Marvelous Births in Old Norse Myth and Saga
In Old Norse culture, there is a number of stories about peculiar conceptions and births. The god Heimdall is said to have been born of nine giantess women, possibly without male involvement. The eight-legged and exceptional stallion, Sleipnir, is born of a male god in the guise of a mare. From the world of humans, there is a tale of a man who was conceived when his mother ate a rotten fish! Kinship and gender roles were important in Old Norse culture, not least because they anchored each individual in what was undoubtedly the most important institution of the time, the family. Deviant kinship and marvelous births were important for explaining the resulting offspring, such as the eight-legged stallion Sleipnir and the powerful god Heimdall, but such myths also provide a unique window into a culture that on the one hand is quite alien, but on the other hand, themes something as modern as transgression of gender norms and complex parental constellations.
Bernt Ø. Thorvaldsen (b. 1976) is a professor of Norwegian at the University of South-Eastern Norway, where he teaches language and literature. Thorvaldsen is an expert on Old Norse culture, with Old Norse mythology and Edda poetry as his speciality.
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Lena Schattenherz Heide-Brennand is a Norwegian lecturer with a master degree in language, culture and literature from the University of Oslo and Linnaeus University. She has been lecturing and teaching various subjects since 1998. Her field of interest and main focus has always been topics that others have considered strange, eccentric and eerie, and she has specialised in a variety of dark subjects linked to folklore, mythology and Victorian traditions and medicine. Her students often point out her thorough knowledge about the subjects she is teaching, in addition to her charismatic appearance. She refers to herself as a performance lecturer and always gives her audience an outstanding experience
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