Burnings in medieval literature

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Yoav Tirosh (University of Iceland)
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In the medieval Icelandic sagas, one of the most common scenes is the intentional incineration of a household. Most of these can be found in either the Sagas of Icelanders or contemporary saga corpuses, but some burning scenes can be found in more fantastic settings such as

Hrólfs saga kraka

. Burning was seen as a grave and heinous act, and was more often than not framed by the saga narrative as ignoble.

Burnings in narratives often functioned to highlight the folly of violence, ramped up to the extreme. Most burnings do not end a feud, but rather lead to further bloodshed. In Brennu-Njáls saga [The Saga of Burnt Njáll], Kári leaps out of a burning house and later he systematically kills his kinspeople’s burners. The killing of Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson by Þorvaldr Snorrason in Hrafns

756 words

Citation: Tirosh, Yoav. "Burnings in medieval literature". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 22 November 2023 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=19739, accessed 15 June 2024.]

19739 Burnings in medieval literature 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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