Environmental Scarcity and Abundance in Medieval Icelandic Literature


Can medieval Scandinavian literary texts tell us anything about the environmental conditions and the availability of natural resources in premodern times? This essay discusses some of the challenges of reconstructing past environments based on texts that make heavy use of genre conventions and literary devices such as symbolism, metaphor, and allegory. Environmental scarcity and abundance play an important role in both the Sagas of Icelanders and the Bishops’ Sagas. Although the descriptions are not entirely historically accurate, they can shed valuable light on the ways humans of the past have perceived and dealt with problems of scarcity and environmental change.

DOI: doi.org/10.5282/rcc/7145