Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/6223
Gestr the Wise. Prophetic Characterization in the Íslendingasögur
Traditionally, character analysis in the Íslendingsögur or Icelandic family sagas has focused on those larger-than-life heroes and outlaws who dominate their own, often eponymous, sagas such as Egill, Grettir, Njáll, or Gísli. Less prominent characters tend to be examined collectively, such as the intricate relationships of Laxdæla saga, or in regards to a certain aspect or ability; they are known as magicians, inciters, farmers, lovers, travelers, or prophets. Despite their marginal presence, however, these characters often play vital roles in saga events. This thesis endeavors to explore one such supporting character. Gestr the Wise, son of Oddleif, son of the Icelandic settler Geirleif appears in no less than five of the Íslendingasögur, as well as Landnámábok and Kristnisaga. Although his character seldom plays a large role in these narratives—particularly the earlier ones—he usually plays a crucial one, wielding both prophetic influence and political power. It is Gestr, after all, who interprets Guðrún’s marital dreams and predicts the fates of Kjartan and Bolli in Laxdæla saga; foresees the brewing trouble between brothers and kinsmen in Gísla saga; and counsels Þangbrandr concerning his missionary efforts in Njáls saga. His appearances within multiple sagas allow us to trace the growth and adaptations of a singular character—along with the narrative concept of wisdom—according to time, narrative purpose and textual aesthetic. To this end, this thesis will be primarily concerned with Gestr as a literary character and the narrative interpretation of his historical personage. Finally, this thesis will also explore Gestr as a model of the wise or prophetic character through lexical and semantic analysis and other literary analogues.