Oedipus Borealis: The Aberrant Body in Old Icelandic Myth and Saga


"Oedipus borealis argues that many well known figures in the Icelandic saga literature are based on mythic prototypes, and that both saga heroes and mythic figures are modeled on a pattern in which physical disability or deformity is linked with both sexual deviance and supernatural powers. In stark contrast to modern narrative, where aberrance is the sign of the villain or the victim, the mythic mind sees aberrance as the sign of the hero. The saga hero Egil Skallagrimsson is discussed as a paradigm. Four other saga heroes who are skalds are considered in light of the pattern established by Egil. Their anomalies, too, are linked with their poetic talent. After examining characters widely disparate from the saga skalds, the model holds: only in the narratives having a Christian purpose do we find the link among disability, deformity, sexual aberrance, wisdom, craft, and power broken. With the would-be Icelandic saint, Gudmund the Good, disability is no longer the mark of a great man, but now appears in its modern interpretation: a character-building setback that the hero must overcome." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Madison, NJ
Publication year:
  • 2004