Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Larry Syndergaard

Second Advisor

Dr. Molly Lynde-Recchia

Third Advisor

Timothy C. Graham

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


One of the most famous stories in Norse literature is the tale of Sigurd, who kills the dragon Fafnir. While roasting the heart of the dragon so that his companion, Regin, may eat it, Sigurd ingests some of the blood that bums his thumb and immediately understands the speech of the birds, who advise him to eat the heart himself in order to become wiser. Sigurd is not unique in being magically influenced by a substance that he eats. Foods and beverages that have magical effects on those who ingest them are a widespread occurrence in the literature of many cultures.

This thesis is an exploration of such magical food and drink as they appear in various medieval and medieval-related narratives from Europe and India, and of their relationship to the effects they have upon the persons who eat them. Such magical effects are commonly related to the symbolic associations of the foods that are ingested. In addition, I examine the roles of the various people involved in such magical occurrences, in particular, the difference between the portrayal of men and the portrayal of women. Although there are indications that men and women can be similarly involved when eating or drinking has a magical result, usually their behavior follows stereotypical patterns of male activity and female passivity.