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Accepted Paper:

The Afterlife of Sólborg Jónsdóttir: uncertainty, identity and power in narratives of a ghost  
Alice Bower (University of Iceland)

Paper short abstract:

A narrative analysis of legends in circulation about the death of Sólborg Jónsdóttir in 1893 following her alleged crimes of incest and infanticide. This study explores oral narratives and counter narratives about the case, as well as representations in literature and film.

Paper long abstract:

The case of Sólborg Jónsdóttir, as worded by one journalist, “refuses to die“ (Vísir 2015). Sólborg, who allegedly poisoned herself in 1893 when accused of killing a child she had conceived by her half-brother, has left her native Þistilfjörður for an afterlife in the folklore, literature and film of the Icelandic nation. Legend says she left to haunt the district magistrate who she felt had wronged her, and he paid a ferry fare for two. Undoubtedly, aspects of the case created favourable conditions for a second life as legend. By the late 19th century, organised collection and publication of folktales presented as reflecting a national folk culture was well underway. Neither slighted ghosts resulting from suicide nor unmarried mothers killing their newborns were uncommon themes. Twentieth century literary portrayals of Sólborg are strongly influenced by legends in oral circulation. While absent from major printed corpuses, some legends about Sólborg are preserved in audio archives. Sólborg‘s personification after death may well fit with what has been called the suppression of historical identity (O‘Toole 2010). As the 21st century approached, however, a counter-narrative emerged in the national media, sparked largely by the controversial 1998 film Dómsdagur. The allegations against Sólborg were challenged and culpability transferred onto men accused of abusing positions of power. That it was suicide was disputed. This study aims to tackle this uncertainty through a comparative narrative analysis, exploring the role played by narrators and archivists in establishing, maintaining and challenging perceptions of a real life working woman.

Panel Narr02
Uncertain death: narrative and physical death and the spaces in between
  Session 1 Saturday 10 June, 2023, -