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The Giantess as a Metaphor for Shetland’s Cultural History

The Giantess as a Metaphor for Shetland’s Cultural History

By Andrew Jennings

Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, Vol.4:2 (2010)

Abstract: This paper examines the giantess figure in the traditions of Shetland. Debate continues in Shetland about the extent to which the cultural heritage of the archipelago can be described as Norse or Scottish. There is widespread popular belief in the existence of an extensive Norse cultural inheritance, a view that is not always borne out by scholarship. However, this study of the traditions surrounding the giantess, known by various reflexes of the Old Norse word gygr, will show that in the field of intangible cultural heritage, the Norse cultural component is strong. Indeed, if the giantess can be seen as a synecdoche for cultural tradition in general, Shetland’s traditions are primarily Norse, but with a Scottish admixture.

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