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Marriag-Sagas-art - 7/30/11


"The Marriages of Guðrún and Hallgerðr" by Baron Fridrikr Tomasson. Marriage in the Norse Sagas.


NOTE: See also the files: p-marriage-art, p-marriage-msg, Ger-marriage-msg, Scot-marriage-msg, Walking-Dead-art, Norse-women-bib, Iceland-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


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Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



The Marriages of Guðrún and Hallgerðr

by Baron Fridrikr Tomasson


Laxdœla Saga and Njals Saga


The two sagas being considered here are from the Íslendingasögur or the Iceland Sagas.  These are a series of sagas and stories that give a partial history of Iceland from the settlement in the 9th century through the 13th century.  These should probably be viewed as historical fiction of a sort, as the stories have been modified over time, especially since they were put to paper after the period in which they took place.  For example, Laxdœla Saga begins at the settlement (~870 AD) and runs through seven or eight generations of the family of Unn the Deep-minded, the original matriarch of the family. (Andersson:132).  Njals Saga is set in 10th and 11th centuries (NS2001:vii).  Thus both were set to paper long after their actual occurrences.


In considering that fact, we must also consider that while the action of the two sagas takes place during the Pre-Conversion and immediate Post-Conversion period, the transcription was made by writers who were comfortably Christian and had a different point-of-view concerning matters such as marriage from their Pre-Conversion counterparts.  I believe that the tension between the Pre-Conversion attitude toward marriage as a matter of arrangement by male relatives and the Christian attitude that the consent of the bride was the only essential for marriage helps explain some of the conflicts in both Laxdœla Saga and Njals Saga.


Bjørn Bandlien, in Strategies of Passion, discusses equality and honor as being two essentials to the Pre-Conversion ideal.  He says, "According to Grágás [The Old Icelandic Law Code], marriage partners must be in jafnrœði.  There is to be equality between the resources the man and the woman bring to the marriage. But  jafnrœði (literally, "equal rule") also meant that marriage partners were to be equal in aspects other than the purely economic."(Bandlien:156) While the daughter's consent was not required, according to Bandlien, it might prove crucial in the sense of equality between husband and wife.  We will see this in both sagas, and it also occurs in many other sagas as well.  Many of the conflicts we see in the sagas are caused by either an imbalance between the qualities of bride and groom, or by a lack of [original or continuing] assent to the marriage.   Such a consent involves first and foremost the woman's continual recognition of the man's qualities and deeds, not (as marriage was later defined) a permanent pledge binding two people together for life.  This consent therefore had nothing to do with the formal contracting of a marriage, but depended on the woman's will to be married " (Bandlien:40) That consent depends on the equality of the couples in both social position and honor.  We will see that the lack of consent, both prior to and during the marriage affects marriages in both sagas.


On the other hand, in the Post-Conversion period,  the Christian church brings a different standard for marriage.  Consent is essential, rather than the male relatives of a woman contracting her marriage for her.  "In Iceland, the doctrine of consent [of the woman to be married] was known by 1189 at the latest,  In that year, Archbishop Eiríkr Ívarsson (1189-1205) sent a letter to the two Icelandic bishops establishing that marriage was only valid if entered into with jaquede hennar sialfrar, with the woman's own consent." (Bandlien:165)  Even so, the requirement of consent was not written into Icelandic law until 1275, which is approximately the time that both sagas were being transcribed.  During the interim, an uncomfortable situation must have existed.


Thus, we can look to the two sagas as dramatizing the social tension between the two ideals of marriage: the Pre-Conversion concept of arrangement (with consent being involved) and the Post-Conversion concept of consent being of prime importance.  I believe that part of the purpose of the significance that the marriages play in the sagas is explained by the saga's transcribers using the sagas to propagandize for the new, Christian, requirement of prior consent.


However, the social tension is not the most important aspect of these two sagas, in my opinion.  I believe that in looking at the two, we are looking at two strong female characters and at how they are presented.  As I say below, the character of Guðrún in Laxdœla Saga seems to be presented in an almost "feminist" way, which has caused more than one scholar to conclude that the author may have been female (Auerbach:45).  In sharp contrast, the character of Hallgerðr in Njals Saga is presented in a generally unfavorable light, having a personality which is often marked by greed and excessive pride.  The two contrasting women are best seen through their marriages.


The Marriages of  Guðrún Ósvífrsdotir


The most central character to the Laxdœla Saga is Guðrún Ósvífrsdottír, Unn the Deep-minded's great-great-great niece.  By the time that she enters the saga, the lands have been fairly widely distributed.  Among the great landholders in the Laxardal Valley are Olaf Pa, called "Peacock," who is married to a very strong women, Þorgerð; and Ósvifr Helgisson.  His daughter, Guðrún Ósvífrsdotir is described as "the most beautiful woman ever to have grown up in Iceland, and no less clever than she was good-looking.  She took great care of her appearance, so much so that the adornments of other women were considered to be mere child's play in comparison.  She was the shrewdest of women, highly articulate, and generous as well." (LS, chap. 32; Smiley:327)  In the course of her life, she marries four times: first to Þorvaldr Halldorsson; second, to Þordr; third, to Bolli Þorleiksson; and finally, to Þorkell Eyolfsson.  In these four marriages, we get to see all of her qualities and how they match with her husbands' qualities.  We all can see how an imbalance of qualities in a marriage can cause is failure.


In her first marriage to to Thorvaldr, the groom is presented as rich, of good family, but "not terribly brave".  He is superior in wealth, but lacks in other personal qualities.  Ósvifir, Guðrún's father essentially sells her to Thorvaldr without her consent and when Guðrún learns of the deal, she is outraged.  She plots against her husband, giving him a shirt with a neckline so low and wide that it could be a woman's shirt.  He refuses to wear the shirt, showing his lack of respect for his wife (although he is caught in a bind there… wear the shirt and appear effeminate or refuse and insult his wife).  Since he can control neither her nor the situation, she soon divorces him. (Bandlien:249)   The wife, though married, does not consent, and her will is necessary to making the marriage work.


The second marriage for Guðrún is to Thordr Ingunnarson.  He is married to Audr, whom he does not love.  He divorces Audr on the pretense that she wears men clothing, and then marries Guðrún.  They are happy together, two strong characters who both consent to their marriage.  Their social stations are closely matched also.  Guðrún is happy with Thordr, even when their wealth declines.  As Bandlien observes, "within the saga's marriage ethic the marriage is good; Thordr is a brave man who does what Guðrún says." (Bandlien:249)  Tragically he is killed and she is left, widowed and bereft.  It is after his death that Guðrún begins to change.


Prior to Guðrún's third marriage, we are introduced to Kjartan Olafsson, who is the descendant of Melkorka, the slave women who is in fact the daughter of Myrkjartan, King of Iceland. Kjartan, son of Olafr pa, is described as follows  "No fairer or more handsome man has ever been born in Iceland.  He had a broad face and regular features, the most beautiful eyes and a fair complexion.  His hair was thick and shiny as silk, and fell in waves.  He was a big, strong man … He was a better fighter than most, skilled with his hands, and a top swimmer.  He was superior to other men in all skills, and yet he was the humblest of men, and so popular every child loved him.  He also had a generous and cheerful disposition." (LS:chapter 28, Smiley:321-322)  In short, as Auerbach says, Kjartan is perfectly matched to Guðrún.  "The effect of the emphasis on the equality between the two young people is so striking that they have been seen as 'almost the ordained partners for each other.' " (Auerbach:38, quoting Dronke1989:207)


However, the societal difference between the two is brought to the forefront when Kjartan goes to sea, leaving Guðrún, whom he loves and wishes to marry, behind to care for her brothers and father.  He tells her to wait three years for him.  Auerbach says, "the underlying tragedy of the saga is that Guðrún … is made unable to fulfill her evident potential, and her wise and generous disposition is destroyed." (Auerbach:38)  She instead weds Kjartan's sword-brother, Bolli, who goes to Ósvifr and asks for her hand, despite her lack of consent.  This action by her father turns Guðrún bitter and angry.   It also leads to the murder of Kjartan by Bolli, egged on by Guðrún, and  to the slaying of Bolli by Kjartan's kinsmen.


Clover in, "Hildigunnr's Lament: Women in Bloodfeud," cites the waving of bloody clothing by Guðrún in LS, chap. 60.:


"Several nights after returning home, Gudrun asked her sons to come and speak to her in her leek garden.  When they arrived they saw spread out garments of linen, a shirt and breeches much stained with blood.


Gudrun then spoke, "These very clothes which you see here reproach you for not avenging your father.  I have few words to add for it is hardly likely that you would let the urging of words direct you if unmoved by such displays and reminders.' " (LS, chap. 60; Smiley:388)


Clover comments that in doing this, Guðrún fulfills the role of the woman to goad men into action they might otherwise not take, do to politicalll and economic concerns: "In the feud situation, women's (and old men's) words are the equivalent of men's deeds; it is` incumbent on a woman to urge vengeance as it is incumbent on a man to take it." (Clover:143-145)


In her fourth marriage, Guðrún weds Thorkell Eyolfsson.  She arranged her own marriage this time and shows that she is, as always, the most independent of women. (LS, chap. 68; Smiley:402-403) This echoes the wedding of Olaf feilan that Unnr financed at the sagas beginning. (Auerbach:41)  She is honored by all and considered to be the most powerful woman of her day.  Her loss of Kjartan's love and the subsequent tragedies can be laid at the feet of Kjartan.  Had he agreed to take Guðrún with him, acknowledging her superiority, even in the face of convention, both would have been happy.   Instead with Guðrún's fourth marriage ends in Thorkell's death, she retires to a convent and becomes an anchorite: "She was the first woman in Iceland to become a nun and anchoress.  It is also widely said that Gudrun was the most noble among the women of her rank in this country." (LS, chap. 78; Smiley:420)


After her retirement, her son, Bolli Bollason, who has avenged his father's death and inherited all of her lands, asks her which man she loved the most.   Guðrún says: "Thorkel was the most powerful of men and most outstanding chieftan, but none of them was more valiant and accomplished than Bolli,  Thord Ingunnarson was the wisest of these men and the most skilled in law.  Of Thorvald I make no mention."  When Bolli presses her to tell him which man she truly loved, she finally says, "Though I treated him the worst, I loved him the most."  She refers, of course, to Kjartan. (LS, chap. 78; Smiley:420-421).


The Marriages of Hallgerðr Hskuldsdóttir


In contrast to Guðrún, Njals Saga features the feud between Hallgerðr Hskuldsdóttir, at the time married to Gunnar Hamundarson, and Bergþora Skarheðinsdóttir, wife of Njal.   This feud eventually leads to the deaths of Gunnar and Njal, as well as Bergþora.


Hallgerðr is married four times during the course of the saga.  The first is to Þorvaldr Ósvífrsson who is described in the saga as "well off for property... strong and well mannered but short of temper" (NS1997:13).  When Ósvifr and Þorvaldr went to discuss marriage with Hskuldr, it was with the understanding, expressed by Osvif that "things are not likely to be easy between you. She is a strong-willed woman and you are stubborn and unyielding." (ibid.) Nevertheless, Þordvaldr is set on Hallgerðr and the deal is made, without her consent.  When Hskuldr tells Hallgerðr of the agreement, she reacts negatively, saying, "Now I have proof of what I long suspected, that you do not love me as much as you have always said, since you did not think it worth consulting me on the matter.  Besides I don't consider this marriage to be up to the level of what you promised me." (NS1997:13-14)


Bandlien comments on this lack of consent: "Thus the marriage starts off on the worst possible note: Hallgerðr is far from pleased with the betrothal agreement... and she is not one to work at a marriqge to which she has not given consent." (Bandlien:265)  That she does not.  Hallgerðr proves herself to be willful, proud, and foolish during her first marriage: "Hallgerd was acquisitive and high spirited, and demanded to have whatever the neighbours had, and squandered everything; when Spring came there was a shortage of both flour and dried fish." (NS1997:15)  Hallgerðr blames Þorvaldr for the shortage, calling him lazy.  Þorvaldr loses his temper, and slaps her: "Thorvaldr got angry and struck her in the face, so hard that she bled." (ibid.)  When Hallgerðr's foster father, Þjóstólfr, who has been described as a strong fighter who "had killed many men and paid no compensation for them" (NS1997:13), hears of the insult Hallgerðr has been paid, he ambushes Þorvaldr and slays him. (NS1997:15)  Ósvifr goes in search of Þjóstólfr, but he escapes through the magic of Svan of Svanshol, one of her relatives.  Being frustrated in one solution, Osvif seeks compensation from Hskuldr who pays for Þorvaldr's life. (NS1997:17-18)


Her second marriage is to Glúmr Óleifsson. This marriage stands in sharp contrast to the first.   Glúmr is described as "big, strong, and handsome"; when he expresses his will to marry Hallgerðr, his brother Þórarín warns him, "Then you're not letting another man's woe be you're warning, as the saying goes.  She had a husband and she had him killed." Glúmr dismisses the warning, saying, "Perhaps she won't have such bad luck a second time.  I know for certain she will not have me killed." (NS1997:18-19)


When Glúmr and Þórarín ride to treat for Hallgerðr's hand in marriage, they ride with twenty men.  This is to show wealth and strength.  Hskuldr warns Glúmr of Hallgerðr's temperment, but Glúmr is set on the marriage.  This time, having learned his lesson, Hskuldr insists that Hallgerðr give her consent.  Her appearance when she arrives is striking: "Then Hallgerd was sent for, and she came there with two other women.  She was wearing a woven black cloak and beneath it a scarlet tunic, with a silver belt around her waist.  Her hair was hanging down on both sides of her breast and she had tucked it under her belt."  She hears Glúmr's proposal, including all of the terms already arranged between Glúmr and Hskuldr, and being made a "full partner", she agrees, "You have treated me so well in this matter, father, and you, Hrut, that I'm willing to agree to this plan.  The marriage terms shall be as you have determined."  She then betrothed herself to Glúmr and they were wed.  The saga goes on to say that "Hallgerd controlled herself very well" and the marriage was a happy one. (NS1997:19-21)


This happiness continued, including the birth of a daughter named Þorgerdr,  until Þjóstólfr reentered the picture.  He had been exiled from Hkuldr's home for beating a servant and despite Glúmr's misgivings and Hrut's prescient warnings, he moved into Glúmr and Hallgerðr's household.  He was a constant source of friction, until he defied an order from Glúmr.  Glúmr and Hallgerðr quarreled about this and, in exasperation, "Glúmr struck her and said, 'I'm not quarreling with you any longer.' Then he went away."  When Þjóstólfr learned of this, he immediately offered to avenge her, but she demanded that he not harm Glúmr. However, Þjóstólfr ignored her.  He went to Glúmr and insulted him saying that Glúmr had no strength for anything but bouncing on Hallgerðr's stomach.  When Glúmr objected, calling Þjóstólfr a bonded slave, Þjóstólfr used the insult as an excuse to murder Glúmr.  When she heard of the slaying, Hallgerðr laughed bitterly and sent Þjóstófr to her uncle Hrut who killed Þjóstólfr.  Hrut and Hskuldr then settled the slaying of Glúmr with his brothers, paying them the weregild. (NS1997:21-24)


It is clear that a number of things are different.  Since Hallgerðr consents, she has no one else to blame if the marriage fails.  The two partners are well-matched in wealth, social standing, and temperament: he is calm where she can be short-tempered.  Their love is evident to all, shown in their smooth marriage and in the birth of Þorgerdr. Even the fateful slap to the face is different.  The blow delivered by Þorvaldr was hard enough to draw blood; that from Glúmr was not as hard.   Finally, Hallgerðr's reaction to the slaying is completely different.  While she was glad at Þorvaldr's demise, she is both shocked and saddened that Þjóstólfr kills Glúmr.  She sends her foster-father to his death, knowing how Hrut will react to Glúmr's slaying.  Bandlien comments on her second marriage: "The marriage of Hallgerðr and Glúmr is described as jafnrŀœði, their personalities are compatible and Hallgerðr is loyal to her husband to the last, even if he does slap her once.  In this relationship, the woman's consent has a positive function; it is one of a series of steps in contracting the marriage... Hallgerðr's abiding love is emphasized as meaningful for the character of their relationship, but at the same time love and consent before the wedding are decisive." (Bandlien:266)


Hallgerðr's third marriage is the central one in Njals Saga.  Her third husband, Gunnar Hámundarson, is best friend and foster-brother of Njal Þorgeirsson, the eponymous hero of the Saga.  The complexity of the feud between Njal and Gunnar is so great that I will not attempt to describe it in full detail here.  Lars Lönroth summarizes`it as follows: "The feud between Hallgerðr and Njall's wife Bergþora starts with a petty quarrel about seating arrangements at a party, but it soon escalates when Hallgerðr sends a slave to kill one of Bergþora's slaves.  Bergþora retaliates by having one of her men kill the slayer, and so the feud continues until both the households are threatened by annihilation because of the belligerent and increasingly irreconcilable matrons.  Their husbands try to make peace through legal settlements, which are always broken the women and their various henchmen." (Lönroth:26)  This severely damages Hallgerðr's relationship with Gunnar, as they more and more become outcasts from society due to Hallgerðr's incitement of the feud.  The crucial moment, for our purposes, comes when during a time of famine, Otkell Skarfsson, one of Njal's retainers, refuses to either sell or give hay or food to Gunnar. Hallgerðr attempts to gain revenge by having one of her slaves steal food and butter from Otkel and set fire to his barn.  When Gunnar learns of her behavior, he is outraged: "Gunnar got angry and said, 'It's a bad thing if I'm a partner to a thief' - and he slapped her in the face."  Hallgerðr promised to pay back the slap, if she could. (NS1997:57)  This begins a feud between Gunnar and Otkel's family, ending in the death of Otkel and, later, his son, Þorgeirr.  The latter slaying results in Gunner being declared an outlaw and eventually hunted down.  Lönroth summarizes the death of Gunnar as follows: "In spite of Kolskeggr's warnings, [Gunnar] returns to his farm where he is attacked by Gizur the White, Geirr goði, Mrðr, Starkaðr, Þorgeirr Starkaðarsson, and other enemies.  After a truly heroic defense, Gunnar is finally defeated, primarily because Hallgerðr refuses to give him a strand of her long hair so that he can repair his broken bow.  This refusal represents her revenge for the slap." (Lönroth:27)  There is no compensation for Gunnar, due his outlawry, but those who slay him recognize that they have done a misdeed: "Gizur spoke: 'We have now laid low a great warrior, and it has been hard for us, and his defence will be remembered as long as this land is lived in." (NS1997:90)


Bandlien comments on the tragic marriage that it serves as more than a story of revenge, "Part of this conflict has to do with the clash of two different value systems.  When Gunnar makes it a priority to preserve his friendship [with Njal] and seek peaceful solutions`to conflicts, the saga supports him; but Hallgerðr believes`extravagance, challenges to honour, and quick revenge function better." (Bandlien:267).  In the lawful society of Iceland, the provocations to revenge and blood feud cause a distress, and Hallgerðr and Bergþora are the goads that cause the feud.  Hallgerðr has proven herself unworthy of Gunnar.  Bandlien points out the contrast between Hallgerðr and Gunnar's uneven marriage and the marriage of Hallgerðr's daughter, Þorgerdr and Þrain Sigfusson, a man much older than she.  Despite the difference in ages and the suddenness of their marriage (NS1997:39-40), they are jafnfrœdi, and she is described as "a good housewife". (NS1997:40)


Hallgerðr's final "marriage" is to Hrapp Orgumleiðason, an evil man who has already been accused of seducing and raping a virgin, burning a church, and killing a man without giving compensation while living in Norway from where he has been outlawed. (NS1997:99-105)  Little is said of the relationship except that Hrappr spends a great deal of time with her,  and the last we see of Hallgerðr is when Skarpheðin Njalsson and a company of men arrive at her stead looking for Hrappr.  When she insults them, Skarpheðin responds by calling her "a cast-off hag or a whore. [honkerling eða púta]" She replies, calling the sons of Njal "Dung Beardlings" and their father "Old Beardless." (NS1997:109-110).  These two insults spread and finally become the cause for the final feud that ends in the deaths of Njal and Bergþora.  After this scene, Hallgerðr leaves the saga.


Contrasting Hallgerðr and Guðrun


You can see that while similar on the surface, the marriages and histories of Guðrún Ósvifrsdóttir and Hallgerðr Hkuldsdóttir are markedly different. They have far different personalities, as well as appearance.  As Robert Cook points out, ""If [Guðrun Ósvífrsdóttir] is Miss Iceland, then Hallgerðr is Miss Akureyri; her hair, though long and silky is no match for Helga Þorsteinsdóttir's, and her dress is emphasized more than her natural beauty." (Denzin:10) When she meet Gunnarr, both are well-dressed; he with gifts from King Haraldr Gormsson & Jarl Hákon, she with treasures gained by her father which mark her as belonging to a great family.  "For personal, physical beauty, Gunnar is more than a match for her: 'He was handsome and fair of skin and had a straight nose, turned up at its tip.  He was blue-eyed and keen-eyed and ruddy-cheeked, with thick hair, blond and well-combed." (NS1997:24 quoted at Denzin:12).  Further, as Hrut comments about his niece, Hallgerðr has "thief's eyes." (NS1997:2)  This proves to be true throughout Njals Saga, the only exception being in her marriage to Glúmr, which is truly a jafnrœði.  On the other hand, while Guðrún seeks equality in her marriages and her unrequited love for Kjartan ends in deep tragedy, she is presented as a good woman, beautiful and loving.


Bandlien finds that the ideal of marriage presented in the Laxdœla Saga is one of "social equality and the woman's consent." (Bandlien:254)  While this parallels the story of Hallgerðr in Njals Saga, I think that you can look at the two as being in someways the two sides of the same coin.  Hallgerðr seeks equality in marriage and her consent is necessary to a succesful marriage.  However, where Guðrún shows the positive side to the ideal marriage, Hallgerðr through her avarice and cruelty, shows the negative side.  


The marriages of Guðrún and Hallgerðr: A Table











"Their daughter was called Guðrun,   and she was the loveliest woman in Iceland and also the most intelligent.  Guðrun   Osvifsdottir was a woman of such courtliness that whatever finery other women   wore, they seemed like mere trinkets beside her." (LS1969:118)


Now the story turns to Hallgerd,   Hoskuld's daughter: she grew up to be the most beautiful woman, very tall,   and therefore called "Long Legs."  She had lovely hair, so long   that she could wrap herself in it. (NS2001:18)




"She was the shrewdest and   best-spoken of all women; and she had a generous disposition."   (LS1969:118)


She was lavish and hot tempered.   (NS2001:18) "My daughter is hard to get along with, but as for her looks   and manners, you can see for yourself." (Hoskuld at NS2001:19)


First   Marriage


to Thorvaldr Halldorsson. "He   was a wealthy man, but no great hero."  Marriage is arranged by Osvif   and Thordvaldr. (LS1969:124)


to Thorvald Osvifsson (not related to   Gudrun's father).  "He was well-off for property... Thorvald was strong   and well-mannered, but somewhat short-tempered." Hoskuld does not   consult with Hallgerd.  She complains mightily.  The marriage is not happy   and they quarrel over a shortage of flour and dried fish .  (NS2001:19-21)




When Guðrun insists on a very   expensive gift, Thorvaldr tells her she shows no moderation and slaps her.   She plots against him by giving him the wide necked shirt & then divorces   him for his wearing woman's clothing & being effeminate. (LS1969:124-125)


when Hallgerd insults Thorvald and he   slaps her "in the face so hard that she bled".  She complains to   her foster-father, Thjostolf who takes revenge by killng Thorvald.   (NS2001:22)


Second   Marriage


Gudrun takes up with Thord   Ingunnarson who is married to Aud, who is described as very plain.  Gudrun   talks Thord into divorcing her for wearing men's breeches.  He does so &   then weds Gudrun.  They are very happy, even after Aud gets her revenge by   attacking Thord. (LS1969:126-127)


to Glum Oleifsson, a trader who is "big,   strong and handsome."  even after being warned off her, he proposes to   her father & to Hallgerd,   They are married and are happy together,   having a daughter named Thorgerd. (NS2001:26-30)




when Thord is drowned trying to bring   thieves & sorcerers to justice. "Gudrun was deeply grieved at Thord's   death.  She was with child then, and her time was near.  Soon she gave birth   to a boy; he was sprinkled with water and named Thord.... He was known as   Thord Cat." (LS1969:129-130)


when Thjostolf comes to lives with   Hallgerd and Glum.  Thjostolf & Glum quarrel and when Hallgerd supports   Thjostolf, Glum "struck her with his hand."  She tells Thjostolf,   adding that he should do nothing.  However, Thjostolf picks a fight with Glum   and kills him,  When she finds out, Hallgerd sends Tjostolf to her uncle,   Hrut,  who kills him. (NS2001:30-33)


Third   Marriage


Gudrun marries Bolli, the foster-son   of Olaf Peacock & foster-brother of Kjartan Olafsson, whom Gudrun truly   loves.  Ghis is done with her consent but deep misgivings.   (LS1969:154-155)This leads to the great fued between Bolli & Kjartan,   mostly goaded by their wives, Gudrun and Hrefna Asgerdsdottir.  Eventually   this leads to Kjartan's death at Bolli's hands (LS1969:175)


to Gunnar Hamundsson: He was big   & string & an excleent fighter... He shot with a bow better than   anyone else... He could jump higher than his height... He swam like a seal...   He was handsome & fair of skin... He was `very well-mannered, firm in all   ways, generous and even tempered, a true friend but a discriminating friend.   He wal well-off for property." (NS2001:35)  He is the best friend and   foster-brother of Njal who is married to Bergthora.  Gunnar proposes to   Hallgerd who consents & then sends him to her father.  (NS2001:52-54)   Their marriage leads to a very long feud between Bergthora and Hallgerd,   which involves their husbands and eventually turns to a blood feud.  They   have disagreements and in the course of one, he strikes her, a blow she never   forgets. (NS2001:




when Bolli is killed by the relatives   & friends of Kjartan (LS1969:185-188)


when Gunnar is declared an outlaw for   a slaying.  He stays in Iceland and is hunted down.  When he, his mother   (Rannveig), and Hallgerd are trapped in their house, he fights braveky but   his bowstring breaks.  Hallgerd refuses to help him and he is killed.   (NS2001:125-128)


Fourth   Marriage


to Thorkel Eyjolfsson, a ealthy   merchant.  The marriage seems a happy one. They have a son named Gellir   Thorkelsson, who also becomes a great chieftain. LS1969:214ff)


to Hrapp, an evil man who has raped a   young woman and is` known as Killer-Hrapp.   She weds him and is called "a   cast-off hag or a whore" by Skarphedin Njalsson. (NS2001:155)




When Thorkel Eyjolfsson is drowned   bringing church timbers on Easter weekend. (LS1969:233-235)


when Hrapp is killed by the   Njalssons. (NS2001:159-160).  Note that this is likely a "common-law"   marriage.




After Thorkel's death, Gudrun becomes   deeply religious and is the first nun & anchoress is Iceland.   (LS1969:238)


After the insults that Skarphedin   delivers, we never hear of Hallgerd again in Njal's Saga.



Works Cited


Primary Sources


Cook, Robert, trans.  Njal's Saga.  NY: Penguin Books, 2001.


Cook, Robert, trans.  "Njals Saga", in The Complete Sagas of the Icelanders, v. 3, pp. 1-220.


Hreinsson, Viðar, ed.  The Complete Sagas of the Icelanders.  Reykjavik: Leifur Eiríksson Press, 1997.


Kunz, Geneva, trans.  "Laxdœla Saga", in TheSagas of the Icelanders, pp. 27-421.


Smiley, Jane, ed.  The Sagas of the Icelanders.  NY: Viking, 2000.


Secondary Sources


Andersson, Theodore M.  The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180-1280).  Ithaca: Cornell

     University Press, 2006.


Auerbach, Loren. "Female Experience and Authorial Intention in Laxdœla Saga," Saga Book, v. 25

     (1998-2001), Viking Society for Northern Research, pp. 30-52.


Bandlien, Bjørn.  Strategies of Passion: Love and Marriage in Medieval Iceland and Norway.  Betsy  van der Hoek, trans.  Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 2005.


Clover, Carol. "Hildigunnr's Lament: Women in Bloodfeud," in Structure and Meaning in Old Norse Literature, pp. 141-183.


Cook, Robert. "Gunnarr and Hallgerðr: A Failed Romance," in Romance and Love in Late Medieval  and Early Modern Iceland, pp. 5-32.


Denzin, Johanna and Kirsten Wold, ed.  Romance and Love in Late Medieval and Early Modern  

     Iceland.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008.


Dronke, Ursula, "Narrative Insight into the Laxdœla Saga", in Tucker, The Sagas of the Icelanders,   pp. 209-225.


Lindow, John, Lars Lönroth and Gerd Wolfgang Weber.  Structure and Meaning in Old Norse

     Literature.  Odense: Odense University Press, 1986.


Lönroth, Lars.  Njáls Saga: A Critical Introduction.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.


Tucker, John.  Sagas of the Icelanders: A Book of Essays.  NY, 1989.


Copyright 2011 by Tom Ireland-Delfs, 731 South Main Street, Newark, NY 14513. <fridrikr at thescorre.org>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


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