ISFNR Belief Narrative Network Online Lecture: Gender-based Violence in Icelandic Folk Legends

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Join Dagrún Ósk Jónsdottir for the ISFNR Belief Narrative Network Online Lecture, titled Gender-based Violence in Icelandic Folk Legends, November 04, 2022 at 5 pm CET.

Abstract: Violence takes on various forms in reality. It also appears in various forms in diverse sources, including folk legends. Here the focus will be placed on how domestic and sexual violence against women is presented in the Icelandic folk legend collections from the 19th and early 20th centuries.  

Violence plays a role in the subordination of women, and there is good reason to consider how violence against women is portrayed in the oral legends of the past. It is noteworthy how those legends dealing with gender-based violence are more often than not told by women, and in this regard, it is especially interesting to examine the legends collected by Torfhildur Þ. Hólm (1948-1918). In this talk I will among other things consider the effect these particular legends might have had on those who heard them and examine the roles of the legends in maintaining and shaping a discourse which in many cases may well have attempted to normalise this violence. 

Stories can be an important tool for identifying, illuminating and discussing problems in society, something that became especially clear in the 2017 #metoo movement which played an important role in shedding light on old established attitudes regarding gender-based violence, many of which can also be found in the legends examined here. 

Using the Icelandic legend collections in line with approaches drawn from gender studies, it is evident that the legends shine a valuable new light on social attitudes to gender-based violence in earlier times, underlining the value of reconsidering this archival material from a new viewpoint. 

Dagrún Ósk Jónsdóttir defended her PhD thesis in Folkloristics at the University of Iceland last June. Her project focused on women, femininity and gendered power relations in Icelandic folk legends.

The  ISFNR Belief Narrative Network Online Lectures deal with folk beliefs of all kinds, and the narratives that are used to pass them on. The idea is that in the first week of each month, various international scholars present pre-recorded lectures on the subject of their choice which will later go on to be freely available on the ISFNR web site to anyone who wishes to make use of them as part of their research or in their teaching. The initial on-line showing is  nonetheless always followed by a half an hour live on-line zoom meeting in which those who attend will be able to ask the speaker questions. 

Learn more and join the online lecture at

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