Friday, July 15, 2022

Viking Study Discussion Portfolio

 John C Gibson 

VikingsSummer 22 

Discussion Portfolio 

3 Personal Best Posts: 

1. Week Number: 2 

Thread: Tension Between Marriage and Family    

Date 05/29/22 

Hi Sam and Melissa, I like this thread's discussion. :)  

My view is that the theme of saving siblings over one's own children culminated in Gudrun's mother telling Gudrun "do according to our bidding", meaning fighting for mother/father side's members/siblings instead of husband side's members/children, in chapter 33. 

"Bidding" means that marriage and child birthing are business-political arrangements with uncertain prospects. "Our" refers to the shared possessions between Gudrun's mother/father and Grudrun, which are Gudrun's siblings. 

The historical context of the migration of the 5th century was that Hun(Atli, Gudrun's second husband) was from central Eurasia, who spoke a language very different from Gudrun's Burgundian(German-like) family. 

Hun Atli and Gudrun's children, raised in Hun country, might not be able to speak Gudrun's language much. I can imagine the difficulties Gudrun endured when her nephews and nieces spoke the same language and had the same skin as her, while her own children couldn't hold a conversation with her, and her own children looked and behaved as foreigners. 

I can imagine a world where everyone lived as a foreigner, as undocumented immigrant, and no citizenship paper was granted to anyone because federal government Rome had fallen in the 5th century, leaving Burgundy region citizens to be conquered by the next strongest tribe of the year.   

My understanding is that Scandinavians didn't need to have a very different tradition/culture from modern 21st century industrial people for disasters/killing children to happen when the society had broken down.  

I know that Signy and her husband were both Scandinavians when murder-own-children happened in the first half of the saga, but the story built up from a non-built society, and later more ethnicities were mixed in for dramatic effect. 

2. Week Number: 8 

Thread: Why the years 1000 to 1200 were marked as the ending of Viking Age 

Date: 7/9/22 

From a literary perspective, in Heimskringla Saga, after King Harald Hardradi was killed, 2 more grueling battles were depicted, resulting in near complete destruction of the fleet recruited to England shores. 

When I looked up 3 other war depictions by different authors, battles all stopped soon after the king was killed. 

- When Irish High King Brian Boru was killed, the battle was won already, and the army was just pursuing the fleeing enemy [1].  

- When Danish King Hrolf was killed, he and his close champions were the only ones still fighting, all others dead [2]. So, the king's death was near the end of the battle. 

- In Egil's saga, after King Arnvid and King Audbjorn(opponents of king Harald Finehair) were killed, Solvi Cleaver "escaped", implying that no fighting-to-the-last-soldier took place [3].  

It appears that Snorri Sturlusson's depiction of the year 1066 hinted that this war was different by prolonging the war to signal the greater loss.  

And a great loss may produce the sentiment for reconciliation. 

[1] The Viking Age, p455 

[2] The Viking Age, p179 

[3] The Viking Age, p31 


3. Week Number: 1 

Thread: Beauty is NOT a curse in Egil's saga, or, is it? 

Date: 5/21/22  

Norse mythology is known to utilize riddles in plots. In the first half of Egil's saga, beauty and death appear as a theme in the lives of Hrafnista, Trondheim, and Halogaland regions. 

Thorolf's mother and Thorolf himself are said to be of Nordic beauty. Thorolf is strong with charming facial features, and Salbjorg has very fair skin. 

But Kveld-Ulf's dialog with his son Thorolf hinted at impending death when he said "I think that we’ll all end up dead because of that king.” 

In king Harald's own words, "appearance" is explicitly said to warrant inquiry when he said “as long as I find that Thorolf has the manly qualities his brave appearance suggests.” 

Given the usual story telling morals, one can be tempted to solve the riddle of the king's words as a tyrant terrorizing any subject with charisma as a challenge to his power, and physical beauty is the most easily identifiable threat. But multiple events, including a banquet, show that the king is a very reasonable man when he "became merry"  and "the king let the matter rest” after being convinced by the Oliv Snubnose to give Kveld-Ulf’s family half a year to meet the king. The king earns his power, at least, in part, by hard work and wits, not by being a savage oppressor.   

However, the undercurrent of beauty and death still permeates as the story unfolds leading to the battle where Thorolf's best friend Bard dies while the best-looking character Thorolf survives and thrives. 

It appears that, by the end of first half of Egil's saga, the riddle can be half solved, meaning that beauty is significant in Nordic life, yet it is a double edged sword. The many cards at hand, including the card of beauty, however, requires conning wits and stamina to decipher and play. 

Why did you choose these 3 posts to represent your best discussion contributions? Write a paragraph below explaining your decision. 

All these 3 posts focus on literary significances, but the discussion reveals consequences related to our society even to this day, not limited to ancient times. So, the significance cannot be overstated. The first post can be considered a close reading because it singles out the words of a sentence one by one, to reveal the full extent of their impact. The second post is also a close reading because it counted the number of literary elements, the battles. Counting the occurrences of literary elements is often the first step of close reading. The third post is also a close reading because it tries to probe the significance of a single word “appearance”. From the form-versus-content perspective, all the above 3 posts have multiple paragraphs in essay form, which is beyond the required paragraph form. The writings are logical, with greeting or introduction, quickly reveal my key point, followed by discussing my idea. 

Overall Best Discussion Post by Another Student: 

Week Number: 6 

Thread: The Varangian Guard, 1066, and the Harald Connection  

Date: 6/23/22 

Reading this week, the name Harald Hadrada came up more than once, especially while doing a little more research on the Varangian Guard. He was the only member of the Varangian Guard who became King of Norway, and happened to be the same Norwegian king to challenge Harold Godwinson for the contested English throne in 1066. If Godwinson had not been up the English coast fighting Hadrada’s army (and his own brother, Tostig) at Stamford Bridge, his army wouldn’t have been so far away and had to hustle back to Hastings where William of Normandy was invading for his own chance at the throne. 

Of course, we all know how that turned out, but while reading about the Varangian Guard, I discovered that part of the reason for the eventual decline of this elite force connected to the momentous events of 1066. Anglo-Saxons were no longer in control of England, and many “exiled Anglo-Saxon warriors went in droves to Constantinople [where t]heir presence changed the makeup of the warriors” (Fraga). As the centuries went on, the Guard became mostly Anglo-Saxon, not Norse, and their expertise dwindled as well. 

As an aside, isn’t it interesting that two separate Viking regions fought over the same throne? Normandy was settled by Norsemen (hence the name) several centuries earlier, as we saw earlier in this class. Technically, Normans were descended from Vikings just as the Norwegian king was, and they both wanted England when the throne was more-or-less up for grabs 

Why did you choose this as the best overall discussion post? Write a paragraph below explaining your decision. 

Jessica Ozimek posted this excellent discussion. She counted the number of times an interesting word occurred, which is the standard first step in literary close reading. When the name Hardrada appeared multiple times, she figured out the connection between the occurrences, which was the Norwegian king’s multiple careers’ depictions. The connection was identified correctly, so it was a good close reading. The writing started out with an introduction, which was her daily reading routines, and then the discovery of the significance of the connection was revealed. So, it was of good progression of writing. This discussion connected many distinct parts of scenes, actions, and mindsets. From the form-versus-content perspective, this posting is a multiple paragraph essay, which is beyond the required paragraph form. I was lucky enough to participate in the thread, so, it also has good interactions. 


What grade would you give your participation during this evaluation period? Mark an X in your choice of cell for each row. 

Note: The grade you give yourself will not affect your grade on this assignment. The purpose is for you and I to see how well your understanding of the criteria described in the assignment match up, and for you to reflect on your own engagement in the course so far. 








Sharing Insight 






Close Reading 












Writing Quality 







Write 1 paragraph below reflecting on your discussion participation overall this semester, and what you might take away for future online courses. 

I am happy to have participated in topics that impact our society to this day with discussion of thousand-year-old texts. It is unexpected. I am proud of myself for performing close reading countless times in the course. Close reading reads in between the lines of the text, and I often read the lines one day and guessed the in-betweens, the blanks, for several days to figure out the mindset of the writer. It is a grueling process, but time is of the essence for any course real-time discussion. I sent individual emails to Tiffany Gregg and Zenon Nieduzak after official discussion cutoff times to thank them for responding to my threads. I will prefer to take online courses of full 3-month duration in the future if I have the choice. But, still, I have taken full advantage of this session, and am satisfied by the outcome 

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