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Dungeons and Dragons: A Cultural Phenomenon contributing to the Reception of Old Norse Tales

Abstract : Playing a dwarf, an elf, a berserker barbarian, or fighting wargs, frost giants and trolls, are among the many situations where direct or indirect references to Old Norse literature may be expressed during a game session of Dungeons and Dragons. This game is considered as one of the very first tabletop role playing games (Fine, 1983; Ewalt, 2013). This paper offers to analyse how references to Old Norse tales (sagas and Eddas) appear in productions of the cultural industries and echoes research about mythical and religious elements in contemporary games (Bainbridge, 2013). In order to show the relevance of Dungeons and Dragons as a case study to understand contemporary reception of Old Norse traditions, I will develop a cultural approach using anthropology and communication sciences (Di Filippo, 2016). In the first part, I will show how Dungeons and Dragons borrows elements from Old Norse literature among other cultural traditions. Such elements can be more or less explicit references, whether if they derive from intermediary works such as fantasy literature written by J. R. R. Tolkien (Simek, 2005), Robert E. Howard and other writers, or if they try to offer a mise en scene of medieval Scandinavia, within accessories such as Legends and Lore and Historical references — Vikings. This first section will allow to understand how the meaning and the form of traditional elements have evolved in a process that the philosopher Hans Blumenberg (1979) has called “Work on myth” (see also Di Filippo, 2016). In the second part, I will address the question of the cultural impact and influences that Dungeons and dragons has had until nowadays and how it has contributed to the spreading of Old Norse references. The famous table top role playing game indeed has a huge influence on nowadays culture: in literature, movies, TV shows, and several kinds of games : videogames, card games or other type of tabletop games (Barton, 2008). D&D can therefore be considered as a cultural crossroad regarding Old Norse reception. Moreover, roleplayers participate in a “community of practices”, which interrogates the social dimension of this cultural phenomenon. Through those different parts, this paper offers a first insight into the multi-dimensional aspect of the reception of Old Norse traditions within roleplaying games as a cultural phenomenon.
Mots-clés : ETUDES-NORDIQUES
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https://hal.univ-lorraine.fr/hal-01870170
Contributor : Rudy Hahusseau <>
Submitted on : Friday, September 7, 2018 - 11:19:26 AM
Last modification on : Monday, June 17, 2019 - 1:24:50 AM

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  • HAL Id : hal-01870170, version 1

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Laurent Di Filippo. Dungeons and Dragons: A Cultural Phenomenon contributing to the Reception of Old Norse Tales. 17th International Saga Conference. Islendigasögur, The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies; University of Iceland Centre for Medieval Studies, Aug 2018, Reykjavík, Iceland. ⟨hal-01870170⟩

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