Hamhleypur in fiorskfirdinga saga: a postclassical ironisation of myth?
By Phil Cardew
Paper given at the 11th International Saga Conference (2000)
Introduction: The notion of the hamhleypa, an individual able to change shape at will, is common enough within Icelandic saga narrative, particularly within fantastic narratives commonly classed as fornaldarsögur. These individuals hover on the fringes between the human and the non-human, possessing abilities which are beyond the reach of individuals who operate within the sphere of the natural, but appearing (at least at times) to also share the form of their human protagonists. They are found in narratives such as Völsunga saga; narratives which belong to the dim-and-distant past, a world in which the laws of nature – the nature of human life within the Middle Ages – are suspended. A world populated by dragons and trolls; former inhabitants of an earth since taken over by human kind.