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Gylfaginning and Early Medieval Conversion Theory

Gylfaginning and Early Medieval Conversion Theory

By Christopher Abram

Saga-Book, Vol. 33 (2009)

Introduction: Snorra Edda’s attitude towards pagan religion, and its possible antecedents in medieval Christian thought, have been the subject of much debate. For the most part, these discussions have centred on the Prologue to Snorra Edda, although Gylfaginning and the early parts of what is now referred to as Skaldskaparmal (the ‘mythological’ sections of the Edda) are undoubtedly also relevant to them. The focus of this discussion has been located in SnorriĆ­s distance from and degree of belief in pagan traditions: while some scholars have seen in Snorra Edda vestiges of genuine, and vital, pagan traditions or evidence of ongoing syncretism between the two religions in the culture of thirteenth-century Iceland, most critics, following Walter Baetke and Anne Holtsmark, have come to accept that Snorra Edda’s version of Norse mythology has been substantially recast according to contemporary Christian codes. According to Gerd Wolfgang Weber, for example, Snorri’s mythography was in full agreement with orthodox Christian theories such as euhemerism, natural religion, necromancy, idolatry and demonology, with demonology providing the most important conceptual framework for his treatment of pagan gods.

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