Research Group for Medieval Philology
The Research Group presents

Ethnogenesis and stranger-kings in Old Scandinavian Literature

Jonas Wellendorf (UC Berkeley) discusses ethonogenesis in the sagas of the Skjǫldungs and the Ynglings.

Uppsalahovet, Carl Johan Billmark
Carl Johan Billmark: Uppsalahovet
Wikimedia Commons

Building on recent scholarship on ethnogenesis and saga literature, I wish to contribute to the discussion of the extent to which early saga literature can be seen as origo gentis narratives. My presentation will be organized around two questions: 1) What is an origo gentis narrative? 2) How do the sagas of the Skjǫldungs and the Ynglings fit into the category of origo gentis narratives? At the end of my presentation, I will broaden the perspective from royal or dynastic history to societal history by incorporating Marshall Sahlin’s notion of the stranger-king. The strong presence of the stranger-king motif in Ynglinga saga, I will claim, distinguishes it from the more traditional origo gentis-narratives of a continental origin.


Jonas Wellendorf is Associate Professor of Old Norse Studies at the University of California Berkeley.