Report by Bob van Strijen, recipient of Viking Society Research Support Fund

Doing Things With Old Norse Myth: A Research & Cultural Symposium on Mythological Processes, Reykjavík, 25-27 November 2021

After last year’s cancellation due to the pandemic, 2021 finally saw the 16th annual Aarhus Old Norse Mythology Conference. This year, there were three important differences from previous editions. If one word would describe it, it might well be ‘hybridization’. First, like most other conferences, ‘Doing Things’ was forced to become a ‘hybrid’ event. While many presenters were luckily able to make it to Reykjavik, others were unfortunately forced to present or attend online. Second, while on the topic of presenters, this year heard new voices through a call for conference contributions in addition to the usual invited papers. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this year saw a day of ‘cultural events’ added to the two-day academic programme. This extra day of Goðsagnalistþing included a round-table discussion on ‘Modernising Old Norse Myth’, followed by a number of conversations each between a scholar and an artist or author who takes inspiration from Old Norse myths for their work. The symposium was concluded with a showing of the Icelandic animated movie Legends of Valhalla: Thor with an introduction by its scriptwriter.

The cultural day perfectly highlights that the scholarship we perform during the academic programme and on a daily basis does not happen in a vacuum. Old Norse mythology is booming, and while creators may first and foremost take inspiration from the primary sources, our work too is looked at, for interpretation, explanation, and contextualization. As these artists arguably have a wider reach and larger audience, understanding and cultivating this relation between arts and academia may be vital for the public perception of our field of research.