Myth, Psychology, and Society in Grettis saga

Myth, Psychology, and Society in Grettis saga

By Russell Poole

Alvíssmál Vol.11 (2004)

Introduction: The saga of Grettir Ásmundarson is exceptionally rich in both psychological and mythological terms. Its account of the protagonist shows a diversity of forces combating within him. Equally, it is replete with allusions to mythological figures. In this respect Grettir is notably polysemous, having in his composition something of Óðinn, something of Þórr, something of Loki, something of the giants, something even of Þjelvar, bringer of fire to islands in Guta saga. Reference to this saga would readily support the proposition that the pre-Christian mythic world continued to form an implicit frame of reference for medieval Icelanders as they sought to understand and represent human life and behaviour. Just like the gods and giants upon whom he is styled, Grettir behaves in ways that are more extreme and more flamboyant than people allowed themselves in their quotidian existence). His story, in its extant realizations, can be understood, I shall argue, as a fourteenth-century mythicization of tensions and pressures, fears and desires, within Icelandic culture. Here I propose to concentrate on familial relationships within Grettir’s “primary group,” developing the proposition that the figure of Glámr personifi es crucial aspects of that dynamic.

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