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Thread: Realm of Icelandic Romance: Distinctions and Transgressions

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    Mein Glaube ist die Liebe zu meinem Volk. Juthunge's Avatar
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    Realm of Icelandic Romance: Distinctions and Transgressions

    An Encounter with the Stepmother

    Abstract
    The wicked stepmother is a well-known character in folklore and popular culture and arguably one of the most accomplished female villains of fictional literature. Also the medieval Icelandic saga corpus is among the numerous literary contexts in which the character can be encountered, and some conspicuously wicked specimens are featured in a subgroup of the genre that dates from the period between the late thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries.

    Since these types of sagas are set in a courtly milieu and display overtly chivalric ideals, they have also become known as Icelandic romances. Icelandic society underwent great changes during the latter part of the Middle Ages. When the country was integrated into the Norwegian monarchy in the course of the thirteenth century, a new social elite emerged which received its power from the king rather than from retainers.
    This class was preoccupied with the ideology of the court which promoted the adoption of new modes of normative social behavior. These were also considerably influenced by Christian norms and ideals such as monogamous marriage and sexual purity.

    This thesis discusses the function of the character of the stepmother in the context of changing norms and attitudes which are expressed in the secular Icelandic prose literature that emerged during that time.
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    The thesis also contains a lot more interesting information about medieval Icelandic society, as can be seen in the table of contents:

    • Towards a Demarcation of Icelandic Romance – Translated and Indigenous riddarasögur, and fornaldarsögur
    • Political Power and Social Networks during the Free State Period
    • The Power Base of the Icelandic Ruling-Class Chieftains
    • The Political Situation at the End of the Free State Period
    • The Transformation of the Icelandic Elite from Kin-Based to Service Aristocracy
    • Sex, Gender, and Sexual Norms in Medieval Icelandic Society
    • Manliness and Unmanliness during the Free State Period
    • Manliness and Womanliness during the Free State Period
    • The Rise of a New Masculinity
    • Sexuality and Politics between Secular Interests and Christian Moral Values
    • New Inheritance Practices and the Power of Virginity
    • The Fixation of Femininity in Late Medieval Icelandic Literature
    • One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
    • Methodological Approach
    • Introducing the General Pattern: Valdimars saga
    • Beyond the Boundaries of Humanness: Sigrgarðs saga frœkna
    • Unbridled Lust in Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis and Hrólfs saga kraka ok kappa hans
    "Man kann sich heute nicht in Gesellschaft um Deutschland bemühen; man muss es einsam tun wie ein Mensch, der mit seinem Buschmesser im Urwald Bresche schlägt und den nur die Hoffnung erhält, dass irgendwo im Dickicht andere an der gleichen Arbeit sind." - Ernst Jünger

    Ancient DNA: List of All Studies analyzing DNA of Ancient Tribes and Ethnicities(post-2010)


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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Fear of becoming the object of nidh demonstrates the existence back then of a honour-shame rather than guilt based culture.

    As such the Norse values were closer to those of modern Mediterranean Europe than to the guilt-based Germanic Europe of today. Although the emphasis upon female chastity was less prominent in the North the culture was very much based on conflict and reputation: though it has been suggested the Northern focus on honour related already to 'getting even' (Harold Berman) and therefore to a cultural focus upon equality as opposed to dominance in Arabs or Sicilians. The question is why the late shift to modernity ocurred, and it probably has more to do with the Hajnal Line than anything else. But the local form of honour culture may reveal a precedent.

    http://honorshame.com/data-global-culture-types/

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    Mein Glaube ist die Liebe zu meinem Volk. Juthunge's Avatar
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    Yes, Germanic cultures seem to have had a bigger emphasis on wergild/blood money than other shame cultures, which seems to have been the primary mode of "getting even" already, as opposed to other cultures where blood money was more of a lesser alternative.
    Though, the very existence of complicated laws on wergild as also the Nidh you mentioned, obviously "proves", that feuds existed and were a problem, and also, that honor was very important. Therefore, it was indeed more of a shame culture.

    In what way could we connect the switch to the Hajnal line, though? Although it’s geographical extent admittedly corresponds rather neatly, I’m not quite sure if we can pinpoint it to that, though, as it would put the transition back to far in time.

    There seems to be a strong connection between a tribal-collectivist society and shame culture, as well as between a state-(extreme)individualist/liberal society connected to guilt culture.

    Until the growing emphasis on the individual during the Enlightenment and especially, the breakup of traditional bonds between people during the industrialisation, most European societies seemed to have much more of a shame culture with an emphasis on honor and social credit with their fellow people.

    To be sure though, elements of both culture types seem to exist side by side in most societies, as these are not absolutes, just the degree varies.
    Christianity, for example, espouses a guilt culture(just look at the sacrament of penance), yet in Germanic cultures, even as they had long become Christian the feud still existed until the strengthening of the state.
    Whereas Italians, Christians for even longer, still cling mostly to a shame culture in certain regions.
    "Man kann sich heute nicht in Gesellschaft um Deutschland bemühen; man muss es einsam tun wie ein Mensch, der mit seinem Buschmesser im Urwald Bresche schlägt und den nur die Hoffnung erhält, dass irgendwo im Dickicht andere an der gleichen Arbeit sind." - Ernst Jünger

    Ancient DNA: List of All Studies analyzing DNA of Ancient Tribes and Ethnicities(post-2010)


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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Mention of wergild bringsup the finacial aspect of Nordic honour culture that contrasts against Latin focus on female chastity. In later periods of Germanic history shame (as oposed to guilt) was often financial as it also is in some Asian societies but much ess so in the Mediterranean. A strong focus on financial shame in the Viking period might relate to the later work ethic in the Germanics? If so then certain ostensibly Western or Protestant values were present in some form long before the Hajnal line.

    Shame and guilt cultures in Europe differ mostly by a cultural emphasis on agreeableness (compliance) when judging moral righteousness. Since such facets of personality are known to be largely hereditary the common HBD claim about the effects of kinship patterns, religious history and the Hajnal line are intuitively likely to be correct so I referred to it as a kind of default explanation to be tested or measured against. Nonetheless I do suspect differences between Nordic and Mediterranean honour cultures do seem to point towards deeper rooted differences and a Northern predisposition towards later Germanic values.

    On that note about personality and heredity I think its worth bearing in mind that feuding relates to spitefulness which has been the subject of much research. At the cultural level guilt societies are not preoccupied by the morality of harm avoidance and empathy. They limit prosociality to smaller circles of people. The cultures value agonistic behaviours though this may be subdued and ritualised by a shift to ludism or malicious gossip in some cases to minimise violent conflict. The low emphasis upon guilt is what defines a shame culture. The shift to a guilt culture will then be social checks upon spitefulness.

    The present study examined the connections between spitefulness and moral concerns. More specifically, we examined whether spitefulness had unique associations with individualizing and binding values after controlling for basic personality dimensions. Spitefulness did not have a unique association with binding values, but the expected negative association between spitefulness and individualizing values did emerge. That is, individuals with high levels of spitefulness reported relatively low levels of concern about avoiding harm to others or treating others fairly when considering moral issues. These findings suggest the intriguing possibility that individuals with high levels of spitefulness are not concerned about treating others fairly or avoiding harm to others even though they may be very concerned about their own treatment by others (e.g., being treated fairly, not being harmed). This pattern is consistent with the results of recent studies showing that spitefulness is associated with socially antagonistic behavior (e.g., Marcus et al., 2014), low levels of guilt (Marcus et al., 2014), and an impaired capacity to accurately understand the mental states of others (Ewing et al., 2014).
    https://www.researchgate.net/profile...ral-values.pdf

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catterick View Post
    The low emphasis upon guilt is what defines a shame culture. The shift to a guilt culture will then be social checks upon spitefulness.
    "Shame" basically tells you that what you did was quite right, just you didn't succeed, and this was your fault. So, you simply should try harder next time.

    The East Asians live in a culture of shame. That means, no matter how often they failed, or will fail, they always tried, and always will try again, just harder than before.

    "Guilt" tells you that what you did, or tried to do, was wrong. So you should not do it again.

    There is something in between them, something which turns the one into the other, the turning point. Something like: "I tried this one, and failed, so I maybe should not try it again, or at least I should not try it again in this stupid way. Because if I do, I will fail again. I must find something else."

    The "guilt" under which we are now is the guilt against others (ultimately against the joo). But originally, the "guilt" was against oneself, or against one's own folk.

    The joo has managed to bring us, the Germanics, to the point where we now firmly believe that we are "guilty" against him, the joo. Because he is the chosen one, the child of god (which we are obviously not, then), he should duely rule the world (and not we), and we better should have never meddled with him. And should we dare try it ever again, he, the joo, will smash us ultimately.

    In other words: "guilt" is something for lads without eggs, who, though, just want "to live", albeit without eggs.

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