Abstracts 2015

Malo Adeux
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
malo.adeux@gmail.com

Hávamál, Hugsvinnsmál and the Disticha Catonis

Nowadays, two hypotheses exist concerning the birth of Hávamál and Hugsvinnsmál, two ethic texts of the mediaeval Norse corpus. The first, advocated by Hermann Pálsson and Klaus von See, claims that Hávamál has been influenced the Distichs of Cato (Disticha Catonis), a Latin collection of proverbs and ethics from the 3rd-4th century. The second, represented by John McKinell and Carolyne Larrington, among others, claims that, on the contrary, the Norse translation of the Disticha Catonis, namely Hugsvinnsmál, has been influenced by Hávamál.
I will first describe the opposite views in order to assess what would seem, in my opinion, the most probable hypothesis. For that purpose, I will use the concept of gnostic literature and show how Hávamál, the Disticha Catonis and Hugsvinnsmál can be considered to belong to this genre. In order to do that, I will first define the concept of gnostic literature and why Hávamál, Disticha Catonis and Hugsvinnsmál can be considered to belong to this genre. Then I shall analyse differences of tone and particularities of each text by reviewing the main themes which are found in them. Finally I will illustrate how the main themes of Hávamál and Disticha Catonis are found in Hugsvinnsmál, and what one can conclude from this.


Capucine Andre
MA student in Viking And Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
cnm1@hi.is

Elves: From The Eddas To Legolas

Thanks to the success of the recent “Lord Of The Rings” and “Hobbit” movies, as well as the attraction to fantasy role-playing games, books and video games that  followed, the mythical creatures that are elves have become very popular, even deserving to become spin-off characters such as Tauriel of Mirkwood in Peter Jackson’s recent trilogy. Their influence in popular media dealing within the fantasy genre is undeniable. However, we are quick to forget that as supernatural creatures, their origins in the myths and telling of mankind go much further than the books of Mr. Tolkien. My intent is to demonstrate the impact of elves from Norse folklore to today’s books and movies. My scope shall by no means be exhaustive as the sheer amount and diversity of the material precludes it and would require much more time. I shall thus focus on 1) the Eddas as a starting point and what Snorri says (or omits to say) about elves to then continue on 2) the impact of Christianity upon elven folklore to finish by chosen examples of 3) the modern rendering of elves in certain books and movies. The ideas of what elves are changed tremendously over the centuries and it is what I want to address. Furthermore, to show the influence of elves (and thus indirectly the Norse medieval folklore) upon modern books even in countries which have not been into the Scandinavian mythology and folklore sphere, I shall have as part of my examples French comics or bandes dessinées which feature elves, whether directly inspired by those in the Eddas or portraying them in a new way, thus continuing these creatures’ indeed immortality and presence in our environment.


Ásthildur Gestsdóttir
Doktorsnemi í almennri bókmenntafræði
Háskóli Íslands
ahg6@hi.is

„Hun vil sig kong kalla lata.“ Skilgreining og þróun meykóngaminnisins: eiginlegir og óeiginlegir meykóngar

Skilgreining meykóngasagna hefur verið á reiki og þá hvaða sögur teljast til meykóngasagna og hverjar ekki. Það sama má segja um skilgreiningu á meykónginum sjálfum. Meykóngaminnið samanstendur af nokkrum einkennum sem þurfa að vera til staðar svo að meykóngur geti talist sem eiginlegur meykóngur. Í þessum fyrirlestri verður meykóngaminnið skilgreint og svarað verður þeirri spurningu hvað felst í hugtakinu eiginlegur meykóngur. Fjallað verður um hvaða þættir eru sameiginlegir öllum meykóngum og hvað skilur á milli þeirra. Að lokum verður farið yfir það hvernig meykóngurinn mótast innan riddarasagnahefðarinnar.


Grzegorz Bartusik
PhD candidate in Classical Philology at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland
gr.bartusik@gmail.com

Svá skal yrkja, sás illa kann. The Parodic Discourse of Sneglu-Halla þáttr

Sneglu-Halla þáttr, the tale of skald Sarcastic Halli, a short narrative as preserved in the Flateyjarbók codex provides a remarkable example of (re)telling the stories of how bold Icelanders impressed, outwitted, and even made fools of foreign kings, earls, and courtiers. I intend to consider the problem of the literary function of this þáttr, which, as I believe, may be regarded as a hypertext for the skáldasögur and the ‘skald’ þættir as a whole, their satirical transformation, and possibly a parody. Sneglu-Halla þáttr would be thus entertaining not only as a compilation of vulgar anecdotes but, what seems most intriguing, as a textual joke on other texts. One can imagine a 13th- or 14th-century man of letters looking for amusement in the intertextual play with the features of literary genres and their poetics, what possibly resulted in a composition of the Flateyjarbók version of Sneglu-Halla þáttr. The awareness of the genre and the ability to transform selected elements of one work or genre into something new seems to be a sine qua non condition in the intellectual game such as the parody based on the characteristics of the skáldasögur, the ‘skald’ þættir and the skaldic poetics. The story represents à rebours the conventions and standards of the genre and of the poetics. The most interesting instances of this literary activity are Sneglu-Halli’s poems whose content contradicts every traditional rule of their composition, e.g. the inverse of a mansöngr, an erotic love poem Sneglu-Halli composes for the queen, his drápa on cows and Sneglu-Halli’s Höfuðlausn about a roasted piglet.


Karyn Bellamy-Dagneau
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
karynbd@gmail.com

Loki in Geirrøðargarðr

For this conference, I propose to present two interpretations of the prologue of the myth of Þórr visiting Geirrøðargarðr that is contained in Snorra Edda’s Skáldskaparmál. That prologue has nothing to do with Þórr, but has everything to do with Loki, who, for his fun, metamorphoses as a falcon by borrowing and wearing Frigg’s feather garment. His curiosity brings him to the lands of the jötunn Geirrøðr, who sees Loki in bird form and wants him taken. The result is a captured and tortured Loki who, in exchange for his freedom, must convince Þórr to come by unarmed.
It is possible to interpret this passage in two ways. The first has to do with falconry: the capture, the taming, and ultimately, the hunting with wild birds of prey. Memory theories might well explain why this mythological prologue serves as a textbook instruction for finding and training one’s hawk. The second interpretation relates to shamanic journeys and the deeper connotations of avian shape shifting. Whether or not Snorri invented this prologue or knew it from older sources, it is interesting to distinguish patterns of shamanistic practices, or seiðr, which are more usually associated with Óðinn rather than Loki. Loki’s failure at safely completing such a journey of the mind can perhaps be seen as an old precautionary tale.


Lars Benthien
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
lcb3@hi.is

Bogged Down in Toponymy: Place-Names of Sites of Human Sacrifice in Denmark

Toponymy has long enjoyed a privileged position in the study of pre-Christian Nordic religion, seeming to offer a clear view of cultural conceptions of the relationship between space, landscape and religious worldview unmuddied by the kinds of Christian influence that make our written sources for religion difficult to interpret. Though much work has been done to link place-names with sites of deity worship and certain other cultic activities, there has as yet been little attention paid to the toponymy of sites of human sacrifice, despite the tremendous wealth of archaeological material these places have yielded in the form of the bog bodies. Previous scholarship has linked these sacrifices largely to water deities, largely on the basis of much later textual evidence – but this interpretation is somewhat complicated by closer examination of place-names. This paper will both present the toponymic evidence regarding sacrificial sites and consider the difficulties in conclusively interpreting this data, proposing that the figures of Þórr and the cultic importance of the grove are more germane to our understanding of bog sacrifice than previous research streams have indicated.


Attila Márk Bulenda
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
bulattila@hotmail.com

Language Change in Progress: A Sociolinguistic Approach to Post-Viking Age Denmark and Sweden

With the passing of time, languages are always in a constant change. Linguistics has different methods to approach these changes in order to study what has happened at a certain point of time, and what course the mother tongue of a nation took. It is highly important, since it can also reveal the relationship of different people across time. It is, however, a rare occasion, that theoretical and applied linguistics are combined together in order to find out more about the history of a language.Sociolinguistics can offer a variety of theories, including first language acquisition and accommodation that can help us to find crucial factors behind these changes. An alteration in the structure of a society can have a serious effect on language acquisition, too, causing a chain of events, restructuring entire languages, causing minor and major splits among dialects.

After the Viking Age, it is customary to distinguish West and East Norse languages and dialects in Scandinavia. The aim of this paper is to conduct a macro level investigation of the reason and mechanism behind this split between the two branches of North Germanic languages. With the help of theoretical and applied linguistics I would like to present theories connected to language change, e. g. first language acquisition and the wave-model of dialectology. After the foundation of my theories, I will point out crucial social changes in Denmark and Sweden, which in the light of linguistic theories, eventually led to a different way of language development. In this way, this paper is going to demonstrate how the mechanism of language change works over time.


Anthony Jay Bunker
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
ajb11@hi.is

The Devil is in the Details: Odinn as the Fiend in Late Medieval Scandinavia

During the late middle ages, the Norse Pagan god Odinn came to be directly associated with the Christian figure of the devil, after previously holding a position of primacy among the followers of Nordic paganism.  The aim of this paper is to examine the major transitional moments that lead to the association, and indeed often the equating, of Odinn with the devil during this time by examining legal proceedings and especially trials of witchcraft across Scandinavia.


Patrick Farrugia
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
pat_9_9@live.ca

“Nis þær hearpan sweg gomen in geardagum swylce þær iu wæron” : A Conjectural Analysis of the Rhythmic Idiom of Beowulf

In this paper, I provide an alternative theory regarding the organization of poetic meter in Beowulf, heavily drawing upon the work of metrist Eduard Siever, as well as the Modern composer Milton Babbitt. I have correlated Siever’s Five Types Theory with Milton Babbitt’s own method of metrical organization, the Rhythmic Series. The transformations required to map one pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables onto another within Siever’s theory are virtually identical to the same sort of transformations required within Babbitt’s system. Just as Siever’s theory contains the verse types A through E, Babbitt’s theory contains four rhythmic forms that can all be derived from each other: Prime, Inverse, Retrograde, and Retrograde (of the) Inversion. Each of the verse types or variants on the basic rhythmic pattern can be interpreted as a transformation or variant of one ‘prime’ form; for example, verse type B is the inverse of type A, as is the case with types C and E. Under this premise, I suggest that such a relationship between the verse types may have been one of the key elements in the composition of the work. Upon synthesizing the theories of Sievers and Babbitt, I have paid particular attention to the passage circa line 2470, ‘The Father’s Lament’, in an attempt to further understand the method of governing metre within the poem as a whole.


David T. Feldman
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
dfeld90@gmail.com

As Below, So Above: Was the myth of Skaði inspired by a real world assimilation?

The Old Norse goddess Skaði has often inspired debate within the academic community, though not quite as much as the incredibly complex Óðinn and Loki.  Still, Skaði has many complexities and mysteries of her own that should be addressed in more detail.  Given her wide array of functions as a goddess, the case could be made that her jötun past may still be shining through, in spite of how she goes from being labeled a “giantess,” a “god-bride,” and finally one of the Ásynjur.  The implications of this assimilation may exist on more levels than just the purely mythological, which begs the question: does the myth of Skaði arriving at the gates of Ásgarð and eventually being assimilated into the Vanir, then the Æsir, parallel her actual assimilation into the Old Norse pantheon?  Depending on how early or late in certain regions of the North she is depicted, her story as told by the ancient Norse may well have historical undertones.  The idea of the Scandinavians working history and contemporary events into their myth and lore is certainly not a novel one, as has been outlined by Nancy Marie Brown’s research into parallels between Þórr and Hrungnir’s duel and a volcanic eruption, so the aim of this research is to determine if the myth of Skaði follows a similar path, serving as a possible record of the Old Norse religion acquiring a new goddess from further north.


John J. Gallagher
MA, Viking and Anglo-Saxon Studies
University of Nottingham
Studies in Icelandic as a second language, University of Iceland, Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies, Reykjavík
johnjgallagher.5@gmail.com

The Writing on the Wall: Stave Church Runic Inscriptions and the Practice of Graffiti

Runic inscriptions from stave churches provide a most interesting insight into daily life in Norway in the High Middle Ages. The inscriptions represent a variety of authors, including priests, craftsmen, travelers, and parishioners, and hold a variety of functions, from typical ‘Kilroy Was Here’ signatures to exhortations for the souls of the deceased. The practice of writing on church walls represents an established and accepted form of graffiti that was practiced by all levels of society and which continued long after a church’s consecration. This paper examines the phenomenon of church graffiti and what compelled medieval Norwegians to inscribe their churches in this manner. Examinations of stave church graffiti have been primarily concerned with pictorial inscriptions (Blindheim, 1985). This paper will examine runic epigraphy as graffiti and offer an analysis of the real-life context of runic inscriptions, the identity of their authors, and suggest at what point in a church’s history the inscriptions may have been written. A selection of data from various churches will be analysed, with particular attention paid to Borgund Stave Church, the most runically inscribed stave church to survive. This paper will contribute to current debates in medieval art history, linguistics, and runology regarding runic authorship, runic and Latin literacy, and epigraphic dating. All runic  inscriptions discussed will be presented, transliterated, standardised and accompanied by an English translation.


Viktória Gyönki
PhD candidate in Medieval and Early Modern History
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
Studies in Icelandic as a second language, University of Iceland, Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies, Reykjavík
gy.viktoria.86@gmail.com

The Cold Counsel: Family Relationships in Gísla saga Súrssonar

In this presentation, the main question will be based on the relationship among family members. The cases of loyality and feuding were the most important focusing points of many recent scholarly works, considering the textual differences, or the fixed roles of the characters.
The presentations gives a case study of Gísla saga Súrssonar, that has been studied from a number of different viewpoints. Despite slightly changing the events between the three different versions that had been preserved, the main plot is quite clear: feuding started because of a putative love affair.
As well as in other family sagas, the feuding between two groups gives the essence of the plot, but in this case we should pay attention to an important circumstance, namely, that the characters belong to the same family, and some of them are connected in a kind of brotherhood.
Although most of the actions connected with Gísli, and of course the saga itself, is about his life and death, my interest would focus on the female characters, who have a great influence on the actions. On the other hand the question of loyalty gives us different layers that we have to deal with. The relationship between a married couple in Harðar saga ok Hólmverja could be parallel with the situation of Þorgrímr and Þordís, who stays faithful for his husband after his death, or Gísli and Auðr. But the relationship between men is somewhat complicated because of the family ties. Taking these and other evidences into consideration it seems that the categorization of the characters by loyality is hardly possible. Therefore I would like to focus my research on the level of activity and passivity of the characters as well.


Hannah H. Hethmon
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
hhethmon@gmail.com

The Way of Jesus Shall Stand: Vǫlsungsrímur, its Prose Sources, and Poetic Penance

Vǫlsungsrímur is a 14th century rímur based on the first eight chapters of Vǫlsunga saga. However, this is not just a simple retelling in poetry. The author also incorporates material from Ynglinga saga, and Snorri’s Prose Edda to create his narrative, making this a rich source for understanding how the old stories were carried forward and reinterpreted after the collapse of Iceland’s Freestate. This paper will examine the poem, its sources, and what little we know about its authorship in order to show it has its own meaning and relevance apart from those sources. In particular, the Christian elements of this rímur will be explored and interpreted.


Lucie Korecká
PhD candidate in Germanic Literature at Charles University in Prague
lucy.korecka@seznam.cz

The Politician and the Poet: Sturla Þórðarson’s Social Role as Skald 

Scholars have mostly defined the social role of Sturla Þórðarson (1214-1284) as one of a historiographer and a royal official. In this paper, I will focus on Sturla’s social role as a poet and on its depiction in Sturlunga saga. I will attempt to answer two basic questions: how did this role affect his position in society, and how does it relate to how older skalds are portrayed in the narrative sources. These sources cannot be taken for absolutely faithful representations of historical reality, but I will argue that the portraits were not created randomly, but rather based on a traditional or constructed ‘myth’ of the social role of poetry.
Three major domains of Sturla’s skaldic activity can be distinguished: using poetry to comment on his own political efforts, to strengthen his bonds with his mightier Icelandic allies, and to gain and maintain the friendship of the Norwegian monarch. The former two aspects are marginal in Sturlunga saga, but once extracted from the fragmentary accounts, they throw new light on the social functions of poetry in 13th-century Iceland. The latter aspect, on the other hand, is overrated in the saga. My suggestion is that the skaldic role, though it may have been of some significance, was not a dominant factor in Sturla’s relations to the Norwegian king. It was nevertheless essential to the authors of the narratives about Sturla, and thus his story as presented in the saga is a part of the grand narrative of the ‘myth’ of the social power of poetry as it was constructed or re-constructed in the 13th century.


Michael McPherson
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland

“Út hingat ór Norvegi” : Negotiating Norwegian Origins in Íslendingabók and Landnámabók

Though Ari Þorgilsson‘s Íslendingabók is a foundational text in the Old Icelandic corpus, the account simplifies the origins of the Icelanders and their legal, cultural, and religious institutions in ways that emphasize Norwegian provenance at the expense of North Atlantic influence more broadly. Regardless of what thematic purpose we ascribe to this, a catalogue of traditions of non-Norwegian origin which Ari may have known is still forthcoming. Ari was responsible for an early version of Landnámabók, and our understanding of Íslendingabók must be shaped in this context. Why are there no mentions of settlers from elsewhere in the North Atlantic in Íslendingabók, as Landnámabók clearly attests?
This study consults our earliest redactions of Landnámabók to determine traditions of non-Norwegian origin which were possibly compiled during Ari’s scholarly activity. I put forth that Ari was aware of many settlement stories from the British Isles, Sweden, and elsewhere, but chose to leave them out of the Íslendingabók narrative. The narrative strategy of omission deployed in Íslendingabók is consistent with the view that Icelanders believed the pillars of their society stemmed from Norwegian origins, even if they were aware of the wider context of Iceland ́s settlement. As argued in recent scholarship, the relationship between Icelanders and the Norwegian crown was under constant renegotiation and the submission to the Norwegian crown after 1262 was not a dramatic break from the Commonwealth period, but should be regarded as the culmination of historical forces. I situate the understanding of Íslendingabók developed here in this larger narrative.


Oliver Organista
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
greenzkz@gmail.com

That’s No Brooch, That’s a Gripping Beast: Living Brooches in the Light of the Hall

Objects permeate our daily life. Indeed, our ability to create and use things has been one of the criteria used to separate us from most other primate species. Due to our long relationship with objects, some argue that we are to some extent cyborgs. Not beings of flesh and metal but beings that incorporate inanimate objects as part of our overall animated or operating system. An example of this is the person needing glasses to see. Separated, both the glasses and the individual are incapable of seeing the surrounding environment. Yet, when combined, both in essence gain sight. This highlights our connectedness to the material milieu of our daily life. Some would argue that by this connectedness, objects abduct a degree of animacy.
Oval brooches from the Viking Age have been a focus of study throughout the history of Viking research. By looking at their entire biography, we can see what roles they played at different times based on the relationship they had with people who handled them. Their stylistic elements have been of particular interest in earlier research. Given the wide range of animal or gripping beast ornamenting oval brooches of the Viking Period, questions have been asked about the potential meaning such ornamentation served. I would argue that the combination of the brooches and ornamentation formed an animated object through both their relationship with people and the presence of gripping beast or animal motifs. Once animated, the brooch fulfilled a social role within the context of being worn and displayed, a point of view that has been overlooked by scholars.


Beth Rogers
MA student in Medieval Icelandic Studies
University of Iceland
beth@internationalschool.is

He Who Learns will Benefit from It: Education in Medieval Icelandic Literature

The aim of this paper is to examine the cultural construction of education in thirteenth-century Iceland as represented in the Edda and Íslendingasögur, including its structural historical parallel to the education system of ancient Sparta. The question of education has not been fully explored by scholars, except in short chapters in works such as Mary Williams’ Social Scandinavia in the Viking Age, wherein the author describes a system of fostering male children to teach skills such as fighting, law and magic which would allow them to become powerful military and political figures in adulthood.
These works have not adequately explored the emotional element of education, focusing instead on the social necessity of it. Specifically, I will examine examples of education in the sagas, such as Oðin in the Edda, Sigurd in Völsunga saga and Gunnlaug from Eyrbyggja saga. I argue that education cannot occur without affection between student and teacher. The students in these examples all receive valuable knowledge from trusted sources as an expression of caring by teachers who want the student to succeed.  In conclusion, this project, by closely examining examples of learning in the sagas, sheds new light on a neglected emotional facet of the sagas and the Scandinavian culture they represent.


Zuzana Stankovitsová
MA, Medieval Icelandic Studies
University of Iceland

Female fylgjur:  A Re-Examination

Fylgjur (attendant or following spirits) are among the innumerable paranormal beings that feature in the Old Norse-Icelandic literary corpus. According to the widely accepted scholarly opinion, it is possible to distinguish two main groups of fylgjur: animal fylgjur and female fylgjur. However, these figures have received surprisingly little exclusive scholarly attention, and most of the conclusions are based on the only extensive study on the subject by Else Mundal (Fylgjemotiva i norrøn litterature, 1974), which offered a literary analysis of the motifs in Old Norse literature. In the presented paper, I will re-examine the concept of female fylgjur based on the extant textual evidence. As Ármann Jakobsson has pointed out (“The Taxonomy of the Non-Existent”, 2013), the paranormal essentially springs from the human mind and does not, in fact, objectively exist outside of it. Thus it is of great importance to pay attention to the vocabulary employed to describe the paranormal. The paper therefore focuses on textual passages, in which a female supernatural being is explicitly referred to as a fylgja. Based on a detailed analysis of the scenes in question it argues that the idea of a distinct taxonomic category of female fylgjur is unsustainable in the face of the available evidence.


Bob Oscar Benjamin van Strijen
MA student in Viking & Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
b.o.b.vanstrijen@gmail.com

How One Was the High One? The supposed one-ness of Óđinn in Old Nordic religions

In his article How High Was the High One, Terry Gunnell argued against the primacy of Óđinn amongst the Icelandic pre-Christian gods. Snorri Sturluson, Saxo Grammaticus and other medieval scholars had considerable trouble identifying the gods and constructing a Nordic pantheon. Óđinn in particular has been a troublesome figure, as can be seen in the many names attributed to him in, for example, Gylfaginning. In this paper I will argue that, contrary to the generally accepted opinion, the figure that has been called Óđinn was actually a multitude of deities rather than a single god. To support this theory, I will examine the linguistic relationship between Ódr and Óđinn, reassess archaeological material currently thought to depict Óđinn, analyse the various names and kennings used to describe him and look into his relation to Freyr, Týr and other Nordic deities. This will show that the ‘one-ness’ of Óđinn is an artificially constructed concept with problematic implications for the study of Old Nordic religion.


Minje Su
MA student in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies
University of Iceland
mis16@hi.is

Light, Darkness and Grey: Presentation of Hero in William Morris’ The Story of Sigurd and the Fall of the Niblungs

Acclaimed and influential, the pre-Raphaelite artist and author William Morris’ long narrative poem The Story of Sigurd and the Fall of the Niblungs (1876) is first of all a story that would appeal to the Victorian readership, for the Old Norse world in Morris’ era was essentially a world deprived of the original context and Sigurd had to be re-molded within a contemporary frame.
However, it is also an extremely individualized work, for, as the story goes, Sigurd’s life gradually drifts away from that of a Victorian conventional hero and, unlike other Old-Norse-made-Victorian heroes preceding him, he fell prey to the power of the dark—the Niblungs or “the Cloudy people”. In this case, is he still a hero? And, if yes, what sort of hero will he be?
It is the goal of this paper to answer such questions, which will be approached through three successive steps: the first part will focus on the image of the Victorian Old Norse heroes in general as representations of light in contrast to absolute darkness, represented by the two Baldur-themed narrative poems from the 1860s. In the second, Sigurd’s rise and fall as a conventional Victorian hero will be examined through analyzing a series of key events in his life. At last, it will be argued that, instead of being a symbol of perfect light, Sigurd is essentially a hero of the grey—a compromise between the idealized and the real, which accords with Morris’ own life experience and perception of heroism.


Eirik Westcoat
evw1@hi.is
Viking & Medieval Norse Studies, MA
University of Iceland

The Poet’s Role: Heimskringla and Egils saga as a Guide to Snorri’s Vision for the Poet

Kevin Wanner’s book, Snorri Sturluson and the Edda: The Conversion of Cultural Capital in Medieval Scandinavia, argues that Snorri produced his Edda in an attempt to preserve the cultural capital of skaldic poetry. If that is the case, it seems likely that the other two works often attributed to him, Heimskingla and Egils saga, would also serve that purpose, if he indeed wrote them.
This paper takes a preliminary look at portions of Heimskringla and Egils saga, using the motive of preserving the cultural capital of skaldic poetry, for two purposes. The first is to see if further light can be shed on the question of Snorri’s authorship (for a suitable definition of authorship) and the second (and related) is to see if the works articulate a vision for the function of the poet in society that would further the preservation of skaldic poetry’s cultural capital, despite the seemingly different attitudes toward monarchy in the two works. Since Heimskringla is a vast work with many parts, such a perspective might help us in deciding if certain parts were or were not written by Snorri. For instance, if a portion appears hostile to Snorri’s intention to promote skaldic poetry, then that portion is not likely to have been written by him.

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