical life of the pre-Mongolian Rus’ is far from negligible, the evidence from native Russian sources concerning this group of immigrants is scarce and quite fragmented. A background like that gives extra importance to any coherent sequences of elements that can be directly found in Old Russian written sources. Within the whole narrative space covering the 10th to 12th centuries, leaving aside the Rurikids, there is—extraordinarily—just a single family whose Varangian origin is identified explicitly, their close affinities with Scandinavia are indicated, and details of biographies of three men representing three generations are given. Those three are Yakun (= Hákon) the Varangian, his nephew Shimon (= Sigmundr?) and a son of the latter, named George. A very curious tangle of coincidences was needed to leave in Old Russian manuscripts records of a Scandinavian family. As for the identity of Yakun / Hákon, the efforts of many scholars (E. Brate, O. Pritsak, A. Stender-Petersen) have resulted in a sufficiently plausible theory that the man who came to Russia and, according The Primary Chronicle, fought at the Battle of Listven (1024) was none other than Hákon Eiríksson, Earl of Lade. This version has been shown to be credible for many reasons. In my opinion, the combination of specific details in the portrayal of this person suggests that the earliest chronicler and his audience knew more about Yakun / Hákon than a modern reader is able to discern at first sight. That is, these details in themselves offer the historian an opportunity to identify who of the known contemporary Scandinavian leaders was the Hákon of the chronicle, while a philologist could make use of them to trace the provenance of Varangian mini-plots in both Russian chronicles and non-chronicle narrative.

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[D19] Seminar Session: Law and Legal Culture in Medieval Iceland

Valgerður Sólnes
University of Copenhagen
valgerdur.solnes@jur.ku.dk

From settlement to present day: How medieval laws and the Icelandic sagas determine land title

Icelandic authorities launched a legislative scheme in 1998 to untangle land ownership ambiguities in rural territories—recognized as ownerless land or commons—and bring them into state ownership. The scheme uniquely intertwines numerous issues associated with the culture of writing and storytelling, and the 900 years of written laws in Icelandic society. It portrays an excellent example of how the past—including customary law and its codification, the Icelandic manuscript traditions, and legal culture and procedure from settlement to present day—remain relevant today. These elements are decisive when it comes to resolving current property in land disputes. Emergence of possession over majority of land in Iceland derives from settlement—where private property was established—and the disputed territories lie beyond the settled land, void of absolute possession but some subject to lesser rights, such as grazing. The state has long tried to claim ownership thereof, and so have farmers and municipalities. The scheme provides that a boundary line shall be fixed in the light of actual ownership, and presupposes that landowners—and beneficiaries of lesser rights within ownerless land—retain their private property rights, upon the substantiation of title before an adjudicative body. The state acts as plaintiff, arguing that the disputed land is ownerless. The claimants act as defendants, and they have a duty to substantiate title. The adjudicative body will examine whether settlement occurred, and whether title has since been maintained, by applying property law principles and assessing submitted evidence. Some of the principles date back to customary law and the first written laws. Two examples are medieval principles prescribing how “land commons shall remain where they have been,” and requiring claimants to substantiate title, both codified in 12th century lawbooks. The variously natured evidence—from medieval times to present day—includes narratives featuring settlement and the Icelandic commonwealth, e.g. Landnáma and the Icelandic sagas. Also, sources originating in the governance of church and state, such as legal acts prescribed by lawbooks, medieval church records, legislative and judicial acts, deeds, and land registry. These historical sources determine the outcome of the disputes, in favor or against title.

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[C26] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Natalie Van Deusen
University of Alberta
vandeuse@ualberta.ca

Poems of Praise: Holy Women and Models for Virtue in Early Modern Icelandic Verse

Icelandic national and local archives house a large number of Early Modern poems that focus on holy women and have received little to no scholarly attention. Some focus on women from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, while others (despite having been composed after the Reformation) treat the lives of virgin martyr saints. In addition to works about individual holy women, there are several poems from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries that praise groups of biblical and historical Christian women. These comprise “Sprundahrós” (ÍB 815 8vo, JS 255 4to, and JS 589 4to), “Kvennaríma” (ÍB 816 8vo), “Kvennamunur” (JS 583 4to), “Kvenndæmaþáttur” (Lbs 4795 8vo), and “Kvennadans” (22 manuscripts). This paper details the five poems—only two of which have actually been mentioned in scholarship—and examines how they serve as vehicles for their authors to convey specific ideals of virtue and construct particular models of womanhood for their audiences. It concludes with a consideration of how poems about both individual and groups of holy women function as conduct literature, and lend important insight into expectations for how women were expected to behave and what models they were encouraged to live by.

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[B33] Artistry: Semiotics and Interpretation

Jan Alexander van Nahl
University of Iceland
jvannahl@hi.is

„Die Nacht ist es, die alles werden lässt“ — Zur Rolle von Dunkelheit und Nacht in den Isländersagas

Das Nachdenken über Dunkelheit und Nacht ist so alt wie die Menschheit, Schöpfungserzählungen aus der ganzen Welt offerieren Beschreibungen und Erklärungen der Trennung von Tag und Nacht, Licht und Dunkelheit. Der geplante Beitrag strebt an, im vergleichenden Blick auf eine Auswahl an Episoden aus den Isländersagas zu prüfen, in welcher Weise Dunkelheit und Nacht erzähllogisch funktionalisiert werden. Ich verstehe diese Untersuchung sowohl als Spezifikation erzähltheoretischer Positionen zu den Isländersagas, als auch als Beitrag zu einer Literaturanthropologie des mittelalterlichen Nordeuropas.

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[C27] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Sofie Vanherpen
Independent Scholar
Sofie.Vanherpen@UGent.be

Lofsælastar linda sólir: The Memory of Strong Icelandic Saga-women in 18th-century Praise Poetry

The aim of this paper is to introduce the hitherto undiscussed genre of kvennalofkvæði (‘poetry in praise of women’) in Icelandic literature and to illustrate in particular the depiction of saga women in these Icelandic praise poems.

The first Icelandic poem of this kind was Kvennadans (‘Women’s ballad’) composed as early as 1619 by Magnús Ólafsson of Laufás (1573-1636). This poem exhibits features reminiscent of the “gynaecea,” a literary historical genre from the Renaissance which was well represented in Denmark and Sweden during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but non-existent in Iceland. However, this kvennalofkvæði might offer an Icelandic alternative to the Danish and Swedish gynaecea.

Hvarfsbók (ÍB 815-816 8vo) is a two-volume collection of poems and poetic fragments by various authors that was compiled by Þorstein Þorkelsson (1831-1907) in 1890. This compilation contains two eighteenth-century praise poems of specific interest here, Sprundahrós and Kvennaríma. Sprundahrós (‘Women’s praise’) has been ascribed to both Jón Jónsson of Kvíabekkur (1739-1785) and Ingjaldur Jónsson of Múli (1739-1832). It is a catalogue of women, including six featured in sagas, who were notable by virtue of their good qualities. A similar and much less known poem on the same theme, yet one without a satisfactory edition, is Kvennaríma (‘Women’s rhyme) by the reverend Þorsteinn Hallgrímsson (1752-1791). Like Sprundahrós, it lists and glorifies several biblical women as well as saga-heroines.

The above-mentioned poems may have created a precedent by mentioning some saga women, but Íslands kvennalof (‘Icelandic women’s praise’), written by the poet Árni Böðvarsson (1713-1776) is the first Icelandic poem dedicated entirely to the praise of Icelandic women.

This paper examines in particular the presentation of saga women in these eighteenth-century Icelandic praise poems. It will argue that these poems make for a new picture of female saga characters representing the strong Icelandic woman, a symbol of pride in the Icelandic community.

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[B24] Artistry: Semiotics and Interpretation

Védís Ragnheiðardóttir
University of Iceland
ver2@hi.is

The Forest as a Narrative Space in the Íslendingasögur

The forest as a literary landscape has a long-standing tradition and became in the middle ages one of the most important landscapes of medieval romance, a place of destiny, adventure, and wonder, and the favourite space of the rite of passage of an errant knight in search of self-realization. Of the indigenous saga genres, the romance forest is most frequently used in the indigenous riddarasögur but is also regularly employed in the fornaldarsögur. In a forthcoming article, I show how in two such sagas, Sigurðar saga þögla and Göngu-Hrólfs saga, the forest functions as the limen to maturity for native kolbítur heroes and argue that the authors of these sagas borrowed the convention of the errant knight searching for self-realization in the forest from European romance.

In the Íslendingasögur, the forest often functions as a place of refuge for people fleeing raids and battles, such as in Egils saga, and as a hideout for outlaws and others who are at odds with society, such as when Gísli Súrsson seek refuge in the woods from his would-be captors. It is also a source of firewood and building material and can as such lead to conflicts between neighbours, as in Njáls saga. But as in the romances, the forest of the Íslendingasögur can also function as the space for a hero’s adventure, as it for example does in Harðar saga ok Hólmverja and Vatnsdæla saga.

As I will show, both Hörður Grímkelsson of Harðar saga and Þorsteinn Ketilsson of Vatnsdæla saga have kolbítur-like qualities to them. Furthermore, both are on their first independent journey when they enter the forest, journeys that generally function as rites of passage in the sagas. In my paper, I will compare the forest episodes of Harðar saga and Vatnsdæla saga with those of Sigurðar saga þögla and Göngu-Hrólfs saga. Having established their similarity, I will argue that the authors of the two Íslendingasögur borrowed the romance convention of the hero in the forest for their indigenous heroes’ rite-of-passage journey.

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[A34] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Giovanni Verri
University of Iceland
giv2@hi.is

Ásgeir Jónsson’s early orthography: Fraudulent archaising or an early attempt at normalisation?

While some scholars would swear by Ásgeir Jónsson’s orthography when copying, others label it archaising out of hand. The degree of trust to be given to his copies varies between manuscripts, but while the fluctuation in the quality of his transcriptions certainly has an element of randomness, a systematic analysis also reveals discernible tendencies. These patterns offer food for thought in the study of a scribe without which Old Norse philology would be much poorer. Ásgeir’s early years in Copenhagen – between 1686 and ’88 – offer us a time-frame and adequate data for analysis and provide some interesting results. For the most part, Ásgeir copied 14th century manuscripts, and the general impression left by a comparison between exemplar and copy is that the scribe altogether does a good job of preserving the orthographic characteristics in his transcriptions. A caveat is in order, however. The copies are not necessarily a faithful reproduction of the exemplar, and a detailed comparison reveals that while general tendencies are on the whole maintained, Ásgeir often changes orthography in individual instances. As a matter of fact, Ásgeir Jónsson seems to adopt a personal orthography with its own specific tendencies, that in broad strokes keeps in line with the characteristics of a 14th century manuscript. The suspicion creeps in that Ásgeir’s accuracy is more fortuitous than factual, caused by a similarity between the exemplar’s orthography and Ásgeir’s idiosyncratic artifice. While this device yields good results with manuscripts from the 14th century, the mask indeed drops when transcribing from younger exemplars. In this paper I aim to delve into the questions posed by Ásgeir’s semi-normalised orthography in the period 1686-88 and discuss some of the options that present themselves, trying to explain the possible reasons behind the creation and use of such a cunning stratagem.

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[E8] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Vésteinn Ólason
Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum
vesteinn@hi.is

The Medieval Eyrbyggja saga – one version or two?

A post-structuralist approach to medieval texts calls into question the traditional assumption that different manuscripts with variations in wording can represent a single textual entity, such as a saga. Awareness of this problem may lead to a better understanding of both individual manuscripts and variant versions of a text. However, saga texts occurring in many manuscripts have generally been studied as discrete works, each with its roots in a specific society and datable within certain limits, even though no original version survives. It is important to discuss the theoretical basis of this procedure even if it is regarded as a fruitful one.

Sagas often have different names in different manuscripts, and their ‘official’ titles are sometimes assigned by modern editors. If there are extensive differences in the story itself or in its structure, scholars usually talk in terms of different versions, as, for instance, with the long and the short versions of Gísla saga. Occasionally, the differences are so profound that a version is considered to be a separate saga based on another work, as with ”Vitlausa Egla“, or the late versions of Bósa saga and Tristrams saga.

I shall discuss variations among the main manuscripts of Eyrbyggja saga, seeking to assess whether these manuscripts can be used as textual witnesses for a ‘work’ conceived and composed no later than the oldest manuscript fragment. My discussion will be based on four medieval manuscripts, all fragmentary (Editiones Arnamagnæanæ A 18, 2003), and a seventeenth-century copy of a lost medieval text (AM 448 4to). I shall take issue with the conclusion of the 2003 edition that AM 448 represents a revised version of the text found in the medieval manuscripts. AM 448 is copied from a medieval manuscript by ‘academic’ scribes (Árni Magnússon and Ásgeir Jónsson) who strove to make exact copies of their exemplars. The same story with the same characters occurs in all the manuscripts. I will argue that the stylistic and verbal variations are not of a kind that represents conscious or significant changes.

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[D4] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Pragya Vohra
University of York
pragya.vohra@york.ac.uk

Legal Obligation and Social Performance in the Íslendingasögur

The Íslendingasögur are rich in their descriptions of the legal activities of medieval Icelanders and often provide considerable detail about legal proceedings, especially when these are central to the narrative of the saga. They also describe and comment on the interpersonal and customary social relations of saga characters. Occasionally, we find legal obligations and social customs at odds with one another, providing the saga with a conflict which the saga creator needs to resolve. Further, there are also occasionally discrepancies between legal information in the sagas (usually presented in a social context) and in the law codes as they survive, presenting modern-day scholars with a conflict of their own to resolve between saga laws and codified laws. This paper proposes to examine such conflicts between the legal and social frameworks on display in the Íslendingasögur. It takes as its starting point the notion that the Íslendingasögur are reflecting recognised social memories and oral histories from the medieval past in later recorded versions, and that the surviving codified laws are based on (and build on) past customary laws. It is thus fruitful to investigate what may have been preserved both in the sagas as well as in the law codes from the past, and what may have been changed in contemporary recordings. In so doing, this paper proposes to look at the purported ‘migration’ of the Gulaþing law to Iceland during the Settlement period and consider the conflicts which may arise from the application of a provincial Norwegian law in an Icelandic ‘diasporic’ context. It will argue that the changes resulting from the migration of both people and laws to a new place with a unique set of social norms provides fertile ground for the kind of conflicts we find between law and social performance in the Íslendingasögur.

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[D24] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Randi Bjørshol Wærdahl
NTNU — Norwegian University of Science and Technology
randi.werdahl@ntnu.no

The saga margin: A critical approach to local communities’ response to new judicial realities in 1270s Iceland and The Faroe Islands

Árna saga biskups contains an account of the difficulties facing Þorvarðr Þórarinsson, King Magnús Hákonarson’s sýslumaðr, when he strove to enforce the new legal provisions following the introduction of the Járnsíða law code in 1271-73. Bishop Árni Þorláksson of Skálholt zealously guarded against challenges to the judicial authority of the church in an atmosphere of growing confusion over royal and ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Simultaneously, the Faroese had entered into negotiating with King Magnús about useless provisions concerning sheep farming in the new Gulaþing law code, introduced to The Faroe Islands between 1267 and 1271. While Árna saga biskups provide in depth information about the implementation of new law, we have to rely on a normative sources in the case of The Faroe Islands. Royal ordinances from 1270-73 and 1298 provide some details about the negotiations with the crown, but contains few details about the actual process preceding these ordinances in the local community. In the proposed paper, I intend to use Árna saga biskups’s detailed, and, in a West-Nordic 13th c. perspective, exceptional, account of the conflict between Þorvarðr and Bishop Árni to carry out a critical discussion about local communities’ response to a new judicial reality and what was, at least to the Icelanders, the introduction of a new legal culture. By comparing the Faroese and the Icelandic experience, I will be able to provide a broader West-Nordic perspective on our understanding of the implementation of new law codes and the changes to legal culture and to assess the significance of the saga’s narrative to a historian’s interpretation of these processes.

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[D28] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Elizabeth Walgenbach
Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies
elizabeth.walgenbach@gmail.com

Outlawry as Excommunication in the Sagas of Icelanders

This paper discusses the influence of the canon law concept of excommunication on the depiction of outlawry in the sagas of Icelanders. Outlawry is sometimes thought of as a pagan, ancient Germanic punishment, one that existed in northern cultures long before the advent of Christianity. This paper focuses on different possible roots for the sanction, those found in the Christian legal tradition and in the development of increasingly sophisticated discussions of excommunication taking place among medieval canon lawyers. In this paper I will use legal sources, including the earliest Icelandic legal sources but also canon law texts known to have circulated in Scandinavia, to interpret outlawry and the consequences of outlawry as depicted in the traditional outlaw sagas: Gísla saga, Grettis saga, and Harðar saga. I argue that, although we cannot rule out ancient, pre-Christian origins for the sanction of outlawry, the outlawry that appears in these sagas is heavily influenced by the canon law concept of excommunication and the consequences of excommunication that were being advocated and argued over by canonists and ordinary priests throughout the Middle Ages.

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[A9] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Sabine Heidi Walther
University of Bonn
swalther@uni-bonn.de

More Than Just a Motif: On Brodd-Helgi and the Relationship Between Haukr’s Trójumanna saga and Vápnfirðinga saga

This paper analyzes the relationship between the Hauksbók version of Trójumanna saga and Vápnfirðinga saga (including Þorsteins saga hvíta which is written as a prologue to it). It has been known for a long time that both sagas (or better: all three of them) share a certain motif: The hero of Vápnfirðinga saga, Brodd-Helgi, as well as the Trojan prince Paris armor their respective bulls with a spike or a spur on the forehead to give them an advantage in bull fight. While—from a perspective of cultural transfer theory—it seems probable that the translated text should be the giving instance and the family saga the receiving instance (so already Nordal 1938, p. liii, fn. 1), this opinion is not undisputed (Jón Helgason 1976). There are indeed reasons which suggest that in this case the family saga might be the giving instance: Apart from the assumed dating of Vápnfirðinga saga to the thirteenth century, the strongest arguments are that the motif is not a part of the classical tradition and that it does not serve the argumentation in Trójumanna saga. My analysis of Haukr’s version of Trójumanna saga (within my Marie Skłodowska-Curie Project “Translating from Latin. Contacts, Transfer, and Rewriting of Historiographical Texts in Medieval Iceland”, 2015-2017, publication forthcoming in 2018) showed that the motif can indeed be explained as a part of Haukr’s work which strengthens the argument for a transfer from the translated text (or one of its sources) to the family saga. This paper uses the results of this analysis and shows that the author of Vápnfirðinga saga did indeed not only borrow a single motif but that he is apparently inspired by some other ideas and larger learned discourses that can be also be found in Haukr’s Trójumanna saga. The paper contributes to the discussion on cultural transfer and on the relationship between translated and ‘indigenous’ sagas strengthening the argument that a saga–no matter the genre–is a literary prose text written by a learned person. At least in the case of Vápnfirðinga saga, oral tradition–although claimed by some (Cooke 1993, p. 688)–seems to play a minor role if any at all.

  • Jón Helgason (1976): Paris i Troja, Þorsteinn på Borg och Brodd-Helgi på Hof. In Lars Svensson (Ed.): Nordiska studier i filologi och lingvistik. Festskrift tillägnad Gösta Holm på 60-årsdagen den 8 juli 1976. Lund: Studentlitteratur AB; Studentlitteratur, pp. 192-194.
  • Nordal, Sigurður; Guðni Jónsson (1938): Borgfirðinga sǫgur. Íslenzk fornrit, 3. Reykjavik: Hið íslenzka fornritafélag.
  • Cooke, Robert (1993): Vápnfirðinga saga. In: Pulsiano, Phillip (Ed.) (1993): Medieval Scandinavia. An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, pp. 687-688.

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[E12] Saga origins and Media: Saga Landscapes

Elisabeth Ida Ward
Independent Scholar
elisabeth.wh@gmail.com

Co-constituted: A theory of sagas and landscape

While the literary production of Medieval Iceland is a complex expression of various synergies, in the case of the specific genre of the Sagas of the Icelanders, the central role of the real landscape of Iceland cannot be overstated. This will be argued fourfold: 1. the experience of inhabiting a previously uninhabited landscape spurred the storytelling impulse as a way to enculturate the landscape 2. the landscape shaped the structure of the narrative as it was told orally, creating a symbiotic and co-constitutional relationship over time 3. the landscape served as a pneumonic device that allowed for continued transmission of the narrative both orally and into written form 4. the landscape provided a means for reactivation and reinterpretation of the saga as socio-political realities changed. Examples will be drawn from both well-known and lesser known Sagas of Icelanders to show the primal position of the relationship between saga narrative and the real landscape of Iceland. The argument will be further made that by embracing this relationship, the field of saga studies has the opportunity to engage with an urgent, growing field of humanistic inquiry: ecocriticism. An overview of this environmental literary analysis approach will be offered, with an emphasis on how it seeks to understand how narrative influences human conception of the natural world, not only as a bridge but also as a dividing force. Finally, the presentation will suggest that adding the testimony of the Sagas of the Icelanders to that inquiry could contribute important chronological and comparative depth.

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[C29] Ideas and Worldview: Gender, Gender Identity and Gender Roles

Robin Waugh
Wilfrid Laurier University
rwaugh@wlu.ca

Landscape, Language, Maternal Space, and Child Exposure in Jómsvíkinga saga

The mother’s “powerful influence during early infancy” has been described as “maternal space” by critics such as Patricia Cramer and Julia Kristeva (Cramer 497; Kristeva, Desire in Language, 247, 281-86). An obvious situation, then, in which to examine the potential construction of maternal space would be the episodes when men try to co-opt such space, for example in the narratives of child exposure that I have dealt with in two previous presentations, concerning Þorsteins þáttur uxafóts and Vatnsdæla saga (Jochens 85-93; Clover 101-10). On the one hand in these narratives men typically wrap the child tightly, place something in the infant’s mouth to replace the mother’s breast, and otherwise attempt to imitate and ritualize maternal space by (among other things) trying to secure the child’s silence while it is exposed (Þorsteins þáttur uxafóts, ch 4). On the other hand these scenes assert women’s highly individual emotions, co-optation of language, and marking out of space (Vatnsdæla saga, ch 36).

In Jómsvíkinga saga, the exposure story makes up part of the legend describing the origination of the ancient Danish kings, and is closely related to the European romance tradition of the foundling hero: Knútr is discovered under a tree with a valuable textile knotted—thus the name Knútr—in the branches over the baby’s head. Gold has been knotted into the cloth (ch 1). These details of clothing and the sense of ritualizing a landscape evoke, even more than in other abandonment stories, ideas of a female language, because often a piece of rediscovered fabric serves as a recognition token in European romances whereby families are reunited. Meanwhile, gold indicates the boy’s noble origins and the wealth of his originating family.

What distinguishes this episode in Jómsvíkinga saga from other child-abandonment scenes is its proximity to a treatment of space as connected to language. One chapter (and one generation) after King Knútr is discovered and adopted by King Gorm of Denmark, his grandson, also named Gorm, wants to wed þýra, the daughter of a famous German earl. She is the first of several powerful and intelligent female counselors in the narrative; moreover, she is clearly identified as the wisdom figure at the earl’s court and is connected to the interpretation of dreams according to biblical tradition (ch 2; Genesis 41). A survey of depictions of language in Jómsvíkinga saga, then, suggests that maternal space reasserts itself generally—and particularly reasserts itself onto the northern landscape—during instances of child exposure. Particular treatment of landscape is paired with unusual depictions of heightened expression by female characters in Jómsvíkinga saga—both traditional artisanal modes of expression for women, such as textile usage, and also examples of highly individual language production. This “new language” typically maps the Northern landscape in a sex-specific fashion that is unique to the sagas of Icelanders.

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Plenary Lecture on Friday

Andrew Wawn
University of Leeds
a.wawn@btinternet.com

Njála in Svarfaðardalur, c. 1773

The lecture will present scenes from the life and times of Urðabók (ÍB 270 4to), one of the youngest surviving manuscripts of Njáls saga. It will seek to identify who wrote Urðabók, and where, and when, and why, and for whom, and how well, and with what result. More broadly, drawing on evidence from wills, visitation records, and other Svarfaðardalur manuscripts, the lecture will explore the unfamiliar perspectives that Urðabók offers us on the reception of Njáls saga in eighteenth-century northern Iceland: the Lutheran Njála, the baroque Njála, the lausavísur Njála, and the pre-romantic-nationalist Njála. The library holdings and literary enthusiasms of Urðabók’s scribe and his friends will be discussed, important elements in a cultural microclimate in which earnest pietism, dogged superstition and enlightenment rationalism jostled for supremacy. The links between the Urðabók circle and Hólaskóli will be reviewed, as will the impact of new saga editions from Copenhagen, notably Ólafur Ólafsson Olavius’ Sagan af Niáli Þórgeirssyni ok sonum hans (1772). The Urðabók scribe’s status as a folkloric legend in his own lifetime (seer, healer, exorcist) will be noted, together with the role of his descendants as collectors, collators and custodians of Urðabók and other Svarfaðardalur texts.

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[A7] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Jonas Wellendorf
University of California, Berkeley
wellendorf@berkeley.edu

Royal Letters and “the First Saga”

Scholarly consensus holds that a letter of 1139 from King Ingi krókhryggr (d. 1161) to King Sigurðr munnr (d. 1155), quoted in the kings’ sagas Morkinskinna and Heimskringla and supposedly derived from ‘the first saga’, Eiríkr Oddsson’s now lost Hryggjarstykki, reflects an actual historical letter. As such it marks a watershed moment since it is the first such Old Norse letter of which the content has been preserved: “tímamótabréf … elst bréfa, sem geymst hefur að efni til” (Bjarni Guðnason 1978, Fyrsta sagan, p. 73). In my paper, I wish to consider the letter of 1139 in the light of other letters quoted in the major kings’ sagas dealing with the eleventh and early twelfth centuries. I will then consider the text of the letter and its function as a component of Morkinskinna and Heimskringla. The discussion of the letter will give some indications of the ideology and rhetorical strategies of putative “the first saga.” The final section will consider the question of the origin of the letter and outline what this can tell us about the secular uses of writing in the mid-twelfth century in Norway and the beginnings of saga writing

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[F21] Artistry: Literary Composition

Romina Werth
University of Iceland
row1@hi.is

Þorsteins þáttr forvitna: A short prose narrative between wonder tale and exemplum

Þorsteins þáttr forvitna belongs to the literary category of Íslendingaþættir and has been preserved in Flateyjarbók as well as in at least 28 later manuscripts. Therefore, the þáttur is one of the most often transcribed Íslendingaþættir (Ármann Jakobson, 2014). Within some of the manuscripts the þáttur is accompanied by other þættir, as well as riddarasögur, and fornaldarsögur, which may be explained by the adventurous events occurring in this short prose. Mostly the þáttur has been preserved side-by-side so called exempla, moral anecdotes, and it has been suggested that the þáttur itself might constitute an exemplum for criticizing human curiosity (Íslenzk fornrit XIII, 1991).

From a narratological viewpoint, however, curiosity plays a major part in initiating the story plot with the hero venturing from home, as exemplary for many later wonder tales. Some of the þættir might even be literary analogues of orally transmitted folk- and wonder tales (John Lindow, 1978), or they may have derived from migratory motifs, which can be examined throughout medieval literature (Joseph Harris, 1979).

Even though Þorsteins þáttr forvitna may not be classified as an existing tale type, belonging to the Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification system this short prose shows many stylistic features common to the European fairy- or wonder tale as presented by Max Lüthi. The structure of the þáttur also seems to resemble some of the functions, structural units of wonder tales, as proposed by Vladimir Propp.

This paper aims at showing that Þorsteins þáttr forvitna combines different narrative genres and is therefore to be considered a literary hybrid between the wonder tale and the medieval exemplum.

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[G4] Ideas and Worldview: The Supernatural

Eirik Westcoat
University of Iceland
evw1@hi.is

The Kraftaskalds and their Saga Precursors

The kraftaskáld (‘power-poet’, also called ákvæðaskáld, ‘charm-poet’) was an Icelandic folktale figure of the 16th through 20th centuries. These were Icelanders, sometimes famous ones such as Hallgrímur Pétursson, who were reputed to produce supernatural effects through extemporaneous poetic stanzas usually accompanied by a particular mental state, a heitur hugur (‘hot mind’), and such stanzas were usually effective only once. Frequently, they used their poetry for revenge, chanting down draugar, or even changing the weather. Although first systematically treated by Bo Almqvist over 50 years ago, this fascinating topic has been left almost untouched since then. Where did such a figure come from? This paper will look at the Saga Age precursors that may have lead to the emergence of this figure. This will include court skalds who were said to perform magic through poetry, most notably Egill Skallagrímsson and Þorleifr jarlsskáld. Others who were reputed magicians, such as Sæmundr fróði, will also be considered. Magic aside, the general figure of the court skalds of the sagas will be considered for what attributes it shares with the later kraftaskáld and whether the rise of the kraftaskáld might in part be a reaction to the decline of the court skalds. For instance, many of the court skalds are depicted as traveling to Norwegian courts where they win fame and fortune, since Icelanders are quite proud of their poets. So, the paper will explore how the kraftaskáld may have won fame or fortune without a Norwegian court to do it at. A further theme will be renewals of or changes on saga and mythological motifs of the supernatural. For example, these include a tale in which a kraftaskáld briefly chants a dwarf out of a stone, perhaps reminding one of a scene in Ynglinga saga where a dwarf disappeared into a stone. Through this, it will be shown how the figure of the poet and his connection to magic changed over time in Iceland, while still remaining relevant and valued in the culture, along with how the saga heritage continued to remain vibrant and productive in the folklore of later centuries.

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[E17] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Tiffany Nicole White
University of California, Berkeley
tiffany.white@berkeley.edu

Hǫrða-, Hǫrga-, Hǫlda-, or Hǫlgabrúðr? The Manuscript Evidence for Þorgerðr

Her garments stripped, golden ring stolen, and cult house destroyed, Þorgerðr Hǫlgabrúðr comes to her death in Njáls saga, Harðar saga, and Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar. These episodes have led to much scholarly ink being spilt over Þorgerðr’s origin and function in pre-Christian Norway, with no consensus to date. Using skaldic poetry as a foundation for the antiquity of the saga prose, scholars have hypothesized that Þorgerðr was Hákon Jarl’s familial fylgja, or that there was a cult which venerated her as a giantess, connecting her to the hieros gamos theme. Skaldic poetry, however, when evaluated without its interpretive Christian prose, paints a rather unclear picture of Þorgerðr, using simple names such as Gerðr and flagð to describe what scholars surmise is her. This raises the question of whether skaldic poetry refers to her at all, and likewise if these abstract mentions might have laid the foundation for Þorgerðr, the patron goddess of Hákon Jarl, as a later literary creation by prose writers through their own interpretation of obscure skaldic verses. Additionally, it has been suggested that the variations of Þorgerðr’s viðurnefni in prose texts indicate that her cult was in fact widespread: Hǫlgabrúðr for Hálogaland, Hǫrðabrúðr for Hǫrðaland, and Hǫldabrúðr for Holde. Yet, name variation appears not only between texts, but also within the same manuscript. Moreover, her name is often changed to fit the story, including the use of –trǫll (the earliest extant mention of Þorgerðr’s viðurnefni) instead of -brúðr, suggesting a more complicated transmission. Previous scholarship has relied heavily on editions; by instead evaluating name variation in both medieval and post-medieval manuscripts, this paper will reassess previous scholarship by tracing the development of Þorgerðr’s malleable nickname alongside the development of her persona in connection with narratives of the Christianization of Norway. Although the focus will be on the insertion of her story into prose texts, skaldic poetry and Latin sources will also be addressed with the endeavor to suggest a line of transmission and development of Þorgerðr as a character.

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[B12] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Tarrin Wills
University of Copenhagen; University of Aberdeen
tarrinw@gmail.com

Poetry in the Íslendingasögur and its relationship to the broader skaldic corpus

Following the publication in 2017 of volumes 3 and 8 of the Skaldic Project (skaldic.abdn.ac.uk), the poetry in the Íslendingasögur and -þættir is becoming the focus of the project’s work in editing, translating and interpreting this important body of skaldic poetry. The poetry in these sagas presents problems of dating and authenticity, but provides a rich resource for understanding the relationship between poetic production in Iceland as compared with mainland Scandinavia. Two projects that have grown out of the Skaldic Project — the Horizon 2020-funded Lexicon Poeticum (lexiconpoeticum.org) and a Rannís-funded project on the poetry in these sagas — provide new resources for understanding the language of skaldic poetry, allowing nuanced quantitative analysis of the poetry as well as facilitated detailed qualitative study of the poetry. The present paper uses these resources to understand the relationship between the poetry in the Íslendingasögur and other poetry in the skaldic corpus, in particular, the konungasögur. The quantitative measures used to compare poetic corpora include lexical usage, kenning usage, metres, syntactic complexity, stylometric analyses and manuscript variation, among others. These will be used to identify areas for qualitative analysis, with a particular focus on poets who composed poetry under royal patronage and also composed for an Icelandic domestic audience. This paper aims to determine whether there were substantial differences in the language of the poetry composed in Iceland and abroad, and if so, what factors may have produced these differences.

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[F33] Ideas and Worldview: Cultural Contact and Multiculturalism

Kendra Jean Willson
University of Turku
kenwil@utu.fi

Hidden languages in early Iceland

Old Icelandic sources present a picture of a monolingual society, with few mentions of other languages (such as Melkorka in Laxdœla saga teaching her son Ólafr to speak Irish). However, it is likely that at least Celtic and Sámi languages were spoken by some settlers and knowledge of other languages such as Old English would have been comparatively widespread. Multilingualism is largely hidden, in part by the texts’ focus on the upper classes and the mission to present a unified picture of early Icelandic society, in part by narrative conventions. Genetic research suggests that around half of the women among the original settlers of Iceland were of Celtic background (Agnar Helgason et al. 2000). Leonard (2012) claims that the Celtic speakers would have shifted to Norse language before moving to Iceland. However, the presence of Celtic place-names in Iceland suggests at least some Celtic speakers. The traditional view holds that Celtic languages had almost no influence on Norse, as very few Celtic loanwords are found. However, a lack of loanwords is to be expected if Norse was a superstrate language. The possibility of other types of linguistic influences more representative of substrate effects has not been explored. Possible influences in culture and literature have received more attention (Gísli Sigurðsson 1988, Hermann Pálsson 1996). Contact with Sámi is attested in Norse sources (see Mundal 1996, 2000), and convergences/influences in mythology and magical practice (e.g. seiðr) have been explored (Strömbäck 1935, Hermann Pálsson 1997, Tolley 2009). Characters identified as Finnar are generally not located in Iceland, nor have personal names from early Iceland been identified as Sámi. However, some of the settlers must have had exposure to Sámi languages and likely Sámi ancestors. Olsen and Bergsland (1943) suggested that the runic inscription on the 12th c. spade from Indriðastaðir contained a Sámi word functioning as a charm. Olsen and Bergsland’s account reflects the traditional associations among Sámi, magic, and runes. The idea of Sámi surviving as a secret magic language for 200 years is intriguing. However, if a Sámi loanword had survived as part of a secret „magic“ register, it would likely have undergone phonological and morphological assimilation to Norse. Old English was a language known at least to some Icelanders. The statement from Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu „Ein var þá tunga á Englandi sem á Nóregi ok í Danmörku“ likely reflects a literary simplification, as well as an awareness of linguistic affinity. The level of mutual intelligibility between Old Norse and Old English would have been closer to „semicommunication“ (Braunmüller 1997). Mentions of language barriers are rare in Old Norse literature. Those who had traveled or lived abroad would likely have picked up other languages to varying extents. This was not a concern of saga writers; multilingualism in early Iceland is largely left between the lines.

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[D3] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Power and Political Culture

Alexander James Wilson
Durham University
alex.j.wilson@hotmail.co.uk

Agency, Community, and Perceptions of Power in Harðar saga ok Hólmverja

This paper analyses the nature of agency in the outlaw narrative Harðar saga ok Hólmverja in order to analyse how the saga depicts perceptions of power. Agency refers to the capacity of an individual to act independently, and correlates strongly with power, as power hierarchies ‘create psychological distance, conferring agency at the top and requiring deference at the bottom’ (Fiske et al. 2016, 46). In other words, the more power one holds, the more agency one has. For any society to provide a successful environment for the majority of its members, however, it must demand that they give up some level of individuality to maintain a communal identity. Gervase Rosser (2015, 191) refers to this dynamic of mutual intra-group self-sacrifice as ‘a common absence’ unifying the community: a thing that the members of that group implicitly agree not to do. Whenever individuals go against this absence, usually by emphasising their individuality too forcefully, their actions are received differently depending on the level of agency afforded to them by their place in that society’s power hierarchy. In Harðar saga, the importance of agency is expressed through the differing levels of success that the saga’s protagonist Hǫrðr attains. As an individual, Hǫrðr possesses exceptional qualities, most notably his ability to see the truth of things where others cannot, but he is also generally isolated from the nexus of social power within Iceland. Consequently, within that society he is coded as a disruptive presence, and is ultimately outlawed after reacting violently when one of his neighbours denies him the agency to negotiate a legal settlement. Hǫrðr has more success in the saga, however, when he has more control over how his community is structured, as happens most prominently in his expedition to fight the draugr Sóti in Gautland. Whilst Hǫrðr acts in a similar manner in each context, his actions are coded according to how powerful he is perceived to be by other members of the community—with that level of power being itself derived from how flexible that community’s structure is, and therefore how much agency Hǫrðr has in structuring it himself.

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[B31] Artistry: Semiotics and Interpretation

Kirsten Wolf
University of Wisconsin Madison
kirstenwolf@wisc.edu

Not Spoken: Women and Silence in the Sagas and Tales of Icelanders

It is recognized that women in medieval Iceland had limited opportunity to take part in political and legal affairs, and that the public sphere was largely the realm of males. However, it is also recognized that often women were able to somewhat influence the political and legal structures affecting their lives, and that they were able to do so through words. Jóhanna Katrín Fridriksdóttir (2013), for example, argues that “the primary tool available to women is words,” and Judy Quinn (2005) makes the point that “[i]n much Old Norse literature, the performance of males is monitored not just by competitive males, but by women who did not stand by silently when male performance failed to pass muster, indeed whose words were what made the social gears shift.” While acknowledging the importance of women’s words, this paper draws attention to the fact that, paradoxically, silence – the absence of words – was also an important tool available to women in medieval Iceland. It demonstrates – on the basis of the Sagas and Tales of Icelanders – that saying nothing should not necessarily be equated with mutedness, passivity, or powerlessness. It is argued that silence is not just the absence of words; rather, it is a manner of communication, although somewhat context-dependent and definitely more ambiguous than speech. It is concluded that women in medieval Iceland found a way to rely on non-verbal expression to combat men’s usurpation of power and to compensate for women’s inability to speak in public. It shows that silence should not be read as passivity. It shows that usually silence is strategic and can take on an expressive power. It shows that sielnce can be as powerful as speech. Finally, it shows that while silence can defer to power, it can also deploy power.

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[F29] ‘Með lögum skal land byggja’: Law and Legal Culture

Jon Wright
University of Cambridge
jpw61@cam.ac.uk

‘Ex marginibus’: Jónsbók marginalia copied by Gissur Einarsson (*1512 †1548)

British Library Additional Ms. 11250 consists of a diverse range of fragments originally collected by Finnur Magnússon. Of these, perhaps the most interesting – certainly the most unusual – consists of the first three folios. The fragment is largely in the hand of Gissur Einarsson, first Lutheran bishop of Skálholt. On the first folio, in the lower margins beneath an earlier text, he has added a few unrelated marginalia chiefly on legal themes; more intriguingly, 2r is headed ‘Annotationes ex marginibus legisterij horuardi legiferi quæ non transtuli in meum legisterium’ (Annotations from the margins of the lawbook of Þorvarður lögmaður [Erlendsson, *c. 1466 †1513] which I did not copy into my lawbook). The snippets which follow, in Latin, Old Icelandic and Middle Low German, are varied in nature. They include proverbs in both Latin and Old Icelandic (among the latter is included ‘gum skal land vort byggia enn med ola eyda’), excerpts from Grágás and Járnsíða, various réttarbættur to Jónsbók, quotations from the German law-code Sachsenspiegel in both Old Icelandic and Middle Low German, Latin wordplay, and Icelandic translations of Latin terms. Whilst much of the proverbial material in particular cannot be directly related to the text of Jónsbók, many of the legal snippets are very specific in nature and can be associated with particular parts of the text with reasonable confidence. We can thus reconstruct a sense of how the marginalia related to the text of Þorvarður’s now-lost copy of Jónsbók. Furthermore, because seemingly minor divisions portion the text into several sections, all of which separately follow the usual chapter structure of Jónsbók, we can also posit that – the title notwithstanding – Gissur’s collection of marginalia drew on more law-books than Þorvarður’s alone. This paper aims to draw out the differences and similarities between the marginalia of the various lost Jónsbók manuscripts, in so doing illuminating the complex relationship of law texts to other forms of literature, the collecting impulses both of the original scribes and Gissur, and the textual richness of medieval Icelandic law and legal culture.

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[F16] Saga origins and Media: Sagas in Translation

Yekaterina Borissovna Yakovenko
Russian Academy of Sciences
yakovenko_k@rambler.ru

Sagas and Their Translations Seen from the Point of View of Equivalence Theory

Growth of saga translations into different languages leads to diversity of texts that sometimes reveal deviations from the original both in form and content. These discrepancies, arising in the result of the use of various translational strategies and techniques, are treated differently in translation studies and cognitive linguistics. In translation studies, non-coincidences of form and/or content are described within equivalence theories that single out cases of full, partial, and distant resemblance of the translation to the original. In cognitive linguistics such discrepancies are accounted for by non-coincidence of worldviews represented in the original and translated text. Combining these approaches, we try to carry out a comparative analysis of several Icelandic sagas (Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar, Brennu-Njáls saga, Hrafnkels saga freysgoða, Laxdæla saga, Eiríks saga rauða, Heiðarvíga saga) and their translations into English and Russian (the latter have been chosen as languages with different grammar systems, able to render the same meanings in a different way). The main point of our research is cross-language correlation of key words expressing notions relevant for Old Icelandic culture (‘kinship’, ‘struggle’, ‘courage’, ‘feat’, ‘heart’, etc.) as well as their contexts. Parallel reading of sagas and their translations enables us to work out a system of correspondences, singling out the following types of equivalence: 1) full equivalence of key words and their contexts; 2) full equivalence of key words and partial equivalence of their contexts observed in lexical and grammatical collocability, syntactic organisation of the context, etc.; 3) partial equivalence of key words and full lexico-grammatical equivalence of their contexts. We claim that the dominance of a certain equivalence type is mainly determined by the translator’s strategy and does not generally depend on morphologic peculiarities of the language. Though the first two types of equivalence dominate in both English and Russian saga translations, the third type is of more interest as it can appear irrespective of the translator’s intentions, revealing unequal scope of notions in the original and the translation, various realizations of a single original concept and, further, national and cultural specific of the translation.

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[A36] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
University of Copenhagen
nkyavuz@gmail.com

Manuscripts in Context: The Trojan Narrative in the Icelandic Saga Tradition

The historicity of the story of Troy — its date, its location, the peoples involved, and its war with the Greeks — is still subject to debate by modern scholars. Yet not only was the historicity of Troy unquestioned but also stories of the Trojan origins of various peoples in Europe, including the Icelandic, were well established throughout the Middle Ages. Found at the intersection of literature and history, narratives associated with Troy are usually studied in isolation or by means of textual comparison to similar narratives, or in the case of vernacular texts that are presented as translations from Latin sources, to the ‘original’ text. But what if we take each manuscript compilation as a text in its own right, what does the materiality of the works tell us then? Are there any patterns of dissemination that are not discernible by looking at only one text? Is there more to discover with regard to interrelationships among texts when looking at collections of works instead of multiple copies of an individual work? Dares of Phrygia’s De excidio Troiae historia (History of the Fall of Troy) was unquestionably the most popular work about the fall of Troy in the Middle Ages. Similarly, the story of the Trojan origins of the British as it is included in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) is one of the most well known. Despite they were composed several centuries apart, over thirty manuscripts include both Dares of Phrygia’s De excidio Troiae historia and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae in Latin. Quite strikingly, extant versions of the Breta sögur (Sagas of the Britons), which is presented as the translation of the Historia regum Britanniae, also are preceded in manuscripts by the Trójumanna saga (Saga of the Trojans), which in turn is presented as the translation of the De excidio Troiae historia. Examination of the contents and makeup of the surviving manuscripts is imperative in our understanding of the wider context of the Trojan narrative in Latin and vernacular languages. The paper argues that complete manuscript contents reveal that texts that circulate together display how narratives are transmitted and received. As such, the patterns of transmission also may be visible in cases of rewriting as well as translation into other languages, as is the case in the texts of Dares and Geoffrey and their respective old Icelandic translations. In this regard, the paper examines the development of the Trojan narrative in the Icelandic saga tradition by considering both the textual and manuscript evidence in order to reach a full understanding of its sources.

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[B13] Artistry: Poetry and Prosimetrum

Yelena Sesselja Helgadóttir
University of Iceland
sesselja@hi.is

When Law Becomes Poetry?

Legal formulas like Griðamál and Tryggðamál can be studied as prosimetra as they contain both prose and some form of poetry – among others, versified lists similar to þulur. (Old Icelandic þulur were in metrical form, albeit not complex; post-medieval þulur have considerably freer but still metrical poetic form, see Yelena Sesselja Helgadóttir 2016). Griðamál and Tryggðamál are quite similar as far as content is concerned, but the exact wording is clearly different and so are the text blocks that the formulas consist of. These formulas are preserved in lawbooks (see esp. Konungsbók and Staðarhólsbók of Grágás) and in literary texts, including sagas of Icelanders. In ch. 33 of Heiðarvíga saga there is a truce formula, called a peace formula both in its opening words and in the saga prose. In ch. 72 of Grettis saga there is another formula, sometimes referred to as Hafrs grið, that begins like a peace formula (and the saga narrative requires it to be such), but half way through, it changes to a truce formula. It is also unique because the first part contains material that is not found in other peace and truce formulas: traditional legal phrases have attracted additional versified lists which expand the formula and adapt it to the saga. Grettis saga also contains another text that both makes use of þulur-like lines from Tryggðamál (cf. Heslop 2006 who refers to the formula as Griðamál) and is related to post-medieval þulur (Ólafur Halldórsson 1960), namely Grettisfærsla. Since the poem is often illegible – and the fragments that can be read are extremely variable – it is hard to determine whether Grettisfærsla is constructed as an even more expanded legal formula or whether the versified list fragment from Tryggðamál is only one of the many different kinds of texts used in Grettisfærsla. I aim to compare the function of versified lists in legal formulas in lawbooks with their function in legal formulas (and sometimes outside them) in sagas of Icelanders and other literary texts, considering when loosely metrical texts like þulur become poetry and to which extent their context is what makes them become poetry.

  • Kate Heslop. 2006. Grettisfærsla: the handing on of Grettir (Saga-Book 30, 65–94).
  • Ólafur Halldórsson. 1960. Grettisfœrsla (Opuscula 1 , 49–77).
  • Yelena Sesselja Helgadóttir. 2016. Formulaic Language in Minimal Metrical Requirements: The Case of Post-Medieval Icelandic þulur (The Ecology of Metre. A special issue of RMN Newsletter (11). Eds. Ilya Sverdlov and Frog. Helsinki, University of Helsinki. Pp. 49–61).

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[A30] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Ludger Zeevaert
Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies
ludger@hi.is

Die nachmittelalterliche handschriftliche Überlieferung von Njáls saga

Njáls saga ist mit ca. 100.000 Wörtern die längste Isländersaga und gilt (zumindest bei den Zuschauern des Fernsehliteraturmagazins Kiljan) als wichtigstes Werk der isländischen Literatur. Ihre große Popularität seit der Abfassung gegen Ende des 13. Jahrhunderts bis heute zeigt sich auch in der Handschriftenüberlieferung: Von keiner anderen Isländersaga sind mehr Handschriften und Fragmente bewahrt als von Njáls saga.

Die Fülle vor allem der überlieferten Papierhandschriften stellt eine große Herausforderung für die Forschung dar, sodass es nicht verwunderlich ist, dass sich die Herausgeber der Ausgaben von 1875 und 1954 vor allem auf eine Untersuchung der mittelalterlichen Pergamenthandschriften konzentrierten. Die Handschriften verteilen sich auf elf Sammlungen in sieben Ländern, was schon die Feststellung ihrer konkreten Anzahl zu einem recht aufwändigen Unterfangen macht. Die Untersuchungen von Susanne Arthur und des vom isländischen Wissenschaftsfond Rannísgeförderten Gullskinna-Projekts (Fördernummer 152342-053, Margrét Eggertsdóttir, Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir und Ludger Zeevaert, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi sowie Alaric Hall, University of Leeds) erlauben uns aber inzwischen einen recht guten Einblick in die nachmittelalterliche Texttradition.

In meinem Vortrag möchte ich deshalb zunächst einen kurzen Überblick über den gegenwärtigen Kenntnisstand zur handschriftlichen Überlieferung von Njalssaga geben. Einer kürzlich von Arthur und Zeevaert ihm Rahmen des Gullskinna-Projekts erstellten Bestandsaufnahme zufolge gehörten die überlieferten Textträger usprünglich zu 71 unterschiedlichen Manuskripten. Anhand von schriftlichen Quellen lassen sich weitere acht Handschriften belegen, die Bibliotheksbränden oder der unsachgemäßen Behandlung durch Philologen zum Opfer fielen.

Die Vorgehensweise der nachmittelalterlichen Kopisten der Saga ist individuell recht unterschiedlich. Neben buchstabengetreuen Abschriften einer Vorlage gibt es auch kontaminierte Handschriften, deren Schreiber den Text mehrerer Vorlagen teilweise sogar auf Satzebene miteinander vermischen, was für aussagekräftige stemmatologische Untersuchungen eine detaillierte Mikroanalyse erfordert. Auch beim sprachlichen Umgang mit der Vorlage existiert eine große Bandbreite. Während bei einigen Schreibern ein deutliches Bestreben zur stilistischen Straffung und sprachlichen Modernisierung erkennbar wird, versuchen andere neuzeitliche Kopisten, den Stil ihrer Vorlage beizubehalten, übernehmen zumindest einige offensichtlich als genretypisch angesehene sprachliche Elemente und bauen diese teilweise sogar aus. Diese individuell unterschiedliche Vorgehensweise soll an besonders aussagekräftigen Beispielen demonstriert und ihre Implikation vor allem für stilistische Fragen der Sagaforschung diskutiert werden.

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[E23] Saga origins and Media: Reception and Media

Kristel Zilmer
Western Norway University of Applied Sciences
kristel.zilmer@hvl.no

Sagas of Icelanders in Norwegian Literary History

In Norsk litteraturhistorie by Harald Beyer, published in 1952, the author writes on saga literature: „Skal vi forstå hvorledes litteraturarter som kongesaga og ættesaga ble til, må vi huske på at det fantes bade ‘sagnamenn’, folk med særlige fortellerevner og et lager av historier, og ‘fróðir menn’, historiegranskere, menn som ut ifra en levende forskertrang så det som en oppgave å granske muntlige tradisjoner og skaldekvad, studere slektregistre i ramseform og spørre ut pålitelige menn.“

Representative of the modes of argumentation and formulation of its time, the quote sheds light on some approaches to sagas that have been present in the writing of Norwegian literary history. This paper explores the reception and mediation of the Sagas of Icelanders through some central works of Norwegian literary history from the last 70-80 years. The focus is on their ways of explaining the origins of the sagas of Icelanders, relating them to the Norwegian context, and proposing criteria that could define this form of literature. The examples originate from literary histories and textbooks that have been or are used within secondary or higher education. In addition to reflecting the changing approaches within saga scholarship, these works illuminate the processes of constructing identities and negotiating between literature and cultural history. The paper explores transitions in lines of thought that have linked the sagas to the Norse cultural sphere over to a broader frame of reference that sees the sagas in the context of the European (or global) literary heritage. It also discusses what impact different ways of writing literary history (e.g. shifting from traditional narrative to an encyclopaedic and essayistic mode of writing) may have in the mediation of the sagas.

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[A13] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Þórdís Edda Jóhannesdóttir
Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum
thj11@hi.is

When sagas develop: Jómsvíkinga saga in the 16th century

Jómsvíkinga saga is amongst the oldest Icelandic saga texts. It was most likely written early in the thirteenth century, perhaps as early as around 1200. The saga has been preserved in four different versions from the Middle Ages in four vellum manuscripts, the oldest of which is AM 291 4to, presumably from the late 13th century. The youngest redaction of Jómsvíkinga saga is preserved in AM 510 4to which is dated to the middle of the 16th century. This redaction is considerably different to the earlier versions. The text has been augmented with details, direct speech and conversations that do not alter the course of events significantly but create more vivid images of people and events. The paper will explore the difference found in the 16th century version compared to the older versions and the possible reasons behind the changes will be discussed. The focus will be on general development of literary fashion that may, at least partly, explain the changes occurring in Jómsvíkinga saga.

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[A24] Saga origins and Media: The Debate of Saga Origin

Þorgeir Sigurðsson
University of Iceland
thorgsi@hotmail.com

Arinbjarnarkviða as a version of Egils saga

Arinbjarnarkviða ‘the poem on Arinbjǫrn’ was presumably composed by Egill Skallagrímsson in the 10th century. The poem is only preserved in a single medieval source, a vellum page in Möðruvallabók. This page is currently unreadable with the naked eye. Most of the text was recorded in a 17th century transcript, which, as I shall demonstrate, has formed the basis for printed editions of the poem. Recent technical advances have made it possible to re-read the vellum page and to make some corrections to formerly established readings. It has long been assumed that what is preserved of Arinbjarnarkviða is only a small fraction from its beginning, but that most of the poem is lost. The new reading indicates that even if little can be read from six of its final stanzas, the poem is essentially preserved as a whole and constitutes what might perhaps be called “a mini Egils saga” or a tale of Egill and his friend Arinbjǫrn. This paper discusses the surprisingly refined art of story-telling demonstrated by Arinbjarnarkviða. The poem is composed under a relatively light skaldic meter, kviðuháttr which has similarities with Eddic meters. The poem does not assume that the listener knows the storyline beforehand or the actors in the story. In contrast, prior familiarity with the subject matter is typically assumed by Eddic poems and seems also necessary for the kviðuháttr poem Hákonarkviða, the only comparable poem under the same meter. The poem is a first person narrative that never reveals the name of the speaker, yet describes his looks and feelings by letting the listener witness the poet recite another poem. The poet explains, through a rhetorical listing of his dealings with kings, a conflict that has arisen (the wrath of a king). It introduces the offended king and sets the stage for his friend Arinbjǫrn to appear and resolve the conflict. Arinbjarnarkviða appears to be unique among preserved Old Norse poems because of its storytelling technique. I explain this by presenting details of the poem, some of which have not appeared publicly before. To highlight the uniqueness of the poem I compare it to other skaldic poems that have a storyline such as Haustlǫng, Máhlíðingavísur, Bersǫglisvísur and Rekstefja. Arinbjarnarkviða may be seen as a precursor to the Íslendingasögur.

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[E9] Saga origins and Media: Manuscripts and Textual Transmission

Þorleifur Hauksson
ReykjavíkurAkademían, Hið íslenzka fornritafélag
thorl@akademia.is

Some Observations Concerning the Versions of Jómsvíkinga saga

Jómsvíkinga saga is preserved in five independent manuscripts, including one Latin translation. A thorough comparison between these texts has been made by Krijn (1914), Hempel (1923) and lately by Megaard (2000), who in spite of some minor disagreement have concluded that all five derive from a common written original. In the course of time, all these manuscripts have been assumed by different scholars to be the best representative of the original. Most of them, however, have agreed on AM 291 4to as „the oldest and undoubtedly the best MS preserving the saga“ (Ólafur Halldórsson, 1993, 343). Another version is represented in Fagrskinna and Heimskringla and Ólafur assumed (1969, 23) that two authors wrote these sagas and that the material common to both versions is derived from living oral tradition.

Jómsvíkinga saga has been classified as a Kings’ saga, but it differs quite a lot from typical sagas of this category: „At every moment one senses that the author‘s zest for story-telling outweighs his concern for historical accuracy“ (Torfi Tulinius 2002, 191). One of its main characteristics is the total disrespect shown towards kings, and chieftains in general. This can be seen clearly by comparison with corresponding episodes in Fagrskinna, but this tendency varies also in individual manuscripts of Jómsvíkinga saga.

In my paper, I shall discuss the texts of Jómsvíkinga saga, look into their possible relationship by comparing the descriptions of the kings, mainly in terms of their virtues, or rather vices. I shall conclude with a discussion of the arguments for and against this proposition.

  • Hempel, Heinrich. „Die Formen der Iómsvíkinga saga.“ Arkiv för nordisk filologi 39, 1922, 1-58.
  • Krijn, S.A., 1914. De Jómsvíkingasaga. (Leiden: Eduard Ijdo).
    Megaard, John. „Studier i Jómsvíkinga sagas stemma.“ Arkiv för nordisk filologi 115, 2000, 125-182.
  • Ólafur Halldórsson 1969. Jómsvíkinga saga (Reykjavík: Prentsmiðja Jóns Helgasonar).
    Ólafur Halldórsson. „Jómsvíkinga saga“, in Philip Pullsiano etc.. 1993. Medieval Scandinavia, 343-344.
  • Ólafur Halldórsson. „Sagan handan sögunnar.“ Gripla XII, 2001, 67-88.
  • Torfi Tulinius. The Matter of the North. Odense 2002.

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