Viking Myths and Sagas

Module code: EN2035

The Vikings are familiar to most as seafaring raiders and the scourge of monks. However, they also created the first political commonwealth, developed a complex legal system, and composed poems and saga narratives that are by turns inspiring, bloodthirsty, philosophical, and entertaining. Old Norse literature influenced a range of later literary figures such as Thomas Gray and William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien and Joanne Harris. This module introduces you to the literature of the Vikings and its historical and cultural contexts. Specifically, it will enhance literary skills, building on work completed during your first year and introduce you to the history and literature of the Viking Age. This module invites you to consider mythological and legendary material, and the Norse sagas as proto-novels. A range of texts in translation will be studied closely in seminars including: 

  • Poetic and prose mythological narratives 
  • The Saga of the Volsungs 
  • The Sagas of Egill, Gisli, Njall and Grettir

These texts will be used to consider themes such as:

  • Revenge and heroism 
  • Myth and legend
  • Paganism and the past
  • Law and politics
  • The relationship between the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons