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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

b) The Romantic Middle Ages. Canada, Denmark, Russia

2) An undying death song: reinventing the warrior-skald in Adam Oehlenschläger’s Regnar Lodbrok (1848)

Lea Grosen Jørgensen

Texte intégral

1The picture of the Viking Ragnar Lodbrok singing his death song in an English snake pit has been immortalized for centuries, most recently in History’s TV series Vikings (2013–). Many adaptations are based on Old Norse manuscripts, in which the dying Ragnar recounts his exploits and portrays himself as a warrior and a skald simultaneously. The song combines warrior traits with the art of storytelling and was one of the first pieces of Old Norse literature translated into English. It is also an excellent example of the reception of Old Norse literature in the Romantic period. In Denmark, one of the leading Romantic writers, Adam Oehlenschläger (1779-1850), incorporated the death song in his heroic poem Regnar Lodbrok (1848). However, this poem has gone unnoticed in Old Norse reception studies as well as in Danish literary history, which tends to focus on Oehlenschläger’s earlier writing.

2Based on an analysis of Regnar Lodbrok, this paper will discuss the balance of the warrior and the skald in Ragnar’s character. The paper also examines the similarities and differences between Oehlenschläger’s portrayal of Ragnar as a “Danerskiald” (“Dane-skald”) and Thomas Percy’s (1729-1811) translation The Dying Ode of Regner Lodbrok (1761). Following this analysis, the paper argues that Ragnar’s death song forms a backdrop for the authors’ ability to edit and reconstruct the Old Norse poem in their own words. This element is particularly evident in Regnar Lodbrok, as the poem examines the relationship between the main character’s memory and Oehlenschläger’s reinvention of the Viking hero.


3Oehlenschläger, Regnar
Percy, The Dying


Aarhus Universit

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