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Gender Roles and Symbolic Meaning in Njáls Saga

Thomas Rowsell

Published Online (2012)

There are many examples in Njáls saga of characters who fail to adhere to their assigned gender role and as a result perpetuate the chain of events that leads the saga to its grisly conclusion. The principle examples of this gender distortion are found in the central characters Njáll and Gunnarr and their wives Hallgerðr and Bergþóra. This essay will examine these sexual themes and the symbolic implications of the inversion of gender roles. The theme of sexuality is played out through sexual insults and symbolic inversion of gender roles through action and appearance. These sexual insults have parallels in the Eddic poemLokasenna which connects the theme with mythological tradition.

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