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Myths and Magic in the Medieval Far North
Realities and Representations of a Region on the Edge of Europe

S. Figenschow, R. Holt, M. Tveit (eds.)
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280 p., 1 b/w ill. + 7 colour ill., 156 x 234 mm, 2020
ISBN: 978-2-503-58823-0
Languages: English, Latin, Old Norse
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This is a series of original studies concerning myths and misunderstandings about the medieval Far North, and their place within the broader spectrum of Norwegian history.

The history of the Far North is tinged by dark fantasies. A remote location, harsh climate, a boundless and often mountainous wasteland, complex ethnic composition, and strange ways of life: all contributed to how the edge of Europe was misunderstood by outsiders. Since ancient times, the North has been considered as a place that exuded evil: it was the end of the world, the abode of monsters and supernatural beings, of magicians and sorcerers. It was Europe’s last bastion of recalcitrant paganism. Many weird tales of the North even came from within the region itself, and when newly literate Scandinavians began to re-work their oral traditions into written form after 1100 AD, these myths of their past underlay newer legends and stories serving to support the development to Christian national monarchies.

The essays in this volume engage closely with these stories, questioning how and why such traditions developed, and exploring their meaning. Through this approach, the volume also examines how historiographical traditions were shaped by authors pursuing agendas of nation-building and Christianization, at the same time that myths surrounding and originating among the multi-ethnic populations of the Far North continued to dominate the perception of the region and its people, and to define their place in Norwegian medieval history.

Table of Contents


‘Bearded Women and Sea Monsters: European Representations of the Far North in the Early and High Middle Ages’ — MIRIAM TVEIT

Myth, Magic and Rituals in the Nordic World

‘On the View of "the Other" – Abroad and At Home: The Geography and Peoples of the Far North, according to Historia Norwegiae’ — LARS IVAR HANSEN

‘The Ice Giant Cometh: The Far North in the Old Norse-Icelandic Sagas’ — ELEANOR ROSAMUND BARRACLOUGH

‘Fishermen in Trouble — Grímnismál and Elf Islands in Northern Norway’ — PETTER SNEKKESTAD

‘Sámi Myths and Medieval Heritage’ — MARTE SPANGEN

‘"I Hurl the Spirits of Gandul". Pleasure, Jealousy and Magic: The Witchcraft Trial of Ragnhild Tregagaas in 1325’ — RUNE BLIX HAGEN

‘The Meaning of Ale in the North: From Ale Rituals to Ale as a Subject in Political Conflicts’ — KAROLINE KJESRUD

Myths and Representations in the Political Consolidation of the North

‘The Origins of Political Organization in the Far North? The Historical and Material Remains of Finnmórk, Hálogaland and the Mythical Omð’ — YASSIN KAROLIUSSEN

‘Norwegian or Northern: The Construction and Mythography of Háleygr Identity, c. 800–1050’ — BEN ALLPORT

‘The Formation of a Norwegian Kingdom: A Northern Counter-Narrative?’ — RICHARD HOLT

‘Approaches to Mythologized "Others" in Norwegian Expansion to the North’ — STEFAN FIGENSCHOW

Interest Classification:
Medieval & Modern (Indo-European) Languages & Literatures
Germanic langs & lits (other than English)
North Germanic/Scandinavian languages & literatures
Comparative & cultural studies through literature
Cultural studies (general & theoretical)
Medieval & Renaissance History (c.400-1500)
Medieval European history (400-1500) : main subdisciplines
Cultural & intellectual history
Medieval European history (400-1500) : genres & specific topics
Viking studies
North Sea lands studies

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