Frankki, James. Cross-Dressing in the Poetic Edda

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  • Author: Frankki, James
  • Title: Cross-Dressing in the Poetic Edda: Mic muno Æsir argan kalla
  • Published in: Scandinavian Studies 84/4
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 425-37
  • E-text: ProQuest
  • Reference: Frankki, James. "Cross-Dressing in the Poetic Edda: Mic muno Æsir argan kalla." Scandinavian Studies 84/4 (2012): 425-37.

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In this article, James Frankki applies Vern Bullough‘s principles of acceptable cross-dressing in the Middle Ages to the poem Þrymsqviða, in which Thor must disguise himself as Freyja in order to retrieve his stolen hammer. Frankki argues that cross-dressing and cross-gendered behavior was not accepted in thirteenth-century Iceland, but was acceptable in Þrymsqviða because Thor‘s disguise was superficial and required by necessity, and because Thor re-establishes his masculinity by killing Thrym and the other giants as soon as the disguise is removed. Frankki compares this to other episodes of accepted cross-dressing in medieval literature, particularly Helgi‘s disguise in Chapter 129 of Njal‘s saga, arguing that this was an acceptable instance of a cross-dressing since Helgi, like Thor, re-establishes his masculinity through combat as soon as the female disguise is removed.


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Chapter 129: kastaði hann skikkjunni : " Due to Helgi’s height and excessively broad shoulders his female disguise is ineffective, and he arouses suspicion almost immediately. After escaping, he throws off his woman’s cloak and uncovers a previously concealed sword with which he is able to wound one of his enemies before Flosi severs his head from his shoulders. In this manner Helgi’s manhood is firmly reestablished, and he dies an honorable Viking death. (p. 433)"


  • Written by: Holly McArthur
  • Icelandic/English translation:
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