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AfterlivesThe Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages$
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Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501702617

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501702617.001.0001

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The Ancient Army of the Undead

The Ancient Army of the Undead

(p.157) Chapter 4 The Ancient Army of the Undead

Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses upon a particular folklore motif that was endemic to Norman regions of Europe. It shows how an atavistic story type with pagan origins was recuperated by Christian thinkers for their own religious purposes, and by secular authors for more worldly agendas, well into the High Middle Ages. The historical context for this chapter demonstrates a process of folklorization of pagan motifs, as they were reframed within Christian popular culture. The shifting representations of the motif of the afterlife as a collective society—as a civilization within a mountain, as a feudal army of the dead on the march, as the vagabond revenant remnant of an earlier population, as a retributive afterlife system, and finally, as a demonic illusion—provide an excellent case study of temporary cultural convergence and then divergence.

Keywords:   Norman folklore, Norman regions, paganism, Christianity, High Middle Ages, folklorization, afterlife, collective society, cultural convergence

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