Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Birkett, Tom
2014
March
Viking and Medieval Scandinavia
A Cautionary Tale: Reading the Runic Message in Atlamál in Groenlenzko
Published
()
Optional Fields
Atlamál Atlakviđa Eddic Greenland runes Old Norse Viking
9
1
18
Of the many references to runes in the Poetic Edda, the depiction of the runic communication between Guđrún and Kostbera in the poem Atlamal in grżnlenzko is one of the most intriguing. This is due in part to certain authentic-sounding details, which have prompted a number of misguided attempts to reconstruct the message itself. In this article, I offer a reading of this much-discussed episode in light of the runic tradition in medieval Scandinavia and the treatment of the script elsewhere in the Edda, suggesting that rather than representing a realistic depiction of runic correspondence, it is best read as a poetic expression of contemporary concerns about long-distance communication within the North Atlantic littoral. In particular, I address the question of the conventional identification of this poem with Greenland, and examine the historical circumstances that may have occasioned the introduction of the runic subplot. I argue that the episode partakes in a sophisticated discourse about the possibilities and limitations of the written word, which can serve not only as a warning against the misreading of the runic message, but also against imprudent interpretations of literary texts.episode, which has led to a number of misguided attempts to reconstruct the message itself. In this article, I offer a reading of this much-discussed episode in light of the wider literary tradition, suggesting that rather than representing a realistic depiction of runic correspondence, it is best read as a poetic expression of contemporary concerns about long-distance communication within the North Atlantic littoral. In particular, I address the question of the conventional identification of this poem with Greenland, and examine the historical circumstances that may have occasioned the introduction of the runic sub-plot. I argue that the episode represents a sophisticated discourse on the possibilities and limitations of the written word, which can serve not only as a warning against the misreading of the runic message, but also against imprudent readings of literary texts.
978-2-503-54734-3
Grant Details