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Friday, 10 January 2014

Network theory and the heroes of Icelandic sagas

Egill Skallagrímsson from a 17th-century manuscript [Credit: WikiCommons] 

The Icelandic sagas of the Norse people are thousand-year-old chronicles of brave deeds and timeless romances, but how true to Viking life were they? Writing in Significance, Pádraig Mac Carron and Ralph Kenna use a statistical network of associations between characters to find out. 

While the stories involve a cast of thousands, recurring characters have emerged as the stories passed into historical legend. A set of recurring characters living within the same fictional world is not restricted to ancient stories, such as the Norse or Greek myths, but remains a popular device in modern comic and film franchises. 

By exploring the number of ‘too-good-to-be-true’ interactions between protagonists, the researchers built a network of recurring characters which in turn could help reveal if the stories are invented or if they are based on a real society.

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