Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Member

Andrew Lemons

Committee Member

Elizabeth Rivlin

Committee Member

William Stockton


The Icelandic Legendary Sagas contain within them a unique representation of women’s autonomy and agency, seen strongly in the ways women use magic. Scholars such as Jochens and Friðriksdóttir discuss women’s representations most prominently in the Family Sagas, often brushing over the Legendary Sagas due to their fantastical and mythological nature which makes cultural analysis based on the texts difficult. The fantastical nature of the Legendary Sagas, however, presents the opportunity to thoroughly explore unique representations of women’s autonomy. Other female archetypes often analyzed in the sagas are represented influencing male action, such as the inciter or whetter who encourages men to fight to regain family honor. However, I will argue in this thesis that the magical archetypes of seeress and sorceress act not as influences on male action but as mostly independent women. This thesis will describe the representation of female autonomy in the Legendary Sagas not just as an extension of the portrayal of women in the Family Sagas, but as a vision of new possibilities of thinking about women enabled by ancient ideas of magic.



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