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Outlaws in the younger Sagas of Icelanders

Viktória Gyönki (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest) analyses Króka-Refs saga in the light of Icelandic outlaw sagas


Grettir in the 17-th century manuscript AM 426 fol., The Árni Magnússon Institute, Reykjavík
Depiction of Grettir in the 17th-century manuscript AM 426 fol.

Outlaws in the younger Sagas of Icelanders – The case of Grettis saga and Króka-Refs saga

Viktória Gyönki, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest


As one of the younger pieces of medieval Icelandic literature, Króka-Refs saga has quite a few similarities with older Icelandic sagas and Legendary Sagas as well. It presents the life of Refr, a somewhat unpromising young man who emerges as a great hero. As was presented by Martin Arnold, Refr’s life includes episodes when he is on the margin of society, similarly to outlaws.

In this paper, I would like to present a comparative approach to Króka-Refs saga and Grettis saga. The latter text is known as one of the outlaw sagas with a focus on Grettir, who cannot fit into Icelandic society. His outdated heroic lifestyle causes troubles, and he ends up on the margins of society. Refr is a different character than Grettir, but he also finds himself outside of society, after facing his enemies.

Since both of these sagas were written in the 14th century, the question of the mixed genres will be discussed first. The rich legal tradition of Iceland has affected the saga literature, and one of the most obvious cases that we can study here is outlawry. Since Refr is known as an outlaw, I would like to present his character from this angle with the help of Grettir. My aim is to discover the differences and similarities between these two protagonists. I will argue the satiric nature of Króka-Refs saga and the representation of Grettir and Refr as children, their relation to the supernatural, and when they are depicted as animals.



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