Ármann Jakobsson. Beast and Man: Realism and the Occult

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  • Author: Ármann Jakobsson
  • Title: Beast and Man: Realism and the Occult in Egils saga
  • Published in: Scandinavian Studies 83/1
  • Year: 2011
  • Pages: 29-44
  • E-text:
  • Reference: Ármann Jakobsson. "Beast and Man: Realism and the Occult in Egils saga." Scandinavian Studies 83/1 (2011): 29-44.

  • Key words: literary elements, characterization (bókmenntaleg einkenni, persónulýsingar)


Contents

Annotation

While there are definite non-human aspects to Egill Skallagrímsson’s character and that of his ancestors, he remains a deliberately ambiguous figure throughout the saga narrative. Egill is explicitly troll-like in appearance, seemingly practices non-Christian magic – associated with trolls – and exhibits bestial, cannibalistic behaviour in combat. His origins are likewise strongly suggestive of non-human ancestry: His great-grandfather Berðlu-Kári is identified as a berserkr, his great-grandmother Hallbera is the sister of Hallbjörn the “half-troll” and his grandfather Kveld-Úlfr is believed to be hamrammr and said to shape-shift. Non-human elements also surface occasionally in the character of Egill’s father Skalla-Grímur, most notably when he goes into a frenzy after the sun goes down and attempts to kill his son. Nowhere, however, does the saga make explicit whether a literal or metaphorical metamorphosis from man to beast takes place. The narrative’s position towards the occult in Egils saga is such that there is no conflict between narrative realism and paranormal elements in the text.

Lýsing

Enda þótt það megi finna ómennsk einkenni hjá Agli Skallagrímssyni og forfeðrum hans þá er honum viljandi lýst með afar tvíræðum hætti í sögunni. Egill er sagður vera "mikill sem tröll", hann virðist stunda heiðinn galdur - sem er tengdur tröllum - og hegðun hans í bardögum er á köflum dýrsleg, og vísar jafnvel til mannáts. Ættbogi hans er með sama hætti ómennskur. Langafi hans, Berðlu Kári, er sagður hafa verið berserkur, langamma hans Hallbera er systir Hallbjörns hálftrölls, afi hans Kveld-Úlfur er talinn vera hamrammur og hamhleypa. Ómennskum einkennum bregður einnig fyrir hjá Skalla-Grími, föður Egils. Greinilegast er þetta þegar hann hamast eftir sólsetur og reynir að drepa son sinn. Í sögunni er hins vegar hvergi skorið úr um það hvort bókstafleg eða táknræn ummyndun úr manni í dýr eigi sér stað. Frásögnin er í raun þannig úr garði gerð að enginn árekstur verður á milli raunsæislegs frásagnarháttar og yfirnáttúrlegra atburða.

See also

References

Chapter 61: mikill sem tröll: „Egill is both troll and not troll … Ultimately, Egill’s own troll nature remains obscured by a lack of concrete evidence. Rather, Egill exhibits a troll potentiality that opens the text to the possibility of the occult. Egils saga is deliberately ambiguous and the ultimate truth regarding its hero’s troll-like nature is never completely revealed. The occult must remain both unknown and unknowable“ (p. 43).

Links

  • Written by: Katelin Parsons
  • Icelandic translation: Jón Karl Helgason
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