Cochrane, Jamie. Gossips, Beggars, Assassins and Tramps
- Author: Cochrane, Jamie
- Title: Gossips, Beggars, Assassins and Tramps: Vagrants and Other Itinerants in the Sagas of Icelanders
- Published in: Saga-Book of the Viking Society 36
- Year: 2012
- Pages: 43-78
- E-text: vsnr.org
- Reference: Cochrane, Jamie. "Gossips, Beggars, Assassins and Tramps: Vagrants and Other Itinerants in the Sagas of Icelanders." Saga-Book of the Viking Society, 36 (2012): 43-78.
- Key words:
Cochrane examines how the sagas of Icelanders exploit transient characters who exist primarily outside of social institutions as convenient plot devices. She argues that because of their mobility, these archetypal characters are freely employed by saga narrators to transmit information between two parties otherwise unable to communicate with each other due to social obligations. The sagas of Icelanders often emphasize the importance of honor and social structures, and describe conflicts in which these institutions begin to disintegrate. Therefore, Cochrane argues, the effect of itinerant characters on the plots of these sagas demonstrates the contribution of such people to the failure of social institutions.
Chapter 36: Eg er maður vistlaus : “Although not specifically a vagrant, Atli introduces himself as a man without lodgings or employment (maðr vistlauss). This indicates that readers should be suspicious of this healthy man roaming the countryside looking for work. We immediately question why he is not in permanent employment and why he is travelling outside the moving days. There is no suggestion that he is a member of society fallen upon hard times and passed round the district as a pauper as provided for in the laws. Our prejudices are confirmed in his own summary of his character.” (p. 63)
- Written by: Paul Martino
- Icelandic/English translation: