Both the fornaldarsögur and Íslendingasögur (Legendary and Icelandic sagas of Iceland) are replete with grappling sequences, techniques, and maneuvers. These sequences and maneuvers, however, have all too often been overlooked by the academic community. Through the passing of time, changing of cultural interests, and poor translations, much of the once-understood sequences and techniques that are found in the sagas are lost upon the modern reader. Furthermore, what little scholarly attention has been directed towards these specific grappling passages has often had underlying motives whose goals are not to understand and accurately represent the maneuvers and techniques to the modern reader, but rather to promote modern glíma (traditional Icelandic wrestling).
This paper aims to clarify, expand upon, and describe specific grappling techniques and sequences that are chronicled in the fornaldarsögur and Íslendingasögur to the modern reader in a way that is accurate, accessible, and easily understood. In conjunction with this, I will touch upon the accuracy, detail, vocabulary, and realism of these grappling sequences, and promote the idea that medieval Icelanders (both the scribes and their contemporary audiences) were well- versed in grappling and understood these passages to be accurate portrayals of realistic wrestling as opposed to solely sensationalized fiction.
Qays Stetkevych is currently studying Icelandic at The University of Iceland, where he also holds a Masters degree in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies, with a thesis on the topic of grappling in the Icelandic and Legendary sagas. He also has a Bachelors degree in History from Emory University. His areas of academic concentration are in the sagas of Icelanders, medieval combat, and grappling and wrestling in medieval literature. Along with these academic interests he has been active and competing in wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for over 15 years, as well as training and competing in Mixed Martial Arts for the last 10 years.