The Family Life of the Dwarfs and its Significance for Relationships between Dwarfs and Humans in the Sagas

Ugnius Mikučionis


This paper discusses the relationships between dwarfs and humans in the sagas, focusing on Egils saga einhenda ok Ãsmundar berserkjabana, Ãorsteins þáttr bæjarmagns and Ãorsteins saga Víkingssonar. It is argued that dwarfsâ family life is important to the relationships between dwarfs and humans and that human heroes are able to manipulate dwarfs by playing on their emotions, namely their love for their birth children and foster-children (emotional or psychological manipulation); however the human hero may also create a âgift contractâ with the dwarf by giving a present or doing a service to the dwarfâs child (moral manipulation). Presents are given to the dwarfâs child rather than directly to the adult dwarf because the human hero cannot risk having his present rejected. The two types of manipulation are not mutually exclusive; one can often talk of  psychological and a moral aspect of an action. The source texts show that the emotional life of the dwarfs is much richer, and the relationships between dwarfs and humans are far more complex, than many previous scholars have recognised.



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ISSN 1890-5455

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