7 Things One Should Know When Dealing with Kings: The Icelander’s Version

Christian Krohg illustration in an 1890s edition of Heimskringl

Here is MaryAnn R. Adams’ winning advice on how to deal with Norse kings.

In Search of Guinevere

Queen Guinevere questioning Lancelot about his love for her

As a lifelong lover of Arthurian stories, I have always had a love/hate relationship with Guinevere. In some stories, she is the well-mannered and generous ideal queen; in others she is a jealous and spiteful adulteress. How can she be both? When did she change?

From the Middle Ages to Modernity: The Intersecting Supernatural Worlds of Melusine and Today’s Popular Culture

(Illustration to folio CXLI of L'Histoire de la Belle Mélusine published by Steinschaber in 1478 , depicting the scene of Remondin’s discovery of his wife’s animal-human hybrid form. The wall has been removed so that the reader, who knows she takes this form once a week, may see what is going on inside. Note that Mélusine is dressed as a noble lady and clearly has both human and animal body parts.)

This work contains many elements common to supernatural tales of its time-shape-shifting, magic fountains and marriages between humans and fairies – yet it is also surprisingly relevant to our own age, whose popular culture is saturated with modem myths and vampire love-stories.

The Snow Baby: A Cautionary Tale

A snow flake under the microscope - image by ZEISS Microscopy / Flickr

Most of the time, fabliaux are lighthearted and lusty, but occasionally they stray into dark humour, like ‘The Snow Baby’.

The Quirky Questions of Wynkyn de Worde

Chicken or egg? Photo by Ruben Alexander / Flickr

From the ‘chicken or egg’ question to age of a mouse, some of the riddles from England’s oldest joke book.

Celtic Mythology in the Arthurian Legend

Gundestrup cauldron

The aim of this thesis is to find out whether there are some aspects, themes or symbols of the pagan Celtic mythology that appear in the Arthurian legend and if so, what role they play there and to what extent they influence the legend.

The Mythical Ghoul in Arabic Culture

"Amine Discovered with the Goule", from the story of Sidi Nouman, of the One Thousand and One Nights.

Though the ghoul has origins as old as the Mesopotamian civilization, Arabs were largely responsible for popularizing it. Because Islam incorporated this being in its doctrine, the ghoul remained a source of fear and mystery in the Arab culture.

Monsters and the Exotic in Early Medieval England

Marvels of the East, opening, fol. 039v-040r, early twelfth century, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

The dominant literate culture of early medieval England – male, European, and Christian – often represented itself through comparison to exotic beings and monsters, in traditions developed from native mythologies, and Classical and Biblical sources.

Grief, Gender and Mourning in Medieval North Atlantic Literature

Book of Leinster, now in the library of Trinity College, Dublin

This dissertation explores the relationship between grief, cultural constructs of gender, and mourning behaviour in the literatures of medieval Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Iceland

John Gower’s Handwriting identified

British Library, Add. MS 59495, fol. 39v. - image from the International John Gower Society

John Gower, considered to be one of the greatest poets of medieval England, left behind several remarkable works. A scholar has now been able to identify poems that were written by his own hand, including a poignant piece about how he was going blind.

Dreams and lovers: the sympathetic guide frame in Middle English courtly love poems

The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 1896

When is a dream not a dream? The Middle English convention of the ‘dream vision’ has been read by modern scholars as a genre that primarily reveals the medieval understanding of dreaming and dream theory, so that events and stories presented within a dream frame are necessarily read through that specific hermeneutic.

Said in jest: Who’s laughing at the Middle Ages (and when)?


The essay begins with a negative image of a medieval scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is used to point out that the scene is a knowing parody rather than founded on a genuine belief in an unmitigatedly dark age

Courtesy and Politeness in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Gawain and the Green Knight

A close reading of three selected passages of the Middle English alliterative romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight provides a detailed picture of fictional and fairy-tale manifestations of courtly and polite behaviour in Middle English, a period that imported many new terms of courtesy and politeness from French.

30 Sagas in 30 Days on Twitter

30 Sagas in 30 Days on Twitter

This month, a scholar is using Twitter to tell the stories of thirty lesser known tales written by Icelanders.

Teaching Tolkien’s Translations of Medieval Literature: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Orfeo and Pearl

Gawain and the Green Knight tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien, the medievalist who became the father of modern fantasy literature, translated many poems out of Old English, Old Norse and Middle English into carefully versified modern English

Hair and Masculinity in the Alliterative Morte Arthure

King Arthur as one of the Nine Worthies, detail from the "Christian Heroes Tapestry" dated c. 1385

This essay examines the use of forced hair cutting in the late fourteenth‐century alliterative romance, Morte Arthure, to show how it is used to develop characters that reflect the tension surrounding the English king Richard II and the tyranny that characterized the final years of his reign.

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.

Literature in an Apocalyptic Age; or, How to End a Romance

Yvain fighting Gawain. Medieval illumination from Chrétien de Troyes's romance, Yvain, le Chevalier au Lion

No literature of the Middle Ages has so successfully captured the imagination of recent times as has the medieval romance.

Senses of the Past: The Old English Vocabulary of History

Page from Beowulf, now at the British Library

How did the Anglo-Saxons think about history?

5 Fun Facts About Robin Hood

robin hood facts

Robin Hood has enthralled generations of readers and movie goers. This English outlaw-hero has become of symbol of freedom against tyranny, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. But who was Robin Hood? How much is grounded in myth and how much is reality?

The Priest and the Fox: Tricksters in Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale

Chanticleer and the Fox in a mediaeval manuscript miniature

Although the figure of Reynard is prevalent in trickster lore, the primary trickster at play in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale may be not the fox but the teller of the tale, the Nun’s Priest himself who travels the road to Canterbury.

Movie Review: Tristan and Isolde

Tristan and Isolde, starring James Franco and Sophia Myles.

As far as medieval movies go, Tristan and Isolde definitely isn’t the worst I’ve seen. I was looking for a movie to watch after work, and I thought, hey, James Franco, Sophia Moyles, Henry Cavill, and Rufus Sewell, all directed by Ridley Scott?! – this can’t be that bad. Well, it was pretty bad, but it wasn’t the worst 2 hours of my life. So what went wrong?

Fourteenth-Century Weaponry, Armour and Warfare in Chaucer and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Gawain and the Green Knight

This essay attempts to re-appraise selected passages of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from a wider military historical and archaeological perspective.

Hostages in Old English Literature

Byrhtnoth - photo by Andrew Barclay / Flickr

Hostages in Old English Literature examines the various roles that hostages have played in Anglo-Saxon texts, specifically focusing on the characterization of Æscferth in The Battle of Maldon.

What Is Medieval European Literature?

medieval armenian manuscript - Photo by Retlaw Snellac Photography / Flickr

It is a great pleasure for us to publish the first issue of Interfaces. A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, offering free availability for all.

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