By William I Miller

ISBN-10: 9004168117

ISBN-13: 9789004168114

Audun’s tale is the story of an Icelandic farmhand who buys a polar endure in Greenland for no different cause than to offer it to the Danish king, part a global away. it might probably justly be indexed one of the best items of brief fiction in global literature. Terse within the most sensible saga variety, it spins a narrative of advanced aggressive social motion, revealing the cool wit and finely-calibrated reticence of its 3 major characters: Audun, Harald Hardradi, and King Svein. the story must have a lot to interact criminal and cultural historians, anthropologists, economists, philosophers, and scholars of literature. The story’s remedy of gift-exchange is beneficial of the positive anthropological and historic writing on gift-exchange; its therapy of face-to-face interplay a fit for Erving Goffman.

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Extra info for Audun and the Polar Bear: Luck, Law, and Largesse in a Medieval Tale of Risky Business

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Some critics have turned this story into a Christian parable, and there are textual suggestions allowing for modest interpretative possibilities along pious lines. But there are no divine interventions, or none that cannot also pass for routine workings of man or nature. There are no miracles, no invasions of the supernatural, no gods, no saints; and if God is given his due by prayer and pilgrimage he is not (nor are his saints) mentioned by name or invoked once. He is represented in the story by a reasonably pious king, an Easter holiday, and certain hints that some parables of scripture may be being alluded to, but nothing untoward or “medieval” in the bad sense of the term.

Harald is operating on two levels here. On one, he is negotiating with Audun; on another, he is taking over the narrator’s function by filling in parts of the story we were not privy to. From Harald we learn that Audun had told Harald more than that he had a bear when Harald asked him if he had a treasure with him. ” Harald, as narrator, tells us that Audun has already been playing narrator to his own story, offstage. The author is economizing, having Harald let us know what got told to him without 2 Adam of Bremen, History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, 3:xvii, trans.

McGrew and Thomas, 2:145–206. 3 4 helping thorir and buying the bear 25 that Audun has a talent, a knack for knowing whom to release goods to, to people who are, as we say, good for it. In Iceland his talent is employed in small ways by offering helpful brokerage advice to visiting merchants (this may well be the first time he has done so) and has had little chance to develop itself because, as noted, there were no fixed markets, and no certain places where ships could be counted on to appear. But abroad?

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Audun and the Polar Bear: Luck, Law, and Largesse in a Medieval Tale of Risky Business by William I Miller


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