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Queering the Sagas

Queering the Sagas

Skogasafn2-rot

Iceland’s sagas are so well stocked with powerful, stoic women, you can’t swing a magic hammer without hitting one.

Dan Brielmaier, a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, notes a few of these feisty women: "In Njals Saga, Gunnar hits his wife, Hallgerdr. Years later, as they are under attack, Gunnar asks her for a strand of her hair to string his bow. She declines, saying, 'I do not care in the least whether you hold out for a long time or not.' " Burn!

Among the Valkyries, goddesses who select the bravest warriors for admittance to glorious Valhalla, Brynhildr is the best known. She's beautiful, and a major badass as a shieldmaiden. And her appearance in Xena: Warrior Princess cemented her queer icon status.

Like the Marvel version of Thor, who is now a woman, trickster god Loki changed sex -- not to mention species. "Notably, he became a mare, was impregnated by a stallion, and gave birth to Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged horse," Brielmaier says.

Odin practiced seidr, "a dark magic associated exclusively with women," Brielmaier says. "Several men in the sagas are said to practice it, and thought of as deviant and queer. They sometimes wear women's clothes while performing the magic."

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