The Silenced Trauma in the Íslendingasögur

  • Anna Katharina Heiniger Universität Tübingen
Keywords: disability, impairment, narrative prosthesis, trauma, Íslendingasögur


Although the Íslendingasögur feature countless episodes with saga characters who are wounded and impaired in martial encounters, the sagas are remarkably silent on these (physical) traumas. Indeed, in most cases such injuries and impairments are addressed only in succinct comments, if at all. Nonetheless, longer-term consequences such as dis/ability and social stigma can seriously jeopardise a character’s social standing and reputation (i.e. Bourdieu’s symbolic capital). Although peace negotiations and compensation payments (i.e. Bourdieu’s economic capital) can attempt to restore this imbalance and the social equilibrium more broadly, they cannot relieve a saga character of the experienced trauma. Hence, the trauma keeps evading narrativization, a process mirrored in the narrative prosthesis of the sagas’ silence. It is thus argued that narrative silence has deeply personal implications for the individuals concerned and is potentially an expression of a trauma. In order to penetrate this ‘silence of the limbs’, the article draws on four interlinked methodological approaches that allow for a fruitful interpreting of the taciturnity of the sagas. Starting from the perspective of dis/ability history, the article draws on the key concepts of narrative prosthesis, as articulated by Mitchell and Snyder (2003); Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of capital; and trauma theory.