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Berserks Behaving Badly: Manipulating Normative Expectations in Eyrbyggja saga

Ruiter, Keith


Keith Ruiter


A common thread running through the present volume is the consistent highlighting of the flexibility, negotiation, and pragmatism that is so apparent in narrated descriptions of law, legal norms, and legal practice in the medieval Scandinavian milieu. However, developments in the social sciences provide inspiration for scholars of medieval Scandinavia to go further still and undertake a more holistic examination of medieval Scandinavian normativity. After all, it has long been remarked by scholars such as Preben Meulengracht Sørensen and Theodore Andersson that particularly the Íslendingasögur often fixate on situations where competing values – law and honour, for example – collide to manifold literary effects. Studies such as these pick up on an under-researched tension evident in the sagas between competing normative expectations and, in light of the progress made in the social sciences, medieval Scandinavian concepts of normativity should be explored more holistically. In this vein, the following paper makes a close reading of a short vignette in Eyrbyggja saga – the attempted forced marriage between the Swedish berserk Halli and Víga-Styrr’s daughter Ásdís – exploring the ways that various norms and normative expectations are deliberately manipulated by the characters in question to further their own social goals in the narrative.


Ruiter, K. (2020). Berserks Behaving Badly: Manipulating Normative Expectations in Eyrbyggja saga. In Narrating Law and Laws of Narration in Medieval Scandinavia, (171-184). De Gruyter

Acceptance Date May 28, 2019
Publication Date 2020-01
Deposit Date May 30, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 1, 2021
Publisher De Gruyter
Pages 171-184
Series Title Ergänzungsbände zum Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde
Series Number 117
Series ISSN 1866-7678
Book Title Narrating Law and Laws of Narration in Medieval Scandinavia
ISBN 9783110661811
Keywords Norms, Normativity, Berserk, Eyrbyggja saga, Old Norse, saga, Snorri, law, honour, medieval, Scandinavia, Iceland
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