Book Series Acta Scandinavica, vol. 11

Myth, Magic, and Memory in Early Scandinavian Narrative Culture

Studies in Honour of Stephen A. Mitchell

Jürg Glauser, Pernille Hermann (eds)

  • Pages: 456 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:17 b/w, 19 col., 5 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2021

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58987-9
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58988-6
  • E-book
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In this volume, several neighbouring disciplines, such as memory studies, literature, folklore studies, history of religion, medieval history, archaeology, oral history, and Old Norse studies intersect. The articles deal with similar questions and present illustrative case studies. Old Norse poems are analysed with regard to their mythological content; folktales, folklore, and other cultural phenomena are discussed with special foci on remembrance of the supernatural, witches, trolls, and others. One of the recurring questions is how we remember the past and how the past is created in memory.


“The honorand should be truly gratified by this fine set of studies and their deep, meticulous, and pointed scholarship.” (Craig R. Davis, in The Medieval Review, 22.03.02)

“(. . .) the book’s strength clearly lies in its diversity: few studies in any field could pull together seemingly disparate disciplines as mythology, philology, art history, literary studies, and memory and folklore studies, and still retain coherence. The unifying force is Stephen A. Mitchell himself, whose career spanning several decades has had an impact on all of them, sometimes concurrently, and always indelibly.” (Manu Braithwaite-Westoby, in Parergon, 39/1, 2022, p. 242)


Myth, magic, and memory have together formed important, and often intertwined, elements to recent studies in the narrative culture of Viking-Age and Medieval Scandinavica. Analytical approaches to myth (prominent in the fields of history of religion, archaeology, language, and literature, and central to studies of visual cultures up to modern times), magic (drawing on a wealth of Norse folkloric and supernatural material that derives from pre-modern times and continues to impact on recent practices of performance and ritual), and memory (the concept of how we remember and actively construe the past) together combine to shed light on how people perceived the world around them.

Taking the intersection between these diverse fields as its starting point, this volume draws together contributions from across a variety of disciplines to offer new insights into the importance of myth, magic, and memory in pre-modern Scandinavia. Covering a range of related topics, from supernatural beings to the importance of mythology in later national historiographies, the chapters gathered here are written to honour the work of Stephen A. Mitchell, professor of Scandinavian Studies and Folklore at Harvard University, whose research has heavily influenced this multi-faceted field.


List of Illustrations


Part I — Myth and Legend

Same Place, Different Time: Temporal Aspects of Imagined Landscapes in Some Northern Contexts — JOHN LINDOW

Jarl, Konr, and Óðinn in Rígsþula — JENS PETER SCHJØDT

‘I remember giants’: Mythological Remembering through Vǫluspá — CAROLYNE LARRINGTON AND JUDY QUINN

On Rereading Oddrúnargrátr — JOSEPH HARRIS

The Agency in Fǫr Scírnis — Subjects, Objects, and Différance. A Subversive Reading — LUKAS RÖSLI

The Threat of Induced Desire in Skírnismál — RICHARD COLE

Part II — Magic and Folklore

Enchantments, Spells, and Curses: The Sorcery of Stories and the Magic in Them — MARIA TATAR

Trolls in the Mill: The Supernatural Stakes of Waterpower — MERRILL KAPLAN

A Prophylactic Pig, a Long-Lost Hunter, and the Recording of Oral Tradition — JOSEPH FALAKY NAGY

A Male Cinderella and a Sea-Serpent’s Teeth: Scandinavian Echoes in an Orkney Folk-Tale — SARAH KÜNZLER

Axe on the Water. A Unique Magical Ritual in Ljósvetninga saga — TERRY GUNNELL

‘In the Name of the 7 fatherless devils…’: Pain, Fear, Anger and Revenge in Magical Practice — ANE OHRVIK

Lessons in Magic: Making Use of Early Twentieth-Century Accounts of Magical Procedures in the Folklore Classroom — THOMAS A. DUBOIS

A Conspiracy of Witches — TIMOTHY R. TANGHERLINI

Part III — Memory and Reception

Metaphors for Forgetting and Forgetting as Metaphor in Old Norse Poetics — KATE HESLOP

Olavifications. Spatial and Temporal Formations of Trondheim as a Memory Place — LENA ROHRBACH

The Middle Ages in the Construction of Nineteenth-Century Norway — ARNE BUGGE AMUNDSEN

History and Cultural Memory in the Icelandic Annals 1400–1800 — AGNES S. ARNÓRSDÓTTIR

Assembling Memory: The Questionnaire of 1817 from Den kongelige Commission til Oldsagers Opbevaring and the Origins of Icelandic Romantic Nationalism — SHAUN F. D. HUGHES

The ‘Asgard’ Superphylum and Lokiarcheaota: Mythic Relapse in Evolutionary Biology — KIMBERLEY C. PATTON

Part IV — Influence and Interaction

OGu vergildi and Välde in Etelhem, Gotland — STEFAN BRINK

The Judensau in Uppsala — ANDERS ANDRÉN

The Devil is Awake. Pre-Reformation Church Murals in Post-Reformation Danish Churches — LOUISE NYHOLM KALLESTRUP

A Female Job and a Witch. High and Low in Leonora Christina Ulfeldt’s Jammers minde — PERNILLE HERMANN

O’Brazile: The Short Textual Life of a Floating Island in Seventeenth-Century Scandinavian Book History — JÜRG GLAUSER

Geijer och Eddornas ‘sinnebildsspråk’ — LARS LÖNNROTH

List of Stephen A. Mitchell’s Selected Publications