"Hallen var lyst i helig frid". Krig och fred mellan gudar och jättar i en fornnordisk hallmiljö.
"Hallen var lyst i helig frid". Krig och fred mellan gudar och jättar i en fornnordisk hallmiljö.

Opponent är Terry Gunnell, professor i folkloristik, Islands universitet.

Abstract

"There was inviolable truce within the hall". War and Peace between Gods and Giants in Old Norse Halls

This thesis is the first study to examine the interaction between gods and giants in Old Norse mythology from the perspective of Iron Age halls. Its central aim is to contextualise Old Norse mythological narratives that describe the interactions between gods and giants in a hall environment, and to show how the mythological depictions can be compared to the norms and rules found in Iron Age hall culture, especially in connection with its warrior ideology. The relationships observed also apply to the Iron Age’s aristocratic sovereigns and their dynamic dealings – both peaceful and martial – found in the connection and rivalry between different halls and hall owners. The giants are related to the concept of “the Other”, and as hall-owners can thus be contextualised with real social relations in Iron Age society.

Tommy Kuusela. Foto: Frederik Wallenstein.
Tommy Kuusela. Foto: Frederik Wallenstein.

The investigation centers arounds key topics from the perspective of a hall setting, departing from mythic traditions regarding Óðinn and Þórr as guests in the halls of giants. These topics include grið within the hall; the good and generous host; the dangerous and hostile guest; the hall as an arena for knowledge and mead; and finally the destruction of halls as an attack on the hall owner’s fame and honour. Similarities and differences between myths about Óðinn’s and Þórr’s interaction with hall-owning giants are examined in depth, and it is argued that Óðinn embodies wisdom and extracts knowledge or valuables from the giants by cunning tricks or manipulation, having (usually) travelled there alone and in disguise. Þórr, on the other hand, is argued to embody physical strength, honour, glory and courage, and his dealings with the giants revolve around these issues. He seldom seems to travel alone or under cover, and when his courage or honour is threatened, his response is to kill his host (and his retinue) and to destroy the giant’s hall. It is argued that the Old Norse conception of the world is to be understood as neither dualistic or monistic. Instead, it is proposed that the myths can be understood from a perspective of conflicts that are temporal and not permanent in nature.

Keywords: Giants, Old Norse, Religion, Halls, Old Norse Religion, Mythology, Óðinn, Þórr.