• “FATE MUST FIND SOMEONE TO SPEAK THROUGH”: CHRISTIANITY, RAGNARÖK, AND THE LOSS OF ICELANDIC INDEPENDENCE IN THE EYES OF THE ICELANDERS AS ILLUSTRATED BY GÍSLA SAGA SÚRSSONAR

      Mjolsnes, Grete E.; Grossweiner, Karen; Ruppert, James; Bartlett, D.A. (2008-12)
      Iceland surrendered political control to the Norwegian monarchy in 1262, but immediately resented their choice. The sagas about reliance on the Norwegians, clearly illustrating that the Icelanders knew where this path was leading them. Gísla Saga is a particularly interesting text to examine in light of the contemporaneous political climate, as it takes place in the years leading up to the conversion but was written between the conversion and the submission to Norwegian rule. Though Gísla does not explicitly comment on either the conversion or the increase in Norwegian influence, close examination illuminates ambiguity in the portrayal of Christian and pagan characters and a general sense of terminal foreboding. This subtle commentary becomes clearer when one reads Gísla Saga in light of the story of Ragnarök, the death of the gods and the end of the Norse world. Characters and images in Gísla Saga may be compared with the events of Ragnarök, the apocalyptic battle between the Æsir and the giants, illustrating how the Christian conversion and Norwegian submission brought about the end of Iceland’s golden age by destroying the last home of the Norse gods. In order to closely compare the events of Gísla Saga with those of Ragnarök, I have chosen to work with the final battle as it is described in the Volspá, or The Prophesy of the Seeress, one of the Elder Edda, of which I have translated the Codex Regis and Hauksbók manuscript versions, in order to deal closely and specifically with the text. Finally I discuss images of Ragnarök, as it is told in the Voluspá, which appear in Gísla, drawing close the ties between Christianization and Norwegian rule and the ways in which Icelanders recognized this conversion as the end of their world.