Audun and the Polar Bear: Luck, Law, and Largesse in a Medieval Tale of Risky Business

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BRILL, 2008 - History - 155 pages
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Auduna (TM)s Story is the tale of an Icelandic farmhand who buys a polar bear in Greenland for no other reason than to give it to the Danish king, half a world away. It can justly be listed among the finest pieces of short fiction in world literature. Terse in the best saga style, it spins a story of complex competitive social action, revealing the cool wit and finely-calibrated reticence of its three main characters: Audun, Harald Hardradi, and King Svein. The tale should have much to engage legal and cultural historians, anthropologists, economists, philosophers, and students of literature. The storya (TM)s treatment of gift-exchange is worthy of the fine anthropological and historical writing on gift-exchange; its treatment of face-to-face interaction a match for Erving Goffman.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
The Story of Audun from the Westfjords Auduns Story
7
PART ONE THE CLOSE COMMENTARY
13
The Commitment to Plausibility
15
Helping Thorir and Buying the Bear
22
Dealing with King Harald
28
The Interests in the Bear
38
Saying No to Kings
43
PART TWO EXTENDED THEMES
69
Auduns Luck
71
Richness and Risk
78
Motives
85
GiftRef
95
Regiving and Reclaiming Gifts
99
Repaying by Receiving and Funny Money
114
Of Free and Closing Gifts
135

Eggs in One Basket and Market Value
47
SelfImpoverishment and SelfConfi dence
50
Repaying the Bear
59
The Yielding of Accounts
61
The Whiteness of the Bear
142
Bibliography
147
Index
153
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

William Ian Miller is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. In addition to books on the bloodfeud in the Icelandic sagas and on the lex talionis, he has also published several books on the risks, miseries and triumphs of routine social interaction, among which are The Anatomy of Disgust (1997), The Mystery of Courage (2000), and Faking It (2003).

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