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Essay on Gender Switching in Medieval Literature

Project id 1003330
Subject area Self Improvement
Document type Essay
Words 1975
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Considered among the most common Icelandic literatures, Njal's Saga is a tale composed by anonymous authors shortly after the collapse of the Icelandic Commonwealth. The saga recounts a procession of blood feuds that leads to minor hallucinations, but also portrays the coming of Christianity to Scandinavia. Through the use of several stock characters, the narrative bears striking similarity to The Nibelungenlied, a Germanic epic which also ends in tragedy. There are arrogant personalities who place too much confidence about their wives, along with heroines who are outside with a thirst for revenge. Both stories, originally take place in stable society in which men are the breadwinners off fighting battles, directing troops, and gaining honor for their country while women are the homemakers, tending to their own families, self-worshipping their beauty and spreading gossip. Large problems come to life when figures step out of their sex roles and cross gender lines. The significant protagonists of the stories are Kriemhild and Njal. These are the tragic heroes who start off in happy, peaceful state, but because of a personal character flaw, they spiral down to their final demise. Njal plays the function of a pacifist and solves conflict throughwords and law instead of blood. However, it seems thatNjal dies not because he adopts a feminine approach to life but because he chose to sacrifice himself--his death was partially voluntary. Kriemhild, on the other hand, seeks revenge and embarks on a violent after her husband Siegfried's death. She dies because her society did not accept what she has become--her death wasn't voluntary. Although both stories have the same definition for gender identity and both have characters that dare challenge these social norms, Icelandic soci...

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