The Making of a Legend: The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok and the TV series ‘Vikings’

Ragnar Lothbrok Vikings

Thus neither The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok nor ‘Vikings’ are immediately recognisable as straight works of history, although they both have certain strongly historical elements to their content.

‘Hann lá eigi kyrr’: Revenants and a Haunted Past in the Sagas of Icelanders

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

From Antiquity to the present day, the idea of the dead returning to interact with the living has greatly influenced human imagination, and this has been reflected in literature — the product of that imagination.

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

Manifestations of psychiatric illness in texts from the medieval and Viking era

King Harald Fairhair depicted in the 14th century Icelandic manuscript Flateyjarbók,

The medicine of medieval Europe was influenced above all by the Hippocratic and Galenic legacies, conveyed through the medical School of Salerno, albeit also to an extent embedded in demonological and supernatural beliefs and folklore customs.

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.

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.

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.

‘Black Men and Malignant-Looking’: The Place of the Indigenous Peoples of North America in the Icelandic World View

Inuit - My Life with the Eskmo (1922) - Vilhjalmur Stefansson

As they headed back to the ship they saw three hillocks on the beach inland from the cape. Upon coming closer they saw there were three hide-covered boats, with three men under each of them.

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


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…

Trolls in the Middle Ages


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?

Bárðar saga as a source for reconstruction of pre-Christian religion?

Eldar Heide

Paper by Eldar Heide given at the second meeting of the Old Norse Folklorist Network

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.

Can you solve Odin’s Riddles?

Odins Riddles

Here are 14 riddles that the Norse god Odin says to King Heidrek. Can you solve them?

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.

Understanding Grettir as an Ethical Hero: Comparing Havamal and Grettir’s Saga

17th century image of Grettir

The Icelandic family sagas are replete with heroes, fighting men and strong women who stood with their teeth to the wind and carved a life for themselves out of an inhospitable world

The Fabulous Saga of Guðmundr inn ríki: Representation of Sexuality in Ljósvetninga saga

Ljósavatn, Iceland - Photo by Hansueli Krapf

Guðmundr, a powerful goði living in the late 10th and early 11th century, was subjected to sexual insults by his rivals Þorkell hákr and Þórir goði Helgason. These sexual insults described him as effeminate and cowardly, and the thesis shows that the Ljósvetninga saga text follows suit with these slurs.

“Viking” Pilgrimage to the Holy Land fram! fram! cristmenn, crossmenn, konungsmenn! (Oláfs saga helga, ch. 224.)

Olaf Haraldsson

The Viking predilection for travel and adventure made it easy for Christianized Scandinavians to adopt the idea of pilgrimage. It was, after all, not entirely unlike their own secular tradition of going a-viking.

The Headless Norsemen: Decapitation in Viking Age Scandinavia

Artistic reconstruction of Viking Grave - Denmark Mirosław Kuźma.jpg

I will concentrate my attention only on single and double decapitation burials and mostly those from the area of Scandinavia. What did similar practices mean? What kinds of individuals were subject to decapitation? Were they criminals, slaves, aggressors, deserters swathed in infamy or perhaps unfortunate victims of bloody attacks?

The King in Disguise: An International Popular Tale in Two Old Icelandic Adaptations

Iceland - sagas

The following essay is intended as a contribution to the current reassessment of the rela- tionship of Old Icelandic saga literature to the European mainstream and of the ways of literary tradition in dealing with oral sources.

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