Friesen, William. Family Resemblances

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  • Author: Friesen, William
  • Title: Family Resemblances: Textual Sources of Animal Fylgjur in Icelandic Saga
  • Published in: Scandinavian Studies 87/2
  • Year: 2015
  • Pages: 255-80
  • E-text: JSTOR
  • Reference: Friesen, William. "Family Resemblances: Textual Sources of Animal Fylgjur in Icelandic Saga." Scandinavian Studies 87/2 (2015): 255-80.

  • Key words:



Friesen's article deals with the supernatural beings known as fylgjur in Old Icelandic sources. Fylgjur (sing. fylgja) are often considered to be female guardian-spirits or animal-followers accompanying humans. Friesen examines the variety of different fylgja words by providing multiple examples from fornaldarsögur and Íslendingasögur and compares them to medieval bestiaries and scripture. Furthermore, fylgjur are analyzed as fate-beings pertaining directly to the fates of different saga characters while revealing some key qualities of said character's traits. Gunnar's vision in chapter 62 in Njál's saga presumes the death of Hjörtur and is a good example of fylgjur as fate-beings. Comparison of the fylgjur in fornaldarsögur and Íslendingasögur reveals differences in how extensively these beings are explained to the audience by authors. Friesen argues that the authors of fornaldarsögur were familiar with medieval bestiaries, thus more narrative in their explanations of fylgja beings than the authors of Íslendingasögur. Friesen concludes that the influence of bestiaries and scripture to specific sagas is much greater than has previously been taken into consideration.


Texta vantar

See also


Chapter 62: Þar þóttist eg sjá varga marga : “The only animal fylgjur explicitly treated in this scene are the wolves, who represent, in a conventional literary sense, those who harbor hostile, predatory intent.” (p. 277)


  • Written by: Iiro Nikodemus Vanhatalo
  • Icelandic/English translation:
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