Victims of Maiming in Sturlunga saga
Worse off Living than Dead?
This article considers the status of physically disabled people in medieval Nordic society by examining in detail the lives of two intentionally disfigured individuals, Skæringr Hróaldsson and Sturla Bárðarson, as recounted in the 13th century Icelandic saga compilation known as Sturlunga saga. Intentional maiming, foot- and hand-hewing, figures prominently in the text especially as a form of political reprisal during the turmoil of the so-called ‘Age of the Sturlungs’ (1220–64). The analysis shows that although a range of motives and anxieties regarding maiming are depicted in this and other collateral sources, the two case studies developed here suggest that intentional disfigurements were not per se viewed as disabilities in medieval Icelandic society since neither the status nor social mobility of either individual appears affected as a direct result of their injuries.