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Family Matters? The Cultus Of The Scandinavian Royal Martyrs

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Chapter Summary


This chapter discusses the possible innovations, re-use and transformations of pagan mythological models within the educated milieu of medieval historiography, and asks whether one can discern ideological changes within this type of mythological material from the Viking to the Middle Ages. There are two general types of origin myths: those that focus on the origins of an individual ruling dynasty and its territorial conquests, and those that describe the gestation of peoples. The chapter focuses on the first type of myths. It discusses a number of central origin myths in eddaic and skaldic poetry and in the sagas. The chapter begins with medieval historiography, especially with Snorri's presentation of the Ynglingar-dynasty in his Ynglinga saga in Heimskringla. It then shows that when Nordic culture encountered the European, Christian ideology of rulership, it showed a high degree of independence by retaining native pagan traditions on rulership long into the Middle Ages.

Keywords:Christian ideology; eddaic poetry; Heimskringla; medieval historiography; Nordic culture; skaldic poetry; Viking Age; Ynglinga saga


This chapter presents some concluding remarks on the book's aim to contribute something new to the wide field of Nordic viking and medieval studies: a consideration of Nordic viking and medieval history of ideas. Viking Age power was based on an ideology deeply grounded in pagan religion and the pagan religious ideology of rulership played an exceedingly important role in Nordic societies from the Viking Age to the early Middle Ages. Three ideological elements can be distilled from these mythological and legendary patterns. Firstly, the old marriage-myth of the union with the (giant) utgarðr woman underlines the special character of the dynasty. Secondly, these tales might then have been transformed into an ideological representation of the forceful conquest. Thirdly, the myth could be adapted to represent the inclusion of lower social classes into the ruling elite.

Keywords:adaptation; Christian ideologies; pagan ideologies; rulership; Viking Age




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