Last Laughs: Torture in Medieval Icelandic Literature

Hrafnkels saga

Medieval Icelandic literature is full of violence, calculated and reasoned violence, narrated in such a way as to focus largely on issues of personal honor and justice, less so on the spectacle of blood so common in the modem Hollywood action film.

Reconstructing the past in medieval Iceland

map of iceland

This paper examines the relationship between the Sagas of Icelanders, which are concerned with tenth- and eleventh-century events, and the contemporary sagas of the mid-thirteenth century.

A note on the regional distribution of pagan burials in Iceland

vertical photo from the early stages of this season's excavations of a pagan grave field at Litlunupar in Iceland.  Photo by Dave /Flickr

Comparison of the distribution of pagan burials in Iceland with medieval information about the number of farmers in different parts of the country allows a division of the country into three zones of low, medium and high frequency of pagan burials relative to the number of settlements.

Miracles from Medieval Iceland

saint thorlak - 15th century image of the saint, now found in the National Museum of Iceland - photo from Youtube

The first saint from Iceland was Thorlak Thorhallsson. The saga of his life reveals dozens of the miracles that were attributed to him after his death. Here are ten of these miracles, which reveal much about religion and daily life in medieval Iceland.

Having no Power to Return? Suicide and Posthumous Restlessness in Medieval Iceland

A medieval burial in Iceland - photo by Christian Bickel

The purpose of this study is to examine cultural conceptions of the possible afterlives of suicides in medieval (ca. 1200– 1400) Iceland.

Irish and Scots may have been first to settle Iceland, researcher finds

Seljalandshellar cave in the Westman Islands  - Photo by Kristjan Ahronson

It has long been believed that the first people to inhabit Iceland were the Norse settlers who arrived around the year 874 AD. However, the discovery of Christian crosses carved into man-made caves in the southern part of the island is offering evidence that Celtic-speaking people from Scotland and Ireland had come to Iceland around the beginning the ninth century.

Ore, Fire, Hammer, Sickle: Iron Production in Viking Age and Early Medieval Iceland

iceland - photo by Eric Montfort / Flickr

Iron production may be used as a window through which to view, in part, the economic structure of Icelandic society during the Viking Age (c. AD 870-1000) and Early Medieval (AD 1000-1264) periods.

‘Segja Hvaða!’: Insults in Old Norse-Icelandic Literature

iceland

Often, a single case of níð will fulfill two of these purposes. In the end, they come down to achieving power and station through language, whether spoken or physical.

Local and Traditional on the Millennial Scale: Sustainable Waterfowl Management from Viking Age Iceland

Local and Traditional on the Millennial Scale: Sustainable Waterfowl Management from Viking Age Iceland

Inhabited by Vikings since approximately 600 AD, the islands hosts an abundant, but terribly fragile resource, puffins, flightless birds that nest on rocky exposed cliffs, in easy range of the islanders other prime food source, pigs.

From Viking Chiefdoms to Medieval State in Iceland: The Evolution of Social Power Structures in the Mosfell Valley

16th century map of Iceland

Norse settlers from Scandinavia arrived in Iceland in the 9th century AD and encountered an unoccupied and virgin landscape. This dissertation focuses on how these Viking Age migrants interacted with the local environment and with each other to develop a new society, and how that society evolved over the following four centuries.

The Role of the Dead in Medieval Iceland: A Case Study of Eyrbyggja Saga

northern lights iceland - photo by Alison Tomlin / Flickr

In this article I intend to discuss the role of the malevolent restless dead in medieval Iceland by making a case study of the so-called wonders of Fróðá, the Fróðárundr episode in Eyrbyggja saga.

A Hagiographical Reading of Egils saga

Egil

When the literary presentation of the character of Egill is examined carefully with an eye toward the hagiographical paradigm, one can see that it matches the presentation of a bishop’s life and character…

‘Iceland: Land of Fire, Ice and Vikings’ symposium takes place next month

Kirkjufell Iceland - photo from Flickr

Those interested in Iceland’s history and future will be gathering at California Lutheran University next month for the 16th Annual Nordic Spirit Symposium. The two-day conference’s theme is ‘Iceland: Land of Fire, Ice and Vikings’.

Trolls in the Middle Ages

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Where did trolls come from? What did medieval and early modern people think of trolls? How did the concept of the modern day troll evolve?

Winter, snow and cold in the life of the Westviking

winter iceland

The main purpose of this paper is to examine how the Westviking were influenced by winter, snow and cold in their day-to-day life as they were making progress in the West.

Þingvellir: Archaeology
 of 
the
 Althing

Law_speakerromanticised view of the 11th century Althing

The Norse General Assembly of Iceland, called the Althing at Þingvellir, was central to early Icelandic society in the Viking Age. Not only was it the high point of the annual social calendar, but it was also the focus of their ideals of justice and law-making, which the early Icelanders refined into an art.

Chaucer in Iceland

chaucer in iceland

My project is called Chaucer in Iceland and its main aim was to take the congress in Iceland as a case study for looking at the impact of Scandinavia identity on contemporary medieval studies.

The Icelandic annals as historical sources

Iceland by Gerhard Mercator

Could it be that the annals had not been written year by year in an ongoing process after all? Equally important – did there exist other sources to events annotated in the notices which could be studied as exhibits to the annals?

The Names of Islands in the Old Norse Faereyinga Saga and Orkeyinga Saga

Picture of King Harald from the 14th century Icelandic manuscript Flateyjarbók.

The Names of Islands in the Old Norse Faereyinga Saga and Orkeyinga Saga Hilda Radzin (St. John’s University) Literary Onomastics Studies: Volume 5, Article 7 (1978) Abstract In the Old Norse language the word saga denoted any kind of story or history in prose, whether written or oral. Used in this sense, the word saga […]

Childhood in early Icelandic society: representations of children in the Icelandic Sagas

Illustration to Laxdœla saga, chapter 44

Thirteenth century Icelanders did not sentimentalize childhood, but rather viewed it as a learning stage, a crucial period for the acquisition of culture.

Of sagas and sheep: Toward a historical anthropology of social change and production for market, subsistence and tribute in early Iceland

Medieval hunt - images of sheep

This dissertation deals with the formation of chiefdoms, communities, ecclesiastical institutions and state, and with production for market, subsistence and tribute in early Iceland in the context of climatic change and ecological succession.

Messages from the Otherworld – The Roles of the Dead in Medieval Iceland

haunted iceland - Gunnuhver' - Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland Photo by Kris Williams / Flikr

I will examine the role of the restless dead in sagas by focusing on the individuals who are responsible for banishing the malevolent ghosts, or encounter the benevolent or non-harmful living dead.

Vampires and Watchmen: Categorizing the Mediaeval Icelandic Undead

Iceland at night - photo by Debivort

One can imagine three ways to approach a mediaeval Icelandic draugr, a term which is usually glossed as ‘ghost’ in English.

Vikings, the barbaric heroes: exploring the Viking image in museums in Iceland and England and its impact on identity

Viking ship at the Vikingsheimar Museum - Iceland

This study analyses the responses of Icelandic and English individuals in regards to their views on the Viking image as represented within museums and in society.

The Case of the Greenlandic Assembly Sites

Germanic thing, drawn after the depiction in a relief of the Column of Marcus Aurelius (AD 193)

In the early 20th century, scholars identified two possible Greenlandic assembly sites at Brattahalíð and Garðar respectively. Later scholars, with one exception, have neither refuted nor corroborated this, and research on this topic has therefore not significantly moved forward in the last 100 years. In this article, the two proposed assembly sites are examined in the light of recent research.

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