The goal of this project is to understand the realities of how magic was perceived during a Christianized Iceland, specifically during the medieval era when sagas and poems were recorded in Iceland. I accomplish this through literary analysis in conjunction with previous research on runic inscriptions and Old Norse mythology. I reveal that there is much more to be uncovered about the realities of paganism in medieval Iceland, and that the authors of Icelandic sagas had a large misunderstanding of pre-Christian paganism and magic. This argument is manifested through close readings of major Icelandic works, such as Hávamál, Volsunga saga, and Egils saga, coupled with other, minor works. In the first chapter, through understanding the usage of literary devices like metaphor and irony, I look at the inaccurate ways runes were portrayed in Hávamál and Egils saga as a means to separate Iceland from paganism while still retaining their cultural relevance. In chapter two, through the usage of queer theory, I elaborate on how characters in Hávamál, Egils saga, and Volsunga saga perpetuate negative stereotypes about practitioners of magic. Through these discoveries, this thesis calls into question the views of Icelandic saga writers as misunderstanding pagan magic, and further diversifies the discourse around medieval Icelandic literature as a whole. This project is done in hopes to educate Norse neo-pagans on the nuances surrounding the literature they hold so close to their pagan practices.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Williams, Jordan T., "A Literary Analysis of Magic: A Dissection of Medieval Icelandic Literature" (2021). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 951.