Norse Mythology And Thorstein The Staff Struck English Literature Essay
| Norse mythology. This is an odd term for me. I have never spent much time studying the culture of the Northern Germanic people from the medieval period. Maybe this is why I chose to discuss the pendant “Thorstein the Staff-Struck.” I found this culture extremely interesting but very strange. The concept of Asgard and Utgard was a culture shock to me. It is, as always, astounding to see how different cultures view their religions. The fact that heroism alone can get you in to their idea of heaven is almost appalling. But more frightening than that is the fact that even in “heaven” the heroes will be fighting to defend their “heaven” over and over in a vicious cycle that never ends in this “heaven” that is no heaven at all, or not one that we as Christians think of. So as outlined in the lecture notes, the only good men can hope to achieve in this culture is heroism. In the saga of “Thorstein the Staff-Struck, this idea is reiterated over and over again. They all must be heroes, or die trying.
| The title character Thorstein is a very even-tempered man who I assume would be happy to be let alone throughout his life, which is different from his cultural norms. I inferred from the reading that these Icelandic men are a very crude, boastful bunch who seem to always be willing to fight or brag about any insignificant event. I interpreted this mainly from reading about Thorvald and Thorhall. So to see this man who wishes to avoid confrontation and remain calm in all circumstances very clearly shows that he is in cultural transition. However we see that he does participate in the horse-fight which is relative to this Icelandic culture. I think it’s a very crude event and made me a little sad to read about it. This horse-fight was the cause for this entire “thread.” The excitement of this sporting event landed the blow on Thorstein’s eye. Being his even-tempered self, he did nothing which again shows his wavering ideas of his culture. A normal norse man would have started a brawl with that incident. A normal Norse man, like his father…when his father finds out about the occurrence at the horse-fight he is outraged and thinks that his son is a coward. This I believe to be a usual response from an Icelandic man. The guilt from his father urges Thorstein to confront Thord about the event. When Thord replies that the blow was both accidental and deliberate and claims that there will be no compensation for the deliberate blow then he is killed by Thorstein. Here we see his battle with his culture transition. He really would have liked to let the incident remain hidden in the past but when society pressures him to respond he must. The statement is also true of Bjarni. Society keeps telling him to prosecute Thorstein for his actions but he knows that “Thorstein has never killed anyone without good reason.” When it finally comes to the battle between Thorstein and Bjarni, we see the ultimate moral and cultural conflict. Neither men want to harm the other and have only begun this feud because their culture told them it was necessary. Each man considers the respect of the community essential to his self-respect. I love the ending of this story because even though Bjarni still, ironically, takes Thorstein away from his father which he was trying to avoid throughout the entirety of the story; they put an override on their culture which would have told them to fight to the death and they were both aloud to live.
| The women that were present in this story had very small roles but were significant in showing the position of women in the northern Germanic culture. The woman at the beginning of the story very plainly states,” It’s true what we women are often told we are not very clever,” which she must have heard a hundred times throughout her life as an Icelandic woman. But she could not have been any more sarcastic with her response, because she knew exactly what she was doing when she did not tell Bjarni right away when the incident happened. She wanted to make sure Thord was dead so that he got what he deserved and also to let Bjarni know that he was not always in complete control of the happenings around his estate. The other woman present in this story is Bjarni’s wife who presses the matter of prosecuting Thorstein because the people of the town are talking badly about her husband but when he agrees to see to the matter she immediately objects because she doesn’t want her family in harm’s way. Isn’t that just like a woman…still today I believe?
| I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread and once again it opened my naïve eyes to world around me and how people can view the world so differently than I do.
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