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Titolo: Tales of Flight in Old Norse and Medieval English Literature
Data di pubblicazione: 2006
Abstract: This study concerns the flight of mythological creatures in Old Norse literature. It opens with an examination of the few references to this subject in the sources, including a detailed analysis of the verbs and nouns used to describe the action and its medium. It appears that divine flight is always connected to cunning and hostility towards giants, and that only Óðinn and Loki are able to fly because of their role as shape-shifters: but whereas the former seems to be able to turn into a real bird – possibly exploiting the power deriving from knowledge of seiðr rituals – the latter only flies if compelled to do so by the gods, and must borrow from Freyja (or Frigg) a feather-coat that each of the two goddesses owns, but does not use herself. It is therefore probable that in the mythological system, flying was considered the prerogative of Vanic deities, a taboo activity among the Æsir (with the exception of Óðinn and Loki), and was performed by valkyries only in their capacity as Òðinn’s messengers on the battlefield (and acting as his hypostases). On the other hand, giants, since the beginning of the world, seem to have had the ability to fly by turning themselves into the shape of an eagle. This explains why the word fjaðrhamr ‘feather-coat’ is not used in episodes describing the flight of giants, but only in connection with Loki in Þrymskviða, and with the semi-divine smith Velent (= Völundr/Weland) in Velents þáttr. Such usage signals a parting from the ancient conception of shamanistic flight and a new interest in the physics and mechanics of flight. If the original nucleus of Þrymskviða, as it has been suggested, was composed in late Anglo-Saxon England, the substitution of the generic term fjaðrhamr ‘feather-coat’ for the many traditional attributes tied to specific birds (arnarhamr ‘eagle-coat’, valshamr ‘hawk-coat’, álptarhamr ‘swan-coat’, krákuhamr ‘raven-coat’) may be due to English influence – considering that in late Medieval England an interest in mechanical flight is well documented – and/or to Low German influence, since we know that the Völundr story arrived to Norway via commercial exchanges with that area.
Tipologia:1.1 Articolo in rivista

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