Jorge Luis Borges's story "El Zahir" describes a moment where the protagonist finds rest from his monomania by reworking one of the central texts in Old Germanic myth, the story of Sigurd and Brynhild. The approach taken here by the protagonist is the paradigm used in this thesis for understanding Borges's own strong readings of Old Germanic literature, specifically Old Scandinavian texts. In chapter one, a brief outline of the myth of Sigurd and Brynhild, with a particular emphasis on Gram, the sword that lied between them, is provided and juxtaposed with Borges's own family history, focusing on the family's storied military past. This image of the sword as the symbol for the north and its relation to Borges's family and political interests is sustained throughout the thesis. Chapter two is a survey of the various facets of Borges's literary output that were influenced by Nordic myth and literary styles: first, literary criticism, second, poetry and prose, and third, translation. The survey shows that Borges's engagement with the north began early and was maintained throughout his life. Likewise, after working through seven works from disparate periods it becomes clear that Borges is not merely introducing the Spanish speaking world to Old Scandinavian texts, but, in the same fashion as the protagonist in "El Zahir," subsuming them in a way that is uniquely Borgesian. The third chapter follows the same approach as the survey but focuses on Borges's short stories, specifically two short stories from his collection entitled Libro de Arena: "Ulrica" and "Undr." Many of the conclusions that emerged in the survey are further validated in the analysis of these two stories, but with greater emphasis on how they relate to Borges's later years, and the themes that begin to surround his preparation for death. The concluding chapter summarizes the findings of the previous three chapters by way of a close reading of Borges's tombstone. Each aspect of the stone is connected to Old Germanic myth and how that symbolized the eventual consummation of his joy: the sword that kept him separated from love was eventually lifted, as it was for Ulrica and Javier in "Ulrica."
College and Department
Humanities; Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Williams, Jonathan C., "The Boreal Borges" (2013). Theses and Dissertations. 3597.
Jorge Luis Borges, Old Norse, Völsunga Saga, borgesian, Literatura Germanica Medieval, influence, strong reading