Long ago in a Time Far, Far Away: How the Past is Depicted as Strange in Egil's Saga
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This paper uses the Icelandic, thirteenth century work Egil’s Saga to learn more about the way thirteenth century Icelanders depicted the past. This research looks at moments where the saga depicts an aspect of the past as being different. These are moments with direct reference to an element of the story being a certain way ‘at the time’. After first isolating the relevant extracts, these were submitted to analysis. The paper looks at an array of topics from Egil, including berkserkers, baptisms, laws, duels, burials, and something which looks like a halberd, but is not really a halberd. From these topics, overarching themes emerged. ‘Violence’ turned out to be an important indication for differences with the past, however this violence was subjected to rules and customs. Egil’s Saga explains such customs in great detail. While the Saga Age appears to be a more violent time, with slavery, religious tolerance, and people who had supernatural strength, the author depicts all this with a level of nuance and respect. The past is not some glorious age, nor is it a despicable origin the Icelandic people had to remove themselves from.