Sagas Reveal Viking-Envy as an Age-Old Trait

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 26, 2004 | Go to article overview

Sagas Reveal Viking-Envy as an Age-Old Trait


The Vikings may have been feared on the high seas and in coastal settlements around Europe, but new research shows an insecurity closer to home.

After analysing original Icelandic sagas, Dr Carl Phelpstead of Cardiff University has concluded that size really did matter to Vikings - and they weren't thinking of their swords or longboats.

He says men's concerns in the 21st century about the relative sizes of the critical part of their anatomy were similar to the worries that afflicted Icelandic men in the 10th and 11th centuries. He found clear references in three early Icelandic sagas.

'There aren't a lot of other episodes like those, considering how many texts there are,' said Dr Phelpstead, a lecturer. 'It could well have been an issue but one that was not often written about. It's an issue with men nowadays - but you don't find it in every novel you read.' His research drew on Freudian analysis, a theory which connects psychology to deep-seated sexual desires or fears.

'These narratives reveal a relationship between the male genitals and men's identity that is both familiar and alien to us. In the sagas of Icelanders, as today, a man is expected to have an appropriately sized penis and to be able, when occasion demands, to make it even larger. An unexpectedly small penis or an inability to achieve an erection leads to mockery and humiliation,' he added. …

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