Gabriel Turville-Petre

Edward Oswald Gabriel Turville-Petre F.B.A. (known as Gabriel) (25 March 1908 – 17 February 1978) was Professor of Ancient Icelandic Literature and Antiquities at the University of Oxford. He wrote numerous books and articles in English and Icelandic on literature and religious history.


Gabriel Turville-Petre was born into a Roman Catholic, landed gentry family in England, the fourth of the five children of Oswald and Margaret Petre (née Cave). His older brother was the archaeologist Francis Turville-Petre. Gabriel was born at the ancestral home of Bosworth Hall, Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire in 1908. He was educated at Ampleforth College and at Christ Church, Oxford University. He studied for a B.Litt in English from 1931 – 1934 and was supervised by J. R. R. Tolkien.

He studied Icelandic and early Scandinavian literature and traditions from an early age, first in England and later in Iceland (where he spent several years) and in other northern countries.

Turville-Petre married Joan Elizabeth Blomfield on 7 January 1943. They had three sons: Thorlac Francis Samuel (born 6 January 1944), Merlin Oswald (born 2 July 1946) and Brendan Arthur Auberon (born 16 September 1948).

Turville-Petre was appointed the first Vigfusson Reader in Ancient Icelandic Literature and Antiquities at Oxford University in 1941, and was appointed Professor in 1953. He held the position until his retirement in 1975.

He was created a Knight of the Falcon (Iceland), a member of the Royal Gustavus Adolphus Academy (Sweden), and an honorary Life Member of the Viking Society for Northern Research. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1973.

Turville-Petre bequeathed his personal library to the English Faculty Library of Oxford University (Icelandic Collections).

Selected works

  • "The Cult of Freyr in the Evening of Paganism" Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society 111(6):317-322 (1935)
  • "The Traditions of Víga-Glúms Saga" Transactions of the Philological Society 54-75 (1936)
  • Víga-Glúms Saga (ed. E. O. G. Turville-Petre) Clarendon Press, Oxford (1940)
  • The Life of Gudmund the Good, Bishop of Holar Trans: E. O. G. Turville-Petre and E. S. Olszewska. Coventry, The Viking Society for Northern Research (1942)
  • The Heroic Age of Scandinavia Hutchinson, London (1951)
  • Origins of Icelandic Literature Clarendon Press, Oxford (1953)
  • Hervarar Saga ok Heidreks (ed. E. O. G. Turville-Petre) London: University College London, for the Viking Society for Northern Research. Introduction by C. J. R. Tolkien (1956)
  • Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London (1964)
  • "Fertility of Beast and Soil in Old Norse Literature" in Old Norse Literature and Mythology: A Symposium (ed. Edgar C. Polomé) University of Texas Press, Austin. 244–64 (1969)
  • Scaldic Poetry Clarendon Press, Oxford (1976)
  • Nine Norse Studies London: University College London, for the Viking Society for Northern Research (1972)


  • Biographical notes in E. O. G. Turville-Petre's Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London (1964)
  • Dronke, Ursula; Helgadottir, Gudrun P.; Weber, Gerd Wolfgang and Bekker-Nielsen, Hans (1981) Speculum Norroenum: Norse Studies in Memory of Gabriel Turville-Petre Odense University Press, Odense
  • Scull, Christina; and Hammond, Wayne G. (2006) The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (2 vols) Harper Collins, London

The Dísablót was the blót (sacrificial holiday) which was held in honour of the female spirits or deities called dísir (and the Valkyries), from pre-historic times until the Christianization of Scandinavia. Its purpose was to enhance the coming harvest. It is mentioned in Hervarar saga, Víga-Glúms saga, Egils saga and the Heimskringla. The celebration still lives on in the form of an annual fair called the Disting in Uppsala, Sweden.

The Dísablót appears to have been held during Winter Nights, or at the vernal equinox. In one version of Hervarar saga, there is a description of how the sacrifice was performed. Alfhildr, the daughter of king Alfr of Alfheim, was kidnapped by Starkad Aludreng while she was reddening a horgr with blood.This suggests that the rite was performed by women, especially in light of what is generally believed to be their nearly exclusive role as priestesses of the pagan Germanic religion. However, according to the Ynglinga saga part of the Heimskringla, the king of Sweden performed the rites, which was in accordance with his role as high priest of the Temple at Uppsala. The mention of the Dísablót concerns the death of king Eadgils (Aðils, Adils) who died from falling off his horse while riding around the shrine:

In Sweden, the Dísablót was of central political and social importance. The festivities were held at the end of February or early March at Gamla Uppsala. It was held in conjunction with the great fair Disting and the great popular assembly called the Thing of all Swedes.The Icelandic historian Snorri Sturlusson, who was well-informed of Swedish matters and visited the country in 1219, explained in the Heimskringla (1225):

The shrine where the Dísir were worshiped was called dísarsalr and this building is mentioned in the Ynglinga saga concerning king Aðils' death. It also appears Hervarar saga, where a woman becomes so infuriated over the death of her father by the hands of Heiðrekr, her husband, that she hangs herself in the shrine.

The Scandinavian dísablót is associated with the Anglo-Saxon modranect ("mothers' night") by Gabriel Turville-Petre. The Anglo-Saxon month roughly equivalent to November was called blot-monath.

The number of references to the Disir ranging from the Merseburg Charms to many instances in Norse mythology indicate that they were considered vital deities to worship and that they were primary focus of prayers (e.g. the charms) for luck against enemies in war.

Eyrarland Statue

The Eyrarland Statue is a bronze statue of a seated figure (6.7 cm) from about AD 1000 that was recovered at the Eyrarland farm in the area of Akureyri, Iceland. The object is a featured item at the National Museum of Iceland. The statue may depict the Norse god Thor and/or may be a gaming-piece.

The statue was unearthed in 1815 or 1816 on one of two farms called Eyrarland in the vicinity of Akureyri.If the object is correctly identified as Thor, Thor is here holding his hammer Mjöllnir, sculpted in the typically Icelandic cross-like shape. It has been suggested that the statue is related to a scene from the Poetic Edda poem Þrymskviða where Thor recovers his hammer while seated by grasping it with both hands during the wedding ceremony.

Francis Turville-Petre

Francis Adrian Joseph Turville-Petre (4 March 1901 – 16 August 1941) was a British archaeologist, famous for the discovery of the Homo heidelbergensis fossil Galilee Man in 1926, and for his work at Mount Carmel, in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine, now Israel. He was a close friend of Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden.


In Norse mythology, Gullveig is a being who was speared by the Æsir, burnt three times, and yet thrice reborn. Upon her third rebirth, Gullveig's name becomes Heiðr and she is described as a knowledgeable and skillful völva. Gullveig/Heiðr is solely attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional material. Scholars have variously proposed that Gullveig/Heiðr is the same figure as the goddess Freyja, that Gullveig's death may have been connected to corruption by way of gold among the Æsir, and/or that Gullveig's treatment by the Æsir may have led to the Æsir–Vanir War.

Guðrún P. Helgadóttir

Guðrún P. Helgadóttir (April 19, 1922 – July 5, 2006) was an Icelandic writer, poet, scholar and educator and is widely recognized in Iceland.

Joan Turville-Petre

Joan Elizabeth Turville-Petre (10 May 1911 – 9 March 2006) was a noted academic at Oxford University, England, in the field of Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic and Scandinavian language studies.

Joan Turville-Petre (née Blomfield) was the daughter of Sam Blomfield of Colchester, Essex. In 1930 she began her studies at Somerville College, Oxford University and she maintained a lifelong connection with the college. She was a Tutor and Fellow from 1941 to 1946, a Lecturer in English from 1946 to 1965 and an Honorary College Research Fellow from 1965 until her death in 2006.

On 7 January 1943, Joan Turville-Petre married Gabriel Turville-Petre, a fellow Oxford academic working in the same field. J. R. R. Tolkien and his wife were among the guests. They had three sons: Thorlac Francis Samuel (born 6 January 1944), Merlin Oswald (born 2 July 1946) and Brendan Arthur Auberon (16 September 1948 – 6 December 1981).

Joan Turville-Petre died at the age of 94. Her funeral was held at St Michael's, Aylsham on 23 March 2006.

Jómsvíkinga saga

The Jómsvíkinga saga (Saga of the Jomsvikings) is a medieval Icelandic saga composed by an anonymous Icelander. The Saga was composed in Iceland during the 13th century. It exists in several manuscripts which vary from each other. There are many different versions and translations of the saga.


In Norse mythology and later Icelandic folklore, landdísir (Old Norse "dísir of the land") are beings who live in landdísasteinar, specific stones located in Northwestern Iceland which were treated with reverence into the 18th and 19th centuries. The landdísir are not recorded in Old Norse sources, but belief in them is assumed from the name landdísasteinar.


In Germanic mythology, Seaxnēat (pronounced [sæɑksnæːɑt]) or Saxnōt is the national god of the Saxons.

The Old English form Seaxnēat is recorded in the genealogies of the kings of Essex. The Old Saxon form Saxnōt is attested in the Old Saxon Baptismal Vow along with the gods Uuoden (Woden) and Thunaer (Thor).

The genealogy of the kings of Essex originally placed Seaxnēat at its apex. It was subsequently modified to make Seaxnēat son of Woden, with the first king of Essex seven generations later:

Woden, Seaxnēat, Gesecg, Andsecg, Swaeppa, Sigefugel, Bedca, Offa, Æscwine (r. c. 527-587)The name is usually derived from "seax", the eponymous knife which was characteristic of the tribe, and "neat", cognate with German "not", need or help, meaning "help(er) of the Saxons". 19th century etymology using methodology available at the time derived the name from "seax" and (ge)-not, (ge)-nēat as "companion" (cognate with German Genosse "comrade"), resulting in a translation of "sword-companion" (gladii consors, ensifer). This interpretation of the name is due to Jacob Grimm, who identified Saxnot with the god Tiw (Zio). Grimm's view is more recently endorsed by Chaney (1970), but Simek (2007:276) prefers an identification with Fro, following Gabriel Turville-Petre (and invoking Georges Dumézil's trifunctional hypothesis).

The word sax is the Swedish word for scissor. In Danish and Norwegian the spelling is saks and in Icelandic the word is skæri, that also has the meaning "to cut" in all the Scandinavian languages.

Siege of Canterbury

The Siege of Canterbury was a major Viking raid on the city of Canterbury fought between a Viking army led by Thorkell the Tall and the Anglo-Saxons that occurred between 8 and 29 September 1011. The details of the siege are largely unknown, and most of the known events were recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Sigvatr Þórðarson

Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sighvatr Þórðarson, Sigvat Tordarson) or Sigvat the Skald (995-1045) was an Icelandic skald. He was a court poet to King Olaf II of Norway, as well as Canute the Great, Magnus the Good and Anund Jacob, by whose reigns his floruit can be dated to the earlier eleventh century. Sigvatr was the best known of the court skalds of King Olaf and also served as his marshal (stallare).Approximately 160 verses of Sigvatr's poetry have been preserved, more than any for other poet from this period. The style of Sigvat's poems is simpler and clearer than that which generally characterises older compositions. Although his verse is still dense, he uses fewer complex poetic circumlocutions than many of his predecessors, and as a Christian poet, he by and large avoids allusions to pagan mythology.Most of his surviving poems were texts that praised King Olaf. Many of the poems from St. Olaf's saga in Heimskringla are by Sigvatr. Víkingarvísur, composed c. 1014-15, is the oldest of the surviving long poems attributed to him. The poem tallies King Olaf’s battles on his Viking expeditions until 1015, when he returned to Norway to carve out a kingdom for himself.In Nesjavísur, the next oldest poem by Sigvatr, the skald describes the naval battle between Olaf and Sveinn Hákonarson at the Battle of Nesjar outside Brunlanes in 1016, the key moment in Olaf's ascent to power in Norway.


In Norse mythology, Singasteinn (Old Norse "singing stone" or "chanting stone") is an object that appears in the account of Loki and Heimdall's fight in the form of seals. The object is solely attested in the skaldic poem Húsdrápa. Some scholars have interpreted it as the location of the struggle, others as the object they were struggling over.

Skuld (princess)

Skuld was a princess of Scandinavian legend who married Heoroweard and encouraged him to kill Hroðulf (Hrólfr Kraki). The accounts of her vary greatly from source to source. Skuld is derived from the Old Norse verb skulla, "need/ought to be/shall be"; its meaning is "that which should become, or that needs to occur".


The sonargǫltr or sónargǫltr was the boar sacrificed as part of the celebration of Yule in Germanic paganism, on whose bristles solemn vows were made, a tradition known as heitstrenging.

Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks refers to the tradition of swearing oaths on Yule Eve by laying hands on the bristles of the boar, who was then sacrificed in the sonar-blót:

One of the prose segments in "Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar" adds that the oaths were sworn while drinking the bragarfull toast:

In Ynglinga saga the sonarblót is used for divination (til frettar).The association with the Yule blót and with the ceremonial bragarfull gives the vows great solemnity, so that they have the force of oaths. This becomes a recurring topos in later sagas, although we have only these two saga mentions attesting to the custom of making vows on the sacrificial animal.The choice of a boar indicates a connection with Freyr, whose mount is the gold-bristled boar Gullinbursti, and the continuing Swedish tradition of eating pig-shaped cakes at Christmas recalls the early custom. According to Olaus Verelius's notes in his 1672 edition of Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, part of this jula-galt would then be saved for mixing with the seed-corn and giving to the plough-horses and ploughmen at spring planting. As Jacob Grimm pointed out, the serving of a boar's head at banquets and particularly at Queen's College, Oxford may also be a reminiscence of the Yule boar-blót. Gabriel Turville-Petre suggested that names for Freyr and his sister Freyja which equate them with a boar and a sow respectively implied that consumption of the sacrificed boar was believed to be consumption of the god's flesh and absorption of his power.It was formerly usual to spell the word sónargǫltr and to interpret it as "atonement-boar" (the rare element sónar- can also mean "sacrifice"). However, following Eduard Sievers, it is usually now spelled with a short o and taken as meaning "herd boar, leading boar", as Lombardic sonarþair is defined in the Edictus Rothari as the boar "which fights and beats all other boars in the herd".

The Outlaw (play)

The Outlaw (Swedish: Den fredlöse) is an 1871 one-act play by Swedish playwright August Strindberg written when he was a 22-year-old struggling University student who had yet to become a successful author. The story is based on old Viking sagas for which to prepare Strindberg taught himself Icelandic to read the old sagas. Soon after the premier at the Royal Theater, the King of Sweden, Charles XV, summoned Strindberg to his palace to tell him how much he enjoyed it and to offer help with the young writer's tuition. It was a seminal moment in Strindberg's career, allowing him to continue his studies and gaining him confidence and reputation as a writer.

Thorkell the Tall

Thorkell the Tall, also known as Thorkell the High in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Old Norse: Þorke(ti)ll inn hávi; Norwegian: Torkjell Høge; Swedish; Torkel Höge: Danish: Torkild den Høje), was a prominent member of the Jomsviking order and a notable lord. He was a son of the Scanian chieftain Strut-Harald, and a brother of Jarl Sigvaldi. Thorkell was the chief commander of the Jomvikings and the legendary stronghold, Jomsborg, on the Island of Wollin.Thorkell notably partook in a campaign that saw him lead a great Viking army to Kent in 1009, where they proceeded to overrun most of Southern England. This soon culminated in the Siege of Canterbury in 1011 and the kidnapping of archbishop Ælfheah, who had previously converted Olaf Tryggvason, and his subsequent murder at Greenwich on April 19th 1012.


Turville-Petre is a surname. People with this surname include:

E. O. G. Turville-Petre (commonly known as Gabriel Turville-Petre), an English Professor of Ancient Icelandic Literature and Antiquities at Oxford University

Francis Turville-Petre, an English archaeologist, famous for discovering the 'Galilee Skull', and a friend of Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden

Joan Turville-Petre, a Lecturer in English, Anglo-Saxon and Ancient Icelandic at Oxford University

Ursula Dronke

Ursula Miriam Dronke (née Brown, 3 November 1920 – 8 March 2012) was a medievalist and former Vigfússon Reader in Old Norse at the University of Oxford and an Emeritus Fellow of Linacre College. She also taught at the University of Munich and in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge University.

Viking Society for Northern Research

The Viking Society for Northern Research, founded in London in 1892 as the Orkney, Shetland and Northern Society or the Viking Club, is a group dedicated to the study and promotion of the ancient culture of Scandinavia whose journal, Saga-Book, publication of editions, translations, and scholarly studies, and since 1964 the Dorothea Coke Memorial Lectures, have been influential in the field of Old Norse and Scandinavian-British Studies.

Initially, the club was founded as a social and literary society for those from Orkney and Shetland. After some debate, this was broadened to include all those interested in the Norsemen and the history of the North, and an inaugural session of the reconstituted Viking Club or Orkney, Shetland and Northern Society was held at the King's Weigh House Rooms on 12 January 1894. It was mocked in the Pall Mall Gazette under the headline "Vikings Drink Tea", whereupon a member retorted in a letter that "The fiercest warriors, even savages, drink tea and coffee nowadays". Punch made fun of the Nordic titles of its officers with a satirical "Saga of the Shield-Maiden":

There'll be many a black, black eye, mother, in the club to-morrow night,For the Things-bothman and the Law-bothman have together arranged to fight;

While the stakes will be held by the Skatt-taker, and the Jarl will join the fray,

And we Shield-maidens will shriek and whoop in Old Norse, as best we may!

The society did at that time call its officers "jarl, jarla-man, Viking-jarl, umboths-jarl and the rest," and its by-laws are still called the Law-Book. Initially they had used names specifically related to the Isles: "Udaller, Udal-Book and Udal-Right for Member, List of Members and Membership respectively [and also] Huss-Thing, Schynd-Bill, Great Foud and Stem-Rod". Both publications also made fun of the "weaking" pronunciation of viking and of the ambitious statement of intent in the prospectus: "It behoves every one who is directly or indirectly connected with or interested in the North to give the Viking Club such support as will enable it to take its proper place among the foremost societies in Europe". In the words of Punch:

If we scratch up a scanty Skanian skill with skald and skal and ski,

In the foremost place of societies soon in Europe we'll be!The mockery touched off vehement exchanges of letters in the Orkney Herald and the Shetland News in which St. Magnus was used as a pen name and reference was made to effeminacy and nithings.The society soon became better known for scholarship than for the conviviality that had been half its intended purpose. The 'foys', or concerts, gave way starting in 1901 to an annual dinner, which has continued to the present with few interruptions. In 1902 its name changed to the Viking Club or Society for Northern Research and in 1912 to the Viking Society for Northern Research. The first volume of the journal, Saga-Book, appeared in 1895; the first volume of Old Lore Miscellany is dated 1907-08; in welcoming that, the Pall Mall Gazette praised the society for "fresh and meritorious work". In 1908, a correspondent reported approvingly in the American Journal of Philology on the Society's "very large" membership including "many names prominent in the literary life and the scientific world of England, Scotland and the North" and on its publications and expenditure of "large sums of money" on expeditions as far afield as Denmark. From 1920, Saga-Book occasionally published monographs as separate numbers, but there is also a short Extra Series of monographs which began in 1893. A translation series began in 1902 with W.G. Collingwood and Jón Stefánsson's The Life and Death of Kormac the Skald. A text series began with an edition of Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu in 1935 and later broadened to include further monographs. The Dorothea Coke Memorial Lectures at University College London, endowed in 1962 by Colonel B.E. Coke in memory of his wife, began in 1963 with G.N. Garmonsway lecturing on "Canute and His Empire"; these are published. The Society has also assisted in publishing the proceedings of the Viking Congress since the sixth Congress in 1969, and in making foreign publications available to members.The Viking Society both resulted from and encouraged the Victorian Viking revival. Collingwood, an art professor who became a philologist and translator as well as illustrator of Old Norse texts, presented his oil painting The Parliament of Ancient Iceland to the society and it hung in their meeting room. From its earliest days the Society brought together the prominent scholars in the field: William Morris, Eiríkr Magnússon, Guðbrandur Vigfússon and Frederick York Powell were among the active members in its early days, and its publications, lectures, and symposia have continued in the same vein, featuring Gabriel Turville-Petre, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Ursula Dronke, for example.

In 1917 the Viking Society was asked to help with the effort to establish Scandinavian Studies at the University of London, where it was by then holding its meetings, and it became traditional for the head of what is now the Department of Scandinavian Studies at University College London to be joint Honorary Secretary of the Society. The Society's extensive library became part of University College's library in 1931 in exchange for permanent access to a meeting room; however, in 1940 the collection was almost entirely destroyed in a fire caused by wartime bombing and it had to be laboriously replaced.World War I had little effect on the Society's meetings but interrupted its publications, which resumed only slowly; there had been financial problems early in its history (a Treasurer destroyed the year's financial records rather than take them with him in a move, and the printers sued to recover the cost of an overrun), and again in 1916 a large sum had to be promised to the printers to avert a lawsuit, but in the 1920s serious financial problems arose. Meetings were suspended during World War II but publications struggled on.After the idea was raised at the fifth Viking Congress in Tórshavn in 1965, a Scottish offshoot of the Viking Society, the Scottish Society for Northern Studies, came into being in 1968. It publishes a journal called Northern Studies and holds an annual conference.

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