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The context, purpose, and dissemination of legendary genealogies in northern England and Iceland c. 1120 – c. 1241



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Lunga, Peter Sigurdson  ORCID logo


The thesis is a comparative and multidisciplinary study of legendary genealogies in the historical writing of northern England and Iceland c. 1120 – c. 1241. Historical writing was produced in abundance over this period in both areas and the frequent contact between England and Scandinavia, as well as shared use of early medieval insular sources make them especially suitable for comparison. The Viking invasions and settlement in England had a significant impact on English culture, language and literature and changed attitudes to their own legendary past. The Danish conquest of England in the early eleventh-century also brought the insular and Scandinavian worlds closer together, and even after the Norman Conquest in 1066, England and Scandinavia engaged in scholarly and textual exchange The theoretical framework for the thesis combines approaches from religious history, art history, political history, literature history and gender history. The main research questions of the thesis consider the dissemination, development, and purpose of legendary genealogies. The sources are a collection of Durham related manuscripts with illuminations of the pagan god Woden (c. 1120–88) in two historical works De Primo Saxonum Aduentu and De Gestis Regum; Genealogia Regum Anglorum (Rievaulx, 1153x54) by Aelred of Rievaulx; two works attributed to Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda (Iceland, 1220s) and Heimskringla (Iceland, 1225x35). Common to the sources is the inclusion of genealogies that stretch from legendary generations to living individuals at the time of writing. Thus, genealogies connected dynasties and civilisations in mutual descent from pagan, Trojan and biblical ancestors. By analysing textual dissemination as well as political contexts, literary patronage and mechanisms in legitimisation of power, the thesis address amalgamations of origin myths, the use and significance euhemerised pagan gods, and female generations in genealogies.





Berend, Nora


Medieval History, genealogy, Snorri Sturluson, Aelred of Rievaulx, Ailred of Rievaulx, De Primo Saxonum Aduentu, Heimskringla, Genealogia Regum Anglorum, De Gestis Regum, The Prose Edda, Euhemerisation, legendary genealogy, paganism, historiography, genealogical appropriation, Myths of Origin, Origin myths, Trojan genealogy, Biblical genealogy, Noah, Brutus, Durham, Iceland, Rievaulx, Meykonungar, Meykongr, demonisation, Woden, Skaldic poetry, Bilateral genealogies, cognatic genealogies, Óðinn, Yngvi-Freyr, Matilda II of England, Empress Matilda, Skúli Bárðarson, Hákon Hákonarson, Fagrskinna, John of Worcester, illuminated genealogies, manuscript illumination, legitimation, demonology, Tree of Jesse, Worcester Accounts, Snæfriðr Svásadóttir, Henry FitzEmpress, Henry II of England, Symeon of Durham


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge