Christianity in the sagas

On Friday I pre-presented to my colleagues the paper I am planning to give in Utah May 3rd. My department organizes this "practice session" every year, but this is the first time I have participated. I found it very odd, if also helpful. It certainly has given me lots to ponder over, although I haven't quite figured out yet what to make of some of the comments I got.

Overall, I am arguing that Þórðar saga hreðu is about redemption, but it seems my audience, or at least the two Old Norse professors in the audience, did not seem keen on supporting that hypothesis. Instead they thought I should stick with the standard, accepted explanation of the noble savage.

I don't know if there really is that much of a substantive difference between saying that medieval Icelanders saw in some of the saga heros a prefiguration of Christ, versus saying they saw them as noble savages, moral without having been taught God's ways. But to me, there is a nuanced distinction in terms of conceptions of history, and time. In the prefiguration model, which the Old Testament uses, there is the idea that all of this was preordained, inevitable, that all things pointed to the coming of Christ. But when scholars talk about medieval Icelanders, they talk about a group of people who had been ripped away from their ancestors through the conversion to Christianity. That although they might be able to find some qualities to admire in the landnámsmen, they were in essence fundamentally estranged from them. This idea strikes me as very sad, and I would rather not concede it.

So now I am looking back through the saga, to see how I can say what I want to say, without saying what they want me to say.

Comments

Carlos said…
Ég held að þú hafir rétt fyrir þér. Spurningin um « the noble savage » hljómar eins og síðari tíma hugmynd, natúralistarnir? Einnig held ég ekki að kristnin hafi verið þröngvað upp á landnámsmennina, miklu frekar að þeir hafi hægt og rólega tekið hana af því að allur sá heimur sem þeir versluðu við var kristinn ... þetta var í þeirra þágu, að þeir tækju þessa trú.

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