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The Witch-Queen of Avaldsnes: An Analysis of the Portrayals of Gunnhildr konungamóðir

IBBOTT, NICOLA,ALEXANDRA (2020) The Witch-Queen of Avaldsnes: An Analysis of the Portrayals of Gunnhildr konungamóðir. Masters thesis, Durham University.



Gunnhildr konungamóðir is described in much of the extant source material as a sorceress noted for her brazen sexuality and ruthlessly cruel character. She was queen of Norway, York and Orkney as King Eiríkr blóðǫx's consort and subsequently wielded influence in the courts of her sons. However, much of her life is shrouded in mystery and her image is twisted by texts, which owe more to the time in which they were written than they do a tenth-century queen. This research draws attention to the life of a woman who may have been subject to infamy in her own time but was certainly vilified in the Middle Ages and has been somewhat neglected by modern historians. Its aim is to explore Gunnhildr's portrayals in the extant primary source material, thereby seeking an explanation for why she was so maligned. This will be facilitated by answering questions about what the texts say about her; how they differ; how the date and origin of the sources affect the portrayals; and to what extent do the sources provide a realistic description of a tenth-century queen? The analysis is organised chronologically, starting with the earliest portrayals in the 'Norwegian Synoptics' and ending with Íslendingasögur. The research found that Gunnhildr's portrayals are for the most part negative and contain themes such as cruelty, sorcery, and her active role in government which span time, genre and origin. It is likely that the descriptions of Gunnhildr do not truly represent the life of a tenth-century queen but medieval attitudes. Further research placing Gunnhildr into tenth-century and medieval contexts and exploring more source material would be beneficial.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:23 Apr 2020 14:39

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