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Law and Literature in

Medieval Iceland
*

Ljdsuetninga saga and


Valla-Ljdts

saga,

Theodore M. Andersson &


William Ian Miller

Stanford Uniaersity Press, Stanford, Califontia,

,g8g

Stanford University

Contents

Press

Stanford, California

O r g8g by the Board of Trustees of the


Leland Stanford Junior University
Printed in the United States of America
CIP data appear at the end of the book

Preface

vll

Maps

xv

PART I INTRODUCTION
The Social Historical Setting

()

The Literary Setting


PA RT
Lj6saetninga saga

Appendix: A Text
Valla-Ljdts saga

63

II THE

SAGAS
r21
245
256

Appendixes
a: List of Characters

z89

s: Genealogies

296

Select Bibliography

303

Index

3r1)

Preface
*

Our volume is designed to make the Icelandic sagas culturally


more accessible to English-speaking readers. Saga translations
into English abound, notably those by Hermann Pdlsson in Penguin paperback, but we have chosen two not available in that series. There is no complete English translation of Lj1saetninga,
saga; and when we began work there was also no English transla-

tion of Valla-Lj1ts saga. In the meantime two have appeared


(Bachmann r985, Acker rq88). We have decided to retain our
own because the two sagas are useful companion pieces, dealing
as they do with the same region and with the career of'Gudmund
the Powerful. Despite numerous saga translations, only <lne saga
(Gtsla saga 1963) has been made available in English with an introduction and notes that provide the necessary background for
modern readers. Sooner or later this deficiency will be remedied, but in the meantime we offer the following texts as an experiment in how it might be done.
Our model is the standard set of Icelandic editions in the
series of islenzk Fornrit. Begun in rg33, this series had succeeded by r96o in producins well-annotated editions with full
scholarly introductions of almost all the so-called family sagas,
twelve volumes in all. The editions were intended to satisfy the
needs of Icelandic readers and foreign scholars with a reading
knowledge of Icelandic (introductions and apparatus are in that
language). Foreign scholars have indeed made extensive and
grateful use of these volumes, and it is not too much to say thirt
they have transformed our study of the sagas. It seems cle:rr t htrl
the vogue of the sagas and the scholarly attention paid tht:rn irr

viii

Pref ace

North America since r 96o is largely attributable to the ready access provided by islenzk Fornrit.
The work of Icelandic scholars in the production of the series
was guided by a particular point of view. These scholars are thus
f..qii.,',tly ref'eried to as the "Icelandic school," and this term is
appropriate in a double sense; the work was carried out by Icelari.l.rls, and it focused with great clarity the lcelandicness of the
sagas. 'fhe latter readjustment was in reaction to an earlier domi,rrii,rn of lcelandic siudies by Icelanders working abroad, such
as Gudbrandur Vigftisson in England and Finnur J6nsson in
Denmark, and particularly two generations of prolific Germanspeaking scholirs on the Continent, most notably the German
Konrad Maurer (r823-rgoz) and the Swiss Andreas Heusler
(1865-rg4o). Although Maurer forged the tools of modern
ruguitrdy, which needed only to be sharpened by his succe:t9..t,
thE astonishing popularity of the sagas in Germany inevitably
led to an emphasis on their pan-Germanic significance.
This t...rd was not a little abetted by the growth of German
nationalism in the first half of this century. Scholars were apt to
see the Sagas as a Germanic alternative to southern, classical, or
Christian iultural values, an alternative in which all the Germanic
nations were to some extent implicated. Such a view amounted
not only to an appropriation of Icelandic literature but also to a
Germanicization ut d hittoricization of it. It was held, for example, that the Sagas were accurate reproductions of oral tales
..rthing back intolhe Saga Age (93o- ro3o), that is, to a period
prior tJ the full emergence of the Icelandic commonwealth'
if tf," sagas were histoiically faithful to the traditions of this
early period, they could be viewed as, in some sense, Germanic.
They were consequently studied with an eye to Germanic law,
Germanic religion, Germanic literature, and Germanic value
systems.

The Icelandic scholars of the same period, beginning with


B.jorn Magnfisso., 61r"., (rB5o-rg1g), broke emphatically with

this traditi,on. They were intent on separating the sagas f rom the
Germanic context and establishing them as a creation of imagi-

native Icelandic authors in the thirteenth century. These authors were heirs not of a Germanic cultural unity but of three
centuries of specifically Icelandic development. The inclusion

Preface

ix

<lf'Icelandic landscape photographs and detailed Icelandic nlaps

in the Fornrit editions is the visible sign of the sagas' repatriation. The point is affirmed in the introductions, which provide
not only the basic infbrmation on chronology, dating, location,
authorship, and cast of characters but also devote some space to
the less traditional matter of literary appraisal. As a result, the
sagas, though anonymous, emerge as individually crafted artistic
works rather than as symptomatic documents. The emphasis in
this new approach was on literary relationships and source studies. Oral sources were programmatically deemphasized and written sources, real or hypothetical, were invoked to explain the process of composition. The saga author was promoted from a teller
of tales to a historical novelist with a library at his disposal.
There is no doubt whatever that this shift of focus was correct
and salutary. The Icelandic scholars formulated the problems
more precisely than their Continental colleagues and added impressively to our information. It is not likely that anyone will reiurn to the crude distinctions between Northern atld Southern
culture that characterized the period between the World Wars.
But reactions tend to overshoot the mark, and this is no less true
of the lcelandic correction than of others.
It is not so much a question of details, which will always be in
dispute. The reader will see that we disagree with the Islenzk
Foinrit editor of Ljdsaetninga saga (Bjorn Sigfiisson) on such
matters as the preferable redaction and the date of composition,
but the important disagreement has to do with the type of questions posed.
Although serious study of the sagas in North America was
made poriibl. only by the publicarion of islenzk Fornrit, American scholars were quick to take issue with the viewpoint underlying these volumes. This was in part because American scholars
were closely allied with larger European critical traditions: German philology, English practical criticism, Russian formalism,
the neotraditionalism of the Spaniard Ram6n Men6ndez Pidal,
and the largely homegrown theory of oral formulism in Homer.
What these trends had in common was that they were gi:ner:rl
theories of literature that attempted to convert specifics irrtrr
broad traditions, Structures, and rules. American schol:rrs w('l'('
not content to view the sagas as individual novels but trit'<l t':tlltct

Preface

to understand the qeneric phenomenon. Not having at their


command the wealth of detail that the Icelanders possessed,
they leapl more readily from the particular to the general. They
insisted more <ln the uniformity of the sagas and doubted that it
could be explained by the centrifugal principle of literary fiction. 't'hey sought to attach the sagas to a prior oral tradition,
f ronr which the lcelanders had freed them, and to emphasize literat'y continuity. Recent American works have reacted against
lloetic individualism by connecting the sagas with broad trends
in L,uropean narrative or with the modes of oral performance in
nrany parts of the world.
One practical, though by no means necessary, consequence of
the Icelandic school's work was to reject the family sagas as valid
sources for historical inquiry. The Icelandic school replaced the
tendency of Germanic romanticism to believe most everything in
the sagas with a tendency to believe nothing in them at all. The
problem was the gap of two to three centuries between the time
the family sagas were written and the events they purported to
describe. To the Icelandic school the only way to account for the
time lapse was to conclude that the sagas were fiction. If these
sagas contained useful historical information, it was about the
time in which they were written and not about the time in which
their plots were set. Unfortunately, the scholars who established
this view had rather narrow conceptions of what history was.
To them it was mainly political, biographical, or constitutional
history. With rare exception (for example, J6n J6hannesson
rg70 they did not and still do not write social history even for
the thirteenth century, a time about which, according to their
own views, the sagas had something to say.
In contrast, Sturlunga saga-with significantly shorter time
gaps between composition and the events it describes-and the
laws continued to be held "true" in exactly the same way that the
earlier romanticism conceived the family sagas. Little account
was taken of the ways in which narrative conventions distort depictions of reality, even if the reality being described is one that
has been observed and experienced by the author. Instead, a
few ingenious attempts were made to demonstrate that the family sagas were rotnans d, clef for events contemporary to the saga

writer.

Preface

xl

Very recent historical work, however, is once again lookins ttr


the sagas, not for political and biographical matter, but for social
and cultural data. The first recent attempts to reintegrate saga
literature and its social context were made in Denmark by the
literary critic Preben Meulengracht SOrensen (rglZ) and the cul-

tural anthropologist Kirsten Hastrup in her ry7g Oxford dissertation (Hastrup rgBS). Their work was not a throwback to
the Germanic ethnography of the early twentieth century but
an attempt, in Meulengracht S6rensen's case, to read lcelandic
literature in terms of Icelandic social and cultural structures
and, in Hastrup's, to apply methods of analysis used in studies of
other premodern societies. This approach was another effort to
remove saga literature from Icelandic isolation and place it in a
larger crosscultural context. The proponents, like their literary
colleagues, were not satisfied that the idea of imaginative fiction
exhausted the significance of the sagas and tried to read them as
an expression of and a reflection on social and cultural norms.
The fact that dialogue, and even plot, might be an authorial
invention does not mean that the social and cultural processes
and values represented in the sagas are also fiction.'I'he world of
the sagas has been demonstrated to reveal a remarkable fit with
the range of social possibility that anthropologists have identified in other stateless societies. The saga writers did not invent
the culture and society in which they placed their stories; they
did not invent the norms of gift exchange and the feuding process. These were for the most part given to them ready-made by
the reality of an experience shared with their audience. Part of
this shared experience came from growing up and working in
the same land, part of it came from hearing the stories and
about the characters who made uP the world of the sagas. Life
and art influenced each other. The sagas were born of the experience of living in Iceland and in turn did much to create a consciousness of that experience. But orthodox literary-historical
study of the sagas has been willing to admit only the influence of
art in the sagas. The repetition of similar incidents in two different sagas is thus taken solely as an indication of literary relation
rather than as an indication that such incidents might acttrally
have occurred in the contexts described.
The case can be plausibly made that the sagas at times strl'l)lrss

xii

Preface

Preface

the quality ofother, more "historical," sources for purposes of


historical inquiry. Saga authors, for instance, took great care to
contextu alize the disputes that fbrm the core of these narratives.
Disputants are situated in kin groups, in households, in neighborhoods, amidstjuridical institutions confirmed by nonimaginative
sources, and the disputes themselves are traced through time.
One sees, in fact, medieval historians of the Continent looking to
the sagas on occasion in order to provide the parameters of the
possible in their effort to reconstruct from recalcitrant cartularies
things as diverse as the processes of feud and child-rearing practices (White r986; Boswell rg8+).
Using the sagas to write social and cultural history does not
mean that the techniques of literary analysis and the lessons of
source criticism are of no value. Quite the contrary. Whatever
the sagas were written for, they were not written with the purpose

of providing twentieth-century social historians with

the

wherewithal to ply their trade. The historians who look ro rhe


sagas for evidence need to acquire the skills of the literary critic
and literary historian in order to read them well. There is no
doubt that the sources are problematic; butjust because sources
are troublesome does not mean that they should be jettisoned.
This is especially so in the case of Iceland, where it would lead to
the rejection of a large proportion of the written artifacts that
have been preserved. when evidence is scarce, the historian, like
the archaeologist, must make use of what there is and develop
techniques for exploiting it in ways the original creators never
intended. Banal as this observation may be, saga studies have
come to a pass where it needs saying (wormald rgSz: l2q-qr).
Scholars who work in Dark Age history on the Continent long
ago decided that if there was to be any history written of their
period, they could not afford the luxury of being so choosy
about the nature of their sources. It is difEcult to imagine where
Frankish, Classical, and Biblical studies would be if historians of
those periods had treated Gregory of Tours, Homer, and the
Bible as Scandinavian historians have treated the sagas.
Both literary and social critics reacted against the Icelandic
school's idea of free fiction by tying the sagas more closely to medieval literature and oral literature at large or the specifics of
Icelandic life, that is, by reemphasizing the historical connected-

iii

of Icelandic literature. The collaborators in this volrrrrrr'


represent the two prongs of rehistoricization. One is a litcrlu'y
historian (Andersson), the other a social and legal historiarr
(Miller). One has his point of departure in the postwar attempt
to define the sagas generically and locate them in a continuous
tradition. The other represents the more recent attempt to define the relationship between the sagas and the social systems in
which they evolved and is much influenced by American legal
realism and law-and-society scholarship. Neither of us believes
that it is adequate to suppose that the sagas were made up by
inventive writers in the thirteenth century.
This much we have in common. On the other hand, our critical instincts are not entirely reconcilable. It will be readily apparent that Part I of the introduction is the work of the social historian. This section deals with social dynamics, dispute processing,
social control, kinship and residence, economics, and legal institutions and is in the descriptivist tradition. Part II is by the literary historian and participates in the moralizing tradition of
that discipline, which is to some degree antithetical to social
analysis (compare, for instance, our different views of honor).
We have allowed the contradiction to stand. The annotation and
commentary is largely Miller's work with some notes on chronology, genealogy, and textual matters added by Andersson. The
ness

initial translation of Lj6suetninga saga was done by Andersson,


that of Valla-Lj1x saga by Miller, but they have passed between
us so often that we no longer know who is responsible for a
particular phrasing. Our translation policy is to be as literally
faithful to the original as producing a readable contemporary
English text would allow.
The presentation of Icelandic texts involves certain technical
difficulties. Some are of a simple typographical Bature. Icelandic
uses characters not found in the English alphabet. We have
judged that these characters are not instructive in a translation
andhaveused Englishequivalents: p: th,d: d,E : ze,c: oe,
g or 0: o. We have also omitted the diacritics marking vowel
length and simplified doubled final consonants produced by assimilation of a nominative ending. These simplifications are suspended only in the case of modern Icelandic names and l>ilrliographical citations.

xlv

Preface

Since Icelandic and English are cognate languages, many place


name elements are similar. Where the similarity is great, we have

simply substituted the English equivalent. For Hgrg6rdalr we


write Horgardale, for Eyja{grdr Eyja{ord, and for Kakalah6ll
Kakalahill because there is no point in obscuring the fact that a
valley, a fjord, and a hill are involved.
1'he experienced saga reader may peruse the subsections in
any order, but we recommend that inexperienced readers start
with the text of Valla-Ljdx saga, which is very brief, then read the
social-historical introduction, then proceed to the longer and
more complicated Ljbsaetninga saga, and finally to the detailed
matter of the literary introduction. Some of the commentary will
be useful at first reading; other annotations can be deferred until the text seems familiar.
We would like to acknowledge the kindness of our Icelandic
colleagues Bjarni Einarsson and Finnbogi Gudmundsson, who
advised us on certain difficult passages. Not all translation problems can be securely resolved, but we have tried to make clear in
the notes where they lie. Thanks are due to Nan Druskin, who
accurately and quickly entered much of the manuscript into the
computer. Finally we wish to thank Kathleen Koehler for invaluable critique and comment and an anonymous reviewer for
Stanford University Press whose meticulous reading and reasoned suggestions have greatly benefited us.

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Hals (in Svarfadardale) (3)

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Gnupar (45)

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Ljosavatn (50)

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Modruvellir (20)
Myr (43)

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Nes (32)

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Reykir (46)
Reykjahlid (53)

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Vaglir (30)

Veisa (34)

Vellir (6)

(17)

Part I
*

I NTR ODIJCTION

The Social Historical Settin.g


*

Lj6suetninga saga and Valla-Ljdx su,ga belong ro a class of medieval Icelandic texts commonly called family sagas or, using a

literal translation of the Icelandic ferm, "sagas of Icelanders"

(1s-

lendinga sggur). There are some three dozen of these sagas, composed for the most part in the thirteenth century (see Clover

rg8z, rg84; Schach rg8+).They tell stories about leading lcelandic figures and families from the time of the island'.s colonization
around goo to the middle of the eleventh century, or, in terms of
English chronology, from the time of King Alf red ro a few years
before the Norman Conquest.
One of the fortunate side benefits of the sagas, both family
and contemporary' sagas, is the abundance of social and cultural
information preserved in them. Some of this information may
be central to the narrative. This is often the case, for instance,
with the structures of feud and the disputing process, with the
ways of achieving and maintaining reputation, and with the depiction of the types of wrongs thar give rise to hostile action.
Some information, on the other hand, may be only incidental.

The mere mention that two brothers farmed together tells us


something about the range of household types. A genealogy not
only gives us the kinship connections crucial to understanding
the alliances and tensions of the plot but it also tells us about
'The so-called "contemporary" sagas describe events in the twelltlr
and thirteenth centuries and were chiefly written in the thirteenth r:entury. Most are collected in a compilation called Sturlunga saga ancl irr t lrr.
sagas of the bishops of Iceland.

Introduction

naming patterns and kinship structures. A description of a paternity case gives invaluable information about ordeals. A death
scene provides the occasion to mentiotr that liquids were heated
by putting heated stones in them. From casual description as
well as artful dialogue, we learn the expectations surrounding
marriage and gift exchange, and so on.
The inestimable value the sagas have for the social and cultural historian is somewhat compromised by one nearly intractable problem. It is still very hard to get a sense of change through
time. Most of the sagas date from the thirteenth century, but it
has proven difficult to be very precise about their dates, either in
absolute terms or relative to each other. There is also the problem of knowing how to identify anachronism. Usual practice has
been to take the saga writer at his word when he shows a selfconscious antiquarian interest, although this is not without its
dangers. The author of Eyrbyggja saga, for instance, is frequently
cited as a source for Saga Age legal practice (ggo- ro3o), but it
could just as easily be that his antiquarianism is a pose to give
authority to his imagination. For the time being it is safest to assume that the society of the sagas rePresents the society the author was familiar with, that is, his own, adjusted to account for
the stories and memories of his parents and grandparents, to
which there might also be added genuine bits of preserved tradition from the time in which the narrative is set. The problem is
recognizing the latter when we see it. The law texts are of some
assistance in helping with the dating problem, but they are not
without similar difficulties. First written down in the early twelfth
century, the earliest surviving manuscripts contain late material
and some provisions that must have been relics even in the original text in the first half of the eleventh century. Most provisions
cannot be pinned down to a date any more exact than to Some
time in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.
G,iven Iceland's geographical isolation and the slow rate of
t.echn<llogical change during the relevant centuries, it would be
tenrpting to solve the chronology problem by assuming that
things could not have changed much from the Saga Age (93o,o3o; through the beginning of the thirteenth century. There is
evidence that the dislocations of colonization were stabilized
relatively quickly. According to Ari Thorgilsson (d. r r48), the

The Social Historical

Setting

Ir

first Icelandic historian, the island was atbyggt (islenclingalxih


3: g), "completely settled," within sixty years after the beginning

of Norse colonization (ca. 87o). Recent bioarchaeological findings basically confirm this, although they push the dare forward
a little. They suggest that the maximum levels of exploitarion
of the environment had already been reached sometime early in
the eleventh century (McGovern er al. rg88) and began to shrink
thereafter because of poor conservation techniques and deteriorating climate. Archaeologists also believe the evidence shows
that Icelanders were very unresponsive to varying environmental constraints. They simply went on farming, herding, and constructing their houses the way they always had.
But we cannot be so sure that the social arrangements for exploiting the environment. were as slow to change as the technology of exploitation, even on an island as isolated from the European continent as Iceland was. The conversion of the Icelanders
to Christianity in the year rooo (as a result of an arbitration proceeding at the Allthing) eventually had some effect on the social
structure, although mostly unquanrifiable. Compulsory rirhes
were instituted in ro96, and in the long run their effect was to
increase wealth differentials within the free farmer class, reducing some to tenant or servant status and elevating others-those
farmers who owned churches-to landlords. And although the
natives never had to endure the degree of depredation on their
material resources by the church that was usual on the Continent, it would be ill advised ro conclude that the church had only
negligible social consequences. Valla-Lj6ts saga (ch. 3), in fact,
shows how the mere presence of christianity increased the density of rules in the culture, giving rise to more claims people
could make against others, even though the dispute also shows
how easily things like Sabbath rules could be assimilated into the
native way of disputing. The church hierarchy also provided an
apparatus for Norwegian kings to intervene in Icelandic affairs,
and this too must have had differing social effects over time.
Our sources, however, do not give us the means for determining the social effects of these changing political arrangemenrs in
any satisfactory way. The difficulty of assigning the sources arrrl
their contents to reliable chronologies means that our social lristory is by default relegated to a kind of ethnographic presenr. Ily

Introduction

judicious use of the sagas and laws, we can get a good static picture that fairly represents many of the norms and social institutions that characterized Icelandic society from about the first
third of the twelfth century to the last third of the thirteenth.
A moving picture would be much better, but at present we lack
the technology to create one.
'I'hen there is the problem of the composition and focus of
the picture we are able to reconstruct. The sagas are tales of the
well-heeled segments of the society. The lot of the lowly cotters,
the poor and even middling farmers, are seldom worth the sagawriters' attention unless it immediately impinges on the problems of the wealthier people. The lives and struggles of the poor
are for the most part lost to us. We are relegated to the law codes
regulating poor relief, Iabor contracts, debt-slavery, tenancies,
or treatment of beggars to try to get some sense of their condition. But these codes only tell us how the enfranchised thought
about treating the disenfranchised, not about how they actually
treated them. Some compensation is to be had from the fact that
we are able to capture significant glimpses of the life of servants
who populate the households of the better off, but it is still important to note that the picture of dispute processing and of political and social maneuvering that is the core of saga narrative is
a partial picture.

Judicial Institutions
The lceland of what is usually called the Commonwealth
period-from settlement ca. 87o to Norwegian hegemony in
rz6z-was a stateless society. However, incipient statelike institutions and offrces did exist: there were the "things," district
things meeting in the spring and fall, and one for all of Iceland
rneeting at Thingvellir annually for two weeks at midsummer;
arrd there were the "chieftains" (godi, pl. godar), whose formal
duty it was to inaugurate the things (Ljds. ch. zo) and select the
thirty-six judges who sat on the courts that met there (Ljbs.
.h. +). 'I-he things neither required nor possessed any bureaucratic structures. Institutional continuity was achieved by holding them at fixed locations during fixed times each year. They
were really nothing more than meetings of free f armers at which

The Social Historical

Setting

the formal processing of disputes took place and other nlarrcr.s


of interest could be discussed. And although the word "cour.t"
conjures up images of robedjudges and pretentious architecture,

the Icelandic courts met outdoors, with the judges, it seems,


seated on rocks arranged in a circle.
The country had been divided into quarters ca. 965,, one for
each point of the compass. There were three district things in
each quarter, except that in the North Quarter, where both our
sagas take place, there were four. Each district thing was presided over by three chieftains, making for thirty-ninechieftiins
all told. This number was increased to forty-eight in roob as parr
of the institution of the Fifth Court. A court for each q,ru.t.t
met at the Allthing. At these quarter courts were heard cases in
which litigants belonged to different district things or rhose cases
in which no judgment had been reached ar rhe district thing
(Ljds. chs. 4, r r; Grd,gd,s la 4o- 42, I o I z). The Fifth Courr functioned mainly as a court of appeal for cases which ended in divided judgments in the quarter courts. The chieftains, each with
two advisors, sat as a lggritta, a Court of Legislation. This court
made and altered law and decided what the law was if there was
disagreement about a rule. A "lawspeaker," elected by the lggrdtta
to a three-year term, had the responsibility of'reciting the entire
corpus of laws during his term, one third of it each year, and of
informin-g litigants and the judges what the law was. Thorgeir
the chieftain of Ljosavarn (Ljds. chs. r -4) was lawspeaker fiom
985 to roor, and Skapti Thoroddsson (vl chs. B-g) was reelecred
to successive terms from 1oo4 until 1o3o. other courts, the socalled "courts of confiscation" (fdrd,nsd6mr), were convened two
weeks after the formal things, at the domicile of an outlaw in
order to settle creditors' claims against an outlaw's estate (Lj6s.
ch. r4). There were also "meadow courts" (engid6mr), meeting ad
hoc in the meadow whose title was to be decided; and "purrp..
courts" (hreppaddmr), meeting an arrowshot from the home of a

defendant who had shirked his responsibilities for supporring


dependent kin or the district poor (Grd,gd,s Ib 85, ry2).
But in spite of this elaborate sysrem of courrs and juridical institutions and a dense body of law that was administerecl irr
them, there was no formally instituted executive authority whrrtsoever. It remained the responsibility of the claimant or his r.t.p-

Introduction

The Social Historical Setting

resentative to get his defendant into court and to enforce any


judgment he might get in his favor. Law enforcement was a private matter, and the ultimate sanction behind the law and all
'fhe fact
legal judgments was the blood feud or the fear of it.

Thorkel Geitisson reveals chieftainly anxieties on this score when


he makes metaphorical reference to the loss of thingmen as a
way of describing how Brand's inventive entertainment is undermining Thorkel's preeminence in his own household: "It's as if a
new chieftain had appeared in the region and men were flocking
to him from their former chieftain" (Lj6s..h. g). But the right to
choose one's chieftain must have had at best only a theoretical
existence when a chieftain was as powerful as Gudmund or when
a man's farm was right next door to his chieftain (cf. Gunnar
Karlsson ry72).

thit peofle had to protect themselves, and that they bore the

primary responsibility for asserting their own rights, meant that


ih.y t..ded to maintain a support system for both protection
and aggression. No one in this society could act without the support of others. This is why the relations established by virtue of
io-residence, kinship, friendship, mamiage, fo.stering, arrd 9o1tract were so crucial. We return to the significance of this in
more detail below.
All householders were required to become the "thingmen" of
a chieftain. A thingman and chieftain owed each other duties of
support. This usually meant supPort at law, to be rendered either by providing counsel and the necessary pleading skills, or
the neceisary bodies to ensure that a case could be prosecuted or
defended without forcible disruption (see, for example, Ljbs.
ch. r r). The ideal is well stated by Eyjolf to his own thingmen as
he requests their suPport in his struggles against the Ljosvetning
kin gioup: "As you well know, I am considered your chieftain.
I juJge iito be in the spirit of our relationship that each aids the
other in just cases. You should support me against my opponents
while I am to be your ally when your needs require it" (Lj6s.
ch. z3). On the other side we have Isolf reminding his chieltain
Eyjolf of his responsibilities to this thingmen: "Still we thing-9.
look to you for support" (ch. zz). In spite of these norms, the
bond did not operate automatically, as indeed Eyjolf suggests in
the passage cited when he limits the obligation of mutual aid to
,,j^i caseJ." A chieftain's reluctance to aid an unpopular thingman might have to be overcome with gifts (ch. r4), or chieftains
and thingmen might find themselves opposed as were Thorgeir
the Chieftain and his men (Ljds. chs. z-4). The bond of chieftain
and thingman had none of the mystical aura of the homage that
lrotrnct vassal to lord on the Continent. A thingman was free to
shifi his allegiance by making a public announcement of his
intention at a thing (Grd,gd,s Ia r4o). In districts where the chiefrains were of'roughly equal power, tfre grgspect of losing thingmen must have made a chieftain doliiitous of their concerns.

Class, Householding, and Kinship

The early Icelandic l2ys5-sellectively known as Grd,gdsrecognized two .lass.J' free and slave. Saga evidence ,r,g[.rtr,
however, that slavery disappeared before the twelfth century
(Foote Lg77b).In fact, one of the last sfaves menrioned according to saga chronology is Thorstein the debt-slave in Ljfisuetninga
saga around ro65. Yet the rather insistent provisiorn in Grd,gd,s,
even discounting for the possibility that they are anachronisms,
suggest that enslavement for debt might have been very much a
reality well into the twelfth century. In contrast to the early
Anglo-saxon laws, Icelandic law made no distinction in wergeld'',
values among the ranks of freemen. In theory the corpses of the
poorest farmer and the wealthiest chieftain had the same price.
The practice was otherwise. A cursory consideration of the arbitrated settlements in the sagas shows much variation in compensation awards, with such factors as the status and popularity of
the victim playing a significant role in the determination. The
law, however, did admit some distinctions among free farmers.
Householders (b6ndi, pl. bandr) who mer a cerrain properry
requirement had greater rights and duties rhan those who did
not meet it. A qualifying householder, among other things, was
obliged to attend the thing or send a substiture on his behalf or
2"Wergeld" is the name applied to the
payment that the killer an<l lris
kin are supposed to pay the victim's kin. In theory, if not always irr pr':u tice, payment of wergeld bought off the avenger's ax.

to

Introduction

The Social Historical Setting

else pay a thing attendance tax (Grd,gd,s,lu 44, l5g); they were
also eligible to serve as jurors. Other provisions made various
matters hinge on whether one had servants or not, and whether

simple expropriation (Lj6s. .h. +). A chieftaincy, or ar leasr a


share in one, could usually be had by a person who had acquired
the power but lacked the title, or if none were available a daughter or sister could be married:,off to someone who had one. The
sagas also show servants coming into farms, slaves being freed,
and seamen, traders, and raiders acquiring wealth'and some-

one was tenant or landlord, freedman, or child of mixed slave


and free couplings.
The sagas more than the laws make it quite clear that some
farmers enjoyed greater access to crucial resources than others
and that there were substantial differences in wealth and power
among them. Gudmund the Powerful and his son Eyjolf are able
to generate sufficient surpluses from their own lands or force
transfers of others' surpluses to themselves so as to maintain a
household of more than a hundred servants (Lj6s..h. S). This is
clearly an exaggeration, but perhaps by no more than a factor of
two. A more trustworthy enumeration of the size of Bishop P6l's
household at Sk6laholt, ca. l2oo, estimates 7o-8o residents (Pdk
saga, b: z6o), and Gudmund's might well have been nearly as
populous. Ljbsuetninga saga treats qs to a wonderful account of
how the more powerful mulc-ted their poorer neighbors or thingmen. They visited them, sometimes with a substantial retinue of
their own household men, and stayed until they ate up whatever
surpluses the unwilling host had managed to accumulate, often
taking a rather generous view of what constituted a surplus
(Lj6s. chs. 6-7). In spite of differences in wealth among farmers,
the daily routine of the wealthiest and poorest seems to have
been much the same. Ljot, a chieftain, tends his livestock (VL
ch. 8), and even the very wealthy Gudmund makes it a point to
visit each building on his farm after he has been away (Lj6s.
ch. zr). And when Gudmund pampers the young men of rank
he lodges, it is considered exceptional: "He treated them so
splendidly that they had no work to do other than to be always in
his company. When they were at home, however, it was their
custom to work even though they were from eminent families"
(ch. r).
Classes were not closed. Some people moved upward, or at
least acted as if upward mobility were a possibility. Thus Halli
moves to a new district solely for the purpose of challenging I,jot
for preeminence in the area (VL ch. z). And Gudmund fears
the power and intentions of his thingman, Ofeig, in the north.
Chieftaincies were transferable by sale, gift, inheritance, or by

lt

times prestige.

But fortune's wheel swept downward

as well, and such was the

turn of a goodly number. we have already mentioned that one


effect of concentrating wealth in the church was to reduce independent householders to tenants, and it appears that a likely
result of Gudmund the PowErful's enforced visitations to his
thingmen would be the same. other sagas show clearly that the
powerful could bully householders out of their farms or force
them into protection agreements (Laxdula saga rG: g7, Sturlu
saga 2Z: 96, Dorsteins pdur). The demographics of a roughly
stable and stationary population meant that as many as 20 percent of all married couples had no children who survived them
(wrigley rg78: r40-4r). vengeance too could lead to extinction.
This was the case with Torfi (VL ch. r), a freedman, who died as
a consequence of having been sufficiently upwardly mobile to
have acquired freedom and enough wealth to ask fbr the hand
of Halli's mother. Thorstein the debt-slave provides evidence
that freemen could become slaves (Lj6s. ch. z4), and Thorkel
Hake's meager household shows that a chieftain's son might not
be able to maintain the srarion he was born to (Lj6s. ch. r8).
The terrain and climate of lceland did nor overwhelm the
settlers with a wide range of choices for exploiting rhe land. The
growing season was short and got shorter in proportion to
the elevation above sea level. The settlers built their farms in the
coastal lowlands and the river valleys that led from the higher
elevations down to the sea. Farmsteads, as in the contemporary
American Midwest, were independent. There were no villages
or towns, no nucleated settlements at all. In fact there were none
until the end of the eighteenth century. Buildings were made of
turf and stone. By the eleventh century the long hall house of'
the settlement period had developed the amenities of a living
area in addition to the hall, as well as several other specializ.t'rl
rooms that may have been appended to the sides of thc t:t'rrlr':rl

The Social Historical

Introduction

rectangle. Excavations of the farm at Stong, destroyed by volcanic eruption in r ro4, reveal a hall about fifteen yards long, as
well as a smaller living area about half that (Foote and Wilson

rg7o: rbb-b7; also Kristjen Eldj6rn r96r: r3). The substantial


space was used to house the servants and other household mem-

bers, who slept on turf benches running along the walls of the
hall. Clearly the layout did not offer much privacy, although the
head of household might gain some by sleeping in a locked bed
closet (Ljds. ch. r8).

The composition of the household varied greatly over the


course of its life cycle. Scholars who study households have classified them as either "simple" or "complex." A simple household
is made up of the conjugal family unit, the nuclear family-a
married couple plus unmarried children. Complex households
are either "extended" or 'Joint." They are extended if they include other unmarried relatives, and they are joint if they comprise two or more related married couples. Numerous instances
of each of these household types can be found in the sagas and
the laws (Miller rg88b). The sense of these sources is that household complexity varied directly with the wealth of the household
head. The richer the householder, the more likely it was that
poorer relatives would be lodged with him, usually to be counted
among his servants and hired hands. Conversely, the poorer the
household the more likely it was to be split asunder as its various
members abandoned it to seek securer positions elsewhere as
servants at the farms of people better off, frequently related to
them in some way. Gudrun (Ljds. ch. r3), for example, is in service at the home of her kinsman, the farmer at Baegisa. And
after her marriage to Gudmund's foreman, Thorstein, since no
mention is made of their setting up an independent household,
it appears that they locate either at Baegisa or at Gudmund's
farm at Modruvellir.
New households were usually set up at certain key times in the
family's life cycle: marriage of children and death of parents.
F<rr those who could afford it, new households were established

when children married. The sons of Thorgeir the Chieftain


of Ljosavatn are apparently married and independently established in simple households at the time they oppose their father
(Lj6s. chs. z-4). But simple households had away of outgrowing

Setting

r.4

tlrcir simplicity. Not att ctiildren left the home upon marriage.
l',xurnples from other sagas show that a bride might move in with
lrcr- husband's parents, or a husband with his bride's parents,
thus establishing joint households (Miller rg88b). Brothers
olien moved in with their married sisters, as they waited for a
krng-lived father to die so that the family farm might become
:rvailable. The death of parents also meant a transformation of
household structure. Surviving sons might divide the properr/,
r:hoosing to set up independent, but neighboring, establishrnents at their father's death (VL ch.3). Or, as with Gudmund's
sons, they might end up householding together despite Eyjolf's
irritial attempt to deny his brother his inheritance (Ljds. ch. zz).
Saga evidence shows that even impoverished simple households had some servants, usually women (see VL ch. 1, I,ids.
ch. r8), while the wealthiest, as noted above, could have a large
number. The laws provided that everyone not him- or herself a
householder had to be attached formally ro a household. Men
over sixteen and single women over twenty were allowed to
make their own lodging arrangements; others had it made by
the person responsible for them. The arrangement was a matter
of contract, with uniform, year-long terms negotiated annually
in the spring. This is the legal bond rhat connected Thorkel
Geitisson and Vodu-Brand (Ljds. .h. g) and the arrangement
Isolf made with Eyjolf on behalf of Fridgerd, his daughter (Lj6s.
chs.

r-r1).

The ranks of servants were made up of people of greatly differing expectations. Some servants were what historical demographers call lif'e-cycle servants. These were the sons and daughters of independent farmers who, if boys, had to bide their time
until the family farm became available, or if girls, until a suitable
marriage could be arranged. Such were both Vodu-Brand and
Fridgerd. But the lot of many servants must have been permanent household service. These are the farmhands and women to
whom the sagas usually give no name; they do the work, accompany the heroes on doomed journeys, and are the purveyors
of much of the gossip and informarion which is crucial ro rhe
maintenance of social control in the community (for example,
VL ch. 3\.
We see only two chiidren in Valla-Ljdts saga and Lj6sttt,tnilt!:.tt

t4
saga.

Introduction

Thorkel Hake sleeps with his four-year-old daughter

Gudrun, each providing body heat to warm the other; the second is trundled out to provoke laughter by farting (Ljbs. chs. r8,
r7). Other sagas show that the young sons of householders were
frequently t"t t ort for fostering. Hoskuld Thorvardsson is
raised by Thorkel Hallgilsson, who also happens to be his kinsman (second cousin once removed); Thorkel also fosters his first
cousin Brand (Ljds. ch. zz). From another saga we learn that
Gudmund's foster brother and first cousin Einar Konalsson
was raised at Modruvellir by Gudmund's father (Reykdula saga
r6: zoz). Fostering was a widespread practice, and the reasons
prompting any particular fostering could be varied and multipt.*. Foste.ing forged links between households and especially
it.o.tg ones between the fosterer and fosteree, as the relations
between Thorkel and Hoskuld and Brand indicate. Fosterage
also had the function of equalizing the distribution of children
among households, sending them to where food and care would
be available. Considerations of food supply and support systems
were supplemented by concerns for education and training or
simply by desires to preserve peace within the household, as in
thoie cases where fathers sent away unruly sons (L7tis. ch. zz).
The evidence regarding young girls is sparer, but they too appear to have been fostered away from home (Miller r988b: $2).
iutu.ry of those not given out to fosterage nevertheless entered
service in their teenage years, as the situations of Fridgerd and
Gudrun seem to suggest (Lj6s. chs. 22, r3). The movement
among households or voar-Brand and Fridgerd_, Hoskuld,
Brand-, Rindil, and others, via fosterage and service, gives a
glimpse of the fluidity of residence that was characteristic of meIi.rit lceland. This mobility gave people contacts with and allegiances to more than one household and greatly complicated
loyalties.
people's
^
t; addition to the bonds of co-residence and those of chieftain
the-iargon 9f a1and thingman, there were those of kinship. In*bilateral,"
that is,
was
system
kinship
lcelandic
the
thropolo"gy,
male
b"r_!
through
other
each
to
connections
their
tiaced
p.,r[I"
grandfather
maternal
his
to
goes
Halli
Thus
links.
female
ind^
(identified explicitly as his "kinsman") for aid after he has killed

Torfi (VL ch.-r), and Eyjolf, Torfi's chieftain, explicitly declares

'l-he Social Historical Setting

15

terms for the killing because


lris willingness to settle ot
"l{ulli is related to us." Halli"ut-y
is Eyjolf's second cousin once rerrroved, traced through two female links. Male virtues could be
transmitted through females. This is the necessary condition inIorming Thorarin Nesolfsson's flattery of Gudmund, which assumes the transmission of Gudmund's glory to a grandson born
<rf'his daughter's proposed marriage (Ljds..h. S).

A cursory look at the genealogies in Appendix B will reveal that all the factions in Lj1suetninga saga are descendants of
Helgi the Lean. Both Thorir Helgason and Thorkel Hake are
Gudmund the Powerful's third cousins. But neither the characters nor the saga make anything of this relationship; they are not
referred to as kin. Third cousins do grant each other aid, yet it is
clear that shared political goals rather than shared blood pro-

vide the inducement. Thus it is that Vigfus Viga-Glumsson is


willing to aid his third cousin Gudmund,by challenging his third
cousin Einar to a duel (ch. r7). Nonetheless kinship bonds nearly
as distant could be explicitly invoked, as when Eyjolf is willing to
grant the benefit of kinship to Halli, his second r.ousin once removed (VL ch. r). It seems that we are here at or ne:lr the limits
of perceived kinship. The laws, however, in numer()us places
purport to establish kinship obligation out to fburth cousins.
One could be held to compound for a fourth cousin's killings
and to maintain him or her in their poverty (Grd,gds Ia r94, Ib
z5-26). But the mere existence of the provisions suggests a
strong reluctance of kin to be burdened with such thin blood.
Elsewhere the laws take the view that shared interests because of
shared blood will be presumed through second cousins, but not
further. Second cousins, for example, cannot sit asjudges orjury
for their kinsman, but more distant kin can (Grd,gds la 47,62).
It is hard to generalize about kinship, since just who will be
counted kin was clearly subject to much situational variation and
was quite context-specific. A second, even a third, cousin with
whom one shared common interests and with whom one consequently consulted and acted together would be counted kin,
while a first cousin with whom one was cool might cease to be
counted kin for all practical purposes. Nor might the people
with whom one claimed kinship for the purpose of invitations ttr
feasts and weddings be the same people one counted as kirr

rO

The Social Historical Setting

Introduction

when it came time to assist in a lawsuit or help pay compensation


for their wrongdoings. The class of a person's heirs might be
greater than the class of his avengers, and neither of these groupings need be identical to the class of people for whom one was
obliged to take vengeance. The kin group was not a closed corporate group of definite and unambiguous membership. It had
to be actively assembled, and its precise makeup would reflect
the popularity, wealth, and persuasive skills of the organizer, the
geographic distance separating the organizer from his kinsman,

and how well they had kept up their relations before, as well as
the grievousness of the wrong being avenged and the identity of
the opponent.
The fact that kin are known to quarrel does not mean that
kinship counted for little in the culture. People were constantly
jockeying for position within the social groupings they considered themselves a part of. Ljdsuetninga saga offers several examples of tensions between fathers and sons (chs. z-4, zo, zz\.
To these we might add the quarrel between the brothers, Eyjolf
and Kodran, which is similar in structure (Ljds. ch. zz). Eyjolf
has been in loco parentis to his minor brother and is the legal
guardian of his property. As is often the wont of guardians, he
begins to think of his ward's property as his own. Competition
over familial resources took on an added urgency in a culture
where the opportunities to create new wealth were so limited.
The father-son bond might have borne an even greater burden
in Iceland than on the Continent because the new church was
still too young and too poorly funded to offer an opportunity for
impatient youth. Although the ages of characters are very hard
to determine in the sagas, fathers in Lj1saetninga saga, with the
exception of Thorkel Hake, seem to live fairly long lives. Mortality rates were usually more obliging to the generation of sons
than this, but when mortality was tardy, sons could grow restless.
Nevertheless, we rarely see a son oppose his father in any way
that will endanger the other's life. In fact there is no example of
patricide in the entire corpus of saga literature; there are, however, some near misses (Miller rg88b: Zb4 n. r r6).
Keeping good kinship did not come naturally. People had to
work at keeping the bonds in good order. They were assisted in
this endeavor by strongly held social norms that kin, at least

t7

lose kin, should not oppose each other publicly. In the qtrarrcl
lrt'tween'I'horgeir and his sons (tjds. chs. z-4), kinsmen, f rienrls,
t lringmen, and unnamed people repeatedly invoke the norms of'
kt'eping good kinship: "people urged [Thorgeir] to withdraw
Ir'om this case and not oppose his sons"; "[Ofeig] restrained the
lrothers and said it was unfitting that rhey should quarrel with
their father" (ch. g). The forceful goading of Thorvard's wife
lrelps unite father and son against external threat in words that
rrrake explicit reference to the next of kin's legal duty to prose<.ute the killing case for his dead kinsman: "You won't be much
good at prosecuting for his death if you won't help him when
he's alive. I won't bear and raise another son if you give this one
up to the sword" (ch. z4).
Not all intragroup hostility meanr a denial of the exisrence of
the group. Tensions within the group tended to be put on hold
in the face of hostility directed against rhe eroup. Needless ro
say, groups that could not manage to do this ceased to function
as groups, and new groupings would form from the fission. The
Other was the impetus for most active group formation, whether
the group assembled was linked by kinship, f riendship, neighborhood, or the bonds of chieftain/thingman. Withour rhe Other,
the grouping remained a potentiality only, awaiting rhe necessary opposition that brought it into being. The exception was rhe
household, whose co-residence and economic functions made it
an actively functioning group on a daily basis. But interhousehold groupings needed external stimuli ro form. In this regard
consider the descriptions of the recruitment of support by both
sides following Fridgerd's dispqted ordeal (Lj6s. chs. z3 -24).
Kin were also under strong normative pressure to take counsel with each other. uncounseled deeds were reckless deeds,
often more dangerous to one's own than to the Other. Since the
target of a vengeance killing need not be the wrongdoer himself,
but one of his kin, there was every reason why such kin would
want to have some say in actions fbr which others might hold
them to account. Taking counsel gave the person interested in
taking action the chance to get broad-based support among his
kinsmen for his proposed course, thereby increasing its chances
of success with the Other; it also gave his kinsmen rhe opportunity to dissuade, modify, or ratify his proposal. Even Einar,
r

Introduction

The Social Historical Setting

who does not get along with his brother Gudmund, feels obliged
to consult with him before agreeing to accept a marriage offer
for his daughter (Ljbs. ch. r r). And those who act repeatedly without taking counsel, either with kin or chieftain, receive a rather
harsh estimation from the sagas. Such are the cases of HrolfJaw
and of Gudmund when he summons Thorir Akraskegg without
informing his brother Einar (VL chs. b, g; Lj6s. ch. r4).
Kin were not recruited only by blood, nor was a small family
necessarily condemned to being bullied by more powerful neighbors. Much of what we would call political activity was occupied
with ways of extending the claims one could make on others.
Fostering arrangements were one of these ways, but the key way
was marriage. Affines-that is, in-laws or kin by marriage-fig-

or her kin connections. Successful saga marriages usually


<'rpire also that the couple be married for something other
tlr:rn rnoney, and the virtue and abilities of the individual spouse
wcre seldom merely incidental. A woman's marriage was contr'olled by her male kinsmen, although the laws gave a widow
tlre right to consent to her subsequent marriages. Otherwise a
w<)man's consent was not required by law, but saga cases show
t lrat it was prudent to get it, even if it was given in a tone of resigrration (Grd,gd,s Ib z9; Frank 197il. Consider Gudrun of Baegisa's
lesponse to her head of household and kinsman when he asks
her about the marriage proposal of Gudmundb foreman: "[The
householder] met with the woman and asked how she was int.lined. She told him to make whatever arrangement he wished"
(Lj6s. ch. r3).
Women figure in these two sagas as wives, mothers, daughters,
servants, and widows. In the last status they achieve substantial
independence from male control. But even in this case, as VallaLj6ts saga shows, sons exercised considerable power over their
mother's remarriages. Women, especially widows, but also unmarried women, could head households. 'fhoruerd, widow of
'fhorvard's brother, commands a large household and does not
shirk from committing her retinue to her brother-in-law's cause
(Ljds. ch. z6). At the other end of the social scale, as servants,
women provide the labor that kept the household running: milking, sewing, weaving, nursing and child-rearing, cooking, laundering, even raking and mowing. Control of their sexual capacity is formally lodged with males, whether as fathers, husbands,
masters, or brothers, but women do exercise considerable de
facto sexual independence, as Fridgerd bears witness. In the Saga
Age there was divorce on demand, and the church, although
legislating against it, did not seem to affect the ease with which
marriages could be dissolved by either sex. Concubinage of various degrees of stability was quite common, with the woman's
status in the relationship varying directly with its stability. Ljdsaetninga saga, for instance, shows Hall Otryggsson staying with a
certain Thorgerd to whom he is not married, but tells us nothing
else about her (ch. z4). The tcelandic laws consistently conf'er
more property rights on women, both single and married, thun
Continental European codes. 'fhe capacity to hold property is

ure prominently in support groups, frequently as blood avengers. The obligation of a daughter's husband to avenge his fatherin-law is the accepted norm underlying Gudrun's goading of her
husband Otrygg to avenge her father Thorkel: "'It's true enough
that Thorkel Hake was related to me, not to you,' Gudrun said,
'so I will go.' Otrygg answered, 'It's up to me to go and I will."'
(Lj6s. ch. z4). The obligation to supporf one's affines receives
confirmation by the concern Skegg-Broddi evinces when he
wants to deny it. When Eyjolf requests his aid he refuses, claiming his wife's kin have never accorded her much honor (Lj6s.
ch. z5); and then when he wishes to aid the other side he, in a
touching scene, obtains his wife's consenf to his desired course of
action by offering her the ring that was sent to him to buy his
support (ch. z6). [n any event, Eyjolf was able to recruit Gellir
Thorkelsson, another powerful affine, to his cause.
All marriages of the householder and chieftain classes were to
some extent political. Some were overtly so, as in the wheeling
and dealing that leads to the betrothal of Jorun Einarsdottir to
Thorkel Geitisson (Ljds. chs. r r - r z). Even the few affairs of the
heart, like Sorli's wooing of Thordis Gudmundardottir, made
complete sense from a political standpoint. It is this fact that
nrakes Gudmund's reluctance to agree to the marriage somewhat surprising and excessive (Lj6s. chs. 5). Both these instances,
alons with numerous others, show that support was mustered
fbr marriage proposals in a way almost identical to the way it was
gathered fbr lawsuits. One of a prospective spouse's chief virtues

w:rs his
r

r{)

zo

T'he Social Historical

Introduction

not a very reliable indicator of women's real condition in the society, since they might be little more than mere title holders, the
managem..rt po*..s firmly lodged with men. The sagas, however, irgg.rt ihat the law's intimations were more than Paper
rights. Wo-.t of the householder class managed farms in their
hr]sbands'absence, and by interspousal agreement could be accorded powers to hire servants and make management decisions
in their husbands' presence (see, for example, Njdk saga 36: _96.).
Women figure as the guardians of family and household
honor, not aS a direct .o.ri.q.l"nce of their sexual virtue as in
Mediterranean cultures, but ai a consequence of their active role

in opinion-making regarding the status of their men and the

..r.rditio., of their m.rrb horror. We see them as wives competing


with each other for priority at feasts, deriving their status both
from themselv., und vicariously from their husbands. On this
matter consult the artful dialogue of Geirlaug and Thorlaug,
with its witty indirection, condescending concessions, and overt
vulgar insuli, in which they claim and defend their relative status
(Ljis.ch. r3 and pp.6o-6r below). The women did more, how.J.., than just kelp score. In a multitude of saga instances, they
incite theii men to act more aggressively than the men apparently would like (fjris. ch. z4). There is reason to believe that the
goading woman is more than just literary commonplace. often
io.gor,E., is that men goad too, as, for example, Sigmund does
to E3or., (VL ch.6; and Isolf to Eyjolf (Lj6s. ch. zz). Goading,
.r..ih.rg, and insinuating suggestion simply seem to be key elements ii the rhetoric of-persuasion in this culture, available to
those who need to persuade. The art of persuasion, although
useful to all, is espeiially so to those who must act with others or
through others. Such was always a woman's position in matters
of law-and feud that she had to act through men' She was disabled from suing in her own right; she could not be judge or
juror. And alth""Sh she could transfer a chieftaincy if she in"herited
one, she was not able to fill the office herself' She was
also not an appropriate avenger or victim in the feud. We should
not then b. i.r.piised to ,.. *o-.n adept in the rhetorical and
st<ilts needed to motivate men to representwomen's
psychological
"adequately.
We should not, however, think that men
inierests
were dumb tools oflf'eminine fury. The women for their part sel-

Setting

"l

nol itll
,,,,,r, .,lnseled violence in situatiins where violence was
adthe
gained
,rlrgrr'<tpriate or even a smart strategy' The men
female
of
ui,,,r,,g. of being able to confirm sexual stereotypes
u..,,g.i.,1n.r, urri irrationality, while at the same time getting-the
of'their counsel and having someone to blame other than
lrt.rrcfit
tlrt'tnselves

if the strategy should fail'


Ilrief menrion shoulJalso be made of blood-brotherhood and
two dislr-ir:ndship. The Old lcelandic term fbstbr1dir.referred to
in the
together
rirrct relaiionships. In one, two boyi were raised
of
son
foster
the
:i:une household, with at least one of them being
their
mixed
men
rlre householder. In the other, two or more
lrlood together in the earth and swore oaths to avenge each
other u, i"f th"y were brothers (see Frislbrudra :aga 2i r25, Gkla
foster brothers
.vtsa 6: zz-24),. Hoskuld and Brand appear to be
(Ljbs'
Konalsson
Einar
,,t:'the first type, as were Gudmund and
Bjarni
and
Thorvard
to
r:lrs. z ,, ,g); ihe relation of Sigmund
it was
is nor described with enough detail to know which type
(Yt

ch. 6).

aind'tta'
Friendship too was often a formal aflair. Old lcelandic
a
describe
to
used
were
(friend)
uinfengi (friendship) and uinr
patrona
or
equals,
staie ,rf for*ul aliiance between relative
addition
client relationship between people of different rank, in
When
friendship'
affective
ro whar we are ,rs.d to thi;k of ut
when
or
friendship,"
"to
earn [his]
Eyjolf gives Thorvard a horse
talking
not
is
he
Hrafn,
to
he makes "overtures of friendship"

is, an
about fellow fieling, but about illiance and truce, that
inconact
to
not
or
amicably
agreement to settlelnutual affairs
The
siltently with the interests of the other (Ljbs. chs. zz, z5)'
Einar
brother
his
draw
to
wishes
same is true when Gudmund
into a formal friendshiP (ch' r4)' Knowledge of f9 f9r1at
Isolf's
friendship between ryjolf and Thorvard helps explain
his
up
take
to
out
him
seeks
he
opening iemark t" Eyjltf when
ento
calculated
is.not
"My
business
darghtEr's paternity .Lirrr,
hunf. yo.ri honor, but still we thingmen l-ook to yo9 f9r 1y-5rin diffiporr,, 1cn. zz). Isolf knows that the iase will put Eyjolf
kin an<l
"friend"
Thorvard's
his
iult straits, pitting him against
be rrrr
will
There
himself.
Thorvard
eventually, p.rhu[s, agaiist
trr
havt'
to
Eyjolf
force
to
likely
is
it
honor i., ifre business b..urr.
c
exislt'ttt
The
agreement'
friendship
the
act inconsistently with

22

Introduction

of the agreement also completely explains Eyjolf's reluctance to


take up the case and his proviso that even though he will take it
up, he will "not be demanding about amends." But when thingmen are the friends of their chieftain, as when Arnor is said to
be a friend of Thorgeir or Isolf of Eyjolf, or even Ofeig a friend
of Gudmund (chs. r, 6, z2), the idiom of friendship has been extended beyond an alliance of equals to describe relations of varying degrees of dependency.
Aspects of Feud and the Disputing Process:
Lawsuits, Arbitration, and Peacemaking

The casual reader of the sagas is usually most struck by the


level of violence. our students over the years have either been
attracted by it or repelled, depending on their predilections. But
no matter what one feels about the level of violence, it was not
such as to prevent people from producing and reproducing.
Nor can we know if it was more violent than our own violent culture. There is no satisfactory way to make such cross-cultural
comparisons. Even if we wished to adopt some crude measure of
violence such as homicide rates, we would be unable to generate
them for medieval Iceland, since we know neither the number
of homicides nor the number of people. Whatever the case
might have been, the centrality of feud to the sagas is indisputable. There are none that do nor deal with feud. Feuding is
the stuff of good stories and is consequently likely to secure a
greater portion of the saga writers' energies than the peaceful
pursuits of herding and cattle-raising. Still there is a sense, confirmed by anthropological work with feudins societies, that feud
was a major part of Icelandic life. We should be careful not to
overestimate the level of violence, but we should take care not
to underestimate it either.
Among the class of chieftains and big farmers the blood feud
was the foundation of Icelandic dispute processing and social
contr<ll. In a narrow sense, it was recognized as the legitimate
sanct.ion backing legal judgments and arbitrated settlemenrs. In
a broader sense it was the very structure of most dispute resolution in the culture. It was the brilliant Swiss philologist, musi-

The Social His(orical


r

Setting

23

ilrn, legal historian, and literary critic Andreas Heusler whtl

lir-st understood the Icelandic feud to have three main elements:

lrlood revenge, which is the layman's view of feud; formal lawsrrits; and less formal arbitration. The feud could wend its way
li'om blood revenge to law to arbitration to peaceful coexistence,
lxrck to blood or law without being any less a feud for happening
to be in a less violent phase. Feud was something more than active violence; it was the whole process by which people in hostile
r ompetition regulated their affairs. In order to make the following discussion clear and to save the reader hunting it down in
other sources, we present here and define briefly the types of
procedures cultures have arrived at in settling trouble. They are
irdjudication, arbitration, mediation, negotiation, violence or cocrcion, avoidance, and "lumping rL," a colloquialism that ac<luired its scholarly credentials in the mid-1g7os (Nader and

'lbdd (r978: 8-r r).


ln adjudication a third party has the power to issue a decision
and is so empowered independent of the principals' wishes. This
is the mode of the formal legal Process in which thejudges of the
courts at the thing adjudicate. In arbitratittn a third party is also
empowered to issue a binding decision, but he derives his power
from the parties, who agree beforehand to accept the arbitrator's decision. Unique to the ethnographic literature, medieval Iceland also had a dyadic form of arbitration, called "selfwas given
-judgment," in which one of the principals to the case
the power to arbitrate.3 It is self-judgment that Gudmund demands in the case of Thorir Akraskegg (ch. r4) and refuses to
accept in the case of Vodu-Brand (ch. ro) (Miller r984: r r6- r8).
Like arbitration and adjudication, mediation involves the intervention of a third party, but the third party is without authority
to impose a decision. Mediators might be little more than gobetweens bearing off'ers and counteroffers between sides, or
they could be quite forceful and intrusive, using tactics ranging
from cajolery to threats in order to convince the principals to
agree to an arbitrated settlement. Compare, for instance, the

'It appears that the tribesmen of present-day South Yemen also lt:tvt'
dyadic arbitration. See Dresch (tg8g).

24

'I-he Social Historical Setting

Introduction

mediational styles of Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson when he mediates


the dispute between Gudmund and Thorkel Geitisson, and of
Skegg-Broddi and Gellir Thorkelsson, before Gellir is named the
arbitrator, in the killing case over Kodran (Ljds. chs. r r-12,27).
Negotiation is dyadic. There is no third party. The two sides
hammer things out by themselves. The line between this and
mediation is often blurred, since frequently the mediators
emerge from among the supporters of the two competing sides.
Is Skegg-Broddi, for example, negotiatingon behalf of Thorvard
or is he mediating between Thorvard and Eyjolf ?
Violence or coercioz needs little comment for now. This is the
"procedure" that includes vengeance killing, sheep-raiding, or
bullying. Aaoidance means acting on the dispute by withdrawing
from contact with the other disputant. Relations are severed.
Depending on the relative power of the disputants, this could be
a fairly powerful sanction or a sign of weakness. But exercising
this option in Iceland required some delicacy if it was to be done
without losing face, for avoidance could always be mistaken for
cowardice. Remarkably, Bodvar seems to suffer no loss of esteem
when he decides to remain aloof from the feud after his brother
Halli had been killed by Ljot: "[He] said he would go abroad
again and not get involved" (VL ch. 6). But Bodvar was not just
letting the matter drop. He was simply ratifying Gudmund's
handling of the affair. In spite of the wishes of the individuals
involved, avoidance was often imposed on some disputants as a
term of an arbitrated settlement by exiling one side from the
country or district (see, for example, VL.h. g).
Lumping ir is different from avoidance in that the parties still
maintain relations, but the aggrieved party chooses to ignore his
grievance. In Iceland, sitting on one's rights was with little exception considered a sign of weakness, although the powerful
could choose to ignore an offense as a way of showing contempt
for the offender. This appears to provide some of the explanation for Ljot's initial acquiescence to Halli's trivial claim for breach
of holiday observance. Lumping it appears to be what so many
of the people were reduced to whom Gudmund the Powerful
rode roughshod over in the north (ch. r3). And if it had not
been for Ofeig's willingness to confront him, Gudmund's thing-

1n(.n w()uld simply have had


(r

2r,

to endure his undesired visitations

lr. (i).

All these modes of dispute resolution were theoretically avail:rlrte to the medieval Icelandic disputant, but the likelihood of one
lrt.ing selected as opposed to others was a direct function of the

l)()wer differences between the principal disputants and the absolute status of the claimant. The weak lumped it more than
tlre powerful; the powerful sued and took revenge more than the
weak. Feud was not really an option for servants or the poor and
rrriddling farmers, even in their disputes with each other. Feud
required an ability to sustain hostility, to pay compensation, and
lo muster support that was often beyond the means and abilities
of lower-status people. The disputes of small fblk among themselves became the business of their superiors, who could either
Irrrange for an expeditious resolution at law or arbitration, or assimilate the dispute into their own feuds. The case of Fridgerd is
irn example. Isolf does not pursue a f'eud with his daughter's
lovers (Lj6s. chs. zr-n). The fornication case is subsumed into
the bigger political maneuverings of' the patrons of both the
original parties to the dispute. Feud was the disputing style of
those who could afford it. The rest found their grievances occa-

sionally providing the pretext for feud among their superiors,


but these lesser people did not engage in their own feuds. If they
were involved in feud, it was as members of the support system
of their feuding superiors.
The sagas suggest the dispute-processing mode of first choice
was violent self-help. Of the 5zo cases counted by Heusler in the
family sagas (rgr r : 40-4t), zg7led to vengeance, ro4to arbitration without prior recourse to law, and r rg to lawsuits. Of the
formal lawsuits, fifty were finally resolved by adjudication, sixty
ended up in arbitration, and the remaining nine were inconclusive, usually because of violent disruption of the court. The
numbers are admittedly inexact, mostly because it is difHcult to
decide consistently how to demarcate a case. Individual wrongs
and the cases they engender have a way of getting lost or transformed in the course of the disputing process. Again consider
Fridgerd's paternity case. Did it disappear? Was it absorbed int<r
the old hostility between the Modrvelling and Ljosvetning peoplt:

zO

tr4

Introduction

The Social Historical Setting

and forgotten? Or did the case change stripes and become a killing case over Kodran? Still, the numbers are instructive. Even
discounting for bias in a source that favors tales of violence, they
show that violence was much the preferred mode of resolution
among the upper strata of the society who feuded. But the sagas
also show that resolutions by arbitration were some three times
more numerous than by adjudication. On this matter there is no
reason to distrust the sources. They would appear to reflect
fairly accurately a preference in the culture. ln LjLsuetninga saga
and Valla-Ljdts saga the proportion is even more slanted. Only
one case goes to judgment (Thorir Akraskegg's in Lj6s. ch. r4),
while there are as many as nine arbitrated settlements and two
negotiated ones (Ljds. ch. r g; VL.h. g). Still, both adjudication
and arbitration were suffrciently common outcomes that no feud
could avoid going through some legal and arbitrational phases.
There are reasons for the preference of arbitration to the formal judgment of the courts. One of the most important is the
grimness ofjust what it meant to go to law and get a judgment.
Lawsuits in Iceland were dangerous business, as our texts make
brutally clear. Some lawsuits had to be commenced by a summons issued at the defendant's legal domicile. Some summonees
evidently could not abide being summoned and killed the complainant for his trouble (Lj6s. ch. r). Court proceedings were also
fraught with danger. One case is actually violently disrupted
(Lj6s. ch. r r), violence between large forces is narrowly averted
in another (Lj6s. ch. z7), and still others threaten to dissolve into
individual combat between the principals when a challenge is
offered to fight it out by hacking and bashing each other on a
small islet amidst the stream at the Allthing (Ljds. chs. rr, 16,
3o). There was also substantial risk to both parties if the plaintiff
got his judgment. A successful suit led to the outlawry of the defendant, obliging the plaintiff to kill the defendant and giving
him the right to claim half the latter's unencumbered properry
at a court of confiscation (Ljds. ch. r4). Executing the judgment
was of ten no easy task, especially if the defendant was of roughly
equal strength with the piaintiff. "There are men involved . . . in
the case who would only make things worse if they were outlawed, and then the trouble would be greater than before" (Ljds.
ch. z7). FIad killing the defendant been a simple matrer, the

plaintiff could have avoided the troubf. of a lawsuit and optetl


for blood venseance in the first place. The risks and labor involved in enforcing a judgment gave plaintiff a compelling inducement to submit the case to arbitration; the danger of being
outlawed, deprived of the right to life and propert/, provided a
similar inducement for defendant. On the plaintiff's side each
stage of the procedure was attended by the possibility of loss of
face if he were unsuccessful; from defendant's viewpoint plaintiff's success meant death.
If the picture is as dark as it is painted here, why did anyone
go to law? For one, the risks of enforcement need not Concern a
plaintiffwho was certain either of his own power or of the defendant's weakness, as, for instance, was the case when Gudmund the
Powerful moved against Thorir Akraskegg. Even where the disputants were roughly equal in strength, there were reasons why
going to law might make sense. If the grievance were grave
enough, some resistance to settlement was an almost obligatory
concession to the demands of honor. Initiating a lawsuit might
be considered a demonstration of sufficient aggressiveness to
satisfy those demands. A lawsuit need not mean a repudiation of
vengeance but was often coldly calculated to enhance the prospects of success at it. The outlawry judgment was not without
iff".t. It legitimated and offrcialized the plaintiff's position with
the community, often increasing the likelihood that others rvould
help him execute the judgment. Outlawry isolated the defendant, eroded his support, and eliminated any Iegal liability for
vengeance when it came.
Litigants'choices, however, were not the only ones controlling
the course of the dispute. Third parties got involved and pressured the litigants toward settlement by urging them to submit
the case to arbitrators. Arbitration, even when it was in the form
of self-judgment, invariably meant some sort of compromise as
opposed to the all-or-nothing outcome of adjudication. What
plaintiff gave up was defendant's full outlawry. What he got
instead was a compensation payment which could also be accompanied by the exile of defendant for a specified length of
time. Defendant got the chance to get away with his life, if
not always his wealth. Conrpromise presumably increased tht:
likelihood that defendant would comply with the award ralltt:t'

28

Introduction

than resist it. Thorvard is rather emphatic about how he would


deal with the imminence of outlawry: "would it not be a better
course to fight before we are outlawed? we should arm ourselves" (Ljds. ch. z7). An arbitrared settlement also gave more
people a direct interest in seeing that the parties adhered to its
terms. Noncompliance would not only irritate the other side,
it would offend the arbitrator(s) whose honor was also at stake.
Arbitrators were invariably selected from among the most respected and powerful people in the community, usually chieftains. The involvement of such big men provided some deterrent to noncompliance.
In addition to improving the ease of enforcement, arbitration
was efficient in yet another way. It allowed for the consolidation
of all the compensable claims inro a single proceeding. All the
deaths and injuries arising from a general affray or occurring
over time in the course of a feud could be settled in one proceeding, with claims of one side being used to offset claims on the
other. At law, each claim had to be processed as a single lawsuit,
with any defenses or counterclaims generally forming the substance of another independent proceeding. Arbitration also
allowed for the consideration of certain issues for which the law
provided no relief or did not accurately reflect the prevailing
norms. Unlike the law, for example, arbitrated settlements could
value freemen at differenr ratei, thereby explicitly taking into
account status, popularit/, and the sense of loss in a particular
victim's death. only one other person in the corpus of the family
sagas is compensated for as handsomely as Kodran was, and
that was accomplished pursuant to an arbitrated settlement
(Ljds. ch. z7).
Still, arbitration was not without its problems. settlements

might leave the principals dissatisfied and nor very inclined to


keep the peace. Eyjolf was none too pleased with rhe semlement
for his brother's death and continued to seek blood revenge afterwards (Lj6s. chs. z7-3o). And serrlemenrs might be srructured in such a way that interested people were not involved in
the settlement. HrolfJaw did not participate in and does not feel
himself bound by a settlemenr concluded over his brother Halli's
death, and so he violates irs rerms by killing his brorher's slayer's
nephew (vL ch.5). The saga leaves unresolved the precise legal

The Social Historical

Sating

zll

to Hrolf's obligation to adhere to a settlement pul'lrorting to bind him but at which he was not present. It seenls
lairly clear that Gudmund utters the applicable norm, whatever
the precise legal nicety might have been: that "Hrolf had done
wrong to break the settlement." There were strong norms against
lrreaching settlements, but as is the case with most norms they
t:ould be violated (see also VL .h. g). Their power wasjust strong
enough to give Bjorn a few qualms about violating them before
lre set out to attack Bodvar (VL ch.6), although their force did
succeed in preventing Ljot from joining the expedition. Arbitrated settlements seldom bought permanent peace; they bought
time and often precious little of that. Yet if they could manage to
delay crisis or cause some people, if not all, to withdraw from
active hostility, that was a goal most felt was well worth pursuing.
Despite their shortcomings they were perceived by a substantial
segment of the community to be more likely than either selfhelp or legal judgments to lead to peace, even if that peace were
only temporary.
The process by which disputes were moved from the legal to
the arbitrational domain is one of'the nrain concerns of lj6suetninga saga, so much so in fact that it, al<>ng with the consistently
unflattering portrait of Gudmund the Powerful, provides a thernatic unity to the disparate episodes that make up the saga. On
occasion a case would go to arbitration because the principals
chose to put it there without formally initiating a lawsuit. This is
a rather frequent occurrence in the sagas (see, for example,
Njdk saga 36-40, g4-ro5), even though neither Lj6suetninga
saga nor Valla-Ljdts saga shows any especially attractive examples.
The dictated settlement following the death of Thorkel Hake is
a rather unpleasant case in point. Otherwise Gudmund spurns
several offers to settle befbre going to law: in Thorir Akraskegg's
case and in the initial phase of Vodu-Brand's case. Eyjolf, his son,
continues the tradition of truculence when he rejects Thorvard's
offer of compensation after the death of Kodran. In our two
sources, arbitrated settlement occurs only after the initiation of a
formal lawsuit. The process tends to follow rather predictable
lines. After both sides muster forces and arrive at the thing, men
intervene and mediate between the parties. Frequently, and this
is important, the intervenors emerge from among the lreoplt'
issue as

30

Introduction

originally sought out by the dispurants for support. Ar one level


of consciousness a litigant musters support prior to going to
court because he fears being forcibly overborne by his opponent, or, on the darker side, because he wishes to overpower his
opponent; but at another level he must know that the more
people he musters to his cause the more likely that some of them
are not going to be very committed to it, or are going to have ties
to the other side, or are going to have agendas of their own that
have nothing to do with the particular dispure ar hand. Ar some
level, then, the principal plans to have peacemakers emerge, and
he can hardly be surprised when his own supporters exhort him
to submit to arbitration. The anger Eyjolf expresses at Gellir
Thorkelsson's peacemaking is to some extent genuine, but it is
not without a ritual component. Both Eyjolf and Thorvard posture belligerently to satisfy the demands of honor (Li6s. ch. 2il.
They know that the likelihood that they will not be consrrained
by the peacemakers is slim indeed. This, however, does not
mean there was no real danger or that it was all a game. The
ritual could backfire; the signs could be misread. Eyjolf's subsequent refusal to honor the settlement shows just how close the
peacemakers were to failing completely.
The intervenor's or peacemaker's role was not formally institutionalized. But in most serious disputes there would be
someone structurally situated to play the role. The sources on
occasion refer to peacemakers as "men of good will"-gidgjarnir
rnenn. The term suggests that the ideal intervenor was motivated
by the general interests of the community, a partisan of everyone rather than a disinterested neutral. The reality was often
otherwise. Successful intervention led to honor and prestige. It
also gave the peacemaker leverage in another's affairs that increased his position vis-)-vis that person. And, as suggested
above, many an intervention occurred because the dispute put
the intervenor in very hot water, as was the case when he was
obligated to both sides. This was Einar's predicament in the
troubles between Gudmund and Thorir Helgason, as brother to
one and friend to the other.
Intervention in lawsuits that threatened violence or communal disruption was so much the norm that the astute litigant
prepared his strategy with that in mind. When Vigfus Viga-

'fhe Social

HistoricalSetting

:t

( llrurrsson devised his plan to challenge Einar to :r clucl, lrt.


cxplit:itly did so as a way of eliciting third-party intervention
irr tlrc proposed duel of Thorir Helgason and Einar's brother
( lrr<lrntrnd: "The chieftains will seek some other solution than to
!r:rvt: lr<rth of you brothers slaughtered at the thing" (Ljds. ch. r7).
Arr<l if'a disputant wanted to make sure that he was not imporIrrrrcrl by peacemakers, he had to plan around that too. This was
tlrt' purpose of Gudmund's giving Einar a cloak and exchanging
v()ws to "support each other in all lawsuits" (ch. r4). Gudmund
!r:rrl assumed that Einar would support Thorir Helgason or inl('r'vene, urging some sort of reconciliation, and he meant to unrlt:r'rnine Einar's ability to do so. Once Einar learned of
( lrrdmund's purpose he was not at all pleased, but he did, in fact,
stay away from the thing. In Einar's absence there was no one of
srrflicient status to be able to constrain Gudmund to settle; he
was thus able to refuse all requests for an arbitrated settlement
and let the law take its course. The unusualness of this was rernarked by observers: "People felt that the case had been prosecuted with great vigor. Many suspected that there was something more to the hostility than met the eye" (ch. r4). This was
the kind of trouble that was expected to lead to an arbitrated
settlement. But Gudmund had succeeded in neutralizing the
one person who he knew might be able to force him to behave in
accordance with the norms governing the case. The community's observation reveals that if the dispute had simply been an
issue about the quality of cloth, Gudmund's behavior would have
been inappropriate, indeed so inappropriate that people were
able to infer the existence of a darker purpose.
All this suggests another important reason people went to law.
Processing a lawsuit forced the parties to meet, but to meet in
the presence of large numbers of neutral parties. These neutrals
were generally a force for peace. And, as was suggested above,
the litigants did not always leave the matter of a strong thirdparty presence to chance; rather, they ensured their presence
as an indirect consequence of the support-mustering process.
Litigants could expect that if things threatened to get too far
out of hand, the onlookers would mobilize to keep things within
bounds. And when the dispute processing system was in goorl
working order, that is what happened.

'I-he Social

Introduction

32

llistoricalfietting

:t:t

rrllrrral obsession with female virginity. Unmarried girls arr<l tlrr.


lroys who sleep with them generally need not fear fbr their livcs
( )n account of their sexual activities. The girls and their f amilies
rrrisht sufl'er some from gossip. And so if parents objected to the
r

The Transformation of Disputes and Ordeal:


Fridgerd's Case
The

case

of Fridgerd's pregnancy provides a paradigmatic

instance of the evolution and expansion of a dispute in the context of the blood feud. When Fridgerd becomes aware of her
condition, she raises the matter with Thorkel, the head of the

household to which she is attached, claiming Brand, another


household resident, as the father. She presents her grievance to
Thorkel for several reasons. Brand is abroad and, in any event,
Thorkel as head of household bears certain responsibilities for
the actions and welfare of its inmates. He is also Brand's kinsman, foster father, and, most importantly, his agent, a role
he formally accepted prior to Brand's departure. But Thorkel
denies her redress, and she returns to her father greatly displeased. At this point the dispute undergoes its first small transformation. The woman is displaced by her father. This is hardly
surprising. Women are disabled from prosecuting their own
suits, and Thorkel's refusal to negotiate with Fridgerd informally means that she, as a woman, has no other alternative for
direct public involvement in the dispute.
Like his daughter, Isolf tries to negotiate some settlement with
Thorkel. The saga says he knew that he was unlikely to get a
remedy; he apparently surmised this from Thorkel's treatment
of Fridgerd. Still, it is significant that both Fridgerd and Isolf
think it important to attempt to resolve the issue via bilateral negotiation before either seeks to involve third parties. Elsewhere
in the saga a stage of face-to-face negotiation is bypassed, as indeed one would expect if the wrong were a killing or a libel.
Face-to-face encounters in such instances might well see talking
quickly give way to fighting as the preferred mode of dispute
resolution. This is why Thorvard later sends his thingmen as
go-betweens to make Eyjolf an offer of settlement after the
death of Kodran, rather than going himself or sending one of
his kinsmen (Lj6s. ch. z5).
What Fridgerd and Isolf's procedure suggests is that nothing
in illicit pregnancy was so grievous or egregious that it need have
led to battle and blood. Neither the sagas nor the laws evince a

;un()rous attentions their daughters were receiving, Ljdsaetninga,


that they sent them elsewhere (chs. t, b,2z). Even
tlrc response to Solmund's unwanted visits to Olvir's daughter
was restrained (ch. r). The girl moved to Ofeig's, presumably en-

.rasa suggests

tt:r'ing service, and there the matter endeC. Fornication and


p:rternity cases were among those that people expected to be
st:ttled by amicable agreement or at least by some settlement
short of legal judgment, at least where the parties involved were
ol'roughly equal social standing. The best proof for this assertion comes from the A version of Lj1suetninga saga, which depicts Gudmund's aggressive harassment of Thorir Helgason's
thingmen thus: "Gudmund . . . cast about for ways to prosecute
'l'horir's thingmen-fornication suits, actions for riding someone's horses without permission, or whatever he could hit on"
(Appendix ch. 5). The clear implication o1'the passage is that to
take fornication cases to law was inappropriate. 'I'hey were so
ubiquitous as to be trivial. Even the association t>f fornication
with horseriding suggests that one should perhaps wink at boys
being boys. One qualification is in order: Competition for women
could lead to violence, and jealous lovers are not unknown in the
sagas. But that raises different issues than mere fornication.'
The issue in this case, however, is aggravated by the paternity
claim, which was not to be winked at, but the implication is still
that this type of claim should not prompt furious response.
When Thorkel is once again utterly unaccommodating, Isolf
seeks out his chieftain Eyjolf. This move is almost always the
routine procedure followed by lesser people whose initial attempts to settle their claims by themselves fail to yield satisfaco
In adultery or jealous rivalry, the issue is about who between the two
will have in his person sexual access to the woman; in fornication the
issue similarly pits males against each other but in different capacities.

The contest is not between rival lovers but between the person who has
the jural right to bestow access to the woman, such as her father or'
brothers, and the man who gained access without their permission.

'l'lut Sttcial llistttictt'l


Introduction

Z4

up the case
might be reluctant to take
tion. Isolf susPects E'yjolf
and so he
frien-dship,
orriir.L-rri""
;;;j.,i"
we
"r
reasons
for
obligatiott to aid his
d;;;i;iln's
i.g
f"r"t
Uy
requeri
his
begins

thingmen;healsoattributesenormousfaulttotheotherslde'
*"r" ilk;-;; abduction and a personal
intenmaking the mat'Je-r io"r.

,rru,,", of sex: "Mv orieinal


affront to Eyjoliil a simple you and thus save her from the
to
tion was to send my daugf'ttt
gtutt'd";;
H"skuld held her up and
dttt
witkeJ-""'
of
slander
Eyjolf's reticence about
detained n.' to' shameful P";;;--s.''
reminder that he
ll;lf''
succumb'i"
Lttully
g
"tti'li"g
proceedit
status rs
Lrr" by lumping it; Evjolf's
is nor rhe onty:I"";;;;ili
atstaketoo.Thedisputehasnowundergoneitssecondtransfor tf,e reason that Eyjolf
formation urd^iil-;, .r.ututio.,,
Commandsconsiderablymore..,o,,,."sthantheimpoverished

t'tf,:r,

had hoped to settr:11:11t,:'#*-:til1*1


1*'"1'
Again
he ;; t", Thorkel instead'
misforrun" *o,ria have it
reason,is
ir;. r" unwillingl olt
Thorkel ,"t.r*i't ,.ttt.. *!; charges utt to'illy without oblihis
and
that he believes that he and
t. aiticulates once to [solfclaims
positio.t
a
sation in the matter,
male clichd when
Igain to Eyjolf Uy"1t:1$.S
,.I f,ave
'ntttu"a"rd
th,is affair' Your daughin
;ilI,
to
of this ,o., ur. -ud.,
io ,rrot. likelv than anotherfoster is not bashful. one p.rror,^i
the
do
g'uJ'-i;h' zz)' "I *'ill not
have been taken into her
anyone
when
guilt
the-ir
admitting
ter broth"r, ,i. ai*.ri.Jof
a
not give better
lain *iit ftiagJtd' I will
is equally fif..if* f,aveagainst those you
i[;; how tn. luid.rice stunds hii
to his
response
"";ii
B;;;t p'9r11ing kinsman
hold...por,r^ibit; 1th 'r'
admitting
r.*ut", fnt.r..l is rJ'istant to
servanr, and a male ,o u

liabilitywithoutproof.lnmostSagaCaselll",i"gaclaimisselacknowldeeds in question are openly


dom u prontll',"i"t" the
assuage
To
facts ,"ido- in dispute.
subedged u,,a .n"i, significant
.rhorkel,s misgivings abou, ,lr" .ridence, Eyjotf proposes
claim to an ordeal'
mitting th. ;?;tny tr tn"
although

with this prospect either,


Thorkel is none too pleased
;;r- irr'th. torm of a concession
the ordear is crearly offered ;
r.r,"I1el simply thinks that
ro keep rhe stymied bargai"iri#;".
to the claim' but there
he and his charges are "g'OtJOtr Parties
Thorkel's
rn^r. fiftff."" always compel
is little he can dL about

Settut',$

lllr

suit for paternity antl lirlrrir:rirrvolvcnrcnt by initiating a fbrmal


n successlttl

hu'" to defena'
tiott, wtrich 'fnotkel wJutd then
and six m-ar'ks for Fridgerd's
lrrwsuit would yi"iJ n'und's outlawry
for rearin g
u.rd *oL,ld i.t..-ine liability
rt. r.sonal .o*p.rrration
Fridgerd'
involve
:1.1:::
tlrc child 1r.. p' ,oS "' 'a71; it might
lu*t ptovided that paternrty
goinu the orde"l, ;tth"Jdn ft
the neighbors' Eyjolf's offer
.rrld also be proven by a verdici of teg11
claim' and the message
ttt*"t"' of the
I r':rcks many of
.ihorkel,
'f't
who gets leg"alistic himself, mumbling
is not lost on
oi n" .ar. u.td the statute of limita1

s0rnerhing uuo,r, ,n.


tions (Mitler r988a)'

ti-i.rg

.I.here .un uJ-tiit. dorut that one of the chief sources of


is
.l.trorkel,s unwillingness ,o .orn. io terms is that it is Eyjolf who
kin
of the I,iosvetning
rraking the offer.hho.k.l is a -.*b", for more than a generaEyjolf's
qrouP that has itt"
"pp"sed.to
a substantial segment
d.morirtrate,
.l!",r
rion. As subse;;;
Thorvard's

of their leader
of'the Ljosvetnings does not.apfrove
in the f riendship
formalized
r.approch"*."i'r,"-iikr Eyjotf tnui'*ur
time before'
short
a
concluded
:rsreemenr h.';;; ayjirr had
for
competition
*itl:ut
'I-he saga shows that thorvard is "?1
along
The Ljosvetnings are split
preeminence in his own group'
collateral lines
(1{ost<itd ui. rho*urd), alorlq
generationat tirres

(Hrafnvs.Thorvard)'eventosomeextentulottghousehold
a not altoFridgerd's case.provides

lines (veisa
gerher

"ri;;#ead).
the dissident factions to test
unwelcome oppofiunity f6r
if things do not
independent oi'rhorvard, or,

their strengrh

workoutwellinthat,.,pe.t,toPressurehisactionsalongthe
Uyit't people'at Veisa' Thorkel'
more aggressive lines fu'o"d
and Hoskuld. This is why

""

;;"

;orrrrrttr with Thorvard until

violencehasalreadybroke"ot"'apointThorvardrecognizes
;ii. b..r, let in o., ih"r" events late in the day'
and remarf.,
"",
Itwouldn,,.u..nhandledmoremoderatelyifithad-beenup
the^course of Icelandic
to me" t.f,. ,+l'"*"r.1;a"t'tu"aing of internal group poli.ffE.t,
demands a recognluor,
feud
tics on intergrouP Politics'

"irfr.

Theordealitselfprovidestheoccasionforsubmergedhostility
pro-

the ordeal of iron, in which the


ro erupr. Th; ;;J.d h".. is
distance, usttu ,.a-hot iron bar for a certain
band nua tolurry
and unwrap,t'rl
-ih.

ally nine

pu;

hu.rd was rhen bandaged

'l'he Social llistorical


Introduction

36

threedayslater.Ifthehandwashealingcleanly'Goddeclared
the hani was infected or badly
the truth of the u.ur.r', case; if
other way' Some scholars have
blistered, God had decided the
the ordeal's result, its inherent
argued tnut tn.lu.k of clariry in
of normal healing ot 'h-t -:.:.
ambiguity (were these the blisters
for forging_ communlty
vehicle
a
of inf-ection?), -uJ. the ordeal
rp7!t r8g-go)'J"t:
Colma1
consensus (Brown rg75i r37-39;
had to be bargained
rhat
whar the ordeal indiciied was soriething
overandagreedto.Andpresumablyinth3.Processofinterpret-

ingtheresult,allkindsof.,'o,...rational,,criteria,suchasthe
generalr.p,r,rtio"oftf'tproband'struthfulness'hisorherkin
tt'"o*ttJgt ulq gossip' and a sense of

connections, community
in-to the decisionmaking
equity, among orher things, wouldineak
not central to the Icewas
noted'
be.
process. Oraeal, it 'ho'id
landicSystemofproof.Verdictsoftho,.neighborsnearestthe
fi74: r.+r).,.s,i11, the laws re-

prlr.rr.a (Maurer
of puttrnity, although
served a place io, o.d.ul in matte*
(Grd'gd's lI

incident were

even

9z)'
alierna t'e
here ajury,s finding was an u...piuule
agreed to by the
be
could
frdeals
that
This case shows, however,
r

partiesoutsidett,..o,,,.xtofaformallawsuit.Evidencefrom
private agreement also used orother sagas ,nt*' itt"t people by
tthe. ciriumstances where the
deals in theft cases o, ir, ,"r..ul

,iilin.u"t

facts were in doubt (Miller r988a)'

Fridgerd,sordealconfirmstheambig.,o,'natureoftheCere-

approaching consensus'
mony, but it h;;Jit generated anything
a^highly charged ritual
On the .o.,rru'ry, tn". ordeal frJuia.i
the opposing sides from each
that only ,..r.a'io further alienate
the opposi-

u.io." the acrual rial, Eyjolfiusp".tt thatclear that


''i[{t] said it was
tion plan. ,o*. t"'derhand"a"tttt

orher. Even

the

otherswouldhindertheprocess.,,Andoncethebandageisunpriest is unsure of the


wrapped, ai,-tJetttpt'"fnt "mtiating
t? inother ordeal' a proceresults and wants to subject Fridge'g
the laws sanction in paternity
dure which, interestingty t"*gt'
whom
fni' tt?a' the disputants' both of are,
cases (see p. ,"g
to
they
'aSi'
what
"'
to
disagree_as
are certain of the results but who
and
indecisiveness
his
hurl accusations at him. Thorkel .rrir.,
Eyjolfu..r,.'himofUtit'g"o"the.take'Eyjolfperhapshad
1o him' since the
hoped ,t u, ,nt ptit't *o''tlf, be predisposed

Seltirt'g
"\7

of the Modrvellings"-sugl4csts :r
,r.icst's nickname-"priest- Both sides harden their p.siti.,s'
r...ection to E;j;lf's'people.
l',yfolfwillmake"nofurth""o"tt'sionsandannouncesthathc
Fridgtltl
in this dispute, not as a representative of
will continue

tlristime,butinhisownright:..Iwillpulsuetheclaimasifit
brings the
explicitly
were my own inheritance."- And Thorkel

feud between
.lispute within 1fr" f'u-e of the long-standing
theLjosvetningsandtheModrvellings'aconsequencethat'unstudiously trying to
ril the failure oi,n. ordeal, Eyjolf had been
.,we Ljosr.,"i"gt have"known for a long time that your
rrvoid:
hostility to*uid us is unsparing'"
its third and most significant
'fhe dispute now
"d"'goes
and.attempts to settle
negotiations
transformation. one-on-one
forces who will attempt to
,r.r.rnt" by talk give way to mobilized
last we hear of Fridgerd's case
<leal with tro.rbf,- uy .o*uut. The
to claim her personal comis when Eyjolf ,.r, t"'for the north
'fhe mobin"a pledged ro rhe priesr.
pensarion, *h;"d;;r..i
witt
we
althou_gh
_q1;s
lization of forces merits some to--.r-,t,

()vermuchdetailofinterest.Theprocesses.ofgrouprecrult.fter the ordeal,


diff'erenr forms for each rid.. Shortly
ment take

F-yjolf.orrr.."r-u-t"tit'gofhisthingmenandrehearsesthe
assent t, the general
norms of ,rrrrt.rui"'ppo"I'fhe thingmen
on them at that
,nJiintyL"ir makes

principler,
"Jdt*und
time.Whenitcomestimetorrdenorth,heconsultswithfriends
andthingmenwhocounselrestraint,advisinghimtoletitout
thus articulates his
that he is going north for provisions. Eyjolf
morilly-each directed to a
move in two *&;f;ategically and

differentgroup:tohisoPqgt-ettsthetripisforprovisions'while
the e-1ry,9tto

the.o*..r,rIirfft"t" *nitn

he draws his support

tionistoassertaspecificlegitimate.claim,theCompensatlon
has its own aspects of
owed to Fridgerd. The latter'articulation
that Eyjolf's purpose is
dissimulatior,]1o, it is clear by this ,1T.
compensation' but
more g"rr..ul it,u" 1t"' obtaining Fridgerd's
helegitimizes them, making
by defining his u.tior* in such r.i-r
uggr.r.ion"took like a justified reaction'
ontheothersidethingsProceeddifferently.Kinshipbonds,
based.suPof blood u.rd uffir,ity, raihei than rhe contractually
portofchieftain/thingman,arereliedon.onereasonforthisis

38

Introduction

obvious. Thorkel, Brand, and Hoskuld are not chieftains, and


Thorvard, who is, still remains aloof from the dispute. The recruitment process skips over Thorvard's household.
Matters escalate further after the first inconclusive skirmish at
the river. Eyjolf, outnumbered, sends for his thingmen in the region, and to his home region for his brother and other supporters. Among the Ljosvetnings, Hoskuld is sent to recruit his father, Thorvard, who only agrees to go after enduring his wife's
goading. His example shows how difficult it was for those who
desired to rein in the dispute to avoid being overborne by those
who wished to expand it. tt shows how important the actual
physical location of decisionmaking was to the course of the dispute. If Thorvard had been at the thing and news of the skirmish had reached him there, it is likely people would have intervened to prevent further escalation. But Thorvard is at home,
in a district where there are few of sufficient consequence to intervene successfully. Even if such men existed, they would not be
present in Thorvard's home at the key moment. What we have
instead is another indication of the internal division of fundamental groupings, in this case the household, with mother allied
with son against the father. But Thorvard's wife is doing more
than giving uncontrolled vent to bloodthirsty desires. She is
making a crucial and correct point about the process of the feud.
If Hoskuld is going to proceed with or without his father, the
father will be drawn into the dispute regardless, and in a worse
position than now: "You should consider that you'll be involved
anyway if Hoskuld is killed. It's no easier to prosecute on behalf
of a dead man." Thorvard is not responding like an automaton
to a mindless goad. He is acting in accordance with what, given
the situation, is intelligent advice. [t is not his wife's fault that in
order to be heard she, perversely, had to clothe the rational in
the style of irrationality.
Once involved, Thorvard sends out to augment his forces.
Though a chieftain, he does not call upon his thingmen, but
looks to kin (most of these, however, were probably his thingmen as well). Still, it is of some interest that the saga chooses to
identify Eyjolf's supporters, except for his brother, as thingmen
and the Ljosvetning group as kinsmen. In this we might discern
that the balance of power belongs to Eyjolf, who has both more

The Social Historical

Eetting

:t,1)

wcalth at his disposal and a more populous following.'l'hc t::rlls


to kin make no mention of wrongful allegations of paterniry.
And it may have been that kin responded because they f'elt n<r
less obliged to adhere to the norms of good kinship than Eyjolf''.s
thingmen did to the norms of good thingmanship. But requesrs
Ior aid must come with some explanation, either provided explicitly by the messenger or supplied implicitly by the parry
lrcing called. The requests to the Ljosvetnings are given an emotional and finer moral articulation by cloaking the whole expedition in the ideology of revenge. The ghost of Thorkel Hake, not
unlike Hamlet's ghost, reappears. Some of the participants, even
among Eyjolf's men, understand the confrontation as an opportunity to avenge Thorkel Hake, who had been killed by Eyjolf's
father a generation earlier. Thke the case of Otrygg, to whom
'fhorvard sends word to join them. He is married to Gudrun,
the daughter of Thorkel Hake. The messenger arrives as he
washes his hair; he says he is not ready to leave. His wife goads
him subtly by volunteering to go herself, a role not proper to
women in the feud: "It's true enough that Thorkel Hake was related to me, not to you, so I will g<l." In the battle Otrygg, though
quite old, is the most aggressive of the Ljosvetning conringenr.
He challenges the most outstanding warrior of the other side:
"Young Hjalm, who's going to be the first to start fighting?"
"Who other than you, Hake's son-in-law?" answers Hjalm. The
invocation of Thorkel Hake is not just serviceable to his kinsmen, but it seems also to provide the other side with a sense of
ttre significance of the confrontation; thus H.jalm's identification
of Otrygg by his kinship connecrion to Thorkel Hake.
But revenge for Thorkel Hake is hardly what this affair is
about. Vengeance for him had been forgone for more than
thirty-five years and, though not completely forgotten, his cause
was only vividly remembered when present circumstances warranted its resurrection. The invocation of vengeance offered a
common pretense sufficiently acceptable to most members of the
two ad hoc groups assembled; it provided a shorthand way of
justifying their opposition to a group they were compering with
here and now for political control of the region. The mystification provided a unifying gloss for those enlisted by the suppor'rmustering process who might be there for a multitude of'rrrr-

lr

'l'he Sot:ial llistoricnl Settirt!


Introduction

40

articulatedreasons:becausetheywereobligatedtotheperson
they !ou1d the request a
who summoned them, o' betat'se objectives
of their own'
convenient opPortunity to accomplish
whetheritbetogainareputatlonforvalor,orshrewdcounsel,
opponent'
.t-ti-pfy the chJnce to humiliate a common
and legitimizaideology
of
stuff
Revenge, in tf i'1"'tance' is the
tion.Itwasintermsofvengeanceandfeudthatthesepeople
pJlitics was not an autonomous and
understooa tn# f"fiii.t'
it was embedded in every day-todemarcated spher! of action;
had, but especiatly in their disputes'
day

interacrion;;;;";ple

That,however,didnotmeanthatthe'ideologyofrevengedid
nothaveforcesufficienttomotivateaction.Quitethecontrary.
reinfoicement from the
I$ norms and .,r'i. received po*.,f,l
*no had honor and who did
careful account everyone kept Lf
did nor matter at all. Thorvard
not. [t is nor trrrifnlrket Hake
deeplybelievesthutgutl,skillingofKodranhad..purgedshame
is still a world of difference
on our accounr,, (ch. z5). Brrt tfre.e
of [o1:u" had for Hall' his
between tt. ,igtti;;'"Jt tnt kiUing
significance the kilting of
father lying dJad ar his f..t, u.,J?he
lain dead for a third
nua f- ihorvard, f,ir,r*t" huii"g

Kodran
betweetihot blood and lukeof a cenr,r.y. tt is the difference
warm bordering on chilled'
rbalanced
.^,ith *
the i^e-,^-^^r with
:9:
The ideotogy of revenge was uneasily now the other' providthe one'
ology of p.u.J'und concoid' t'o'"
of one's behavior' depending on
the .*pfu,tu*'y

ing

-odtl

whetheronewasthewrong"Apu'ty'9rth'eoneanxiouslyawaitor simply,uninvolved' Neither


ing the return blow of an u'"t'gl''
necessarily synonymous with
principle-blood or peace-iu, in both depending on varlalie
honor. Honor and clisironor could
of the person invoking them'
identity
and
tions in the .ot'1"*t'
with the
in the ensuing Uui,i. links ,irit dit."ssion
One issue

issuesofdisputecontainmentdealtwithintheprecedingsec.
on inconclusively for some
tion. After ,nt igh'i;g had golt
tn" combatants, which the saga
time, Kodran triel to J.pu.utE
shnding
hard ," a" r-ce most of them were
says was nor
",
"riit
aroundu.'y,uy,onlythose.whofelttheyhadrealgrievances
was struck a fatal otll t"
were .t,r nghii;g:'ii;i; however,
his men on but received
the proce,,' i" '?'Potrse-'-tyJ"tiLSStl
,.You u." ..?ring to what has been done'
this reply from Hjalm:

brother.,s c<ltlllilt.t.

liyjolf, but you are leSS Concerned with your


t(x)'"
()ne of Einar ofjihr..a's farmhands has now been killed
't.heviolenceofbattleappearstohavebeenaregulatedviolence.
,I.hose with no great intliest in the issue of the dispute pUll their
on the designs of the more comfrr.r.fr.t arrd a"ct as a brake
from nearby farms,
combatants. other sagas show people

mitted
to SeParate the fighters,
lrcth men and women, racing-to the scene
t?g? r8: 6r)'
throwing ctothing over theii Ytapgls Ua!r1'!rA?go
the forces
and
Bur here tr,e *nBtL neighborho,rd is mobilized,
For
contingents.
for peace musr come 116- within the battling being invoked
this purpose even the death of a farmhand -ttitt
of constraint and regulation
as a reason to halt. The mechanisms
involved small numbers on
were most .n..iir" when the battles
that people had crossboth sides urrd *".. sufficiently localized
(see' for ex;;;;i"g ties with members in the oppoling force
cnut lLi6s'
and
ample, the colloqul be^t1een oddi'Grimsson
kinsmen in
his
against
who fought
ch. 3rl: "'Are il;h;oaai

Iceland?"Thereweremenpresent*nt'*ettrelatedtome"
When lirrces of more
Oddi u.rr*.r.i, 'U"t I spared them'"')
thanahundredweremusteredfromwideareas,thesemechatask'
nisms were often inadequate for their

Liketheordeal,thebattlesettlednothing'u"qnoww'ith
rook on a level of passion
Eyjolfs urotrr", Jead, his involvement
thatitlackedu.ro...Thedisputeisthustransformedagajn'
utterly.Fridgerdisfbrgottt";'thtdisputeisnowdefinedby
beyond his kin
Kodran,s corpse. Thorvard at last

..uih.t out

andsummonshisthingmen.Hetakescounselwiththem,and
of wergeld-and the permanent
some of them bear ryjoif an offer

summarily refuses, choosing


exile of Hall, Kodran,i killer. Eyjolf
offers a half mark "l:r-ll-"t
insread ,o ,ut tr,e matrer to 1#. He

"
toallthechieftainsandanouncetoanyonewhoaccompanied
district to recruit support
them. Thorvard too goes outside the
ExEast
an
Qu.arter chieftain'
for his defense, ,t"dil'g a ring to
of
debts
old
in
ialling
than
pansion, at th;,tu*t., iil'ol"E more
buying support from
obligation to kin uid ,hi.,gmen; ir meanr
to the principal' It
obligated
people in no way or only tinuously
inio-me ways a nationalizawas, in short, a big step, representing
it
g',r, u, discussJ in the previous section,
tion of tn" airf"?..
rhar finally makes de-escalation possiblt'.
was this

".ry;i;;.rrio.

'l'lut

42

Introduction

also shifts its focus


When the saga moves to the thing, it

away

main suPPorters. They


from Thorvard ^"a ry.;"lf to theii two
the principals,
threaten
negoriate with each oit.r, cajole and
one of them'
of
arbitration
the
and finally force them to agree to
numbers insmaller
with
The feud continues, to be sure, but
although only after Eyjolf
volved, and it eventually peters out,

revenge'
.L^+ i- ,L,o torisinn
ro move
decision to
oT th. dispute-that is, the
legalizati,on
The
to the courts at the thingthe arena from ,t . air,rict baitlefields
last' the
providtg'.u:
transforms the Jitp"" again' It

gets his blood

ltt'i1i9
for third-party intervertron

contexr in which the opportrr.rity


not be aihieved locally becould take place. Settlement couid
split by the feud' The
cause the district, it seems' was completely
kept an uneasy Peace
i.ie.rdrt ip between Eyjolf and Thorvard
clients in line' and
their
keep
to
at first, but it ;; ;"i;nough
his kin and thingmen won
ultimately .u.r, -r", obligJtions ro
to each other'
out. Once the two leaders were openly "^pp"jtd resources to
rnen of suffrcient
there were evidently no other locaf
the disputants began to reuntil
not
compel them to set;Ie, and
people available to
cruit big men outside the district were 'l::; of active sroup refill that role. The very process of expansion, urge reconciliation
wht would
cruirment, brought in the people
t"T: kind of settlement' The
compel
and who had the means to
those big men when they reconcalculus of honor most horrored
appropriated-the
ciled the disputants. By making le.ace..1n:'
of the

i-por.itheir will. lt was the turn


peacemaking ideology.
_^l,o
affz.
dispute the affarr
a .lisnrrre
make o
The support-mustering process can
recbeyond
of the .rpporigi;s, th; di'pt"t Tetlmorphosed

affair to rhemselves and

for by people two


ognition, the oiigi.rui dirprtants substituted with very differincident
and three ,.-or., from the provoking
chieftain to his cause'
recruiteJhis
ent goals. once a thingman
competition for
the dispu,. n..u-e tte stuff of politiG^uld representing the
the chieftain
power u",*..., his chieftain and
tltherside.PresumablymostoftheseCaseswereresolvedwiththe f-eud did
out much difficulty ' ln Valla ildu saga'.for.instance'the two chiefbecause
n.t undergo comparable ,ru*for-"ution
tainswereabletoagreeatSeveralkeyjuncturestokeepalidon
to expand hostilities' Yet
things in spite of tfreir clienrs' desires

Sttt:ial

llisktriutl

Scttirtg

'l:l

irr tlrt'
rlrt.irrtistic tension in the saga depends on exPectatiorts
pittirrg
feud
the
of
rrrrrlience that an escalating iransformation
a distinct possibility-'.1"
t hicfiain against chieftain was more than
of events rn valla-Lj(tts
course
the
lrrr:t., what is saga-worthy about
fot some reason
propitiout]1,
so
.saga is that things turned out
(ch' z) and
svarfadardale
to
extend
( ludmund's interests did not
of that
because
A:9
Eyjafiotd.'
l.iot's did not extend to southern
other
had
Neither
i,'ti*its.
*itt
feud
tii.y *ere able to keep the
have
might
feud
the
which
for
other
,,r.,.trt.d goals uguinri each
provided a convenient vehicle'

VengeanceandExpiation:ChoosingtheVictim
by killing
The laws gave a person the right to a-ven.g: himself
restrictions
with
right
the wrongdJe, but'purported to-limit the
had
,n time, place, u.ra'p..ron. Thus blows that left no bruisesbut a
only'
occurred
to be avenged at th; time and plact llty
be avenged up
blow that left a bruise o. .r,rr.d bleeding could
the inbelonged.to
until rhe nexr Altthing. The right to avenge
also
was
it
him;
jured party as well u, ro those who accompanied
the
on
legitimately
lawful fbr anyone else to take vengeanc
should
t47).
la
(Grd,gd,s
*.o.gdoe, *iihi., a day of the incident
the.right
vengeance not have been taken before the Allthing,
An
lawsuit'
a
to
relegated
,.rriirru,"d; after that the claimant was
man's
a
on
assault
sexual
for
explicit right to kill was also given
mother'
*ii., daug:hter, mother, sisterl foster daughter-' or foster
assault'
the
of
plu."
utrd
time
but it had to be carried out at the
place
and
time
the
at
avenged
Likewise a slave's death could be
permitted
law
t'64,19;)'.P-"t-"o
the killing occurre d (Grd'gd's la
the injury'
the killin[ of person, .,oidirectly responsible for
respects,
several
in
picture
The sagas paint a very different
comwishful
the
not
ih.y,
that
and the unavoidable sense is
only
revenge'
of
limits
real
the
mands of the lawbooks, describe
the
confirms
even
literature
saga
one case in the entire corpus of
rgrr:
(Heusler
54).
to-revenge
Grd,gd,s strictures on the right
people,s sense of the legitimate extended well beyond the range
the laws'
of procedures and behivior required or.forbidden by
uninv.lvt'<l'
the
of
opinion
ihe
by
Vengeance, when validated
to claim a motto,oly
was justice itself. The state did not yei exist

'l'lte Sttcial llistori't:al Sdling


44

Introduction

'llt
itr his lrorrsr'

onviolence,andthelaw,sclaimtolimititinaccordwithits
wishesandcountertotheprevailingnorms'was,withoutaState,
was Pershow that blood vengeance
a cry in the autft' ft't 'ug"
and
injury
of
range
response to a wide
ceived to be a legitimate
anynearly
but
injurytn. place-urrJ time of
insuh, nor jusr it-It'
revenge was
fuct' immediate hot-blooded
where, unyti-t'
g rc Grettis saga: "only
unartful.'i.."rai"
,;;
down
looked
never
";
ir"-.aiutely,- 6ut the coward
to
the slave ur..f""r'tr*,;tf
thought
same
the
(o,,ul'so"
does"; Einar
more
"*p"""' """ttis drawn out' the
Gudmund: "The longer tf't ""gtl":t' reYelge wasted one of
tn' t3f Quick
satisfying i, *iiilt; 1L1d'
Jr,r.,,r.ul sitiation conferred
ur"rrg"-r;,
the
the sweetesr powers
to constrain the
on him-the power to terroti';';h;power ''lyt
tuigti'tn"trtel Hake' for example'
movements of'the expetttd
because
urr-d i, fearful of strangers
too
sleeps in a locked bed closet
wait
could
lqris' ch' .t.8)' 9"t
of having it,i;;"G"J*""a
cowardil;;t waiting looked like side'
long, however' At some point
irrr.riorlty to rhe other
for
ice or an admission of p..*urr.rri
;;;;;tt"g to wiren vengeance
This is what Thot'u'd was
farm
my
"[ wish to i"nrite everyone to
Thorkel Hake finally came:
Hall Otryggsson' who has ' ' '
this evening, first and foremost(Li6s' ch' z5)'
purged shame on our account"
Therewasaroughu.,d..ujy.,".,,.aStowhatconstituted
iniuries' slights'
a mlre',list of tyPes of
avengeable offenser. Brrt
would
*o.,ia not be beyond the pale such
and insults that would o,
c;il;;tions of circumstance social
nor reveal what they wer".
;;;ff.nded, their relative
as rhe id.r,titv of offend",
relations
tht *to"g' the state of prior been a
status, tt. g,il';;td;f
th"" had already
between ,ht ;;;"t'-*r'tttttt
"t "o't
settlement,howthevengeu.'..*u,carriedout-allthesehadto
or close
Le hght banter among kin
be factored in. what mighl
friendscouldbemurderousinsu"ltbetweenpeoplewhoserelakin of
."*j",i,iu.. o. hostile. or thegain
no
tions were already openly
what he got might
an unpoP'r" 'itti* *t'o atttl"ta
t
;to " " " i,h.' ro r r e ven g e
T:l I ll ".'"::
H:',11
l
comPensatlon
a
t.iti. fbr
..And because Harek was unH'"',.r.
was
when V"d,-B.;;J kitled
tg-p"t1ation" !1i,s' ch' 8)' There
popular, hi' ki;;tcepted

::if ;f

'

il

alsoaSenseoflimitionthemethodsofrevenge.Wedonot,

Burning someone
lor itrstance, hear of poisoning
to which torture ittt<l
The
wtrs almost never justifiable.
"*,"rr",
t'o*"."'' i' hu'd to'determine"l'he
rrritiming were expected,
r2o;
torture (cf' Hrafnkels saga 5:
l:rrrrily sagas 'u1ti1 .depict
graced
sr"'/y,?f'togi i'
llitturdar saga Isfirdings z" 35.;'L"t of "hind-hewing" and

l..o""ts
wirh numerous ,,orrj.rdgm.r,,ur
of descriptions of torture
distribution
"lcg-hewir,g'" Th;;"t;n
mutilamight indicate a norm against
irr rhe rwo rypes';f ;;.rr.e
frequent
to Prevent its
simply was not strong enough
rion that

"' ff;L rtte r horv le gitim ate th 9 :o "' Tl "ltlstrictures


Tl:.i:: ip:il::
the
limiting Tl:
violated the
ing might be, t'o*tIt'' if it
side
other
in the laws' the
right to kill as they were t*p';;;J [i[ing. The killins of Halli in
r..iir.
wourd have ,, ;;;" ;;l;r"
sense- of
point' But tle community
in
case
\sa
Valta-Lj6ts saga
such a
of
*"ti' Jttt'-i"e the outcomedirectly
rerightness *t'ld;it;;
be
tnei, sense in ,tir--atter would
lawsuit, since
Hected in the ;;;;;;rhat

to get
the moving party could expect

a
tbrhissuit.Thecapacityot3ustcasesttlgetsupportandunjust
,,rr" thing, was nevertheless
()nes to lose it, although hardly-u
numbe.r.of
.".t oi.i *i,n- A significant posrtrve
tendency ,t ut nrJ-* fi"
thinq to enforct llltttnce to
people felt it ;;;";d
some people found it convenorms. And ai;;;r" selfish-ievel
nienttocite.n"r".r.ofjusticeinacauseaSaconvenientexcuse
unjust
their aid was sought by the
the
for not g.r,ir,[lrrrotr"d*hen
support
to
oth"t*ise obliged
party, even *il;;;;;i-t*t
reterexplicit
el"d.di makes
party *uki,,g'i;t tA;;t"t 1ktss
U1^!rolf who' in a just
ence to this tendency when.^pp?*fted
^suppolt
to prosecute
the
cause, does not yet1'rhav9.
l-:::,ttary
suPport'
your
to
will,not commit myself
Eyjolf ,.r..t"r1'ili"
relied
be
can
pttttpilott lf '1"ttice
though r Utr*" Jr'at people't
on in"this matter" (Lj6s' th' ao)'
Vengean..""""a,,otut*up,taketheformofkilling.Manya
an
rrrffi.i"ntly avenged if he won
disputan, .o.rril-".J hi-r.ii
might
t;;; arbitratio" u[ttt-ents
outlawry judgment' Even
exprowronged partv was able to
for
do, espect"u;ttil;il -rtrtlthe
sufficient
was
aitf"t"' such
priate ,n" pJ*"t i" "ri-:'dg;;l;
Helgas<>tt
Thorir
avenged on
Gudmund ;; .or,ria.i ffi;;ii
(Lj6s.ch.r7).Buttherewasadistincti"...thattakingPaymellt

'l'he S ocial

It

istoricrtl

ettinig

t7

Introduction

46

satisfactory as taking lives'


for the life of a kinsman was not as b: held liable for a steep
thu" willing i"
Hrolf Jaw is th;;;;"
his blood
as tn. fr.i.. for
urr"rr-.nr
compensation
-satisfying
son of his brother's killer:
'ittt""ta, the
urge by killing

'istt'''
..TwohundredounceswereawardedforThorvard.Hrolfwas
ch' 5)' As the Norse metanow than he was before" (Vt
f,"ffi.,

aia nor like ro carry their kin in their


we have seen' third-party prespurse (Grettis rogo iat B;l' .Y:t'as
to
avenger with no alternative but
sure might leav; trr. *o.rta-be
settle for PaYment'
laws and feuding custom
But the .t i"i r.rpecr in which the
tl:
of the tlu" of people t'Pg' *l"T
differed was in tt't
to
expiation
fall. The tiws limited
avenger,s u* .orrt^Jl,rr,inu'fy,
of
"i"
author
the
reveal that
the wrongao",' Td" 'ugu'"no*t"''
ended'p
not
ihe.P"tt:'who
the offending deed *u' Ltqt'ently
at the
dies
Ljgtt siiter's son'
paying for his actions' Tho"aJ'
Bersi
and
. e"a in rurn Bodvar
hands of Hrolf Jaw for Ljot,s "C
thing(vr tt"' 5'7)' TL"t:t Helgason's
die for Hrolf's iri,dttd
the burden of Gudmund's vengeance
oi
men must u.u, *,r.h
Kodran Gudmundarson must
strategy (Ljds' tf"' ' 3-14)' And
ihorkel Hake' as well as for his
pay for f,i, tutnt't-[iffi"g of
trother's killing of OtrYgg'
works better as a system
The argu-"'rr, can beiade that feud
not be the acof social control because the vengea-nce,target.may of the duty to
discussion
tual wrongd";;.-i; we noted ii the
notions of group liaexpansive
fairty
of
counsel, trre existence

phor would

h";;;;"opr.

bilitygaveupo*ttf"lincentiveforthegrouptopoliceitsown
the fear of
Group tiability gave feud u"J t'ptciatly
members.

than.its retributive one'


feud a deterrent aspect more p9Y:t{"1
you will have *"* t^lT '
If your uncle's jokes can g"t yo" killed'

passingi,t..es"tinhisSenseofhumor.Theincentivetomonltor
one,sownkinwouldnotbe"'g'gu,ifonlythewrongdoerhad
some support for this view
to fear reprisal' The saga' p'oiidt
others whose acpeople aia inrotue theriselves in the affairs of
tionstheymighthavetoanswerfor.Butthereareseveralassumpview that need to be examined'
tions underlylng this functionalist
in the next seneration, there
when u"rrg"urre fell on someone
that it constitu"ted a more effeccould be no cultural justificati-on
wrongdoer were the target'
tive deter..;;;;; it would if the

children m()re tltltlr


Sorne pe<lple may love some of their living
about their unbortt
rlrt:rnselves, but r.ldo* do they feel this way

()rres.Consider,inthisregard,Gudmund'sapparentrelief,trr
fall on one of his
<lisc.ver that venfeance fof 1-ho.kel Hake will
There also had to be
sorrs rather rhanln himself (Lj6s. ch. zr).
and the community
s()me agreement among avengers' targets'
just go out and kill
not
to"ld
person
A
rus to group boundariesl
.f.dom person and cliim himself ave.ged. His opponents
,,rry

and a sane man should hardly be satbe no effective inistied. Under ,.r.h ii..r..rrrtances there could
one might be held to
<lucemen, to poii.e the people for whom

*,rrld hardty be aggrieved,

ltccount.Theclassofpossibtevengeancetargetshadtobereatemporal extensonable as to n.rmbet, and to geographic and


to be sufficient' In
sion as well, fbr the functionat"exptanation
fact,theclasso{'pos,iblevictimswasusuallyconfinedtothe
even though
;;;g;"er's. hous.nota or close kin and affines'
as fburth cousins
some prortrrorls in Grd'gd$ made kin as distant
of poor. kinsliable fbr wergeld coniribution and maintenance
people who simply
men. still, the sagas show too many cases of
wronsdoer excould never narJ controlled the actions of the
piatinghiswrongs.Wehave.tofindsupplementaryexplanations.
was a

as to who
On certain br8ad issues there was agreement
recorded infew
legitimate vengeance target, and there are
were never acceptable
stances of breih of the .ro.-r. Women

boy- of twelve
victims; neither were little children, although a

-igt,.alreadyhavetostartworrying.withmenofmajority,
little disagreement. The wrongdoerhim-

some issues occasioned


who aided and
self was, of course, a prime target' as was-anyone

on his expedition,
abefted him. A..ompunying tf,e wrongdoer
counsel:
lodging him on the way or ol the wayLack' providing
ax' This
avenger's
the
all these U.o.rghi"rr" *itt itt the shadow of
which
liabitity,
does nor difl'er from our notions of criminal

readilyaccommodatethepunishmentofaccomplicesandcoall involved in the


conspirators. It was when the target was not at
to defisusceptible
less
offense tnut tfri.rgs get fuzzier,bJcoming
that
concerns
nition by rule urrt -ore a matter of the practical
the
of
range
The
gor.r.r"a tfr. ur."ger's choices of strategy'
convenby
ways
some
in
Ir"rrg.r,, options, to be sure, was limited
these nor.rs
tion Ind applicable norms of group definition- But

48

The Social Historical

Introduction

were sufficiently imprecise so that in practice there was considerable leeway for considerations of politics and expedience.
The politics of vengeance demanded acting in such a way that
the avenging group acquired honor in addition to erasing the
shame of having an unavenged kinsman on their hands. This
often meant getting one of the opposition's better men whether
he had been involved or not, even whether he had been in the

country or not. Yet people were never utterly sanguine about


killing someone they knew had been uninvolved, something of
which they could only be certain if the person had been abroad
for the relevant time. Bjorn thus gives expression to misgivings
about a proposal to kill Bodvar which, however, are insufficient
to match the force of a goad and the convenience of the opportunity: "That man is innocent and has never been involved in
dealings here in this country. It'd be much better if it were Hrolf
[the actual wrongdoer]" (VL ch.6). The ambivalence of sentiment, the sense of communal loss, of tragedy, coupled with the
sense of satisfaction of a duty fulfilled, or a score settled, is captured nicely by Thorvard when he states that Hall, by killing
Kodran, "has suffered and purged shame on our account" (Lj6s.
ch. zb); the same thought also informs Hall's impenitent concession to his victim's character: "Good or not, he was Gudmund's
son" (Ljds. ch. z4).
There was an exceedingly practical matter that strongly counseled in favor of getting the other's best man whether he had
been involved or not. The give-and-take of the feud, its my turn/
your turn structure, meant that killing anyone of lesser stature
in the wrongdoer's group would involve its best man'anyway,
this time with him cast in the role of the avenger. And since you
were going to have to deal with him eventually, it would be
better to deal with him when the timing was up to you, rather
than awaiting his move as the passive party. In other words, killing the other side's ablest man had the nature of a preemptive
strike, but with the advantage that it could be legitimized asjustifiable retribution. The community was never too pleased by venseance of this type, but if people at times expressed outrage or a
sense of loss, they often did not seem to act on the feeling. Although the killing of Bodvar elicited an immediate attempt at

revenge,

Setting

49

in the final settlement Bodvar's death was simply bal-

(Vt.h.g). What most


concerned people in Bodvar's case was that he was killed in violaanced against Sigmund's on the other side

tion of a settlement, not that killing him violated a norm of permissible vengeance targets.

Countervailing considerations, however, helped divert vengeance from falling on popular men of substance for the misdeeds of their kin. When revenge was more than a matter of immediate hot-headed response, there was time for reflection. One
of the things avengers worried about was whether they or their
enemies would win the sympathies of the uninvolved. Avengers
knew they were likely to be sued after a successful vengeance
killing, and the astute avenger would take this into consideration
in his choice of vengeance target. The more unpopular the target, the less likelihood there would be an aggressive response.
And practically, it was harder to get at the other side's big man.
He was often a great warrior himself, and if not, he was seldom
alone, either accompanied by a retinue when traveling or surrounded by members of a populous household when at home.
Notice how rarely saga characters of any rank travel alone; when
they do, it is commented on (Lj6.s. ch. r4).
We should not be surprised, then, that the sagas show that

in the selection of venof revenge. Eyjolf kills


Thorarin, Thorvard's brother, who had remained aloof from
the feud (he is called "innocent" by Skegg-Broddi), because
Thorvard and Hall are out of the country (Ljbs. ch. 3o). Bodvar
and Bersi are killed because they happen accidentally to cross
paths with the avengers (Vt chs. 6-il. A person took whom he
convenience played a considerable role
geance targets as well as in the timing

could get, and anyone was often better than no one at all. Thus a
servant, like Rindil, although complicit to some extent, would
have to do since his master Gudmund was virtually invulnerable.
But killing Rindil was a paltry vengeance for a man of Thorkel
Hake's status, and none of his kin considered him avenged.
A rough rule of balance defined most revenge: the target should
be of the same status and quality as the original victim. If such a
target could not be found, more people of lower status had to
die to make up for one of higher status. Gudmund's willingness

50

Introduction

to burn everyone in the house with Rindil's killer, his own wife
included, to avenge Rindil, threatened to breach this norm, as
the reaction of people present makes vividly clear (Ljbs. ch. zo).
Avengers did not look at the members of the Other as an
undifferentiated Them. We have already seen that they distinguished individuals on the other side by rank, reputation,
prowess, or by whether they were in or out of the country. They
also made distinctions on the basis of individual culpability. But
just having this knowledge did not always mean they acted on it
in ways that would accord with our moral sensibilities. In VallaLj6ts saga we find opponents frequently making reference to the
degree and type of involvement of various members of the opposition. Bjorn says Bodvar is innocent, and on the other side
Gudmund recognizes that the hospitable Thorgrim "has acted
well in this affair" (ch. 8). In only the latter instance did such
knowledge deflect the choice of target to others. In spite of the
ability of one's opponents to distinguish degrees of culpability
among the membership of the opposing group, it would be very
imprudent for any one member of that group to suPpose, in the
absence of an unambiguous public repudiation of the conduct in
question, that his lack of involvement made him inviolable.
As discussed in the previous section, it was in terms of vengeance and feud that lcelandic politics was conceived. Consider
again Kodran's death. He died in a general affray, a pitched
battle between two groups who had been competing for preeminence in the district for some time. The situation has some of the
aspects of small territorial war. Does it really make much sense
in this context to think of Kodran's death as revenge for Thorkel
Hake in the same way as, say, Harek dies for having spilled beer
on Vodu-Brand, or even in the same way Hall Otryggsson might
understand Kodran's death as vengeance for Otrygg, his father?
The amount of time that passes between the wrong to be avenged
and the act of venseance has a major effect on the motive of the
revenge. There is virtually no political component in VoduBrand's vengeance and not much more in the way Hall would
understand Kodran's death; both killings were in hot blood. But
to us, and I suspect even at some level to them, Kodran is a casualty in a war whose object is political ascendancy. The participants, however, do not choose to articulate it in that way, and

The Social Historicat

Seitlng

r,I

that in itself is crucial for understanding how they understoo<l


their own intergroup relations.
Some Aspects

of Economy: Provisioning and


Gift-Exchange

The goal of the household economy was self-sufficiency. Actual


achievement fell short. Bad weather caused periodic shortages
(VL ch. z; Ljds. ch. r8) and, as both sagas show, the demands of
entertainment, whether forced, as in Gudmund's visitations of
his thingmen, or voluntary, as in Thorir's Yule feast (Ljds. ch. 6;
VL ch. 3), could severely deplete household stores. The chief
source of calories was sheep, mostly in the form of dairy products but as meat too. Sheep fleeces and wool also provided their
human exploiters the means of retaining calories. Fish were considerably less important as a source of calories, but we see on several occasions that the fruits of the sea had to be exploited when
feast and famine required other sources of provisioning. ln fact,
the practice of people at the bottom end of'Eyjaflttrd travelins
north for fish and beached whale was usual enough that it could
provide a cover for expeditions tnore hostile. Rindil's story is
that famine drives him north for whale (Lj6s. ch. r8), Eyjolf''s is
that the demands of entertainment motivate him: "Our entertainment in Eyja{ord is getting lavish; we need to think about
supplies, and we are headed for Flatisle for provisions" (ch. 3o).
The sagas suggest that famines were often sufficiently localized
that people could seek provisions in neighboring {ords or valleys that were less hard hit or had escaped the hardship entirely.
When Halli and Gudmund discuss the relative merits of various
districts, the ability of one district to provide stores in times of
hardship speaks well for its natural endowments: "Generally
more people go there to those outlying valleys to buy food than
come here" (VL ch. z).
Famine, then, was a great impetus to exchange of'food products. But food circulated between households in good times too;
the mode of exchange, however, was different. Roughly speaking, in bad times people tended to acquire stores by purchase, ()l'
perhaps by theft and raid, whereas in good times food cirt:rrlrtlt'rl

52

Introduction

as a consequence of convivial exchange, that is, by feast. But


when we add the variable of class, our rough classification is less
satisfactory. Gudmund is only too willing to feast at his thingmen's expense in bad times. And it appears that in good times
the wealthy did acquire stores to provision a feast by purchases
from people of lesser status. It is clear, however, that tradeexchange by purchase and sale-was not what someone did with
a person of equal social station. With equals exchange tended to
be by gift if the relations between the parties was good, or by
raid and compensation payment if the relations were bad (Miller
rg86a). Exception must be made for long-distance trade. Trade
was acceptable with those who held themselves out as traders,
regardless of personal status, whether they were Icelandic or

Norwegian. But once a merchant of some rank was lodged in another's household, payment for the lodging was often euphemized as a gift (Ljds. ch. r3).
Gift-exchange was a marvelously complex thing, so much so
that only a cursory view of its role in the sagas can be presented

here. The fundamental principle was that every gift demanded


a return. A gift, in effect, was a challenge as well as a gesture of
friendliness. It unilaterally obliged the recipient to the giver, either to match his generosity or to surpass it. Oddi Grimsson, in a
display of reckless bravado, makes ironic reference to these principles when he refuses King Cnut's niggardly gift by facetiously
claiming that he could never repay it except by returning it: "It
is not fitting not to reciprocate this gift. I want to return it to
you" (Ljds. ch. 3 r). A gift so great that it was beyond the means
of the recipient to return was a hostile gesture, an attempt to humiliate him or bind him permanently to the other. The situation
was rich in all kinds of possibility for the adjustment of relative
stittus between the parties. Once the gift was offered, the uncertainties in the situation empowered the offeree, making him the
rur:t.ive party. Should he refuse the gift he insulted the giver by
rlcnying the proffered bond the gift entailed. By accepting it and
rn:rkintr5 no return he could, depending on the specific context,
be signaling his utter contempt for the giver or his permanent
inf'eri<>rity ancl obligation to him. Making too quick a return of
like fbr like was similar to an outright refusal. When Gudmund
shows his distrust and estrangement from Of-eig by immediately

The Social Historicat

Srit;rg

5:t

irnswering Ofeig's offer of a gift of "two red oxen, sevetl y('itl's


old" with "two other oxen, all black, in no way inferior to thest:,"
t)f-eig understands Gudmund's offer as a refusal to accept his
gift and so adds an assurance as to his intent: "You may saf'ely
accept the gift because there is nothing underhanded in it."
(iudmund accepts, recognizing that refusing it would only exacerbate their already strained relations: "Gudmund said he didn't

know how it would improve things even if he didn't accept"


(Ljds..h. 7). We hear nothing else about the two black oxen.
The gamesmanship involved in these exchanges demanded
skill in reading the myriad signs and messages that infbrmed the
situation. Consider the ironies and double entendres in Ljot's attempt to return the spear Gudmund has "given" him in an attempt on his life (VL ch. 8):
Skapti said

"Ljot wants you to have this spear, which he says you

have sent him."

Gudmund answered, "'It was sent to you in such a way, Ljot, that I did
not intend it to enhance your honor."
"As things have turned out," sai<l [-iot, "l have no wish to consider the
spear my property."
Gudmund said that was fine with him "but you shall have this sword."
(It was a great treasure.)
Then Ljot said to Gudmund: "Take this sword from me, but don't
send me another spear like this. Lett end our dispute so that you will
think your honor to have been maintained and so conclude our feud."
"So it shall be," said Gudmund.

Several matters here deserve brief comment. For one, we see


that the immediate exchange of like for like does not appear in
this context as a rejection of the gift, as was the attempt to requite oxen with oxen. The significance of any particular exchange was also affected by the type of object being given. Weapons were special in a way that oxen were not. And they were
special in a way that made the exchange not one of like for like,
but of two unique objects. The gift was of what was personal

in the sword; Gudmund's sword differed from Ljot's sword in


the same way that Gudmund was distinct from Ljot. It was the
personality that particular ownership conferred on the sword
rather than "swordness" thaf was being exchanged. The passage
is also remarkable in revealing how basic the metaphor of giftexchange was to the native conception of feud (Miller rqSqa:

b4

Introduction

3r6, rg86a: z8-zg). An injury was a gift that demanded repayment no less than a real gift. And this is explicitly recognized in
both Gudmund's and Ljot's jokes about how Gudmund gave Ijot
his spear: "Ljot wants you to have this spear, which he says you
have sent him"; "It was sent to you in such away, Ljot, that I did
not intend it to enhance your honor."
The gift was a sign of the obligation it created. Thus, when
Einar wished to signal his refusal to feel himself obliged to aid
Gudmund in his lawsuits against Thorir Helgason's thingmen,
he attempted to return the cloak which Gudmund had given him
to secure his support. The cloak, in Einar's hands, was more than

just a mnemonic; it reified the obligation to render Gudmund


support. By refusing to take it back, however, Gudmund reaffirmed his claim on Einar: "You can keep everything, the cloak
and the return for it. I think you stand to earn both ridicule and
disgrace" (Lj6s. ch. r5). Gudmund used the expectations of giftexchange to humiliate Einar. He made Einar keep the sign of his
obligation (the cloak) and the sign of his failure to make return
("you can keep . . . the return for it," that is, his support). Ridicule
and disgrace may be the lot of the person who does not requite a

gift, even a gift that, as it turns out, is a grand imposition.


Sometimes reciprocity in gift-exchange existed only in theory.
Class differences between giver and recipient were another variable that affected the significance of exchanges. The story of
Ofeig teaching Gudmund about the costs that his visits imposed
on his thingmen depends on recognizing this. In theory, the
gifts of hospitality Gudmund exacted from his thingmen should
have led to return invitations to attend his feasts in which the
farmer would recoup his outlay by eating up the equivalent at
Gudmund's. But the fact of class difference changed the procedures and protocol. Gudmund could show up uninvited with a
retinue of thirty to his thingmen's farms, but it would be a sign of
rcbellion, or at least a challenge to his authority, if a thingman
<l:rred treat Gudmund in like manner; a thingman was to await
an invitation and come lightly attended. And as the text implies,
Gudrnund had not done much in the way of return. Only Ofeig
is secure enoush in status and power to be able to make a claim
on Gudmund's hospitality when not invited and to arrive so numerously attended. The contrived exemplum that Ofeig devises

The Social Historicat

Setting

I',1-,

to make Gudmund personally endure the pains of overst:tyirrg


one's welcome may not be as much the stuff of fiction as it :r1lpears. What it shows is the degree of delicacy and indirectiou soiiut irrf..iors have to adopt when they wish to enlighten th9
powerful about the harm their conduct causes them' Even Oddi
i]ri*rso.r's biting response to Cnut's gift purports- to follow
puncriliously all ih. p-prieties of gift-exchange. He claims to be
i.pryirrg thl gift in-the very act of refusing it. The wit in thus
r.d.h.tit g hisict provides the necessary indirection to Prevent a
royal rage.

The Economy of Honor


Honor was at stake in virtually everything: in gift-exchange, in
f'eud and law, in wit and wealth, in fighting skill and weaPonry,
in clothing and carriage, in the quality of one's kin and spouse,
and even, or maybe especially, in seating arrangements. ]h.
supply of honor aia .roi ger appreciably bigger or smaller from
y.ii i" year in the actual lifetime of anyone, although most
would agree that in the long run the supply of'honor was diminishing. iut.. people were not the stuff of' their ancestors' The
famil"y sagas themielves, set as they are some two and a half centuries belore their composition, evidence the sentiment rather
nicely.
One co.ollary of a constant or diminishing supply of honor is
that a person alr,vays got it at another's expense. This could manifest itself relatively benignly as against the community at large
when, for instance, peacemakers acquired honor as a Consequence of successful intervention. Or it could manifest itself aggressively by assault or insult, with the honor credited to one acforr.tt funded entirely by the honor withdrawn from the account
of a particular opposing person or group. Such are the classic
.rr.o.r.rt"rs that foim the iore of saga plots. Another corollary is
that no adjustment of honor ever involved just two partiel' Tle
communiiy was also always Present in at least two capacities' In
the first, they filled the role of arbiters; they made the judgment

and conferred honor in any encounter in the form of public


opinion. In Ljdsuetninga saga the saga writer takes care to record
.o--.r.rity opinio., uft". most every settlement of a dispute or

The SociaL Historical

Introduction

56

other significant interaction: "People thought that Ofeig's reputation haJgrown grearly because ofihese dealings with Gudmund"
(ch. 7); .,thorke"l caprured all the honor" (ch. tz); "The consenof honor
sus was that Gudmund had gotten the greatest portion
constitutpeople
the
in this case,,(ch. r7). In the second capacitY,
ing the communiiy *ere themselves involved in the readjust-

of the
ments of honor. A.y encounter that altered the rank
rank
their
adjusted
principals vis-)r-vis each other also necessarily
against
worse
off
came
,ir-a-ui, third parties. The uninvolved
the winner and better against the loser'
-l'he competition for honor depended on at least potential
equality u*brrg the participants. Chieftains tended to compete

free iarmeis with each other, servants with servants, and women with women. This did not mean, however,
outthat a person could not lose or gain honor in an interaction
playthe
that
meant
it
usually
side his or her relevant group. But
need not be
ers would be judgea uy"airrerent standards. A slave

*ith .hi.ftains,

too

glorio* io aJq,rit irimself well when matched agains_t

a free

have to play the clown, act enough th9 slave


,.rurr] He migh,
"r"r,
of it in the
so as not to turn his attemplat honor into a parody

eyesofhissuperiors.Thepeopleju.dginghisperformancereq'.ri..d some ,ho* of defei"rri.. Th; saga is not being at all


at
ironic in its treatment of Thorstein the debt-slave in the battle
'rhe
exit
played
f-horstein
that
proof
Kakalahill (Lj6s. ch. z4).
actly right .o*., at the end of the saga *h-tl Oddi Grimsson'
the mail he injured in the battle, recogniz,es his merit by providing him the w"herewithal to purchat" hit freedom (.h. a r). oddi
plly, it right, too. Rath., thu., avenge himself on a slave, in
in
which there could be little or no honor, he makes his return
lost
he
status
the
reclaiming
smartly
the form of a gift, thereby
anrl redu.irrg ihorstein relative to himself by putting T'horstein
in his firvor. By .orrtrast, Halli, in what turned out to be a grave
rrrisitr<lgntent, .hor. to give no sign of deference, no mitigating
ir.,iiy, *lr.rr he moved io Svarfadardale to challenge lhe chieftain i,jor lirr preeminence. He left himself little leeway for g.raceful exit slxrul<l the challenge backfire, nor did he allow Ljot to
misconstrr.rc creatively the Jhallenge so as to diffuse it' A perusal
of the dialotr4tre between Halli ut'd L.lot (VL ch' 3) will reveal to
Halli
what extent i-iot went to avoid reading Halli's challenge as

Setting

57

rneant it to be read. Yet Halli either was not subtle enough to


understand the tenor of Ljot's concessions or' as is more likely,
simply chose to ignore them, interpreting-th^em instead as signs
of weakness rath;r than as attemPts to redefine the significance
of the interaction.
The acquisition of honor involved skill in recognizing and manipulating the infinite variety of variables in any given interaction. Sometimes the honorable thing to do might be to forbear
rather than fight, and whether it was more honorable to do one
rather than th1 other would be a function of the identity of the
actors and their relationship to the situation. For instance, though
both Gudmund and Ljot cin acquire honor by forbearance' their
clients feel honor liesln more aggressive action. Both the clie.ts
and the chieftains happen to be-right given their own particular
situations. Bjorn, ur *Lll as Ljot, is thus able to end up looking
good. We aie nor seein g in iatla-Lj,X saga something as facile
L u ,,.* Christian code of honor, representecl by Ljot's and
Gudmund's restraint, replacing an olfler nl()l'e aggressive code,
represented by Bjorn's ancl i-Irr>lf''s vetrgefultress (Oiklamini
how t.he
,g'OOy. What *. uri seeins is the rel:rtivity of'h<rttor:tttcl
honorable
adiudged
be
to
was
what
defined
.J.rt.*t ultimately
and what not. Even the most primitive codes <lf' hotlor were
subtle enough to allow for restraint, compromise, and peace, so
long as the party was not using forgiveness, or feigning con,"-"p,, o. ,.ruiirrg peace, as a way of disguising cowardice. In this
..ga.d it bears 6br..ri.rg that Gudmund's fault in Lj1suetninga
,rf, do.r not lie in his -rr..rtt about his honor. It was always
be-tte. to have more honor than less, and not even Gudmund's
detractors would dispute this. His fault was that he often misrecognized the truly honorable course. No one believed that
one's honor necessarily must suffer if one Compromised lawsuits
that were usually deait with by comPromise, or if one forbore
punishing the ki[ers of one's servant in order not to endanger
one's wife.

The frequent occurrence of the saga motif of the doomed


man maintiining honor by refusing to alter his route or accept
offers of accomfaniment can lead one to overlook that honorable men could also be prudent. It is just that they had to take
care that prudence did not mask cowardice. Ljot exPresses anxi-

The Social Historical


Introd,uction

58

etvthathefledfromtheunfavorableoddsGudmundoffered

him:"Iadmitl,"t"ut"datthetime'butlsawnopointinwaitBut "people" in the person ot


ing, what.u., p.Jfrt *uy think''l

"You i'uut conducted vourself


could be satisfied by retreafing
properly " (VL.nI a)' Honor
*hut stePs he takes' and not
and
decorously, "Ltil *uit now
"twe keep up a rather good pace"
let them run us;;f, ;;;; though

skapti do

notr*?i^t'T]til;ii'

feailesi troublemakers' the


(ibid.). Even th;;; uggtt"i'e" and
foolhardy enough ro make a
sons of Vidar (Lj6s'ch' r')' "f" :;
()'"t*ntrt"i"'e odds' And the saga lem them
stand in the f'";;;
honorable men were not
retreat without"riJi."f.. In addilion, Few people setting out to
numbers'
above taking ua""iuge of
entire tale of
planned
gfftt t'"n odds' The on honortake vengeance
'9 to saga *t:11,1:pends
support-gu,n.,i'iBl 'o t't"iul
ih" t'pucity' to overwhelm an
able people attempting to acquire
ability to enlist
trim
llre
opponent. It is hi' owi honor'f'utgi'"stutt without
honor'
olf u
support; t.* t"n to aid the cause
options: he
two
has
he
When a man is challengtd b;;;oth"''
rr't iutter would be the honorable
can respona ot ;;;;;tdd'
of a
ao;, ,rot *.rit the recognition
course when the challeng".
to"f"' 'o*" sort of legitim-ac'-::*"
response. To respond isto
oftttosnlilq tl': lt: uttt tutt givepurclaim of the challenge' by
Th]s is-.evidently Halli's
fense (Bourdieu 1966: rg7-'oB1'
a
r.a-"n.te Halli's challenge in such
pose in nor allowirig Ljoi,o
literature
i;"? it's quality of challenge. Icelandic people of
way as ,o
between
"*p,y
shows r"ry ta'#;;-Od;;i,;.rrr,",r"g.s
is an abundance
fhttt
to'
the same status not being tt'po"dtd
farmers have to lump it
of cases, however, in which *;J;; Poor

*n".po*.,r"iJfu

t'^:li,:'*t#;*:iff ff ,,tJ:I;:i

the Pclwerful is a case rn Porl


r3)' A-T"1g equals' f3rbe111ce
ttrere in the north" (1.i6'' ch'
insinuations of weakness'
t.tr*l pr,rria. in. Uurir for insuit'and

!.verrth,r.rghatthetimeitmightfavebeen-clearthatnonactlon
s u sce ptible
;;;; gthl forbe arance w as more
w a s it .'.,,',.,.u t'?"'"ti"j
more ambiguto sullse<1uent reinterpretation

t..u,rr" inherently

oustlrittrirll2lggressiveresponsewouldhavebeen.Ifl.iotcan
managet-oigtrot'eHalli's.firstchallengeovertheviolationofthe
#,,g:::e Halli's interpretabe
holiday, therle is nO way he will

tionoftheevent,whenthatinterpretationprovidessubstanceof
mirthful tales told at Ljot's exPense'

Settirt{

51)

the weaker usc itgltittsl


Insult tends to be the mode of offense
thebetterestablishedopponent,whereasthemodeofthelitttt:t'

isusuallylessverbala,,dmoreviolent.ThorirHelgasonarr<l
ThorkelHake.tutftttgtGudmundbycalli"qhtlaneffeminate
lawsuit' o'lt' feud' But in this
pervert, not by i,fi"S hfm on in
as sticks and stones in
culture names *.r.Lften as effective
breakingbones.Forhonorwasnotanabstraction'amatterof
other with powdered gloves' rt
otiose arisrocrair-riuppi"g each
self-wor*tlprovided worth'
provided more thanjust a sense of
Honorwaswhatledtopropltlousmarriagesandfosterings;tt
It bouni one to others and
attracted followers and support'
madeoneakeylinkinthenetworksofpower.Guardingone,s
ftua to resPond"'1''1'
honor was not a trivial matter' Gudmund
sooner or,later"
?l:.
insult: "V..rg.u"ce there will be' whether
ch.r3).Herr....atindisgracingThorirHelgasonbyexposlng
ut'd then makes' t" i ll:'
his inability to fto'"tt his-thingit"
pragmatlc'

as it was
ironic rouch as f,umiliating to his opponents
irir thi"gr)en finzrnce the killthe confiscations from Th;rir and
rxre f'riend abuse the
ing of Thorkei Hake, in eflect having
.lake the
other.
s<tcial i.teracti..s.
PeoPle saw challenges ln murst
matterofseatingarrangements.Inamealgivenbyathirrqlnan
was appointed the seat .f'
of Gudmund's iri the ttoith' Gudmund
nexr to him (Lj6s. ch. z r):
honor a.rd ofeii ;;*-gir." the seat

put his

the table and said'

Lt:""
And when the tables were set' Ofeig
"How big does that fist seem to you' Gudmunor
"Big e-nough," he said'
it?" asked Ofeig'
"Do vou ,urpo" th"t" is any strength in
"i i.'ttri.,tY' do," said cudmund'
of a blow?" asked Ofeig'
"Do you tfri,'i it *"1'fa Jtliver much
"q"i,. a blow," Gudmund rePlied'
continued Ofeig'
"Do you think it *igt't d.o.1"i damage?"
answered'
nd
u
Gudlm
" Broke n b";;' ;; ;"d"athblow"'
Ofeig'
asked
to
vou?"
app.eal
end
an
"How would such
Gudmund'
said
it"'
thoot"
;";lh"i
"Not much ;;ll,';;l
plu::'
my
in
sit
don't
"Then
Ofeig said,
sat to.'one side' People had
"As you *irt,;^'uiJ GudmunJ-I"a he
portion of honor, since he
.

the greater
the imprerrio.rihrf ofeig wanteJ
;;;;;'."pied the high sJat uP to that time'

Whyshouldthisbeamatterofsuchimportancetoofeig?Itis
"*g'tr,ut
h. is the Power in the nort,hern part of

clear from tr,"

The

Social Historical

Settirtg

(i

Introduction

6o

formally
Gudmund's district, almost a kind of chieftain although
important
just
how
Gudmund,s thingman. The scene shows
so little formal
was
there
when
were
station
ind
rank
of
markers
o..ir.iaical ranking of merr. People had to negotiate their relative status at every Inshnt becausi status was such an ambiguous
that
construct. 'Ihere were no titles, no statements of net worth,
were
clarified the ambiguities. The reason seating arrangements
hours at
so important was that they rePresented, for several
men
among
least, u ,".y clear picture of the relative rankings
secure
the
Person
and women. of course, as in other contexts,
misconanyone
without
worthy
less
the
to
seat
his
up
give
could
ceivinf the significance of the gesture. There was then an irony
possibie in slating arrangements. But this only und_erscores
the importance oi the information they conveyed. Consider
cowThorvard's cutting wit directed at the double-dealing and
and
spirits
good
in
ardly Hrafn: "Ho"skuld Thorvardsson was
acseating
the
'shall
I arrange
did the honors. 'Father,' he said,
me,'
to
next
seated
be
cording to status or prowess?''Hrafn shall
he answered" (Lj6.s. ch. z5)'
the risk
Feasts could U" au.rg."ious business. The host ran
or
other
each
offend
of offending guestr, ur,t the guests could
giftand
feud
like
the host. F-easts and convivial conversation,
nature of
exchange, put honor on the line. The competitive
wants
Thorstein
foreman
these .,u..rti is the reason Gudmund's
my
for
out
set
to
"I'm
ready
Gudmund to attend his wedding:
me
do
would
that
for
me,
wedding. I want to ask you to go with
than
alone
in
you
honor
There is more
the greitest honor
i., m"urry others, and I will be taken tightly if you are not there"
(Ljds..h. ,3). This same feast giv-es ui a view of other kinds of
pioto.ol uid .o*petition u.d the jockeying for position .invglved in such things as the significance of priority in being
sct'ved (ibid.):
over her
A wotrt:rtt ltrought water to the end bench and had a towel her the
with
stayed
had
she
because
Ceirlaug

sltottltlet';
';rr..rtt".";li;
previotts wittter.
..yog t1e:t. well," said Geirlaug, "but you are, not acting thoughtfully
it should be'"
enough. ()ller. the water to Thdrlaug hrst-that's how
She did as she was tolcl.

hand:
Thorlaus ,rruJ. a <lismissive gesture with the back of her
right
the
is
doing
woman
()eirlaug,"because
this
pr, y.rrrr.lt ..rt,

,,Don't

that tlrt't'r' is :r
thins. lt didn't occur to me to resent this. Can it be said
in the district than You?"
fineiwoman
'^^
tt is appr-opll1:l:"1'l:::;
tf,. n"spitality is your due, Thorlaug'
except lll llly
standing to L" most honored. I am in no way your equal
marriage."

of sincerity
The coldness of the conversation, the pro forma lack
to each
give
they
in the concessions, and the hollow compliments
use of
excessive
the
other are made clear by, among other tirings,
Geirlaug
toward
each other's name. The servan* good intentions
*.r. grounds for offense, which-in fact is exactly *13, Geirlaug
the servant hadn't offended her,
-"u.rf to give Thorlaug in case
Thorlau*, on
Uy r.-ird"irrg her she siould have been offended.

that it
her side, reveals her awareness of the slight by denying
with
servant
the
justify
martered to her and by her attempt to
status'
mistress's
an unfelt assessment of the servant's former
groundwork
Geirlaug then escalates the hostilities by laying the
motion.
in
feud
for the insult of Gudmund that sets ttre
within broad classifications of people-househt>lder, chief11ne f r6m
tain, servant-there was not much 1[a1 dill'ereptiated
'['here
ac:tivities'
another. All were involvecl in sirrrilar-e(:olt()Illic.
were
was little specialization tl['latlor. As it cotlsequeltce People
()Ile
alltlve
notch
thern
raised
u".y j"ulorm of those markels th:rt
s. that the
their'peers. They guardecl them with care, so much
than
to
freezing
risk
mild-mannered noaru, would rather
{e^ath
the
from
of
instead
servant
a
accept an offer of hospitality from

headofhousehold(VLch.,o).o"theotherhand,people*:'.
too far
envious of those who threatened to raise themselves

the very hostility


above their peers. The rise of someone elicited
social arranseas
long
so
And
sought to bring him down.

which

control great
ments and modes of [roduction made it difficult to
work'
usually
would
mechanism
quanriries of wealth, this leveling

-ih.

irrr,rlt of Gudmund was part of the leveling process.


perhaps Ljdsuetninga saga iiself should also be seen as part of
and
the leveling; the ,ufu 3olrrs forces with Thorir Helgason
-fhorkel Hake i., tryi".rg"to knock Gudmund down a peg.^It is disfunction
tinctly on the side of p".opl. who know their limits and

and
well within them. Honor resides i' thingmen, like ofeig
a
makes
It
chieftain'
their
of
Einar Arnorsson, at the expense
dewho
overreach,
not
does
who
hero of Thorv ard, achieftain

6z

Introduction

fends his honor, but does not use honor as an excuse for acquiring more power than is fitting. He, unlike Gudmund, does not
ride roughshod over people's rights. Even a debt-slave looks
good in the saga. But the saga is also honest about the failings of
the leveling mechanisms. Gudmund is able to survive the insult
and is even able to use it as an excuse for eliminating the few
countervailing loci of power still opposed to him in the district.
As we have noted earlier, exchanges of honor depended on the
potential equality of the players in the game; without a basic
egalitarianism within the group competing for honor, there was
no chance to play the game. Gudmund was almost in a different
league. The saga, admittedly quite hostile to him, suggesrs thar
his power was unnatural, because divorced from honor. But
Ljdsuetninga saga tells the story from the losers' perspective and
we need to take its view of Gudmund with a grain of salt. And
whether its picture of him or the more favorable one of VallaLjdts saga is the true one will be forever lost to us. What we have,
however, are two sagas with distinctly different views about the
relation of chieftainly power to honor. Ljdsuetninga saga quite astutely recognizes that at some point great differences in power
change the rules of the honor game, who is eligible to play in it,
even the content of honor itself. Valla-Ljbts saga avords the issue
by keeping Gudmund's power well within the egalitarian assumptions of the game: egalitarian, that is, as among the members of the chieftain class so favored by the saga. To get a sense
of how differently the two sagas treat honor among nonchieftains, we have only to consider the contrasting characterizations

of Halli and Ofeig, two farmers who try to carve out a niche for
themselves independent of the chieftains around them. Does
Halli do anything more grievous to Ljot than Ofeig does to
Gudmund when he visits him with thirty men or when he backs
him out of the high seat by forcing Gudmund to contemplate
ttre force of his fist?

The Literary Setting


*

Many of the literary problems pertaining to the lcelandic family


in terms of the genre as a whole. We
do not, however, propose to offer a general introduction because
sagas can only be discussed

such introductions are readily available (for example, Clover


rg84; Schach rg8+). Scholarly readers may refer particularly to
Clover's The Medieual Saga (rg8z) and her review of recent research (in Clover and Lindow rgSS).The approach here is more
illustrative, based as it is on just two sagas. Our hope is that the
questions raised by these sagas will serve to exemplify the broader

in a manageable compass.
One area is not touched on, that of manuscript study. We have
simply used the texts as they are presented in islenzk Firrnrit,
although there are particularly complex problems in the transmission of Ljdsuetninga saga. These are under study by Professor
issues

I'atricia Conroy of the University of Washington, who is preparing a new edition of the C text. There remain the traditional
philological problems having to do with the choice of redaction,
rlating and location of original texts, sources, literary influences,
rnode of composition, and interpretation of meaning. We will
work through the problems in more or less that order. The extent to which we differ from our predecessors will showjust how
rrncertain our solutions are and how much remains to be done
cven in the most fundamental matters.

64

Introduction

The Texts
The transmission of Valla-Lj1ts saga is unsatisfactory but uncomplicated. It is found only in paper manuscripts from the seventeenth century or later. According to the most recent editor,
J6nas Kristj6nsson (r956: cvii), all the extant copies can be traced

to two transcripts from the seventeenth century, AM 496, 4'",


copied for Bishop Thorl6k Skirlason around 164o and hence
called Thorl6ksb6k, and AM r6r, fol., copied byJon Erlendsson
and known as J6nsb6k. J6nas Kristjdnsson argues that both
Thorl6ksb6k (Tft) and J6nsb6k (/) were copied from a common
exemplar, which, judging from corrupt readings in the copies,
must itself have been deficient. He points out, for example, that
Valla-Ljot's father is named Alf in Th and Bersi in./, indicating
that the common exemplar was illegible at this point. The correct name, according to Landnd,mabdh and Suarfdala saga, was
Ljotolf. Such defects are not, however, sufficient to cast. doubt on
the substance of the narrative.
Ljdsaetninga saga is quite a different matter. It survives in a variety of late copies and in fragments of two medieval parchments
(Kilund r88g-g4: I r2r-22,712-13; Erichsen rgrg: g-18;
Bjorn Sigfrisson rg4o: lvii-lx; Mager@y r956: 8- t7.) The two
fragmentary parchments represent two substantially different
versions of the same saga. These versions are referred to as A
and C. A is preserved on ten leaves of the fragmentary parchment AM 56t,4'from ca. r4oo. C survives on three leaves
of the fifteenth-century manuscript AM r6zc, fol., but also in
paper manuscripts from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which allow a full reconstruction of C.
A and C are in close agreement in chapters t -4 and may be
edited as a single text for that stretch. In the middle of chapter 4
there is a lacuna in A after the words "Now there is no point
in drawing this out any longer" (p. ,gz). The A text does not
pick up again until chapter r3 during the conversation between
Gudmund the Powerful and Einar Konalsson (P. r68). The missing portion of A seems to have amounted to only two leaves in
AM 561,4"'.It must therefore have included only the end of
chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 13, and cannot have con-

The Literary

Setting

(il-,

tained the semi-independent episodes that make up chaptt:r's


b-12 in the C version. When A resumes in chapter r3, it deviates extensively from C and must be printed as a separate text. A
and C run roughly parallel from p. 168 to the point in chapter
r6 where Thorir Helgason announces that he intends to challenge Gudmund's brother Einar to a duel (p. r8z). Here there
is another lacuna in A up to the point in chapter r 8 where
Gudmund encounters the rascal Thorbjorn (A: Thorstein) Rindil
(p. ,82). A breaks off completely toward the end of chapter r8
with the sentence "He took two stones and put them on the wall
and left the door unlatched" (p. lgl).
Bjorn Sigfiisson printed the A and C texts on the same pages,
A above and C below. This arrangement was intended for easy
comparison, but the versions differ in sequence as well as wording, so that the comparison is not greatly facilitated. We have
therefore printed the A text as an appendix. A full sense of the
A version may be had by reading chapters r -4 in our main text,
then the story of Gudmund's slandering at the beginning of
chapter r3 in the main text (up to p. 168), then the text in the
appendix (filling in the final lacuna from pp.r8r-8| of the
main text). An exact comparison is too complex to carry ()ut
here, but the most important differences are listed [rel<>w.
Among the family sagas, Lj6suetninga saga is the only instance
of such a doublet transmission. There are a f'ew other czrses of
differing redactions (Bandarnanna saga, GLsla sogo, Eirths saga
rauda), but the differences in these cases c:rn be understood in
terms of editorial abridgment. The versions of' Ij1suetninga saga
have proved much more difficult to reconcile with each other.
This difficulty explains why the scholarly literature on the saga
has been preoccupied almost exclusively with the textual problems. It may also explain why the saga has not been translated
into English since the partial translation by Gudbrandur Vigfiisson (rgob), for the translator must first decide which version has
precedence.

In this matter we have reached the opposite conclusion from


Bjorn Sigfrisson, who produced the standard edition, in islenzk
Fornrit (rg4o), and Hallvard Mager/y, who carried out the fullest comparison of the two texts (rgS6). We have opted against
the shorter redaction, traditionally designated A, and for thc

66

Introduction

longer redaction, traditionally designated C (on these designations see Gudmundur Dorldksson r88o: xxiv-xxv, and B. M.
6lse, rSBo-8 r: 267). Whereas Bjorn Sigfrisson printed the A
fragments at the top of the page, with the corrsponding C text
below and the three pattir (episodic stories), preserved only in
the C branch, as an appendix, we have presented C, including
the pattir (chs. b- r2), as the main text and have relegated the A
fragment to an appendix.
A detailed analysis would require too much space (Mager@y's
runs to ninety-nine pages), but the alternatives may be outlined
briefly. Adolfine Erichsen was the first to explore the problem
carefully in her Berlin dissertation in rgrg. She argued that the
C text was superior to A and suggested either that the A scribe
had a defective copy of the text and filled it in from oral tradition, or that he was dissatisfied with the version before him
and altered it accordingly. Her view prevailed until tgy7, when
Bjorn Sigfrisson published a monograph arguing that C was a
deliberate but clumsy recasting of A intended to rectify somewhat the negative image of the chieftain Gudmund in A. This
thesis underlies his choice of A as the primary version in his
edition of rg4o. It was further strengthened by Magerfiy's thorough comparison of rgb6. Mager@y also concluded that A was
the superior text, but he disagreed with Bjorn Sigfiisson's explanation that C is an attempt to vindicate Gudmund. He argued
instead that the revision in C is simply inspired by a wish ro expand the dimensions of the story.
A few years later I reversed this idea and maintained that A
was a clumsy abridgment of C (Andersson 1964: 15o-65). Finally, Cecilia Borggreve (rg7o: 48-46) accepted my principle
of abridgment but argued for a more positive view of the work
done by the A redactor. This seesaw debate scarcely allows us to
speak of a consensus, but it may be pointed out that abridgment
is a well-documented tendency in medieval saga editing. It has
beerr rlemonstrated for Oldfs saga helga and Egils sagaby Sigurdur
N<rrdal (rgr4, and Egik saga lxxxii-lxxxvii), fbr Eirtks sagarauda
by Sven B. F. Jansson (ry44), for Bandam,anna saga by Hallvard
Mager/y (rgb7), and for Gtsla saga by Gudni Kolbeinsson and
J6nas Kristjdnsson (rgZg) and by Alfred Jakobsen (rg8za,
r98zb).

The Literary

Setting '

,r,

But whereas the abbreviation in these sagas is generally stylistic in nature and does not affect the content of the story, there
are real factual discrepancies between the A and C versions of'
Lj6saetninga saga. There is unfortunately relatively little of the A
redaction available for comparison, only two fragments with a
gap in the middle. The surviving text covers Gudmund the
Powerful's outlawing of Thorir Akraskegg, his exiling of Thorir
Helgason (with the conclusion missing in the gap), and most of
his plot against Thorkel Hake (roughly chapters r4 through r8
in our translation of C). But even in this limited text the differences are extensive. A sample follows.
r. A specifies that the money collected by Gudmund in his
petty cases against Thorir Helgason's thingmen is to be used
eventually to defray compensation for Thorkel Hake. It appears
either that C has omitted a detail from the original or that A has
made explicit what was only implicit in the original.
z. Only in A does Einar Konalsson urse (ltrdmund to keep
the plan for collecting petty fines to hinrself'.
3. A specifies that the petty cases involve<l h:rve lo rkr with 1laternity suits, the unsanctioned riding ol'other nlen's horses, lrn<l
similar matters.
4. A states explicitly that "it now became apparent to every()ne
how much Thorir [Helgason] was losing face because he couldn't
protect his thingmen. His failure to protect them earned him
great dishonor." C has nothing equivalent. here, although Thorir
Akraskegg later chides Thorir Helgason because (ch. r4) "There
isn't much help to be expected from you; it always turns out that
you knuckle under to Gudmund."
g. Aintroduces first the Norwegian merchant Ingjald and then
the swindler Thorgils Akrakarl. C introduces first the swindler
Thorir Akraskegg and then the Norwegian merchant Helgi
Arnsteinsson (Mager@y r956: 3o).
6. In C Gudmund has a long-standing acquaintanceship with
the merchant. In A they appear to have no prior acquaintanceship.
7. A states: "It was Gudmund's wont to be the first to visit
newly arrived ships. He was a wealthy man and accustomed to
setting the price of merchandise and inviting merchants to his
house." The passage is so reminiscent of Hansa-bdris saga z: t)
that it may even be inspired by Tungu-Odd's role in that sag:r:

The Literary

Introduction

68

"Odd learned of the ship's arrival; he was accustomed to go


to the markets first and Set the price on men's merchandise'"

(A slightly more remote parallel may be found in istendinga sa,ga


r5: z4o.) If this is a literary echo, and notjust a cultural commonplu.., the A redaction would be later than Hansa-bdris saga,
which is senerally dated in the last two decades of the thirteenth
century.
8. A attaches the swindler Thorgils to the farm Akrar in
Hgrgardale. C makes no mention of Akrar (Mager@y r95,6: 3z).
q.'i'n" merchant's deal with the swindler is carefully negotiated in advance in C, but is a last-minute afterthought in A.
ro. On the merchant's departure A omits mention of the
cloak that, according to C, he presents to Gudmund in return
for the winter's hospitality (Magerdy ry56: 3$.
r r. In A the meichant discovers the defects in the swindler's
merchandise before he sets sail. In C he discovers the defects at
sea and must return to land to inform Gudmund'
12. At this point C relates that Gudmund tries to neutralize
his brother Einar with the gift of a cloak (not explicitly equated
with the gift from Helgi Arnsteinsson) before taking action
against Einar's friend Thorir Helgason. In A this episode is p9:tp6.red until after Gudmund has already outlawed the swindler
ind initiated proceedings against Thorir Helgason. Scholars
have often commented on the illogical assumption in A that
Gudmund could still hoodwink his brother after his plan of ac-

tion has become clear.


ry. A narrates in the third person h<lw Gudmund summons
the swindler for deception. The swindler responds by offering
mediation with Thorii Helgason's participation, an option that
(l.udmund rejects out of hand. In C Einar arranges an elaborate observati,on of Gudmund's movements, SeeS him on his way
to <leliver the summons, and learns what has happened when
he intercepts Gudmund on his return. There is no mention of
rne<liati<ln with Thorir Helgason's participation until the thing
assemllles.

14. In lroth A and C the swindler appeals to Thorir Helgason


for irelp, but in C Thorir expresses reluctance and reproache-s
him foi his conduct. The swindler offers gifts in return for aid'

r5. At the legal proceedings in A Thorir Helgason offers

Setting

(itl

Gudmund compensation on the swindler's behalf, but is refused.


In C there is a general appeal for reconciliation, followed by
the swindler's proposal of a joint judgment by Gudmund and
Thorir Helgason, and finally a renewed offer of settlement by
the swindler and Thorir Helgason.
16. After the confiscation of the swindler's property, in A
Gudmund meets with Thorir Helgason's shepherd Odd at the
farm Skutar uphill from Thorir's farm at Laugaland. From Odd
he learns of ten goats that were turned over to Thorir Helgason
by the swindler. In C it is Gudmund's own unnamed shepherd
who discovers thirty goats with Thorir Helgason's brand.
rJ. In A Thorir Helgason appears to concede that there is a
legal problem, but in C he makes no concessions.
r8. At this point A retrieves Gudmund's visit to his brother
Einar for the purpose of forming an alliance, an episode related
earlier in C (point r2 above). On the other hand, A inserts here
the childhood anecdote, recorded later in (,', that tells how E,inar
tricked Gudmund into injuring his firster father (ti.it)rn Sigf'(rs-

z8- zglAl: Z7-38 fff ]).


rg. In A Thorkel Geitisson makes an unsuccessf'ttl :lt(elt)l)t

son rg4o:

at

mediation. In both versions'fhorir Helgason c<lnsults with F.inar'


and declares his intention to challenge Gudmund to a duel. 'l'he
conversation is very brief in A (four lines) but fuller in (,' (sixteen
lines). In C Einar surmises the real reason for Gudmund's implacable hostility, but Thorir claims to have spread no more
gossip than others. Following this scene there is a lacuna in A
covering the legal maneuvers leading up to 'fhorir Helgason's
banishment.

zo. A recounts how Gudmund hired an outlaw named Thorstein Rindil before the conclusion of the thing meeting, then accounts for Thorir Helgason's three years of exile. C reverses the
order and provides a much more elaborate version of Rindil's
hiring; Rindil (here named Thorbjorn rather than Thorstein) is
instructed to travel north and pretend to look for work, but not
to accept any offers until he meets with Gudmund. In C he is not
described as an outlaw.

r. Gudmund

communicates his plot against Thorkel Hake


to Rindil in much the same terms in A and C, but there are di{ferences in phrasing throughout.
z

The Literary

Introduction

7o

zz. Rindil gains access to Thorkel's house in the

same way in

A and C, but C emphasizes the suspicions of Thorkel's wife more

fully.
Bjorn Sigfiisson's arguments for the primacy of A (tgZZ) were
coniested by Andersson (r964), who argued that A is an abridgment. The abridgment thesis was accepted by Borggreve (r97o)
and need not be repeated here. Knut Liest/l (r93o: +8-f g) once
the<lrized that A and C are recordings of two independent oral
traditions, but all later scholars (Bjorn Sigfrisson, Mager/Y, Andersson, Borggreve) agree that the verbal correspondences are
so extensive that they must derive from a common written version. If C is primary and A a literary abridgment, the deviations
require some explanation.
i'n. a redactor seems not to have been interested in the
elaborate account of Thorir Akraskegg's outlawry. He therefore
skipped over this episode quickly so as to get on to Gudmund's
more momentous dealings with Thorir Helgason, an ally of the
Ljosvetnings, and the Ljosvetning Thorkel Hake. The saga is
u[t.. all primarily about the Ljosvetnings, and the ne'er-do-well
Thorir Akraskegg has little importance in this context other
than as a catalyst. The reduction of his role leads redactor A to
omit the episode in which Gudmund woos his brother Einar
with a cloak, but because of the importance of the fraternal relationship it became necessary to retrieve this incident later on.
Abridgment is not, however, a totally adequate explanation of
the diffeiences between A and C. The most persistent obstacle to
this simple solution has been the discrepancy in proper names:

AC
Akrakarl
Ingfald
Thorstein Rindil

Thorgils

Thorir Akraskegg
Helgi Arnsteinsson

Thorbjorn Rindil

If'redactor A was simply reworking C, there is no apparent rea-

It has been suggested (Mager@y


1956: 8r-82) that the differences are attributable to copying

son firr him to alter the names.

changes, not random misreadings. I['redactor A changed the names, he did so because he
had different information; he believed that the swindler's name
was Thorgils, not Thorir, and that the merchant's name was Ing-

.i-.t, tiut they are in fact consistent

Setting

jald, not Helgi Arnsteinsson. He must therefore have ha<l solrrt.


additional source of information, and that source is perhalls
suggested in Thorgils' nickname "Akrakarl."
The name Akrakarl is taken from the farm Akrar in Horgardale, a place not mentioned in C (Mager{y r956: 3z). Redactor
A was thus able not only to name the swindler but to locate him
as well. The location in Horgardale accords well with redactor
A's well-attested familiarity with this area. He tells us that
Gudmund learned of the goats in Thorir Helgason's possession
not at the court of confiscation but from Thorir Helgason's shepherd Odd (not mentioned in C) at the farm Skutar (Skuta in the
MS) uphill from Thorir Helgason's farm Laugaland at the bottom of Horgardale. Redactor A also knows that the goats were
kept at a place called Stedi prior to the confiscation.
This is not all fictional information, because the otherwise unknown farm Akrar is listed in a monastic land resister from
1447 as an abandoned farm (Mager@y r956: 3z). 'fhe details in
A are therefore likely to be genuine and to reflect local tradition
in Horgardale. This was the neighborhood of the I,josvetninu
ally Thorir Helgason and a probable location of living traditions
about him and his dealings with Gudmund the Powerful. It is
possible that redactor A reconsulted these traditions in the course

of his revision and found out that people around Laugaland,


perhaps even Thorir Helgason's descendants, remembered the
merchant's name as Ingjald and the swindler's name as Thorgils
from the local farm Akrar. They could also have remembered
that their hero was betrayed to Gudmund by a shepherd named
Odd. Heroes often benefit from legends of treachery that mitigate their defeats. The A redaction may therefore originate in a
combination of abridgment with a particular oikotype of the tra-

dition about Gudmund and the Horgardalers.


When such a revision might have been carried out is hard to
tell. I have suggested (point 7 above) a detail in A that could have
been inspired by Hansa-b6ris saga. If the late dating of HunsaDdris saga is correct, that would place the composition of A at the
end of the thirteenth century, but it could hardly be much later
if we assume that the redactor could still draw on living traditions in the Horgardale region and cast them in classical sag:r
style.

It
4<)

The Literary Setting

Introduction

7:t

apart by an emphasis on Gudmund's wealth, a lyrical illrrrrrirr:rtion of the lovers, and a distinctly hypotacric style (r9rg: tlz). Slrt'

The most conspicuous difference between A and C remains


to be discussed. Redaction C contains three quasi-independent
pattir (episodic stories) about Gudmund's dealings that appear
as chapters 5- tz in this translation. It appears that these pattir
were not included in A. We cannot be altogether certain because
their position in C is equivalent to the lacuna in the A parchment. 'I'he extent of that lacuna, however, appears to be only
tw<> leaves missing from the middle of a normal eight-leaf gath-

also tried to show that the second and third pattir have speci:rl
stylistic, lexical, and narrative features in common. These observations lead to the surmise that all three pettir were perhaps inserted to provide a fuller biography of Gudmund or to account

for the time lapse between the first chapters and Gudmund's
later dealings.
It is by no means clear that the pattir are an interpolation, especially if, as we believe, C is the original redaction. The argument that they are not essential to the plot takes a narrow view of
narrative pertinence. It stipulates that they should flow causally
from Gudmund's dealings with Thorgeir's sons and into his

erinq (Gudbrandur Vigfiisson 1878: lvi; Vigfiisson and Powell


rqo6: 247-+8; B. M. Olsen r88o-8r: 267-68). If only two
leaves are missing, they would not have afforded sufficient space

firr the pattir, which must therefore have been missing in A. Because the pottir do not seem altogether relevant and because redaction A has more often than not been considered primary, the

dealings with Thorir Akrask.gg, Thorir Helgason, and Thorkel


Hake, but we must bear in mind that if the pattir are removed,
there is also no causal connection between the init.ial episode involving Thorgeir's sons and the later episodes. 'l'he structure is
episodic with or without the pattir. Ftrrthernr()l'c there ure collsiderations of thematic as well as n:rrr':rtive logit:.

pattir have normally been regarded as an interpolation in C.


The first pdttr in question (ch. 5) tells the story of how Sorli
Brodd-Helgason woos Gudmund's daughter with the aid of
Thorarin Ne{olfsson, who wins over her reluctant father by appealing to his vanity. The second pd,ttr (chs. 6-7) tells how Gudmund's powerful thingman in the north, Ofeig Jarngerdarson,
intercedes on behalf of the less powerlul thingmen and persuades Gudmund to restrict his burdensome visits at their homes.
The third pd,nr (chs. 8-13) tells how Thorkel Geitisson comes
into conflict with Gudmund over the conduct of a certain VoduBrand but contrives to win the hand of Gudmund's niece notwithstanding. The pattir have in common not only that they are
about Gudmund but more specifically that they are about his
discomfiture. In each story a less powerful but more intelligent
man manages to win the advantage in potentially hostile dealings with Gudmund.
't.he idea that these pettir are a later interpolation goes back to
()rriltrrandur Vigfiisson (r878: lvi; Vigfrisson and Powell r9o5:
:\44-4|,; Mager@y r956: ro). Subsequent critics who believed in
tlrt: 1>r'irrr:rcy of redaction A, notably Bjorn Sigfiisson (rgS7:6-7,
rq4(): l-lv) and Hallvard Mager@y (r956: r r), accepted that the
pattir arc ittterpolations, but even Adolfine Erichsen, who considered (,' strperior, adhered to the interpolation theory (r9tg:
8r-87). She arsuecl that they are unrelated to the central core
of Gudmund'.s story attd can be removed without creating a gap.
She contended that the story of Sorli Brodd-Helgason is set

The theme of Part I (chs. r-2r) <>t' tj|.srtehti.rttltt .\u!!u,lrs wc


shall see further along, is a surprisinuly explicit <lenisratiorr of'
the great chieftain Gudmund. Although he technically triurnphs
over his enemies Thorir Helgason and Thorkel Hake, he is pcr-sonally shamed in the process. Such is also the theme o['thc
three pattir, in which Gudmund is consisrenrly besred. f'his was
by no means the drift of the numerous other sagas in which
Gudmund appears and which show no signs of derogation. It
was only the author of Lj1saetninga saga, writing with a strong
Ljosvetning bias, who had a decidedly negative slant on
Gudmund. The three pattir are consistent with this slant and
therefore bear the author's special signature. If they were
gathered from living tradition, as is usually assumed, they were

adjusted to the Ljosvetning bias. If they were largely invented, as


Bjorn Sigfiisson supposed (rg4o: lii), they were conceived either
by the author or by someone whose point of view was interchangeable with the author's.
There is also textual evidence that the three pattir were original in Ljdsuetninga saga. Bjorn Sigfrisson (rg4o: xlviii-l) pointed
out almost certain evidence that the author of l{jdk saga knew
Ljbsuetninga saga and the pattir of the C redaction as well. This

_1

Introduction

The Literary Setting

observation can be phrased a little more emphatically: It appears

ancient period; r8bb), he distinguished between two pt:r'iorls:


87o-g3o (the period of Iceland's colonization) and g3o- r()1f()
(the saga Ag.). The saga Age was so named because it was dur'ing this period that most of the evenrs described in the fanrily
sagas took place, with the preponderance of the narrative falling
in the latter half of the period, g8o- ro3o. The distinction is not
quite so neat as this scheme suggests, because a number of sagas
hark back to the colonial period (at least genealogically), and

74

that the author of Njdk saga knew Ljdsuetninga saga in a form


that already contained the pottir. So much is suggested by the
following passage in Njd,k saga (r r3: zB5):
Gudmundr var hgfdingi mikill ok audigr; hann hafdi hundrad hj6na.
Hann sat yfir virdingu allra hgfdingja fyrir nordan @xnadalsheidi, . . .
(Gudmund was a great and wealthy chieftain; he had a hundred members of his household. He lorded it over all the chieftains to the north of
Oxdaleheath, . .

.)

This passage echoes two separate passages in Lj1suetninga


the first from Sgrla pdttr (Bjorn Sigfiisson rg4o: rog):

saga,

Hann [Gudmundr] hafdi hundrad hj6na ok hundrad kria.


(He [Gudmund] had a hundred members of his household and a hun-

dred cows.)

The second part of the passage in Njdk sagais from chapter r3


of Ljdsuetninga saga (Bjorn Sigfiisson rg4o: 16):
Gudmundr sat mjgk yfir metordum manna nordr par.
(Gudmund lorded it over men there in the north.)

In other words, the author of llljd,k sagatakes half his phrasing


from C (A has a lacuna here) and half from a pdttr.It is of course
possible that he drew from C and the pdttr separately, but it
seems simpler to assume that he was using the C version inclusive of the pettir. This assumption implies rhar a C text of
Lj1suetninga saga with the pattir existed ar rhe end of the thirteenth century. The A redaction could still be anrerior, but it
seems in any event likely that the C text as we have it was established in the saga-writing age. Any interpolation rhar occurred
was carried out so early and so much in the author's spirit that it
seems immaterial whether it was done by the author or by someone in the same circle a few years after the composition of the
first version.

Chronology and Dating


When Gudbrandur Vigfrisson studied the chronology of the
in his fundamental treatise (/m tirnatal i istend,inga sdgum I
forndld (On the chronology of the sagas of Icelanders in the
sagas

some extend beyond ro3o. Although the action

7lt

of

Vatta-Ljfits

saga concludes before 1025 (the date of Gudmund's death),


Lj1saetninga saga tells the story of Gudmund's sons and ihcludes

tobo- ro66.
Readers not familiar with the sagas may wonder how we are
able to ascertain any absolute dates at all from the Saga Age since
the family sagas do not register absolure dates. rnelrrrJnology
hinges on a few events dated by Icelandic or non-Icelandic historical documents. The following are a sample:
events from as late as

gg5 the accession of Olaf Tryggvason in Norway


rooo the conversion of Iceland to Christianity
ror4 the Battle of Clontarf in Ireland
ror5 the accession of Olaf Haraldsson in Norway
roz8 the Battle of Stiklarstadir in Norway
ro3o the death of Olaf Haraldsson
ro35 the death of Cnut the Great of Denmark
ro66 the fall of Harald Sigurdarson ar rhe Battle of
Stamford Bridge in England
These and other approximately datable events are mentioned
frequently in the sagas and thus provide a chronological skeleton. Characters and events are commonly assigned to the reigns
of known Norwegian monarchs, who can in turn be related to
the fuller historical chronology of England. Although the sagas
avoid absolute dates, they often engage in relative dating, indicating how many years passed between two events. A further aid is
the mention of the same character or event in several different
sagas, so that dates can be deduced not only from the sequence
of events in a single saga but also from comparison with other
sagas. Gudmund the Powerful's death date cannot be calculated
from Lj1suetninga saga, but it is also menrioned in Heimskringkt,
(II r zg: zzo) and can be fixed in relation ro rhe reign of Kirrg
olaf Haraldsson. This sort of comparative dating sometinr(.s r'('-

76

Introduction

sults in approximate corroboration but can also produce important discrepancies. The saga authors clearly knew something

about historical chronoloey-the first Icelandic historian, Ari


Thorgilsson, writing ca. r r30, gives exact dates-but attaching
quasi-histr>rical and genealogical traditions to this chronology
was an inexact science.
Li1suetninga saga provides a good sample of the difficulties. We
may begin with the evidence compiled by Gudbrandur Vigfrisson (r8ff : 485-89). The first episode in the saga recounts a
quarrel between the lawspeaker Thorgeir and his sons. According to Ari Thorgilsson, Thorgeir held the office of lawspeaker
from 985 to rool. The saga also informs us that the quarrel occurred during the reign of Earl Hakon. Hakon died in gg5. The
time frame for Thorgeir's dispute with his sons is thus 985-995,
although it should be borne in mind that the saga author could
have guessed at the wrong Norwegian monarch.
This episode is followed by the three pettir centering on
Gudmund's dealings with Sorli Brodd-Helgason, Ofeig Jarngerdarson, and Thorkel Geitisson. Gudbrandur Vigffisson arrived
at an approximate date fbr Sorli's marriage to Gudmund's
daughter Thordis by exploring the chronology of Vd,pnf,rdinga
saga, in which Sorli's family plays an important part (1855:
4ob-7).Vdpnfirdinga saga culminates in a battle in Bodvarsdale
about g8g, but no mention is made of Sorli in connection with
the battle. We may therefore theorize that he was too young to
be involved and was probably not marriageable until around the
year rooo.
There are no chronological indications in the story of
Gudmund's first encounter with OfeigJarngerdarson, although
Gudbrandur Vigfiisson expresses his faith that it stands in the
right chronological sequence. Gudmund's negotiations with
'l'h<lrkel Geitisson are subject to rather complicated consideratiorrs. Vd,pnfirdinga saga relates that Gudmund was already involvcd in dealings with Thorkel's father Geitir, but Gudbrandur
Viglfisson rejects this idea as chronologically impossible (r855:
4ob). He calculates that Gudmund's brother Einar would have
been too young to have an adult daughter married to Thorkel
before about rooo.
These calculations would tend to place all three pattir around

The Literary

Setting

77

looo. There is, however, no way of arguing that they are t<ll<l irr
the right chronological order, although the author may have lrt:lieved they were. on the other hand, his main consideration nray
have been that all four opening episodes are paradigmatic. They
all illustrate defects in Gudmund's personality: acquisitiveness,
vanity, arrogance, and personal cowardice.
Whatever the exact dates of these events, Gudbrandur Vigfrisson was satisfied that they preceded Gudmund's actions
against Thorir Helgason and Thorkel Hake. He deduced from
the chronology of I''ljdk saga that Thorir and Thorkel had circulated their charge of homosexuality against Gudmund before
ror r and that Gudmund had taken no vengeance by that date.
Here a major difficulty arises. Accordin g to Ljbsuetninga saga,
Gudmund effected the first stage of his revenge by prosecuring
Thorir Helgason at the Allthing, presumably after lol l. Part of
Thorir's defense was a plan to challenee Gudmund to a duel at
the Allthing, but the chronology of Gunnl,oug.\ su,go, ( r r: q5) indicates that such duels were banned in r oo6 (or perhilps r o<17).
Gudbrandur Vigfiisson was incline<l to <listnrst Ourntkrug.\ .\uga
and prefer the account in Ljdsuetrilngu,.\ot!o, lltrt there :rre several
possibilities.

Thorir's plan to challenge Gudmund, and Vigfus VigaGlumsson's counterchallenge, neither of which comes to fruition,
could easily be fictional embellishments of the tradition and have

nothing to do with historical chronology. They are designed to


ridicule Gudmund's courage and thus fit much too readily into
the author's antagonistic view of Gudmund. Even if they had a
place in oral tradition, they need not be historical. In the somewhat unlikely event that they are historical, there could also be
something wrong in the chronology of Njdk saga, and
Gudmund's prosecution of Thorir Helgason could have fallen in
the period rooo- roo5.
If the chronology of l{jdk saga is accurate, Gudmund's killing
of Thorkel Hake falls after the Allthing of rorr, bur here another difficulty arises. Gudbrandur Vigfrisson assumes thar rhe
vengeance against Thorkel was delayed until after the expiration of Thorir Helgason's three-year exile. The earliest moment
would therefore have been lolb, but Gudmund's son Halldor is
mentioned after the death of Thorkel Hake, and Halldor is al-

78

The Literary

Introduction

leged to have fallen at the Battle of Clontarf (Easter of ror4). It


,.i-, clear that we cannot get beyond approximations in which
one factor or another may be off by a number of years'
'fhe difficulties in the second generation of Lj6suetninga saga
are even greater, although the events lie closer in time to the au-

rhor. Thiy fall after the death of Gudmund in ro25, but not
soon a{ter. The Battle of Kakalahill (ch. z4) is located in the episcopate of Isleif Gizurarson after ro56, that is, more than thirty
y.i.r after Gudmund's death. But Hall Otryggsson -is said -to
iruu. gone into outlawry at the court of Harald Sigurdarson the
year before he fell in the Battle of Stamford Bridge in ro66
(ch. 3o). In that case the Battle of Kakalahill could have been as
late is ro63, thirty-eight years after Gudmund's death. Gudbrandur Vigfii*ot q.-,.ttioned whether Kodran's foster father Hlenni
would huu. survived that long, but at the time of Gudmund's
death Kodran is pictured as a youth under his older brother's
thumb and may have been only about fifteen, suggesting a birth
date of ca. toro. If his foster father was twenty-five years older,
he would have been seventy-eight in ro63, and that does not
seem impossible. On the other hand, there is an irreconcilable
Iapse when Oddi Grimsson goes to the court of King Cnul 9f
Denmark after the Battle of Kakalahill (.h.gr). Cnut died in
1035. If any such incident occurred, it would have been during
thJieign of firrg Svend Estridsen (Sveinn Ulfsson) of Denmark
(to47
'

ro7 4).

Whatevei the chronological problems, they pale beside the


difficulty of dating the composition of the sagas. We have seen
that the C redaction of Ljdsuetninga sag'a was probably known to
the autho r of I'{j(r,ts saga and must therefore belong to the thirteenth Century, but any attempt to narrow the range remains
quite doubtful. A. U. Binth ( r 88S)judged the saga to be relatively
Olsen,
frimitive in composition and close to oral tradition' B. M.
redaction
the
A
of
irn the other hand, placed the final compilation
in rhe fburteenth century and the C redaction a little later (tgg7accretion
Zg: 372).He conceived of the saga in terms of gradual
The
periods.
different
to
parts
or.t time and assigned different
was
he
sons,
Thorgeir's
with
first section, on Gudmund's dispute
about
clarity
of
lack
of
a
because
reluctant to date before 13oo
commonwealth law ( rgZT-Zg: 386). On the other hand he saw

7tt

no difficulty in dating Sgrla pd,ttr to around rz5o (ibid.). Vpi'lttaround r3oo (rgg7-gg: 382).
B. M. Olsen's hypothesis of accretion and compilation was
clearly influenced by Binth's pdur theory (discussed in the fbllowing section). It was abandoned when the pd,ttr theory fell out
of favor. Accordingly Bjorn Sigfiisson (rg4o: xlvii-l) thought in
terms of a date only for the.unified composition of the saga. He
was not swayed by B.M. Olsen's evidence of legal misunderstanding and was quite confident in a dating around r 25o or a
bit later (rg4o: I). He attached particular importance to a passage in chapter rg, in which King Harald Sigurdarson refers to
the Icelanders as mlnir pegnar ("my men" or "people").
Bjorn Sigfiisson found such a locution impossible before the
period during which the Norwegian king Hakon the Old (d.
r 263) had begun in earnest to impose his claim on Iceland. He
mentions in particular (rg4o: xlviii) the year 1266, in which
many northerners submitted to Kins Hakr>n (.frin.f(rhunnesson
rg74: 27o). On the other hand, he provides ;t notc trt tttt: I)ilssilgo
in question (g7 n. +) pointinu out that lltt: s;ttttt: pltt':tst: ()(:(:ltl's
in Gtsk pd,ttr lllugasonar (4: 367). Flere .fon ()gtttttrt<lrtt'sott rt<ldresses King Magnus Olafsson (d. r ro'4) with tlte wttt'<ls: "Sit't',
we are just as much your menlpinir pegriarl as those wlro livt: irr
this country." Such a sentiment was apparently I'elt to be qtritt:
appropriate in the commonwealth period, presumably because
Icelandic service at the Norwegian court was a long-standing
tradition. There was nothing new about a special relationship
between the Icelanders and the Norwegian court. Gtsk pd,ttr
Illugasonar was written early in the thirteenth century (LouisJensen ry77: r I r - zz), and the designation of the lcelanders as
the "thanes" of the Norwegian king implies nothing about the
later potential subjection of Iceland.
Jonna Louis-Jensen ( ry77: r l r -zz) traced the extant versions
of Gtsk pdttr to a lost *Gtsls saga. Since one of the extant texts is
attributed to Gunnlaugr Leifsson (d. r z r8), the lost original cannot be dated much later than around l2oo. We will see that in
fact the few hints of literary culture in Lj6suetninga saga tend to
associate it with early tqxts.
One of the two most palpable literary loans in Lj1suetninga saga
is from the kings' sagas. It occurs at the end of chapter 3o when
Brands pdttr is again dated

Setting

.i

8o

Introduction

the Modrvelling Thormod Asgeirsson takes revenge against


Hall Otryggsson fbr the killing of Kodran. This incident is told
notably in Morkinshinna and Heimshringla, and since it appears
afterthought in Lj1saetninga saga, it seems
likely to be borrowed. There are verbal correspondences with
both Morhinshinna and Heimskringla. Bj6rn Sigfiisson (tg4o:
xxxiv) interpreted them to mean that the author of Lj6suetninga
.srzg'rz used both. This is, however, a complicated procedure, and
an alternative explanation (1g4o: xxxvii) seems preferable. The
author <tf I,i|suetninga sa,ga may have referred to the underlying
account in'the fragmeniary Hd,konar saga iuorttoror, on which
tlre passages in both Morkinshinna and Heimskringla are probably
based. It seems rather more likely that an author might have remembered the incident from a relatively restricted saga than
from the large compilations in Morkinskinna and Heimskringla.
'fhere is in any event no compelling reason to assume knowledge of Heimshringla, a text that would have made the consultation of the earlier Morkinskinna unnecessary to an author who
clearly had no interest in the precise comparison of variant versions. Heimskringla is customarily dated 1225- 1235 and Morhinskinna ca. r zzo. Hd,honar saga irotttonor would be a little earlier still. These literary antecedents thus belong to the beginning
of the century.
Another part of the epilogue to Lj6suetninga sl,ga on the quarrel between Oddi Grimsson's son Gudmund and Bishop Ketil
Thorsteinsson (ch. 3r) borrows a passage from Porgik saga ok
Haflida (zg: 47 -48). In the latrer Bishop Ketil enters Haflidi's
booth and urges him to make peace with Thorgils by relating an
exemplary incident from his own life:

only

as a disconnected

We grew up in Eyja{ord and were thought to be promising. I made- a


,,r,,rii^ge t6at was considered to be distinguished wilh Gro1, the daughlcr'ol'liishop Gizur. But people said that she was unfaithful. I took such
t:rlk lrnriss, liut when the matler was put to the test, the tests turned out
l:rvor';rlrly.
I wirs irrlnet.heless displeased with the rumors that got about, and for
th:rt re:rsorr I considered the man my enemy. One time when we met on
he
the opcn r'o:r<1, set on him and wanted to inflict a1 injulY,

.but

avoidid the blow and got the upper hand. Then he drew a knife and
thrust it in rny eye, and I lost the sight of the eye. After that he let me
up-it was (iudrnund Grimsson.

The Literary

Setting

l'l

And this was an unlikely outcome in my view because I ha<l twit:t' lris
strength, and I thought that I would have the same advantage in otlrt'r'
respects as well. I wanted to get clear-cut revenge with the help ol'rrry
kinsmen and outlaw him. We prepared the case accordingly, but thert:
were some powerful men on his side to help him, and my prosecutiott
came to naught.
This time it may turn out that there are men to help Thorgils even
though your cause is juster. At that point they offered money to settle
the case. But I considered what had happened to me and what a bad
turn everything had taken, and I declined compensation. I saw then
that the only recourse was to entrust the case to God's mercy, because
up until then my honor had gone from bad to worse. And I said that it
was the contentiousness and arrogance of the Modrvellings that was responsible for the bitter hostility against me.
It was my feeling when I thought about my honor that the compensation would not suffice to match my reputation. I therefore relinquished
the case against him for the sake of God. I knew that my reward would
be what was best for me. Then I invited him to stay with me, and he did
so for a long time thereafter. The gossip took a turl) Ior the better and
likewise the estimation of those involved. From then otr rny goo<l firrtune and hon6r were better than be[<rre. Att<l trow ltet:<l wlutlevel' y()r.r
think useful in my words.
Several sentences in the short acc()un[ at the etrcl
saga echo this exemplum:

<lf' l,j6.wcl'ruirt,ut,

r. "They met on the open road, and Ketil attacked hitn."


2. "Gudmund got the upper hand and put out his eye."
3. "Ketil wanted to prosecute him, but there were people to
quash the case so that he got nothing but more dishonor."
4. "From then on everything turned to Ketil's honor."
There is thus no doubt that the author of Ljfsuetninga saga
had Porgik saga ok Hafl.ida in front of him. The impact of this
model may have been more than incidental. When Ketil says,
"And I said that it was the contentiousness and arrogance of the
Modrvellings that was responsible for the bitter hostility against
me," we are reminded only too plainly of the anti-Modrvelling
bias in Lj6suetninga saga. The author goes to great lengths to illus-

trate the "contentiousness and arrogance" of the Modrvellings


for the Saga Age as well as the early twelfth century, the time in
which Dorgik saga oh Hafl,ida is set. Bishop Ketil's comment on the
Modrvellings may well have abetted him in his project.
The exemplum in Dorgik saga may also have inspired him ttr
credit the Ljosvetnings with Christian conciliatoriness. When

8z

Tie Literary

Introduction

saga.

If there were a firm dating fot Dorgik saga oh Haflida, we


would at least have a terminus post quem for Lj6suetninga saga,buL
the estimates have ranged all the way from an unlikely r 16o to
tzZT (Sturlunga saga 1946: xxiv-xxv). The general stylistic indices point to a relatively early date (Brown l95z: ix-xxix), so

Thorvard Thorgeirsson seems to be identifiable as a man who


is well known from Sturlu saga, Prestssaga Gudmundar gdda, and
Gudmundar saga djra.
The chief source is Prestssaga Gudmundar gdda, ( r - 5: r r 6- z 5),
from which we learn that at the age of eighteen (in r r58) Thorvard avenged himself against a man in Bergen and became

Haflida cannot in any event be used to argue a

Iate date for Ljdsuetninga saga.


In the absence of adequate positive evidence, it may be permissible to resort to negative evidence. Where exactly redaction

C was written is not clear, but the very laudatory treatment


of Ofeig Jarngerdarson at Skord would seem to place it in the
vicinity of Reykjadale. Events in that district slightly antedating
those in Ljdsaetninga saga are recounted in the similarly episodic
Reykd,ela saga. Llke Lj1saetninga saga, Reykdula sag'a used to be
dated around the middle of the century, but Dietrich Hofmann
(tg7z) presented a persuasive case for a date between 1zo7 and
rz22.If that dating holds up, it will force us to reconsider our
inclination to date the family sagas as late in the thirteenth century as possible.
Ljdsaetninga saga and Reykdula saga have not only their northern location but also six characters in common: Thorgeir the
Chieftain, Arnor at Reykjahlid and his son Thorfinn, Einar
Konalsson, Ofeig Jarngerdarson, and Thorkel Hake. Yet none
of' the narrative matter coincides; neither saga refers to the
ot.her or borrows from it. Given the contiguity of the two comof Ljdsuetninga saga
1r<rsiti<>ns, it seems unlikely that the author
w<rrrlrl have ignored Reyhdula saga had he been writing much
after tzzz.If Reyhdula saga is from the first quarter of the thirteerrth (.entury, there is some reason to assign Lj1suetninga saga
to the sarne early period. Such a dating would accord well with
the literary cultur. .*.-plified by Hd,konar saga ioorttonor and
borgik saga oh Haflida.

l't:t

Aside from literary echoes, the best key to the dating of'rrrt:<lieval texts is usually found in references to contemporary evettls
or figures. Such references are extremely rare in the sagas because of the practice of authorial self-effacement. There is only
one allusion to a contemporary in Lj6saetninga saga. At the end
of chapter 23 the author caps his account of how Atli's farmhand
was manhandled at Veisa with a reference to a local saying:
"Thorvard Thorgeirsson was subsequently in the habit of saying, whenever there was a ruckus, 'Let's try the Veisa grip."'This'

Thorvard refrains from returning to Iceland in chapter 3o in


order not to prolong the feud, the conclusion seems unexpected
and out of keeping with a story of unrelenting hostility, but the
author may have wished to apply the moral of Ketil's exemplum
to the saga as a whole. The conciliation at the end of Porgik saga
oh Hafiida may have stood model for the ending of Ljbsaetninga

that Porgils saga ok

Setting

'i'il'

the retainer of King Ingi Haraldsson. He later mzrrried Herdis


Sighvatsdottir, with whom he had five sons itn<l live tl:ttrghters.
In r r68 he took over the farm Hvassaf'ell (a littlc sottllt ol'Mo<lruvellir) from his father, who retired as u ll)()nk to Mttltk:tl ltvct'lt
(a little north of Modruvellir). We learn f'urtltct'(zr,: rr,r-rrz)
that he urged the episcopate on Gudntuttd Arasott, wlto t'cproached him for no previous kindness other than "tleatittg ltittt
to the books."
This information is supplemented by an episode rn Sturlu
saga (g: 7z-7d in which he is suspected in a paternity case, and
an account of hostilities in Gudmundar saga dira (z-3: r6z-66).
The paternity case is of particular interest because it involves an
ordeal and has certain similarities with the case in Ljdsaetninga
saga (Miller rg88a: 2oo). Finally, various annals (Storm r88B: 23,
62, r 22, L8z) give rzoT as the date of Thorvard's death. The
latter two entries refer to him as "monk," suggesting that, Iike
his father, he retired at Munkathvera.

A reference to what Thorvard Thorgeirsson "was subsequently in the habit of saying" is of course quite vague. His
words could have been quoted at any time during or after his
lifetime, but they scarcely seem witty enough to have survived
him by fifty or sixty years. It is easier to imagine that they were
repeated in the decade after his death while his memory was still
fresh in the region. That Thorvard was indeed alluded to in this

84

Introduction

The Literary Setting

period is confirmed by Reykdala saga (rg: 2 r3), which notes that


he had been in possession of a certain spear from the Saga Age
called Vagnsnaut. It seems doubly unlikely that both the authors
of Ljdsuetninga saga and Reyhdula saga happened to mention
a man whose activity fell in the years r 168- rzoT only many
years later. However tenuous, all the hints conspire to place

Gudbrandur Vigftisson's precision dating was predicatetl ott ;r


number of unverifiable suppositions. It presupposes that t.lrc
events described are historical and not invented or distorted by
tradition. It assumes, even if Halli's charge of a breach of holiday observance is historically true, that this occurred a few years
after the conVersion and not fifteen or twenty years later. It assumes further that the date roo6 suppliedby Gunnkrugs saga'is
accurate, although Gudbrandur Vigfrisson expressed doubts in
his discussion of Ljdsuetninga saga (r 855: +82).Finally, it assumes
that the rapid sequence of events after Halli's killing is not only
historically accurate but also that tradition preserved the sequence without adding or subtracting episodes and without expanding or telescoping the time frame. Students of the sagas no
longer have such faith, but Gudbrandur Vigfiisson's chronology
may still serve to suggest how the saga writers of the thirteenth
century may have imagined the course of events they described.
There is no convincing way o{'clating Val,l,a-l,j6t.\ .\il,4u,. l}. M.
6lse., (rgg7-gg: 39r-g2) thought tlurt he torrl<l t'strrblish un influence of Valla-Lj1ts saga <>n Bolh pdttr (scc.f<in;rs Kristirinss()n
r956: z4o; Laxdula sa,ga 87: z4r-,). I Ie rl:rtctl llol,ltt, ltrillr rttrrtuttl
rz8o, a date that thus served its a krntbt,us rttt,l,t'qu(m lor Vu,l.lrt.Ljdts sa,ga. J6nas Kristj6nsson (r956: cv-cvii) conctu'r'c<l witlr tlris
literary loan but thought he could also find an echo ot' Vrtlkt-l.i6ts
saga in Vfga-Glilms saga from the middle of the century. 'I'his led
him to date the former ca. l22o-r24o. We find the echoes in
Bolla pd,ttr and Glil,ms sag'a insuflicient to prove the case. Since no
other textual connections have been located and no topical references are available, it is impossible to arrive at either a relative
or absolute date. Valla-Lj1ts saga could have been written at ar.y
time during the thirteenth century.

Lj1suetninga saga around r zzo.

The chronological and dating indices in Valla-Ljdts saga are


less abundant and can be surveyed quickly. Chapter 2 reports

the death of Eyjolf Valgerdarson as follows: "A little later [after


he became fast friends with Hallil Eyjolf drowned in Gnupufell
River; he was buried at Modruvellir in the homefield and had
accepted preliminary baptism befbre he died." A date for Eyjolf's
baptism is providedby Kristni saga (rgo5: 6), which states that he
was primesigned by Bishop Frederick, who was in Iceland in 98 r.
Gudbrandur Vigfiisson (r855: ZgZ, 484) supposed that he was

primesigned shortly before he died and therefore placed his


death date around g85,. At this time Halli then transferred his
allegiance to Gudmund the Powerful.
Some years pass before Halli's dealings with Valla-Ljot in
Svarfadardale are narrated. We learn that "The country had recently been Christianized and Sundays had been given the sanction of law" (ch. 3). The conversion of Iceland is dated in many
sources to the year rooo, so that Halli's encounter with Valla-Ljot
must fall just a few years later. This is emphasized when Ljot
protests Halli's charge by saying, "The faith is still new."
An additional index is provided at the end of chapter 4, where
it is stated: "At that time all the dueling laws and duels themselves had been abolished." This abolition, as we have seen,
is dated roo6 (or perhaps rooT) in Gunnlaugs saga. In order
to maintain the closest possible proximity to the conversion,
Gudbrandur Vigfiisson (r855: 485) dated the killing of Halli
to the following year (roo7). From this date the rest of the action devolves rapidly. Valla-Ljot and Gudmund settle the manslaughter case at the Allthing the following summer in roo8. In
the winter of rooS-9 Halli's brother Bodvar and son Bersi are
killed. A short time later Gudmund fails in his attempt to ambush
Valla-Ljot and loses his spear. The final settlement is reached at
the Allthing in the summer of roro.

llr,

Characters and Composition

One hundred and twenty-five named characters figure in


Of these, seven are major figures well known
from other sources: Thorgeir the Chieftain, Ofeig Jarngerdarson, Gudmund the Powerful, Einar of Thvera, Thorkel Hake,
Einar Konalsson, and Eyjolf Gudmundarson. Seven others have

Ljdsuetninga saga.

86

Introduction

minor roles in Ljdsuetninga saga, but are more fully portrayed in


other sagas: Thorkel Geitisson, Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson, Bjarni
Brodd-Helgason, Vigfus Viga-Glumsson, Gellir Thorkelsson,
Skegg-Broddi Bjarnason, Grettir Asmundarson. Five characters
belong to Norwegian or Danish royalty: Earl Hakon, Harald
Sigurdarson, Earl Hakon Ivarsson, Magnus Haraldsson, Cnut
the Great. Of the remaining one hundred and six, thirty-three
are corroborated in some manner by other sources, but seventythree are named only rn Ljdsuetninga saga.
By far the most prominent character in Lj6suetninga saga, as
well as in a number of other sagas, is Gudmund the Powerful.
His genealogy appears in the first extant work of Icelandic literature, Ari Thorgilsson's Islendingab1k (27; see also Landnd,mabfik
266 n. 4). Landnd,mabfih also provides the genealogy of his wife
Thorlaug (zz8) and his mother Hallbera (zzg). He is mentioned
in thirteen other saga texts and sometimes has a considerable
role to play.
In seven sagas Gudmund merely puts in an appearance. Thus
in Heidarttga saga he acts on a mediation panel on Bardi
Gudmundarson's behalf and houses him for a winter (gS-27:
Zrb,ZrB-rg; 39: Zry). Eyrbyggja saga alludes to Heidaruiga saga
and makes reference to these events (65: r8o). Laxdula saga
mentions that Gudmund's son Halldor was among the hostages
given to Olaf Tryggvason to guarantee the Icelandic conversion
(4r: rz6) and notes Gudmund's support of Bolli Bollason (83:
236, 86: 242-4d. Fdstbrudra saga reports that Gudmund got a
half share in the compensation assessed for the killing of Thorgeir Havarsson (r8: 2rb). Grettir Asmundarson seeks refuge
with Gudmund and is advised to go to Drangey (67: zr8,69:
zzz). ln Vatnsdala saga Gudmund is induced by magic to agree
t<r a settlement of his nephew's slaying (44: r lg- zz). borsteins
.saga S[du-Hallssonar mentions Gudmund only in connection with
ir gcnealogy (7:319).
Iilsewhere Gudmund is more centrally involved. lnVtga-Gl{tms
sagahe is wounded in an attack on Viga-Glum, but the matter is
settled and a further attempt on his life fails (27-28: 93-97). In
Valla-Li1ts sagahe attempts to avenge his former thingman Halli
Sigurdarson and thereby becomes embroiled with Valla-Ljot,
with whom he must eventually settle. bdrarins pdttr notes that he

had been-u r.ru,,r.

, r::r.';'r';:r:;'jo"Jr r**rdingar,* ,,,:;

Brodd-Helgi Thorgilsson and Geitir Lytingsson attempt with


varying success to enlist his legal aid (ro- 14 44-5o). In QlhoJru
pdUr he is bested in a case involving the burning of a forest ( r - z:
8+-8g). Of particular interest in connection with Ljbsuetninga
saga is a passage in this tale in which Gudmund is taunted with
the charge of homosexuality (+: gg-g+).
Most revealing of all is Njd,k saga, in which Gudmund appears
repeatedly. Some of the information overlaps with Ljdsuetninga
,ogo, but ihere are many new details and the degree of autonomy suggests no real dependence. In the famous sequence in
which Skarphedin seeks aid from a series of chieftains, he also
appeals to Gudmund and responds to a perceived slur by reminding him of the charge of homosexuality against him ( 1 r9: 30r - 2).
This accusation could easily be borrowed from Lj1suetninga saga.

On the other hand, there is much additional infbrmation in

Thorkel Hake's adventures not derivable from I'i1suetninga saga.


Nor is the pitched battle fought between the l-iosvetninp;s and
their allies and Gudmund and his brothers at a district thingmeeting (rrg: 3o3) documented \n Ljdsaetninga sago^'l'his p:rsrug. rrrggests that Thorkel Hake and Thorir Helgason circulirterl
their aciusation after they defeated Gudmund in the battle, ancl
perhaps in a resulting mood of triumph and defiance. The word
iltmati (slander) suggests further that it was a false accusation,
whereas Ljlsuetninga saga is unclear about the validity of the
charge and leans, if anything, toward acceptance.
The upshot of these dealings is that Gudmund decides to support Njal's sons because Skarphedin's denunciation of his arch.r.-y Thorkel Hake is even more damaging than the barb he
has endured himself. Njal subsequently names him to an arbitration committee, where he carries out his task so faithfully that he
declines to withdraw his contribution to the financial settlement
even after it has failed (r z r -23: 3o6- r5).
Gudmund is mentioned in connection with a few other dealings (ry4: Zbr, L4o-4ri 373-74, r42: 378), but his most imporrant appearance is in the final battle at the Allthing (r45:
4o1-r4). In the course of the battle his son Halldor wounds
Thorvard Tjorvason from Ljosavatn. This Thorvard is not mentioned in l,j1saetninga saga, but could not have been the sotl ol

1
88

Introduction

Thorgeirsson. Gudmund guarantees to pay the indemnities for those who have fallen in the battle so that business can
proceed. By way of acknowledgment he is invited to a feast by
birrrr, Hjalti, and Asgrim, each of whom presents him with a gold
ring. Afier receiving further gifts he rides home and out of the
rugi, although there is a subsequent report that Kari Solmundarson rode north to stay with him (r48: 425, r4g:. 428).
Although most of the narrative elsewhere in the sagas seems
to be indipendent of Lj1suetninga saga, the portraits of Gudmuncl are ionsistent. He is chiefly conspicuous in political and
legal dealings, often hostile but sometimes also mediatory. Men
in need of iupport have recourse to him or his participation
is deemed crucial in Heidarltga saga, Eyrbyggla saga, Vatnsdula
saga, Vfga-Glums saga, Valta-Lj6* saga, Vd,pnfi,rdinga saga, Qlkofra
panr, and I'{jd,k saga. He exercises similar Power and influence
in Ljdsuetninga saga. Special note of his hospitality is made in
Heidanttga saga, Laxdula saga, and l,{jd,k saga, and this characteristic matihes his custom of entertaining the sons of distinguished
men for long periods of time in Ljbsaetninga saga (ch. 5).
We find thus a thematic uniformity illustrated by differing examples. The episodes cannot be derived one from the other.
Thit is to say, no saga seems to report information obtained
from other sagas. Rather, it appears that a good deal of anec-

ljorvi

dotal material on Gudmund was in circulation and that each


saga author drew on this material independently. It appears f-urther that the material existed in legal or political contexts. What
was known about Gudmund attached to his dealings, hostile or
friendly, with other individuals such as Bardi Gudmundarson,
Bolli Bollason, Grettir Asmundarson, Viga-Glum Eyjolfsson,
Valla-Ljot Ljotolfsson, Brodd-Helgi Thorsilsson, Geitir Lyringsson, Thorhall Olkofri, Skarphedin Njalsson, and so forth.
Whut sets Ljbsuetninga saga apart is that the author collected
rnore of these dealings than anyone else. Sometimes Gudmund
succeeds and sometimes he fails, but the encounters are most
ofierr perceived as contests, especially in Lj6saetninga saga. The
agonistic pattern appears to be fundamental to saga tradition
(Andersson rq66). Whether the evaluation of an individual antagonist turned out positively or negatively could depend on
clin or regional biases, as seems clear from the contrast between

The Literary

Setting

the handsome portrait of Gudmund

in

81l

Nidk saga arxl tltt: vt't'y

critical portrait in Ljdsaetninga sa,ga.In one resion Gudmuntl w:ts


remembered as the supporter of Njal's sons, in the other as tht:
antagonist of the Ljosvetnings. By contrast, Gudmund's chief antagonist, Thorkel Hake, emerges as a heroic loner in Ljdsaetninga,
saga but as a discountenanced miles gloriosus in Njdk saga.

-fhirteenth-century Icelanders may have known roughly the


same traditions from the Saga Ag., but this comparison shows
how differently they could construe them. There was no doubt
general agreement that Gudmund had been a powerful figure;
whether for good or ill depended on the viewpoint (see also
Schach rq78: 265-67).
Gudmund's relationship with his brother Einar reveals a similar bias. Einar is less well documented in the sagas and is most
often mentioned only in genealogical contexts: ",T,vi Snorra
goda" (in Eyrbyggja saga ,85), Vatnvlul,o .srtut, (rt>: z8), Droplaugarsona saga ( r z: r 68), Porsl ein.s :;ttsa, S{,t\tr,-l I u,l,l,.\.\o'tlot' (7: 3 , 9),
and D1rdar saga hredu (7: 246, also z4ti). llt: lr()rr('llrt'lt'ss lt:t<l ;t
considerable reputation, as is illust.rittetl lry lris litlttotts sllt't't'lr itt
(
Old.fs saga helga (Heimskringla lI r zrr: z r (i) ag:tirrst Kirrg )l:rl''s t'rrtlt'lrlitr
t't:14iorr:rl
figured
croachment on Iceland. That he also
it
Vu,l,ltt-l.iil.s
commenL
ings is suggested by Halli Sigurdarson's
saga (ch. z) that he has become unpopular because of his dealings
with Einar. Because Halli is a stalwart supporter of Gudmuncl,
these otherwise unknown dealings suggest in themselves a strain
between the brothers. The strain does not emerge in Viga-Glil,ms
saga, in which Einar has an important role, or in Njdk saga. ln
these texts, Einar acts only in concert with his brother; in the former his prudence even saves Gudmund's life (28: 96-97).
ln Ljdsuetninga saga, on the other hand, the strain becomes a
major factor and dates from a childhood incident in which Einar
abuses Gudmund's credulity (ch. r6). This incident is consonant ''
with Einar's apparent repuiatio., for wisdom, which he demonstrates to best effect in dispossessing the title hero of V{ga-Glil'ms
saga (zg-26: 86-8g). In Ljdsuetninga saga he is also characterized by great acumen, but he nonetheless succumbs at one point

to Gudmund's deception when he accepts the gift of a cloak


in chapter 14.Here the author seems to be saying that Einar is
susceptible to Gudmund's plea for family solidarity, whert:its

Introduction

The Literary Setting

Gudmund himself is interested only in promoting his own ends.


Einar thus becomes another victim of Gudmund's self-seeking
and is excused firr siding with his more faithful friend Thorir
Helgason. In this way the author was able to capitalize on traditioni bearins on Einar's high intelligence and uncertain allegiance with (iudmund in order to raise further questions about

Fljfi*dala saga the same events are referred to more briclly rrrrtl
in somewhat different form. Thorkel also appears in Njd,ls sogt,.
In most of his roles Thorkel is a conspicuously important nt:rtt
with something less than an average success rate in his feud
dealings. In no case does he exhibit the patience and mastery
attributed to him in Ljbsuetninga saga. The reader may once
again suspect that a traditional figure has been promoted somewhat above his reputation for the purpose of overshadowing
Gudmund. Whether this development should be ascribed to
local bias in the tradition or to authorial intervention is not clear,
but Thorkel, like Ofeig Jarngerdarson, may owe much of his
stature to the downgrading of Gudmund.
Thorkel's chief consultant in his contest with Gudmund is
Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson, a quite peripheral figure in Lj6suetninga saga but a man of sufficient import.ance to have earned his
own saga. What remains of'the saga tells <lf'his yotlthf ul adventures abroad and his pnrlonged fL'utl with a t:ct'tititt 'l'lror-hacld
(Porsteins saga Sidu-Hallssonar: zgg-'.tzo). IIc :tlsrt :tppc;tr-s itr

9o

(],ud rn und'.s character.

A cotrnterexample suggesting how a Proper leader should condtrtt lrirnself is oflered by OfeigJarngerdarson. Almost nothing
is knowtt :rbout. him from other sources, only that he killed a certain 'l'lrorstein kvigr in single combat at the age of eighteen
(lleyhrkela saga rg: zrr-r3). Yet the information on him in
Lj(t.suetninga saga is so full that he can hardly have been created
fi<lm nothing. Perhaps there was only a district tradition about

him, cultivated by the Ljosvetnings chiefly at Gudmund's expense. Chapter 6 records his genealogy, although it is not to be
found in Landnd,mab6h.
Of the remaining leading characters, Thorgeir the Chieftain
is mentioned in Reyhdela saga (z: t56-57, r8-zz: 2og-2o,
zg: zg8-4o) and Njdk saga (ro5: 270-7r,119: 3o2), Thorkel
Hake in the same sagas (z-3: r56-58, 1r9- 20: 3c2-6), Einar
Konalssonin Vtga-Glilms saga (r4: 46), Reykdala saga (r: r5z, r6:
2o2, 2Z'. zz1, 24: zz6-27,29: 24o), and Njd,ls saga (r4o: 373),
and Eyjolf Gudmundarson in Heidaruiga saga (36-39: 318zg), Laxdala saga (4o: r r3), Grettis saga (34: tr6), Pdrarins pd'ttr
(t++-+6), and Dorsteins saga Sidu-Hallssonar (7: 3ry).
A few of the characters who have only a secondary role in
Ljlsuetningasaga figure more prominently in other sagas. Amonq
these are Thorkel Geitisson, Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson, and Bjarni
llrodd-Helgason. Thorkel appears in chapters 9- r z in the lim-

ited role of Vodu-Brand's host and protector. Vodu-Brand is not


otherwise known, but Thorkel has substantial parts in six other
slrg:rs. In Vd,pnfi,rdinga saga he conducts an inconclusive feud
wit.h li.farni Brodd-Helgason, whose gestures of good will finally
bring alrout a reconciliation. ln Qlhofra pdUr he is one of the discountenanced chieftains. In Droplaugarsona saga he is an important friend to Droplaug's sons Helgi and Grim. ln Gunnars
pd,nr bidrandabana he attempts persistently but unsuccessfully to
avenge his brother Thidrandi against his slayer Gunnar, and in

Heidanttga saga, Qlkofra pd,ttr, and Njd,ls

1) I

sQ'{!o.

Thorkel's kinsman Bjarni Brodd-Helsasott is cvctl rll()l'(' l)('ripheral and takes no active part in the intricate negotiirtiotrs ttl'
Ljisuetninga saga. He seems to be Present for the sole purposc ol'
delivering a stinging rebuke to Gudmund (ch. rz). He is, however, well known from his feud with Thorkel in Vd,pnfirdinga saga
and is additionally mentioned in Bandantanna saga, Gunnars pd,ttr
bidrandabana, Flihtsdala saga, and Njdk saga- Again, none of the
narrative matter in these sources overlaps with Ljdsuetninga saga.
Four other characters with minor roles in Ljfsaetninga saga
are Vigfus Viga-Glumsson, Gellir Thorkelsson, Skegg-Broddi
Bjarnason, and Grettir Asmundarson. Vigfus plays a considerable role in the saga named for his father but is not portrayed in
an altogether favorable light. He is a more powerful presence in
Lj|suetninga saga, where he props up Gudmund's sagging spirits
and offers to do single combat in order to save him from the
alarming prospect of a duel against Thorir Helgason. As in the
case of Thorkel Hake and Thorkel Geitisson, a figure with mixed

credentials appears to be promoted at Gudmund's expense.


Gellir and Skegg-Broddi, who have an important part in settling

the conflict of the second generation in Lj1saetninga saga, ^r('

1
The Literary

Introduction

92

known from several other sources. Gellir appears rn Laxdula


saga and Bandamanna saga; Skegg-Broddi in Bandanxanna saga,
Qlkofra pdttr, and Porsteins saga Stdu-Halksonar. Grettir is familiar
from his own saga and several others.
So far we have explored fourteen characters in Lj6suetninga
saga. Some have major roles in this saga and minor roles in other
sapJas; others are incidental here and fully presented elsewhere.
Despite this overlap there is very little shared information. Lj6suetninga saga appears to be neither debtor nor creditor in relation to any other family saga. It is probable that the authors of
l',liril.s sa,ga and Qlkofra pdttr knew it and borrowed a few phrasinss, but there is no real narrative interdependence.
In addition to the fourteen characters surveyed here and the
five members of Danish or Norwegian royalty, there are nineteen incidental characters knorvn from one or two other sagas.
These may be identified in the list of characters. Another fourteen are known only from Landnd,mab1k or from kings' and bishops' sagas. The seventy-three remaining characters are not corroborated in any sources. The tabulation is as follows:

Royalty
Major characters in Lj1suetninga saga
corroborated in other sagas
Secondary characters in Ljdsuetninga saga

more fully corroborated in other sagas


Incidental characters rn Lj6suetninga saga
corroborated in one or two other sagas
Incidental characters in Ljf.saetninga saga
corroborated in Landnd,mabhh or in kings'

or bishops'

sagas

Character s in Lj 6 su e tnin ga sag'a

b
7
7

lg
14

ncorroborated
in other sources (marked in the index with an
asterisk)

Total

73

125

'l'hese details are provided to make a point. In the research


initiated by Bjorn Magnrisson Olsen in a series of articles published between rgo4 and rgzo (Andersson r964: 84), it became
customary to account for as many saga characters as possible on

the basis of written sources. The names and genealogies were


derived from Landnd,mab1h or similar genealogical sources and

Setting

1):|

This attempt could only be made by sclt:t tirrg


most likely to derive from written sources atr<l lt'ttving the majority of names unexplained. Any hypothesis ott tltc
origin of the characters should, however, be based on the f rrll
material in any given saga. Hence the identification here of'all
fifty-two known names and seventy-three unknown names.
The survey shows that Ljdsuetninga sagahas characters in common with no fewer than eighteen other sagas. The correspondences are most extensive wrth l{jdk saga, but this is not surprising because Njd,k saga has by far the largest cast of characters
among the sagas and is something of a genealogical summa.
Correspondence with Heidarutga saga, Vfga-Glilms saga, VallaLj6ts saga, Vdpnfirdinga saga, Qlkofra pd,ttr, Porsteins saga SiduHallssonar, and Reykdala saga are also significant. Yet it cannot be
shown that any of these sagas borrowed genealogical matter
from another. There are frequently minor discrepancies and
there is never bulk borrowing either of names or irtci<lettts. Itrdeed, it is remarkable that in these nineteen sas2rs the sittrte cpisode is never told twice.
It therefore seems unlikely that the charactcrs (r:ttt lx' t:xplained as literary loans. Nor can they be considere<l in any l:tt'gtr
sense as the author's invention, because frfty-two t>f' tltettt ltt't:
verifiable in other sources. They must have resided in narrative
and genealogical traditions that were still alive in the thirteenth
century. By analogy, a good portion of the seventy-three unverifiable names were presumably also to be found in tradition.
Such traditions were most likely cultivated in individual families
and households, but the most important figures would have
been familiar on the regional and national level as well.
The best evidence of local tradition in Ljbsuetninga sega comes
from redaction A. I surmised above (p.7r) that the author of
this redaction reconsulted local sources in Horgardale, where he
found different names for some of the characters and additional
place names. He learned that Helgi Arnsteinsson was called
Ingjald, that Thorir Akrask.gg was called Thorgils Akrakarl,
and that a shepherd named Odd had allegedly betrayed Thorir
Helgason to Gudmund. These variants signal a special oikotype
of the tradition available to a collector in the thirteenth century.
The gathering of living tradition has been a particularly crtrfrom

sagas.

"rh;
those names

I
Introduction

The Literary Setting

cial topic in connection with Ljdsaetninga saga.It was the focus of


a study by the Swedish poet A. U. Biith (r888) arguing the socalled "pd,ttr theory" (see Gropper rg87)-that is, the theory that

Recently, however, the idea has been resurrected. Lars Lonnsaga (1976), and more recently still Carol Clover (rg86a) has placed the theory in a much
broader context. By studying prose transmissions in a variety of
cultures (for example, African, Indian, Japanese, and Turkic
tradition), she is able to show that prose performances are' ap-

ends conclusively. This arrangement, as Biflth also obset'vctl,


speaks for an early date, that is, for a period in which saga authors had not yet learned to integrate their episodes as skillf ully
as in the later classics such as Laxdula saga and Njd,ls saga.
It has proved diffrcult to argue genetic theories just from considerations of narrative logic, because one critic's logic is another
critic's interpolation. But if it is true that redactor A reconsulted
local tradition in Horgardale, where he found a slightly different version of the tale and differing names, we get an immediate
glimpse into the gathering process. It is reasonable to suppose
that the traditions about Thorir Helgason would have been most
confidently maintained around his farm at Laugaland. Similarly,
the stories about Ofeig Jarngerdarson, one of which is omitted
from A, would have been best preserved in his district of Reykjadale. The author of Lj1saetninga saga in particular, and perhaps

parently without exception, episodic. No performer attempts a


whole epic cycle at a sitting but singles out individual sections
from the larger narrative whole. That narrative whole, which
Clover calls the "immanent whole,t' does exist in some theoretical way, but it is never reproduced complete. It is only implicit in
the telling of particular episodes.
This general rule makes it difficult to believe that Iceland was
an exception and that here, and here alone, the whole story, the
"immanent whole," was realized in the oral telling-in other
words, that a narrator would have recited at any one time all that
he knew about Egil or Njal or Gudmund the Powerful. If the
rule holds true in Iceland, the oral reciter would have told a few
anecdotes from the immanent whole, or what Bflnth referred to
as pattir. A further implication is that a saga writer attempting to
put together a whole saga for the first time (the "whole saga"
beine strictly a written exercise) need not have appealed to one
auth<lrity, a local Homer so to speak, but could have interviewed
a variety of tellers with to some extent overlapping and to some
extent complementary accounts. Thus it seems evident that redactors A and C talked to different people.
This hypothesis would explain the independent nature of the
episodes in Ljdsaetninga saga. Biith and other critics have noted
that these episodes do not lead into each other with the sort of
narrative logic we observe in other sagas. Each starts afresh and

uncompromising self-assertiveness.
By contrast the Ljosvetnings demonstrate an impressive soli-

94

the sagas were pieced together from independent anecdotes.


Andreas Heusler dismissed the theory in r9r3 (Gropper rg87:
I 3 - r 4), and it is certainly vulnerable on the score of being derivative f rom the rhapsodic theory of the Homerists along with the
Lachmannian and Mtillenhoffran extensions of that idea to me-

dieval epic.

roth explored it in his book on Njd,ls

1)5

saga authors in general, probably did not base satr4a texts on


some monumental recital of tradition but rather on tlte collection and comparison of episodic materiitls.
Finally, we must address the question o['why tltt'lttttltot'wrts
inspired to gather and dovetail krcal tra<litions:rlrorrl (ltt<lrnrrrr<l
and his antagonists. In simplest ternrs tlte saga is itlxrttt t:l:ttt witt'fare between the Ljosvetnings and the Modrvellings, ittttl itlrottt
how the Ljosvetnings manage to stave off the Modrvellings tlcspite a significant discrepancy in power and resources. The saga
author would have us believe that the Ljosvetnings compensate
for their material disadvantage with a significant moral superiority. Their superiority lies particularly in an ability to hold together in the face of a challenge from the outside.
This standard is illustrated positively in the conduct of Ljosvetning affairs and negatively by the pattern of dissensions in the
Modrvelling clan. One of the underlying themes in the first part
of the saga is the strained relationship between Gudmund and
his brother Einar, who ultimately abandons his family allegiance
and joins forces with the chieftain Thorir Helgason. This pattern of fraternal discord repeats itself in the following generation when Gudmund's two sons, Ey.iolf and Kodran, find themselves at loggerheads because Eyjolf has inherited his father's

Introduction

The Literary Setting

darity. When their ranks are threatened by dissension, their


chieltain Thorvard exerts his will decisively to hold them together and prevent a splintering that would weaken them in
ih.ir dealingi with the Modrvellings. Ljosvetning policy is a little
object lessoi in the management of clan and district affairs. The
ler'so.r is a political one, uid tiAtretninga saga may be considered
in some sense a political saga.
This focus miy help ..,r io place Ljdsuetninga saga historically.
The term "political saga" was introduced into saga research.in a
recent articie by Melissa Berman (rg8S).She used it to describe a

tyrant, while the Ljosvetnings were cast as the stout-heurtcrl rt'sistance defending their independence and exemplifying rrt:w
standards of leadership and political cooperation. We cannot
know to what extent the author's outlook was anticipated by the
local traditions about. feuding farmers in the Saga Ag.,but the
ideological shape of his saga is clear. He promoted ideals of personal and political conduct against the raw exercise of power.
Valla-Lj6ts saga is among the shortest of the family sagas but
still has a cast of thirty named characters, twelve of them known
from other sources and eighteen otherwise unknown. The editor of the text in Islenzk Fornrit, J6nas Kristj6nsson, has made
the necessary points about these characters and it is sufficient to
quote him (r956: civ):

96

group of early sagas that lie somewhere between the kings' sagas
and the famiiy rugffi' Orkneyinga so,ga, Fareyinga saga, and Jbmsutkinga saga.They-were all written, it would appear' before r22o'
They all Jeal with particular regions and the variable dealings of
those regions wittr- the Norwegian crown. They are chapters of
diplomatic history. Berman calls them political sagas because, as
shl says (rg8S: r r3), "they are dominated by issues of independence and itruggl. fot leadership-in other words, issues of political power." All tugut are of course political in some sense, but
"struggle for leadership" is a more restricted theme'
ff LlAsuetninga saga was written in the same period, it could not
have b..., model.d on family sagas: in the first place because it
shows no sign of referring to them, and in the second place
because theie may have bien none available to imitate at this
early period. Instead, the author may have been inspired by the

regional and colonial sagas that were growing up aro-und -the


p.iiph..y of the Norwegian royal sagas._The lcelanders had
i.u..r.d something of the dealings of the Orkney Islanders and
the Faroe Islandeis, but it occurred to them that they also knew
much about the legal and political dealings of their own ancestors. The authoi of Ljdsaetninga saga learned a great deal
alrout Gudmund the Powerful, and on reflection he was able to
ascct-tain the names of r 24 other figures who lived in the days of
Ou<lrrrund and his sons and helped determine the politics of the
Saga Ag".
tit. in. authors of Berman's three political sagas, the author
of Lj|suetningn, saga too became interested in issues of independenie, p.r*.i, and leadership, but he explored these concepts in
Iceland. Gudmund the Powirful assumed the role of the flawed

\t7

It is an indication of genuine oral tradition that many of the people who


are told about in the saga are known fronr other sources. The author
could perhaps have found the names ol'sonre o['thcnr in written s:rgus,
but it is likely that he was also actltr:rinte<l with tht'rrr li'orrr or':rl lr':r<lilion,
at least those who had lived in tl-re Vorll:rt hirrg <list rir:l; wt' rrr:ry I lrt:r't:lirx'
consider that the events in the s:rg:r with wlritlr tlrt'y rrrt: <'orurt'r'lt'<l :rlso
originated to some extent in oral tr':rrlilion. I Icllrr-N:rrli is rr:rrrrcrl :rs il'it
were self-evident that everyone knew who lre w:rs, lxrl tlrcrc is rro nrt'rrtion of him elsewhere except in the geneaklgies <>l' Lttruhtrirn,uhilt (l'.
Thorir Vemundarson, an unknown man, whom the author rnellti()ns:rs
if he were well known). This makes it likely that other characters in tht:
saga existed in reality although they are not named elsewhere.

The characters may thus be accounted for as in Lj6saetninga


but there is a clear-cut difference in the manner of composition. Ljbsaetninga saga has attracted much attention because
of its episodic structure and lack of smooth narrative coordination. By contrast, Valla-Ljdts saga follows a very clear narrative
line. Halli signals his ambitious character as a young man, establishes his reputation as the retainer of Gudmund the Powerful,
but covets independent status in his own district. Here he challenges the leadership of Valla-Ljot and succumbs. The remainder
of the saga tells how the chieftains Valla-Ljot and Gudmund manage to settle the antagonisms that grow out of the encounter.
This composition is so lean and pointed that it suggests an author who imposed a strict economy on the oral tradition available to him. He seems to have been less interested in sett.ing
down old stories than in fashioning a parable of behavior in ft:rrrl

saga,

\
Introduction

The Literary Setting

society. Whether this more intellectual approach reflects a later


stage ir, rugu writing than what we find in Ljdsaetninga saga,-or
whZther it iimply ,"h..t, a different authorial temper, is hard to

In chapter r the Ljosvetning Thorgeir the Chieftain, Itt'rri ;tl


Hagi, Arnor at Reykjahlid and his son Thorfinn, OfeigJarngcr'darson, and Olvir at Reykir are introduced. In the process they
are handsomely portrayed. But immediately thereafter the three
brothers Solmund, Soxolf, and Eyjolf are stamped as "forceful
and overbearing men." The author goes on, "They . . . were
great troublemakers when it came to dealings with women and
lawsuits. They were so highhanded that few men dared go against

98

judge.

The Value SYstem

In the lg5o's and rg6o's there was a good deal of interest in


the Nors.-i..larrdic value system. The resulting work was summarized by claiborne w. Thompson (197_7), but since then the
interest has tapered off. Characteristic of postwar analysis was

an ethnog.uphi. outlook. That is to say, critics-, still working in


the spirit"of if,. Danish historian of religion Vilhelm Gr@nbech,
tried to fix the ethical orientation of the Norsemen as a community. Rather than beginning with monographic studies of par-

ticular texts, most riholu.t, with the exception of Hermann


palsson (1966, rgTr), generalized across genres and attempted
to identifi hrg. .orr..pm underlying mlny or all texts. Thus
Maarten C. van den Toorn chose to study ethics in the family
sagas (rgSf) or in the legendary sagas (r963-64)'
3".t, rIJp. has its plu.. and cannot wait on the exhaustive
analysis of all the individual sagas and poems transmitted in
Norie. But the ethnographic perspective has also tended to arrange and simplify teituil ..riiti.s. It is liable to obscure the observ-ation that Lacir individual text has a particular angle on the
prevalent cultural attitudes. At some point in our study of values
it becomes necessary to test general concepts against the t?-plexity of single texis. What we propose here is a closer look at
two such texts.
More than half the following material bears on the individual
ancl not on social institutionr. Thir is in itself an antidote to the
ethnographic bias. It suggests that the saga author is chiefly con,'.,',r.,ii with individual quatities. It seems clear that saga authors
trelicvctl that people have both good and bad characters' Lj6saetninga.vr!"rz is .r.r"q.rirocal on thisicore, to the point of announcing
the characters u.rd th.i. salient characteristics in advance, first
the good and rhen the bad. The sagas were long thoughtto.be
neuiral in ttris respecr, but Lars Lonnroth (rg7o) dispelledthat
misapprehension, a nd Lj isuetninga saga isparticularly outspoken'

,1)1)

their wishes. They were quite famous, though not for good
deeds." The contrast in this juxtaposition of good and evil is surprisingly stark.
The reader might suppose that this moral statement is unimportant for the saga as a whole because the characters in ques-

tion are minor and for the most part disappear rather quickly
from the action. But they are not to be dismissed lightly. The
characters with positive attributes have in common that they are
destined to oppose Gudmund, whereas the ne6;at.ive qualities of'
the three troublemakers are significant n()t s() tttttt.h itt ittt<l
of themselves as for the light they shed on their evctttuul ptrrlet.tor. The question soon put to the reader is why :r chiel'tuin ol'
Gudmund's standing would take the part of' srtt:h egrcgiotts
villains.
Once this question is posed, we are prepared to observe in detail how the two groups differ. We may begin by exploring two
oppositions, the contrast between strong and weak conduct and

the contrast between moderate and immoderate conduct. The


opposition between strong and weak emerges in the first episode, in which the villain Solmund makes unwanted visits to
Olvir's daughter, much to the consternation of her family. But
Olvir is unable to confront this challenge; as the saga says, "no
resistance was to be had from her fainthearted father." Unable
to contend with his tormentors, Olvir appeals to Ofeig Jarngerdarson, who is destined to be a figure above the action and a
covert hero of the saga. He is introduced as "a leader and a
forceful man," and he justifies this notice by arriving at Olvir's
farm in the nick of time to rescue Olvir's daughter bodily from
an abduction attempt on the part of Solmund and his brothers.
There is no doubt in this episode that Ofeig's determined actiott
is to be understood as a corrective to Olvir's fecklessness.

roo

The Literary

Introduction

is also the hero of the second parable on forceful action,


the Jpisode known as Ofeigs pdnr (chs' 6-Z)' This episode pits

ofeig
in

him directly against Gudmund, who has become a burden to


with a
his northern rhingmen by virtue of his prolonged visits
demonwho
ofeig,
numerous retinue. rrt. thingmen appeal to
with a simistrares the p.rblem by visitirig Gudmund for a week
hardeconomic
larly large retinue and then pointing out !h:
forthrightness
ships inv.rlved. Gudmund is ingered by pfelSt
frri i, ,bliged ro swallow the lesson. Again, the opposition.be-

stand up
rween rigkri and wrong is obvious, and Ofeig's ability to
our
to
elicit
calculated
is
to the ntost powerful irutt in the district
concluthe
at
moral
this
a<lmiration. The saga author confirms
had
sion of the episod.,""P.ople thought that Ofer_gs reputation
Gudmund'"
with
srown greatiy because of these dealings

A recurrent form of the opposition, which

also operates at

when a
Gudmund's expense, is the riiourse to single combat
influence
and
power
in
r.s"l impasse derelops. The imbalance
Thorir is
between Gudmund and Thorir Helgason is such that
b.Y
procedures
legal
the
left with no choice but to circumvent
communiHe
(ch.
r6).
duel
a
challenging Gudmund directly to
Einar,
cates thls dlcision to his friend (and Gudmund's brother)
news,
good
"That's
not
who responds with cautious admiration:
but it is not a cowardly resolution'"
Thorir then denounces Gudmund in scathing terms for-all
to hear, and the subsequent action is designed to show that
Gudmund is anything but eager to back up his overwhelming
power with force of aims. His own friend Vigfus Viga-Glumsson
must
iells him to his face that he is "worse than spineless" and
rescuehimfromhisowncowardicebyproposingaCounterdY:l
by this
Irs:rinst Thorir's ally Einar. Gudmund is pitiably relieved
h3
wh-o
Vigfus,
of
praising
point
the
,,,l.,*p".,ed reprier., ,o
chuckby
plan
t..t.t
th.bltraying
and later
.ir,sr
'ii,,g irrst,lted hirn,
i,, public and thereby revealing ihat he is no Ionger fearful
ot'a <lrrel (ch. t7).
'l'hc rltrel as last resort recurs at the end of the saga when
settlement
Gudmtrn<l,s son Eyjolf breaks the terms of a legal
legal
Again
'['h,rvarJ's
Thorarin.
brother
innocent
by killi.g
the
power'-As
political
of
imbalance
of
an
remedies fail because
says
Hrolf,
Ljosvetning
ofthe
Prosecution,
petitioning leader

Setting

r()r

(ch. 3o): "My message is familiar to most people by now, lrtrt tlrt'y
attach greater importance to Eyjolf's power than to justice." ltt
desperation, Hrolf is resolved to challenge Eyjolf to a duel, antl
his interlocutor Skegg-Broddi responds with praise and an offer'

of help: "You are tough and not unresourceful. Hold to your


plan, and I will take a hand in it." We may deduce from such
commentary that the saga author appreciates the shortcomings
of a legal system skewed by discrepancies in individual power.
He is consequently open to the idea that these discrepancies
must sometimes yield to bold initiatives inspired by individual
courage.

But forceful action borders on willfulness. It may be tolerable


in the underdog but not in the beneficiary of privileged status.
This distinction is worked out in a second opposition that pits
moderate against immoderate conduct. Of'eig is nrlt only the
hero of determined action but also of' pnrper restnrint. In the
hostilities between Gudmund and'l'tr<>rtr;eir''s s{)ns, it is lris trrlc to
mediate. Thorgeir's sons show tro litt:k ol'Iirrt't'lirlltt'ss irt 1lt'oceeding against Gudmund and their <lwn Iatltt:t', lrttl tlrt'ir'<lt'tt't'mination is not so much courageous as it is hca<lstt'otrg. t)li'ig
therefore urges conciliation. -lo their eagerness filr ittr irttntc<liate trial of arms he opposes the advisability of arbitration. 'lir
their alternate proposal for forcing the hand of the jrty he opposes the illegality of such a course. And to the plan for impeaching Thorgeir he opposes the consideration that such a
strategy may lead to armed conflict. In this exchange Ofeig is
firmly aligned on the side of conciliation, legality, and the prevention of violence.
The story subtitled Vgdu-Brands pd,nr might be read as an exemplum on moderation. Vodu-Brand is by no means a promising character (ch. 8): "He was big and strong and was called
Vodu-Brand. He was a troublemaker, difficult to deal with, and
rather unyielding, so that his father had a hard time keeping
workers because of him." In the long run, however, his story
turns out to be one of reform, and the concluding note rectifies
the protagonist's failings (ch. r z): "Vodu-Brand left the east and
lived on his patrimony. He later became much more amenable
and was judged to be a good farmer. He thought he could never
repay the support and good will of Thorkel Geitisson."

Introduction

Thg Literary Setting

What lies between opening characterization and conclusion is


a sequence of episodes in which Vodu-Brand attempts, with
varying success, to restrain his disorderly instincts. He enters
busineis dealings with two Norwegian merchants, and despite
dire predictions to the contrary ("Many people said that Brand
would stick to his usual habit of concluding his business badly
with these men as with all others" [ch. 8]), he executes his part of
the bargain to the merchants'eminent satisfaction.
In cdmpensation they offer him passage to Norway, where,
however, he becomes embroiled with an unpleasant character
named Harek at a drinking party. After an initial show of restraint in response to obvious provocations, he buries his ax in
Harek's skull the following morning. This matter is settled, but
back in Iceland more trouble develops when he takes up residence with Thorkel Geitisson and gathers a group of rowdy
merrymakers around him. The disruption is such that Thorkel
finally intervenes to urge some measure in the proceedingsBrand responds by desisting altogether and uttering not a word
for two weeks. Thorkel finally remonstrates with him (ch. 9):
"You are a very erratic fellow. Now return to your sociable ways
in moderation." But Brand replies cantankerously that he can
obviously do nothing right, and he leaves Thorkel to return to

tale subtitled Sgrla pdttr his objections to a match betwecn Sorli


Irodd-Helgason and his daughter are overcome by flattery. Irr

102

his father's house.

He is no sooner installed in his new domicile than he again


makes mischief by inflicting a severe wound on an opponent
who bests him in a game. He escapes the legal consequences of
this action only because of the delicate skill and patience that
Thorkel Geitisson exhibits in counteracting the prosecution organized by Gudmund. Brand finally comes to recognize and aciinowledge rhis powerful example (ch. r z): "He thought he could
never repay the support and good will of Thorkel Geitisson."
'l'he trnclerlying theme seems to be that the moderate and reasonable behavior so splendidly exemplified by Thorkel Geitisson
can Iinitlly ()vercome even the most erratic patterns.
If 'l'horkel Geitisson is a model of moderate behavior,
Gudmund is a paradigm of implacable stubbornness. Having
committecl himself to a course of action, however extreme and
ill-advised, he can never be moved by an appeal to reason, only
by insuperable odds or the manipulation of his vanity. In the

Ofeigs

I ( )'l

pdttr Ofeig is obliged to mount an absurdly elaboratc

demonstration in order to persuade Gudmund to curb his irnpositions on his thingmen; the reader may feel that Gudmund

finally accedes only because he is more dependent on Ofeig's


good will than Ofeig is on his. This is so because Ofeig is ultimately a more resolute personality and rules Gudmund by force
of character. In their final confrontation he has his way by planting his fist in the center of a table and allowing Gudmund to calculate the risk.
Gudmund is naturally in his most uncompromising frame

of

mind after he learns that Thorir Helgason and Thorkel Hake


have circulated a charge of homosexuality against him. In his
prefatory dealings with Thorir Akraskegg he is deaf to the appeals of his brother Einar, who reflects on his aut.<>cratic nature
in the following words (ch. r4): "lt'.s the s;rnrc okl story. Vru
value no one's opinion but your own in this t.lrsc, llrrt it rrr:ry be
that your success will fall short of'your irrrrlliti()n."
It is indeed true that Gudmuncl, althorrgh he is t:irsily t lrc rrrost
powerful man in his region, rarely accomplishcs his rlcsigrrs
fully, precisely because he is insatiably ambitious and inaccessiblt:
to compromise. In his prosecution of Thorir Helgason he fbr
once outwits his brother Einar and is unrelenting in his exploitation of a technical advantage gained, as Einar says, by underhandedness. The legal hold he gets on Thorir is of doubtful validity, and Thorir, who is portrayed as a reliable character, is surely
right when he reproaches Gudmund with the words (ch. r4),
"You know no moderation in your aggressiveness." Gudmund is
not portrayed as a reasonable man, who becomes implacable
only when his honor is impugned, but rather as a man whose
immoderation is deeply ingrained in his nature. His success is
gained by questionable means and is justly robbed of its full impact. Although he finally outlaws Thorir for three years, his victim spends only the winters abroad (perhaps capitalizing on the
double meaning of uetr'year'or'winter'; see p. r86 n. t l3). Each
summer he returns to Iceland to manage his farm with impunity. And at the conclusion of his term of outlawry he returr)s
to Iceland and lives to a ripe old age "held in high esteem."

ro4

The Literary Setting

Introduction

I(

)r,

when the opposing factions confront one anothcr irt tlrt. :rss(.1r
bly and mediators discuss a solution. Gellir Thorkelssorr st:rlr.s
(ch. z7): "I am well enough acquainred with Eyjolf to know rlr:rr
he will want to set the terms himself and assess the amounrs ol
the compensation awards." The same thing is said of his opp()nent Thorvard, but when the final outbreak of violence is imminent, it is Eyjolf who remains unyielding and Thorvard who
shows the flexibility necessary for an arbitrated settlement. When
the arbitration is finally nor ro Eyjolf's liking, he breaks rhe
agreement and kills Thorvard's brother.
on his return from this bloody mission he falls from his horse
and injures his leg, an injury that is interpreted not as an accident but as a reprisal. In the legal acrion that follows Eyjolf is as
uncompromising as ever and, like Gudmund before him, finally
yields only to the threat of single combat. Thorvard, by r;,rnrr:rsr,
chooses Christian restraint and opts not to return to lr:t:larr<l in
quest of vengeance (ch. 3o): "It's a long way tretwcen ()ur. :rx(.s
and the Modrvellings. And they will still wanr thenr wieldc<l il I
go to lceland. But ler it be as St. Peter wishes. I think it woul<l lrt.
better if I did not return there." This is one of'the clearest examples in the sagas of the view that at some point it is better to
concede a feud than to pursue the bloody consequences.
For the most part, the contrast between Ljosvetning moderation and Modrvelling highhandedness must be read from between the lines. Indeed, it is not always clear where justice lies.
In Part I (chs. r - 2 r ) we never learn whether Gudmund is in fact
homosexual or whether the rumors circulated by the Ljosvetnings are prompted by malice. In Part II (chs. 22-zr) we never
learn whether the paternity case against Brand Gunnsteinsson is
justified or nor. In both quarrels it may very well be that the
Modrvellings have the better cause. It is unlikely that Gudmund
was in reality homosexual, and Fridgerd displays such a sterling
character that she is unlikely to have lied abour rhe father of hei
child.
It seems more probable that the author's Ljosvetning bias is
responsible for clouding these issues. But whatever the merits of
the legal cases may be, it is clear that the Ljosvetnings and their
allies negotiate reasonably while the Modrvellings avail themselves of'their powerful advantages to promote their own in-

Gudmund does actually succeed in killing his second antagonist, Thorkel Hake, but only through the services of the unsavory
Thorbjorn Rindil and only after suffering the most humiliating
verbal abuse recorded anywhere in saga literature. In the final
confrontation Thorkel makes a valiant stand against twenty-one
attackers, whereas Gudmund shrinks back and is clearly convicted of cowardice. He is therefore guilty at least of the metaphorical aspect of the accusation against him. Thorir Helgason
was justified in questioning whether he was snjallr (courageous,
manly). Thorkel establishes that he is not. Gudmund is thus characterized by extreme inflexibility but also by an incapacity to back
up his will with a full measure of personal resoluteness. When it
comes to the sticking point, he falls short or is discountenanced.
Excessive pride and the inevitable fall are not reserved for
Gudmund alone. Immoderation appears to run in the family: it
is also characteristic of his son Eyjolf. This continuity makes the
problem more than an individual quirk and raises it to the status
bf u., endemic peril in the history of the region. Inflexibility is
not so immediately obvious in Eyjolf as in his father, but it resurfaces quickly enough. When, acceding too easily to the argument
that his status is at stake, he becomes involved in the paternity
case against Brand Gunnsteinsson, he broaches the matter cautiously. He approaches Thorkel Hallgilsson for compensation
with the words (ch. z3): "I shall not be very demanding of compensation if there is a reasonable response." Even in the face of a
iomewhat abrupt rejection he proceeds quietly: "You are less obliging than we would wish, but I will proceed with moderation."
-This
level tone soon gives way to ancestral obstinacy. When
Fridgerd's ordeal is not immediately judged in his favor, Eyjolf
reacts even more vehemently than his Ljosvetning opponent in
upbraiding the officiating priest for his failure to decide the test
1t:h. z'+). "it couldn't be clearer," he says, "but for your enmity
anrl bi'ibetaking, and because of that I will pursue the claim as if
it wt:r'r: tny own inheritance." That Eyjolf should press so doubtf'ul a (.:tsc :ts if it were a matter of his own inheritance is a great
exaggeratiort, hut he remains unyielding.
After the pitched battle at Kakalahill Thorvard makes a conciliatory oft'ei-, lrut F.yjotf rejects the notion that terms might be
arranged by anyone but himself. His intransigence is confirmed

I
I

I
I

II

'I

I
The Literary Setting

ro6

Introduction

r()7

,l

The word that the


terests without regard to competing claims'

Thorir
;;g;rr", fo, this ;haracteristii it 'F'(arrogance)' When
counter
ro
uEiguron frnally resorrs to- a duel in his artemprs
it may t1n1e his
Gudmund, he io., so in the expecration that

rival,sofsi(ch.'o).wt,"nEyjolf."f.,,.,tomakeafairdivisionof
that he
Hlenni remarks
his inheritance with his broiher Kodran,
surprised Uy f,it o/si (ch' zz)' Finally.' when
i,

tn:-t'Tt-lr:

H'u.to
""t
;il; il;etninss has been e.nsased'.
,-;";;T;;";#
r ^-^,.^l^
+^
}.a
to-.b:
enough
well
o/si
ff;;i"iJ# f.or.rr., to know E"fiolf's ii the word-t o/si
^.c^: applied
^ - ^l: ^l

.";';; i. *iir'",tack (ch. z3). Noilhere

to the Ljosvetnings.
Ai""d with the- urrogurr.e characreristic of the Modrvellings
them in the
g.,..ri;i. urro.iut.a qriurities that work to discredit
preoccupied
^with
reader,s mind. in"y Lr. ul*osr obsessivety
attempts to reform
personal honor. When Ofeig JarngerduT"l
concedes the
Gudmund's treatment of f iJtni"g;'en' Gudm-und
(ch' 7):
threatened
is
honor
issue but immeaiut.ty feels that h-is
,,It is indeed true thai I have done as you say. But it is worth conhongr is. at
,id..i.,g *hethe, you will be againti -" whel myidea that his
the
to
reverts
stake; it ...tuirriy'rfptut' so'" He
him with
honor has sufI.e,.a *r,." ofeig works to reconcile
a
partisanof
much
very
is
Thorkel Geitisso., (ch' rz)' Gudrirund
for him must be
the idea thut urrfone who is not exclusively

"g"i"',him.Theevenhandednessforwhichofeigstandsisnot
a value that he grasPs. :- :
the central
UnderthecircumstancesitisnotSurprlslng that
relahuman
or
wealth
oi
issue in Gudmund's life is not succett
this
when
honor'
personal
his
a narrow concern with
tions but

issue,forgoodorill,isfinallyresolvedandGudmundquestions
the future, she knows what words
the sorceress Tho.nna aborri
..I don,t think there will be men to take
ht: w:tnts to hear (ch. z r):
maintain your
ul) vcnseance ugui.rrt you. You will be able to
example
egregious
most
the
5.tt,*t51. p.rrii-i}rr." B't perhaps
projects
he
where
zo,
ch.
in
o..rrrc
Of'(irr<lrtrtrnrl's tunnel vision
she.,is
that
Discovering
wife.
his
his t-ont:t:rn with honor onto
unwillis
and
down
burn
to
is
about
present irr the lrouse that he
the honor
he .lrserves that if she is so insensitive to

Together with arrogance, Gudmuird bequeaths his obsession


with honor ro his soriEyjolf. When Fridgerd's father Isolf first
approaches Eyjolf with'in appeal for help, he already knows
interest by Couching the issue in terms of'his
frt* ,"
that
"rrgug."his
potential U".ri"fr.,or's status (ch. zz): "It will be considered
distinguishe<l
more
men
course,
of
yo, u.. losing status unless,
lnu., you shJr.ld intervene." Eyjotf cannot endure the thought
of
rhat others are standing in the *irrgt waiting to deprive him.
imthe
by
presumably.stung
is
He
his.
6e
some credit that might
pli.ution that there"are men who might be corrsidered more disiinguished than he. Eyjotf does have an obligation toward his
tt iig.rrurr, bur it is reve"aling that the thingman plays not on his
,..rri of responsibitity but on his pride'
Hunger flr status and distinction goes hand.in hand with van-

ity, a.rithe Modrvellings indulge themselves in a lavish style of


liie to signal their social ambiti<t.. ()trtlrntrtt<l <l,cs ..t .ccupy
center stage until ch. 5,and that chuptt:r lrt:girrs witlr tlrc IirllowiIt is toltl tlurt (lrr<ltttrttt<l tlrt: llrwt'r'lirl Iirr'
ing charaJterizatiorrr
lIr()l'('
orr"trtripped other men with his gral<l stylt:.ol lilt'. llt' lrlr<l
lltltllsrttttt'
lltt'
arr<l
househol<l
his
of
members
than a^hundred
ber of cows. [t was his custom to lodge the sons ol'tlistirrgtrislrt'<l
men for long periods of time, and he treated thern stt splcrr<lirlly
that they hai no work to do other than to be always in his-c,rrr-

pany."Chapters6andTgoontodescribehowGudmundper,ir,r'in visiiing his thing-men with an extravagant retinue of


thirty men foi u week af a time, even in a famine year. Ofeig
that he would not be a lesser
Jarngerdarson must point out
lni.fruin if he confined himself to a retinue of ten.
Gudmund is apparently notorious for this show of ostentation
because his brothlr Einar adverts to it in ch. r4; he betokens
"[ doLt
surprise when Gudmund arrives alone, commenting
retinue"'His
understand this. It isn't his custom to ride without a

habit is mentioned a final time in ch. zo: "Gudmund was accustomed to ride with a large following." The trappings of distinction are not so conspicrious in Gudmund's son Eyjolf, but the
first thing we learn of is his insistence on having his father's entire fortune to the exclusion of his younger brother' As a con-

in

the

irrg ,o leave,

sequence (ch. zz), "Eyjolf was the most powerful man

conferreclbyhermarriage,shemaydieif.shelikes:..Ifyou
in honor and

north."
Nor do the Modrvellings hesitate to take advantage of tht:ir

me
would rarher die in shamJ here than live with
way"'
in
your
stand
gooa standing, we will not

108

The Literary

Introduction

Setting

r()()

resources. The reader sometimes has the impression that money

numerous retinue. ln Vgdu-Brands pdttr, Thorkel ()eitissorr t.xploits Gudmund's confidence in his superior power to trick hirrr
at the assembly and precipitate a deadlock that opens the wuy

to iccumulate fines and build up cap-ital in


order to face down his opponents at law rather than to challenge

for compromise.
Although Gudmund's power is never questioned or breached
in the saga, his vanity makes him vulnerable to cleverly conceived countermoves by much-inferior opponents. Even when
he is dealt a winning hand by Vigfus Viga-Glumsson in his case
against Thorir Helgason, he is unable to keep a straight face and
plays away his advantage. That his son Eyjolf can be similarly
fooled is illustrated when he fails to interpret deliberately misleading information and loses his last chance for blood revenge
against Thorvard (ch. z8).
The discrepancy between the overpowering status of the
Modrvellings and the personal failings of their chieftains is a
constant. Individually Gudmund does not nrcasrrre llp to'['horir
Helgason or Thorkel Hake, nor rkres l..yjoll rno:rrir.rr'(: ul) t()
Thorvard. One moral of'the sagu itl)l)t:trrs lo llt: tlr:rt politir':rl
power and personal worth are two <ltrite rlill'crt:nt tlrirrgs. llrrt irrevitably the two spheres cannot always lle rlisr:r'irrrirr:rtt.<1. Wlrt.tr
Hall Otryggsson kills Eyjolf''s brother Kodrarr, s()rr)c()rrt't:lrlls orrt
(ch. z4): "There went the best man from Eyjafjor<l." [I:rll'.s irnmediate rejoinder is: "Good or not, he was Gudmund's son." In
other words, an otherwise worthy individual can be compromised by his clan. Gudmund's personal deficiencies have politi-

substitutes for personal stature. Thus Gudmund initiates his action against Thorir Helgason and Thorkel Hake with a series of

pely fur., designed

them directly. He also'spends money for the services of the


pit
ne,er-cl<l-well Thorhiorn Rindil and a band of twenty men to
against the loner Thorkel Hake'
"Eyjolf is no less ready to buy support (ch' z5):
offered.a
.'Eyjolf
rode
who
silvei ounce per man and a half mark to each chieftain
Borgarfiord
in
As
ro the thing. H. ,.nt word to the sons of Eid at
and oflered to pay them for their aid, and likewise the Goddalers.,, Thorvaid'i only expenditure seems to be a ring to elicit
Skegg-Broddi's ,rppori. The purchase of power seems to be
.huiu".t"ristic of tne Uoarvelling clan as a whole. Gudmund's
nephew Jarn-Skeggi proceeds against Thorvard at the Nor*.giur, .i,.r., ny JfT.ring rewarai 1cn. zg): 'Jarn-Skeggi ma$e
,,,,[y of the kirrgr' -.ti gifts in return for suppoft'" Finally'
nyjoif duplicates lis fath.i', ...o,rrse to overwhelming odds by
mJrching against his innocent victim Thorarin with a force of
forty men (ch. 3o).
T'h. q.raii,i.r" exhibited by the Modrvellings may be judged
as weaknesses because they are recognized as such by other
pattir
characters in the saga and are duly exploited. The three
estabto
precisely
that preface Gudmund's career are designed
lish his foibles. (One reason for believing that these pattir are
not interpolations is that they exemplify the -saga's conception
of Gudmund's character so exactlY.) In Sgrla pd,ttr, Thorarin
Nefiolfsson cajoles Gudmund into approving the marriage of
his'daughter 6y playing on his vanity. He reflects on the future birth of a g.irrit"" to Gudmund and surmises archly that
()uclmund,s con"cern for the welfare of his district makes him reluctant. to contemplate this event (ch. 5): "You think the people
will not be able to endure the power of a man with such a noble
ancestry." ()udmund accedes to this palpable flattery without the
slightest hesitation.
\n olbigs pdttr, ofeig Jarngerdarson manipulates Gudmund's
lavish hospiiality to illusirate the costs incurred by the thingmen
who must sustain Gudmund's visits in the comPany of a too-

cal consequences.

Ideally, political power and individual worth belong together.


This point is made explicitly when the final settlement of the
Modrvelling-Ljosvetning conflict is worked out by the two mediators Gellir Thorkelsson and Skegg-Broddi the Strong. Having
joined with Gellir to impose a settlement on the reluctant parties, Skegg-Broddi addresses him in the following terms (ch. z7):
"You have large numbers at your disposal, Gellir, and you have
good relations with the people of Goddales. Use your numbers
so that you gain credit from this. We should form a single body
and keep them apart and intervene on the side of those who are
willing to heed our words." To this Gellir replies succinctly, "We
are a good combination. You have the spirit and I the resources."
The saga as a whole illustrates what happens when resources

tlo

T-he

Introduction

ltt

i
the dispute are urged by their friends to desist f rottt sttt:lt :t (ltt:tt
rel. When Thorgeir proposes to throw in his lot with ()tt<ltrtttrtrl,
Arnor states outright (ch. z): "That's a strange alliance. No goorl
will come of it." The message is reinforced in chapter 8 wltt:tr

and spirit are separated; the Modrvellings have the resources'


but the Ljosvetnings have the spirit. When such a division preof that
vails, the saga auth"or's sympathies clearly lie on the side-ro
Ljosvetnings.
the
invests
amply
so
he
,pi.i, witn rirrich
this
exrenr rhe focus of Ljbsaetningo saga is a decidedly individ^ualistic
one, but it does not exclude an interest in the workings of larger

of further representations to Thorgeir: "Thorgeir was


told that his son Hoskuld was severely wounded, and people
urged him to withdraw from this case and not oppose his sons.
Thorgeir told Gudmund that no good would come of these dealings." Ofeig Jarngerdarson makes the same point to Thorgeir's
sons (ch. 3): "He restrained the brothers and said it was unfitting
that they should quarrel with their father." It is clear that public
opinion quickly solidifies to block the pact between Gudmund
and Thorgeir and restore the harmony in Thorgeir's family.
Subsequently the Ljosvetnings and their allies become a model

we learn

social units.
It is
Most in evidence is a PreoccuPation with family tensions'
subsection of the saga is.prefsurely nor coincidental ihut
"u.i, that is, a threat to family inseduction,
a
of
story
aced with the
The initial conflict between Thorgeir and his sons is pre

tegrity.

Litera,ry Setting

seduction and attempted abduction of


with
Oivir's daughter. The account of Gudmund's career begins
comproSorli's visitJ to his daughter, which he perceives to be
proposal'
marriage
Sorli's
reject
to
him
leal
which
mising and
Fina$, the hostilities of the second generation are set in motion

.ifritrl"a by Solmund's

by the seduction of Fridgerd'


The first of these seductions prefaces the dissensions that pit
Thorgeir against his sons. The second illustrates the thin line
that separates an infringement of family honor from the legitimate g.o*th of the clan"by marriage alliance- The third incident
dishonor
shows the almost unmanageable ripple effect of sexual

What
even when it occurs in a fimily of peripheral importance.
unit'
family
is at stake in all these episodes is the integrity of the

people maintain themielves not only by virtue of individual


q,ruiiti., but also as members of a reputable kin grouP.
As a consequence, solidarity within the family is a matter
of some impoitarrce. The opening conflic.t between Thorgeir
aland his sons is a negativ. .*r-pte. tt entails a transfamilial
Ljosvetning
the
liance berween the frodrvelling Gudmund and
'l'horgeir that operates at the expense of Thorgeir's family allegi,,rr... This "unnatural" state is a result of royal intervention,
ii,,,r,rr.r.h as Jarl Hakon takes the part of the villain Solmund
beh.alf'
irnrl sceks to recruit both Gudmund and Thorgeir on his
iTiroyal
this
As t:lscwhere in the sagas, notably \n Egik saga'
lcelandic
into
tiative raises questions utort Norwegian intrusion
aflairs.
The rest.rlting split between father and sons is clearly a disto
quieting devel<ipment, which the author rejects. Both parties

of solidarity, while the Modrvellings are affiicted by endemic dis-

the prtlblenratic t'clittionship tletween Gudmund and his bnrther Flinrrr-. 'l'hcir lttttltgottisttt is
grounded in a childhoorl inr:i<lerrt rt'lrrtr'<l irr <'lt:r1rlt'r' l(i. It tt'lls

sensions, chief among them

how Einar once abused (lurlrrrurrrl's r t't'<lttlity lrrrrl t't't':tlt'<l 1rt'r'manent suspicions. 'I'he tensiorr t't:sttt'l;tt't:s itt llrt'il' l:rtt'l' <lt':rl'l'lrolkt'l (it'itissorr
ings. Thus litigation between ()urlrttun<l :ut<l
lirr<ls l',irrlrr'
Hclg:rsorr
and'l'hor-irand again between Gudmund
'l'he
tr()l
re<loutt<ls
disc<lrtl
opponents.
aligned with Gudmund's
in
the
especially
Gudmund's,
to
so much to Einar's discredit as
pracGudmund
sequence
latter
In
this
case of Thorir Helgason.
tices an elaborate deception on his brother in the name of family
unity, a hypocrisy thatjustly fails.
Gudmund's most flamboyant demonstration of family insensitivity occurs in the aftermath of Thorkel Hake's death. He is so
enamored of his henchman Thorbjorn Rindil, who facilitated
Thorkel's killing, that when Rindil falls victim to reprisal, Gudmund places vengeance for him ahead of his concern for his
closest family. He is quite prepared to burn down the house in
which the killer has taken refuge even though it also shelters his
wife and son, and he can be persuaded to refrain from this design only with difficulty. The episode carries a good deal of
shock value; it exemplifies not only Gudmund's penchant for extreme behavior but a real lack of feeling. That he should consider even momentarily that Rindil is more important than his

rr2

Introduction

The Literary Setting

family shows an obsession with personal status to the exclusion


of kin that is quite unexampled in the sagas. When, at the end of
the story, Einar remarks on his failure to distinguish hot from
cold (ch. 2 r ), the comment has, as Hallvard Magerfry (t969: r z8)
pointed out, a certain metaphorical value: "He must have been
cold inside already since he felt nothing."
Family strains in Part II mirror those in Part I. The first thing
we learn about Gudmund's son Eyiolf is that he is at odds with his
bnrther Kodran, just as Gudmund was at odds with Einar. Here
the responsibility lies entirely with Eyjolf, who denies Kodran a
.just division of their inheritance. Intransigence is characteristic
of'Eyjolf and leads to the major confrontation at Kakalahill in
which Kodran is severely wounded as he tries to restrain the
combatants. Eyjolf is so preoccupied with the battle that he fails
to make the right medical decision, and Kodran dies. Only then
does a fraternal f'eeling surface (ch. z4): "Eyjolf flushed so that
he could have been bled from one finger. A fire was soon built
and they took their outer clothes off. Eyjolf was so swollen that
he could not get out of the tunic he was in." But Eyjolf's grief is
too late and he can only devote a compensatory and misplaced
energy to vengeance, thus rehearsing the pattern of extreme reaction that led to Kodran's death.
Failure to honor family ties is clearly a negative concept in the
author's construction of the narrative. By contrast, he goes to
some lengths to extol loyalty. The relevant passages occur in Part
II and emphasize the superiority ofthe Ljosvetnings. Chapter
zg is a little homily on loyalty. Thorvard rescues two boys at sea,
and when he is later threatened by Modrvelling vengeance at the
Norwegian court, they stick by him in word and deed. Their determination finally tips the balance in his favor.
'l'he most eloquent statement on solidarity occurs in chapter z5
:rl'tt'r' the Battle of Kakalahill. At this juncture Hall Otryggsson's
killing of' Kodran threatens to sow dissension in the ranks of the
l.josvctrrings. Both Thorkel Hallgilsson and Gunnstein Thordarsorr issrrt: invitations that exclude Hall, but Thorvard has a firm
sensc ol'tlre priorities at this critical moment. He declares: "I
wish to invite everyone to my farm this evening, first and foremost Hall ()tryggsson, who has suffered and purged shame
on our account.; we are in this together." Later that evening

'fhorvard reinforces the message when his son Hoskuld tukt's lur
obvious slap at Hrafn Thorkelsson, who has not distingtrislrcrl
himself in the fighting: "'Father,'he said,'shall I arrange tht:
seating according to status or prowess?"' Thorvard reprimands
him tersely: "Hrafn shall be seated next to me." As a result the
Ljosvetnings are able to hold together and minimize their disadvantage in dealing with their more powerful Modrvelling

I t :l

antagonists.
By comparison to the heavy emphasis on individual and family virtues, indications on societal values are scattered and slight.
'fhe public abuse, though it may also be considered a private

one, that seems to incur the author's disapprobation most frequently is mercantile deception. The story is set in motion by
Solmund's cheating of a Norwegian merchant. When 'fhorgeir's
sons subsequently assert (ch. S) "that they hacl right on their side
in declaring that the killing of'a rniur wirs jrrstilit:rl whcn he had
first engaged in fraud an<l tlren rctrrrrrc<l li'orrr t'xilt' lx'lirlt: tlrr:
stipulated time expired," thcy clcurly t:xprt:ss :l (:()ns(:nsus vit'w.
When Vodu-Brand undertakes an arl'rulgt:tttt:rtl witlr two Not'-

It is tlrt'r't'lirrt'
in his favor when he keeps his part ol'tlrr: lxu'grrin
punctiliously. Finally, the signal that Thorir Akrask"gg is a tlror'-

wegians, everyone expects him to perlirrrrr lxr<lly.


a clear point

oughly despicable sort is communicated by his delivery o1'flawerl


goods in payment to Helgi Arnsteinsson. It is this deception
that gives Gudmund his long-coveted opening and renders the
Ljosvetnings vulnerable. The incident is therefore not a casual
breach of ethics but a fateful act that fuels two senerations of
conflict. That the first cause is laid at the doorstep of a common
cheat not only condemns the crime in itself but also tends to
exculpate the Ljosvetnings, who are merely caught in his toils,
and incriminate Gudmund, who turns dishonesty to his own
advantage.
Legal or contractual trickery is a much more vexed problem in
the saga. The judgment on whether it is acceptable or unacceptable seems to depend on who commits it. When Thorgeir the
Chieftain devises a scheme to secure immunity for the villain
Solmund, we are presumably meant to frown on it. On the other
hand, when Thorkel Geitisson seeks to capitalize on Gudmund's
error with respect to Vodu-Brand's legal domicile, we are given

no cause for dissent. But when Gudmund concocts an elaborate


procedure for tricking his brother Einar into an alliance without
iris realizing the consequences, we have every reason to view his
conduct wiih distutt.. !V. agree with Einar, who charges fraud
and states that Gudmund's ciptious gift would have been a good
one if it had not been inspired by deceit.
When Gudmund becomes the victim of deceit, the perspective

changes once more. Hlenni tricks him with ambiguous phrasing


in order to secure the escape of Thorbjorn Rindil's killer, and we
applaud because Thorbjorn is a scoundrel and Hlenni is a stout-

heirted underdog who engages our sympathies. Mercantile

ethics seem firm, but the law is built on shifting ground' In some

no clear understanding of right and wrong at


all, for example in the matter of the thirty goats given Thorir
Helgason by Thorir Akraskegg and the paternity case against
Brand Gunnsteinsson.
Even the proper execution of legal decisions is a matter of
doubt. Solmund is clearly condemned when he returns from
his period of exile prematurely, and strong words are used
to describe Eyjolf's failure to observe the settlement between
Modrvellings'ind Ljosvetnings (ch. 3o): "Skegg-Bl"qqi said,

cases we have

'What else was to be expected when a man pursues his claim in a


completely vile way, killing innocent men in the face of an acknowledged settlement, b;t that he should be paid back in like
fashion?''' On the other hand, Thorir Helgason's apparent contravention of the terms of his exile (he returns to Iceland every
summer) elicits our admiration because it relativizes Gudmund's
legal victory and enhances Thorir's reputation for courage and
independence.
'I'he only legal principle that is steadily suPported throughout
rhe saga ir.o.riiliution. Of"igt attempts to reconcile Thorgeir the
( lhit:fiain with his sons, or Gudmund with this thingmen, inspire
orrt' t:ottfidence. Thorvard is praised from the outset for his
r:otrt:ili;ttory instincts (ch. zz): "Thorvard Hoskuldsson was restrainc<l iri his legal dealings. He made equitable offers and
never <lt:vilttecl f'rom them." Thorvard justifies his reputation by
making re:tsotrable overtures to Eyjolf, only to be rejected out of

-When

their quarrel is ultimately settled, the mediators


Gellir and Skegg-Broddi earn much of the credit, but the settle-

hand.

The L,iterary

Introduction

L14

Setting

115

ment is made possible only by Thorvard's restraint. When, on


the other hand, Eyjolf remains dissatisfied with the settlement,
the author condemns him explicitly (ch. z7): "Eyjolf thought that
he had drawn a rather short straw. That was mostly on account <ll'
his contentiousness, and it dampened his spirits greatly."
In comparison with this strong undercurrent favoring legal
negotiation, references to Christianity as an ethical code are very
rpi.t.. Gudmund invokes God as a witness to Einar's alliance
with him, but he clearly does so in a bad cause. Only in the last
two chapters are Christian values explicitly held up for emulation. Thorvard accedes to what he perceives to be St. Peter's
wishes in deciding not to return to Iceland to prosecute the feud
further, and in the final chapter there is a reference to Bishop
Ketil's piety that has no connection with the plot. On the basis of
these casual comments it would be difficult to argue that the saga
has a Christian focus.
The implications of Va,lla-l,i6l.s sttgrt, sccnl tttttt:lt rll()l'o lirt:trsed.
They have been analyzecl by Marlcnc (liklrrrrrirri (rty(i(i) itt tt't'trrs
of two competing concepts o['honol-, it ltt:itl ltt'tt sl:ttt<l:tt'<l ol'st'llassertiveness espoused by Halli, antl :r llcw sliltttllrr'<l lt'tttpt't't:<l
by Christian forbearance and represented chielly by Vrrll:r-l.ittt.
This contrast is clearly present, although we may wish to vicw
it in terms of social behavior rather than religious allegiance.
Restraint in private and public dealings must necessarily have
been a value acknowledged in both the heathen and Christian
periods.

Conflicting standards of behavior are thus as characteristic of


Vatla-Ljd| saga as they are of Ljdsuetninga saga, but they are visualized in two individuals rather than two clans. Valla-Li6ts saga
shows no signs of clan animus; neither the Svarfdalers nor the
Modrvellings are operative concepts. The social recommendations are embodied in Halli, who dominates the first half of the
saga, and Valla-Ljot, who dominates the second half. What they
stind for is made clear with almost exaggerated persistence.
Halli is introduced with the characterization (ch. r) "very selfimportant," and immediately thereafter his father's dying advice
to hir sons ("You should see to it that you are not self-seeking
beyond what your honor requires") clearly marks out the course
that Halli is predestined not to follow.

16

The Literary Setting

Introduction

He balks at the remarriage of his mother, even though she


and her two other sons are willing, because "it's beneath our station." "Station" is Halli's constant concern. He is too good to
"slog in the mud for an old sow" and as a result provokes a quarrel that ends in the slaying of Torfi. This deed causes his mother
to echo her deceased husband's prophetic tone: "This will be the
start of your bad luck, and you will either be outlawed or killed."
Her warning falls on deaf ears, and Halli pursues his statusseeking in the service of Gudmund the Powerful. In this capacity
he is described as an "enforcer" and acquires the nickname
Hredu-Halli or Roughneck-Halli (Ciklamini 1966: 3o8). He
naturally becomes unpopular in the process, but this appears not
to be the major reason for his wish to resettle in Svarfadardale.
Rather, he is intent on becoming the "leading man" (ch. z).
Thorir Vemundarson warns Halli to be peaceful in his new
district, but his first act is one of legal omission; he fails to get
permission to settle (see p. 263 n. 233). His next act is a blatant
provocation of the local chieftain Valla-Ljot over a minor infraction of law. Halli presses the point with great intransigence, leading Ljot to the quite probable surmise that he is motivated by
"greed and hostility" (ch. g). In case we are still in doubt about
Halli's principles, the author lets Gudmund reproach him with
the report that he has "taken money from Ljot for a trivial
cause." Accordingly, Gudmund.joins the prophetic chorus and
predicts that Halli's "hair will be reddened befbre the third
Winter Nights." The distribution of right and wrong is then finally drawn with all possible clarity in the showdown between
Halli and Ljot. Their encounter is framed as an ordeal, so that
when Halli falls, the reader is invited to interpret the result as a
divine judgment.
Valla-Ljot receives very different treatment from the author.
I le is introduced as an imposing presence, but fair and easygoing (ch. z): "He was uncontentious in his business dealings,
n<lt a sornber soul, and a strapping man." These qualities are
fully exenrplified in his clash with Halli over a technical breach
of Michaelmas (ch. g). Whereas Halli is intransigent, Ljot patiently seeks an agreement that will avert hostilities. His refusal
to be drawn int<l Halli's obvious provocations is reminiscent of
Blund-Ketil Geirsson's serene handling of the rascal Hen-

.t7

Thorir. His good will is more than equal to the test. In liglrt ol
the new faith he also exhibits a somewhat premature piety itrrrl is
willing to pay over the fine so as not to "anger the angel [St.

Michael]." When he confronts Halli in single combat, he docs


not urge his own cause but places it under St. Michael's discretion (ch. 4): "Now if you meant well and the angel wants to give
you victory, you'll have him on your side."
Even when the final settlement falls out in his favor, he declines to recover the money paid to Halli because (ch. S) "Ljot
wanted that sum to be assessed against him for his negligence."
Ljot may be new in the faith and he frankly admits knowing little
of the law, but he is a kind of noble neophyte who instinctively
understands higher principle, whether it be social or religious.
When all reason fails, however-, he takes swift action against his
foe. As Gudmund puts it (ch. B): "[-le rloes ttot look for trouble,
yet he is courageous zrnd decisivc." l]ollt tnorlt't':rliott :ttt<l t:<lurage are in evidence in his conr:lrr<ling <lcrrlings witlr (irr<lntuttrl.
He eludes Gudmund's assault with a c<lrrrllirrirtiorr ol't:ircrnnslx)(.tion and bravado, and he deals so skillf'ully with ltis rrt:w ant;rg()nist that the cycle of feuding characteristic sf' l,j(tnel.rt'irtgrt,.saga is
contained.

The picture of Gudmun d in Valla-Ljbts saga ts naturally of' particular interest to the reader of Lj|suetninga saga. He is much
more sympathetically drawn, but there are haunting reminiscences of his other self. Though a powerful chieftain, he is dependent on his followers who, like Halli, do not necessarily win
popularity in his service. Halli's designation as "enforcer" and
his nickname Roughneck suggest that he was an instrument in
less than scrupulous dealings. But Gudmund is oddly loyal to
such henchmen and feels that he must avenge Halli just as he
felt obliged to avenge his spy Thorbjorn Rindil in Lj1saetninga
saga. He cannot, however, carry out the vengeance alone but
marches with a troop of unspecified size against Ljot, as he did
against Thorkel Hake. He is not prepared to meet Ljot in single
combat, as Ljot unhesitatingly meets Halli. For all that, his hunger for honor remains undiminished, and this hunger must be
satisfied before a settlement can be reached. Ljot realizes as
much and strives to satisfy his opponent (ch. g): "Ljot was cotlcerned that everyone be reconciled and that Gudmund shoul<l

Introduction

r18

gainhonorfromit."ThereaPPearstobeatacitconspiracyto
plu.ut. Gudmund'
in the minor characThe morut ,ui.rr.es are equally explicit
as "well-liked"
introduced
is
Bodvar, *t "
ters. Halli,, Uroihe,
des-c1l:9:t
,.;';;;J
islater
who
and
disposition,"
and as havins
vlctlm'
innocent
proto'Ipt-g
"moderate and .B-po"d," i' the
of Ljot's
n.,rtr,.r Hrolf is his a,tith.sit. Hit killing
The thira
.r.n.rrrurJ
"treacherous deed," and
nephew

is characterized as a

hisext<lrtio.,f.omrSo.,,attheendofthesagaiscanceledinthe
extension of hospiensuing settlement. hhorgrim Ljotolfsson's bad weather and
of
tality to godra., ior..a b-"y .ir.rl-srances
Kuggason at
Thorstein
o.f
gl"."t
lodging
forced
rerniniscenr of
is acknowledged both by
the end of Bjariar saga Httd'ahhZppZ'
Ljot reproaches Bjorn for'his
Bodvar and by Ljot' In contrast'
(.n. 6): "is that your plan, kinsconremplated attick on Bodvar
b'"uk the settlement?"
man, to kill an innocent man ut'i
with considerable venom
is-written
Whereas Lj6;;;;;;"g' saga
derogation of the Modrvellings'
and concentrates abor'e ult"on the
,iurrr. It is not so much depositive
vatta_Ljitssaga has a more

discrJit Halli's "ir-seeLing as- t^" "q":t'* ii:l:t^:f


diplomacy,amodelthatismoderateandflexibleinnegottatrons
negotiations are exhausted'
but firm u.rd J"t.rmined *h"r, the

signed to

impenetrably objecdve,
The saga, *... orr." held to be almosl
saga have in common is
but what Li6r;;;;"g. '"[o u"a-Valta-Lj6x
plcture ,rf lhe to.iul truth as their aua remarkably transparent

thors Perceived it'

Part

II

THE, SAGAS

'Lj6svetninga saga'
*

Chapter

Solmund tries to abduct Oluir's daughter bu,t is preuented lry Ofeig. IIe
then chea,ts a Norwegian merchant of his sales. Whcvt, Sol,rnu,rul i.s serued
with a legal summons, his brother Soxolf hills the Nuruttp;iltn. Soxolf is
outlawed and Solmund is exiled for three year.s.

Thorgeir the Chieftain lived at Ljosavat.n and was it trol:tlrlt:


leader.' Forni was the name of an upstanding householtlet' wlr<t
lived at Hagi in Reykjadale. At that time Arnor dwelt at Reykjahlid; he was the father of Thorfinn and was a great warriot'.
They were the thingmen and friends of Thorgeir the Chieftain.
It is told that Thorfinn and Grettir had an encounter, but neither set upon the other.' It can be seen from this what sort
of warrior Thorfinn was. At that time Ofeig Jarngerdarson, a

leader' and a forceful man, dwelt at Skord. There was also


good farmer named Olvir dwelling at Reykir.

'Many sagas begin with genealogical prefaces dipping back into the
period of Icelandic settlement (Hume lg73). Ljdsuetninga saga is unusually abrupt and fails to explain who Thorgeir was. He was prominent as the lawspeaker (g85- roor) and was presumably too well known
to require introduction.
2

Nothing is known about the details of the encounter alluded to here,

but it is commemorated in a stanza spoken late in his life by Grettir

(Grettis saga 8o:254). Bjorn Sigftisson thought the stanza derived from
the allusion (rg4o: gn. 4; cf . Grettis saga xl), but the stanza could equally
well have been traditional and known to the author of Ljbsuetninga sagt.
tlt is clear from elsewhere in the saga that Ofeig is a thingman ol
Gudmund the Powerful; see, e.g., chs. 6-7. Icelandic hgfdirzgp is lrt'tr'

r2z

The brothers Solmund and Eyjolf [and Soxolf],n rhe sons of


Vidar, were living at Gnupar, all forceful and overbearing men.
They dwelt on the eastern side of the valley and were great
troublemakers when it came to dealings with women and lawsuits. They were so highhanded that few men dared go against
their wishes. They were quite famous, though not for good
deeds. Solmund was their ringleader. He got in the habit of
going to Olvir's to meet with his daughter, against the wishes of
her kinsmen, but no resistance was to be had from her fainthearted father.u
It is related that Ofeig had an errand in the district. Olvir met
him and asked him to stop by on his way back; he told him of the
dishonor inflicted by the sons of Vidar.
"The arrogance of these brothers is not likely to cease," said
Ofeig, "but I will visit here on my way home."
Olvir thanked Ofeig for his kind words. (Olvir had eighteen
slaves.)o

Ofeig arrived there in the evening.


rendered "leader," although it is frequent translation practice to render
as "chieftain." A hgfdingi, however, need nor neCessarily hold the
office of godi, which we have translated as "chieftain" as in Thorgeir the
Chieftain. Hgfdingi was used to designate a big man or the leader of a
particular group. ln Njd,k saga 88:22o, for example, Thrain, who was
not a godi, was held to be the hgfdingi of the Sigfiisson kin group.
"Leadership" was not an office; a person assurned and held it only as
long as others were willing to regard him as a spokesman or patron. See
further Gunnar Karlsson rg72.
aVersion A: Solmund and Soxolf. A few lines down
Solmund addresses two brothers (with a pronoun in the dual form), and later in the
chapter, the author refers to a total of three brothers. The explanation
seems to be that a scribe in the C branch dropped Soxolf here, whereas
:r s<:ribe in the A branch dropped Eyjolf.
5
serluction is a recurrent theme in Lj1suetninga saga, as in other family
s:rgus. 'l'he severity and type of response depended on such variables as
the rcl:rtive socialstatus of seducer and seduced-whether she was free,
l'ree<|, borrrl, or vagabond-and her marital status-whether maiden,
wi['e, <rr wi<k>w. See Grd,gd,s Ib 48-49; see Introduction, pp. 32-33.
6Altlxruglr eighteen slaves seems rather high, the number
might be a
reasonable indication of the number of male servants a successful farm
employed. See, fbr instance, the household of Thorodd in Eyrbgglo
saga b4: rbo, which had thirty servants; and see also Introduction, p. ro,
and Miller rg88b.

it

Ljdsaetninga

The Sagas

saga

123

It can be told that Vidar\ ,orn left home to go to Olvir's. Solmund said, "Brothers, you two should stand in the door and
keep a lookout. It's my guess that this breed of slaves will make
itself scarce when they see us." Solmund went in after the woman

and took her away.


The slaves said, "What could the eighteen of us do against
three of Vidar's sons?" But Ofeig jumped up, took his weapons,
and went out after them; they had gotten as far as the fence. At
the moment Solmund was about to lift her over the fence, Ofeig
arrived and took hold of her and pulled her back in.
'Just how far are you going to push your dishonorable conduct, going after householders' daughters, Solmund? It ought to
be obvious to you that people won't tolerate it. Come for her at
Skord if you want to, and we'll see what comes of it."
"We won't put it to a test now," said Solmund.
It ended with their departure, and thus the atrduction and dishonor was brought to a halt by Ofeig's presetrce. ()lvir dwelt in
peace.

Some time later Hallvard Arnorsson came out frottt Not'w:ty


to Husavik. A Norwegian named Sigurd owned ttre ship.jointly
with him. The Norwegians spent the winter there, while Sigrrr'<l
stayed with Forni at Hagi. He went about selling his cargo clur'ing the winter, and Forni told him where he could best sell his
goods. The Norwegian set out, and it happened that as he was
riding below Solmund's farm, his horse floundered in a bog. Solmund saw what was happening and came down and invited him
home. He gave him a warm reception and bid on his tnerchandise, promising a proper price for it.'The Norwegian returned
TNorwegian merchants generally wintered in lceland, making their
own lodging arrangements with various householders. A ship that made
a round trip in the same summer was noteworthy, hence the special
rnention in ch. zz, although Thorir Helgason was able to make round
t.rips in three successive years (ch. r8). It appears that merchants stayed
<>ver less for reasons of navigational constraints than for reasons of

commercial practice. As this passage and others (chs.8, ,3) indicate,


sellers delivered the goods before receiving payment. Only rarely do we
see the buyer paying first and collecting his goods later (Reykduln, saga q:
ry2-74). Payment was usually made in Icelandic wares, a rough woolen
cloth, called uadmdl. Problems of production, transport, and storage ol'
this bulky means of payment inevitably meant that most sales had to lrt:

124

home and told Forni that he had sold his wares to Solmund. But
Forni was disapproving and said that Solmund would pay a poor
return for them.

The winter passed uneventfully. ln the spring the Norwegian


went to collect the payment on his wares, but Solmund gave a
curt response. He said the goods were rotted and that he wouldn't
pay. 'fhe Norwegian went home, and a short time later he went
together with Forni and Arnor to summon Solmund.'The party
nunrtrered fifteen in all. The three brothers listened for a while
fiorn their fortified house. Solmund said it was clear that they
shoulcln't put up with this sort of thing. Soxolf then jumped into
zrction, seized his spear, and hurled it at the Norwegian; it killed
him on the spot.'After that they left. Arnor moved the body to
Reykjahlid.
They prepared the case for court and set out for the thing."'
Efforts were made to bring about a settlement. The upshot was
that Soxolf was exiled forever and Solmund was to leave Iceland
credit sales. Credit, it should be noted, was common in primitive economies; it was not an invention of the market economy. See Miller rg86a
and also below nn. 84, z5o.
s
lcelandic legal procedure provided two ways of initiating .a lawsuit:
by summons at the-legal domicile of the defendant, or by.publication at
the thing. For suits that could be contmenced by publication, summons
was alsJacceptable, although not vice versa. If the case was started by
summons the neighbors who were to serve on the jury-like palel in
court were to be selected at the thing, while they were to be called from
their homes if the case was started by publication. On Icelandic legal
procedure see the "Guide to Technical Vocabulary" in Dennis, Foote,
and Perkins (rg8o: z39-62). Their translation covers the first z17
I)ases of Grd,gd,s la in Finsen's edition. Since the Dennis et al. translation
in:irks Finsen's pagination, we cite Finsen in the conventional manner.
We lr:rve fbllowed Dennis et al. for the Grd,gds passages they cover, modil'yilrg them where necessary, however, for purposes of consistency with
()ur s:rl{:l text translations.
"lrr ir sinrilar scene in Hunsa-D6ris saga,8: z3 Blund-Ketil is sumrnorrc<l Iirr torcible seizure of hay by a band of thirty men. His compani<ln ()r'rr is so incensed that he shoots an arrow into the crowd of summorlers arr<l kills a young boy. See also Vapnf.rdinga saga 7: 4o and
su90, ttl: q6.
Eyrbygglu
-

Lj1suetninga

The Sagas

,uAiiorcliirl; t., tire laws, the rightful prosecutor of the case on behalf
of Sigurd was.Forni, the head of household where Sigurd was lodged;
Grd,gris Ia 17g,II ggg.

saga

?5

frlr three years. After they went abroad, Solmund took to lt:rrrying together with his brothers and proved to be a very bold nurn.

Chapter

Jarl Hahon receiues Solmund in Norway and, after two years, sends
gifts to Gudmund the Powerful and Thorgeir the Chieftain to facilitate
Solrnund's return to lceland. Gudmund and Thorgeir acquiesce but are
opposed by the slain Norwegian's host Arnor and Thorgeir's four sons.
These latter learn of a plan to secure immunity for Solrnund and succeed
in killing

him

first. Arnor ako falk.

At that time Jarl Hakon ruled over Norway." Solmund uppeared before him when he grew tired of raiding, and the jarl
treated him with great distinction. Solmund was eager to return
to Iceland in the summer, but the.jarl sai<l il was not aclvisable
considering the trouble he was involverl irr thcre. Ily tlurt tirrre he
had been in Norway for two years.'l'hc.jall sairl lrc woul<l rirtherr'
send out a ship and valuables to srnooth thc w:ry lirl hirrr. ll Ic
sent a Russian hat and a battle-ax to ()trdrrrtrnrl antl'l'lrolgt:ir tlrt:
Chieftain for their support.l ''
After that Solmund sailed out and met with G'udnrund anrl
Thorgeir and delivered the jarl's message and declaration of'
friendship together with the valuable gifts he had sent them.
They received him and provided four men to accompany him.
He brought Thorgeir the valuable gifts that thejarl had sent him.
"You were sent to Gudmund because he is the jarl's retainer," ''
said Thorgeir to Solmund.
"Jarl Hakon Sigurdarson was the effective ruler of Norway from
ca.97b until 995, when Olaf Tryggvason established his power.
'2This sentence is found only in the A redaction. Gudmund is
mentioned without having been introduced, as critics have frequently
pointed out (Erichsen rgrg: 67-68; Bjorn Sigfiisson ryZ7i 8; Mager@y
1956: rg). One possible explanation is that Gudmund's name figured in
the title, as in one of the paper manuscripts (Bjorn Sigfiisson lg37: 5;
see also Vigfiisson and Powell rgo5: 35o).
'uThe sagas suggest that it was common for prominent Icelanders to
become retainers of Norwegian kings and earls if and when they tr':rveled abroad.

126

The Sagas

"The valuables were sent to you," said Gudmund. "Let him


look to you for help. But if you are unwilling, let's all stick together and support one another in this case."
"I am in a difficult spot because my thingmen are involved;"
still I will lend support," said Thorgeir, "but you should be in
charse of'the case."
"I am not in a position to disagree since you have the law in
your cr)ntrol," said Gudmund.'u
"'I'he solution lies in bringing him to three autumn assemblies,
the ones at Eyja{ord, Reykjadale, and ljosavatn," said Thorgeir.
"We'll hold the assemblies together in the same place although
'' Arnor from Reykjahlid, his sons, and Forni from Hagi are thingmen of Thorgeir and opposed to the sons of Vidar.
'u'fhis is apparently a reference to the fact that Thorgeir was the lawspeaker at thia time. Gudmund's remark is an overstatement. The lawspeaker did not have the law in his control, although it would- aPPear
that the class of legal experts from which he was selected wielded considerable de facto power by virtue of their specialized knowledge. Consider the remarks of Skapti the Lawspeaker in Njd,k so,ga r42: 389 when
he was queried about a particular area of the law: "But I thought that I
alone would know this point of law now that Njal is dead, because I

know that he was the only other person to know it." The power of a
monopoly or a near monopoly on knowledge is power indeed. At the
local thing it might have been that no one would have commanded
sufficient legal expertise to challenge Thorgeir. But the inference of the
following interesiing Grdgd"s text suggests a land filled with legal exw[o not only were learned in law but seemed to create it as well:
perts,
' "What
is found in books is to be law. And if books differ, then what is
lirund in the books which the bishops own is to be accepted. If their
lxxrks also differ [there were two bishoprics in Iceland after r ro6], then
t h:rt one is to prevail which says it at greater length in words that aflfect
tlrt.t::rse at issue. But if they say it at the same length but each in its own
vt'r'sion, then the one which is in Sk6laholt is to prevail. Everything in
rlrt.lr<xrk that Haflidi had made is to be accepted unless it has since been
rrrrxlilir.rl, btrt <>nly those things in the accounts given by other legal ex1x:r'ts wlrit lr rlo not contradict it, though anything in them which sup-

l>lit:s wh:rt is lcli. out there or is clearer is to be accepted. If there is argunrenl ()n an at'ticle of law and the books do not decide it, the llggr4fial
[see lntro<ltr<:lion, p. Z] must be cleared for a meeting on it. . . . But if
the nren ol' thc lggritkt, are in equal numbers with each group calling
their version l:rw, then those with the lawspeaker among them are to
prevail" (Grd,gras Ia z r'1- r4).

Ljdsuetninga

saga

27

my thingmen cluster more in the norrh. The man will be lcg:rlly


immune if this is done."'u

Thorgeir had four sons, Tjorvi, Hoskuld, Finni, and -I'hor-kel." At that time Thorfinn from Reykjahlid was abroad, but his
father Arnor came and urged Thorgeir to support his sons.
Thorgeir said, "I will not oppose Gudmund."
"I don't know what's at the bottom of this," said Arnor,
"but don't oppose your sons when they want to support the
prosecution."

"It seems to me that you have made a bad choice in staking


your honor on the reputation of a foreigner, who is dead to
boot," replied Thorgeir. "I'm going to back Gudmund."
"That's a strange alliance," said Arnor. "No good will come
of ir."
Arnor now rode to Vagli, where Hoskuld Thorgeirsson lived.
He met with the brothers and said whar he thought the nature of
the compact between the two chieftains was. "I think it advisable," he said, "that you brothers should see your uncle Thord,
who is a wise man and well disposed toward you." And so
they did.
A discussion of this provision can be found in Foore Og77a).
'6Thorgeir's procedure for restoring Solmund's legal rights is not attested by the laws. Reyhdrzla saga 20 zr5, however, recoids a related
procedure and suggests that Thorgeir's chicanery lies not in inventine a
nonexistent remedy but rather in shortcutting the procedure by holding the autumn assemblies at the same place. Cf. Grd,gds Ia gr, 9b, zrz.
The autumn assemblies (leid, teidir) mer rwo weeks after the Allthing.
Their main purp_ose was to provide a time and place for announcing
the actions and affairs that had taken place at the Allthing ro those who
had not attended, although other administrative matters *ere also dealt

with; seeGrd,gas Ia rrt-r2.


"To be legally immune" (fridheilngr): The word does not appear in
_
Gyl;gd's, but is common in early Norwegian law. It refers to the process
of restoring rights lost by operation of law or as a result of a formal pri-

vate settlement. See N7Zls saga66: 165 and von See 1964: 16o-6r.
'TAccording to Landnd,mabdh (z7b), Thorgeir had nine sons and a

daughter by three wives (Gtidrid, Alfgerd, and Thorkatla): Thorkel


Hake, Hoskuld, Tjorvi, Kolgrim, Thorstein, Thorvard, Thorgrinr,
Thorgils, ottar, and Sigrid. In addition he had two illegitimate soirs lry
a foreign woman ("Finnish" or Lappish according to Finnbogasagu l<s:
268], named Leikny): Thorgrim and Finni the dream inrerprert'r..

128

The Sagas

The summer advanced and the Thorgeirssons infiltrated their


spies into the chieftains' camp and learned that they intended
secretly to bring Solmund to three assemblies. Gudmund and

Thorgeir prepared to muster their forces. The brothers also


gathered men. When they were a short distance from the assembly place, Finni'I'horgeirsson said that they should intercept the
chieftains' rlen. 'I'hey proceeded to dismount by a sheep shed
and leave their horses behind the shed while they went inside.
'fhe sherl was constructed with two windows, and the route
taken by ()udmund and his men passed before the door. And
n<lw t.he action was swift.

F'inni 'I'horgeirsson had keen eyesight: "If you are thinking of


blocking Solmund's path, I advise you not to overlook the packhorse that is being driven forward between the chieftains."
"Leave it to me," said Hoskuld.
As the company escorting Solmund rode by the door, Hoskuld
hurled his spear, driving it into Solmund's chest. The brothers
ran out of the shed to their horses and rode to their men.
Gudmund and Thorgeir reacted swiftly as soon as they knew
who had done it, and they rode after them. When they met the
battle broke out. On the side of Thorgeir's sons Arnor from

Reykjahlid fell. In addition one of Gudmund's farmhands fell,


and one other man on the brothers' side. Thus Gudmund and
his men failed to reach the assembly. Thorgeir's brother Thord
was the most active in mediating among them; he told Thorgeir
that he was very misguided in opposing his sons in battle.

Chapter

3
'l.fun'geir begins to utanter, but Gudmund and Thorgeir's sons press the
'l'\rc latter seeh Ofeig's help. Both parties muster
i,.s.srt,r'.
for the thing.

'l'lrt'y partecl for the time being. Thorgeir was told that his son
Hoskrrkl wirs severely wounded,'* and people urged him to withdraw li'orrr this case and not oppose his sons.
"The pretext or exaggeration of a wound for the purpose of forez4.It is a motif

stalling further conflict is repeated toward the end of ch.

Lj6suetninga

saga

tr,l)

Thorgeir told Gudmund thar-.ro good would c()rnc ol'rlrt.st.


dealings: "I'm going to withdraw," said Thorgeir, and so hr: <lirl.
"The best thing is for us to assemble our men," said Gudrnunrl.
"That's not going to happen now," said Thorgeir, and lrc
went home.
But Hoskuld, it can be told, was not wounded. The Thorgeirssons had resorted to this subterfuge because they wanted
Thorgeir to withdraw, as, in fact, happened. The brothers stuck
together and declared that the killing of Solmund was legally
justified.'' They were now at sharp odds with Gudmund and remained so for a long time afterwards. The brothers now held
the upper hand. They had a meeting in the spring and bound
themselves not to abandon the case an<l t() I)repal'e the action for
Arnor's slaying and the attenlpt on thcir'owrr livt:s.r,,()udmund
also met with his men.
The brothers sought out Of'eig un<l irskt:<l lrirrr l() ('()nr(, ro I hcir'
assistance at Leid; they asserted that they ha<l riglrt orr tlrt'ir si<le
in declaring that the killing of a man was.justilicrl wlrt.n lrc hrr<l
first engaged in fraud and then returned {ront exilt: lx:lirrt.tlrt.
stipulated time expired. Ofeig had previously helcl akxrl li'orrr
peculiar to Lj1suetninga saga but predicated on the general idea that
bloodshed must not get out of hand. Cf. the view that public opinion will
not tolerate the death of two such prominent figures as Gudmund and
Einar at the same thingmeeting (ch. r7). See Inrroducrion, pp.3o-3r.
'n"Declaring the killing of a man was justified": The issue of juitification could arise procedurally as a defense and also as an independent action. The Thorgeirssons choose the latter procedure. To do this
they had to summon the dead man to 6helgi. The dead man was said to
have.died 1heilagr ("unhallowed"), rhar is, he had forfeited his right to
life vis-i-vis his killer by virtue of his own wrongful deeds. In this iction
the corpse's wrong was the central issue. Alternatively, the matter could
be raised as a defense in the killing case brought by the corpse's kin.
justification was put to a panel of five selected by rhe
Jh^e question of
defendant from the panel of nine neighbors who acted as a jury. If they
found in favor of the defense submission, the plaintiff's case failed and
he was without further recourse at law. See the discussion in Heusler

rgr r: 6z-68, rr4-zo.


'.The killing case for Arnor properly falls to his sons. Thorfinn was
gqt of the country. Hallvard Arnorsson (ch. r), presumably the son ol'
this Arno_r, apparently assigned the case to the Thorgeirssons for pr()secution. See n.54 below.

Ljdsaetninga

The Sagas

r30

these dealings. He restrained the brothers and said it was unfitting that the! should quarrel with their father. "I don't think it at
all iertain that he will withdraw from the case, and I would like
you to reach a just settlement. That being the best course, I will
make the trip there with You."

Hoskuld said that his meeting with Ofeig had been to little
purpose-"and you are reputed to be a worthy and forceful
man, but I have found no reason to think so"'
"V)u are making much of this," said Ofeig. "Nevertheless, I
will lrcgin by seeking a reconciliation between you and your father. tl-ut I will noi abandon you if it comes to a showdown'
I aclvise you to conduct the case with forbearance, but don't
agree to a settlement before I arrive."
Half a month before the thing Tjorvi rode to Goddales be-

saga

r:l

A man named Arnstein lived at i.erloek in Oxarflor<I. llr'


owned one-third of the chieftaincy with Thorgeir, and the'l'hor'geirssons had the remaining third. Ofeig had come to the thing
with fifty men, while Tjorvi and his brothers came from the west

with a hundred. They had been at the thing for one night.

ljorvi and Hoskuld went to meet Arnstein, and they called on


him to consult with them. He invited them to talk in his booth.
They asked him to come out, and he did so.
"Everything is pointing toward litigation," Hoskuld said, "and
we kinsmen are very much at odds. You are caught in the middle.
They claim that we have not called the jr.y panel correctly."
Now we have a third of the chieftaincy and our father has another third. And it's up to you to decide which way you incline;
those you support will have the majority.""

cause he had in-laws there,2' and then he rode to the thing.

Gudmund met with Thorgeir and asked how many men


his sons had. Thorgeir said it was likely that they had a large
following.
,'Is it irue," asked Gudmund, "that a charge of manslaughter
has been prepared and that they claim that killing Solmund was
legal?"

"*Yes,"

said Thorgeir, "and we will oppose them with a large


all set-out for the thing, each with his following.
They
force."

Chapter 4
The Thorgeirssons force a certain Arnstein to cede his share of the

Lio.srrctningi chieftaincy to them. They oaerride Ofeig's moderation and


titrea,len ti' preempt Thorgeir's legal prerogatiues. Cooler heads finally
,uxi arbiiration risults in no indemnity payment for Solmund

ltrnttril
tt,'txl, tt,

hu'&t payment

for Arnor.

",'l'ltc A vt.r'siorr reads:


his c<litiorr,

"because he was related by marriage to h."

In

lliiiln Sigfiisson surmises tha[ "h" stands for the name Haf

(rg4o: ,,r,,. .,). I l:rl'Thorkelsson from Goddales (nicknamed "the rich")


is merrtit,,,",i'i,r Nid3s saga r rg: 3oo. If this conjecture is-right,.it shows
another t;:tst: itt wirich the A redactor had access to additional names'
See lntr<ltlut:tiott, l). 7 l.

"Neighbors were incorrectly callc<l t() s(:r'v(: orr tlrr: lniulu,ii\r ("iu.y
panel") if there were other neighlxrrs tlost'r'to llrt's(('rr('ol';rr:liorr, i['
they were second cousins ()r nearer lo tltc prinr ipirls, or il'tlrt'y rlirl rrot
have sufficient property to pay the thing utlen<l:rtrr;c l:rx (st'r' lttlt'o<lrt<:tion, pp. g-lo).Yet even if a majority of a patrel calle<l lor:ully w:ts sttlr.iect to disqualification, the plaintiff's case was not spoile<l il'ltt: swot't:
that he thought they were qualified when he called them. 'l'he plaintill',
however, was subject to a three-mark fine for the error. See Grd,gd,s lzt
6r-62 and Njd,ls saga r4z: g8g. Still, some errors could be fatal. Thus
Grdgds Ia 5z regarding calling a panel of neighbors at the Allthing
rather than locally: "If a man calls a servant to join a panel of neighbors
or calls a man who is not a thing participant on behalf of someone else's
household and calls them so that they themselves-hear his calling and he
has the opportunity of asking for legal information if he wants to, then
he makes his own case void."
t'It was not unusual for a chieftaincy to be owned by more than one
person. But there is little support for the view suggested in this chapter
that the co-owners shared in the duties of the office at the same time, or
that the shareholders exercised their authority by polling a majority of
the shares. The laws indicate that the duties were to be performed by
only one man. The relevant provision in Grd,gd,s reads as follows: "If two
men own a chieftaincy jointly, the same one of them is to act in it for
three things, the spring thing, the Allthing, and the autumn assembly.
They are then to change over after the autumn assembly. . . .It is also
lawful if men transfer a chieftaincy from one to another at a thing after
the courts have been held. If the man who is acting in a chieftaincy will

r1z

The Sagas

"I'm in a tight spot," replied Arnstein. "I'm on good terms


with Thorgeir, and it seems to me advisable that you leave the
matter up to him."
"That's not the way the land lies," Hoskuld said' He stood outside in front of'the door, Tiorvi inside the door, with Arnstein
between tltenr.''

"Nr) c(xrlpensation has been offered for our friend Arnor,"


-I'jorvi said.
"lt woulcl be better to yield to us, " said Hoskuld. "Now there is
no poitrt in drawing this out any longer;'u do as we say or test
whettrer this ax has any bite."
"lt tregan badly and will end the same way:'Tlorvi declared.
"Make the best of it, for we intend to finish what we have started."
Arnstein took their advice, and so they parted. He was to meet
with the brothers the next morning. They provided for his men,
tented his booth, and then prepared to go to court.26
f'hen Gudmund said to'fhorgeir, "Your sons are now taking
strong measures and you are getting old. Is it really true that you
will not oppose them and will allow them to take charge of the
whole case and have the judges under their thumb?" "
not transfer it, the other is to summon him to a reckoning and claim he
forfeits his share and owes a three-mark fine" (Ia r4r)'
Droplaugarsona saga 4: r4g, however, can be read to show that two
peopl! might share" simultiireously in the administration of a chiefiai.rty, alth"ough the passage is too spare to be of much assistance' See
also Grd,gd,s Ia 38, g8-gg.
2nThe"intimldaiion "oT Arnrt"in at close quarters is reminiscent of
s(:enes in Hensa-P6ris saga ro: 29-30 , Njd,ls so,ga r38: 367-68,.u1d esper i:rlly Laxd,cyla saga 7b: z"rg: "Hilldor sal down on the grass.with one,of
tlrt: kinsmen on eaili side", so close that they were almost sitting on his
r lo:rk; :rncl Beinir stood over them holding a big ax."
of A see
"" A lir<:una begins at this point in A. Onlhe extant fragments
t rrl rrrrlttt l iotr, pp. 6+-GS.
""(llrit'li:rins'and iornI farmers had roofless booths built of turf and
sl()n(.:rl lltt'tlting sites. The thingmen wereby law obliged tobring cloth
whi< lt w:rs ttsctl :r^s temporary roofing, and the chieftain was thento provide tlrcrrr with lxroth ipr."'(Grdgd,s Ia 44). Ruins of these simple shelters al.e srill Observable'by archai=ologisti who know how to distinguish
such things li'ottt the general rocky environs,,The iveprs that f <illow for the remainder of the chapter are rather

Ljdsuetninga

saga

r:t:t

"It will all come to the same thing," Thlrgeir

replie<I. "'l'lrt.
will be won by recourse to the law."
Gudmund said, "It all depends on whom we have to deal with
when they come to the Allthing. There they will make headway
though they do not have the necessary numbers to do so here."
Then Hoskuld said, "Why don't you convene the court?"
"It may be," said Tjorvi, "that they are"weaker than they
thought."
"It's a shame if my father's courage is giving out," said Hoskuld.
"Let's attack Gudmund and his men."
"That's not right," replied Ofeig. "Let's seek a settlement instead. If this matter comes to the Allthing, your resources will
already be drained. You'll then have no choice but to settle-you
should let Thorgeir arbitrate the case."
"That won't happen if there is any nltcr.rrutivc," s;ti{l Hosktrld.
"We'll settle with Thorgeir even if'()rrclrrrrrrrrl <l<lt'sn'l w:lnt t()
case

obscurely presented. The problems may be due to an abridgrrrerrl ol


a more circumstantial account, or, as other commentators have strggested, to the author's thin knowledge of formal legal process (B. M.
Olsen rg37-39: 385-88). Only the broad outlines of the case are reasonably discernible. Thorgeir refuses to appoint his share ofjudges to
the court. Each one of the three chieftains at the local thing was responsible for naming twelve of the thirty-six judges who sat for the court.
Thorgeir's motive can only be guessed at. He is not at all eager to oppose his sons in a lawsuit, and it may be that he is using his nonfeasance
to solve his quandary by eliminating, in effect, the forum for hearing the case. On the other hand, Ofeig's remark-"It's illegal to proceed if Thorgeir declines to convene the judges"-might indicate that
Thorgeir intends to trick his sons into an illegality so as to give himself
and Gudmund a counterclaim against them. See, e.g., the comparable
trick of Eyjolf Bolverksson in Njdk saga t4g:3g3. By not naming the
judges, Thorgeir gives grounds for forfeiture of his chieftaincy at the
suit of anyone who is bringing a case in that court (Grd,gd,s Ia 5o). Perhaps Thorgeir could not imagine his sons bringing such a case. Ofeig,
for his part, had trouble imagining it: "Who should do that fimpeach
Thorgeir]? I don't see the right man for it." The brothers convene a
thing at another site, appoint their own judges to hear the case, and return to the first thing (apparently) to announce the judgment of their
own court and force a confrontation. For other cases involving problems in the appointment of judges see Droplaugarsona saga 4: r48 and
Porgik saga sharda 24: t49.

Ljdsaetninga

The Sagas

134

"for they are still in a powerful position."


The brothers saidlhut they were eager for a test of arms. And
Hoskuld said that in any event he woirld get the jr.y panel to
declare against 1[6ryt-"2nd then we will prevail'"
,,That,.iill advised," said Ofeig. "It's illegal to proceed if Thorgeir declines to convene the judges.""
" "H. shoulcl be impeached and ousted from his chieftaincy,"

settle," replied Ofeig,

saicl H<>skuld.

..wh<l should do that?" asked ofeig.

firr it."
t,loskuld said,

"I don't

see the

right man

"[ will take charge of the impeachment."

"'l'hat will lead to armed conflict," Ofeig replied'


Hoskuld said, "We shall redden ourselves in priestly blood according to the ancient ritual." He slaughtered a ram and claimed
ArnsteL's chieftaincy and reddened his hands in the blood of
the ram." Arnstein named witnesses to the fact that he did not
wish to designate judges because he did not want to make himself vulnerubl" in ttrislase. Then Hoskuld went to the thing hill
and impeached Thorgeir, naming witnesses to it and then apthe judges.
pointing
^
Then the/ convened the thing at Fjosatongue downstream
from Illugastead because they had not succeeded at the regular
district thing'o grounds. They rode down to these grounds to
find Thorg.I., ieari.rg the judges in session in the meantime; it
looked as though a Lattle was impending. Then Snorri, the
,*,,Ir's illegal ro proceed" (ok er illt at gera
pingsafglgpun
!i"s:of.glgpun):
the P-roPcI
obstructing. rne
involved oDstructlng
offenses that lnvolved
P.ropel
roughly those oftenses
rlescribed rSughly

<rlrerati<rn of tf,e lourts ot lggrbtta. For example, forcible disruption.of


tl\t Lpgrirta was pingsafgtgpunl, ut were those iases whel a judge, right-

lirlly'iihall".,n.d, .Eftirl"a to leave the court; *lr9n

judge refused to

srun ltl):r case; or when litigants used excessive delay in presenting their

ttrx.(i)rdgds Ia z 12,48, G"4,69,7r). The penalty^was lesser outlawry,

whit:li crri:rilc<l three yea.s exile and property confiscation.

"'l loskrrl<l's ritual it .rot confirmed in other sources. The laws, as


note<l ;rlxrvt: (n. z3), indicate that forfeiture of a chieftaincy was made
pursu:lllt
r

t.o :r

lltwstrit.

str'r1)is[r'ir.t t.hing" (utirping):

literally, "spring thing"; .1e,

.lrgwe,ver,

have translat.etl ir <leicriptiiely throughoul as "district thing" both to


avoid the jingle :rrrrl [o piovide a sense of the jurisdictional competence

of the court.

saga

r:i5

.ni.f,ui" of

the men from Hlid, approached with a largt: nunrber of men and said, "This is not a promising turn of events. Wt.
now have two choices, to let Hoskuld and his followers bring rlrt:
case to judgment-and, given their numbers, it may be that ttrey
will succeed in depriving Thorgeir of his chieftairicy-or ro
reach a settlement. We are keener on the latter course because
the litigation was initiated aggressively and it may be that ir will
only lead to increased difficulties. The obvious thing is ro semle."
This course was chosen, and they all agreed to it chiefly because

of the representations of friends and kinsmen. The case

turned over to arbitration and men were named to arbitrate. Hoskuld and his followers enhanced their reputation as
a result of these dealings. Solmund was judged to have been
killed withjustification. A large payment was awarded for Arnor,
though the amount is not specified, and Arnstein rli<l n<>t get his
chieftaincy back.
was now

Chapter 5: 'Sgrla p6ttr' ('I'hc Srory ol'Sorli)


Sorli, son of Brodd-H elgi, stays with Gudrnurul tlrc Poutnl u,1,. W lu'n h i.s
interest in Gudmund's daughter becomes the subject ol'gos.tip, Oruhntnxl,
sends her away. Sorli sues for her hand, is at first rejected, then en li.st.s tlrc
aid of Thorarin l{efiolfsson. Thorarin wins Gudmund ouer with a cornbination of flattery and the prospect of male progeny.

It is told that Gudmund the Powerful far outstripped other


men with his grand style of life. He had more than a hundred
members of his household and the same number of cows." It
was his custom to lodge the sons of distinguished men for long
periods of time, and he treated them so splendidly that they had
no work to do other than to be always in his company. When
3"'More than a hundred" (hundrad): the Icelandic hundred gener-

:lH""T::'*::l:?T.i:[,1Ti;"111;3#3T3fi

o::"i:il]'*xl

meant to convey. Hundrad, here, simply means "a lot," and probably
quite a bit less than r zo. On household size see Introduction, pp. 10, r 2.
The sentence itself is echoed in Njd,k saga I rq: 285. On this echo and
Gudmund's reputation for hospitality see Introduction, pp.74,84.

r36

The Sagas

it was their custom to work even


though they were from eminent families. At that time Einar
lived at -fhvera in [.yja{ford, and Gudmund the Powerful, his
brother, livecl at Modruvellir.
It is told that one summer Sorli, the son of Brodd-Helgi and a
very well-bred rnan, left the thing with Gudmund and stayed with
him on very hospitable terms. Gudmund's daughter Thordis was
then living at home and she was thought to be an excellent
match. l'eople said that she and Sorli conversed frequently. This
canle to (l,udmund's ears and he said that it was not a matter that
grerited discussion. However, when he saw that no heed was
taken, he said never a word to Sorli but had Thordis brought
down to Thvera to Einar's home.
Yet now as before she was the object of Sorli's visits. And one
day, when Thordis went out to see to her linens, the sun was

they were at home, however,

shining and there were southerly breezes and fine weather. She
saw then that a tall man was riding into the yard. When she recognized the man, she said, "Now the air is full of sunshine and
southerly breezes, and Sorli is riding into the yard." The season
conspired with his arrival."'
Time passed now and the moment for the summer thing approached. Sorli intended to return east to his kinsmen. One day
it the thing he went to Einar of Thvera and asked to speak with
him and said, "I would like to have your support in asking your
brother Gudmund for the hand of his daughter Thordis."
"I will give it," said Einar. "But Gudmund often honors the
words of other men more than mine."
He went to Gudmund's booth. The brothers met and sat down
to talk. "What is your opinion of Sorli?" asked Einar.
..li:rvorable," he said, "for such men are accomplished in evt'r'y wlty."

:'lrrr[t:erl," said Einar, "he has no lack of fine family or good


rt:lltrtat iott or wealth."
"'l ruc cttottgh," said Gudmund.

'r:^"::::,harsed
,,r *inlonvey
,n. -"t]0,
me wirrr,,, .,:,':l
llinar. "He requests the hand of your daughier Thordis."
"I believe that is a suitable arrangement for many reas{)ns,,,
said Gudmund, "but because of the gossip surrounding the
matter it's not going to happen."

Later Einar met with sorli and told him that there was no

yielding, and also what the reason was and what had happened.
He responded, "It seems to me that the situation is not promising as things stand."
"Now I will devise a plan for you," said Einar to sorli. "There
is a rnan named Thorarin Toki, the son of Ne{olf and a wise
man.'u He is a great friend of Gudmund's. Go to him and ask
him to counsel you."
Sorli did as he was advised. He went north l() rn()ct with 'I'horarin, requested a talk with hirn, arr<l srri<1, "A rn:rllt:r. lr;rs (]ome
up that I consider very iml)ortant lir yorr to t:rkt. 1xrr.l irr; you

should convey my worcls to ()rr<lnrrrrrrl l.yjoll.ssorr:rrril :rsk Iin-tIr.


hand of his daughter 'l'tror.<lis ()n nry lrr.lr:rll'."
"Why do you make this request of'rrrc?" lrc lrskt.<1.
Sorli told him then what it was that peoplc lurrl lrt:grrrr ro gossip about and how a favorable response was n()t t() lle cx1>t.<:tt.rl.
"I advise you to go home now," Thorarin said. "I will kr<lk irrro
it and send word to you if anything can be done, because I can

see this is very

important to you."
He said that he was well pleased with this, and they parred.

Thorarin went to meet with Gudmund and was given a good


reception. They sat down to talk. Then Thorarin ruid, ..Is it L.,.,
as I have heard, that sorli Brodd-Helgason has asked for your
daughter Thordis?"
"It is true," said Gudmund.
ssThorarin Ne{]olfsson
is well known from oldfs saga helga (Heims-

85: yzi-28; rrg: 2or-3; 1zb: zrb-ril.In one anecdore


tfrlsl"^Il,
King olaf
sees

o''I'lre text rc:r<ls simply petta bar saman ("these things coincided" or
"these ttrings h:tpllened'ai the same time"). Gudbrandur Vigfiisson
(rgo5: 366i'thou14ht that something was missing .W: have overtransiut.irtigtrtly in an attempt to catch something of the lyrical flavor.

Thorarin's foot and 6ets tLat .r5rr" uglier can be found,

but Thorarin takes the bet and then shows off the"other foot with a
missing big toe. It is also Thorarin who is enrrusred with King olaf,s

request that he be granted Grim's Isle off the northern coast of iceland.
Gudmund's brother Einar dissuades his countrymen from acceding to
the request.

38

"What sort of a reply did you give?" asked Thorarin.


"It didn't seem right to me," he said.
"What was the reason for this? Does he not have an adequate
lineage, or is he not as accomplished as you wish?"
Gudmund replied, "He is not lacking these qualities. The reason for my not marrying Thordis to him is that there has been
some talk about their relationshiP."
"'I'hat's 6f'no account," said Thorarin. "There is another reas<ln why you begrudge him the marriage. I'm sure of it even
though you give a different reason."
"It's not so," said Gudmund.
"You can'[ hide the truth from me," Thorarin said, "I know
what's on your mind."
"There is nothing I can say about it if you know it all better
than I do," replied Gudmund.
Thorarin said, "You may act on the assumption that I do."
"I am curious to know what you think is on my mind," said
Gudmund.

"I didn't think you would

spare me from revealing your

thoughts," Thorarin said.

Gudmund said, "Apparently that's what I want."


"And so it shall be," said Thorarin. "Because you oversee the
welfare of the countryside, you are unwilling that a grandson
should be born to such a mighty man as you. You think the
people will not be able to endure the power of a man with such a
noble ancestry."
,
Gudmund smiled and said, "Why shouldn't we take this matter
under advisement?"
W<lrd was then sent to Sorli. He entered the negotiations and
prot.eeded to marry Thordis. They had two sons, Einar and
ilr'o<l<li, and they were both outstanding men. This story is told
lrt.t'rnrsc ()trdmund liked the praise and Thorarin pursued the
rrlrllt'r'wiscly, having been very close to the mark in his estimate
o{'( irr<lrrrrurrl."'
'n'['he tcxt :rrl<ls genealogical information on Sorli at this point, but
the besirrning is rlefbctive and we have omitted the following four lines.
See

Lj6saetninga saga

The Sagas

Bjorn Sig['tsson tg4o: r r3 and n. r.

:t,1 )

Chapter 6: '6feigs p6ttr' (The Story of Ofeig)


Gudmund's northern thingmen are ouerburdened by the expense ol lui,.s
extended aisits with a large retinue. They appeal to ofeig, who deuises u,rt,
elaborate scheme to reform Gudmund's habits.

At the time Gudmund the Powerful was living at Modruvellir


in Eyjafiord his brother Einar was living at Thvera. Gudmund
was both mighty and backed by a numerous following. He was
accustomed to travel to the north of the district in the spring and
meet his thingmen to discuss the management of the district and
attend to the legal affairs of his men. And rhose who had previ-

ously made insufficient provision for their households found


themselves with a great shortage. (]udnrtrncl ofien rode with
thirty men and an equal number of' horscs, trn<l st:ryecl many
places for a week.
There was a man named 'l'h<lrbjrlrrr wlro livt.<l :rr l{t'ykir- in
Reykir settlement. He was a [rig, stt'()lrg nliln, I)()l)ul:rr' :rrr<l
wealthy. At that time Ofeig Jarngerdarson live<l ar Skor.<l. I lis
father's name was Onund, the son of Hrolf', the sorr ol' I lt:lgi t lrt:
Lean.'u Up until then Ofeig had been the leading fiuur.r: irr rlrc
northern part of the district. He was a friend of the brolhers
Gudmund and Einar.
One autumn there was a well-attended meeting at Skord to
'uOfeig Jarngerdarson is not mentioned in Landndmabbh. Helgi the
Lean is, however, one of the most prominent Icelandic colonists and
his settlement in Eyja{ord is described in some detail (Landndmabbh
25o-b3). According to this account he was fostered in Ireland and believed in Christ, although he also invoked Thor. He settled his son
Hrolf to the east of Eyjafiord River, where he lived at Gnupufell (ibid.
268). Seven sons and a daughter are listed as Hrolf's children, but
Onund is not mentioned. Landnd,mabdk (278) would appear to filiate
Onund to the lineage of one Grenjad Hrappsson, not to Helgi the Lean.
Following the genealogy of Lj6suetninga sago, it is possible for Ofeig and
Gudmund to be roughly the same age even though Ofeig is of the generation of Gudmund's father, if we suppose that Ofeig's Fa and FaFa
were later-born children than Gudmund's FaFa and great-grandmother.
See Genealogy

VII.

r40

for paupers, and these


the law."o There was a
with
in
accordance
matters were decided
north.
the
of
part
in
that
great famine
Then Thorbjorn said, "I appeal to you in this matter, Ofeig,
and I speak on behalf of many because there are great shortages
here in the north. You know how our chieftain Gudmund the
Powerful makes it a custom to come north in the spring and stay
at some places for a long time. It would be much better for us if
he would ride in a company of ten men. But what he does now is
beyond our means."
i'L.. a ready solution for this," said Ofeig. "I'll have Gudmund
the Powerful stay with me for a fortnight with his whole compan/, and you can bring the gifts you want to give to him and
take leave of him here." "
,,Your generosity and goodheartedness are well known," replied Thorbjorn, "but this is not the solution we desire."
"Then the matter will become more difficult and not everyone

discuss district business and the provision

36This is a meeting

of

the hrepp1 an ancient communal unit made

up of at least twentf household-ers of sufficient proprty to pay the


tt it g attendance tax. The hreppr was responsible for the maintenance
of th-"ose dependent people who fell through the cracks of the kin networks and debt-slavery systems. It was at the meetings 9f !q. hrepp-r that
paupers were distributed among the qualifying householders. The as-

iig.r-"t t

The Sagas

was not random. Landlordi remained primarily -liable for

th"eir tenants, and masters for their servants. There was no obligation to
support beggars from outside the hreppr.In fact, any acts of charity to

tfrem *".."fr.rishable by a fine of three marks, although the ho.useholder had i valid defense if he could show that he only took them in to
flog them. The hreppr acquired som of its funding from a. 9o11iq1 of
r.he" tithes due from' the district and from mandatory food "gifts" asst:ssecl in such a way as to capture the food saved by I enten fasting.
'l'ithes were not established until ro96. Funding methods before then
:rrc rrnknown. The hreppr was administered by !h-. landowners in it and
it irlr;>e;rrs to have funitioned independently of _the chieftain-thingman
strur:ttrres. See Grd,gas Ib r7r-8o, II 249-6r, J6n J6hannesson rg74:

:rtt<l Maurer rgog: 467 -525.


83-tll),
"rz1ji;ig'*
pnrposal ieiognizes that gifts to Gudmund are obligatory, but'ir :rll<iws the far*mers to decide their value. .The aspe.l 9f

Gudmund's unwelcome visitations that is most onerous is that the visits


empowered hint rat.her than his thingmen to determine the value of the
"gift" of hospitality.

.\

Ljdsaetninga

saga

t,l

is going to like it," said ofeig. "You should stable your. Iror-st:s,
one short of thirty and all of them sleek. They should all bc sr:rllions, and you can fetch hay from me if you need it." T'hey sairl
that this was to their liking, and then they parted.
Time passed now unril the last week of Lent. Then ofeig sent
for those men who had the horses. They came to Skord with
their horses and ofeig gave rhem a good reception. on the fifth
da1 ofeig told rhem to saddle their horses, and this they did.
when they were ready, ofeig's horse was led out and saddled; it
was a large sleek horse, a stallion. ofeig mounted and cut an imposing figure.
when they rode out of the yard ofeig said, "you will feel that

you're being led off into the dark, bur I will take charge of
matters for us." They all agreed to this.
They rode up through the distrir:t of'Rcykj:r<lule rrrrrl rhen on [o
Ljosavatn and thus to Fnj<lskatl:rle :rn<l Vr<lllrlrcirtlr; tlrcy :rrrivcd
at Einar's farm at'I-hvera in the evr:ning. IIt.girvt: tlrt.rrr:r goo<l
reception and invited thern to stay ovcl' l,lrstt.r'. t)lt.i14 tlrlrrrkt.rl
him for the invitation but said he would rirlc lo Morlnrvt.llir orr
Saturday.

"I wish," said Einar, "that you would come herc ,rr y()lr.
way back and tell me of your conversation with my brot.hcr
Gudmund." Ofeig said he would do so.
They rode up to Modruvellir on saturday. As they approachecl
the farm, a farmhand went out, and then back in, and said to
Gudmund that there were men riding toward the farm, and not
an insignificant number ar thar. Gudmund said it was nothing
special in Eyjafiord if rhere were men riding about the district.
"Now there is one way to tell whether they are from the district-they will take the first gate they come to. But if they come
from further away, they will take main gate, provided there are
men of some distinction in the company."
The farmhand came in a second time and said, "There is no
doubt that these men are riding to the main gate; the leader is a
man in a blue hooded cloak."'*
'8Note the social information derived from what we assume are insignificant details. Color of clothing, direction of travel, the fact of
travel itself, type of mount, size of accompaniment, who is in the group,

142

The Sagas

And when they went out, Gudmund said, "It may be that the
Reykdalers have some business with me, or there is some news
from the north, since their champion Ofeig has come."

Chapter

Ofeig demonstrates Gudmund's lauish style by spending the better part


of a weeh at Modruaellir with a company of thirty men. On departing, he
draws the analogy and aduises Gudmund to curtail his uisits in the future. Gudmund questions Ofeig's loyalty and they part on cool terms, but
later Gudmund follows the aduice, and they restore good rel.rttions with
another uisit and an exchange of gftt.

Gudmund welcomed Ofeig and his companions and invited


them to stay there as long as they wished. Ofeig said that he
would accept the invitation. "But you will find it a problem to
board our horses because they are all stallions and can't be together. We are very concerned about them because they are our
stud horses, fed on the best hay."
Gudmund said that he thought the farmhands would be ill advised not to maintain the horses to their complete satisfaction,
and that the space at Modruvellir would suffice-"for if it comes
to that, the cattle will be turned out of the sheds and the horses
will be sheltered there."
Ofeig and his men stayed there through Easter. The fourth
day after Easter, when Ofeig had gotten up, one of his companions came to him and asked, "How long are you planning to stay
here?"

"On through Easter week," answered Ofeig.


"We shouldn't do that because they've now gone to purchase
lloth h:ry and food," the man replied.
"l x:irlly h<lpe you're telling the truth," said Ofeig. "Now is the
tirnr: lo sit tight."
etc., at'c :rll lxrtentially significant and are frequently noted by the saga
writer antl liis t-haraclers. The identification of people by a description
of their clotlring is an especially common saga motif. The most elaborate example is it Laxdwla saga 63 r87-go. See also Kersbergen 1927:
69-7o with ret'erences to eleven other sagas. See n. 9o below.

Lj1Tuetninga saga

r.l:t

The Monday after Easter week they prepared to leirvt..,,', llrrr


Gudmund asked them [o stay longer and enjoy thenrselvt.s"there are still many things to talk about."
Ofeig said he would depart now.
Gudmund had his horse brought and rode a way with them.
They came to a yard of haystacks. Gudmund said, ".Here we will
dismount and let the horses graze.I wouldn't want my brother
Einar to laugh this evening because your horses are starved.,,
They did so. "You have stayed with me for a while, ofeig, and I
do not know the nature of your business. I would like to know
now what it might be."no
"It's good that you have asked, Gudmund,,, said Ofeig. .,I,ve
been waiting for this. My business is to bring rhe truth home to
you because people in the north think thar up [o now you have
known too little of it. As you are aware, it is y()ul- r:trst.om to visit
your thingmen in the north in the sllrirrg witlr:r r.orrrpany of
thirty men and stay with the s:unc lirrrrrcr lilr ir wt.t.k. 'l'h:it sftgws
little consideration toward t[rosc who lr:rve rn(.a{.r(.r' rrrr,;rns irrr<l
have laid in only enough for ttreir househol<l trntil Illl.'l'lris is;r
great oppression to them. Now we have not lreen hcr-c <;rrilt, srr
long, but I had the impression that you needed to purcha,st lrot lr
hay and food. And you had an ample supply and are a chiefiain.
I doubt that you would be a lesser chieftain even if you went ro
visit your friends with a company of only ten. Everyone would
be quite pleased wirh rhar."
"These words are well spoken," said Gudmund, ,,as was to be
expected from you. It is indeed true that I have done as you say.
But it is worth considering whether you will be against me when
my honor is at stake; it certainly appears so."
*pf-eig] visit began lare on the saturday
before Easrer sunday and
continued all through the next week.
'uTh: sagas-show that it is a matter of decorum not to make the purpose of a visit known too hastily. Goo! form usually requires waiting to
the next day to state one's business if the journey'*u, iorg ..ro,rgfi to
require staying the night and if the business was of a fairl/ seriou"s nature but still did not require immediate action; See, e.g., Njdk saga rz:
42, 17: bl,27: ??,97, z4o, and Lj1suetninga saga ch. g. Ofeig is minipu_
lating the. significances of the eipectation, rir.orr,"ding tf,ese ,o.*r.
one can imagine that he hopes to be causing Gudmrind some little

amount of anxiety.

r44

Lj1suetninga

The Sagas

such words from you," replied Ofeig. "Thus


far nothing like that has been in my mind." With this Ofeig grew
distant and there was not much in the way of farewells between
Ofeig and Gudmund when they parted. Gudmund thought no
better of the truth than Ofeig did of Gudmund's suspicion.
With this they separated, and Ofeig rode to Thvera, arriving

"I did not expect

in the evening. Einar received them very well, and Ofeig told

him all about his conversation with Gudmund. Einar said, "You
have ma<le a valiant trip, Ofeig. I don't know what your experience is in Reykjadale, but in Eyjafiord we find that my brother's
prophecies are borne out." The next morning Ofeig rode back
home to the north.
In the spring Gudmund set out from home for the north with
a company of ten men. This time he stayed for two nights where
he had previously spent a week. He visited with Ofeig at Skord
and was received there exceptionally well. He stayed a week and
when they parted, Ofeig gave him two red oxen, seven years old;
they were precious possessions.
"This is a good gift," said Gudmund. "[ have two other oxen,
all black, in no way inferior to these, and I would like to give you
both to assure that you will not be against me when my honor is
at stake."'"
"You may safely accept the gift because there is nothing underhanded in it," said Ofeig.
Gudmund said he didn't know how it would improve things
even if he didn't accept. Then he departed. People thought that
Ofeig's reputation had grown greatly because of these dealings
with Gudmund.

Chapter 8: 'Vgdu-Brands p6ttr' (The Story of


Vodu-Brand)
tlrc son of Thorhel at Myr, inuites two Norwegian merchants to
.tltt,rul lltt, trtinter, u,nd he.facilitates their businr.ss. As a reward, he asks to
accornltrt,rt4 l,ltem, tu ll/onuay, where he is in turn entertained. He becomes

llnutd,

''On the strategies of gift-exchange at issue here see Introduction,


pp. 5r-55, and Miller rg86a.

saga

embroiled with a certain Harek and finally kills him. His friends
and return him safely to lceland.

'45

(lirt,

.settlement

There was a man named Thorkel, who lived at Myr. He was a


worthy householder. His son's name was Branil: He was big and
strong and was called Vodu-Brand. He was a troublemaker,
difficult to deal with, and rather unyielding, so that his father
had a hard time keeping workers because of him.
One summer a ship made land in the north at Tjornes. It was
owned by men from the Trondheim district; one was named
'fhord and another Sigurd. It was the custom at that time that the
crew be given lodging before the captains.n'One day Vodu-Brand
rode to the ship and looked up the captains. T'hey asked who he
was. He said he was a householder's son. They asked whether his
father might wish to provide men with lodging, btrt he said that
such quarters were not for foreign visitors: "'l'hcre's nobody
around and it's boring," he said, "but there is :r still ureater
problem."
They asked what it was.
"The fact that nobody can get along with nre," ltc t't:plit:<l.
They said they would risk it.
"Then I will talk over the matter with my fht.[rer'," sairl l]r':rnrl,
and he rode home and told his father that he had o{I'eretl the
skippers lodging.
Thorkel said that this was a risky business. "But I would be
pleased," he said, "if there were honor in it for you."
He said that the decision was his father's alone. "But it would
seem better to me not to have misled them."
Thorkel bade him take charge of the matter-"because you
have the greatest interest in this."
Then Vodu-Brand set out to meet with the Norwegians and
o2It is revealed below that the captains are brothers. The situation is
reminiscent of a passage in Hunsa-P6ris sa,ga 3: 1o, in which Herstein
lllund-Ketilsson issues an invitation to Norwegian merchants on behalf

of his father. The motif recurs in ch. r3, where the wording of version
A (see Appendix , p. 246) seems to echo Hunsa-D1ris saga. See Introduclion, pp.67-68.

r46

The Sagas

Ljdwetninga

said the lodging was available to them. They said that they would
accept and accompanied him on the trip home. Many people
viewed this as a strange misjudgment on their part.

The captains'cargo was brought to Myr, and Brand accompanied the transport from the north to Fnjoskadale and sold it
there. Many people said that Brand would stick to his usual habit
of concluding his business badly with these men as with all others.
But the skippers gave no heed to such talk no matter what people
said. Brand traveled as far as Eyjafiord with the cargo before he
got it all sold. But he didn't mention to the captains where he
had sold their goods when he got home.
In the spring he went to collect the money owing the Norwegians, and nobody ventured to withhold the proper amount
from him. He collected every ell that was his to collect. When he
came home, he showed the skippers what he had, and they were
well pleased. They asked him to choose his own reward, and he
said that he wished to travel abroad with them. They said that
this option was available, but they asked him to keep himself
under control. "What is your stake for the voyage?" they asked.n'
He said that was up to his father.
They spoke then with Thorkel and told him this. He said he
thought they were worthy men: "I will turn over fifteen hun'3"What is your stake for the voyage?" People taking passage generally did more than just pay their way. They also brought with them
wares, usually aadmd,l, to trade once they got to Norway. Each passenger
in effect was something of a merchant. He was also expected to do his
share as a crew member; see, e.g., Grettis saga 17: bo: "Grettir would not
budge, neither to bail, or tend to the sail, nor any other work that he
was supposed to split evenly with the other men. Nor was he willing to
buy himself out of the work." The laws purported to regulate some
rnatters of transport, such as overbooking:

"If a man

takes so many men

on his ship that it cannot carry their wares, those who were the last to
('()rne to the ship and those who have contributed the least to its preparatiorr h:rve to disembark with their parcels. The captain is liable for a
three-rn:rrk fine for each of those who have taken passage and must
n()w l{ct oll'. People have to get off until the ship is seaworthy. But those
people :rre t() have the fares that they were to pay and also what they
already have paid for shelter (on the beach) and while lying at anchor"
(Grdtg(t-s Ib 6q).

saga

t,l7

I suspect that it may cost you ntorc, il'yott


take him under your wing."
They said they would risk that.
They sailed abroad in the summer and took a liking to Brantl
because he was both able-bodied and quick to lend a hand. The
voyage lasted many days before they made land to the north at
'frondheim. The brothers invited Brand home and he accepted.
'fhere was a great gathering there and much conviviality. The
brothers asked Brand to stay with them but said that the big
drinking parties could be hazardous. He said he wouldn't be the
first to give offense to others. "But I don't know," he said, "how
I'm likely to react if others cross me."
They went to visit a man named Harek. He was of good family

dreds to him.'n And

and very ill-tempered, with a troop of firllowers to match his


temperament. When he saw the Icelancler', ltc llcg:ttr to nrock
and ridicule him in various ways.""l'ht'y s(x)ll took to tlttttttitts
each other with verses for a tirrre, arr<l Ilt'lrrr<l lrirrl tlrt'rrppt:t'
hand while Harek got the worst. ol'it."'llltt't:k s:rirl tlrltt llr':rrrtl
had not requested permission firt' resitlent.c, llttt tltt: tttt'tt ol'tlrt'
district said that the brothers had the right to grant lotlgirrg irr
the district to anyone they wanted. Harek was a great chlttttlliott;
he did not pay compensation for the men he killed.'"
One day Harek went up to Brand with a great drinking horn
aa"Fifteen hundreds": Fifteen long hundred (i.e. rzo) ells of uadmd,l:
nn. r r r and z4o below.
nuSee
n. lg7 below.
'6The dangers of festivity and conviviality are nowhere more apparent than here. Exchanges of wit and verse were considered great en-

see also

tertainment, no doubt all the more entertaining because of the danger


that lurked beneath the surface of the competition. In Norway, verbal
competitions were also accompanied by drinking contests, and this
helped ensure that the hostilities latent in the mirth were not likely to
stay latent for long. Alcohol was harder to come by in Iceland since
srain for brewing was very scarce. See Porgils saga ok Haflida ro: 27.
n7"He did not pay compensation for the men he killed" (butti engan
mann fi): this is a conventional tag for the obstreperous, antisocial type.
lt is noteworthy that the excessiveness of the conduct lies less in the
original acts of violence than in the refusal to make subsequent amends.
See, e.g., Hrafnhek saga 2: gg; Njd.k saga gi Zo.

r48

The Sagas

and asked him to drink with him. But Brand said he wouldn't
drink: "I don't have such an excess of wits that I can afford to
drink away what I have. You're likely to need all you have too,
judging from what I can see."
Harek now drank half the horn and asked Brand to drink the
half that remained. But Brand didn't want to take the horn.
Harek said Brand would have to accommodate him and struck
him on the head with the horn so that the drink sloshed down
over him. Then Harek went to his seat and began to ridicule
Brand. But Brand kept his temper and turned it into a joke.
Harek said he reacted to this as if he was quite accustomed to
being thrashed." In the morning when the men had taken their
seats, Brand went up to Harek, plunged his ax into his head, and
killed him. The men on both sides jumped up right away and
there was a great tumult.
The brothers were able to get Brand away and they offered
compensation on his behalf to Harek's kin. And because Harek
was unpopular, his kin accepted compensation. That exhausted

all the money that Brand had taken with him from Iceland, and
more besides.

Then the brothers asked what Brand had in mind. He said


that he wanted to return to Iceland, even though it wasn't clear
how he would pay for it. Sigurd said that he hadn't given so
many men passage from Iceland that Brand shouldn't be given
the same amount of money that he had brought with him. "Here
are your fifteen hundreds," he said, "this time in Norwegian
qor)ds."

'l'he brothers then escorted him to the ship and did not take
It'irvt: rrrrtil it set sail. llrartd ttranked them for all their aid and
tlrt:y lrirrtt:<l ott fi-ien<lly terms. T'he ship had a slow passage and
tlrt:y rrur<lc land at Reydarfj<lrd toward the end of summer. Fall
(:iunc clrrly atrd travel was made difficult by snow.
'* I lirrck'.s needling is reminiscent of a passage in Porsteins pdur (7o)
in whit.h 'l'lrorstein's father reminds him of a blow received during a

horsefight: "What can you tell me about that horse match last summer,
son? Weren't you knocked unconscious like a dog?" Here too the result
of the needling is revenge.

Ljdsuetninga saga

Chapter

r,l1r

On his return Brand stays with Thorkel Geitisson, but he soort, gullu,r.s
a.follouting of boisterous nxerrymakers. When Thorkel reprimands lint,
lrc goes home to his father's farm. Here he creates more dfficulties lry
wounding an opponent in an athletic contest. His father aduises him to
return to Thorhel Geitisson.

There was a man named Thorkel Geitisson.ue He lived at


Krossavik in Vapnafjord. There was a man staying with him
named Einar, from Reykjadale. When he learned that VoduBrand had arrived from abroad, he made ready to leave. Thorkel
asked where he intended

to go. He sairl he woulrl lle on his

way-((because I've learned that Vr>rlu-llnur<l luts ('orne fr-om


abroad and I know your hospitality wt:ll t'norrglr lo krrow tlr:rt
you will take him in, but nolxr<ly r.:rrr qt't :rlorrg witlr lrirn."
"You are a little quick t<l shy awrry li'orrr lrirrr," r't'plit'<l 'l'lrorkt'1.
"If he settles in and it is not conscrrial lirr yorr lrt'r't', I will rrr:rkt'
<tther provision f<lr you. But if it turns otrt thlrt llrlrn<l is lrt'r'r'
and does not trouble you, then it's rash to move."
He said he would stay put for the time being.
Five days later Vodu-Brand came to Krossavik and was wcll
received. When he had been there for three days, he spoke with
Thorkel and asked to be lodged over the winter. "I will give you
that option even though you are difficult and unruly," answered
Thorkel. "I will provide you with legal residenceuo because that

"Thorkel Geitisson is a prominent figure in Vd,pnfirdinga saga, where


he tries repeatedly to avenge his father against his killer Bjarni BroddHelgason. After several thwarted attempts he engages Bjarni in open
battle. Both are wounded, but they are healed and later reconciled as is
mentioned at the conclusion of ch. rz. See Introduction, pp. go-gl.
uo"Legal residence" (lggheimili): the laws required
that everyone be attached to a household. Knowledge of a person's legal residence was im-

portant in matters of jurisdiction and venue in legal cases, as demonstrated in Vodu-Brand's case in ch. ro. According to law Brand had to
make arrangements to enter a household within two weeks of leaving
the ship (Grdgd.s Ia r 3 r ). Contracts for legal residence were made on an
annual basis, with the lodging arrangements expiring during Moving

150

Lj6saetninga saga

The Sagas

seems to be the easiest solution. You can place

your goods in my

safekeeping for whatever contingency arises."

"I'll accept this offer," said Brand, "because I'm tired of chasing
about in the bad weather. Besides, hay is hard to come by now."
The first firrtnight Brand was at Krossavik he was so amenable
that he fbllowed Thorkel in and out of the house wherever he
went. []ut in the second fortnight his manner changed a bit. He
stayed lrchind in the sitting room in the evening after Thorkel
harl gone to bed and devised all sorts of gibes. People say that he
was tlre first to invent the rules of the mock court.u' People came
Inrnr f ar and wide from other farms, making for a lot of noise.
'l'horkel sat at drink with only one other man. Eventually, it was
reported to Thorkel that the women found the verdicts of the
mock court rather strong. They couldn't defend themselves and
were not at liberty to come and go as they pleased.
Thorkel took Brand aside and said, "Until now I haven't interfered with your habits or ways, but I am told that the women are
hardly at liberty to come and go as they please because of you
and your companions, and that is scarcely fitting. It's as if a new
chieftain had appeared in the region and men were flocking to
him from their former chieftain. I keep company with one man,
Days (fardagar) which fell during the last week in May. This was the
time special[y mandated for people to relocate to their new households
if they had not renewed at the place they had been in service the ygar
before. See Grdgd,s Ia rz8-39. This passage shows that in a chieftain's
household, at least, servants were recruited from a geographical area
wider than the immediate area and even from outside the quarter. Both
Brand and Einar in the chapter's first paragraph come from the eastern
I):rrt of the North Quarter, while Thorkel Geitisson lives in the north(':rslern part of the East Quarter.
""'M<rck court" translates Syrpupingslgg (the laws of the syrpa meetilrg). .\1rpa means "dirty woman" or "a volume of miscellaneous things"
(( llt'rrslry:rn<l Vigfusson lgbT). B6sa saga (ch.5) refers to verses "that are
<';rlk'rl Syr'lruveri and contain the most virulent magic and may not be
rt:r:itt'<l irl'tt'r'sunset." One stanza is quoted with a runic inscription folkrwirrg (st't' 'l'hompson rg78). The travesty in the present passage is
leqal :rnrl slrows the key role the law played in everyone's life. Such a
ganre woul<l hlrve served the social function of teaching people about
legal procerlut'e :tttcl how to negotiate its mazes. The passage shows that
the servanl- t;l:rsses rnet with their counterparts at other farms.

r5r

but you sit up with a whole retinue. Now I woulrl likt: to ltltvt'
something done about it."
Brand said he would mend his ways.
In the evening Brand went to bed. His thingmen canle :ls
usual and couldn't Convene their Court since there was no leader.
They sent for him, but he didn't come any more readily for that.
The same thing happened the next evening when the thingmen
came. The coming and going decreased, and Brand didn't utter
a word for a fortnight.
Then Thorkel said to Brand, "You are a very erratic fellow.
Now return to your sociable ways in moderation."
He said he had no idea how to conduct himself since nothing
he did was pleasing: "No one could find it eitsy to live with you.

I'm leaving."

"You are a member of my htltrst:tt<lltl," s;ti<l 'l'lrorkt'|, "lttt<l it


seems to me that you d<l rne a rlisltonor il'yorr t'un ottl ott y()tll'
lodging agreement."
Brand nonetheless rode ofl'wcst to lris littlrt:r''s lt<ltttt'. A sltorl
time later games were rlrsanized there. 'l'trorbjortt It'ottt l{t'ykir
was the toughest competitor, and he and Brand were tltlttt'ltt'<l
against each other. People urged Thorbjorn to exert hinrscll'trr
the utmost and show that he was a powerful man. He said he wlts
prepared to do that. One day during the game Thorbjorn gave
Brand a hard fall. Thorbjorn continued to play at full strength,
overmatching Brand, who was not at all pleased. When they
parted, Brand gave him a severe wound. People thronged about;
Ofeig from Skord had arrived in the meantime.u'
Brand now went home to his father and told him what had
happened. "You have put us in a very ticklish position," said
Thorkel. "It was very imprudent of you to have left Thorkel. It's
my advice that you return to him.""'
u2The sagas suggest that people took their games seriously. And as in
every other type of interaction in the culture, honor and status were
won and lost in the process. The sagas are likely to Present a very biased
sample, but they consistently indicate that the boundaries between
gam-es and the life outside them were not always clearly marked or

willingly observed.
uuBiand's father hopes to avoid having to answer for Brand's action.

lbz

Ljdsuetninga

The Sagas

Brand said that he was not eager to do this. Still, he went east
and told the news to Thorkel, who said it would have been better
had he stayed put: "But I will receive you because I can't remember leaving anyone in my household in the lurch-"

Chapter r o
'fhorhel attempts a reconciliation with Gudmund the Powerful but is
rejected. IIe enlists hetp from Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson and plans a dearriaes at the
fensc ba,sed on a f,aw in Gudmund's prosecution. He then
thing with a deceptiuely small force, while concealing a larger force
nearby.

Thorkel Geitisson then went to meet with Gudmund the

Powerful and offered compensation on Brand's behalf: "I want


you to judge the amount yourself."
Gudmund said that he did not want to accept money for such
a troublemaker, who was bent on attacking innocent men-"and
using the law to eliminate such men would be a good riddance
for the land."
Thorkel made no headway, and instead Gudmund traveled
north to the Reykir settlement, where he took over the case from
Thorbjorn and prepared it for the district thing.o*
Since in general a lawsuit was initiated by a summons at the domicile

of

the wrorigdoer, it was difficult, if not impossible, for the head of the
household to avoid getting involved in the disputes of his lodgers.
Thorkel Geitisson, as a chieftain of considerable power, is in every way
l)et.ter equipped to handle Brand's case. On householder liability,for the

,rid deli.ts of their servants see Gunnars pdttr Didrandabana ti


saga 25i Loo.
r1)7-{)U;
"rir'1ii,. see also the case in Sturlu
principal to a lawsuit, i.e., the interested person himself or his
lrt.ir il' lrtj was dtad, could transfer either the prosecution or defense of'
:r ( irsc. hs Ljtixtetninga saga shows (ch. zz), such transfers could be made
gent:r':rlly with respEct to future claims that might arise. The transfer
iitual rt:<ltrircrl the transferor and transferee to take each other by the

rlelrts

hand in titc l)l'cset)ce of two witnesses (see ch. r3). The process was^less
an assignrr,.i,l ,,t we would understand it than the engagement of ?1
attorney or tltc hirinq of an agent. The transferee, for exa-mple, could
not himself'transl'er [he action except back to the original transferor,
unless he fell ill or was wounded while on the way to the Allthing. An

saga

tfrll

Some time later Thorkel Geitisson went east to Allrt:rl.iolrl trr


meet with his friend Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson, who receivt:<l lrirrr
well. Thorkel said, "This winter it so happened that Brart<l, :r

total good-for-nothing, wounded a farmer from the north, ittttl


he is.ro* u member ofmy household. Gudmund the Powerf trl
has prepared the case for the thing at Vodlar. It is possible that
he has failed to consider that Brand no longer lives in that
quarter, and that I have given him a contract for legal residenceIt occurs to me that this will give us a cause of action. Now I

would like to have your support in attending the thing and


forcefully defending the case against Gudmund, in the event he
won't accept compensation, and in testing whether I am to be
disposed of with his left hand, as he remarkc<l to my kinsman
Bjarni Brodd-Helgason at the Allthing lrtst sttttttlr(:r'."
Thorstein said that he could sec gI'()utr<ls litt'it <lt'lt'ttst' itt the
exception was made for t,hosc (:lus('s ol'ltt'liotr lltlrl lrliglrt ;tt isc ltotlt tlrt'
original suit but occurre<l alier the lt-ltttsli:t'. Srrt ll, lirt irtsl:ttrr<', wottl<l
be fases involving liability filr irtrproper l)r'()(.c(lut'crrt' lor rlt'l:ty ;trtrl rlisruption. These c-arres of action were treatetl :ts ltekrrrgilrg lo lltt'.lt:tttsfeiee and he could clo with them what he wanted. lt wits thtrs ( ltt<ltttttrtrl
and Gudmund alone who had to bear the legal consequeltt:cs lirl'lrrirrging the case against Brand to the wrong courl If the transf'ercc tlit:<l'
thE transfe.r"d.ur. reverted to the transferor. The transferee was liablt:
for lesser outlawry at the suit of the transferor if he willfully failed to
pursue the action..Judges and members of the panel of n^eighbgrs :ve.re
itricken for relatio"n to"the transferor and not the transferee. And the
benefits and liabilities of the suit accrued to the transferor. See Grdgd,s

la6z, r2Z, rz5-26;Il


Z++-+5.
"the
rules; itie ieality
Such iere

was often different. Take, for example, the right to sue the undiligent transferee. Transferees were al..roit ul*uyr Ihi"ftuins or other big men. Their power and also their
pleading si<ills made it unlikely that an average-householder would ever
be able Io muster the support to sue his agent. If he had such resources,
presumably he would not have transferred the case in the firstllace.
And not ail benefits and liabilities accrued to the transferor. Transferees were often reluctant to take up cases-lawsuits, after all, involved
considerable risk-and they frequently exacted a healthy consideration
from the transferor either by way of gifts up front (note how Thorir
Akraskegg musr recruit Thorir Helgason, ch. r 4), ol py a cut of th9 t1ke.
On the .r"tli". hand, suits could be valuable commodities. Thus it is that
Gudmund cannor think of a better gift than the lawsuit against Thorir
Akraskegg rhar Helgi rransfers to him (ch. r3; especially A text.h.f).

rb1

Ljdsaetninga

The Sagas

625s-"1[ough it will seem that you are pressing the matter


aggressively. But I will accompany you."
That summer they left home with sixty men apiece and rode
to Jokul River. 'I'here were good fords at many spots. Thorkel
said, "We'll divide our force. Thorstein and I and three more
will ride the usual route to the thing westward. The rest of
the cornpany will ride down from Myvatn to Kroksdale and
Bleiksmyrardale and on below the heath." The area was at that
time ext.ensively wooded.
'l'hey rcde down through Fnjoskadale because they had tents
th..rt rnatched the woods, while Thorkel and his party went by
way of'Akreyr. They met now at the agreed spot and no one was
aware of their movements. Thorkel and Thorstein and their
three companions rode to the thing on a Sunday. Thorkel told
his men to watch for a signal that he needed reinforcements. He
said that if he did, he would climb the rise between the thing
grounds and them-('2pd I will have my inlaid ax in my hand
and wave it over my head." Then they rode to the thing to the
booth of OfeigJarngerdarson, the five of them. He invited them

to stay there.
Someone entered the booth of Gudmund the Powerful:
"Thorkel Geitisson has come to the thing with a remarkably
small following," he said.
"How so?" said Gudmund.
"There were five of them," he said.
Gudmund said that they would have ridden onto the thing
grorrn<ls with a larser firrce if'they hacl intended to quash his
c:rsc. "llrrl ttow it (xr(:ul's l() nlc that we've overlooked something
in orrr' (:;ls('. 'l'ltot'kt:l's sitlt: will cl:rirn Brand as a member of his
Irorrst.lrokl, tlrorrtr3lr il's not likely that Thorkel will nullify our
t'ast'witlr livt'nr(:n. Still, it nray be that he has some trick up his
slt't'vc rrr<l llrrrt tlrt:y ltitve a larger company."
I tt' irrrtrrt'rli:rtcly ser)t men to inquire about their lodgings on
the rotrtt'. No ortc along the way could say anything but that they
nunrbcrt'rl rro nlore than five. Then Gudmund said, "[t may be
that we hltvc :ttt itclequate number if no more of them have ridden front tht: eust. We will not send for reinforcements at this
time. This case will so as it is destined to."

saga,

r55

Chapter r r
When the legal sparring produces no result, Thorkel sltmnlons his rtand scatters the court. The matter is then deferred to the Allthing.
Here a stalemate deuelops, and Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson undertakes with
Ofeig Jarngerdarson to detach Einar from his brother Gudmund\ cau,se
by proposing a marriage between Thorkel Geitisson and Einar's daughserL)es

ter

Jorun.

Gudmund the Powerful prosecuted the case there at the district thingiuu he seated the judges and invited the defense to
present their case.
Then Thorkel Geitisson said, "I would like you, Gudmund, to
accept a settlement and self-judgment with the condition that
there be no provisions for exile."
"I would accept that if you were offering it on behalf of a decent man," said Gudmund, "but I cannot bring myself to accept
it for such a wretch, now that I have gone to such trouble."
Thorkel named witnesses and issued an interdiction forbidding the judges to render a judgment.u6 Gudmund claimed that
uu"District thing": the text reads t Nordlendingad1m. The "North
Quarter court" did not meet locally in the district but was held at the
Allthing. The narrative, however, makes it clear that the case is being
brought at the local thing at Vodlar. See n. r76 below.
uuGrd,gd,s
Ia roz reads as follows: "If a man from a different thing is
summoned to a district thing, the judges have to give judgment in that
case unless the case is forbidden by an interdiction (liritr)." Further at
Ia ro5: "All cases forbidden by interdiction at a district thing are to go
to the Allthing and before the quarter court for the quarter the thing is
in, and all the men to provide formal means of proof in the original suit
who have not done so at the district thing are automatically called to the

Allthing."
Grd,gd,s devotes a considerable amount of space to the problem of ascertaining a person's legal residence for the purposes of summoning
and calling neighbors, not all of it completely consistent. One relevant
passage, although not quite on point in every respect, provides_that a
iervant who is dismissed for actionable offenses against other household members is to find a legal residence for himself within two weeks
and it becomes lawful to summon him at this new residence for wrongs

r56

Lj1suetninga

The Sagas

b7

chance with his brother Einar. It would be more advisable to


seek a settlement and have Einar be as muctr a part of it as the
rest of us. Thorkel has let it be kn<lwn thirt hc vt:r'y nrtrch wants
to ask for the hand of Einar's dauglrtt:r'.fot'rrn. I srrsscst that we
meet with Einar."
"It seems to me a g<lod idear to consult witlr l',irrlrr on the
marriage matter," replied Of-eitr;, "trut the <ltrcl sct'nrs lo ntc
unwise."6r

If this provision w-ereapplicable,


Gudmund would seem to iave rr*mo.red Brand legally. But Brand
was not dismissed for offenses in his household and he technically still
has his legal residence at Thorkel Geitisson's. It seems a little harsh
to hold G"udmund to knowledge of the circumstances under which
he commits thereafter (Grdgd,s Ia r35).

Lr-

greater numbers. Thorkel had his booth up by F'angari<lgt'. l,.lforts were made to reconcile them, but there was solid resistiurt:t'.
Early one morning Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson went to Olcig
Jarngerdarson's booth and spoke with him. Thorstein askerl,
"What is your guess about the chances of reconciliation?"
Ofeig said that he suspected things would turn bad and that
they already looked very much that way.
"I want to let you know," Thorstein said, "since you are friendly
with both parties,un that there will be trouble if the case is not
settled. They intend to challenge Gudmund to single combat; he
would rather die than suffer disgrace. We should take a

Thorkel was halting the proceedings highhandedly and said that


he would not make good any of his claims.
"We are still willing to guarantee a settlement for the man if
you will accept self-judgment," Thorkel said.
Gudmund said that he wasn't inclined to prosecute the man in
their clistrict if they had a mind to void the case:u' "the man is
definitely going to be outlawed."
Then'I horkel went up onto the rise and raised his ax. His men
imrnediately made a rush for the thing grounds, breaking up the
court arrd catching everyone by surprise. Gudmund named witllesses atrd summoned Thorkel for contempt of court.58 But
'l'trorkel summoned Gudmund for improper procedure; both
ref-erred their actions to the Allthing that summer.
Both sides gathered large forces for the Allthing. Bjarni
Brodd-Helgason was present and had a large following. People
weren't sure to which side he would throw his support. Thorkel
and Thorstein had numerous followers, but Gudmund had far

Brand left Thorkel's. The laws, fiowever, make some attempt to handle
this problem. Thus "whenever a man does not know a man'S legal home
a.rdte has no opportunity to ask him with a formal.legal asking,.itis
lawful to summon'frim at the place he last knew was his legal hom9" (Ia
r33; see also Ia 4c.-4il.Theri are also other pro-visions o.f arguable appiilability. For i -ri recently returned to lceland, it is in some in,tu,r,,., lawful "to summon hinr at the place he last knew was his legal
horrre" (la rqr). 'fhere is tto way o['kntlwing which of these provisions
g,rr..,'rr.r.l the case at ltatr<I. Sitt<:e even (iudmund seems to think he was
i,,.',.,..,,-, it is likely th:rr llrand's ofEcial legal residence at Thorkel
( )r'it issorr's <lt'lt:t'tttittes tlre allpropriate forum.
"'(lrrtllttutr<l wottl<l not hlve had to prosecute the case in Thorkel's
<listl'ict ttttlcss ltc so tltose and the principals agreed on the venue' The
casc worrl<l lr;rvt. lrt:t:tt llroperly brought to the Allthing.at the East
g;iagis la 4o-4r; II 356). But now that the case
Quar.rer. (:()ru't rhcrc
the Atttfring by-interdiction, the proper court beto
l'crrrove<l
his been
comes the Norf lt Quarter court; iee Grdgd,s Ia ro5, the relevant part of
which is quotetl in n. 66 above.
u',,Contempt of'court": translating pingsafglgpun; see n. z8 above.

saga

They sought out Einar and sat down to talk. Of'eig s:rirl, "As
you are well aware, Einar, things have come to a very diflit.rrlt
pass. The men involved are not only smart but contentious t.(x).
We are friendly with both parties and have an obligation to work
for reconciliation. To this end Thorstein wishes to raise the
matter of asking for your daughterJorun for Thorkel Geitisson."
,1

r!1

,ff

rlt
,..1

u'Peacemakers often emerge from among those people who are connected to both sides and who seek to resolve their own conflict of duty
by resolving the conflict. See also the role of Thord (ch. z).
6oThe manuscript is defective here. It appears that a line dropped

from an exemplar has resulted in contamination of the existing mss.


The idea of breaking a legal logjam by resorting to single combat recurs
in chs. 16 and 3o.
6'Literally: "I think this is a good (legal) matter to put to Einar, but
the former (or the other) matter seems to me unwise." Just what the
"other matter" is, is not altogether clear. We suppose it refers to the
most aggressive measure proposed, i.e., the duel, although the "other
matter" might also refer to involving Einar in a settlement before he has
a special interest in it. The special interest offered is the kinship bond
with Thorkel.

r58

Lj1suetninga saga

The Sagas

Einar said that this was a good proposal: "But Gudmund will
have the greatest say about it when we meet with him."

They

Chapter

riid th.y thought that he himself would be the right

r 51)

rz

The marriage between Thorkel and Einar's daughter Jorun is rtt''

legal guardian fbr his own daughter even though Gudmund was
.,ot uithe meetirg.u"'You'll want to consider that. Gudmund has

ranged. Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson reueals the arrangenxent to Gudmuml,


and the confl,ict is mediated by OfeigJarngerdarson and Einar. Gudmund
agrees but harbors resentment against both. Bjarni Brodd-Helgason
taunts him with his discomf,ture. Concluding notes.

not had your honor and standing uppermost in his mind for

some time."

"Isn't it true that Thorkel is short of money, while my daughter is very wealthy?" said Einar.
"Who is of nobler spirit than Thorkel," replied Ofeig, "paying,
as he does, compensation on behalf of others at the thing?
Whose farm is more prosperous than his? What is the point of
money if it never serves him or others? He commands the greatest respect in all the East Fjords."
"The proposal has been very well presented, Ofeig. In addition Gudmund has prophesied auspiciously about my daughter
Jorun, and his prophesies are always fulfilled.u'We may certainly
discuss this matter if you wish, provided Thorkel will join us."
Thorstein said that he would not fail to do so.

Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson went to Thorkel's booth immediately. He greeted him cordially and asked how he had fared.
Thorstein answered, "I don't know how it will turn out, but I
have begun negotiating a wife for you this morni.g."
"You certainly go to great lengths to help me," said Thorkel,
"considering you do what I don't ask no less ttritn what I do ask.
Who is the woman?"
"The girl is named -|orun att<l slrt' is tlrt'<l:rrrglrtt'r'of'F.inar

from Thvera," replied'I'horstein.


"That's the girl I would rrtost likc to rllu'l'y ilr :rll ol' I<'t:l:ttttl,"
said Thorkel.
"We may now proceed to the betrothal," saitl 'l'hot'slt:itt.
Then Einar and Thorkel met and discussed thc rlrittter'. 'l'lrt'y
settled everything without difficulty and determined a weddins
date. The betrothal was concluded, with the wedding to be held
at Thvera a half month after the thing.un Thorstein then made

u2"Right legal guardian" (rittr lggrddandi), the lggrddandi dealt with


his wari's legil matters. Since women of whatever age were disabled
own suits in person, they had
from proseciting and defending their
.ffre
to act iegally thr6ugh a guardian.
fugrddandi was usually also the
gt''rg hgT in.marempowe.gd.t9
person
ii,
the
that
woman'slastnandi,
riage. In rare instances the two roles did not coincide. The identity^o.f
thifastnand,i was determined by kinship and, in one instance, could fall
t., u *.r.r-,rn. In the absence of father, son of majority, son-in-law, or
lrrrther, a mother was to be the ltutnandi for her daughter (Grd,gd,s lb
z{)).()rr tlre other lt:rn<I, the lgSqrddrtruli c<>uld never be a woman, nor
rrilt.rl lrt' lx' :t kittsttt:ttt. Sag:r (:ascs show women finding men willing to
s('r'v(,irs lltt:it' \tgrtii\rnuli who are not connected to them in any-signifi('iurt w:ry lry kirishil); see, e.e.., Sturlu saga g: 73.Ei-na1 clearly has the
to honor his
lx)w(.r' t,r 13ivc his tlaughter in marriage, bgt hls desire
kirrslrip wiiir (iurlrnund-by taking counsel with him only elicils^strategic
net:<lliirg ;rnrl ittsinuations of weakness from Thorstein and Ofeig^.
"''(irri[rrrrrn<l is somewhat forspd,r, that is, able to see into the future
(ch. Z). His t;rlents in this regard, however, are not consistently pr9sentecl arr<l, irt :tlly event, are nbt sufficient to obviate his need to consult
dream ittterltret.ers and sorceresses (ch. zr). In this passage it can be
observed thiit prophecies were social facts that could be manipulated by
people to justify present courses of action. For further discussion see

6'Both the betrothal and the wedding were necessary if the marriage
to produce hereditable issue (Grd,gd,s II 66): "A person is not entitled to inherit when his mother was not paid for with a mund of a mark
or more, or who was not wedded, or not betrothed. . . . A wedding is
done in accordance with the law if the lggrd,dandi [see n. 6z above] betroth the woman and at least six men are at the wedding and the groom
goes with lights [i.e., openly] into the same bed with the woman." The
mund is a payment from the groom, or his kin, to the bride. As the law
says, it was essential to the validity of the marriage. The bride was also
often provided with a dowry by her parents or other kin, but this was
not mandatory. Both the mund and the dowry remained the property of
the woman in marriage, although the husband usually managed the
property. The wife's right to the dowry was not affected by divorce,
death, or outlawry of the husband, although in some circumstances her
rights to the mund would give way to claims of creditors (Grd,gd.s Ia r r4).
It was the negotiations leading to the betrothal that settled the crucial

was

Miller rg86b.

,^t-t

Ljdsuetninga

The Sagas

r6o

it a
closer contact with Gudmund the Powerful and thought
good idea that they consult; this was arranged'
- ,,yo, are doing a lot of circulating around-the thing, Thorstein," said Gudriund, "yo, must be getting a lot done'"
,,[t won,t seem less important to you when you know the details," Thorstein answered.
"What's the most recent news, Thorstein?"
..I don,t have much of significance to report," he rePlied, "but
the most important item is that Thorkel Geitisson has betrothed

himself."

"-I'he woman he gets will be well married because he is an outol'


standing man," saii G,rdmund, "even if we aren't on the best
terms ,ro*. But who is the woman?"
Thorstein answered, "Your niece Jorun'"

.,Einar didn't have that

in mind when we parted," said

Gudmund.

"where
have just Come from the betrothal," Thorstein said,
was a wiiness along with Ofeig Jarngerdarson'"

"I

.,you must be telllng the truth," said Gudmund.

"I

had a pre-

monition, and Ofeiglarngerdarson is likely to have had the


greatest hand in it."
Then a reconciliation was sought in which Einar and ofeig
Gudmund said, "What
Jarngerdarson were most instrurnental.ou
t"T: to pass' namely
now
has
i p.o'pn"sied in the spring, Ofeig,
you"'on
of
that my honor would diminish because
property issues, the size of the mund and dor,vry, location of residence,
l,rr,l'ttr" *.dding clate. ()nce the woman was betrothed it was an offense
to. interfere with the relationship (II 16o)'
ir,,,ri.tfr,,frfc lry leirer'outlawry
I

was otherl'f ht: ltrttrre htrsbancl changed his mind he lost tlne mund but

mind
wist: rror liable. On the oth?r hand, if the fastnandi changed -his
was
husband
would-be
the
ward),
his
(16tir:t: it is assumed he controls
and
arrangement'
the
of
portions
financial
the
I'ulfillm."t
ro
t.rrtirlc<l
"f
her was
anyonc who kept the woman inside when he came to request
sufrjert ro lessef outlawry (II r59-6o)'

role in the reconciliation is exactly whal Thorstein


hoped to achieve by having. Fiyl betroth his daughter to

,',,Ein:rr's active

urra

iit.ig

Thorkel. llinar ir

lu"ght in the diddle, bound to both

sides, and

The
"L*
hence has a. irrt"."rt in rEconciling the parties; see.n. 59 above.
awksomewhat
his".ne*y,.making,it
to
;;;;id; also ties Gudmund
ward for him to continue to posture aggressively in the dispute.
uuSee

ch. 7.

saga

(i

ofeig responded, "I have not diminished your honor in the


least by having secured you better and larger kinship connections than you had before."
"I wish to make you the same offer as before, Gudmund," said

Thorkel, "that you yourself

assess

the award for the inflicted

wound and I assess the amount for the wrongful procedure with
which I charged you.""'
Gudmund saw now that nothing else could be done. He accepted the offer and determined an amount that was agreeable
to both. There was ill feeling berween the brothers foi a long
time because of this. Thorkel captured all the honor.

one day at the thing Gudmund the powerful and Bjarni

"It seems to me, Gudmund,


that you had to use both your right and left hands against my
kinsman Thorkel, and you didn't n)anase even so. Ancl I still remember, Gudmund, when I aske<l you ro rt:t:orrt:ilc rne wit.h
Thorkel, that nobody gave a rneilr)el'iulswcr rlr:rrr yorr; you s;ri<l
that he was only half a real ntan :rnrl hir<l only arr or'<lirr:u'y rrx irr
hand while I had a stout pike on a long shaf t. I arrr :r lt'sscrl<'lricltain than you, but it seems to me that it didn't tarke hirrr lorrg to
make up the difference between ax and pike."
Then the thing was disbanded. The wedding took place at
Thvera, and Thorkel withdrew the charge of illegal procedure
against Gudmund for having brought a case in the Norih
euarter
when he should have prosecured it in the East Fjord court.
Thorkel went home with his wife and was judged to have gained
greatly in this affair.
Jorun was an outstanding woman, as was appropriate to her
lineage. she succeeded in reconciling Thorkel Geitisson and
Bjarni Brodd-Helgason, somerhing no one else had managed to
do before. They honored rhe setrlemenr fully and faithfully
thereafter. Thorkel lived at Krossavik until old age and was
always considered to be a most forceful man in whatever dealBrodd-Helgason met. Bjarni said,

.*Thorkel gives Qydmynd self-judgmenr in Brand's case, bur keeps


self-judgmelt for himself in the wrongful procedure claim against

Gudmund. Gudmund thus has a very stionglnducement not to overreach in Brand's case. In fact, his reasonable judgment in that case
prom.pts_ Thorkel to waive the claim he retained against Gudmuncl
shortly thereafter.

162

The Sagas

Lj1suetninga saga

ings are reported of him. Vodu-Brand left the east and lived on
his patrimony. He later became much more amenable and was
judged to be a good farmer.u' He thought he could never repay
the support and good will of Thorkel Geitisson. And here ends

with each other because Gudmund lorded it over men ther-e irr
the north.To
Thorkel Hake, the son of Thorgeir the Lawspeaker, was then
living at oxara in Ljosavarnspass. He was self-willed and a great
warrior. He did not have a large household but was much .*broiled in litigation nonerheless.
A man named Bruni lived ar Gnupufell. His brother was
named Eilif, nicknamed Marksman, a big, valianr man. They had
a joint chieftainship and were descended from Helgi rhe Lean.7,
It is told that Thorsrein initiated a discussion with Gudmund
and said, "As things stand, I have settled in with you and prospered. I would now like to take a wife and have your support in
this matter."
"You probably have had some thoughts ab.,t what your
choice will be," said Gudmund. "You cAn counr ()n rr goorl worul
from me."
"You're right," he answered, "l lurvt: r'onsirlt.r't.<l tlrt. 1r:r1(.r-.
There is a woman nametl ()trtlrrrrr, rr kirrsw()nr;ur ol't.ht: lrorrst.holder at Baegisa and his lrorrsckt:cpcr'. I worrkl like you to st't.k
her hand in marriage for rne. A f'ew words from you will lurvt.
more weight than many words from me."
"I think that is an even match and well considered," Gu<lmund replied. "But I'm not very happy about riding into Thorir
Helgason's territor/, where he has more manpower than I do.r,

the story of Vodu-Brand Thorkelsson.

Chapter

r3

Gudmund a,ttends the wedding of one of his dependents, where his wife
lea,rns lhat T'horir Helgason and Thorkel Hake haue circulated the
rutnor tlmt Gudmund is homosexual. She frignt illness and persuades
Gudmund to leaue the feast, then reueals the charge. Gudmund plots reuenge with his foster brother Einar Konakson. The f,rst phase is to build
up a war chest by pursuing eaer) opportunity for litigation and collecting
f,nes, notably by taking oaer a case against Thorir Akrashegg.

Gudmund the Powerful was married to Thorlaug, the daughter of Atli the Strong. Thorlaug's mother was named Herdis
and was the daughter of Thord from Hofdi. A man named
Thorstein grew up in Gudmund's household and became a foreman. He did not come from an important family, but he was a
capable man.

At that time Thorir Helgason, who was the son of Valthjof,


[the son of Hrolf],oo the son of Helgi the Lean, lived at Lauga-

land in Horsardale. He was a chieftain and a forceful man. His


wif'e was named Geirlaug. She was an outstanding woman and of
t:xr:cllcrr t r:har':rt:tct'.
l.irr:rr w:rs thcrr livirrg at'l'hvera; he was a wise man and a
Ii'icrrrl ol"l'lrorir I lt:lsason. 'fhey supported one another in all
rrr:rllt'r's. 'l'lrt: lrxrthers l.inarr and Gudmund were on poor terms
"n llr':rrr<l's row<liness is almost a status marker of young men of the
Ixrtrst'lrol<lcr r:lass who have yet to come into their farms. Once establishcrl lrs u horrsetrolder his character changes. This is not just to give a
happy clr<ling to lhe story. Certain types of behavior are associated with
particular lil'c-r:ourse stages. See further Duby rg7b.
o,rt1'1r. son ol'Hrolf" appears to have been omitted by a scribe and is
added here to bring the genealogy into agreement with Landndm.a'b6k
(268 and n. 2).

(ir1

ToThe phrasing "Gudmund


lorded it over men there in the north" is
echoed in Njd,k saga I r3: 285. See n. 3 r above.
_ " on Helgi the Lean see n. 35 above. Landndmab6k (266-68) relates
that Helgi settled his son Hrolf at Gnupufell, which was therefore in the
family, but no mention is made of Bruni or Eilif.

'2Although, theoretically, chieftaincies were not territoriar, householders who lived close to a chieftain tended to choose to be "in thing"
with him. For an example of what might befall a householder who
"*.".cised his rights in this regard, see stuilu saga zz:96. Gudmund does
not
a-ppear to have a strong presence on the west side of Eyja$ord, although.in lhg l:It generarion his son Eyjolf appears to ha"ve"a rhingman, Thorkel, living at Hlid. See also Narfi in- Valla-Lj6ts saga (ch. gJ.
Thorir Helgason- lived
Horgardale and it should not be lurprising
-in
that the householders rhere
selected him as their chieftain, making thE
valleyde facto "his territory." Presumably the farmer at Baegis" *ir rttached to Thorir.

r64

But there is a horsefight at Oddeyr in Horgardale;" I will raise


the matter there without making a special trip"'
Many people gathered for the horsefight w_hen the time came.
Gudmund altet aed and took the farmer from Baegisa aside
right away: "There is a man named Thorstein who has grown up
inLy household, and I've found him to be capable. He wishes to
seek the hand of your kinswoman Gudrun in marriage, and I
wish to support lris suit."
"He has chosen an outstanding man to plead his case," said
the fhrrner. "l will at.tach great importance to your words'" Then
he met with the woman and asked how she was inclined' She told
him to tnake whatever arrangement he wished'
'I'he wedding was scheduled and was to be held at Baegisa.
When the timeiame Thorstein said, "I'm ready to set out for my
wedding. I want to ask you to go with me, for that would do me
the greatest honor."
,,I'm reluctant to grant you this," said Gudmund. "You will
have plenty of other men for the trip."
"There is more honor in you alone than in many others, and I
will be taken lightly if you are not there," replied Thorstein.
"I will go," ,iid Gudmund, "but I do so reluctantly"'
Gudmund sat in the high seat and Thorir Helgason opposite
him; the women sat on the end bench." The lights burned,
brightly and the tables were set up. The bride sat at the center of'
the"eni bench, with Thorlaug on one side and Geirlaug on the
other. A woman brought *ut.. to the end bench and had a towel
and are fre''' Florsefights were :t c()tnnl()n filrm <lf' spectator sport
to examples
*.ho1efer9
19.27:
Kersllergen
See
r;rrt:rrtly ,,,.,,ti,,,,.,.1.
i3,

Viult (;lfirn,.s.srt,gtt, t:l: 4:\-44, rt]: 6 r-62;-Dorsteins pd'ttr 69--7o; Grettis


.r/rr.r.(r:(): 1)l)- r <n; Iliykiti'l,,.tn14o rz: r8r-83, 23" 22r-22; Bjarnar s-aga
tt'it,l,,'ii,l,ii1',,1,,, z',,: 174*7lt;,,,rii luTah saga 59 r50-5r' More often than
rrol, sttt lt tirtlt<'sls t'tt<l itt ll:rtl blood.
''i'l'y1rir:rrlly two krttg bettches ran the length of each side of the hall
*ith ,,'llr,,g lirt' irr rlrt: iiri<l<lle. The women were seated at one end of the

il

hall:rkrng lr thirrl si<lc.'l'tre high seat was the seat of honor located in
the mirltllt: ol'ottt: ol'the longLenches. Thorir Helgason occupies the

center posirion ott tlte ,,p1l.rsiti b_ench. See the description of the seating
arrangemenr.s u( rhc nr:rriiage of Gunnar and Hallgerd in Njdk saga g4:

88-89.

Lj1saetninga

The Sagas

saga

(ir,

over her shoulder; she offered it to Geirlaug because she ha<l


stayed with her the previous winter.
"You mean well," said Geirlaug, "but you are not acting
thoughtfully enough. Offer the water to Thorlaug first-that's
how it should be." She did as she was told.
Thorlaug made a dismissive gesture with the back of her
hand: "Don't put yourself out, Geirlaug, because this woman is
doing the right thing. It didn't occur to me to resent this. Can it
be said that there is a finer woman in the district than you?"
"The hospitality is your due, Thorlaug.'u It is appropriate to
your standing to be most honored. I am in no way your equal
except in my marriage."
"I certainly think you're well married, but as things stand, I
know of no other woman with a better marriage th:rn mine," responded Thorlaug.
"You would indeed be well mar-rie<l i[' tlrt:r'c w(]r'o serrer;rl
agreement about your hustrand's rnanliness,"'" s:ri<l ()cirlirrrg.
'uThorlaug's words "Don'[ put yourself out" (bj6d eigi beinann [?]) itrr<l
Geirlaug's response "The hospitality is your due" (greiddr er beinirmt [?l)
are hard to make out in the manuscript and are somewhat conjectural.
See Gudbrandur Vigfrisson (rgo5: 39r), who reads the phrases differently, and Rjorn Sigfrisson (rg4o: r8 nn. r-2).The women's dispute

over marital precedence is reminiscent of the legendary quarrel between Brynhild and Gudrun (Andersson r98o: 186-94) and looks
ahead to a similar dispute over precedence at table

in Njdk

saga

Zb: gr.

Introduction, pp. 6o-6r.


'6In spite of the indirection, the insult, as Thorir Helgason makes
clear at the Allthing later in ch. 16 and Thorkel Hake even clearer in
See also

ch. r9, accuses Gudmund of being used as a woman. To accuse a man of


playing the passive role in sexual couplings with other men or animals
was the conventional "fighting words" insult. The accusation need not
be made verbally. A ntd-pole, somerimes sculpted to represent the insultee, could signify the same thing. A classic case of "tiee-ntd" occurs
in Bjarnar saga Httdalakappa 17: rb4-b5 when Bjorn raises a ntd on the
boundary line of his enemy Thord's properry: "A certain thing was
found on Thord's boundary line which was considered not too friendly;
there were two men, one had a blue hat on his head. They stood bent
over and one was standing behind the other. It was thought to be an
unpleasant encounter and people said that neither of them who stood
there had it so good, but the one who stood in front had it worse."
The laws gave the right to kill ro any man who was rhe object of arry

Ljdsuetninga

The Sagas

166

.,Those are cruel words," Thorlaug said. "You are surely the
first person ever to say anything like this'"
"[t muSt be true," she replied, "because more than one Person
with my
says so; Thorkel Hake mentioned it to me first, along
husband Thorir, and everyone with a tongue in his head says the
same thins."

..Bring me the water, woman," Thorlaug said, "and let's drop


the rnatier.""'I'hen she leaned back against the wall and ate
nr>thing.

While the f'east lasted, the men and women slept in separate
quarters. In the morning when people got up and went to church
fir. *osr, Gudmund siw thai Thorlaug was not among the
women. He asked one of them the reason, and she said that
Thorlaug had become ill. "One of you men come with me," said
Gudmund. "The rest of you stay here'"
He went to her bed. "Are you sick, Thorlaug?" he asked.
of three words, all of which implied being used as a woman' Some key
nortions of the provision follow: "If a man names a person with a name
irrri ir'""i hi;; il is punishable by lesser outlawry-if the latter should
purtake ofl'ense at it; and ilso those who transmit the nickname for the

him are subject.to lesser outlawry. . . . If a man makes


is a
caricature about a person, t-hat is punishable by lesser outlaw.ry' It
,caricature' if a man ,ry, ,o-.thing about another or about. his possesdefa.ming
sions which cannor be irue and do6s that for the purpoi" 9.f
by. lesser
is
punishable
that
another
about
ntd
a
makes
him. If a man
or
;;ir;.y. . . . It is a ntd if a person carves a trinfd about another
so dediscourse
if
words,
three
are
There
ntd-pole.
a
up
sculpts o. ,.t,
generates, which u." uli punishable with full outlawry: when a man is
a
:;il.d;if;r,rirru,., ,.r.*.d, or fucked' ' ' ' These three words.give
involv,"^"ift. right to kill. The right endures as-long as it does in casesnext
Alli,r[r"*"ufoassaults o., *o*E.r, ttrat is, in both-cases, until the

p"rl.ia.faming
a

Irirrg"

(Grd,gd,s

II gg I -92).

Sextral in"sults i[." iot uentionalized, indeed ritualized, when they


insults,
trxrk the form of ntdverses or carvings. There were other deadly
A;;.ysa,ti9ns
ritual
same
by-tie
accomPanied
not
were
but they
!1Sg..?S"'
o['tltclt :rre one e*ample; see Andersson r9B4 and Miller r986b' Jokes
about:t ttt;trriefl *.r*u.r', fidelity are another; see, e'g" Drollaugarso,rtu
saga q,:

r44-45. There is a substantial literature on ntd. Recent able

treatmerlts :tl'c Meulengracht S/rensen r983 and Gade rg89:


,'Now that the hostiiity of their discourse is no longer veiled, Thorlaug does not hesitat. to urr.rt her. preeminen.^. by demanding the

*u6,

L-

before Geirlaug; see Introduction, pp'

6o-6t'

saga

She said that the state of her health was unclear,


leave today and stay no longer."

(i7

"But I wish to

"I'm very sorry about this," said Gudmund, "but I'd pref'er
that everything run its normal course fbr the rest of the feast."
"Nothing can do me any good as long as I'm here," she replied. "If I have done anything to deserve your good will, then
do as I wish."
"Whatever you have in mind, you are asking a great deal,,, said
Gudmund-and then he left.
when the services were over and the main meal had been
eaten, Gudmund said, "we will saddle our horses now and ride
home because Thorlaug is ill."
"Don't leave for home so soon, Gudmund," said 'l'hr>rstein.
But he replied, "Don't ask for more th:rn I wislr to give; it will
be to no purpose." Then they rocle awity.
When they got as far as the woocls lrt l,:rugulanrl, (lrrrlrrrrrrrrl
reined his horse back and said to the nran who was il(:(:()nrl):ury-

ing Thorlaug's horse, "Ride ahead. I'll keep 'rhrlrlaus

(:()nr-

pany." The order was obeyed.

"I want to talk with you, Thorlaug, because I can see that y()u
are not sick," said Gudmund. "Tell me what the reason is for this."

"I will do so," she replied, "but I've seldom spoken words t.
you before that will please you less. A subject hai come up that I

cannot conceal from you." Then she told him what she and
Geirlaug had said, and the malicious talk about him.
"I think now it would have been berrer if I had prevailed and
we hadn't left," he said. "That would have given less grounds for
gossip." But every difficulty must be met somehow. As soon as
we get home, the first thing for you to do is to stay in bed for a
week and recuperate at leisure. I will talk to you as usual. I'm not
at all sure this matter won't turn out well for Lls."rn From there
they rode home, and things were done as Gudmund proposed.
"Gudmund's concern about appearances is not idle. Should it look as
though he left because of the insult, he confirms his unmanliness by not
having made an immediate and aggressive response. An early departure, in any event, would set people to talking. Any deviation from ioutine was newsworthy. See n.38 above.
TnThe meaning
of this sentence is uncertain. vigfiisson and powell
(rgo5: 393) translate: "But I do not know, after all, whether this pla.

The Sagas

Lj1saetninga saga

Later Gudmund rode north to Reykjadale to meet with his


foster brother and good friend Einar Konalsson.'o Einar was a
great sage. Gudmund said, "I've gotten to the point, Einar, that I
i,u.r, to i.t you know about the vicious talk people are circulating
about -., spe.ifically Thorkel Hake and Thorir Helgason. Until
now I wasnt f'ully aware of their hostility toward me'"
..It's aw{'ul to treat. distinguished men in such a way," said
Einar. "I urse you to bear up under this. The longer the venis drawn out, the more satisfying it will be'"
seance
" "N,, need
to dwell on it," replied Gudmund. "Vengeance there
will be, whether sooner or later."''
"I want to join in with you," Einar said. "I advise you to prosecute every case you call against the thingmen of Thorir Helgason'
f'he money will mount uP quickly.""
Gudmund thanked him fbr this idea and others and then departed. It was not long before lawsuits against Thorir's thingmen
came Gudmund's waY.

There was a man named Thorir Akraskegg. He was f-horir


Helgason's thingman, wealthy but not popular, and tricky in his
dealings with people. A ship arrived in Eyjafiord. It was owned
by a man named Helgi, the son of Arnstein, a great and well respected trader who always srayed with Gudmund the Powerful
when he was in lceland." Gudmund rode to the ship and said,

r68

will be of any avail." The thrust seems more positive to us; Gudmund

is

quite confident that there is a solution'


' toEinu, Konalsson was a foster son of Gudmund's father Eyjolf; see
nryidnlo saga rB: zoz. Evidently G^udmund and he grew up together at
M6druvellii, thus making them foster brothers. They were also first
cousins. See Introduction, P.2r, and Genealogy VI'
srOn the timing of vengeance see Introduction,.P' 44'
u'The A text, *fri.t, piiks uP at this point, clarifies Einar's strategy'
The wealth Gudmund'collects, either by virtue of compensation adiudsed Dursuant to arbitrated settlenlents, or as confiscated property
ii",i, ,f,[1*..",i,," of outlawry judgmelrts as in the case of Thorir
nf.,r,*f..tfg, is ro be ap,lie<l to finzince-the cost of puli"q compensation
to'l'horkci I li,kt's kiri ,rrr.,e Oudrnund has eliminated Thorkel. The asbut
srrrnlrtiott is lh:rt ()tttlttttttt<l will not be outlawed for killin-g Thorkel'
*iii i,r,ry lrt: lrt.kl liablc ro pay compensation; see n. r.28. Yet, in case the
from
plarr slrl,rrlrl lr:x klire, l,inar ir<llds the assets so as to insulate them
t;,,.lrtt,,,t,l's .itrtlgrrreirt creditors, who, if Gudmund were outlawed'
wotrl<l 1,,,v,'t'i,u iiglrt to confiscate his estate; see further n' lol' Einar's
pirr, rf,,,*s .:lt,:trly lxrw legal action was assimilated to feud; both law
antl lrkro<l *.,,'.' ,,,.,,ns to a"n end in the total disputing process' The text'
actlon'
also suggests th:rt ()ne sure way t9 wealth was successtul legal
that
believe
us
have
would
sagas
the
but
wealth,
Law createtl rro ttew
of it was
law, more t.han rnarkets, provided the structure by which much
transferred.

L.

r(iq

"My reason in coming here, Helgi, is to invite you to my home


every time you are here in Iceland."
"I accept the invitation, Gudmund," he said, "and I am grateful to you." He stayed with Gudmund during the winter, and
they got along well.
Thorir Akraskegg came to rhe ship, met with Helgi, and said
that he wanted to purchase goods from him. Helgi said that was
entirely possible. He got the merchandise and sold it to him. payment was to be made in cloaks, and it was agreed how deep the
nap should be."
Helgi made his ship ready in the sprinu. wht'rr ht: w:rs r-t:arly r<r
sail, he went to Modruvellir anrl visitt:<l witlr ( lrrrlrrrrrnrl. I lt: srri<l
to Gudmund, "It's time to think of's<lrnt: r'(:l):rynr(.nt Iix' rrry lo<luing, even though it will be less than you <lesel'v(:." It w;rs lr <.kxrk,
a costly fabric lined with fur and with gold brai<l on rlrt: stnrl)s,
and it was a great treasure.
"I thank you for it," said Gudmund. "I have not received such
a treasure before."'u They parted on excellent terms.
Helgi went to his ship. They were making all haste and the
ship was nearly loaded. Thorir had not yet come down to the
ship. But one day they saw a man riding from inland roward
the ship; it was Thorir Akraskegg. He met with Helgi and asked
.o'Bj9rn Sigfrisson (rgZ7 : 3b-36) speculated that Helgi Arnsr.einsson
might be the son of the chieftain Arnstein from Aerloek mentioned in
ch. 4 and that Arnstein might be identical with the Arnstein Reistarson
mentioned in Landnd,mab1k (z8S). See also Mager@y r956: 3o.
- 'n!." !. 7. Here the buyer seeks our rhe seller; see alio Villa-tia* saga
ch.^6 and compare Ljdsuetninga saga chs. r, 8. But, as usual, payment is
deferred. Payment in this case is to be made not in woolen ctotrr but in
cloaks of sheepskin.

- 'u9, gift-giving in general and this passage in particular

duction, p.52.

see Inrro-

r7o

Lj1saetninga

The Sagas

The shepherd said he was home and went in to speak to


Einar: "Your brother Gudmund is outside and wants to talk
to you."
"Is there anyone with him?" he asked.
"He is by himself," said the shepherd.
"I don't understand this," said Einar. "It isn't his custom to
ride without a retinue." He went out and greeted Gudmund.
Gudmund received him warmly and said, "Let's sit down,
brother, and have a talk. As things stand, there hasn't been much
warmth in our relationship. I've been more intent on my honor
than our kinship. You are not quite my equal in power, but you
are a wiser man. If we were in agreement and had a common
goal, I think there would hardly be a march for us. I would like
our relations to be better. But because you have more of what is
needed than I have, I'll add in somethins firr-y()ur Ir'ienrlship."
Then he took out a good cloak ancl save it to lriltr.**
"This is a good gift," said Einar. "'l'[rings:lr'(: trrrrrirrg orrt <li[ferently from what I expected. An<l lrt:r:;nrsc tlrr: lrorrrrs is srr
good, I consider the bargain well struck."
"Now let's shake hands with God as a witness," sai{l (}rr<lrrrrrrr<1,
"that we will support each other in all lawsuits, f<lr that is :rs it
should be." They did so, and afterwards Gudmund rode ofl'.

set sail and had a smooth Passage'

ChaPter t 4

Einar had his shepherd rise early each morning and be about
while the sun was up during the longest days of summer. But as
the summer went on and days grew shorter, he was to mind the
herd until the evening star rose and stay out at sundown. He was
to keep a sharp lookout for anything he might see or hear, and

and good words-_

a close lookout. One day he intercepts Gudmyy'1L


Akra-Thorir for fraud, and he quickly
iu**oning
on his'ret,,rn from
Thorir

Thereafter Einar keeps

this action. Akra-Thorir appeals.to


of
rculizes the signif,cance
"appeals
"in
I

lclgason, wio

turn

to Einar. Einar is unable to

orr,ii,tnu,rul, utho outlaws- Akra-Thorir


I ltlsr,.stnt .for withholding property.

deter

and then summons Thorir

87"He said there were


various reasons" translates Hann ldt jmsa uega

gegna.Vigfiisson and Powell (rgo5: 396) printed an emended teit


(Hann l6t hr"rsharla jmso eiga at gegna) and translated: "He said that his
serving-men were all busy, one at one thing, one at another." Bjorn Sig-

A slrort time later Gudmund had his horse fetched and rode
down to'l'hvera. No one had gotten up yet except the shepherd'
He grectctl (itrclmund and asked why he was riding alone.

fiisson assigns the same sense to the shorter manuscript reading (r94ir:
24 n.4), but it seems to us that Gudmund is not making a specific answer but merely evading the question.
"The A text is explicit that this is the cloak Helgi gave ro Gudmtrrrrl

in the preceding chapter.

,uTwo witnesses were required for the transfer of the case to be vali<l;
see

at home?"

Helgig"odgifts,andwiththattheyparted'Helgiandhismen

gft

17

He said there were various reasons.tT "But is my brother Einar

him to receive the payment due. But because he was busy, H9lgi
that
srowed it in the teni without looking at it. He remarked
Thorir had come rather late. Thorir said he had better things to
do than to look after merchants, and he departed'
They hoisted sail and made for Hris Isle. There the wind
bags
abated and they lowered the sail. Then Helgi opened.the
"This
a
great
is
and found cloals in bad shape and full of holes.
fraud; it's uoing to turn out badly for him'"
He[gi ro*ed"to shore, found a horse, and rode to Modruvellir.
H. a.riu.d early in the day and took Gudmund aside. Gudmund
gave him a good reception-'(ryfu21's the news?"
He said there *u, ,ro ns14r5-"gven though I've been tricked"'
"How so?" asked Gudmund.
Helgi related his dealings with Thorir Akraskegg-"and I
I am
wish, drrdm.r.rd, that you wbuld take over the case because
eager to sail."
Lyo,, have been valuable to me on many occasions," said
Gudmund, "and this will not be the least of them. This is going
and
to come in very handy." Gudmund then called two men over
gave
Gudmund
took up the case against Thorir Akraskegg.'u

Gud,mund, wins his brother Einar ouer with a

saga

n.54 above.

t-

r72

Lj6suetninga

The Sagas

tell Einar all the news, whether it seemed important or trivial'


Einar was himself an early riser and a light sleeper. He often
went out at night to scan the heavenly bodies, studying them
with care. He was well skilled in all these matters'8'
one morning when the shepherd had gone out, he looked
around and saw rwenry men riding down along Eyja{ford River.
They n>de briskly. He went in to Einar's bed and told him what

he had seen. Einar got up immediately and went outside; he directecl his attention'io where the men were riding and stared at
them fbr a while. Einar was a man of acute senses; he had sharp
and
eyes and keen ears."" When the sun appeared on the horizon
Eishields'
have
"These
men
said,
,h.rrr" over the district, Einar

ther they are men of distinction from another district who intend to visit my brother Gudmund, even though I -h.u'-" l:"9
nothing about that, or it is Gudmund himself. I think this is
more liiely.r' I have a good idea where he is headed and what he
has in mind. But it *o-rr't take long before we find out for sure'"
Einar told the farmhands to keep i lookout for his return-"and
keep our horses close to the yurd." Einar went in again and back
to bed.
Later that day around the middle of the afternoon Gudmund
seThe first Icelander credited with astronomical learning is a certain

St3gr""-OJJi Helgason, who lived in northern Iceland in the twelfth


S.ome
.J"*ry (see B. M.'blsen rg14; Forkell Forkelsson r9z6: +f -65):
there
and
r8o,
r
ca.
from
manuscript
a
of Oddit calculation, ,rl.ufr.ln

jumble).exis an astronomical treatise known as Rtmbegla (computation


for wisdom
reputation
Einar's
period.
same
t:rnt in :l malluscript of'the
is lrt:t'e ettltltlt<:ed witlt :tstt'r>tromical learning'
""(lonsirlcr lil'e without eyeglasses. The keen-sighted person must
for
h:rvt. lrt't'n nrre; the sagas suggest various lvays pe9p1e c-ompensated,

*.re identified by the color of their


lotlrirrg, by the gate tliey took (ch. 6), etc' See-.n' 38 above and also^
of
lt.jtt,ntui' .sttg,r Hitiutakapp'a 3z: rgT-2oo. The literary. cgnv.enlion
may
h:rvirrg <.h:ii.itt:rers idenii'fied"frorn"afar by the color of their cloaks
the symt . ,, ,..111.,* ol'b:rd eyesight. Saga writers were also well aware of
g.ia gr !1a lsion; see, e,g', the portrayal of the
U.tic p,,rrilrilities
"i- Otkel in Njd\ s.aga 49:128'
,.u".ily trcarsigltted
,,-I'h; wrire rl .slirrs a little here. It is"cleii he means to portray Einar's
ol
intelligence, lrut it rakes no great intelligenct lg^kl"* that the troop
away
riding
were
they
if
men could not be intending"to visit Gudmund

saga

t7Z

and his men rode back. Einar rode out to meet his brother, ancl
they exchanged warm greetings.
"Where have you been and on what business?" Einar asked.
"I rode out to Horgardale and summoned that scum* AkraThorir for defrauding Helgi Arnsteinsson," answered Gudmund. "He litigates with everybody; he's been swindling for
a long time and has accumulated a huge amount of money.,,

Gudmund told him in detail about the transaction and how


matters stood when Helgi sailed away. "I would like now, brother,
to have your support in this case as we have already agreed.',
Einar said little, and after a while he rode back home. They
didn't exchange many kind words when they parted.
Right after the summons Thorir Akraskegg rode ro see Thorir
Helgason and told him what had happened, asking for help"because I am your thingman."
Thorir replied, "I am reluctant t() set involverl with yotr, but I
will lend a hand." He reproached hirn firr his <;rurrr"clsorneness

and wrongdoing.
"I will give you gifts of friendship il yorr will srrpporl rnt.irr tlris
matter," said Thorir Akrask.gg.""
A short time later Thorir Helgason rode to 'l'lrvera [o rrrcet
with Einar and said, "I've come to seek your assistance, llinar, as
we have discussed."

"Very well," he said, "though we have been somewhat outmaneuvered. I will get together with Gudmund to seek a settlement and I will go to the thing before he succeeds in undermining me completely. But I have a suspicion rhar he will accept
nothing but outlawry."
He then rode to see Gudmund, and the brothers exchanged

rlrt. <lis:rlriliry. I.or e*ample, flEople

from Modruvellir.

,""Scum" (mannnidingr): a ntdingr was the name given to the lowest


of the low-the betrayer of kin and friend, the truce-breaker, the vio-

lator of a trust. In the_old Norwegian laws certain deeds carried ntding


status with them; see Gulapingsli)g chs. r 78, Zr4.In Iceland the attribu-tion of niding status was less a matter of fbrmaL law than of custom and
customary ritual; see further Miller rg83b: r86-94.
_ "9r, the special meaning of friendstrip see Intioduction, p. zr; cf.
Byock ( r gflz : 4?), who only considers formal friendship to be-an affair
of men of equal status.

174

t7r,

The Sagas

Ljdsuetninga saga

warm greetings. "Thorir Helgason offers to arbitrate this case,"


Einar said, "and I know, brother, that you will find several factors that favor this: above all, our agreement and kinship."
"I won't allow Akraskegg to get out of this case without being
outlawed," replied Gudmund, "and I won't concede the right to
judge to anyone except myself."
"It's the same old story," Einar responded. "You value no one's
opinion but your own in this case, but it may be that your success
will fall short of your ambition."nn
"l see no excuse for your interfering in my case with Akraskegg," said Gudmund. "He has no bonds of friendship with
you;"'most people find him objectionable, and he does the district no good." With this they parted.
When the Vodlar thing gathered, Gudmund had a very large
following. Thorir also had a large following, but Einar had not
come to the thing. Efforts were made to bring about a settlement, but Gudmund said it was pointless to seek a settlement:
"The only thing I will accept is that Akra-Thorir be outlawed."
Thorir Akraskegg replied, "Are you willing, Gudmund, to arbitrate the case along with Thorir Helgason?"
"I doubt that we could agree on thejudgment," said Gudmund.
"I think you deserve to lose your property for your great deceit

"There is a great difference between rny power an<l (ltrtlmund's," said Thorir. "Nevertheless, he may have to put up with
some unpleasantness

from me."

Akraskegg said that Gudmund was running roughshod over


them: "It would be better to proceed warily against Gudmund
instead of sacrificing our honor altogether."'u
When it went to trial, Thorir Helgason would not forgo the
defense. -fhe trial proceeded. Once more Thorir Akraskegg
came forward and offered to settle. He said that cases like this
should be settled.
Gudmund said that he didn't want compensation: "You, Thorir
Helgason, didn't succeed in restraining his highhandedness very
well. It just might be that you will have nothing to say in this
matter."
The upshot was that Thorir AkraskeS4g was otttlltwed, and
people felt that the case had been proset-ut.etl wit.h st-eitl vigor.
Many suspected that there was sornethinq rll()I'e to the hostility
than met the eye."
Thorir's party" saw how things stood and they went north l()
Husavik during the thing with a lot of movable goods, but the
land and many farm animals were left behind for creditors'
claims. Thorir Akraskegg went abroad and he is out of the saga.
Gudmund the Powerful learned of this and knew that a large
amount of Akraskegg's property was left behind. It was Thorir
Helgason's duty to appoint the court of confiscation fbr his thingman, and it was up to Gudmund to pursue his claims before it,

against us."

Akra-Thorir now met with his namesake, Thorir Helgason,


and asked whether this was as far as his support would go:
"There isn't much help to be expected from you; it always turns
out that you knuckle under to Gudmund."

and he did so. Those who had debts to collect from Akra-Thorir
were summoned, and all the property was gathered where the

e"'Your success will fall short of your ambition" translates the idionr
ok hann uera, at skammt taki frd, bordi ("and it may be that the morsel won'l
get lar from the table" [?]). Bjorn Sigfiisson notes (rg4o: 32 t.6) that
the meaning is uncertain. Gudbrandur Vigfiisson (lgo5: 4oo) transl:rtes: "but maybe it will be but a short triumph." See Halld6r Halld6rs-

'uWhat Akraskegg seems to be saying here is that, although the balance of power is very much against them, still it might be worth making
some soit of diplomatic representation to Gudmund rather than giving

s()n lt;tlz: I, 79.

monetary settlement.

up without an effort. Hence Thorir Helgason's one last attempt at

""()rrrlrnund is being hyperlegalistic and disingenuous. He knows

" For a discussion of the case see the Introduction, p. 31.


'*The plural must include Thorir Helgason and would indicate that
he was complicit in helping to empty out Akraskegg's estate before the

that. [,.inar has an interest in Akraskegg's case because it will necessarily

involve Akraskegg's chieftain, Thorir Helgason, who is Einar's frien<|.


Yet it is still of some interest for the purpose of ascertaining the limits ol
the networking process that linked people to so many different grouPs
that Gudrnund finds Einar's lack of friendship to the actual defendant
an argument worth making.

court of confiscation. Grdgd,s Ia 94 provides that should Akraskegg ever


return to Iceland, his property and any profits from it belong to the
man who got him outlawed.

&-

q6

Ljdsuetninga

The Sagas

saga

t77

court of confiscation was to be held." Gudmund had a large


following, and there was no great manpower opposinq hi.l'
Gudmund conducted the court of confiscation for Akra-Thorir's
property. He had all the animals herded together and got men
io tit . charge of the drive. As the animals were driven along the
homefield, some geldingsjumped in over the fence. Gudmund's
shepherd chased after ihem, driving the sheep across the field
out toward the fence. Here there was a sheep shed. The shepherd ran by the door and saw that almost thirty goats were in

Gudmund rode over to Thorir and said that he didn't wish to


take him unawares. Gudmund fixed his gaze and said, "I think
the man told me the truth. There's mist rising from the shed by
the fence. There must be animals inside it."
Someone went to open the shed and thirty goats ran out, all
newly marked with Thorir Helgason's brand. Then Gudmund
rode back to Thorir and asked what it meant that there were
marked animals inside.
Thorir answered, "Akra-Thorir gave me these goats in the

the shed.
"You've struck it rich, Gudmund," said the shepherd'
"Thorir's thingmen are loaded with wealth," he replied'
The shepherJ responded, "That would be true if you had
your hands on all of it."
"What's missing?" asked Gudmund.
..Not much," rrid th. shepherd, "but even less would be worth
looking to," and he told him about the goats'
.,Th[ may be your lucky day)'said Gudmund. "Nothing would
please me more than to have Thorir make himself liable for full
outlawry." "'u

been aware.

spring in return for my support when you had summoned him.


They were marked before the court of confiscation and belong
to me."'ot
Gudmund and the saga writer in a short space show themselves to have

'o'This is a nice legal question and depends on matters of' law not
precisely ascertainable from the surviving law texts. Could all gifis that
the outlaw made be set aside, or only those made once the wrong had
occurred or since the suit had been initiated? Was the problem that
the gift had not quite been completed; the goats appear to have still
been in Thorir Akraskegg's possession? (The same issue provokes
strife in islendinga togo zdr-zaO.; ffte A version raises clifferent issues
with facts more favorable to Thorir Helgason. There the goats were in

ee"Court of confiscation" (fird,nsd,6mr): a court held two weeks after


the thing at which a person had been outlawed was dissolved; it was to
meet u.r"rr.o*rhot outside the home fence of the man outlawed. The
outlaw's chieftain, here Thorir Helgason, selected the panel of twelve
judges. The outlaw's creditors presented .proof of their claims- against
ihe"estate. The wife's ptopettyias set aside to her, after which creditors' claims were satisfi;d or reduced proportionally if the estate was insolvent. If property still remained after t6e creditors had been paid, the
chieftain *io i.l.ited thejudges got a four-year-old ox. The remainin-g
and half
[.op.r,y went half to the -uri*ft6 gotthe defendant outlawed

his possession but he did not claim them as his own; they were simply
in his keeping. He also did not knowingly withhold the goats; Thorir
claimed he did not know that they had been left behind, and the author, before that, informs us that Thorir had intended to have them
driven to the court session as he was required to do by law (See Appendix pp.247-48 and Grdgd,s L ge). The A redactor seems to interpret the C text to mean that Thorir is in some measure guilty; he

()r to the men of his local disirict if he was outlawed at the spring thing'
'l'his latter share was to be used for the maintenance of the outlaw's deany, or to the district's needy if he had l:1..
1>t:n<lent.s, if there were
fl'lrc
otr(law's dependents were assigned to different households. If the
did not hold a corrt of confiscation for his outlaw, he
.ju<lgrrrent-holdei
'*or'l,i,rr*.,1t'
liable for lesser outlawry at the suit of those people burdene<l with the outlaw's dependents who would not have been so burdenecl il'the <:ourt had been held. The sentence of lesser outlawry was
revoked if'n<l r:onfiscation court was held. See Grd,gd; Ia 83-96 , rL2-2o'
'ouln fhct, a person who withheld property_ from the confiscation

Elsewhere in the sagas we see a person who fears becoming outlawed


transferring his property to a friend in something like a trust for the
benefit of his wife and daughters (Njdk saga r48: 4zg-24); or selling his
land and absconding with the proceeds (Gtsla saga zo 64). These transfers appear to be of doubtful legality. The laws, for instance, show considerable sophistication in dealing with fraudulent transfers in the context of pledges of land and give the defrauded party the right to set
aside the transfer; see Grd,gd,s Ib roo- ror. But whatever the legality of
such transfers, they clearly made it much harder for the plaintiff to get

i., ti," men of the outlaw's quarteiif he

therefore tries to exculpate him by suggesting that the goats were held
back from the confiscation without his knowledge. We may surmise
that the knavish shepherd Odd in A has framed Thorir in order to
curry favor with Gudmund.

was outlawed at the Allthing

his hands on the property.

court was liable for lesser outlawry (Cragat Ia 86), as indeed both

,1;

ru

The Sagas

178

Lj1saetninga

him had been initiated. He claimed that he was subject to lesser


outlawry and summoned him to the Allthing. "You know no
moderation in your aggressiveness," replied Thorir.
Gudmund said that this was only the beginning-"1t takes
time to know people. I thought you were an upright man."
"You're bearing down hard now," said Thorir.
The confiscated property that Gudmund took came to a huge
amount, and Einar Konalsson took it for safekeeping.

Chapter
Einar reffirms

his

friendship with Thorir Helgason. He tries

to

free himself from the special agreement contracted with his brother, but
Gudmund is adamant.

Gudmund was now in residence at Modruvellir. When Einar


Eyjolfsson learned the news, he said, "The trolls take that cloak!
Gudmund outwitted me this time and that's never happened
before."

Thorir Helgason rode to Thvera and told Einar about

his

de:rlings with Guclmund; he asked fbr help and appealed to old


Ir-icrrtlship.
"lrr rrry ollini<ltt," replied Einar, "because of what you said
;rlrout lrirrr, Orr<ltrrund intends to pursue his vendetta against you
witlr grt'irler vigor than he is otherwise accustomed in the dis-

rit't, t lrotrgh it is true that Akra-Thorir could not maintain himsell irr thc legion in the face of his opposition. There is a good
deal ol'.jrrstit.e on your side. It may be that Gudmund thinks I
won't lrt: so trard to get at if he separates me from friends like
you, or others I could name. The plain truth is that I will never
break ofl'our f riendship as long as you wish to keep it intact."
Then'l'horir rode home.
Einar rode to meet with Gudmund and had the cloak along
t

t7\)

with him. He said, "I want to offer my services, kinsman, t.()

"Do you think that this gift was legal while the case was pending against him? You knew that all the property was subject to
confiscation," said Gudmund.

Then Gudmund named witnesses and summoned Thorir


Helgason fbr the animals that he had marked and falsified title
to, animals which Akra-Thorir had owned after the case against

saga

i.

,t,

fi
T

.E

il
,*
3

i:

t
t.

reconcile you and Thorir and form alize a friendship between


you. People will agree that you have had the better oi it even if
this matter is peacefully concluded."
"I am now going to want the help in my case against Thorir
that you promised me with God as witness," said Gudmund. ,.It

would be appalling not to lend me assistance, though it were

gnly a question of kinship, but now ir is unthinkable bJcause you


have invoked God and accepted a valuable gift.,,
"There is no lack of bonds between us," iaid Einar, "but you
don't honor them so greatly that they prevent you from thinking
that you have outwitted me now. I call it fraudulent and declarE
our agreement void, for you have treated me as untrustworthy
in this case and not taken me into your confidence.,o, There is
not so great a difference in our intelligence that I can,t see what
you're up to. Take your cloak back. you've had your eyes fixed
on it for a long time."
Einar thrusr the cloak at him.
"I won't take it," said Gudmund. "I parted with it for lirll
value. You can keep everything, the cloak and the return firr. it.
I think you stand to earn both ridicule ancl clis5;rilcc. I <kr rror
intend to release you or free you from your preclicarrre.r, ltrrrl
you deserve the dilemma you're in."
"Is that the same sort of soft talk you used when you came t()
me with the cloak?" said Einar. "It would surely be a good gift if'
there had been no underhandedness in it.,,

"''"I call it fraudulent and declare our agreement void',: it does not
app9u.- 1o be a simple. mauer to avoid a ,6* because the other parry
withhel^d key information or misrepresented his intentions. The *frotlt
point of eliciting a vow was [o lock someone into a certain course of conduct in the face of uncertain future events. The fact that future events
did not turn our to the liking of one
tl,g parties did not in itself pro"fof thb vow respectably.
vide.an adequate. basis for getting out
The'folk

motif,of the-equivocal oath sugglsts that tricke.y *m not a sufficient


basis for backing out; ,.e,
Zaxd,ula saga 65:'rg5; vtga-Gl(tms saga
z5:.86. oaths made under ".g.,
duress, howev6r, ,iuy f,iu"

uy?jd. see Porgzls saga sharda r 8: r 33:

"If

b"een easier

io

,pui" you, you will not be


obliged to fulfill more of this compelled settlement thri, you think is
fitting."

they

r8o

Lj6suetninga

The Sagas

mund. He said he was in a bad position because


as well as the agreement they had made.

"Throw it on the ground if you want. It will rot before anyone


picks it up," said Gudmund.
Einar rode home with the cloak, and with this the brothers
parted.

Chapter

i:

The author relates a childhood incident that sowed the first seeds ol
suspicion between Gudmund and Einar. At the ensuing thing Gudmund
and Thorir entrench themselues in irreconcilable positions. Thorir breahs
the deadlock by denouncing Gudmund publicly and challenging him to
single combat.

It is told of the brothers that when they were young, Gudmund


had a bald foster father whom he loved greatly.'u'One day when

he was sleeping outside in the sun, mosquitoes kept settling


on his bald spot.'o'Gudmund drove them away with his hand,
thinking that his foster father would be bitten.
"LJse your ax on his bald spot, brother," Einar said. He did so,
aiming the ax so that it nicked the bald spot and made it bleed,
but the mosquito flew off.
The old man woke up and said, "It's a hard thing when you
take weapons to me, Gudmund."
"Now I realize for the first time that Einar's advice to me isn't
well intended," he replied. "And this probably won't be the
last time."

This incident kindled a long-standing resentment between the


brothers.
Einar met with Thorir and told him of his dealings with Gud'o3"Foster father": the Icelandic term f6stri was used to describe two
distinct kinds of social arrangement. In one the child was sent to another farmstead and raised there. In the other, which is the case here,
the term described a household member who gave special care to the
child, often as some kind of tutor. The feminine, fdstra (foster mother),
could designate either the wife of the fosterer in interhousehold fostering or the wet nurse living in the same household as the parents.
tonThe following episode is a variant of a fable found in many literatures. See Heinzel r88o: r54 and de Vries rgz8.

saga

,ffi

*
1E
,1'

tt!
$:

f
I

r t] r

of their kinship

Sometime later, men rode to the thing in great numbers,


and efforts were made to reach a settlement. Thorir said that
he would not be quick to pay compensation in this case. But
Gudmund said that no outcome would be better than outlawry.
Gudmund had a much larger following.
one day at the thing Einar asked Thorir whar he had in mind:
"why do you think Gudmund is so uncompromising about this?
Can it be that he thinks you have spoken roo loosely?",u0
"Like many others," said Thorir, "I haven't been guarded in
my speech about Gudmund. But it's clear now that he thinks we
don't have the means to contend with him."
"What are you going to do?" asked Einar.
"It is my intention," Thorir replied, "when we come to the
Law Rock, to challenge him to a duel. 'fhat rnight tame his
arrogance."

"That's not good news," responded L,inar, "but it is not a cowardly resolution."
It was the custom of the brothers Gudmund and Einar, when
they were at the thing, to go to services together. They sat on
the south side of the church with Einar's men standing to the
west and Gudmund's men to the east. This was always the arrangement, whether they were on good terms or bad. Thorir
Helgason sat next to Einar, and next to Gudmund sat vigfus
viga-Glumsson, some of whose associates were at the thing.
Many people were involved in the efforts to bring about a settlement between Gudmund and Thorir. Nothing came of it because Gudmund would agree to nothing but self-judgment, and
Thorir refused to pay compensation.
One day at the Law Rock, when people had concluded their
legal business, Thorir asked whether Gudmund was present at
the Law Rock.
He said he was.
r05"can it be that
he thinks you have spoken too loosely?": the writer

seems to have forgotten that Einar raised this issue with

previous chapter.

Thorir in the

r8z

Lj1suetninga

The Sagas

"Many of our friends and distinguished men have put themselves out to mediate our CaSe," said Thorir.'uo "They reproach
me fbr not wanting to offer money for the offenses with which
you charge me. I shall now put an end to this. I propose to make
the offer just that much better to make up for the long delay: I
will accept your brother Einar's binding arbitration."
"I will accept n<l arbitrator in this case but myself," declared
Gudmund. "[ suspect that you are aware that you Horgardalers have long been of two minds about which of us is more powerf ul."
'I'hen'I-horir spoke for all to hear: "I haven't gotten to the last
of'my off'ers yet, Gudmund, for I know that you have a lot more
against me than just the marks on Thorir Akraskegg's goats; -I
know that you blame me alone for saying what many say, though
others are no less implicated, namely that I have called you an
effeminate pervert. I now wish to test whether that is true or not,
so I am challenging you to single combat to be held in three days
on the islet in Oxar River where duels used to be fought. Let the
two of us do battle according to the ancient laws."" Before that
'ouThe Allthing was of course the chief forum for Icelandic orarory, rhe best exahples of which may be found in Njd,k saga.-Thorir's
ringing denunciation of Gudmund is the closest. thlng l? 3 pubtic defa*uiiurii.t Lj6suetninga saga. On the Norse oratorical tradition in general
see Knirk r 98 r.
,orThe hillmganga. or duel, had very much the look of thejudicial duel
of the ContinJnt.-Co-me.ttators, however, agree that it did not involve
ajudgment of God or the gods, but was simply a private arrangement to
a[ree"to decide an issue by determining who was mightier. Yet it should
be noted that later in the chapter Gudmund tries to bolster his sagging
morale by hoping that the du-el was a sort of judicium Dei: "I think good
firrtune and the iigt t cause will determine the outcome of the combat
between us." Vigfus Viga-Glumsson, however, agrees with the Comrpelrztors that tlie test was of skills in combat rather than of thejustice
ol'I lrc c:luse: "Einar's chances in a duel with me are no better than yours
irg:rirrsr 'l-horir." But compare the remarks of Iiot (VL ch.4); and-see
,-r.'r4", llelow. Gudmund's ientiment might be a thirteenth-century gloss
of'a iiirnly understood tenth-century practice. The "ancienf laws" of dueling hari been abrogated in roo6, about eight years before the events
here took place; see eunnlaugs saga ormstungu I I : 93. H6lmganga-:o19s
in for rather harsh treatment in both Lj1suetninga saga and Valla-Lj6*
saga. Skegg-Broddi finds it offensive: "I dislike the idea of fighting

saga

ti3

encounter is over, I suspect the doubts will be removed about


whether you have an altogether manly disposition or whether, as
I have mentioned before and a. great many have already stated,
you are not a man."
His words were greeted with a great uproar at the Law Rock,
but for the moment people parted without incident.

t*,

*$
$

st

Chapter

r7

deaises a counterscheme
He uarns Gudmund to
combat.
whereby he will challenge Einar to single
brother's
glee and immediately
his
detects
heep a straight face, but Einar

Gudmund's

friend Vidus Viga-Glumsson

offers self-judgment before the new plan can be put into effect. Gudmund
exacts a heauy f,ne and exiles Thorir Helgason.for three yeo,rs.

That evening the brothers Gudrnund anrl Flin:u' wcltt l() vespers as they were accustomed, antl (iudnrutrd was in high sllirits.
But later at night, when it was dt'awins toward mortlitts, Vigl trs
Viga-Glumsson woke up and said to Gudmund, "You are sleeping lightly tonight, Gudmund. Don't you like the prospect of'a
duel wiih Thorir? Just how do you intend to proceed in your
CASC?,,

"for I
Thorir has offered
me what I should have offered him. I think good fortune and
the right cause will determine the outcome of the combat between us. I believe the time has come to refute the slander."
"Now I will reveal what I haven't gotten around to telling you

"It

doesn't disturb my sleep much," replied Gudmund,

have settled on a quick solution to the matter;

t
lt

:l
'i

I:.

duels; they are a heathen custom" (ch. 3o). In Valla-Lj6ts saga, Halli's
challenge to Ljot to fight it out one-on-one is punished posthumously by,
using iito reduce the compensation paid for his death (chs. 4-5). Of
the fbur contemplated challenges that occur in the context of lawsuits,
none leads to actual combat. In each of these cases the suggestion of the
possibility of a h1lmganga prompts third-party intervention. It is perhaps significant that, unlike h\lmggngur, the performance of the ordeal
of hot iion (ch. z3) elicits no editorial hostility from eittrer the writer or
his characters. This would seem to support the view that the natives, at
least in the thirteenth century, did not perceive hdlmganga as an ordeal.
For further discussion see BO rq6g, Ciklamini r963, and Jones r932.

r84

Lj1suetninga saga

The Sagas

before, Gudmund," said Vigfus, "namely, that I must be much


Smarter than you because I Can see that you are worse than
spineless. But I can give you a good piece of advice that will enhance your reputation and not put you at any risk. It won't cost
still have your way in the lawsuit."
you
' any effort and you will
Gudmund gave him a look and said, "Now you're acting high
and mighty again. What is it you think you can see in this case

that I can't see?"


"I will go to the Law Rock today," replied Vigfus. "I propose to
challenge your brother B,inar to a duel, to take place this very
day. I will make a much harsher statement than was made to you
if Einar won't fight me. I have no lack of grievances against him,
since there has been no vengeance for the time Einar drove my
father and me away from the land at Thvera and deprived us of
all standing.'o' Einar's chances in a duel with me are no better
than yours against Thorir. Now let's first give him a chance to
back out if he doesn't dare do combat. If he does fight me, I will
kill him. But the chieftains will seek some other solution than to
have both of you brothers slaughtered at the thing."'"'
"There are not many men as resourceful as you," said Gudmund, "even though there are plenty to choose from."
"Don't betray your satisfaction," said Vigfus, "because if Einar,
with his sharp eye, sees that you have a change of mood, he will
find a trick to thwart the Plan."
That day, when they went to services, they sat in their usual
places; Gudmund was quiet and said not a word, and kept his
iace hidden in his hood. But there was a little incident. A child
was wanclering around on the flagstones in front of Gudmund
anrl furrted, :tnd people laughed.""
r(rn'l'h(' hostility between Einar and Vigfus's

father is told

in

V(.ga-

z6-zii: 87-g8. According to this account Glum kills an encnry in riie t.sphoeling ilar, .ra..r.d Thorvald krok, but manages.to deIleri thc 1>rosecution io another. When it emerges that Glum is in fact
the sl:ryci, he swears an ambiguous oath to avoid prosecution. But this
trickery is unmasked and hii enemies pe_rsuade Einar to renew the
prosecution. FIe succeeds and drives Glum from his property at Thvera.

Oltirn^s.srt,grt,

'o'See Itrt"roduction, PP.

30-3l.
bf farts

,'oThe comic ridiculbusrresr

seems timeless and knows few


geographical bounds. The same motif is used in Dropktugarsona sl,ga )3:

i7*"to'..veal that an inner mood did not match a studied exterior.

r8L

When Einar and Thorir came to their booth, Einar said


Thorir, "What did you make of my brother Gudmund

t<r

aL

church?"
'Just what I would wish," he said. "He didn't seem to be carrying his head very high. And as the dishonor he's facing draws
closer, he'll be still more depressed."
"That wasn't my impression," replied Einar. "Yesterday at vespers it struck me that he acted very cheerfully but that he was in
reality dispirited; and this time he seemed quiet, but didn't you
see the fibers on his cloak ripple when he laughed? I suspect
they have devised a great plan that will do us no good if it is put
into effect. We should not await the outcome. We must immediately go to meet with Gudmund and conclude the matter as
soon as we can."

Then Einar and Thorir went to ()u<lrtruttd's ltooth and Einar


spoke: "My business here, as is litting, is to t-econt:ile you and
Thorir. I have prevailed on him to ofl'er you self-judqment. in
this case, as you have previously demanded."
Vigfus leaned over to Gudmund and whispered, "You lt:tve
not been careful to disguise your satisfaction, and Einar has usecl
his wits to uncover your high spirits. Anyway, there is no choice
but to accept an offer that is made so handsomely." Many joint:<l
in with Einar to urge this proposal.
Then Gudmund had the chieftains and friends who had Prorl)ised him help brought to him. There was a very large attendance at this meeting. Thorir then surrendered self-judgment
to Gudmund formally with a handclasp.
"I judge Thorir liable in the amount of one hundred ounces
of silver," "' announced Gudmund. "I know that to be a stiff fine,
There is also an untrivial bit of social information here. A person's bearing and demeanor were studied by others for whatever information
they might yield, and a person knew that he would be so observed and
tried to regulate his appearance accordingly.
Small children do not have much of a part in the sagas. An exception
may be found in Njd,k saga,8: z8-zg, in a scene involving three children
who playfully reenact the misfortunes of some adults to the glee of the
onlookers and the distress of those affected; see Miller rg88c and on
children in the sagas generally see Kreutzer r987.
rrr"one hundred ounces of silver": i.e., r20 ounces of silver. There
were eight ounces of silver to the mark. In the eleventh century a pure

186

The Sagas

Ljdsaetninga saga

but I call it justified. He shall also be exiled and spend three


years abroad just as in lesser outlawry."2 And for each winter"'

Chapter

he stays in this country he shall pay a hundred ounces of silver."


The consensus was that Gudmund had gotten the greatest

portion of honor in this

Thorir spends three winters abroad, then liues out the remainder of his
respected. No sooner has Gudmund outlawed
Thorir than he makes his next rnoae by arrangtng to hire the ne'er-dowell Thorbjorn Rindil. Thorbjorn infiltrates the house of Thorhel Hake
and sets the stage for Gudmund's attach.

case.

That summer Thorir Helgason sailed from Skagafiord and left


his household behind at Laugaland. He spenr that winter in
Orkney. But the next spring he came back out to lceland, making
land at Eyjafiord three weeks into summer. He rode home to
Laugaland and hired his summer help. l,ater that summer he
rode to the Allthing. He was also at the Vxll:rr thing, and he and
Einarjoined forces."'During the sunlnter-hc wus :r( honrc ln;lltaging his farm, but he went abroad in the f all, this tirrrr.to Nolwlry,
a little before Winter Nights,"u although he spent th:rr wirrtt.r' irr
the Orkneys. The next spring he went to Iceland, doing ov(:t'ything in the same way as the previous summer. Again he wt:rrl
abroad in the fall and spent that third winter in Norway, an<l
procured house timbers. He sailed back to Iceland and pur in ar
Eyjafiord. He went home to his farm at Laugaland and dwelled
there until old age and was held in high esteem.
Picking up the story where we left off, we can relate that many
chieftains had promised Gudmund aid, and when the thing
drew to a close, he went around to the booths and thanked
people for their help. He went to the booth of the Svinfellings
too."6 And as Gudmund went to the door, he saw a man go into
the booth carrying a bag and saddle-harness. Gudmund glanced

outlawry: Q) fjgrbaugsgardr, the so-called lesser outlawry providing for


expulsion from Iceland for three years and forfeiture of property; (2)
as in (r) except that the term of expulsion is for life. The difference
between (z) and full outlawry or skfggangr is that the former privileged
the outlaw to find passage abroad at specified harbors for a limited period of time. Punishments patterned after the lesser grades of outlawry
appear frequently, as here, pursuant to arbitrated settlements; see also

z7 and Valla-Lj1ts saga ch. g. The family sagas and, Sturlunga

ttz

life in lceland highly

ounce was worth 48 ells of uadmdl, whereas an impure one bought z4


ells.'l'he ell was rouehly r8 inches in length. A piece of uadmd,l6 by z
ells was the equivalent. <>['a "legal ounce," which should not be confused
wit.h the ounce ol'pure or impure silver. The ratio of legal ounces to
()un(:es ol' pure ancl impure silver varied throughout the commonwealt.h period, although an B: l ratio of pure silver to the legal ounce is
assunred lirr the Saga Age. But it was also possible for the amount of
undrn(tl needed to make a legal ounce to vary depending on the real
value of the cloth at the time in question. The subject of Icelandic standards of value is rather complicated. For a more detailed account see
Gelsinger rgSr: n-44.
t'2"Lesser outlawry": Grd,gd,s Ia rog mentions two lesser grades of

ch.

saga

only rarely show the lesser grades of outlawry being imposed as a consequence of a court judgment. See further Heusler rgrr: r58-63 and

n. r89 below.
"'"Spend three years (uetr) abroad just as in lesser outlawry. And for
each winter (uetr). . .": this passage is strangely perplexing and causes
some translation problems. In Old Icelandic, years were counted in
winters (uetr). And we translate "years" for the first appearance of uetr
in the passage above. The explanatory accompaniment of the phrase
"iust as in lesser outlawry" mandates "years" (see n. rrz above). The
lrrolrlcm arises with the second uetr. For each uetr Thorir stays in the
c()untry he is to pay another hundred (actually rzo) ounces. Our first
irrr lirr:rtion was to translate "year," assuming that the provision was
nleilr)t lo be an inducement for Thorir to go abroad as quickly as possitrle. I l' he delayed his exile it would cost him a hundred per year. But

nothing about Thorir's self-serving understanding of the word uetr if


that was not part of the terms of the settlement.
"'It appears that Einar may have held Thorir's chieftainship during
his sentence.

t'u
Icelanders counted two seasons, winter and summer. Winter Nights
was the name of the pagan festival inaugurating the winter season,
which began on the Saturday falling within the week of October 1 r - r Z.
For a discussion of Icelandic time-reckoning see Hastrup rg85: 17-49.
"uThe Svinfellings were a prominent family whose power base was in
the southeast. They figure prominently in Njdk saga.

Thrrrir''.s strbsequent actions seem to indicate that the second aetr means

winter. 'l'horir returns each summer to Iceland during his three-year


sentence, Iullilling the terms of the exile by taking advantage of a
double entendre. 'I'his is not entirely satisfactory either. By returning
each summer Thorir makes a mockery of the author's 'Just as in lesser
outlawry." But it also seems rather strange that Gudmund would do

I
I
i
.il

l.

rBg

The Sagas

Lj1suetninga saga

at him and turned to Vigfus Viga-Glumsson and said, "Have you


ever seen a more worthless man than this?"

He said he would if that was what he wanteq[-"bs6iluse we


need a lot of men." Then he went to Modruvellir and was thcre
for a time.
One day Gudmund said to him: "Isn't it time now for you t()
get to work?"
He said that was quite in order. He was given a scythe and
went to work mowing.
"It doesn't look to me as though you are accustomed to this
work," said Gudmund. "Would it be more to your liking to
spend the day at the hot springs?"
He said that would indeed be more to his liking.
And so it continued for a time until one day Gudmund said to
Rindil: "Now some business has come up,'l-hrlrbjorn. I would
like a little return on my investment, atrd I rnight.f trst acquaint
you with some high society. f'his can [urn otll ()l)(' of'two ways: it
may bring you good fortune, or bad."
Thorbjorn replied, "It's up to you to decide wltctltct'yorr will
act in good faith or not, but I will take care to guard ttty owtr lilt:.
I count on being loyal to you; but if there is a risk in the .iob yorr
want to give me, I can't be counted on for direct action, altlrotrglr
I will spy and inform."
"Thit might be all we need," said Gudmund. "I will now lay
out for you the enterprise I have in mind. There is a man named
Thorkel, nicknamed Hake, who lives at Ljosavatnspass. I want
him dead. I'm going to send you there to explore the lay of the
land because I intend to move fast."
"I will promise you to be a faithful spy, just as you wish," replied Thorbjorn. "But I won't lift a finger to attack Thorkel."
"I will devise a plan," said Gudmund. "You are to disappear
from here; I will give you a couple of horses, thin and in bad
shape, saddle bags along with them, and cheeses well wrapped.
You should take the route to HellugnuPspass and then down to
Bardardale. They are suffering from famine there, but there is
a great run of whale to the north around Tiornes. And since you
reiemble no one quite so much as the men who come from the
west from Halfdanartongue,''o yo, should say that you come

r88

"I

can't think of one offhand," Vigfus replied.


Gudmund said, "I haven't seen a man better suited to be an
assassin than this one." "'
He turned toward him and said, "What is your name?"
"My name is Thorbjorn," he said, "nicknamed Rindil; I come

from the East Fjords."


"Will you do business with me?" asked Gudmund.
"Wh<) are you?" he replied.
"My name is Gudmund, the son

of Eyjolf."
"Now I have it," he said. "I hear that you bring most people
good luck, but I haven't much to trade. I'm a poor man."
"There's more than money," said Gudmund. "Why don't you
come to the north this summer and look for work at a lot of
places, but agree to nothing until you meet with me." "'
"I will come," he said. This was now arranged, and the thing
was then dissolved.
When the time came for the assembly in the Eyjafiord district,
Rindil had arrived and was very gregarious. Then Gudmund
said, "Who is this fellow sticking his nose in everybody's ear and
looking for work everywhere without deciding on anything?" "n
"My name is Thorbjorn," he replied. "Will you give me work,
Gudmund?"

to settle scores is widespread in the sagas.


QgzT:66-68), who cites examples in^N11,k.saga chs.
saga
36-+9; Gretlisrog, ltti. 55-16; Eyrbyggjalaga chs' 33, 36; Reykdela
i,nr. zl -zz, z8; Vamsdula saga ch,.39; and Hardar saga ch.39. Sturlunga,
.saga offers fewer instancesf t.", .-.[., Sturlu saga rz 78 and Heusler
"7The use of

assassins

See Kersbergen

,,)',2, 42. Rindil turns out to be something less than an assassin.


"rrsq.i-1,
elaborate fictions to mislead an opponent or public opinion
irr gcrreral are not unusual in the sagas. See, for example, Heidantiga

so,g(r z<r'.

27z-73,

5t|-(iq,
" rr,1i,,,1,nuncl's

Viga-Glil'ms saga

r3-r4i

42-48, or Njd'k saga

2r-zgi

remark calls attention to the fact that Rindil is in violation o{'the law which required household attachments to be negotiated
by the end o{' May. In some circumstances, however, pe-ople could. {trl
moring into new h<luseholds until midsummer (Grdgas Ia rz8-29). The
Eyiafio"rd assembly met at least two to three weeks after midsummer.

t20The accepted view is that there were no regional accents in medieval lceland, and even today there is very little regional phonological

r9t

The Sagas

Li1suetninga saga

from there. Arrange it so that you come to Thorkel's farm in


foul weather, and uit ut if you were utterly miserable and refuse
to leave. Take as many stones from the brook as there are men
on hand, and I will take that as a signal, for I intend to pay a visit

Thorkel was married. His wife's name was Thorgerd. She


spoke up and said, "What sort of a devil are you bringing in

r90

there."

Rindil then set out and came to Oxara in a great downpour.


Thorkel was outside and said, "Who are you, why have you come
here, where are you headed, and where do you come from?"
.,My name is Thorhall," he answered. "I live to the west in
Halfdanartongue and am on my way to Purchase whale meat.
I came here b..urrr. I thought it was time to rest. And I will
lie down and die here under your fence if ['m not taken in' That
will not be well thought of, considering what a great figure
you are." "'

am not fond of strangers because I am not very friendly


with the great chieftains," responded Thorkel. "I can't be certain
what business peoPle come on."
"Do I look susp..t to you?" he replied. "In any case I will lie
down here if you don't let me in."
"I have a summer shed nearby and you can stay there tonight,"
said Thorkel.
"f'm not going to take another Step," he said. He was shivering
violently.
..you,re whining miserably," said Thorkel. "Let me look at
your horses." He did so, and took off the packs; the horses were
worn down and lame. "It looks as though you're telling the
truth; you seem to have come a long way and are proball to1"
poor firme, because that's the kind of wares you have. Take the
pack harness inside, Poor wretch."

"I

differentiation. Does the regional resemblance here refer to distinctive


clothing style, colors of dyei, or certain physiognomic traits associated
with the people of Halfdanartongue?
,zr
16.'rlrrrring ritual Rindil his recourse to could also be invoked by

the host in defen"se of his guest as when, for instance, Hlenni (ch' zo)
asked Gudmund nor ro kili-Eilif before his eyes. Shaming rituals of this
sort offered people of lower status a means of exercising social co.ntrol
against theii roiiul superiors. Compare the Indian ritual of "sitting
d"harna" and see also iViak saga 88i z16. For a discussion of shaming
rituals as social control see Baumgartner r984: 3 r6-zo'

He said he was only too glad to.

here?"

"I

"He doesn't seem to me to be such a big threat," he answered.


can't bring myself to suffer the shame of letting him die by my

fence."

"I now see clearly that you are doomed," she said. "Let him
warm himself now, then take him to our shed."
"I'll pay no heed to your babble," said Rindil; "I will stick to
what Thorkel offered." "'
She proceeded to rant and rave at him, but Rindil answered
her in kind.
When night came on Thorkel saitl, "Sit here trext to me,
Thorhall. I can see that the women tltltt'l take t.o y{)tl."

After supper the lodger went to lletl, ittttl 'l'hor-kcl too; he


slept in a locked bed-closet, and his guest furthcr tlowtr tlte
room. The women didn't go to bed. "Why aren't yott gtlittu lrr
bed, wife?" asked Thorkel.
"I frust our guest less than you," she replied.
"You take a dim view of him," said Thorkel. Then he went ttr
sleep, and his daughter Gudrun slept next to him; she was four
years old.
When it was dark Rindil got up and unlocked the door.r2:r He

took two stones and put them on the wall and left the door unlatched. But he thought it was a problem if the women were uP
and about when Gudmund came.
Thorkel had locked the bed-closet, then fallen asleep. The
mistress of the house went down the room and out into the hall
and said, "I thoughl 5s"-211d latched the door.
'2'Thorkel's kindness to the villain Rindil, his patience with the scolding women, his lack of suspicion, and his closeness to his four-year-old
daughter all combine to soften his image in his final hours. This sort of
last-moment rehabilitation of a somewhat doubtful character is not uncommon in the sagas. Grettir is perhaps the clearest case.
'23The device of involving an insider who is commissioned to unlock
the door so as to admit a nocturnal killer is paralleled in Gtsla saga
r5- r6: b2-bZ; a nearly exact parallel also occurs in Porgik saga skarda
75: zr8.

r92

Ljdsuetninga saga

The Sagas
1

Thorkel woke up and said, "What is it, mistress?"


'Just as I suspected; our guest wants to betray you and left the
door unlatched."
"I'll remember your hostility toward me when the time comes,"
said Rindil.
"somebody must have forgotten to latch the door," said Thorkel. Then he fell asleep. After a while Rindil slipped out of bed
and shot the bolt back. "Thorkel still has no idea." He went back
into the hall and Thorkel was sound asleep. But he jumped up
again right away when he heard a dog barking and the noise of
men riding to the farm.'20 He ran out at once with his clothes in
his arms. He himself was naked and got dressed outside.

'ir
1E

I
,$

Chapter r g

aim at Gudmund, who jumped out of the way. Thorkel attacked


as if he were unaware of anyone but Gudmund. The others
turned their weapons on Thorkel, but he defended himself
stoutly and inflicted wounds on them. There was a man named
Thorstein the Strong; he was the most vigorous in the attack on
Thorkel. Thorkel received multiple wounds because there were
many against one, and even though his intestines were exposed
he was no less fierce. Gudmund danced away and tumbled into
the milk vat. Thorkel saw whar happened, laughed, and said, "I
imagine your ass has slaked itself at many streams, but I doubt it
has drunk milk before.''o Come at me, Gudmund, and fight if
you dare, for my guts are hanging out. That is what you wanted
when you were so eager to meet." ''"
Then they killed him.
"Does the mistress of the house watrt us [() help llury'I'hclrkel?"
asked Gudmund.'"

Gudmund and his men inaade Thorkel's house. Thorhel treats Gudmund with biting scorn but is euentually ouerwhelmed and killed.
Gudmund ,ffrrtt a nominal reconciliation with Thorhel's hinsmen.

Then men made for the house and entered it. Gudmund had
arrived with twenty men. Thorkel woke up at the tumult and
clash of arms but had no time to put on his mailshirt. But he
grasped his thrusting spear and put on his helmet. There was a
milk vat in the corner of the house, and narrow quarters.
Then Gudmund said, "Now you have the chance to face Gudmund, Thorkel, and not hide in a cave."
"I'll face you all right, Gudmund," replied Thorkel. "You
didn't come any sooner than expected. By the way, what route
did you take here?"
"I came by way of Brynjuridge and Hellugnupspass," he replied.
"You had a steep and arduous trip," said Thorkel, "and I can
irnagine how sweaty your ass must be from such exertion on
the way!"
'I'hen he ran forward with drawn sword and immediately took

r93

"I certainly do not," she said. "You can clear out as first lts 1t<lsI'd rather be with him dead than with you alive."

sible.

They left and went to visit Einar Konalsson. He gave Gudmun<l


a good reception and asked the news. Gudmund said, "I can re-

port the killing of Thorkel Hake."


"There is no need to ask about the grounds," Einar replied.
"I suspect you will now take your money and offer the ljosvetnings monetary compensation."
A meeting was arranged, and Gudmund came to it with Einar
Konalsson, and the sons of Thorgeir, Tjorvi and Hoskuld, also
came. "You have no doubt learned of Thorkel's death," said
Einar, "and many will be of the opinion that it was not without
,j

ir,
jr
;

'25Thorkel's obscene wit restates in its crudest form the insult Thorir
and he have leveled against Gudmund. Thorkel sers up this line perfectly by having first made Gudmund's ass thirsty from the arduous
journey. The image also inverts Gudmund in other ways, turning him
upside down by making his anus his mouth. See n. 76 above.
'26This sentence is translated only approximately because the read-

ings in the manuscripts are unclear. See Vigfiisson and Powell rgo5:

''nIn a famous passage in Njd,k saga 76: r85-86 the attackers advancing on a house lure the dog away and kill it so that the inhabitants will
not be forewarned by the barking; see ibid. 48: rz3.

4r8 and Bjorn Sigfrisson rg4o: bz n.4.

"TGisli's killers offer to escort his wife Aud after the deed is done, but
she rejects the offer (Gklasaga 36: r r5).

"YI
q
r94

Lj1saetninga

The Sagas

cause. But Gudmund wishes to offer you compensation and a


substantial wergeld, though it is not to be expected that he will
move from his land; he intends to stay where he is."
"You have finally managed what you have been plotting for a

long time," Hoskuld replied. "But our reconciliation will not be


reliible even though Gudmund has all the power now."
,,I do not adviJe rejecting the compensation," said Tiorvi.
Then Gudmund paid the money and they were technically
reconciled."'

Chapter zo
Thorkel Hake's second cousin, Eilif, kills Thorbjorn Rindil. Gudmund
pursues him relentlessly, and is only dissuaded from burning down the
'house
in which he has taken refuge because his oun son Halldor is in the
house and refuses to come out.

Rindil went home with Gudmund, who treated him well. But
Rindil was not generally liked.
The brotherJat Gnupufell were related to Thorkel Hake. Eilif
was married to Thordis the Poetess. He was big and strong and a
good man with the bow; he was illegitimate. Bruni was married
to Alfdis, daughter of Kodran; she and Thorlaug, Gudmund's
wife and the daughter of Atli, were first cousins. Thorkel Hake's
mother was Gudrid, who was married to Thorgeir the Chieftain, not Hjalti Eiriksson; her mother was the daughter of Hrolf
[son of Helgi rhe Lean; rhe brothers Bruni and Eilif were the
sons of Hrolf],"n son of Ingjald at Gnupufell. The brothers at
Gnupufetl and Thorkel Hake were related. Hlenni the Wise
,2*It is a sign of Gudmund's unmatched power in the region.that
Thorkel Uak6's brothers accept a dictated settlement without making
even a pretense of more aggressive action. Th.I are-reduced to mumbling und g.rr-bling. gut iiis also notewo11hy that the limits of power
are iuch th"at Gudmind still never doubted for a moment that he would

pay compensation, and a substantial one at that. Hence the need to firur.. rh; kiuing with the mulcts from Thorir Helgason's thingmen..

'2nHjalti Eirik"sson is not known from other sources. The emendation


fills a licuna in the manuscript and is conjectural, deduced fro-m 8!1ealogical information in Landidmab,h (zb4 r. b, 266, zJG n. r). See Bjorn
Sigfiisson rg4o: b4 n. Z.

&
rii

saga

95

lived at that time in Saurby; he and Thorgeir the Chieftain were


first cousins."o Hlenni was old and blind.
It came time to ride to the autumn assembly. Gudmund was
accustomed to ride with a large following. He set out from home.
Those who rode from the hills traveled down along the river,
and they met in the agreed place. People had eaten and the
horses had been rounded up, but Rindil's horse was missing.
Gudmund organized a search, but Rindil said, "Others shouldn't
have to look for my horse. I know where it is, and the rest of you
can ride on ahead."
Gudmund attached great importance to him and took care of
him. "I want you to come along," he said.
But no one would turn over his horse to Rindil. Gudmund
and his men rode ahead, while Rindil stayed behind with one
man. As soon as the horse was found, they sat down to eat.
Rindil had curdled milk and ate quickly because ir was thin; then
they rode away into the woods where men jumped out at thern.
It was Eilif and another man with him. Not much time was raken
to exchange greetings. He plunged a halberd inro Rindil, anrl
the curdled milk spurted out all over Eilif.
Rindil's companion told Gudmund what had happened. He
was furious and turned back immediately to pursue them, and

got someone else to inaugurate the assembly.'u' Bruni and his


men realized what was happening and turned back, but Eilif'and
his companion stopped at Saurby. Hlenni was outside sending off a farmhand, who was supposed to take some calves to
Seljadale. They told him what they had done and asked for
"oThe relevant genealogy in Landndmab6k (z7o-7 r) srares that Orm
tgskubak (son of the settler Thorir snepill) had two sons, Hlenni inn
gamli and Thorkel svarti. Thorkel was married to Gudlaug and their
daughter was Gudrid, who was married to Thorgeir the Chieftain at
Ljosavatn. According to this genealogy Hlenni and Thorgeir were not
first cousins, but Thorgeir was married to Hlenni's niece. See Bjorn Sig-

fiisson lg4o: b4n.b.


'" If a chieftain did not come to the beginning of the thing or the fall
assembly, he forfeited his chieftaincy and in some circumstances was
subject to lesser outlawry (Grd,gd,s lu 97, ttz, r42)) however, provisions
for transfer of power were available and seem to have been routinely
employed in the thirteenth century; see, e.g., Njdk saga Log 277; Dorgik
saga skarda 24: t4g; and cf. Grd,gd,s la r4r-42.

,'
r96

The Sagas

Ljdsuetninga saga

protection-((because Gudmund wants our lives and is riding


after us."
"Why?" responded Hlenni. "Have you killed Rindil?"
"Yes," he said, "and Gudmund is angry about it."
"That's no great loss," said Hlenni, "but I'm not in a position to
give much help. Go inside anyway and defend yourselves from
there." They did this.
Then Gudmund and his men entered the yard; he and Hlenni
greeted one another. Gudmund said, "Are those criminals Eilif
and his companion with you, Hlenni?"
"'I'hey're here all right," he said, "and it doesn't strike me as a
tragedy if Rindil is dead."
"Do one thing or the other," said Gudmund. "Hand them
over or we will burn down the house. Nobody's going to get away
with killing my people."
"It may be that you can now do exactly as you please," said
Hlenni, "but there was a time when your dishonoring me would
have caused a lot of talk in the district. But I am inclined to think
it better if they are not now killed before my very eyes. I will
send them off to Eyr Woods."
"Will you promise to get them there?" asked Gudmund. "I will
accept that alternative because your plain word has always
seemed better to me than other men's formal pledges."
Then Hlenni went in and said, "Gudmund is here now and
wants your life, and I am unable to oppose him."
"That was to be expected," said Eilif. "I will go out."
"Don't be too hasty," Hlenni then said. "There may be an outside chance at evasion. You are now going to make your way
over to Eyr Woods, each in a pack basket covered with grass
and each with a calf lying on top.'32 It may be that in his rage
(}udmund won't discover the ruse. And if the farmhand gets by,
he should pull the release in the pack frame and fate will take its

"I suppose they don't feel they've been invited to a party,,,said


the servant. "But they were ready to set out when I left.'; when
he had passed them, he turned and rode back by the horses and
dropped the men out of their baskers, and they took off into the
woods and over to Gnupufell.
"We've been tricked," said Gudmund then; "they were in the
pack baskets. I realize now what heavy footing the horse had on
the gravel and how flat-footed it was. Now Hlenni will claim to
have told no lies; he's a clever man. But let's go after them.,,

(:()urse."

And when the farmhand got over the river and into the woods,
(iurlrntrnd and his men came toward them. "Why are Eilif and
his c<lmpanion so slow?" said Gudmund.

"' ln Vd,pnfirdinga saga 8: 4r-43 Geitir Lytingsson surreptitiously removes the bodies of slain men in coal boxes loaded on horseback.

t97

They arrived at Gnupufell and went up to the door. It was


Eilif was sranding inside with his weapons. Gudmund said, "Turn over that criminal Eilif, Bruni, or we will set
fire to the house."
"That is pressing the matter very hard," he said. '.It,s strange
that you have such great designs against our kinsmen and take
the part of worthless men with such determination."
Gudmund gave directions to kindle the fire and it was d<>ne.
A woman went to the door and said, "Can Gudmund hear me?',
He said he could-"i5 that Thorlaug? You, of course, have
free exit."
"I will not take leave of my kinswoman Alfdis," she replied,
"and she will not take leave of Bruni."
"If you would rather die in shame here than live with me in
honor and good standing, we will not stand in your way.,,rr:
Then a young man went to the door and said, "Can Gudmund
hear me?"
He said he could-"is that my son Halldor?"
He said it was.
"Come out, kinsman," said Gudmund.
"It's better not. to urge me," he answered, "for you will have
closed, and

"'A similar incident occurs in Gudmund,ar saga djra 14: rgo, in which
a descendant and namesake of Gudmund thJ powerfu^l in?icates that
the presence of his daughter in the farmhouse he was burning would
not have deterred his course of action. When burnins was reso"rted to,
women, children,.servants,.and guests were generail| offered purrug.
from the flames, although the noim was breaihed in iienificant *uvrT.,
three of the most famous saga burnings; see Hensa-Dtiis saga g: 24, irlendinga saga 172-74: 487-94, ana Niak saga rzg,
33o-i. 5n Cudrnund's response see Introduction, pp. +g-So-, ro6,* r r r.

rg8

Lj1suetninga

The Sagas

none to fear more greatly than me

if my mother

dies

in

these

flames."

Then people joined in to persuade Gudmund not to commit


such an atrocity. It turned out that he allowed himself to be dissuaded and went away, but they never again had good relations.
Despite this setback Gudmund continued to lord it over the men
of the district.

Chapter

zr

Gudmund has a dream that is interpreted in terms of hu anxiety ouer


the hilling of Thorhel Hahe and the prospect of reuenge. During a uisit
in the north he is discountenrtnced lry OfeigJarngerdarson. He then seeks
out the seeress Thorhild and learns that uengeance will fall on one of hts
sons. Sorne )ears later he dies after hearing another Tlan's dream that
appears to haue a mysterious and lethal effect.

It happened one time that Gudmund had a noteworthy dream.


He went to meet with Dream-Finni north in Kaldakinn at Fell,
and said, "I wish to tell you a dream that I had."
"You are unwelcome here because of the injuries we have
suffered," he replied.
"There is no malice intended," said Gudmund. "Accept this
gold ring from me."
He took it and said, "What did you dream?"
"I dreamed I was riding north through the pass at Ljosavatn,
and as I came opposite the farm at Oxara, Thorkel Hake's head
appeared on the side of me which was facing the farm. And
when I rode from the north, the head sat on my other shoulder,
still facing the farm. This has now filled me with fear."
"I think I understand this vision," said Finni. "[ believe that
every time you ride to the north or from the north, /ou think of
'l'horkel Hake's slaying. But his kinsmen occupy every house
here, and this inspires your fear; the vision switches from shoulder to shoulder depending on which side the farm is on. I will
not be surprised if this tottches some of your kinsmen closely."
T'hen Gudmund rode north to his thingmen and was a guest
at Tjornes. He was given the seat of honor, and the seat next to
him was given to Ofeig Jarngerdarson. And when the tables

saga

0g

were set, ofeig put his fist on the table and said, "How big does
that fist seem to you, Gudmund?"
"Big enough," he said.
!o you suppose there is any srrengrh in ir?,,asked Ofeig.

"I certainly do," said Gudmund.


"Do you think it would deliver much of a blow?" asked ofeig.
"Quite a blow," Gudmund replied.
"Do you think it might do any damage?" conrinued ofeig.
"Broken bones or a deathblow," Gudmund answered.
"How would such an end appeal to you?,,asked Ofeig.
"Not much at all, and I wouldn't choose it,,, said Gudmund.
Ofeig said, "Then don't sit in my place.,,

"As you wish," said

Gudmund-and he sat to one side. people

had the impression that ofeig wanted rhe srearer portion of


honor, since he had occupied the hish seat irp to that rir)e.,,,,
ofeig didn't alter course once he set his mind <xr sorncthins.
There was a woman named 'rhorhild, called the wi<kiw ,f'
Vodlar, and she lived at Naust. She was still a heathen in spir.it
and was a great friend of Gudmund's.'.u Gudmund went to nrect
with her and said, "I am very curious to know whether there will
be any vengeance for Thorkel Hake.',
"come to see me another time when I am alone," she answered.
Some time passed, and early one morning Gudmund rode off
alone to vodlar. Thorhild was outside dreised in trousers and
"nThere is a curious.analogue to this scene in Thomas Hardy,s l-ar
9" the developmenr of such repartee
in oral tradition see widmark-rs).
r966. For a discuision of the signidcance
of scating arrangements see Intioduction, pp. 59-60.
'35 "Heathen in spirit" means that she *ui i r6i....rr. The fullest description of a sorceress is found in Eiri,ks sagarauda
4: zo6-9. See also
saga ,9' z8-3o, 20: 5o-54; F6"stbrudra iaga rrI 16r_66;
!2rbygg1a
vatnsdula saga rQ-r_gr 50_-55; Kormdks saga zz: zgzrg5; Grettis saga
78-7g, z4b-bt. ln vatnsdcela saga 44 ,zo:zz Gudmund"the powerfirl
is bewitched into conceding a-legaf iase. Several sagas clarify the connection.between paganism and witchcraft. ln Eyrbyg"gja saga 6't: r65 it is
noted thatrnagic powers are lost with baptism. ln"7+eidiratga rogi ,g,
From the MTd!,ing cro_u_d_(ch.

z7z Bardi Gudmundarson's foster mothef is described as ,.wlse uia uicient (i.e., heathen) in spirit" and in Grettis saga 7g: 245 it is explained
that Thurid is a witch because "although theland *rr^th.irtiui,
sparks of heathendom remained." See Baetke tgTZ:33g_4o. -u.,y/

2oo

with a helmet on her head and an ax in her hand. She said to


him: "Come with me now, Gudmund'"
She headed down to the {ord and seemed to grow in stature'
She waded out into the shallows and struck her ax into the
water, and Gudmund could observe no change. Then she came
back and said, "I don't think there will be men to take up vengeance against you. You will be able to maintain your honorable
position."

I would like to know whether my sons will escape reprisal," said Gudmund.
"That's a more onerous task," she said'
She waded out into the shallows and struck a blow in the
water. There was a loud crash and the water turned all bloody'""
Then she said, "I think, Gudmund, that the blow will fall close to
one of your sons. I will not exert myself again because I do so at
no little cosr ro myself; neither threats nor coaxing will lYurl." .
"I will not impose this strain on you ever again," he said' Gudmund returned home and continued to live in good standing'
when he got on in years, it is reported that.there was a man
named Thorhall, a worthy farmer living on Eyjafiord. He had a
dream and rode north to meet with Finni, who was standing out
by his door. Thorhall said, "l've had a dream that I want you to
interpret, Finni."
.,Git away as fast as you can, for I have no wish to hear your
dream," said Finni and he closed the door and said, "Go and tell
it to Gudmund at Modruvellir, or I shall drive you away by force
of arms." He left and went to Modruvellir, but Gudmund had
ridden out into the district that day and was expected home in
the evening.
His brother Einar lay down for a nap and fell asleeP. He
rlreamed that a magnificent ox with great horns went through
rhc <listrict and .uri. to Modruvellir, going to"' each building
"Now

"Then
""'li()r irrr analogy to this portent see the laga of .the Jomsaikings:
there was this: that we saw great waves rise againsi one another with
much tumul[ ancl with blooi. That will betoken the discord of some
of great. account within our land" (p' g8)'
men
- ,rz11rii
is the point at which the frafmentary A manuscript breaks
off.

Lj6suetnin{a

The Sagas

saga

zo

on the farm and lastly to the high seat, where he fell dead. "'l'his
must signify great tidings," Einar said. "Such are the fetches of'
men."
*
H

l&

138

Gudmund came home. It was his custom to visit each building


on the farm. And when he came to the high seat, he sat down
and leaned over to speak with Thorhall, who told Gudmund his
dream. After that Gudmund sat erect in his seat while the food
was served. The milk was kept hot with heated stones. Gudmund
said, "It's not hot."
"That's strange," said Thorlaug and she heated the stones
again.

Then Gudmund drank and said, "It's not hot."


Thorlaug said, "I don't know what'.s trecorne of'your sense of
hot and cold, Gudmund."
He drank yet again and said, "It's not ht)t."'['hen he leaned
back and was instantly dead.
"This is an extraordinary event and will be reportetl firr' :rrltl
wide," said Thorlaug. "Let no one touch him; Einar has oltcrr
had an inkling of lesser events."
Einar arrived and closed Gudmund's eyes and nostrils and attended to his corpse."' "Your dream is not without some force,
Thorhalt," said Einar. "Finni could see by looking at you that the
man you told your dream to was doomed, and he wished that on
Gudmund. He must have been cold inside already since he f'elt
nothing."tnu
r38On fetches

(fylgjur, "guardian spirits") see Turville-Petre 1964:


227-go.In addition to the bibliography cited there see Gehl rg39 and
Mundal 1g74. Outside the sagas there is an interesting analogy inAdam

of Bremen , Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum lll.4z (p. ,8f).


"'The ritual of closing the eyes and nostrils was meant to prevent the
evil eye and to keep the corpse from "walking after." The portents that
attended Gudmund's death might give cause for concern that he would
not lie quietly. See Njrils saga 98: 25r-52 where, as here, a woman
closely connected to the corpse selects the person she wants to perform
the rites; and also Egik saga 58: t 74 and Eyrbyggla saga 33: 92.
r40On the metaphorical value of Gudmund's lack of sensation see Introduction, p. r r2.

Chapter

zz

Gudmund is succeeded at Modruuellir by hts sons Eyjolf and Kodran.


Eyjotf agrees with Thoruard, chieftain of the Ljosuetnings, to patch up
old dffirences, but Thorttard's son Hoshuld has a less pacif,c disposition.
The ioman Fridgerdfalk in with Hoskuld and his cousin Brand. Some
time lnter these cousins go abroad and leaue their legal business in the
hands of Thorkel at Veisa. Fridgerd reaeak that she is pregnant and
narnes Brand as the father. Thorhel has his doubts and sends her back to
her father, who appeak to Eyjolf.

Gudmund's property passed to his sons Eyjolf and Kodran.


Kodran was a very handsome, promising, and popular man'
He was fostered by Hlenni. Gudmund's son Halldor had gone
abroad at that time, and he fell in the Battle of Clontarf.''' Eyjolf
wanted the inheritance all to himself and had no wish to deal
evenhandedly with his brother. Eyjolf was a handsome man and

tall in stature.
when Kodran came of age, he asked Eyjolf for a division
of property, but he answered, "I don't want to have a joint
household at Modruvellir, and I don't want to move on your
account."

''2

'o'The battle pitted the Irish high king Brian against a Norse-Irish
coalition and wai fought near Dublin on Good Friday, 10r4. See Introduction, pp.77-78.
,rrA bof c<iuld'not take up any inheritance that might have befallen
ttirrr unf il he was sixteen years old. Until then the property was under
The father, if living,- had the
tlrc <.:rre <rl'a guardian (fjd,nteizlumadr).
"followed
by brothers and then mother. The
grr:rrtli:rnship as of right,
the income from
[rr:u'<lian was rewarded for his effort with the lghl to
ii,.' 1,,',,1r.rty (Grd,gds II 77-8o). The ward had a-right to reclaim lands

:rlir:ri:rrtxl by the giardian as well as a claim for the value_of the capital
(l I 4 I r,- r 8). It should be noted that the property division Kodran is asking t,rr'<kres not contemplate his moving out to set up an independent
esiablishrrtent. [t appears he wants his property earmarked and valued
prior to assurning io*e kind ofjoint householding arrangement.where
iach hacl charge-of his own property. For further discussion of the dis-

pute between-h,yjolf and Kodran see Miller r988b and Introduction,


P.16.

Ljdsaetninga saga

The Sagas

202

'iri

ti

rl
'$

2()'l

Then Kodran met with his foster father Hlenni and told him
how things stood: "Is there no valid defense if I'm going to be
robbed of my inheritance?"
"Eyjolf's arrogance comes as no surprise to me," replied
Hlenni, "and I do not advise you to forfeit your inheritance.

You should rather build a house outside the enclosure at


Modruvellir."
He took that advice and it was agreed to later that Kodran
should live at Modruvellir.
At that time Einar Arnorsson lived at Hrafnagil; he was a wise
and worthy man, and of excellent family. Eyjolf was the most
powerful man in the north.
At that time Thorvard, son of Hoskuld and grandson of
Thorgeir, lived at Fornastead in Fnioskadale. He was the head
of the Ljosvetnings. He was a wise and even-ternpered man, well
along in years. Eyjolf sent men to him to invite hirn to his home,
and he accepted the invitation. Eyjolf gave him a good reception
and said, "Among you and your kinsmen, it is your opinion I
value most highly. Although relations between us have been cool
because of past events, I now wish to earn your friendship. I offer
you the gift of a stud horse. It is the best in the district."
"I will accept the horse," said Thorvard, "and I thank you for
it. Things will work out favorably for us as long as others do not
interfere." He then went home.
Thorvard had a son named Hoskuld. He was a big, strong man,
and quarrelsome. There was another man named Thorkel. He
lived at Veisa and was the son of Hallgils. His mother's name was
Solveig, daughter of Thord. Thord was the brother of Thorgeir
at Ljosavatn. Thorkel fostered Thorvard's son Hoskuld. There
was a man named Gunnstein, son of Thord, who lived at Ljosavatn. His son was named Brand. He was the same age as
Hoskuld, and they were both staying with Thorkel and had close
relations with the people at Thvera.
Thorvard Hoskuldsson was restrained in his legal dealings.
He made equitable offers and never deviated from them. The
foster brothers Hoskuld and Brand resembled each other in
temper and lived in high style. But relations between Thorvard
and his son Hoskuld were not cordial because they had different
temperaments in several respects.

2o4

Ljdsaetninga

The Sagas

There was a man named Isolf who lived in the north on


Tjornes; he was Eyjolf Gudmundarson's thingman. He had a
daughter named Fridgerd. She was a fair woman, of good lineage
and fine character, and a good worker. A brisk young man from
Grim's Isle showed up and took to conversing with her. Her father was not pleased with this turn of events. He took her aside
and said, "I don't care for your presence here any longer since it
only increases our dishonor. I will send you to my friend Eyjolf;
he will give you good treatment."
"That's fine with me," she said.
She then departed with one man to escort her. When they got
as far as Thorvard's farm at Fornastead, the weather turned bad.
Thorvard said, "It looks to me as though it wouldn't be a bad
idea to turn back north."
"I've had it in mind since I left the north not to go back there
under the present circumstances," she replied. "There is a man

named Thorstein, nicknamed Drafli. He lives at Draflastead,


though he is now in the north. I will stay there as long as the bad
weather lasts."
"I have now said what I think," said Thorvard, "but I won't be
surprised if this plan turns out badly."
She went down the valley to Draflastead and was well received.
The news of her presence soon got around. The foster brothers
at Veisa ''u also learned of it and came there to participate in
games. Fridgerd and the foster brothers got acquainted, and she
went to stay at Veisa.
It is reported that a ship came out to northern lceland at this
time and intended to make the return voyage in the same summer. The foster brothers went to the ship and got to know the
merchants.
"We have it in mind to get you two additional shipmates," said

Hoskuld.
''""'Fi)ster brothers at Veisa": the text has Veisusynir, i.e., the sons of
Veisa. 'I'he farm is conceived as the symbolic mother of these "brothers." 'I'he name emphasizes the importance of co-residence in group
formation and in the creation of social identities. Place names figure
prominently in the names attributed to or adopted by groups; e.9.,
Ljosvetnings, Modrvellings (Miller r g88b).

saga

zob

"Why shouldn't that be managed, Hoskuld?" the captain


responded."'

"It is our intention if the option is available."


"It certainly is available," the captain replied. They arranged
passage and then went home.

When they were almost ready to leave, they took Thorkel aside.
"We two foster brothers intend to go abroad," said Hoskuld,
"but we want to transfer to you the prosecution and defense for
any claims that involve us. Let's have the transfer witnessed." r45
"I haven't refused you anything," Thorkel said, "but, for a
number of reas<lns, this hardly seems like a trouble-free matter.
Still, I leave it up to you." It was done accordingly. They went
abroad and were held in high esteem.
Fridgerd stayed behind and was deemed to be an honorable
woman, and a high-spirited one; she fell in readily with the
young people and was an energetic person and a hard worker.
One day she approached Thorkel. "As you know," she said, "I
have been hard at work here, but now it has become more diflicult for me because I am becoming larger and don't move about
so easily. I haven't needed any help so far, but with this development I now need some, for I am pregnant."
"Who's the father?" asked Thorkel.
She said that Brand was.
"It was ill-willed of'him not to have told me," said Thorkel.
"This is a difficult case for me. There has been a lot of merrymaking here, and you haven't been exactly withdrawn. I don't
know whether he is the father, or some other gadabout, though
hardly in the same class as Brand. It seems to me that I would be
doing the foster brothers a disservice if I admit their responsibility in this matter."
She was very despondent over this and returned to her father,
whose wealth was rapidly depleting. She said that her trip had
turned out disgracefully, as might be expected.
"It didn't turn out well," he said, "but there was no good solution to be had."

"nOur translation of Er eigr pat pd, rd6, Hgskuldr? is somewhat


uncertain.
tnoSee

n.b4

above.

!
206

Lj1suetninga saga

The Sagas

Isolf went to see Thorkel, though he knew perfectly well that


he would get only aggravation and no remedy. He immediately
took Thorkel aside and said, "I have come here because I would
like you to settle Fridgerd's case. It would be to your credit if no
trouble were to come of this, since it is to be expected that there
will be bad feelings. I request that she stay with you, and I will
bear the cost. I intend to let the case be settled amicably and to
be moderate in my demands. I will not press matters further as
long as we are not denied some justice."
"I have no guilt in this affair," Thorkel replied. "Your daughter is not bashful. One person is no more likely than another to
have been taken into her graces."
Then Isolf departed and rode off to meet with Eyjolf Gudmundarson at Modruvellir. He was well received there. He took
Eyjolf aside and said, "My business is not calculated to enhance
your honor, but still we thingmen look to you for support. We
think that the action of the Fnjoskadalers is a blatant disgrace;
some of the ones we consider to be involved have fled the country, and those who have been put in charge decline to respond.
My original intention was to send my daughter to you and
thus save her from the slander of wicked men. But Brand and
Hoskuld held her up and detained her for shameful purposes."
"This has come to a bad pass," said Eyjolf. "[ would definitely
prefer to deal gently with the Ljosvetnings, but you have been
put in a poor position. I think it is advisable for her to come to
me. I can't back off altogether, but it will seem so if no action is
taken."
Isolf replied, "It will be considered that you are losing status,
trnless, of' course, men more distinguished than you should

2o-7

Chapter z3
Eyjolf and Thorkel at veisa agree that Fridgerd shall submit to an ordeal to uerify her charge. The ordeal is indecisiue, and the contending
parties separate with bitter words. Hoskuld and Brand return from
abroad and reinforce the Ljosuetning clan. They confer with Hrafn, son
of Thorhel Hake. Eyjolf seelu aduice from Einar Arnorsson, then rides to
Drafl,astead. A spy sent.from Draflastead guesses that the Ljosaetnings
haue gathered in force a,t Veisa.

Isolf went home and the winter passed. In mid-March there


was a gathering at Hals in Fnjoskadale,,,u but at the same time
there was a meeting held at Kaupang and for rhar reason Eyjolf
came late, and all the business was concluded when he arrived.
Thorvard and the householders had left.
Eyjolf asked where Thorvard had gone, and he was told that
he had gone home.
"This is bad luck," said Eyjolf. "Is Thorkel Hallgilsson here?"
"Here I am," he said.
"It's good that we've met," said Eyjolf. "How do you respond
to the charges brought by Isolf and Fridgerd, which are generally thought to involve you and your companions? I am told that
you are entrusted with the power both to prosecute and defend
those cases pertaining to Brand and Hoskuld. I shall not be very
demanding of compensation if there is a reasonable response."
"You raise this in a strange manner since you act on rumors
reported by foolish men," Thorkel replied. "I will not do the foster brothers the disservice of admitting their guilt when anyone
is equally likely to have lain with Fridgerd. I will not give a better
response until I know how the evidence stands against those you
hold responsible."
"You are less obliging than we would wish," answered Eyjolf,
"but I will proceed with moderation. Will you pledge payment of

irrte r-vcne."

"l will take the case," said Eyjolf, "though it is not trouble-free.
l:rve her brought to me. But I will not be demanding about
Irrrrcnrls. I expect that Thorvard will respond best if his counsel
prcv:rils, but I expect little honor from the others that are inI

volvcd." They joined hands, and Isolf turned the case over
to hirn.

'nu"Gathering at Hals" (samkud,ma at Hd,ki): ad hoc meetings could be


convened to discuss particular matters of business independent of thing
meetings. Such groupings could be recruited on the basis of neighborhood as well as thing attachmenr.

Lli

2o8

The Sagas

Lj1suetninga saga

her personal compensation'" if she undergoes the ordeal and


guarantee the paternity obligation if she is cleared?"'"
"That's a bad position for us to be in if I concede paternity and
someone else turns out to be the father," Thorkel responded,
"but I will not oppose the ordeal, although some will say that the
case is stale.''n I will pledge her personal compensation to the

"As a sign that I am willing to settle," said Eyjolf, "I will accepr
the stipulation."
Then Thorkel pledged paymenr of her compensation to the
priest and a day was set for paying it over if she succeeded at the
ordeal.

The ordeal was to take place at Laufass. A priest named Ketil


was to conduct the ordeal; he was called the priest of the Modr-

priest who officiates at the ordeal."

vellings.'uo (At that time Isleif was bishop at Skalahok).

of the parties. The rittr was due for slander (Grd,gd,s Ib r8r,II 3go), fornication (Ib 52, II r83), and every injury of any consequence.The rAfir
was doubled for offenses that violated the peace of the things (Ia g7). In
spite of its ubiquitousness in the laws, in the entire saga corpus rittr fig'
ures only in this case (Heusler r g r r : zoz), although an atte_mpt is made
in Islendinga saga zo: 246 to settle a fornication action by offering "more
than double the r4fir." Presumably, it was taken into account by arbitrators in fashioning their awards, but the sagas are strangely silent
about it.
'n8The laws expressly allow for proof of paternity claims by ordeal,
but they do not make them the exclusive means of proving paternity.
One Grdgd,.s provision discusses explicitly "those four ways by which
people are filiated to a kin group in our land" (II rgz): (r)if the child is
born to a woman who lives with her husband, (z) if the man formally

if

she proves the man liable by

the ordeal, or (4) if a verdict determines the man guilty. The fact that
the laws allow disputed cases to be settled either by verdict or ordeal,
and then give no indication when one mode of proof is to be preferred
to the other, emphasizes the importance of disputant choices and strategies in the performance of any ordeal. In this case the disputants
agreed to the ordeal; the law did not demand it. See Maurer 1874.
There has been much recent work on ordeal. For bibliography and further discussion of the Icelandic materials in the context of this work see

r5oPart
of the reason Eyjolf might be so incensed is that he expecred
more favorable treatment from a priest who seems to have been atiached
in some way to Eyjolf's people, the Modrvellings. The farm where the
ordeal takes place, Laufass, was also in the control of descendants of
Eyjolf in the late twelfth century; see Gudmundar so,ga djra 3: fi3
'u' Isleif Gizurarson was the first bishop of Iceland from ro56 to ro8o.
See Hungraaka (Kristni saga rgo5: 8g-g6).
-'u'Thf laws provided for more than one ordeal in paternity cases
where the results were not clear (Grd,gd,s Ib z 16). There ii no indicarion
that a different proband was allowed for subsequent performances.
Proxies, however, did bear the iron in some cases; see, e.g., Sturlu saga
g: 7Z and for further discussion Miller rg88a.

Miller rg88a.

t'nAccording to one

Grd,gd,s provision, paternity cases never grow


rgz). Fornication cases, however, are subject to a period of limitations that starts to run when the person in charge of bringing the suit
has notice of the claim (Ib 52, II r84). The case is then to be brought at
the next Allthing after he has notice or after the woman gives birth if
such is the case (II r84-85). Thorkel's objection is without merit as regards the paternity case, but depending on the precise timing of events
he may have some argument regarding the fornication case. The saga,
however, does not give us facts sufficient to determine whether the case
was barred or not.

stale

,u,

Fridgerd
then fasted. Eyjolf'proposed to supervise the ordeal and said it
was clear that the others would hinder the procs55-"211d for
that reason I will pay even more attention."
Thorkel arrived, and her hand was unbandaged. The priest
was slow to decide. Then Thorkel said, "Why are you such a blot
on your father's name that you don't state outright that her hand
is burned|"-2n61 he named witnesses to this.
The priest said, "It's out of order for you two to pronounce
the judgment and take the case out of my hands; the decision
is mine to make. We shall make a second, clearer trial of' tht:
matter."'u'
"It couldn't be clearer," said Eyjolf, "but for your enmity anrl
bribetaking, and because of that I will pursue the claim as if it
were my own inheritance."
"We Ljosvetnings have known for a long time that your hostility toward us is unsparing," said Thorkel.
"You started the hostility," said Eyjolf, "and it came down hard
on you just as you deserved." r53

'"The "personal compensation" or rittr was set at six marks for all
free men and women and was owed by wrongdoers to the injured parties, although in this case it was pledged to a third party by agreement

agrees to warrant that he is the father, (3)

2oq

(II

r53"You started the hostility


.": the "you" in the original is a plural
form and might be translated "your clan." Since Lj|suetningasaga is par-

I
I

ro

Ljdsuetningasa.ga

The Sagas

"I am prepared to stake everything on this case," countered


Thorkel.
"Your kinsman'fhorvard," said Eyjolf, "would not have responded in this way." With this they parted.
Then a ship arrived at Gasir, and on it were the foster brothers Brand and Hoskuld. Thorkel sought them out immediately
and said, "You are welcome to stay with me as before, although it
is risky."
They accepted and went to Veisa.
Thorkel said, "As things stand, Brand, Eyjolf wants to convict
you of lying with Isolf's daughter, and he has gone so far as to
vow that he will press her claim as hard as if it were for his father
Gudmund's legacy. But I believe he's doing that without valid
evidence because I think the ordeals will always go against her.
I saw her hand in worse shape than before, and that showed how
loose she is. But Eyjolf wants to renew the old malice against
our kin."
"I will not agree that I have more obligations in this matter
than other men," Brand replied.
"How do you want to proceed-because all our kinsmen want
to take Eyjolf's part except Hrafn," asked Thorkel. (He was the
son of Thorkel from Ljosavatn, and was living at that time at
Lundarbrekka in Bardardale. Hrafn's wife was from a family at
Goddales.) "I expect him to support us in any event, and he is no
fool. I would expect that he would come up with some plan to
give us the upper hand. It would be just fine if Eyjolf would venture up north here and get what he deserves."
"We must obviously stand our ground," said Hoskuld.
Then they met with Hrafn, and Hoskuld raised the matter
with him: "I imagine that you know of the hostile attitude that
Isolf'and Eyjolf have once again shown toward us. Now we'd like
to make a stand with your support."
"What you say is true," he answered. "Eyjolf now wants to lord

i*

body knew it. Njdk sagais, however, quite explicit about the Ljosvetning
responsibility for the gossip (see Introduction, p. 82).

it over everyone, and they think that nobody matters except


Thorvard.'un What good is that to me? Go now to Ozla""'and
meet with Otrygg and recruit him for your cause. Then go to
our friends in Fnjoskadale as well. For I know Eyjolf's arrogance
well enough to guess that he will seek us out here in the north.
Let's be prepared and conceal the matter from Thorvard."
It is said that Eyjolf convened a district meeting that summer
and said, "As you well know, I am considered your chieftain.
I judge it to be in the spirit of our relationship that each aids the
other injust cases. You should support me against my opponents
while I am to be your ally when your needs require it." People
thought that this was right and proper.
Then Eyjolf rode to see Einar Arnorsson at Hrafnagil. He was
a worthy man and a friend of Eyjolf'. "'I'he f act is that I wish to
speak with you," said Eyjolf. "'fhe tirne lras conre to t.ollect the
sum agreed to for the ordeal. If' I proceerl witlr :r l:rrtr4e lx>rly
of men, I will try to pressure them with a show of' firrce. ()nly
Thorvard deserves to be spared."
"He is now an old man," he answered, "but he is a valiant nlan,
as is shown by the fact that he fought against Gyrd when he was
together with Thorolf.'uu He is able, prudent, and a person to be
reckoned with. His kinsmen will succeed only if he is in com'un Hrafn's statement shows that Thorvard's preeminence in his own
kin group is resented by some of its members. Different collateral

branches of Thorgeir the Chieftain's descendants appear to be compet-

ing for the Ljosvetning chieftaincy. Hoskuld's impatient question suggests his eagerness for a greater say. See n. zo5 below.
tuuThe place name appears to be a corrupt reading, perhaps

tisan, it never makes clear how the Ljosvetnings initiated the accusation

of homosexual effeminacy against iudmundl The ofEcial Ljosvetning


version is not that they put the rumor into circulation but that every-

2rr

:t.

t;;

&

f,

$
,ft

I
IB

&

for Oxara; see Bjorn Sigftisson rg4o: 70 n. 4.


'uuThe sagas frequently allude to events related in written sagas now
lost or known only from oral tradition. This episode is referred to in
Eyrbyggja saga 64 r76: "There was a man named Gudleif. He was the
son of Gunnlaug the Rich from Straumfjord and the brother of Thorfinn, from whom the Sturlungs are descended. Gudleif was a notable
merchant. He and Thorolf, the son of Eyra-Lopt, had large cargo vessels at the time when they fought with Gyrd, the son of Jarl Sigvaldi.
Gyrd lost an eye in the encounter." Landndmab6h (tor-3) adds the information that the battle took place in the strait between Jutland and
the Danish island of Fyn and that Gudleif composed verses about it.
The verses are no longer extant.

212

The Sagas

Ljdsuetninga

mand. My advice is to set out with eighteen men and say that you
are going to Flatisledale for provisions."

zr1

he took him in a wrestling hold and said he was "in the habit of
seducing our womenfolk."
The farmhand began to lose his footing. He tried to get in the
other door, but Brand was there and said, "You won't get in
here-she's asleep." And they pitched him back and forth across
the field and tore his clothes until he was huppy to escape.
Then he went home, and Eyjolf asked about his trip. He said it
had turned out badly: "The foster brothers were outside, and I
think they were suspicious of me. They kept having at me and
they tore my clothes. The doors were closed when I arrived, but

Eyjolf set out together with Thorstein the Strong'u' from


Arnarstead and a member of Thorstein's household named
Thorir, son of Finnbogi the Strong.'u' The weather was biting
when they rode onto Vodlaheath. They came to Atli's farm at
Draflastead. He was a wealthy man, and Eyjolf's thingman. They
arrived late and were well received. Atli inquired into Eyjolf's
journey. He said he was headed for Flatisledale-"and I will tell
you what I have in mind. I want you to send a man over to Veisa
to find out how many men are at home."
Atli was reticent.
Eyjolf said, "Why are you so quiet?"
"I would be happier if you had a hundred men with you," Atli
replied.
"That's well spoken," said Eyjolf. "Does it mean that you know
something about what is going on at Veisa?"
"Only that it's quiet, but they are not fond of you," he said.
Eyjolf asked him to send a farmhand to Veisa to find out what
was astir. He did so.
The farmhand came to Veisa. Hoskuld was standing out by
the door and said, "You're quite an early bird, my friend-and

still I got to see from the door what was going on inside. I suspect there is a large force on hand and that they may have been
informed of your trip."
"That seems not unlikely," said Eyjolf. (Thorvard Thorgeirsson'un was subsequently in the habit of saying, whenever
there was a ruckus, "Let's try the Veisa grip.")
"I suspected as much," said Atli.
"It doesn't look good for my venture as things st:rrr<I," said
Eyjolf.
"I will give you ten well-armed men," said Atli. "V)lr slrorrl<l g<l
back home without putting your men in peril."

Chapter z4

'uTThis is the same person who killed Thorkel Hake a generation

earlier. If his age makes his presence plausible, his presence could
only serve to link Eyjolf's expedition to prior Modrvelling aggressions
against the Ljosvetnings and would have been so perceived by both

The two parties clash at Fnjosk Riuer. Eyjolfs men are a,t .[irst repelled, but he gathers reinforcements. The Ljosuetnings in turn a,ppeal to
Thortard, who is goaded into action by hu wife. He recruits Otrygg and
Gunnstein. A battle is engaged at Kakalahill and results in the death of

sides.

'n*Firrrrb<rgi's son 'Ihrlrir is mentioned in l-innboga saga g8: 324:


"l''irtnlxrgi'.s sott 'l'h<lrir always stayed with his relatives the Modrvellings

(<:l'.4o:33r),:rnd we have heard that he was together with Eyjolf


tlrt: [,:rrne al the Bat.tle of Fox Hill; he was a big, strong man." Bjorn
Sigliisson ussumes (rg4o: 72 n. z) that this information comes from
Lj|stttlrinwt .wga. It certainly has this appearance, but it is curious
that the llattle of Kakalahill has been altered to the Battle of Fox Hill
(Melm,kfuthill\. Johannes Halld6rsson (Finnboga saga lix) therefore assumes <rrrly tlrat both sagas reflect a common tradition. Vatnsdula saga
makes l-innlxrgi a contemporary of Thorstein Ingimundarson, who
could hardly have been born much later than gzo-3o. If so, it seems
unlikely that a son of Finnbogi was still in fighting rrim around ro5o
(see

saga

'u'On Thorvard Thorgeirsson see Introduction, pp. 8:-8+. He died


a date which thus serves as a terminus post quem for the composition of Ljdsuetninga saga as well as Reykdula saga, where he is also
mentioned. Since the mention of contemporaries in the family sagas is
unusual, it seems more than coincidental that Thorvard, an important
man in his day, should be mentioned in two sagas from the same regiotr
and very possibly the same period. Such mentions often hint at l):ltr'()nage in medieval literature, but r 2o7 is probably too early a clatr: lo rrllow
such an explanation, and there seem to be no other connc(liorrs lx'-

in rzoJ,

Bjorn Sigfiisson rg4o: xxviii).

tween Lj6suetninga saga and Reyhdula saga

-L

tg: 2rZ.

214

The Sagas

Otrygg. Otrygg's son Hall arriaes on the scene and auenges his father by
inflicting a mortal wound on Kodran. The battle is broken off when
Hrofn leads Eyjolf to belieue that Thoruard is more seriously wounded
than he really is. Kodran dies the following night.

Lj1suetninga saga

Eyjolf-and this was done.

Messengers were also dispatched

to Eyja{ord to gather men.

(When Kodran and Thorodd learned of this, Hlenni said,


"Eyjolf obviously has something in mind.")
Men volunteered in good numbers, and they were more
prepared for 4 hard fight than for overwhelming odds. Oddi
answered the call immediately with nine men, and Eyiolf rode
toward him without delay. Then Oddi said, "Won't the Ljosvetnings give you passage across the fords? What route are you
going to follow under these circumstances?"
"I intend to get at them on the other side of the river and engage them there," answered Eyjolf.
"That is bold but not prudent," said Oddi. "They won't find
such tactics very hard to deal with."
"What do you suggest?" asked Eyjolf.
"Let's ride hard for the river," responded Oddi, "but then
turn upstream t<l Hestafirrd, where the river bank is very steep."
All this happened befirre Kodran and his men arrived.
'l'hey rode to the fbrd. The men from Veisa saw rhis and rode

1r

!
:.?
1

r"o'l'he

ubiquitousness of rivers in Iceland means that they figure fre<;rrt:rrtly as places of battle, since rarely would one party noihave to
(:tr)ss one to get at the other. Thus fords were natural places of con-

Iirrrrtution. Under other circumstances, rivers provided-a natural defense lor one's rear. Rivers also mark boundariis and hence provide a
liminal sl)ace in which battle is figuratively as well as strategically uppropriate. See, e.g., Laxdula saga 87: 244-47; Njdk saga 6z:. 156, 7i:
175-77-

ford. But Eyjolf's men


turned their horses upstream. "They have hit on some scheme,"
said Hrafn.
"Let's counter that and ride forward to attack them," said
Hoskuld. And so they did.
The Ljosvetnings now turned and rode out into the river. The
others gave way, but Eyjolf's horse foundered in the water.
Thorstein and Thorir seized the harness on either side and
lifted the horse under Eyjolf and turned back.
Then Oddi said, "We're making no headway, Eyjolf; let's
turn back."
"We will never retreat," Eyjolf replied.
Hoskuld attacked Oddi head on as they were turning their
horses, and his ax tip caught him between the shoulders. They
managed to get back to their own bank.
"That wasn'l a smooth ride," said Oddi.
"We're not finished yet," said Eyjolf.
Men were dispatched to every farm to sather forces.'o'
Then the Ljosvetnings consulted together. Hoskuld said to
Hrafn: "What do you suggest now, kinsman? Or doesn't it seem
advisable to you that we should go to meet them at Thridjungford, for that is where they are probably headed."
"That's one opt.i<)n," answered Hrafn. "But I think they will
head for where tlrey are in greater force than they are now. lt is
my advice to send krokouts to Thridjungford and'I'hinrlnannaroute to keep watch on people's movements."
"My foster bnlttrer Brand and I will do that," said Hoskuld. At
that time the count.ryside was widely forested.'u'They saw that
against them and thronged around the

$
,ri

Eyjolf and his men rode toward the river. They saw thar men
were riding from the houses on the other side, no fewer than
seventy in number, who immediately started throwing rocks at
them.'oo Eyjolf's men got a good thumping about the shoulders
and had to turn back. Atli said that it had gone as he suspecred.
"Now we shall send for our friend Oddi Grimsson at Hofdi,"
said

2r5

}
I

li
fi
I
*
k

li

&

'u'I>d, uar m,gnnum hleypt t,il herbods d, haern bu. The word herbods (levy)
is a conjecture for the rn:rnuscript's fird,nsd6m.s (court of confiscation),
which is meaningless in the r:ontext. The conjecture, though graphically
remote, makes sense, an<l we <:an find no better solution. It is hard to
guess what men would h:rve gone to all the local farms for other than

reinforcements.
'l'horqilsson (ro68?- r r48) wrote that at
'62In the twelfth century Ari
the time of the settlement "lcelanrl was wooded between the mountains
and the shore" (islendingabdk t: q,). Itrllen samples confirm the tradition.
The first colonists found woodlands o['dwarf willow and birch. These

2r6

Ljdsuetninga

The Sagas

there were men headed for Bilzarpass, and they then turned
back to tell their men.
"Now we're through unless Thorvard joins in," Hrafn said.
Hoskuld replied, "You no doubt think it would be a good idea
for me to go to Fornastead and ask Thorvard for help."
He did so, and arrived at Fornastead, where he entered
the sitting room. It was full of men, kinsmen and friends of
Thorvard.
"My business is briefly stated," said Hoskuld. "We need help.
We will be quickly overwhelmed by Eyjolf's numbers unless we
have the benefit of your support"-he told him everything fhat
had happened.
"I've been let in on these events late in the day," said Thorvard.
"It would have been handled more moderately if it had been up
to me. I won't urge my men to rush into this foolishness."
"I won't spend a lot of time asking you for little things," said
Hoskuld, "because what you have to offer won't amount to much
or be very useful. But I will never desert [hem."
Then Thorvard's wife spoke up: "You should consider that
you'll be involved anyway if Hoskuld is killed. It's no easier to
prosecute on behalf of a dead man."'o'
"I know how vehement women are," Thorvard replied, "but it
will be a good idea to put a limit to this trouble."
"You won't be much good at prosecuting for his death if you
won't help him when he's alive," she said. "I won't bear and raise
another son if you give this one up to the sword."'nn
"You women are likely to prevail as usual," said Thorvard.

2 L7

"Have supper ready for some extra men tonight"-ancl hc


jumped to his feet.
"I will see to it," she said.
Thorvard sent men to Gunnstein and also to Otrygg, who was
married to Gudrun, the daughter of Thorkel Hake.

il

quir:kly yielderl to the settlers' axes, and their sheep made sure regenerat.ion would no[ occur. The treeless landscape of modern Iceland
w:rs :rlready a reality within roughly a century or so of the colonization.
Sec Mr:()overn et al. r988.
"" Ordgd,s la 167: "A man's son is the principal in a killing case, sixteen
yc:u's or older. . . . If there is no son or he is younger than this the case
lies with the man's father next." Should Hoskuld be killed, Thorvard
would be the lawful plaintiff in any legal action arising from the killing.
164'l'he goading women of the sagas have received their share of attention.'l'hree recent works (Clover rg86a, rg86c; Miller r983b) try to
make the case that they are more than stock literary figures.

saga

#
irri
)i

Hall Otryggsson was at Thvera in Fnjoskadale with a woman


named Thorgerd,'ou and he was attending to his sheep that
morning. He had exchanged tasks with the shepherd because
the shepherd was often at Grytubakki in the Hofdi settlement
and was haying there. He set out up the valley. His father Otrygg
was up in years by that time, but a very valiant man. Word came
atresh to him from Thorvard. When the messenger arrived, he
was washing his hair and said he wasn't ready.""'
"It's true enough that Thorkel Hake was related to me, not to
you," Gudrun said, "so I will go."
Otrygg answered, "It's up to me to go and I will." He then set
out for Thorvard's farm.
Gunnstein also went to join up with Thorvard. One of his
slaves approached him and asked if he could go. "You should
stay at home and look to the household," said Gunnstein.
The slave answered, "What is it about me that makes you
think that I should stay at home? I will go all the same and not
look after your property."
"So be it," said Gunnstein.
Thorvard and his men now set out in a company of seventy
men, and they rode on both sides of the river. This time the ford
was not barred to the men from Eyja{ord. Kodran arrived with
his men, including Thorodd Hjalm and Einar, the sons of Arnor,
and they had a large following. They came to the hillock called
Kakalahill. There was swampy ground there and a stream, which
delayed the attack for a time. On one side of Eyjolf stood Oddi
Grimsson. He was bald and well along in years. Kodran had a
separate following. Thorstein the Strong and his men stayed
r65on Hall and Thorgerd see Introduction, p. lg.
'uuThe hair-washing motif appears also in Heidarl|ga saga
where it is suggested that soap was available.

zt:

zJg,

2r8

The Sagas

Ljdsuetninga saga

219

"it will always be a reminder of your injury when you go home."


He did this.
Hoskuld Thorvardsson confronted Oddi from Hofdi, and
they fought. "Our kinsman Hoskuld wants to be in the front
rank," said Gunnstein, "and we should rally to his support be-

closest to Eyjolf. Eyjolf veered

off into the marsh and his horse


got stuck. He dismounted and attacked Thorvard, and they began fighting as the sun rose.'u' Otrygg advanced immediately.
Thorvard judged that Eyjolf was artacking only where he srood
to gain revenge, and Eyjolf thoughr thar Thorvard had known
of the hostility brewing berween the two parties.
Then Otrygg said, "Young Hjalm, who's going to be the first to
start fighting?"
"Who other than you, Hake's son-in-law?" he said.
Then they attacked each other fiercely. Otrygg acted as if he
could see no one but Eyjolf. Thorvard was nor especially aggressive at first. Otrygg thrust his spear at Eyjolf, who was wear-

cause there are many against one."

Thorstein, one of the men from Gunnstein's household,'u'


said, "Yours isn't the most dangerous company to be in today as
long as you're fighting that fellovr from Thvera, Einar JarnSkeggjason. I'm going to break off for the moment." Then he
went for Oddi with four followers and aimed his ax hammer at
his head, inflicting a superficial wound on his forehead that bled

ing a red tunic. He had girded up the skirt of the runic, and
Otrygg's thrust went into the folds. Thorstein the Strong brought
his ax hammer down so hard on the spear that it drove the spear
blade into the ground. Otrygg bent down for it, and when Eyjolf
saw that, he pierced Otrygg through with his spear. He twisted
away, f-ell in the stream, and died there. There was no need then
to goad Thorvard.
There was a man with Thorvard who was named Starri. He
was married to Herdis, the daughter of Halldor Gudmundarson,
Eyjolf 's brother. He was the son of Thorgerd, Tjorvi's daughter,
and was friendly with both sides. Thorvard made a rush and
stepped over Otrygg, but Starri ran ar him and held him back.
At that moment Eyjolf landed a blow on Thorvard's thumb, and
thejoint was left hanging from the sinew. Thorvard asked Oddi
from Myvatn to help him. (He was rhe son of Thorgeir Axstaff,
the son of Grenjad, and descended from Fell-Oddi. He was married to Thorvard's sister Vigdis.) Oddi rushed at Starri and
delivered a blow with the hammer of his ax so that starri fell
head over heels. Thorvard was hampered by his wound and he
wanted to twist off his thumb. "Let it dangle as it is," said Oddi,

profusely.

Oddi jumped up again and said, "I'm ready to fight."


"Now ['ll be off, Hoskuld," said Thorstein the debt-slave.'un
"You and Thoralf should be on your own from now on." Gunnstein's son Brand also attacked boldly.
Now it is time to tell of Hall Otryggsson. He arrived at Nes,
frozen to the bone.'to He asked whether the shepherd was
at home.
The women answered, "What is it you want with the shepherd?
Don't you dare to join in when your kinsmen are fighting?"

"Get me a weapon of some kind!" said Hall quickly. They


fetched a timber ax and gave it to him.
'68Thorstein is the name of the slave who insisted on joining the muster earlier in the chapter. Even the slave gets to make a boasting speech
and acquits himself reasonably well. This is somewhat reminiscent of
the ethos of the Anglo-Saxon heroic poem "The Battle of Maldon."
'u'In some circumstances the laws required a person to enter debtslavery. A man was obliged to become a debt-slave in order to maintain
his mother and father if his own property did not suffice. But, regarding his children, he had a choice either to go into slavery on their behalf
or to sell them into slavery (Grdgd.s Ib g-S); see also Foote ry77b.
'7o"Frozen to the bone" (jgkulbarinlz): the element jgkul- suggests
"covered with ice," as if Hall was caught in freezing rain. He must have
been tending sheep at very high elevations if the detail is to jibe with the
rest of the account. Moreover, if we are to take the mention of the battle
beginning at sunrise as more than a metaphor for the time of day, it
would appear that there was not a complete cloud cover that day. See
n. r67 above.

'uTBjorn Sigfrisson (rg4o: 7b n. 4,78 n. 3) notes some inconsistencies


is not quite clear just how we are to understand the
timing of the events in this chapter. If, for example, the battle started at
sunrise Otrygg must have been up very early washing his hair, especially given the shortness of the nights during the summer months. Nor
would there have been much time for the people from Eyjafiord to ger
to the scene of battle. See also n. t70 below.

in the narrative. It

l-

221

The Sagas

Lj1suetninga saga

And when he got to the battle site, he halted and asked, "What's
the news here?"
"Can't you see that your father has been killed and is lying
here at your feet?" said one of the men. "Eyjolf Gudmundarson

what with Kodran being severely wounded and Thorvard out of


action. It's clear that we should call a halt."
"Yes, break it off now," said Kodran. "I'm all right." Then they
separated. Eyjolf did not know the extent of Kodran's wound.
When Thorvard learned of this, he said, "What a disgrace to
lie about men's wounds! Let this battle go as fate wills. We are
always slow to evil deeds, but let's not back off now until the
others think they have had enough." No one was willing to re-

killed him."
Hall plunged into the fray. But Kodran went between the
combatants and tried to separate them. It had gotten to the
point that only those men were fighting who had prior grudges.
By then most of them had broken off; they needed no more urging to separate. Kodran seized the remaining combatants on
both sides and pushed them aparr. At that momenr Hall struck
him a blow in the head. Then a man called out, "There went the
best man from Eyja{ord."
"Good or not, he was Gudmund's son," said Hall.
Kodran was carried away on a shield and his wound was bandaged-the Ljosvetnings were gathered by a wooded area. Eyjolf
now urged his men to exert themselves as best they could.
Thorodd Hjalm replied, "You are reacting to what has been
done, Eyjolf, but you are less concerned with your brother's
comfort. one of Einar of Thvera's farmhands has now been
killed too."
"Put a tent over Kodran," said Eyjolf. "I'm reluctant to look
for medical care for him here. He should be taken to Svalbard to
Thorvard the Healer."
People said that Hrafn had no less an eye to the woods than to
the battle. "one plan would be to hide in the woods," said Hrafn,
"another to report that Thorvard is mortally wounded.",zr
"That's a safe course," replied Hoskuld, "though not at all in
the spirit of my father. But I will talk to him about 11"-2n61 56
he did.
"Tell him in my exact words," said Thorvard, "that he can
make himself out to be as cowardly as he likes, but he is not to lie
about me, because that will provoke my wrath."
The day was well advanced, but Eyjolf urged his men ro attack. Hrafn had spent the night ar Hals and had come down
from Flatisledale. The action was more than he had a stomach
for. He sought out Eyjolf and said, "This has been a hard battle,
t"See n. r8 above.

port these words to Eyjolf.


Eyjolf and his men went to Svalbard and found Thorvard the
Healer, and they unwrapped the wound. Eyjolf asked him what
he thought.
"If Kodran had been kept still, there might have been hope,"
replied Thorvard, "but now there is none." Eyjolf flushed so that
he could have been bled from one finger. A fire was soon built
and they took their outer clothes off. Eyjolf was so swollen that
he could not get out of the tunic he was in.'" Kodran died during the night and people were sorely grieved. He was taken up
Eyjafiord and his body was properly prepared for burial.

Chapter z5
Thontard entertains the Ljosaetnings that night and conceals Hall
Otryggsson during the winter. He offers Eyjolf compensation but is re.jected. Eyjolf in turn seeks to strengthen his alliances by sending out feelers, notably to Gellir Thorkelsson, Hrafn, and Shegg-Brrtddi Bjarnason.
S ke gg-B roddi is noncommittal.

About the Ljosvetnings it is reported that Thorkel Hallgilsson


said, "I wish to invite all of those who have been involved here to
my place except for Hall Otryggsson."

""'Eyjolf flushed": the text reads Eyjdft sagdi (Eyjolf said), but that
makes no sense, and we conjecture, as have others (Ranisch and Vogt
r964: zo6), nyjAlf, rodnaili (Eyjolf reddened). A good example of flushing from extreme emotion may be found in Hd.uardar saga Isf.rdings z:
298. On swelling from grief see Egils saga 78: 244 and Vgkunga saga ch.
29. In these cases the swelling causes Egil's and Sigurd's clothing to split.
In the latter example the motif goes back to a stanza probably from the
late (and largely lost) Eddic poem Sigurdarhaida in meiri.

Y
223

The Sagas

Lj1saetninga saga

"I wish to do the same," said Gunnstein.


Then Thorvard said, "I wish to invite everyone to my farm this
evening, first and foremost Hall Otryggsson, who has suffered
and purged shame on our account; we are in this together." ''3
Thorvard went home to Fornastead with the whole company
and said, "It is time, mistress, to provide hospitality."
"There will be no lack of hospitality this evening," she replied.
Hoskuld Thorvardsson was in good spirits and did the honors. "Father," he said, "shall I arrange the seating according to

ounce per man and a half mark to each chieftain who rode to the
thing. He sent word to the sons of Eid at As '77 in Borgar{ord and
offered to pay them for their aid, and likewise the Goddalers. It
was agreed that Hrafn would not be prosecuted, because he was
judged not to have been a threat during the battle. Most of the
chieftains promised Eyjolf aid.
There was a man named Harek living at As in the Kelda settlement. He was married to Thorgerd, Thorvard's daughter. He
was Skegg-Broddi's thingman.'7'Thorvard sent him to Skegg-

o o.>

Broddi to request help-"and I will give him a gold ring."

status or prowess?"
"Hrafn shall be seated next to me," he answered.

Skegg-Broddi was married to Gudrun, the daughter of Thorarin


the Rich and Halldora, daughter of Einar at Thvera.'7n
Eyjolf sent messengers there too, and they were to stay with
Hrafn at Lundarbrekka; Eyjolf made overtures of friendship to
him and said that he would not hold him accountable if he would
distance himself and not make common cause with 'I'horvard;

Hall disappeared at the sitting room door, and people didn't


know what had become of him that winter. During that time he
was housed in the passageway behind Thorvard's seat.'7'
Next Thorvard sent word to his thingmen, and when they
came, he said, "We are now in great difficulty and in need of
counsel. I will first send men to Eyja{ord with a message for
Eyjolf." He did so right away.

the district thing if plaintiff and defendant were attached to the same
district thing, which does not appear to be the case. It has been suggested that the Hegranes thing was a quarter thing, meeting in the
quarter rather than at the Allthing. But the laws and sagas provide only
scant support for this proposition; see Grd,gd,s II 356 and Vtga-Glnms
saga 241 82. In any event, no argument on improper venue or lack of
jurisdiction is made by Thorvard. See n. 55 above.

They told Eyjolf that Thorvard was willing to compensate


Kodran's death with two hundreds in silver and Hall's permanent exile.
"I don't intend to have Thorvard's judgment as compensation
for my brother," replied Eyjolf, "I reject this." The messengers
returned home.

"'According to

Eyjolf sent word to all the chieftains to request aid, and also to
his friend Gellir in the west,'" askins him to attend the Hegranes
thing "o in force. Gellir was a worthy man. Eyjolf offered a silver

"'On the significance of


ttz.

Landndmabdk

(zrz-r4) Eid was descended from

colonist named Skinna-Bjorn, who settled Mid{ord and Linakradale.


His son was Mid{ord-Skeggi, the father of Eid. This Eid had a son
Thorhall, who fathered a second Eid. If Skeggi was born ca. goo-925,
Eid the Elder ca. g2b-bo, Thorhall ca. g5o-75, and Eid the Younger
ca.g7b-looo, the latter's sons could have been born after rooo and
would have been substantial men around robo. Gudbrandur Vigfiisson
assumed that Eid the Elder was meant and questioned whether he
would still have been alive (Um timatal +8g). Bjorn Sigfiisson (rg4o: 84
n. r) thought that the sons of Eid the Younger would have been too
young and therefore <lpted for Eid the Elder. Heidarutga saga Zb: Zrb
locates Eid the Elder at As and involves him and his sons in events
around lol5, though Eid is described as an old man.
'"According to the laws a man could attach himself to a chieftain in
another quarter only with permission of the lggrbtta, i.e., the legislative
council that met at the Allthing (Grdgd,s la t4r, II 278).
"'Skegg-Broddi was an affine of Eyjolf in the same degree as Gellir
Thorkelsson was: he is first cousin once removed to Skegg-Broddi'.s
wife; see n.r7b above.

Thorvard's comment see Introduction,

pp.40, 44,48,

'7nThe passageway is formed by the space between the wall and the
paneling that backed the seats running the length of the walls in the
sitting room.
''uGenealogical information from other sources indicates that Gellir

Thorkelsson and Eyjolf were also affines. Gellir's wife was Valgerd, who
i e she was Eviorf's nrst
'

ffi,:nffi**:fli::::PJ:::i":,T,:''u''

'7uThe Hegranes thing was located in the west-central part of the


North Quarter, well to the west of both Eyjolf's and Thorvard's localities. Eyjolf's case, strictly speaking, should be heard at the Allthing or at

224

The Sagas

Lj1suetninga saga

he also sent Hrafn half an ounce of gold. And when the messengers arrived, Hrafn accepted this offer.
Then they met with Skegg-Broddi and presented the case to
him. "I don't know about aid," he said. "The Modrvellings have
not accorded their kinswoman much honor. Furthermore they
scarcely need assistance from the East Quarter. I will come to
the thing but promise no aid." Those who had been sent re-

Eyjolf readied his case, and no one hindered him."' Then they
rode out.
The mountains were almost impassable and there were severe
losses among the farm animals. Thorvard met with his friends
and said, "Shouldn't we get started on our ride to the thing? If
you are willing to support me, I think the best plan is to travel
with two men to a horse because I know that Eyjolf will be there

turned home.

in force."'"
The men responded readily and he got an able-bodied force
of a hundred men. They left a day earlier than Eyjolf and went
by way of Oxdaleheath and down into Nordrardale, and they
rested at Swinesnes. Eyjolf had close to three hundred men.
Thorodd Hjalm and Einar from Thvera were in his company.
When the others left Swinesnes, Eyjolf and his men arrived
there. At that point Thorvard and his men were delayed because
a pack harness broke and the load fell off'. "What now, kinsman
Hrafn?" said Thorvard.
"I see no choice but to get away," he replied.
"Is that a decent way to take leave of one's men?" Thorvard
asked. "Is it any worse to meet Eyjolf now than it was before?'*"
Even if your advice was heeded then, still I will not heed it now."
The others were not ready with the pack horse yet.
Einar saw Thorvard and his men and realized that there was a

Chapter z6
Thortard's messenger Harek has greater

success

with Skegg-Broddi.

Eyjolf has an ominoru dream but prepares hk case. Both sides gather
forces and ride to the thing. On the uay an encounter is narrowly
aaoided.

Then Harek came east to Skegg-Broddi's farm. He brought


him Thorvard's greetings and showed him the ring.
"I have learned of their conflict," he replied, "and I have said
that I would help the underdog. The ring can stay here."
Later when he and his wife went to bed he said, "We have
guests, Gudrun."
"What is their business?" she asked.
"Thorvard sent this ring to you," he replied, "asking that you
not oppose him."
"I do not value the ring so greatly that I do not value you more,"
she said. "I know that the ring was sent to gain your help."
"I will go to the thing," he said. Then the messengers departed.
Eyjolf had a foster father. During the winter Eyjolf was very
quiet and apprehensive. One morning he came into the sitting
room and said, "I had a dream last night. I seemed to be riding
north by Hals, and I saw a herd of oxen coming toward me. In it
was a large reddish ox, intent on doing me some harm. There
were also a vicious bull and lots of smaller animals. Then a thick
fog came over me and I could not see the oxen."
His foster father answered, "Those are the fetches of your
enemies; the ox signifies Thorvard and the bull Hall.''o But because darkness came over you, I cannot see how the matter ends."

225

r8r
"No one hindered him": if Eyjolf initiated the suit by summons, he
would have had to ride to Thorvard's farm; if he intended to initiate by
publication, he would have had to call the neighbors living closest to the
scene of the battle to make up the jury-panel. Either way required a trip
into unfriendly territory and was fraught with danger. The observation
that no one hindered him suggests that hindrance would not have been
unexpected. Cf., for example, the unfortunate summoning in ch. r.
r82"Two men to a horse": there appear to be two reasons for this. It
would be difficult to find grazing for many horses because of extensive
snow cover. This can be deduced from the observation about the impassability of the mountains and the losses of farm animals. Also, two
men to a horse could disguise the size of the muster. Similar ruses are
found in Sturlu saga zr: 9r and Heidartiga saga z7i 2g4.
'83 Bjorn Sigftisson prints this sentence in the declarative without a
question mark (rg4o: 86), but the sense seems to be that it is not worse
than before. "Before" refers to the time in ch. z4 when Hrafn urged
breaking off the engagement at Kakalahill by hiding out in the woods or
letting it be known that Thorvard was mortally wounded.

'toSee n. r38 above.

s.

The Sagas

Ljdsuetninga saga

great risk at hand, and he cast about for a strategy. He rode up


next to Eyjolf and said, "Do you see Thorvard's company?"
He said that he did-"and it looks as though an encounter is

Chapter z7

226

not far off."


Einar said, "What use would the money then be that you have
promised the chieftains for their aid?"
"It wouldn't be such a bad opportunity to have it out with
them," replied Eyjolf-and he was about to ride forward. Einar
struck at his saddle girth with his ax, and Eyjolf tumbled off.'"
This caused a delay in the pursuit, and Thorvard and his men
rode off.
Eyjolf and his men rode to Silfrastead, but Thorvard rode
down through the district to Miklaby, where a man rode toward
him. "That man is heading in our direction," said Thorvard.
"Where is Thorvard?" asked the man. "Thorgerd, the mistress of the house, has invited you to her home."
"We will have our supper there," he replied, "and then ride to
Vallalaug so that we can get to the thing grounds first."
Thorgerd was a widow and had been married to Thorvard's
brother Halldor. "You have done well to stop at my farm," she
said. "I want to supply you with tents and timbers, and thirty
men together with provisions."
"You are giving proof of your generosit/," he said, "but I am
unable to reward your hospitality. Your men should not be put
at risk, but I will accept the rest of your offer." This arrangement was made. They set up an impressive camp, outside the
thing grounds in deference to Eyjolf.''u

i
i:

i:

&

li
;t

,<)a

The allied chieftains arriue, Gellir with the redoubtable sheggi the

strong

in

support of Eyjolf, and shegg-Broddi on Thoruard's side.

sheggr and shegg-Broddi are queried about the odds. Getlir and skeggBroddi join forces to urge a settlement on Eyjolf, without success at
first.
As the court pleading is about to begin and the clash is imminent, they
finally preaail on Eyiolf and Thorrard to desist and leaue the judgment
in Gellir's hands. T'he penalties are determined, but Eyjolf remains
dissatisfied.

'

i
;!
ii

{
{

'*ncf. the same stratagem in Heidartttga saga 22 27g.


'8uA man who had been lawfully named the defendant in a killing
case or a case involving wounds lost his right to attend the thing. His
defense was to be conducted by others. If he attended the thing, he and
those who accompanied him were subject to lesser outlawry (Grd,gd,s Ia
174-7il. The sagas give little support for the viability of this stricture.
See Viga-Glil,ms saga z4: 8g and the discussions in Heusler rgr r: rog- r r
and Maurer rgro: 93-roz.

Eyjolf came to the thing with a large force and needed to secure quarters f<lr all of them.''u rhe thing was very crowded.
Gellir came fiom the west with two hundred men. And when
they rode to the thing they arranged themselves single file. They
were an impressive company and people stared at them. There
was one man on horseback who seemed most impressive of all,
though it seemed a defect that he was riding a mere foal. But
when they dismounted and the horses were let loose, the horse
that that man had ridden seemed by far the largest. He turned
out to be Skeggi the Strong, brother of Alf from the Dales.,',
When the people had been at rhe thing one nighr, they saw a
boat in the {ord with twelve men aboard. one was in a wolfskin
cloak with a blue cape over it-the wearher had been biting.
They had a look of special distinction, bur the chieftain exceeded them all. Eyjolf and his men wenr ro meer them at rhe
landing, while'I'horvard and his men went toward them where
the footing was less good. When they had furled the sail, SkeggBroddi looked at the assembled men and said, "we will join the
company of these men over here."
'8oSee

n. z6 above.

"7It is told in Ari Thorgilsson's islend"ingabdh g: rz and Hunsa-D6ris


saga 13: 36 that Alf's brother Thorolf ref was killed in the aftermath of
Blund-Ketil's burning. According to the chronology of these works
Thorolf's death would have occurred ca. 965. It is therefore quite impossible that his brother Skeggi (otherwise unknown) would have been
active around ro5o. See Bjorn Sigfiisson lg4o: xxviii and 88 n. z.

:,.

&

228

The Sagas

Lj6suetninga saga

"You are welcome," Thorvard said, "and we are all thankful


that you will come to our quarters." They now did so.
Skeggi was consulted on how eager he would be to confront
Skegg-Broddi if it came to a clash. "I believe," said Skeggi, "that
my strength and courage are more than equal to Skegg-Broddi's,
but I fear I'll have no luck with him."
Then Skegg-Broddi was consulted on the same matter. "I have
every expectation that Skeggi is not lacking in strength," he said,
"but I believe that if every position in our force were as wellmanned as mine, '['horvard would not be at any disadvantage."
'I'he next morning Skegg-Broddi went to Eyjolf's quarters and
was received with little pleasure on Eyjolf's part. Skegg-Broddi
said, "Wouldn't it be best to settle, Eyjolf?"
"Let him settle who wishes to," he said.
"The prospects don't seem good," replied Skegg-Broddi-and
he went to meet with his friend Gellir. "Eyjolf is taking a hard

"I am well enough acquainted with Thorvard," said skeggBroddi, "to know that he will want to assess the compensation
awards by himself and thar he will want all of them to have the
right to return to Iceland except Hall. I would like that issue to
be turned over to us so that we can determine the terms of
exile."
"Consider first what the price may be," said Gellir.
Then they met with Eyjolf, and skegg-Broddi said, "Ir is inadvisable not to settle because not everyone is going to oppose
Thorvard. Let Gellir and his trusred friends mediate.,,
"I do not see that I am under any obligation to honor your
wishes," replied Eyjolf.
_"My power is not such that I can support my party with fbrce
of arms," countered Skegg-Broddi, "but nevertheless there will
be a few bruises before Thorvard is slain."
Gellir said, "our cause is ill served if this escalates. [,ven if
skegg-Broddi has only a few men, it is not proper to slieht him."
"The court does not look favorably on Thorvard's cise," said
Eyjolf.
w_o1d got around that the court was to convene. Eyjolf was
confident in his numbers and ordered them to form up- next to
the court while they presented their case. "We will let the others
squeeze through to the court if they wish," he said.
when Thorvard learned this, he said, "what is to be done
now? would it not be a better course to fight before we are outlawed? we should arm ourselves; some of you should gather our
horses because the upshot of the encounter may be thit some of
us will get away." They did so and fell in sharply. There was a
Tun named Dag in Thorvard's force; he was married to sigrid,
the daughter of Thorgeir the chieftain. He led the way with five
abreast right behind him, then ren, and they marshalled their
whole force, for there were few who were keen on going last.,eo

,fi

',
l'

,'

line," he said.
Gellir said, ["I will ease your part in the proceedings."]'*u
"That would be fitting," said Skegg-Broddi, "and it might
serve some purpose. There are men involved with us in the case
who would only make things worse if they were outlawed, and
then the trouble would be greater than before. We should join
together in finding a way to prevent misfortune."
"I am well enough acquainted with Eyjolf to know that he will
want to set the terms himself and assess the amounts of the compensation awards," said Gellir. "He will not settle with Thorvard
unless Brand, Hoskuld, Thorkel, and Hall are exiled as full outlaws with passage abroad allowed them." ''n

'"A third <lf a line is missing in the manuscript. The lacuna is filled
with unclear wording in the paper manuscripts. See Bjorn Sigftisson
rq4o:89 r.r. We make the best sense we can of the wording in the

229

paper manuscripts.

'""Full outlaws with passage abroad allowed them" (sk6garmenn

offense for which he had been outlawed (Ia 95-96).The outlaw granted
pas^sage was said to be ferjandi, i.e., one having passage.
'n0See ltga-Glilms saga 24: gz for a similu. ulte-ptIo restrict access to
court and an identical wedgg formation to overcome it. The laws purport to.punish by a fine of three marks any litigant who attended the
court with more than ten men (Grdgas Iu s3). Tlie sagas make no men-

ferjandi): a sentence of full outlawry (sh6ggangr) did not allow the outlaw
passage out of the country. Anyone providing it was guilty of aiding
and abetting the outlaw and was himself subject to lesser outlawry
(Grdgds la rzz-23; also Ia 88-gz). But with permission of the lggrdtta
the sentence could be reduced to the extent that the outlaw was granted
passage abroad. While abroad he was to be immune from attack for the

v
?

The Sagas

230

Lj1suetninga

Then Skegg-Broddi said to Gellir, "It doesn't seem to help


matters that many good men are present. You have large numbers at your disposal, Gellir, and you have good relations with
the people of Goddales. Use your numbers so that you gain
credit from this. We should form a single body and keep them
apart and intervene on the side of those who are willing to heed
our words."
"We are a good combination," answered Gellir. "You have the
spirit and I the resources."
T'hey went to the court with their forces before the case came
up. By then it had already come to the point that both sides were
ready to fight. Then Skegg-Broddi spoke: "Can Eyjolf hear my

z1r

"Are you giving due consideration to what the situation is?"


said Skegg-Broddi. "Even if I support you, there are many
against us. It seems better to me now that you should accept our
proposals."
"I shall agree," he said.
Then the advance was halted. They stepped forward and en-

tered conversation. "why shouldn't our case be brought to

conclusion?" said ll,yjolf.


"It is clear now that we should let Gellir oversee the matter this
time," skegg-Broddi said. "It will not work to your disadvantage
even so."

"Why should he be more competent than all others?" Eyjolf


replied.
At length the case was left in Gellir's hands, and he was to determine the imposition of outlawry. But 'rhorvard's side stipulated that everyone should be entitled to return to Icelancl except Hall. Eyjolf was ill pleased. Gellir awarded eight hundred
ounces of silver for the killing of Kodran. The slaying of'otrygg
and the initial attack of Hoskuld and his followers on Eyjolf w.r.
balanced off against each other. The wounds inflicted on Thorvard and oddi were considered equal. The killing of Einar of'
Thvera's farmhand was settled with monetary compensation.
Thorvard was exiled for three years, along with Thorkel, Brancl,
and Hoskuld; but Hall was never to be allowed to return. T'hen a
truce was made and the fines were paid.'n' Eyjolf thought that he

words?"

"I hear them,"

saga

he said.

"It's not good that people should fight here because of you,"
Skegg-Broddi said. "I consider it best that each restrain his men."
"It is plain to everyone that the worst option is to fight," said
Gellir. "I will offer my services to judge the case."
Eyjolf responded, "Isn't the best man the one who deserves
support? I did not give you gifts to get ultimatums."
"Given what you have in mind," Gellir said then, "the situation is becoming very diffi6sl1"-2nd he turned toward Thorvard: "What is your intention now? You are proceeding very
impetuously."
"We have peaceable intentions."

"You are going about this with more contentiousness than


prudence, considering the overwhelming odds," said Gellir then.
"Do not attack the court, because you will be hemmed in."
"It will come as no surprise if they are unwilling to fight on
equal terms," replied Thorvard, "but it is worse to be outlawed
first and then killed."
"Isn't there a more advisable course than putting men in such
a plight?" said Skegg-Broddi. "You should settle this instead."
"I am unaccustomed to being deprived of all honor," replied
Thorvard.

corpse is the most valuable in the family sagas. The killer


of^*'.Kodran's
Bjorn Hitdalakappi had ro pay nine hundred ounces,6ut two-thirds

of it was to discharge other liabilities: Bjarnar saga Httdcetahappa z4: zro.


Eight hundreds were also paid for Hall of sidt's son in NjAk tigo ,,45:
414, but there the compensarion was paid by way of gift ind not rr r.,
arbitrational award assessed against the wrongdoeri. The price for
Kodran is very high and it is hard to believe ii could have Leen discharged at the thins, since much of the wealth would be in the form of
livestock, land, and cloth. compare, for instance, how a steep award of
only half the value of Kodran's compensation was funde d in borgik saga
oh Hafli\a zr-zz: 4g-5o. The highesr compensarion pry*ent"r in ltt
saga literature were assessed in the thirteenth century for the deaths of
Hall Kleppjarnsson and Snorri Sturluson, in an amount four times
greater than was paid for Kodran: islendinga saga 29:25g, r b7: 47o.

tion of the stricture and universally show its systematic violation. The
provision looks like the wishful thinking of legalists.

s.t!.

El
The Sagas

Ljdsaetninga saga

had drawn a rather short straw. That was mostly on account of


his contentiousness, and it dampened his spirits greatly.

when Thorvard learned this, he sent Thorkel a twenty-gallon


kettle and a stud horse from Fornastead.'r,
Then Thorvard and his men ser sail out by Hris Isle. There
was no breeze and the ship's boat was in the water. A boat came
out from land with an invalid in the ster-n. A man stood up in the
boat and said, "Is there a man named Mar aboard, who has

232

Chapter z8
Thorrard and his fellow exiles take passage for I'{orutay. Eyjolfs lastminute attempt at blood aengeance is thwarted by misleading information from Thorkel at Hlid. The ship bound for l'{orutay is becalmed until
a murderer on board is put ashore. Hall Otryggsson recoaers the ship's
anchor in a daring feat.

233

taken passage?"
He acknowledged his presence.
Then the man said, "Take your kinsman Thorvald the Leper
aboard or we will prohibit your passage.",n,

Mar took him aboard.

"I

have property on shore with some

people," he said. "I will take him there." Mar returned later, saying that he had made provision for him.
Now fall came on and there was still no wind. The Norwegians
consulted and said that they would either leave the ship oi prrt
Hall ashore. Thorvard said, "I have a different plan. we should
fast for three days and determine whether God will reveal what
is causing the calm. Let each group cast lots and set that man
ashore whose lot comes up, whether he is ours or yours.,,,rn
The lots were blessed, and the lot of Kalf's group came up.

A ship belonging to Kalf the Christian was laid up at the


mouth of Svarfadardale River. Thorvard did not intend to return home and went to the ship. He and his kinsmen did not
separate but occupied a tent on land. Thorvard approached
Kalf about buying the ship.
"The purchase terms won't be settled until you take over half
the ship, because that will be most to your liking," he replied.
Thorvard said that this was agreeable.
Hrafn did not dare to stay behind and wanted to accompany
Thorvard. Eyjolf learned of this and reflected on his loss. He
then rode to Hlid to see his friend Thorkel and told him that
he intended to attack Thorvard and kill him. But Thorkel expressed strong disagreement with the idea of breaking the settlement and vigorously dissuaded him, saying that they were already living on the ship. Eyjolf insisted on going and said that he
could not endure the thought that there would be no blood vengeance for his brother.
When everybody was in bed, there was a knocking on the
door; the master of the house went out, then returned.
Eyjolf asked who had come.
Thorkel said that it was a man from the lower valley.
"What is the news of the Norwegian vessel?" asked Eyjolf.
Thorkel said that it had set sail.
Eyjolf said that things had not worked out as he had wished,
and he rode home without undertaking anything further. But
two days later he learned that they had not set sail. He declared
his outrage at Thorkel's action, saying that he had wronged him.

re2Fornastead
is Thorvard's farm.
'e3It was illegal to abandon dependents.

If someone tried to leave the


coun-try without leaving sufficient properry behind ro support his clependents, his voyage could be formally banned, either ut ih. Law Rock
or at the r.hjq,-!y those ro whom the obligation to care for the dependents would fall. If he left in the face of such a prohibition both he^and
the captain were subject to lesser outlawry, and^each crew member was

liable for a three-mark fine (Grd,gds Ib r6, ll r4z-4p,).


'l'fh..- casting of lots to deteimine who is respoisible for the calm
and- incidentally to discover a murder is an arnalgam of oracle and ordeal. Elsewhere in the sagas lors were used ro delide which of two disputants should arbitrate a settlement between them and which of two
men equally obligated should undertake the prosecution of a killing
case: Islendinga saga 16z: 47g, Njdk saga
bb: r4o. Lots also were resortej
to in the laws to determine the orderingof cases at court (Grdgds L
rg)
and to assign in_dig^ent dependenrs among people equally ouiigut"dio
care for them (Ib 6). In the Lj6suetningaiagacise,lots are.,r.I to u.rswer a. question of fact as. well as to provide an aid to decisionmaking. In
the other cases lots. are simply an expeditious and hopefully ,rr.o.r"t..rtious means of decisionmaking.

!r

&

The Sagas

Li1netninga saga

Mar was in their company, and his lot came up. They put him
ashore and said that he must have dealt foully with his kinsman.
He had little to say about it, but it turned out that he had murdered him. The others were ready to kill him, but the matter was
resolved when he repented and gave half his property to the
poor and the other half to the victim's relatives.
They then headed out from Hris Isle, and there was a ship
making for the coast. It was owned by Eldjarn, the son of Arnor
Cronenose and Thorlaug, daughter of Viga-Glum.'nu Then
Eldjarn said to Thorvard, "Don't take Hall abroad; we've had
more than we can swallow without that too."
Thorvard responded, "What is more fitting than that he should
have passage with us, his kinsmen?"
A northwest wind sprang up and the weather turned cold.
Thorvard's crew hoisted their anchor, but the cable broke. Thorvard asked for a volunteer to show his mettle-"2n6[ that means
you Norwegians, too." The Norwegians held back.
Hall then said, "I'm not looking to get off easy-give me the
cable." He took off his cloak and dove deep into the water. He
managed to attach the cable to the anchor so that it could be
raised, and this feat earned him a good name.

who had previously disliked him spoke well of Hall. Then they
headed out for sea. Hall was a spirited man and could be counted
on when needed.
They made their landfall in northern Norway and then sailed
south with a stiff wind. They saw a boat by a skerry with two boys
aboard; one was rowing the boat and the other was bailing.

234

231-r

"Let's help these people," said Thorvard. "Their boat is swamped

and they are in mortal danger."


"You're risking us and our property," answered Kalf.
"I'll guarantee the ship," he replied, "and you are in no better
position to lose your wealth than I am."
"I'll go along with your proposal," Kalf said.
Thorvard and Hall launched their boat and jumped into it. By
that time the boys'boat was full to the gunwales. There were two
dogs tied to the ribs of the boat. Thorvard grabbed the boy who
sat at the oars. Hall grabbed the other and took ahold of the dogs.
He heaved them into the boat, and they made fbr the island.
Thorvard asked who they were.
One gave his name as Ospak, the other as Osvifr. "We tend the
dogs of Ulf the Marshall,"" and it is the dogs that caused this. We
waited for them so long that when we finally arrived, the others
were gone. We are his nephews and were on our way home to
join them."

Chapter zg
Off the coast of l{oruay Thontard and Hall rescue two boys whose boat
is about to be swamped. This deed stands them in good stead at the Norwegian court when Ey.jolfs cou^sin.larn-Sheggi plots reuenge. Further
aduenhtre.; of the exiles.

'l'hey drew abreast of Eldjarn's ship. The cable was frozen and
I lirll hard gloves on to haul the anchor. A man on the other ship
spokc to him: "I'm not afraid of you, Hall my mate, when you
nec<l gloves to haul a cable." After this incident many people

''uUlf the Marshall (Ulfr stallari) was the illegitimate son of Ospak
Osvifrsson by Asdis, sister of Ljot the Wise, according to Landnd,mab6h
(r8+). Ljot subsequently had Ospak outlawed. This is confirmed by

Laxdula saga bo: rb6-b7, which notes that Ulf "later became King
Harald Sigurdarson's marshall." He is also mentioned as Harald's closest
retainer along with Halldor Snorrason in Morkinshinna g- tg; Fagrskinna
26, zyb, z6z, 264-66; and Haralds saga (Heimskringln III g: 79, 14: 86,

36: r Lg, Z7: r2o, 6r: r47).In all these sources King Harald is said to
have spoken a handsome epitaph over Ulf's grave before embarking on
his ill-fated adventure in England (Mork r r r, Fagr. zJ6, Heim. III 79:

r75): "Here lies a man who was most trustworthy and loyal." The
of Landruimab1k (rzS) adds that Ulf was the great-

Sturlub6k redaction

"'uElcljarn was a first cousin once removed of Kodran. And although


his claim seems rather attenuated, it should be noted that Hall is eventually killed by Thormod, who is also a first cousin once removed ol

Kodran.

grandfather of the Norwegian archbishop Eystein. The situation in this


somewhat elliptical paragraph seems to be that the two boys, Ospak and
Osvifr, have become separated from Ulf and his men while tending
the dogs.

The Sagas

Lj1suetninga saga

"What Icelanders have the highest standing in the king's retinue?" Thorvard asked.
"Ulf ranks highest," they answered, "but there is another man
there whose name is Jarn-Skeggi." Then Thorvard gave them

"I won't lean one way or the other," he said.


"We don't get much out of serving you," the boy said. .,We
would now be dead if they hadn't helped us."
"You take this much to heart," Ulf replied.

236

"\Me aren't capable of much, but we will stand by Thorvard,,,


the boy declared. They ran down to the shore and told Thorvard and his men what was afoot.
Thorvard said, "we continue to have problems, Kalf. Now I
wish to purchase the ship from you and have you go ashore so
that other men won't suffer for us. we will load the ship with

two cloaks and weapons.


After that they parted. The boys followed the king's route and
Iearned where he was being entertained. When they arrived, Ulf
gave them a good reception and asked where they had been.
They said that their boat had been in dangel-'(fugl good men
were at hand and saved our lives."

"Who are they?" asked Ulf.


"One is named Thorvard, from I josavatn, the son of Hoskuld,
and another Hall Otryggsson, a valiant man."
Some of the men said, "You can't have been in much danger if
Icelanders helped you."'n'
"Let's not make too much of this," Ulf then said.
When Skeggi heard this, he went to the king and said, "I
would like you to lend me support in killing these men, who are
our enemis5"-2nd he recounted the whole matter.
The king responded, "I am not here to kill my people,'n'and if
someone undertakes to do so, it will be paid back."
Jarn-Skeggi made many of the king's men gifts in return for
support. "Why are you doing this, Jarn-Skeggi?" said the boy
Osvifr.
"He has grievances against the men who aided you," answered Ulf.
"Aren't you going to do something about it?" asked the boy.
"Where is your courage?"
t'7

stones."'ne

"That is not the way it is going to be," said Kalf. ,,We do not
intend to leave yr)u." They all wanted to stick by Thorvard.
had gotten a ship for his purpose. He then soughr out
__.skeggi
King Harald and said, "Now I have an armed following, lord."
"Have you talked to ulf and did you get his support for rhis?"
asked the king. "If so, we have no quarrel."
Then skeggi wenr to Ulf and put his wishes before him. Ulf
answered, "You have been much to my liking, and for that reason I will anticipate what you ask."roo
Then skeggi came before the king and reported Ulf's words.

Ethnic insult is strong confirmation of the presence of ethnic idenas suet-eaters

or compounded "suet" with other

nouns to designate them; they also called them lazy; see, e.g., Eyrbyggla
saga Zgi rog; Gtsk pdttr lllugasonar 4; ZZ7; Halld1rs pd;ttr I 253; and
p. t47 above. The most common theme of the so-called Islendinga pettir

of Icelanders) is the vindication of an Icelander in Norway


(Harris rgTz; Gropper rg87: t66-7t).
re8"My people": the Norwegian kings felt they had a claim to Iceland
and at several times made moves to act on it; seeJ6nJ6hannesson rg74:
zzz-87. See Introduction, p. 79.
(stories

''nThe stones were used to throw at the enemy; see also ch.24.
passage. It is clear that ulf suys somethiig that
can be understood two ways,because the king notes cryptically thai "it is
up to you to decide which way he is inclined." The text as it siands does
not provide the ambiguity called for: ok munu air par fyrir ueita pir pat,
er p(r bi6r (and we will therefore granr fueital you that which you ask). It
is the verb aeita that should contain the ambiguity, suggesting both permission and refusal depending on what the listener *i.rts t6 hear.'we
conjecture rashly-that the verb may originally have been bj6da (offer).
The phrase could then have been undeistood either as "w6 will therefore
offer you" or ' we will in this case (par) forbid (fyrirbj6da)
.(h_ar fyrfr)
In
other
words, the understanding dependi on where th,e listene.
I9,r._'
divides the words. That the author has a taite for punning is indicated
by the pun on/orlgg at the very end of the saga (se-e n. z r5-b.lo*). presumably a scribe failed ro catch the ambiguity and substituted the unequivocal ueita for the equivo cal (fyrir)bj6da. For a similar case of wordplay deprn9Fg
the listener's
of the words see viga-Glilms
"" tried to renderdivision
saga 2b:86. We have
the ambiguity here with "anIicipate,"
which can mean "anticipate and grant" or "prevent by anticipating."

','This is a difficult

tity. One scholar would place the emergence of a distinctly Icelandic


ethnicity in the twelfth century (Hastrup rg8+). The Norwegians referred to the Icelanders

237

V
The Sagas

Lj1saetninga saga

The king said, "He gave a good response, but it is up to you to


decide which way he is inclined."
It is told that Thorvard said to the boys,'Join up with Ulf-we
have what we need."
"That would make a big difference in honorableness between
us," they said. "We will not abandon your cause."
At that moment ships were approaching over the bay, and it
was Ulf. "On what business does he come?" asked Thorvard.
"He will row hard if he has hostile intentions," Osvifr said.
They approached the merchant vessel with a measured stroke
and laid to on both sides. Thorvard asked who was in command
of the ships.
Ulf said, "Peaceful men, and you have earned your peace."
The king went out and saw what was in Progress and said,
"Let things stand as they are, Skeggi; I will permit no one to
fight against Ulf and I will allow none of my men tojoin in. You
probably thought that these men went scot free. And so it was
presented to me also." Testimony was sought, and it went in
Thorvard's favor.
Skeggi declared that he was not reconciled with them.
"I have considered the case," said the king, "and I deem it improper to attack men who have paid a huge indemnity and left
their country." The king allowed them to go in peace.
Then they set sail for Denmark and headed east toward Vik.'u'
There Thorvard met a worthy man named Bard. He became
friendly with him and entrusted Hall Otryggsson to him. Thorvard set out for Rome. Bard set his course for the Baltic. They
were set upon by vikings, who offered them the choice of fightins ot' sut'retrdering and saving their lives, provided they gave
trp their money.
llard said that it was his inclination not to fight, and most of
lris shipmates concurred.
Ilall responded, "I won't surrender without a struggle."
"[.et's not take a chance against the vikings," said Bard.
"My pledged partners seem to have less and less appetite for
great cleeds," replied Hall. "Don't ask for a truce. I will do instead what I'd much prefer." He took a sail-yard and defended

one side of the ship. He swung the yard with both hands and
maimed the attackers. When his shipmates saw this, they took
courage and defended the other side. As things turned out, the
merchants prevailed.
Thorkel, Brand, and Hoskuld went to Rome with their kins-

238

2or*ylptr' the land around present-day Oslo.

239

man Thorvard.

Chapter 3o
Back in Iceland, Eyjolf satisf,es his desire for blood aengeance 4 hilling Thoruard's brother Thorarin. Hrolf, the great-grandson of Thorgeir
the Chieftain, prosecutes the case on behalf of the Ljosuetnings without
success. When he resolues to challenge Eyjolf to a duel, Shegg-Broddi
and Gellir finally conuince Eyjolf to make a monetary settlement. on his
returnfrom a pilgrimage to Rome, Thoruard learns of his brother's death
but elects not to pursue the aendetta further. Hall Otryggsson is killed in
the serrice of Ha,rakl Sigurd,arson.

Now it is told that Eyjolf Gudmundarson at Modruvellir was


very dissatisfied that there had been no blood vengeance for his
brother Kodran. He left home with a force of forty men. They
traveled north to F-latisledale to Brettingsstead, where Thorvard's
brother Thorarin Hoskuldsson lived. Einar Arnorsson and Einar
Jarn-Skeggjason accompanied Eyjolf.
There was a man named Finni, who had gone to the communal pens for the sheep herded together in the fall drive.ro, A man
named Thorgeir, who lived at Thvera in Fnjoskadale, was in
charge of his fhrm. A man named Ketil, with whom Eyjolf and
his men stayed and from whom they received excellent hospitality, had also gone to the communal pen.
Then Thorgeir said, "Where are you headed?"
Eyjolf Gudmundarson answered, "Our entertainment in Eyjafiord is getting lavish; we need ro rhink about supplies, and we
are headed for Flatisle for provisions."
202"Communal

pen": the sheep were pastured during the summer in


the highlands and were rounded up in the fall, driven to the communal
Pels, and sorted there to their individual owners. This practice is still
followed in Iceland.

240

Lj1suetninga

The Sagas

saga

24r

Eyjolf said that he was unwilling to pay compensation. They had


prepared the case against Eyjolf with forty-five men. Hrolf went
in search of support, and when he met Thorkel Geitisson,'un he
put this request to him. "You have the betterjustification," he replied, "but I am not willing to go against Eyjolf."
Then Hrolf met with Skegg-Broddi and said, "My message is
familiar to most people by now, but they attach greater importance to Eyjolf's power than to justice. I drift around the thing
plain and no one considers my plight."
"I think you have gone as a suppliant and not pressed the
issue very hard," answered Skegg-Broddi. "I will not commit
myself to your support, though I believe that people's perception ofjustice can be relied on in this matter. But if Eyjolf does
not wish to pay compensation and you are unable to bring your
case forward, I will be absolved of any duty to you."
"I will not make tedious requests for help," said Hrolf, "but I
will tell you what my intention is. If I cannot prosecute the case
because of Eyjolf''s superior numbers, I will challenge him to a
duel, whether he prefers to do combat with four on each side or
just the two of us alone.'o' I will pick for his side Einar Arnorsson,
Einar Jarn-Skeggiason, and Thorodd Hjalm, who are most expendable in a bad cause; I will myself put up a crew of mercenaries and robbers."
"You are tough and not unresourceful," said Skegg-Broddi.
"Hold to your plan, and I will take a hand in it. If need be, men
will be found to oppose the two Einars, but it may turn out that
you will not emerge with dishonor."
Then Skegg-Broddi met with his friend Gellir and told him

"There are a lot of distinguished men assembled for this kind


of expedition," replied Thorgeir.'ou
"It is fitting that we kinsmen should travel together," said
Eyjolf. No one harbored suspicions about his trip because of the
legal settlement.
Eyjolf and his men went to Thorarin's farm; they entered the
house with drawn swords and immediately killed him and two
other men. And when they rode down across Vodlaheath after
the slaying, they were talking about the event; Eyjolf's horse
stumbled under him, and he fell off. When he got up, his foot
was so stiff that he limped.

When people assembled at the Allthing, Eyjolf offered no


settlernent. But his foot was so stiff that he couldn't walk, and he
had to ride from booth to booth. Finni and Eyjolf met. Finni
asked how he had gotten the injury. He told him.
Finni responded, "I would say that you have not been able to
ward off the fetches204 of Thorvard and his kinsmen, who make
you the object of their hatred."
"Do you think that their fetches are more powerful than those
of my kinsmen and myself?" said Eyjolf.
"I cannot sayi' said Finni, "but the test will be if and when we
learn of Thorvard's travels."
Thorkel, the son of Tjorvi, son of Thorgeir from Ljosavatn,
had a son named Hrolf. He had the chieftaincy of the Ljosvetnings at the Allthing.'ou People tried to arrange a settlement.
'"''Various types of tasks carried difl'erent status markers. And, of
course, tasks were also divided along sexual lines. Apparently fetching
lrrrrvisions is work for servants, not for household heads. See, e.g., Njd,Ls
sueu, t 0: 4l|, Hrrtlnkels sago, Zt ror, Bjarnar saga Httdczlahappa 12: r3g,

Thorkel's time the chieftaincy was in Hoskuld's line, held by his son
Thorvard. Following'I.horvard's exile it reverted again to Tjorvi's line.
But by the twelfth century it was held by Thorgeir Thorvardsson, a descendent of Hoskuld; see n. l59 above.
'ouAccording to the chronology of Vdpnfirdinga saga (xxii-xxiii) and
chs. g-rz of Lj1suetning'a saga itself, Thorkel Geitisson was involved in
events around the year rooo and could hardly have been active as late
as the middle of the century. See Bjorn Sigfiisson rg4o: xxviii and ror
n.3.
'o'On the duel as an extraordinary means of legal relief see chs. r r
and r6 above.

'rn<l Vu.lkt-l.i6ts saga ch. r.


""'()n l'etches see n. r38 above. Here they are credited with a semi-

<livinc reprisal against Eyjolf for his conduct.


""n It is not clear which of the sons of Thorgeir the Chieftain fronr
[.jos:rv:rtn exercised the chieftaincy after his death. Ch.+ suggests it
nriglrt h:tve been Hoskuld. Thorkel, the son of Tjorvi, i.e., Thorgeir'.s
gran<lson, was lawspeaker from ro34 until 1o53. He would clearly have
been the leading member of his kin at that time and would have beerr

ideally suited to hold the chieftaincy if that were not prevented by his
lawspeakership (cf. J6n J6hannesson lg74: 48). In uny euert, afrer'

I
I

The Sagas

242

this.

"I dislike the idea of fighting duels,"

Lj6suetninga saga
he replied. "They are a

heathen custom."'ot
Skegg-Broddi said, "What else was to be expected when a man
pursues his claim in a completely vile way, killing innocent men
in the face of an acknowledged settlement, but that he should be
paid back in like fashion?"
This was reported to Eyjolf. "You are again my enemy, SkeggBroddi," he said. "You have now failed me twice."
"I got you out of the difficulty that threatened at the Hegranes
thing if you had outlawed Thorvard and his kinsmen," SkeggBroddi said. "-fhen you killed his brother, and now you refuse
to pay compensation. What is it you have in mind? There are two
choices available: to let Gellir and me determine and judge the
issue, or proceed with the duels."
Eyjolf conceded that it would be better to pay compensation.
Many joined in, and as it turned out wergelds were assessed, and
the whole amount was paid up.
Now when Thorvard and his kinsmen came north from Rome
to Saxony, they fell in with some Norwegians, who told them of
Thorarin's killing that had occurred the previous fall. Thorvard
said, "It's a long way between our axes and the Modrvellings.
And they will still want them wielded if I go to lceland. But let it
be as St. Peter wishes.'on I think it would be better if I did not
return there." It is reported that he went only a few miles further before he lost his eyesight from infection and then died.
After that Brand traveled to the court of King Harald Sigurdarson and stayed with him, as did Hall Otryggsson.''o He was in
his arnry east in G'autland when King Harald foughtJarl Hakon
Ivarsson. When King Harald was ready to leave, his ship got
Iiozcn in the ice, and his men were chopping ice between the
'"*See n. lo7 above.

'""()rl the suggestion that Thorvard's conciliatoriness may be conwith Bishop Ketil's exemplary story in Dorgils saga oh Haflida see
Intro<luction, pp. 8 r -82. In both cases the Modrvellings are the antagonists. It is also curious that in both cases the loss of sight is involved.
2ro'['he following episode is taken over from the kings'sagas, perhaps
from Morhinshinnq (gz) or perhaps from the source of Morkinshinna, the
ne<:te<l

lost Hd,konar saga iaarssorar; see ilso

duction, p.8o.

Heimshringlalll7z: t65.

See

Intro-

fi
,}

243

ships. King Harald said, "Nobody wields a stronger ax than I lall


Kodrankiller." There was a man named Thormod, the sott of'
Asgeir and a kinsman of the Modrvellings. He was on the ship of'
Magnus, the king's son, and had recently arrived from lceland.

He was plotting against Hall's life. And when the king said
"Kodrankiller," Thormod rushed at Hall and delivered his
death wound, and then leapt onto Magnus's ship. King Harald
was furious and ordered an attack on them. But as they crowded
in on Thormod, the ice broke beneath them, and many drowned.

Magnus got away and had Thormod ferried abroad. He didn't


interrupt his journey until he got to Constantinople, where he
took service. The king and his son were later reconciled.

Chapter

3r

Brand dies in the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Hoskuld returns to lceland, and a new clash with Eyjolf k narrowly aaerted. Oddi Grirnssorr,
uisits Rome and the court of King Cnut the Great, then ends his days in
Iceland. His son Gudmund quarrels with Bishop Ketil, but later succumbs to misfortune and is succored @ him. In a concluding anecdote
Harek and Skegg-Broddi test their strength.

Brand followed King Harald to England. And when they


made their last landing, Brand alone had on his chain mail, but
the rest of the king's army had left their mailshirts behind on the
ships. The king himself had a mailshirt called Emma that reached
to the knees and was so strong that no weapon could bite into it.
Brand offered the king his mailshirt. The king answered, "You
are without doubt an excellent man, but keep the mailshirt yourself." Brand fell there with the king."'
Hoskuld's men arrived back in Iceland at Eyrir, together with
Harek. From there they traveled north toward the high country
over Kjol. Eyjolf Gudmundarson's company was ahead of them
on the route, and Eyjolf was camped there. "This is our chance
to kill the devil," said Hoskuld and he raced off.
t" Harald's ill-fated invasion of England and his defeat by Harold
Godwinson are recounted in both English and Norse sources.

244

The Sagas

Lj6suetninga saga

Harek ran after him and got his arms around him and said,
"Calm down, friend. This is no such chance."
Eyjolf's men said, "There have been times when you showed
more eagerness; let's ride after them."
"This is not the way I will repay God, who has seen to our
difficulties," answered Eyjolf. And with this they went their separate ways.

the case so that he got nothing but more dishonor. Later, when
Gudmund was destitute and in need of help, Ketil took him in
and cared for him as long as he lived. From then on everything
turned to Ketil's honor. Eventually he was elected bishop, and
his goodness was thus rewarded.r,,

Oddi Grimsson traveled abroad and went south to Rome, then


came north to the court of King Cnut the Great2" without a
penny to his name. He went before the king and greeted him,
saying, "We are in need of money, lord."
The king said, "Give them three marks of silver."
"We have never before visited so powerful a man," Oddi said,
"and it is not fitting not to reciprocate this gift. I want to return it

to you."
"Do you think the amount too small?" asked the king.
Oddi replied, "Lord, it would seem to me a good gift for one
man, but there are twelve of us."
"You're probably right," said the king. "Give each of them
three marks." Then the king said, "Are you the Oddi who fought
against his kinsmen in Iceland?"
"There were men present who were related to me," Oddi answered, "but I spared them."t'u After that he voyaged out to lceland and was considered a distinguished man wherever he went.
He was the father of Gudmund, who put Bishop Ketil's eye
out. It came about because Gudmund's enemies whispered to
Ketil, when G'udmund was living at Modruvellir, that he was se<lrr:ing Kctil'.s wif'e, the daughter of Bishop Gizur. They met on
thc open road, and Ketil attacked him. But they were unequally
rrurtr.hed; Gudmund got the upper hand and put out his eye.
Kctil wanted to prosecute him, but there were people to quash
2r:(lntrt the Great (d. ro35) had been dead some
30 years before
Oddi came to visit him. Svein Ulfsson was king of Denmark at this time.
For a similarly forthright critique of a king's (Harald Sigurdarson's) miserliness see Brands pd,ttr grua.
2r3"Bu[ I spared them" translates Bjorn Sigfiisson's text en ek aagja i
m6ti. We do not understand the form of aagja and conjecture uagda in
the past tense.

245

And when Thorstein the debt-slave, mentioned previously in


the saga, became impoverished, he went to oddi Grimsson.
oddi said, "It is a shame that an excellent man should have no
food or fortune.''u Even though you were a bit antagonistic to
me and reddened my scalp, I will still give you a stake." Then he
gave him a dwelling and what he needed for it. This act made it
apparent what kind of man he was.

Of Harek it can be told that he wenr to meer with SkeggBroddi and said, "I am curious to know how strong you are
because you have quite a reputation. I too am known for my
strength, but I won't match you. You try first to pull my clasped
hands from my head."
"That seems pointless to me," Skegg-Broddi replied. He nonetheless took hold and promprly pulled away his hands. Bur when
Harek took hold of skegg-Broddi, he stood still with his hands
clasped to his head and no effort of Harek's could budge them.
One could tell by this test which of them was superior.
Then Skegg-Broddi said, "I don't think you are a strong man,
but you are a sound one."

APPENDIX TO 'LJOSVETNINGA SAGA'


The 'A'Text
The A and c texts are in close agreement in chapters r
-4. A then has
a lacuna, its beginning marhed by footnote 25, up to the point in chapter
r j marked by footnote Bz. A breaks offf,nally a sentence after the place
marked by footnote r 2 j in chapter r B.

2''This same episode is recounred in more detail


by Ketil himself in
Porgils saga oh H_aflida zg: 47-48; see Inr.roduction, pp. 8o-82.
2'u"Food or fortune" translates
Icelandic forlgg, *rrich means both
and is clearly meant as a pun.

246

The Sagas

Ljdsuetninga saga

. . . not wary of litigation. Turn all the money over to me so


that it will stay intact. It might turn out that you won'[ need any
more money to pay compensation for Thorkel Hake; it would be
altogether fitting for them to fund the claim themselves."
"I think this is a shrewd plan," said Gudmund.
Einar replied, "Don't trust anyone with this plan but yourself."
Gudmund went home and cast about for ways to prosecute
Thorir's thingmen-fornication suits, actions for riding someone's horse without permission, or whatever he could hit on. He
levied fines aeainst everyone involved and pursued this course
for some time. It now became apparent to everyone how much
Thorir was losing face because he couldn't protect his thingmen.
His failure to protect them earned him great dishonor.
There was a man named Ingjald, a merchant. He sailed his
ship into Eyjafiord. It was Gudmund's wont to be the first to visit
newly arrived ships. He was a wealthy man and accustomed to
setting the price of merchandise and inviting merchants to his
house. And that was how it turned out this time too. Ingjald
went with Gudmund and stayed with him during the winter.

247

Chapter 6
When summoning days arrived, Gudmund rode with thirty
men and summoned Thorgils for fraud.

Thorgils said, "I would like to propose that you and Thorir
arbitrate the case. I didn't know that the wool and sheepskins
were useless."

"I don't think that Thorir and I will get far with a settlement if
it's up to the two of us alone," replied Gudmund, and he added
that Thorgils deserved to lose his property for his deception.
Then he summoned him to the Allthing and rode home.
Thorgils went to see Thorir and told him that he had been
summoned. He said that Thorir seemed to be losing a lot of
ground to Gudmund. Thorir replied, "What happens to many
others can happen to me too." Thorgils returned home.
Then Gudmund rode to the thing, along with others, and
brought his case against Thorgils. When the time for judgment
came, Thorir came forward and offered to pay compensation
on Thorgils' behalf; he said that this was the kind of case that
should be settled. Gudmund said that he would accept no offer
of settlement. Thorir said that he was sparing them no dishonor,

The time passed uneventfully. In the spring they parted on


friendly terms and Ingjald went to his ship. He was wealthy and
an upstanding man. He readied his ship.
There was a man named Thorgils, a thingman of Thorir's. He
lived at Akrar in Horgardale and was nicknamed Akrakarl. He
was not very popular or trustworthy in his dealings. One day
he went. to the ship with packs of'wool and shorn sheepskins,
which he ofl'erecl firr sale to Ingjald. lngjald was busy. He pror:t:crlcrl to weigh the wool and sheepskins without paying close
;rtlt:rrtiorr irrrrl g,lvc'l'horsils linen in return in the amount they
:rgrct'<l orr. 'l'lrcn '['horsils departed.

but Gudmund answered that he had no cause to think this as


long as he himself was not the target. There was no hope of an
amicable solution and Thorir had no power to prevent the outlawry of Thorgils.
The outcome was a dishonor to 'fhorir. Thorgils saw which
way the wind was blowing. He went north to Husavik with his
movables before the thing was over, leaving his land and livestock behind. He took passage abroad and is out of the saga.
Then people rode home from the thing. Gudmund learned
that Thorgils had departed, but he was also aware that much
property was left behind. It was Thorir's duty to convene the
court of confiscation to deal with the property of his thingman,
and Gudmund was obliged to attend.
Gudmund set out from home. Thorir invited everyone who
had a claim on f'horgils, and all the property he had possessed
was to be gathered at the same place. He had owned land at
Stedi, and ten goats, which Thorir had charge of. Thorir intended to drive them to the court.

llrrt whclt thc Norwegian looked over the goods, he found


lrotlr wool arrd sheepskins to be rotten. He was ill pleased and
w(:nl t() see Ci'udmund. Gudmund said, "You have done me
many lr kinclness but none greater than this. Turn the case over
to rnc ltn<l I will pay you whatever he owes you." Then he took
charge of'the case and gave Ingjald gifts. They parted on friendly
terms. 'l'he Norwegian took leave of Iceland and he is now out of
the saga.

**

The Sagas

Lj6suetninga saga

There was a large number of geldings, which no one dared to


purchase without Gudmund's leave. Gudmund rode to the con-

He went in, wakened Einar, and told him that his br<>ther
Gudmund had come and wanted to speak with him. Einar got
up and went out. He gave his brother a good welcome. Gudmund
responded in kind and was in good spirits.
"I am not pleased that we are on such poor terms," said
Gudmund. "I have come now because I would like our relations
to be better from now on than they have been. It would seem
more appropriate for us to be always of one mind, kinsman."
"This would certainly be a good proposal," said Einar, "if I
could count on your having your heart in your words."
"I will prove that it is very important to me that we have good
relations," said Gudmund-and he took the cloak and showed it
to him and said, "I wish you to have this as a gift from me."
"This is a handsome item and I will gladly accept it," said

248

fiscation court with a large following, and nothing noteworthy


occurred. But when he rode north with the flocks, he came to a
farm called Skutar above Laugaland. There Gudmund met one
of Thorir's shepherds named Odd.
Odd spoke up as follows: "Thorir's thingmen are a rich resource for you, Gudmund, and it would be worth a lot if you had
gotten all the livestock from him."
"What's missing?" asked Gudmund.
"Ten goats that are stabled at Thorir's farm," said Odd.

"I would like nothing more than that Thorir should make
himself liable for outlawr/," said Gudmund. "And you, Odd,
stand to gain either good fortune or bad from this information."
They turned their horses and rode to Laugaland and came to
the shed that Odd said the goats were in. The goats ran out as
soon as the door was opened.
"This will be worth something," said Gudmund. They rode to
the main house, where Thorir was standing outside.
"One should take his time trusting men like you," said Gudmund. "I thought you were an honest man, Thorir."
"I did not know about this," replied Thorir. "But now the fact
is both that you are proceeding belligerently, and that I am perhaps not without fault."
Gudmund said, "I'm going to have to proceed as if you did
[pe14r"-and he named witnesses to the fact that Thorir had no
valirl title to the soats. With that they parted.
'l'he strrttrnel'w:ls utreventful. One morning Gudmund got up
t'rrrly :rrr<l tolrl his strepherd to get his horse. The shepherd did
so,:rrr(l when the h<lrse was ready, Gudmund mounted and rode
oll';rlorrc, taking the cloak that Ingjald the Norwegian had given
hirn. I lt' r'o<le to'fhvera to meet his brother Einar. The brothers
were gt:rrerally not on very good terms; but Thorir was a great
friend ol'l.inar's.
Gudnrund came to Thvera and knocked on the door. The
shepherd came out and greeted Gudmund. Gudmund asked
whether his brother Einar was up yet. He said that he wasn't.
Gudmund said, "Ask him to get up and say that his brother
Gudmund has come to speak with him."

249

Einar.

"It is my wish," said Gudmund, "that we should make a firrmal


commitment between us that we have now renewed our bonds."
Einar replied, "I think we need no formal agreement between
us to seal our friendship."
"I certainly expect that you will do what you promise," said
Gudmund, "but formality will do no harm."
"It won't be too small a price for your cloak if you have your
wayi'said Einar.
"We won't bother to call witnesses for this," said Gudmund,
"but we will shake hands and name God as witness that we will be
of one mind from now on." They did this, and no one knew of it
except themselves. Gudmund rode home and Einar went inside.
Now is the moment to tell what passed between the brothers
when they were young boys. Gudmund had a foster father whom
he loved very much. One day he was asleep outside in the sun
and the boy had his head in his lap. A mosquito kept settling on
his bald spot and Gudmund kept brushing it away with his hand,
thinking that it would bite his foster father. Einar came up and
said: "Can't you see, brother, that what you're doing is no help
because the mosquito settles right back again? You should rather
give it a poke with the blunt end of the ax you have by you." He
did that and aimed the blunt end at his foster father's head. But
the mosquito flew off and the skull was left with a bloody cut.
The man woke up and said, "Have you gone mad, hitting me
like that?"

L.

250

The Sagas

Gudmund said, "I'm finding out for the first time that my
brother Einar's advice is not to my advantage." This rankled for
a long time.
Everything was quiet in the latter part of the summer. As it
came to an end, Gudmund rode with nineteen men to Laugaland to summon Thorir for having concealed the goats. Attempts were made at reconciliation. Gudmund did not want to
settle the matter and said it was time to test which of them had
more mettle. Then he rode on home.
It was early in the morning. His brother Einar was accustomed
to get up early and meet with his shepherd. This was the case the
day Gudmund had set out from home. Einar said that the shepherd should keep a lookout for when they returned home. And
when the day was well along, the shepherd came and told Einar
that they were on their way back.
Einar told him to saddle his horse and he did so. Einar
mounted and rode toward Gudmund and his men and met
them above the farm Hrafnagil. Gudmund gave his brother a
warm greeting, and he responded in kind.
"Where were you riding so early this morning, kinsman?"
asked Einar.
"I have a lot of business around this part of the district," re-

plied Gudmund.
"You don't usually ride around these parts with so many men
if it's just a matter of minor business," said Einar. "Tell me where
you've ridden."
Gudmund answered, "I rode out to Laugaland to summon
Thorir for concealing the goats he secreted from Thorgils'
property when I was supposed to have his forfeit possessions."
"You've gone about this in secret," said Einar.
"You haven't been following the news," replied Gudmund.
"Still, I want to request that you assist me in this case."
"I'll join in efforts to get you and Thorir reconciled," said
Einar.
"I had in mind that we should now test which of us is more
powerful," said Gudmund. With this the brothers parted and
Einar went home to Thvera. Gudmund rode home with his
men too.
Some time later Thorir went to visit Einar and told him how

Lifsaetninga saga

25r

Thorir asked Einar for his intervention and assistance.


Einar said, "I am in a difficult spot with my brother Gudmund
because of our kinship and because we have made a formal
agreement that neither should be against the other."
"You can see that he wants to claim all the honor for himself,"
his dealings with Gudmund stood.

:w,

t
ffi
''lf

said Thorir.

"It's true enough that he wants to control everything himself


and that he values no man's words once he's decided what he
wants," replied Einar. "I will try to arrange a settlement between
you, but if that fails and he won't heed my words, I won't heed
his pleasure either. The two of us will ride to the thing together." Thorir rode home and things were quiet for a while.
One day Einar had his horse saddled and said he wanted to
ride up to Modruvellir to visit his brother Gudmund. When he
arrived there, he rode up to the door and knocked. A man came
out. Einar told him to call Gudmspd-"and say that I want to
see him." He went and told Gudmund that Einar had come and
wanted to see him.
Gudmund went out and greeted his brother Einar. Einar responded in kind. Einar didn't want to dismount and Gudmund
didn't leave the door, so they conversed as they were.
Einar began the conversation and asked whether it was of any
use to seek a settlement between him and Thorir. Gudmund
said there was no way of settling unless Thorir left everything up
to him-"and that's more than he deserves."
Einar said that he was being very contentious about i1-"2nd
you attach no importance to what I say."
"That's the way it will be," said Gudmund, "and I intend to be
sole arbiter."
"Then I think I have no more obligation to you since you pay
no attention to my wishes," said Einar.
"I will honor your wishes in other matters," said Gudmund,
"but in this matter I want to be sole arbiter."
"Then I want to return the cloak," replied Einar, "and we will
not exchange any further gifts."
"That's up to you," said Gudmund. Einar threw the cloak on
the ground.
"None of my men will pick it up and you will lose both your

252

Ljdsuetninga saga

The Sagas

honor and the cloak," responded Gudmund. The brothers were


often enough on bad terms.
That summer people rode to the thing. Both sides showed
up in force, but Gudmund had more men. Thorkel Geitisson
was present and attempted a settlement between them, but
Gudmund refused to settle.
One time Einar was talking to Thorir and asked how he intended to deal with Gudmund.
"I have decided to challenge your brother Gudmund to a
duel," answered Thorir.
"That's a bold move," replied Einar. "When do you intend to
announce it?"
"No need to ask me until it's done," said Thorir.

'tt

ij

fHere there is a presumed lacuna of two leaves in A.]

[Gudmund thought that Thorir] had paid the price for his
words, and it occurred to him that he now had enough money to
pay compensation for a certain person.
When the thing disbanded, a man came to Gudmund who
was named Thorstein and had the nickname Rindil. He asked
Gudmund for a job. Gudmund asked what district he belonged
to; he said he was a southerner.
"Why are you better off in a strange district than at home?"
asked Gudmund. He said he was an outlaw.
"Are you any good as a workman?" asked Gudmund.
He said he was-"and I'm handy at a lot of things."
"V)u <krn't look as thoush y<lu'd shrink from anything," said
(lrrrlrnrrrr<1.

In the spring Thorir set sail and had a big investment in the
ship and a lot of property. People thought he had managed
magnificently, and now he settled down on his farm. Here his
story comes to an end.
During the summer Gudmund wanted to have his homefield
mowed. He told Rindil to pitch in and mow around the buildings, and he gave him a scythe. He began mowing.
Gudmund stood by and said, "You're clumsy at this work and I
imagine you may be better at something else. Would you prefer
to ride with me to the warm springs during the day and do no
work?" He said that would in fact suit him better. Gudmund said
that messenger jobs might be more in his lins-"and then perhaps you won't be considered such a burden." In the morning
they rode to the springs and had a lot to talk about.
"Now I'm going to confide in you and tell you matters of great
importance," said Gudmund. "They will bring you either good
fortune or death, but I am intent on having something for my
favor."
"I'll be faithful in delivering messages and carrying out missions," said Thorstein, "but I'm not brave with weapons."
"You may be useful all the same," said Gudmund, "and now
I'll entrust you with my confidence."
"I'll put my hope and trust in you," said Thorstein. "Send me
wherever you want."
Gudmund went on, "I have declared war on Thorkel Hake.
Now I propose to send you there to observe his circumstances
under my direction."
"Tell me the plan and I'll follow it," said Rindil.
Gudmund continued, "This fall I intend to attack Thorkel
Hake in his house. You can be more of a help to me with cunning than in the actual assault, but your life is at stake if you deviate from the plan."
"My life's safe enough," said Thorstein.
Gudmund said, "There is a great famine these days, but there's
an abundance of whale north at Tjornes and many people are
headed there from the districts here in the west. Proceed north
over Vodlaheath with two ordinary horses and say that you are
from Halfdanartongue in the west because you most resemble
the people from there. Pretend that you are going north to purway.

fl

"Wlry not hire you?" 'fhorstein left the thing with

( lrrrlrrrrrrr<1.

As l:rr rrs'l'horir is r.oncerned, he sailed from Iceland toward

llrc t'rr<l ol srrnrrrrer and spent that winter in the Shetlands.


ln tlrt'spring he szriled back and did a brisk trade. He hired

helpr:rrrrl spt'rrt the summer at home. Then in the fall he left Iceland arrrl strrye<l on the Orkneys during the winter. But in the
spring he srtile<l back and had both flour and other goods. And
when he got honle, he hired help and spent the summer at home
attending to the farm. In the fall he went abroad and spent the
winter in Norway. At that time Olaf Haraldsson was king of Nor-

&-

253

Y
254

Ljdsuetninga saga

The Sagas

There was a fire on the hearth and the mistress of the house

chase whale meat and put saddle baskets on the horse and head
up from Kaupang and over Reykjapass and Hellugnupspass and
so from the east to Bardardale and on to Thorkel's. Bend your

sat by the fire.

"Who's that you're dragging after you?" she asked. "Does he


have some claim on you?"

route so that Thorkel's farm lies on your path, even though


the customary route is to cross Ljosavatnspass to Tjorvi's farm.
Thorkel, however, is inhospitable and not sociable toward others.
I guess that one man will be outside when you arrive, but don't
be shy about unloading your horses so that he won't be able to
chase you ofl'. 'l'hen settle in. I forbid you to leave. If you get
permission to stay, open the door during the night and take as
rnany stones as there are men at home and put them on the wall,
and that is the signal we will use."
'l'he summer was uneventful and Thorstein often rode with
Gudmund to the hot springs. People took notice of it and sus-

He replied, "I don't know the man, but he looked miserable to


me and for that reason I didn't turn him away."
"I had a bad feeling when I saw him," she said.
"I can't tell what that means," replied Thorkel.
"It will soon become clearer," she said.

"Do you think you're clairvoyant?" Rindil responded. "Why


shouldn't I take the hospitality offered by Thorkel the son of
Thorgeir the Lawspeaker, who may be considered the master of
his own house? I'm not going to pay any attention to what this
woman chatters." But Thorkel pretended not to hear their conversation and was hospitable toward him. Thorkel's farmhand
was haying at a place called Landamot.
In the evening when the tables were removed, Thorkel said to
Rindil, "Sit here, poor fellow." Rindil sat there and took no notice even though the women were not so cordial. Thorkel slept
in a locked bed closet and Rindil on the middle of the long
bench. Thorkel fell asleep quickly. There was a bar on the inside
of the door. Rindil got up and went out. He took two stones and
put them on the wall and left the door unlatched.

pected that something was afoot.


as

255

Six weeks before winter, Rindil disappeared and went north


the plan dictated. Thorkel had few people about him and one

farmhand, but this man was away at a job. Rindil came to the
house in a great deluge, unloaded the horses, and led them into
Oxar River Gulch.
When he got back to the house, a dog bayed at him. A woman
was sent out and then went inside again. She told Thorkel that a
man was outside and had unloaded the horses and led them
away. Thorkel jumped up and said that he was a brazen fellow.
At that moment Rindil came in and every thread he had on
was dripping. Thorkel asked who he 14725-"2nd why have you
c()me here?"
"l thouglrt it was time to rest," said Rindil.
" l (krrr'l krrow yorr und you seem rather pathetic," said Thorkel.

[At this point A and C converge again.]

l{irr<lil lt'plic<I, "A gcntlemanly appearance isn't convenient


irrsl rrow. Arc you going to shelter me or not?"
"l w:lrrl to take a look at your belongings," said Thorkel.
"V)u't'c wclt:ome to," said Rindil.
'['lrorkt:l lound wool and spring sheepskins and small cheeses,
and he s:rw that the horses were very footsore and rubbed raw
on their backs.
"You're probably telling the truth," said Thorkel, "so come
on in."

&

r
?

Valla-Ljdx

saga

2b7

After that he died. Hrolf was eighteen at the time, Halli fourteen, and Bodvar twelve.

'i
,t

t,l

'Valla-Lj6ts saga'

'*
.it
,4

ri*

Chapter

,ffi
T&:

in
ii

Torfi seehs the hand of the Sigurdarsons' mother. She refers the matter
to her three sons, who are not in accord about the worthiness of the match.

But the

eldest grants his consent

and his mother prefers this course.


Halli, to
Torfi on an errand. They quarrel and Halli kilk Torfi. Halli's maternal
grandfather arranges a settlement on his behatf with Torfi's chieftain,
who is ako kin to Halli.
Sometime before the wedding the mother sends her second son,

There was a man named sigurd who was the son of Karl the
Red. He was married ro rhe daughter of Ingf ald from Gnupufell.
He had three sons; Hrolf was the eldest, the second Haili, the
third Bodvar. They were big, strong men. Hrolf was contentious
and grasping. Halli was cheerful, good at law, and very selfimportant. Bodvar had a good disposition and became a trader.
There was a man named Torfi who lived at Torfufell, rich but

not from an imporranr family. At that time Eyjolf resided at

Modruvellir, and Gudmund, his son, was living there with him.
Sigurd took sick and gathered his sons together. He urged
them to get on well with each orher; he said that he was abli to
discern what sort of men they were: "you should see to it that
you are not self-seeking''u beyond what your honor requires."

. "l"S:llseeking": stnglarnir is an emendation of a corrupt MS sinnugjgr"lri. M.S /'s- s-md,gjarnir is unamested elsewhere bur, if possible is
"small-minded," would make good sense. see ciklamini r96^6:
3o5.

Torfi's wife died. He treated Sigurd's sons well. He went to


their place on one occasion and asked to speak with them, saying, "We have been acquainted for quite some time and I want,
for my part, to make the relationship still closer. I wish to address myself to your mother and ask for her hand. This could be
to our mutual advantage, for even though there is a difference
in our status, that difference can be made up with money and
the management of your farm."
Hrolf asked him to speak with their mother about the proposal and so he did. She gave this answer: "I want this marriage
to be determined by my sons and not left up to me alone, but if
they consent, I am content."
"What do you think, Halli?" asked Torfi.
"This is a matter more for Hrolf," he said, "since he is the
eldest of us brothers and most logically in charge." '''
Torfi raised the matter with Halli and the other brothers.
Hrolf and Bodvar said it was a reasonable proposal and they
would not reject the marriage.
"I wanted to wait for what you would say and this was what I
expected," Halli said then. "I cannot see what's in this to recommend it. It's beneath our station; such a man is hardly an equal
match. I will not consent to give my distinguished mother to a
freedman after her honorable marriage."'''
But Hrolf said it didn't seem that way to him. And she refused
to turn him away-"I agree to the marriage," she said.
Hrolf said it was up to him to decide the matter. Halli said that
it would proceed as she wished, and the wedding was set for
Winter Nights.'''

"'The Th text at this point is corrupt; the sentence is supplied from


A widow not survived- by h_e_r father had the right of consent to any
marriage arranged for her. Her fastnandi, or betrother, was her son

;lr.

who was sixteen or older; thus it is Hrolf's right to determine the marriage if his mother also consented; see Grd,gd,s Ib zg and n. 64 above.
"'Helgi Droplaugarson is similarly disapproving of his mother's remarriage in Droplaugarsona saga 4: r47.
2re"Winter Nights": see n. r r5 above.

258

The Sagas

Valla-Ljdts saga

Time passed and we are told that one day when the women
were in their room, Halli entered. His mother said, "I have to
pay the servant women their wages today. I want to send you to
Torfufell to tell Torfi to provide me with a pig."o But don't go
about it too impatiently because the pig will be hard to handle.
Torfi will turn it over if I say so."
"I will go because you have a faithful friend there."
When he arrived, Torfi was working and did not look up at
him. "My mother sent me here for a pig to make a meal for her
women," said Halli to Torfi.
He didn't look up at him but said instead: "That's fine with me.
Help yourself and start working on it."
"It's not an honorable task for someone not used to it to slog in
the mud for an old sow," said Halli."'
"What did you say, great hero?" replied Torfi.
"This is one feat I'm not going to risk. Send anyone else
you want."
Torfi said, "I don't think you are as brave as the sow."
"That was better left unsaid," answered Halli. "I don't think
my courage and a sow's are comparable; this might be considered a provocation." He rushed through the gate of the pen,
hurtled in and immediately hacked off the pig's snout, took the
animal and went out.
Torfi said, "You can take the pig to your place and give it to
your mother."
Halli said nothing and rode away toward home. The area was
wooded. He got off his horse and sat down in the woods until he
saw a man in a blue cloak riding across the river and recognized
'ltrrfi. He sprang to his f'eet, rushed at him, and dealt him his
rlt:irtlr bkrw, though he was armed with both spear and sword.
I lirlli tlrrcw lrim under the bank, covered his corpse,"' and took
thc lrorse with him.

He came home and met his mother. She asked him about his
errand and he told her that the outcome was that Torfi would
not go to bed with her nor send her a pig-"considering fhe way
we parted. The marriage is off, as unlikely as that may seem
to you."
"I think you are destined to do evil," she replied. "This will be
the start of your bad luck, and you will either be outlawed or
killed since men like Eyjolf are responsible for prosecuring the

22o'l'he

wages are apparently discharged by feeding the women a certain kinrl of'fbod, in this case pork, since in most cases servants would
receive their board as part of their compensation anyway.
"t See n. 2()q, above.

""'Covered his corpse": the law required the killer to cover his victim's corpse to protect it from animals or birds. Failure to do so gave rise

case."

259

"'

"You don't need to be so hard on me for this deed," answered


Halli, "because he was no great loss, even though he seemed
good to you."
She said there was some truth in that-"but the deed were
best not done."
Afterwards he went to Gnupufell to his kinsman Ingjald and
told him the news. He replied, "Go meet with your friends and
kinsmen, the Svarfdalers. By the way, what provocation did he
give you?"
"He said some offensive words to me," said Halli, "because I
didn't want to marry my mother to him and disgrace our kin in
this way. Now I wouldn't be surprised if the prosecution gets too
close for comfort if I'm not careful, but the fact is that he called
me more cowardly than the sow."
"That was ill-spoken," said Ingjald. "You can stay with me until your case is closed."

Viga-Glum lived at this time at Thvera, and he and Ingjald


met with each other. They went to see Eyjolf and offered him
a settlement for his thingman. "We wish to honor you in this
case and compensate you with a hundred ounces of silver. The
counterclaim against Torfi for slander"'will be dropped. It's not

to liability for lesser outlawry. The same penalty applied ro anyone,


killer or not, who left a corpse uncovered, "whether [the deceased] died
from sickness, cold, or other men's weapons"; see Grd,gd,s II 358, Ia r54.
"'lf a freedman was killed, the killing case belonged to his freeborn

of majority. If there were none, the case went to the manumitter,


unless it was the manumitter who killed him, in which case it belonged
to the chieftain; Grd,gd.s ll ZZ7,la r7z. Eyjolf may have been Torfi's former owner, or the former owner may have simply assigned him the case.
22n"Slander" (dpdttisord): the Icelandic
word'is a tec"hnical legal term.
sons

z6o

The Sagas

clear more can be had from us kinsmen. We should not let this
lead to a falling out."
"So be it," said Eyjolf, "Halli is related to usrru and he is also
descended from a great line."
They were reconciled on these terms.
Halli was seventeen years old at the time he came into his
inheritance."o

Chapter

Halli marries and becomes an important supporter of the Modrtellings,


first of Eyjolf and then of his son Gudmund. In this capacity he acquires
a reputation for contentiousness. Halli gets restiue in Gudmund's district
and sets out to giue his ambitions freer rein in Suarfadardale, where
Valla-Ljot is the preeminent man.

Bodvar went off on trading voyages, while Hrolf Jaw stayed


home on the paternal estate. Bodvar was abroad a long time; he
was the most talented of traders and als<l well liked. He was away
for twelve years.
Halli set up a household and married Signy the daughter of'
Bersi; she was kin to the Modrvellins people. Eyjolf and Halli
grew to be good friends, and Halli said that the marriage bond
would be the best foundation for their friendship. Eyjolf said

that Halli was quite right. Halli was much involved in lawsuits.
A little later Eyjolf drowned in clnupuf'ell River; he was buried
at Modruvellir in the homefield and had accepted preliminary
baptism before he died."' Then ()udmund the Powerful, his
An (rpilti.sord gave rise to liability lor lesser outlawry and
(()rr)J)ensation; see n. t47 atrove ancl Grd,gd,s II

for personal
39o-gr.
both are secon'<r
..,*,,1;li:ill,.1,i:,1,,Y,'f,;lti,i'ii),r1i:.T8J*"',:;;'T,i"d
2:"Oorrr1l:rre n. I4z
allove.
baPrisnr" (prtmsigning): the sagas tell that pagan Icewotrl<l bc<:onre catechumens by having the sign of t6e cross
made over tltcnt; they were thus allowed easier access to Christian markets and benelhctors. some, perhaps Eyjolf, were primesigned as a way
of hedging their lrets. Primesigning did not disappear once Iceland coriverted to Christianity; it still served as a preliminary to baptism. f-lrt:
twelfth-century laws make frequent reference to it. Children who die<l

""'l'r'clirrrirr;rry
.landers

r
t

.1

t
,lr

ffi,

fl

Valla-Ljdts saga

z6r

son, succeeded to his rank. He and Halli established good rela-

tions. Gudmund provided Halli with a large following, while


Halli was the enforcer for Gudmund's legal actions. He was
known as Roughneck-Halli and was held in the highest esteem
by Gudmund. At this point in the saga he was around forty.
Gudmund's backing and his own prowess made him tough to get
at. Halli's son was named Bersi and he was a promising man.
Hrolf was rich and malicious.
It is reported that on one occasion Gudmund held a large feast
at Modruvellir. Halli was there, as he was at all of Gudmund's
feasts. There was much wide-ranging conversation.
"The chieftain class here in Iceland is in a peculiar state," said
Halli. "Here in the north the pool of men of quality is drying up,
and especially in this district."
Gudmund replied, "It has often been noted that I am eager
for honor,"n and l'd rather be a chieftain in this district than any
other."
"That's true, Gudmund," said Halli, "but there are districts
that are not very far behind, even though the choice of men may
be better here."
"Which one?" asked Gudmund.
"SvarfadardAle," he said.
"You are likely to be closer to truth and wisdom on other
matters," saicl Gudmund. "They've had a lot of snow there and
are sufferinE; a very severe winter."
"On the contrary," replied Halli, "generally more people go
there to those outlying valleys to buy food than come here, and
more people are scraping some money together there than here."
primesigned but not baptized were to be buried at the border between
hallowed and unhallowed ground (Grd,gas lu 7); the sponsors of a litigant's primesigning were disqualified to be judges or sit on a panel of
neighbors.in their sponsorial kin's case (la 47,62); and the sponsor at
primesigning was forbidden to marry his sponsorial kin (Ib 3 r).
t"Gudmund's concern with honor, so evident in Ljdsuetninga saga,
surfaces again in Valla-Lj1ts saga, but whereas Lj6saetninga saga amounts
to a covert attack on his honor at the most sensitive point, Valla-Lj1ts
saga is very chary of Gudmund's honor. See particularly the conclusion
of the saga. Since neither saga appears to be dependent on the other,
we must suppose that Gudmund's need for deference was traditional
knowledge.

v
z6z

The Sagas

Valla-Lj1ts saga

"What does it mean that the conditions there are praised so,"
said Gudmund, "when they don't seem so praiseworthy to me?"
"I've been thinking about removing my establishment and relocating it there among my ancestral lands," said Halli.
"Why should it be better for you there than here?" Gudmund
asked.

"My distinguished kinsmen have lived there. l'm eager to go


there rather than stay here near you, because that's what makes
me unpopular," said Halli. "I am your enforcer, and there are
some men who are more than my match in this district, but that

will cease if I go away. Still our friendship will continue as before. But I should say openly that I have lost popularity because
of my dealings with your brother Einar,"n and I wish now to rid
myself of the matter."
"There's some truth to what you say," said Gudmund, "but
I think too that it has been a cause less of dishonor than of
unpopularity."
"It is nonetheless certain that the sons of Ingjald, my kinsmen,
are my superiors," replied Halli. "I cannot be first among our
kinsmen as long as we are all here; there, however,
to be the leading man."

I may claim

"I don't think that you'll get more honor there than what

you've had here," said Gudmund. "I can think of four men there
in particular, none of whom wants to give up his honor for you."
"Who are the four who would oppose me?" asked Halli.
Gudmund said, "One is Valla-Qot, the son of Ljotolf "o the
chieftain; he's the greatest man in the valley. Then there's Thorgrim his brother. The third is Bjorn from Hofsa, and the fourth
is his brother Thorvard; they are Thorgrim's sons and they be-

krns to a powerful kin group."' And don't imagine that you will
Thorir. It seems to me that you're

t:ornpete with your kinsman


no rnalr:h for them."

""Nothing is known of Halli's dealings with Einar. Cf. n. r56 above.


23oMS 7ll reacls "the son of Alf" and MS
Jf "the son of Bersi."
These readings are corrected to accord with Landruimab6k z8g n.5 an<l

z8 zo7.
5-6 it appears that Bjorn and Thorvard

Saarfdala saga,

were Ljot's sister',s


sons. The Thorgrim who is their father here is not the same man as

'3'In

chs.

Ljot's brother.

z6z

"I'll

stick to my plan," said Halli.


Afterwards he went to meet with Thorir vemundarsonr* and
told him his purpose. He wished to buy land and asked where
there might be some available for sale.
Thorir replied, "I know of land rhar can be bought in Klaufabrekka and I'll get you meadowland in addition because there's
only a small meadow there. I'll buy the land for your account if
you want to move here, but I advise you to be peaceable. Here
you will have to deal with men who are firm and proud.,,
Halli said that wouldn't drive him away-"[sy rhe land.,,
He then moved there but did not request permission to settle
in the district."'The svarfdalers showed little concern because
Ljot was the chieftain over those kinsmen and they were quite
satisfied with that. He alone made all the decisions that ioncerned them. He was uncontentious in his business dealings, not
a somber soul, and a strapping man. It was easy to tell whether
he was pleased: he had two outfits-one, a short blue tunic and a
double-edged ax with an iron-bound shaft for when he had a
mind to kill. But when things pleased him he wore a brown tunic
and had in hand an inlaid halberd.,,n
'o2Halli's kinsman Thorir Vemundarson is not identifiable. He could
be the son of'vem-und Thengilsson mentioned in Landndmab6k z7z <>r
of a Vemund Olafsson mentioned in Suarfdala saga n: r5r, rg: rg2,
zz: r89. SeeJ<inas Kristjdnsson's note (r956: z4o n. r).
t""Permission t. settle" (byggdarleyfiy:
ihe liws provide that berbre
moving into a new- hreppr (see n. 36 above) a person had to receive permission from the hreppr. Permission was to bi granted "unless he was a
convicted thief or unless he is so destitute that ihere is a likelihood that
he would not be able to support his charges for the year without assistance from the men of the hreppr. . . - Should a person move to a hreppr
without permission, he may do so if he wishes ii people could not hive
denied the move had he asked for permission" (Grdgd:s II zsg). Bur obtaining permission was not just a hollow formality; there*i,ere some
sanctions imposed. The man could not make a claim against the mutual
aid fund of the hreppr to compensate fire losses, and hi was not eligible
to participate in hreppr business; see also Grd,gd,s ll r47-48
25nA
similar description is given in Laxdeta'saga (B'oila paurl g7: z4g:
"His everyday manner of dress was that he had a black tunic o, urr"d
carried a long-shafted, thin-bladed ax, but if he was on the warpath, he

wore a blue tunic and carried an ax with a recurvate blade ind was
rather menacing." On the ax types see Falk rg14: ro7-8, tt4-rq,. It is

264

Valla-Ljdts

The Sagas

Chapter

Ljot conducts a partition of land on Michaelmas. Halti confronts him


rega,rding the breach of holiday obseruance and, claims a
fine"from Ljot.
Gudmund the Powerful ffirs to relocate Halli bach in Eyjifiord,"bur
Halli refuses. Halli attends a yule feast at Thorir's and, tr"ibii" spite ol'
warnings not to do so.

There was a farmer named Hrolf who 1ived above Klaufabrekka; his sons were named Thord and Thorvald. He was a distinguished man. He took sick and died. The brothers inherited
their father's estate and wanted Ljot to make a division of both
the lands and the personal properry they owned. Ljot,s journey
was postponed for some time. The country had .....rily been

christianized and sundays had been given rhe sancrion of tiie law.
The meeting was fixed for Michaelmas.rru rhorir and Halli
had seen men gathering and came too. Ljot was partitioning the
brothers' lands. Snow had covered the Loundaiy markerr] u"
divided the lands and took a line of sight to a cerrain srone and
from the stone to the river; he went straight along that line, positioning himself alongside rhe river, wherl he cut up some tuif in
the shape of a cross and said, "This is the way I divide the land.,,rn,,
usually assumed that Bo-lla pdu-r borcowed from vatta-Lj6ts saga (see In-

troduction, p.
9sl, but the verbal correspondence is no-t verfclose

an<l

common knowledge may be an adequati explanation.


23u
"Michaelmas": September 29.
23uPartitions
and sales of lands iequired a perambulation of the metes
and bounds and marking of boundaries extept where natural formations made them obvioui or untraversable. Ii there was snow on the
groyld the division was to. be postponed, although the postponemenr
could be waived if the parties agreed to do so and"also ,hu..d boundar!e.s; Grdgd.s Ib-8o-8r-,8.9, The liws contain elaborate provisions on par.tition. Normallythe division was ro be made by the fiv! neighbors lii,ing
nearest the land to be. divirled (Ib 87), although the sagX shows thiii
P.egnle c.oul^d.3gree, priv.ately to different p.o.."d.rres. Tf,e basic princlples to be follo*94 by the dividers required rhat "they should so divirlc
the land am.ong.all its owners that each may have his portion divided so
as to give him the benefit of it. None of them should have ro drive his
animals home over the land of another. Land is to be divided agai.sr
land, not buildings against land. If some land is worse than otheilarrrl
then it should be larger so that they are of equal value" (Ib gg).

sa,ga

z6b

The brothers were quite satisfied, as was everyone else except


Halli. Ljot then said, "We haven't had any dealings, Halli, but
you're an intelligent man; whar do you think of the division?"
"I think you've divided the land fairly," answered Halli, ,.but
since you've brought it up, I think that the law might have
been breached. And fbr that reason I might have something to
say about the division. How knowledgeable are you about the
law, Ljot?"

"I'm not good at law," he said.


"I think the law prohibits working on Michaelmas," said Halli,
"even if it doesn't fall on Sunday. I'm going to summon you for
violating the holid zy."zs'

"The faith is still new," replied Ljot.


"The law says that a sacrilege has occurred," said Halli, ',and
it's not setting a good example for lesser men when you chieftains behave in such a way."
Ijot responded, saying that what he had done was not
proper-"and it won't happen a second time."
"I'll put the matter to you briefly," said Halli. "Do one of two
things: either pay me half a hundred ounces of silver or I'll summon you."
"It will be better not to speak of it," said Ljot. "I am not going
to pay compensation for my inadvertence, but I think it best that
there be peace, and so I will support your case."t*
"A lesser fine would not be fitting for either of us," said Halli.
"You shall have the right ro derermine the penalty if it happens again," said Ljot, "but go along with me this time and you
will have my thanks."
2'THalli appears to have
been mistaken. Grd,gds II 5o4 explicitly authorizes partitions on holidays and during Lent.
'1"'So I will supporr your case" (en eh mun stydja pitt mdt): the remark

makes much of the following dialogue seem a non sequitur. Halli does
not read "I will support your case" to reflect Ljot's willingness to accept
his deman9; h9 appears to read ir as an offer ro pay somelhing less. But
Ljot had clearly said he was not going ro pay any compensaiion. perhaps the Icelandic should be rendered more generally as "so I agree
with your basic point." Thar is, Ljot will concede that Halli is right uEorrt
the law, but that concession alone should be sufficient to satisf! Halli in
this trivial matter.

v
The Sagas

Valla-Lj1ts saga

"That's not the way it's going to be," Halli said. "Do one or the
other, pay the money or I'll summon you."
"I do not want you to summon me; I'd rather pay the money
and get friendship in return. Our kin have long been quarreling
with each other," said Ljot, "and it just might be that you take
after them. I'll pay promptly, because I do not wish to anger the
angel. Now if you meant this out of friendship, you will be my
shield,"' but if you did this because of greed and hostility toward
me, as indeed I think, then that may well come to light by itself."
Halli took the payment.
That same autumn there was a feast at Modruvellir and Halli
attended. His son Bersi had returned from Norway then and
was also present. Gudmund seated Halli next to himself. He had
learned of the dealings of Ljot and Halli and said, "How do you
like it out in the valley?"
Halli said he liked it.
"Are you getting along with the people out there?" asked
Gudmund.
Halli said that things were going fine.
"It's been said," remarked Gudmund, "that you have taken
money from Ljot for a trivial case."
"That's not quite it," Halli replied. "I proceeded justly and
he chose the course that best suited him. You can see the silver
right here.""o
"Yes," said Gudmund, "I can see that you think you've played
it well. But something tells me that your hair will be reddened
before the third Winter Nights.'n' I now want to advise you not
to return there. I'll buy land for you here, but I won't answer for
you out there."
"That's a generous offer," said Halli, "but it has the defect that

I prefer. I'll keep testing the water; I don't intend to abandon the cause yet." Halli's son, Bersi, left with him
and they arrived in the valley by Yule time.
Thorir invited Halli to a Yule feast at Grund-there was a
church there-but Bersi, his son, stayed home. Thorir sent for
hay because his hay supplies dwindled as Yule wore on. The only
talk that came to Ljot's ears concerning his dealings with Halli

266

23e"You will be my shield": i.e., you will have saved me from incurring
Michael's wrath.
2noThe compensation was paid in silver. Silver gave way to uadmd,l as
the normal means of payment during the eleventh and twelfth centuries as silver supplies from Viking activity dried up, although it never
ceased being used as a standard of value. See Gelsinger rgSr: 33-a6,
zL7 n. b7; and n. l l r above.
'n'On Gudmund's prophetic powers see Ljdsuetninga saga, (ch. 7) antl
n. 63 above. Perhaps this ability was, along with lavish hospitality and :r
highly developed sense of honor, traditional knowledge.

267

it's not the option

was rather unfriendly.

After Yule, Halli got ready to leave, and that morning the
shepherds at Grund and Vellir met and asked each other for
news. They talked about who had put on the better feast during
Yule, and each took the side of his master. Thorir's man said the
entertainment could not have been as good at Ljot's "because no
one is more entertaining than Halli, who visited during Yule."
Ljot's servant asked when Halli would be traveling home. Thorir's
servant said he would set out the last day of Yule.
Thorir questioned his servant when he returned home about
what people he had met, and the man told him. Thorir asked
what they had talked abour, and the shepherd told him everything that had taken place. "Very well," said Thorir, "you have
spoken to the point, and you, Halli, shall not leave today." He
told him what had come up and what the servants had discussed.
"I am not pleased that they talked about your trip. I suspect that
it will turn out much as Gudmund said it would when he pre-

dicted that Ljot would be a tough opponent for you in this


matter."
"What is there between Ljot and me other than good will?" replied Halli.
Thorir said, "He has misgivings about your dealings."
"I'm going to go," said Halli.
"Then thirteen of my servants are going with you," said Thorir,
but since I'm not feeling well I can't go."
Halli said there would be no need of that.

Chapter 4
Halli is intercepted by Ljot, who hilk him in single combat. Bersi,
Halli's son, assigns the case to Gud,mund the Poweiful and, then goes
abroad.

\l

268

The Sagas

They traveled across Hordaridge. Halli said, "Go back now


I only have a short way home. No one is going to ambush me now." They did as Halli said.
because

Halli's sheepsheds were by the road. Then Halli's companion


said, "There are men there."
"It's probably my son, Bersi," replied Halli.
"Those are not our men," he said. "There are twelve of them
and one in a blue tunic has a double-edged ax in hand."
"Go home and tell Bersi that Ljot seems to have some minor
business with me; there's no need for you to be here."242
His companion raced away immediately at top speed. Halli
was dressed in trousers and wore a cloak; he threw it off. He had
a helmet on his head, a spiked pole in his hand, and was girded
with a sword. He moved in their direction and past them.
Ljot then said, "Let's not delay the attack; let's get him now."

They set upon him, but he moved quickly and got away downhill. They couldn't get at him while they were on the slope. Halli
took up a position on some level ground higher up. "Now he
may brag that he stands higher than us," said Ljot.
"I will take advantage of my bravery and quickness and not
wait around," said Halli.
"Your grandfather, Karl, would have waited when he was
alive," said Ljot, "and he never let himself be chased like a
goat."'n'
"I'll stay put and fight it out, just us two," said Halli. "That's
honorable for you, otherwise it's shameful."
2a2In this
sequence involving the sighting of an enemy, identification
by appearance,.discounting.of d,anger, and the dismissing of a companion or companions the author is making use of a well-worn narrative
lil'rrrrrla. See Heinemann ry74.The closest analogue is Bjarnar sagu,

fl

it,thr l,nfutppa

'"'l lalli,

\z

: I gg-

2oo.

wh<l previously had to suffer comparison to a sow, is now


comp:rrt:<l l() :r g()at, specifically a she-goat. Ljot is of course aware how
violently I lalli rear:tecl to the previous insult and knows what kind ol'
rhetoric is rrrost likely to make Halli stand his ground. Given Halli's welldocumented larnily pride, the reference to his grandfather Karl is similarly calculated. Karl's exploits are recorded in Suarfdala saga.

Valla-Lj1ts saga

"I

z69

wouldn't consider the alternative, and this is the way it

should be," Ljot replied."'


"What are you claiming is my offense?" asked Halli.
Ljot said, "The offense is that you won't give me any more
lessons about observing holidays. Now if you meant well and the
angel wants to give you victory, you'll have him on your side. But
if you undertook that with greed and hostility, then you shall
have the worst of it; let him judge our case and give you what
you deserve fbr that half hundred of silver you took from me
and have held ontr) ever since."'nu
Ljot stepped toward him with his iron-bossed shield. Halli
thrust at Ljot, striking the shield and hitting the boss so hard
that his sword stuck Iast. Ljot twisted his shield so firmly that the
tang of the sword broke. Then Ljot struck Halli his death blow.
They bore hirn to the sheep pen and went to Halli's farm to
announce the news. Ljot formally published himself as Halli's

killer.
Bersi went irnnrediately to meet with Gudmund and told him

of these events. He said that things had turned out as he surmised. Bersi asked him to take up the action-"1 wish to go
abroad."

At that time all the dueling

laws and duels themselves had

been abolishecl.'"'

Chapter

At the Allthing a, settlement is reached for the death of Halli. Later


that same su?nmer llrolf, Halli's brothr, treacherously hilk Thortard,
Ljot's sister's son. A settlement is ako concluded in this case.
'n'In such situations it is unusual for those with numerical superiority
not to take advantase of it. See, for example, Gtsla saga Z4: lll-12,
Hduardar togo islrdingt 4, Zob-7, Hrafnkek saga 8: ,27-i$, and Lax-

dula saga

4$ tby-b4.

l-jot's action is therefore to be understood as par-

ticularly chivalrous.
2nu
Ljot perceives the duel

as a submission of the case to the judgment


See n. ro7 above. Those who do not see the
Icelandic duel as an ordeal have explained this case as an exception

of the archangel Michael.


(Ciklamini r963: r89) or
'nuSee n. l07 above.

as an

unreliable account (Jones rg32: zzz).

z7o

The Sagas

Gudmund took up the case, prepared it for the Allthing, and


assembled a substantial force. Ljot's friends tried to bring about

a settlement; he too had a substantial force and the support ol'


many chieftains. And because of the strength of Ljot's kinsmen
and friends, the case was settled with one hundred ounces of'
silver paid for the killing of Halli, but the half hundred that Ljot

had paid Halli was not deducted because Ljot wanted that sum
to be assessed asainst him for his negligence. His friends urged
him to take the half hundred for himself, but on no account
would he do that. He said the amount paid for Halli was small
anyway because of Halli's having challenged him to a duel.
(]udmund was ill pleased with the outcome of the case, but he
kept the money for Halli's kinsmen.
During the summer a ship put into Eyjafiord and a big market
was held there.'n7 The Svarfdalers attended and in their group
were Ljot's nephews, the sons of Thorgrim, and Ljot's servants.
They purchased merchandise. A man named Sigmund was also
there.

The Svarfdalers slept in a little hollow and at dawn a man


approached them and said, "Do you know that the Eyjafiord
people are on the other side of the river mouth? I came to tell
you to be on guard against them, for they are not to be trusted.
Come out, Thorvard, so that we can talk with each other."
Thorvard said, "There's no need of any talk with you, because
you appear untrustworthy to me."
Thorvard, nonetheless, stepped out of the tent and accompanied him to a hill where they conversed. Then nine men, clad
in black, approached. Thorvard wanted to turn back, but the
one who had drawn him away shoved him in the midst of the
b:rnd. 'fhey raised their weapons against him and killed him
thcre. Sismund wished to avenge him but he was restrained.
'''Mlrrkets were formed ad hoc wherever and whenever a merchant
strilr lrrrt in. 'fhere were no established marketplaces, although placenarle evi<lence suggests that the farm Kaupangr, i.e. "market," located
next to the thing at Vodlar, tended to be used for trading and settling
accounts on a fairly frequent basis. On the place name see Beck rg8Z.

Valla-Lj1ts

saga

27

Hrolf Jaw was responsible for the treacherous deed. When


Gudmund met with him, he said Hrolf had done wrong to break
the settlement and that it would come to a bad end. Hrolf claimed
he had not been present at the settlement.'?ns Ljot took up the
case over the killing of his kinsman Thorvard. Gudmund sent
word to Ljot saying he wished to settle with him: "I would like
you to receive a full and honorable compensation for it." He said
further that the deed was not at all to his liking, and that it would
be best for the leaders of the district to restrain men from carrying out such misdeeds.
At the thing friends of both sides got involved. A serrlemenr
was sought and, through the intervention of many others, Skapti
Thoroddsson, a friend of Ljot, was named to arbitrate.2ne Ljot
said he would not be the only one to be obstinate in this matter.
He said, however, that such deeds had a bad momentum and
that many people thought nothing of joining in once they got
started. He said that another attack against him was more likely
than that he would move against others. Two hundred ounces
were awarded fbr Thorvard.

Hrolf

was happier now than he was before; he lived another

two years after this.

Chapter 6
Halli's other brother, Boduar, returns from abroad and remains aloof
from the feud. IIe transacts some buiness with a certain Asmund and
must trauel north to collect the payment due. Weather preuents Bodaar
from returning by ship. On his way back by land, in bad weather, he
stumbles upon the larm of Ljot's brother Thorgrim, who gtaes him hospitality. Sigmund, a lodger at the farm, sneaks away to urge Bjorn
Thorgrimsson and Ljot to aaenge Thoraard Thorgrimsson. Ljot refuses,
but Bjorn and Sigmund set out to seek reinforcements for an ambush of
Bodaar.

'ntOn the issue of whether people not present at settlements could be


bound by them, see Introduction, pp. z8-zg, and n. 265 below.
'nnSkapti Thoroddrson was lawspeaker from too4 to to3o, as may be
deduced from Ar7's Islendingabfih 8: rg.

Valla-Ljdts saga

The Sagas

272

acted business, but Asmund alone was bound

A ship arrived that summer and on it were Bodvar Sigurdar-

for the debt to

Bodvar.

son and Bersi Hallason. They went to visit Gudmund right away.
He told them what had happened and how the case had been
resolved. Bodvar was moderate and composed. He said he ap-

They had gotten there on a ferry owned by some Norwegians.


They were delayed for some time, and meanwhile a severe cold
spell set in and prevented the ship from leaving. Asmund said
they were welcome to stay there and Bodvar said he would accept that. They remained there weather-bound half a month.
Then a dry freeze set in so that the road conditions were good;
the fiord, however, was frozen over, making sea travel impossible.
"Cheer up," said Asmund, "you're welcome to stay with us,
Bodvar."
He said the offer was geneless-"[ut we prefer your giving
us a guide so that we can set out."
Asmund said that would not be his advics-"[s1 I'd like to
part with you properly."
"This is how it will have to be," said Bodvar.
They set off in a group of twelve across the heath toward the
fork in the road. The clouds thickened and the snow began to
fall and drift. The footing was difhcult, and Bodvar, unaccustomed to walking, made little headway. They figured on getting
to Svarfadardale to spend the night at Narfi's. It was growing
darker and they did not know exactly where they were. "Now
you've lost the way and it's pitch black," said Bodvar.
They kept going until they bumped into some buildings in the
midst of the darkness. They knocked on the door; the people
were seated by the fire. Someone went to the door and asked
who had come.""
Bodvar replied, "Who lives here? What's the name of the
farm?"
"Thorgrim Ljotolfsson lives here and Upsir is the name of the
place. The head of the house wants you to come in since it's not
very pleasant outdoors. He told me to issue the invitation no
matter who was outside."
"We won't enter unless the head of the house himself invites

proved of Gudmund's prudent handling of the affair; he added


that he was distressed by all the dissension in the district and said
he would go abroad again and not get involved.
In winter, when Gudmund was not at home, some men from
Kviabekk in Olafsfiord arrived to do some trading. Asmund was
their leader and he made a purchase of six hundreds worth, saying he would make full payment.
Bodvar said he preferred that Gudmund find pledges to secure the debt.
Asmund replied, "It is well known that we pay our debts."
"Then I want you to bring the payment here," said Bodvar.
Asmund stipulated that Bodvar transport the wares to his
place.'uo

In the end that was what they agreed to, and then they went
on their way. Gudmund returned home and they told him about
their transaction. He said, "This sale wouldn't have occurred if I
had been home."
Yuletime passed and the weather was fair. Bodvar asked Bersi
and his companions to travel with him to claim his payment.
Gudmund, however, said it was ill advised to stumble into the
clutches of the Svarfdalel5-"1[6sgh I believe that Ljot won't attack you." Still four of them set out together. When they reached
Olafsfjord, the payment was not ready because many had trans''r5')'l'lre

s()urce depicts hard bargaining over place and time of paythe nleans of securing the payment, but not over price. This
slrows that the real annoyances caused by bulky means of payment like
ttui\rruil were more likely to lead to impasse than were disagreements
ovt'r' 1r[ir;e, which presumably was largely constrained by custom; see
n. 7 :rlrove. When Bodvar goes to deliver his goods and collect payment,
"tlre glayrnent was not ready because many had transacted business."
This would seem to indicate that Bodvar had to wait until Asmund
could have more uadmd,l woven, or could procure more already woven
from others. 'fhe inefficiencies caused by the accepted means of paym_ent end up costing Bodvar his life. For further discussion of problems
of exchange see Introduction, pp.5l-5b,and Miller rg86a.

nlclrl,

273

arr<l

us," said Bodvar.'u'


'u' For similar episodes involving travelers disoriented in blizzards see
Bjarnar saga Hitdulakappa z7: r83-84 and F1stbrudra saga Z: LZb.
tu'Good form required the householder himself to extend the invita-

i
I

_-1

f1

F
The Sagas

Valla-Ljdts saga

The man went back in and told Thorgrim that the people who
had arrived wished to receive the invitation from him directly-

settlement; that man is innocent and has never been involved in


dealings here in this country. It'd be much better if it were
Hrolf, but even then it wouldn't be right.2u3 I also know the aggressive energy of our kinsman Thorgrim; he would think it the
greatest disgrace if guests of his were to come to harm."
"It would be wrong and a pity if worthy people were struck
down when miserable wretches such as you live," said Sigmund.
"We can't get it out of our minds that your brother was killed right
before our eyes during a truce and now you won't avenge him."
He gathered together some men, eight in all. Bjorn said he
wished to visit Ljot, his kinsman; he did not want to suffer the
derision of Sigmund and his companions. They rode to Vellir.
Ljot asked what Bjorn might want that he should be traveling at
night.
"I'm going to go and avenge my kinsman Thorvard," said

274

"they're acting rather grand."


Thorgrim went out and asked who had 661ns-"take shelter
here for the night."
Bodvar answered, saying some of them were Icelanders, some
Norwegians, and then gave his own name. Thorgrim went in
ahead and asked them to sit down and accept hospitality. "The
invitation won't be withdrawn." He said, however, that there
were others who would have been more welcome guests there,
and others who were less unexpected.
Thorgrim had a fire kindled for them. Sigmund, who has already been mentioned, was there at the farm; he was the foster
brother of Thorgerd Ljotolfsdottir's sons. He was greatly shaken
and told Thorgrim secretly about the leave he took from his
kinsman Thorvard. Thorgrim said that the case did not concern
him: "I want to treat them well; they deserve no harm from me
and I want everyone to keep faith with people who have come to
my home." They spent the night there.
Thorgrim bolted the door and ordered that no one unlock it
before he wishe6[-"2ny6ne who doesn't comply is in for harsh
treatment."
Sigmund attempted nothing until they had fallen fast asleep.

There was a passage from inside to the barn, and through it


Sigmund got away. The storm had subsided but there were
snowdrifts everywhere. He got some snowshoes, and during the
night he arrived at Bjorn's farm at Hofsa and roused him from
his sleep. Bjorn asked who was there. Sigmund told him. Bjorn
askerl why he was in such a lather. He said that he was forced
by cirt.urnstances: "'fhe fact is that now you can avenge your
br'<lther."

"Who's turned up?" asked Bjorn.

"l|o<lvar, Halli's brother, and he's intending now to travel inlanrl t.o Eyja{ord," he answered.
\jorn said, "It's not right to rekindle hostilities and breach the
tion to men of rank. See, e.g., Htrnsa-Dbris saga ro: z8; FdstQrtzdra saga
rzg; and Bjarnar saga Httdalakappa z7: r84.

Z:

275

B-jorn.

Ljot said, "Is Hrolf around?"


"No," said Bjorn, "his brother, Bodvar, has appeared in the
valley."

"Is that your plan, kinsman, to kill an innocent man and break

"I won't accompany you on this expedition and risk my honor by attacking my brother in his home."
"'We don't need to attack your brother in his home in order to
get at them," said Bjorn. "Let's ambush them when they leave."
"We will keep an eye on their movements," said Sigmund.
Ljot said he would not go.
They left, and when they had gone some way Sigmund said,
"Let's go to Tjorn, where Thorstein and his son Eyjolf live."
They were tough men and fearless.
the settlement?"'un said Ljot.

'u'For a discussion of the norms involved in selecting a vengeance target see Introduction, pp. 4g-bt, and also Hrafnhek saga 8: rz7-3o, in
which an innocent relative who has been abroad from the onset of the
dispute is attacked and killed. But that source has no intimation that the
victim was not an appropriate target.
'uncf . Skegg-Broddi's judgment in Ljdsaetninga saga (ch. 3o): "What
else was to be expected when a man pursues his claim in a completely
vile way, killing innocent men in the face of an acknowledged settlement, but that he should be paid back in like fashion?"

r
i

The Sagas

Valla-Ljdts saga

Bjorn said to Thorsteir, "I want to request your assistance in


preventing our enemies from getting across the valley safely."
He said that matter was clear as day and joined ,p with them.
His son, Eyjolf, however, was away up in Sandardale.

Bodvar said, "Let's make a stand and defend ourselves."


Bjorn was foremost in the assault. Thorstein hurled his spear
at Havard the Norwegian and it struck him in the waist; Bodvar
gripped the spear and sent it back, hitting Thorstein and killing
him. At that instant Eyjolf came up on Bodvar from behind and
struck him his death blow. Then Eyjolf grabbed Bersi and slid
on the ice with him into his own force and urged Bjorn and the
others to attack. Bjorn ran at Bersi and slew him and said, "That
was another valiant trip, Eyjolf." Bersi had previously killed
Sigmund. Dead were Bodvar, Bersi, Havard the Norwegian, and
one other from their group; and Thorstein from Svarfadardale
and Sigmund.
'fhey sent word to Narfi to look after the bodies; he was distressed by the events because he was friends with both sides. He
rode to Modruvellir and told Gudmund. Gudmund said that
this was a great misfortune.
Meanwhile Bjorn and Eyjolf took counsel. Eyjolf said the obvious course was to go see Ljot: "Even though we'll have to endure some angry words, there'll still be support there. He'll lend
me aid. And if you don't take this course, I won't remain here,
because you are incapable of providing support."
Bjorn said Ljot would be opposed to blood vengeance. Eyjolf
was of the <lpinion that the more they needed his support, the
more he could be relied on. "And there is this to consider: his
kinsman has been avenged in blood on our initiative."
They went to visit Ljot and told him they had avenged their
kin. "There is no good in having bad kin," said Ljot. "They make
trouble for us, though there's not much recourse now."
They set out to visit Thorgrim. Ljot said, "Why did you take in

276

Chapter J
Bod,aar is killed, in an ambush along with Bersi Hallason. Bjorn and,
his men seeh out Ljot for protection. He is irritated with their actions but
stands by them nonetheless.

Now the story turns to Bodvar, who was preparing to set out
with his companions in the morning.
"I'd prefer, Bodvar, that you not take the common route,"
said Thorgrim. "I'm well aware that a man got away during the
night and will have told about your trip. And I wouldn't wanf
anything to happen to you when you have visited me at home."
Bodvar said he had done well by him and "I will act
accordingly."
They now set out but took the common route nevertheless.
In Bjorn's group Sigmund announced, "I see them now, they're
in front of us." They pursued them hard and met up with them
at a thicket above Halsby between the farm and Hella, where
Narfi lived.
"There are some men over there," said Bodvar. "What could
they want?"
"They're not likely to have good intentions," said Bersi. "We
rnay yet clrown in sight of dry land."
"Wo'r'c not g<ling to run," said Bodvar.
"l wusn'l strggesting that," replied Bersi; "we'll make a stand
I | (: r'(:. "
li<l<lv:rr', Ilersi, and the ship's steersman were the ablest of
therrr. 'l'hey were seven all told, but there were eleven in Bjorn's
party.
"We should proceed with some deliberation," said Thorstein.
"It's not. clear how this will turn out; they have a good position
and tough men. Some of us should attack from the rear, and
you, Thorgrim, should stay here." Just then a big man ran to-

ward them from behind; it was Eyjolf Thorsteinsson.

277

our enemies, Thorgrim?"


"I thought it the only proper thing to do," he replied. "Though
it did not turn out well, what I did is still my responsibility, but
what Sigmund did is his. What happened was a far cry from
what I wanted."
"It would have been better if your wishes had been followed,"
said Ljot, "but it seems ill advised to me for you to remain on
your farms anywhere between Tjorn and Upsir. I believe it
more suitable that we all stick together rather than that you be
killed like foxes in their dens. And I suppose then that it's up to

278

The Sagas

Valla-Lj1ts saga

279

me to support your case, and I will now see to that. But I am


reluctant to undertake great feats, even though I don't like yielding to anyone."
"Such is what lies in store," said Thorgrim, "but what shall we
do about Eyjolf? He is the one most implicated in the case and
vulnerable on the score of bloody deeds."
Ljot replied, "He can stay with me for now, but later I will
send him south to Hjalli;'uu he can get abroad from there. I'll
send another three to Hermund Illugason and two to Thorkel
Eyjolfsson. It will be easier ro negotiate a setrlement if these
people go abroad. But Bjorn shall stay wirh me and we will
suffer the same fate."

Chapter

in the preceding chapter, goes abroad. Gudmund the Powerful learns of


the ambush and sets out to attack the Suarfdalers. They corne on Ljot
alone, but he escapes their clutches. Ljot and Gudmund are reconciled at

grf* of weapons. In

the meantime Bjorn tahes

refuge, on Ljot's aduice, uith a certain Thrand on Grim's Isle.

Everything went according to this plan. Eyjolf gor passage and


served in the king's guard in England.'uu
Narfi was in communication with Gudmund, and the more
Gudmund found out about these events, the less he liked them.
But he went with Narfi to a feast out on the strands and found
out everything about the battle. Gudmund said, "Bodvar and his
men acquitted themselves well; men like that, who fought so well
and were innocent to boot, are a great loss. The Svarfdalers are
on the rise now and they must be quite satisfied with themselves.
How much are Bjorn and Thorgrim on their guard?"
]" Hjalli is the home of Skapti the Lawspeaker; see ch. 8. Ljot's plans
fail to account for three of the men still living who participaied in the
attack on Bodvar. A phrase may have been lost. See J6nas Kristj:insson
r956: zb4n.4.

"Thorgrim

has acted well in this affair. Still, Ljot is their leader;

what precautions is he taking?"


He said that Ljot was on his guard.
"I am not content that everything should remain as is," said
Gudmund. "I want the benefit of your cooperation and will keep
a lookout in the valley to see whether we can get our hands on
any of them."
Narfi said he was at his disposal: "I'm ready right now; I know

all the routes and hidden ways, but we'Il need luck for

such

plans."

Gudmund said he would run the risk, and they left for the
valley.

Eyjolf Thorsteinsson, the most enterprising f.ghter of the Saarfdalers

the thing and exchange

"Bjorn is often at home with few men and likewise Thorgrim,"


he replied.

2]6"The king's guard in England":


a reference to King Cnut's housecarls, his personal bodyguard.

"Ljot will ride on the high road along the mountains down to
Vallaby," said Narfi.

"We'll stay put and wait," said Gudmund, "while you get news
from the farms."
Ljot owned a sheepshed not far from them. The news at
the farms was that the Svarfdalers had all arrived at a feast;
Gudmund's group had not been aware of that. Ljot was accustomed to get up early and check on the work and the cattle.
Gudmund and his men sat on a spit of land between two ravines
in the woods; they observed a man walking from the farm in a
black tunic carrying a halberd; he went into the pen and drove
out the animals. Gudmund ordered his men to.i.r-p up and lay
hands on him without using weapons against him. Ljot saw what
was happening and made off, keeping the halberd before him.
He leaped into the gorge, but it turned out there was crusty
snow below in the ravine. He slid down along the bottom of the
ravine and escaped injury.'u'
"There he goes now," Gudmund said then, and he hurled his
spear at him and hit Ljot's halberd. Ljot picked up the spear and
2uTViga-Glum makes a similar escape in Reykdeln saga z6; 233-34.In
D6rdar saga kahala tr: 24, a certain Svarthofdi pushes his horse over a
cliff and jumps after him in order to escape his pursuers. Soft snow be-

low saves both from injury.

z8o

The Sagas

went home. Gudmund went back to the woods and said, "Ljot is
quick with his hands; such men are well endowed. He does not
look for trouble, yet he is courageous and decisive. He took the
only option he had, and he must have known beforehand that
the ravine was traversable. Let's wait now and see what steps he
takes, and not let them run us off, even though we keep up a
rather good pace." 258
Ljot kept the spear among his possessions when he got home;
it was inlaid with gold. The others asked him where he had gotten the spear.
"Gudmund the Powerful sent it to me," he answered.
They asked whom Gudmund had delegated to bring it, but
Ljot said Gudmund hadn't relied on anyone else for this. "He
did it himself."
They said he had kept this concealed roo long.
He disagreed. "I knew I wouldn't have been able to stop you if
you had known this before. Bur amacking those Eyja{ord people
would have been a hard struggle for us and more than we could
handle."
Ljot did not proceed with a charge for the amempr on his
life.'un Time passed until the thing met; it was well-attended.
The northerners-Gudmund and Ljot-were there. Gudmund
brought a killing case against Ljot,uo and people tried to arrange

v
{

Valla-I.i6ts saga

z8r

"and if we can settle our dispute, I won't press my claim; let's go


speak with him."
"You have conducted yourself properly," said Skapti, "and I
shall play an active part in this."
"I admit I retreated at the [ime," said Ljot, "but I saw no point
in waiting, whatever people may think. Now I want you to take
the spear to Gudmund."
Skapti asked him to accompany him, and Ljot agreed: "There's
no reason I shouldn't see him."
Gudmund greeted Skapti. "Why are you willing to grant Ljot
support?"
Skapti said he had an answer, "and it's not done out of enmity
to you. But Ljot wants you to have this spear, which he says you
have sent him."
Gudmund answered, "It was sent to you in such a way, Ljot,
that I did not intend it to enhance your honor."
"As things have turned out," said Ljot, "I have no wish to consider the spear my property."
Gudmund said thaf was fine with him "but you shall have this
sword." (It was a great treasure.)
Then Ljot said to Gudmund: "Take this sword from me, but
don't send me another spear like this. Let's end our dispute so
that you will think your honor to have been maintained and so
conclude our feud."'u'
"So it shall be," said Gudmund.
Bjorn was not :rt the thing because he was sent out to Grim's
Isle in accordancc with Ljot's counsel and was staying secretly

a settlement.
Ljot and his friend Skapti met with each other and talked. Ljot
told him the whole story of his dealings with Gudmund's party:

with a man name<l 'l'hrand. Bjorn gave him Ljot's message: that
he was sent there lirr aid and sustenance while the thing was in
session-"and he will resolve my case there."
Thrand said therr that he would do whatever he could.

'u'Berger OgZl) translares differently, bur rhe idea is that Gudmund


wislres to withdraw with decorum. Cf. Hrafnkek saga 8: rz8.
'n""Attempt on his life" (fjgrrdd): an attempt thai did not succeed was

lrrrrrislrc<l lly lesser outlawry; see Grd,gd,s II 369.

'"""(iurlrnund brought a killing case against Ljot": Ljot did not participatc in t he killing of'Bodvar and Bersi, although he subsequently aidecl
and sustained tlre killers in violation of the law. Howevei, he is not a
prope.r_de['endant in the killing case. It is clear from the nexr chapter
that killing cases were also brought against the proper defendants. The
author is probably using Ljot as a meronym for the members of the
grgup that he heads, but it could also be that Gudmund consrrues Ljot's
actions as a breach in the prior settlements for Halli and Thorvardind
is reopening the killing case for Halli against Ljot.

'u'On the exchangc ol'gilis in this passage see Introduction, pp. 5354, and on Gudmutt<l's <'ott<'crn with honor see n. zz8 above and Intro-

duction, pp. b5-62, ro(i-7.

r8E

z8z

The Sagas

Chapter g
At the Allthing the cases are put to the arbitration of skapti and
Gudmund, who agree on an award. Hrolf, howeaer, stillpursues thefeud,
and attacks Bjorn, extorting two hundred ounces from the fishermen of
Grim's Isle. Ljotinforms Gudmund of Hrolfs aggression, and Gudmund
forces Hrolf to return. the money to the islanders so that the settlement is
secured.

Hr.lf'was at home during the rhing. At the thing, in

the

meantime, the cases were summed up.ru, Ljot announced he


would offer to accept the exile of some men and agree to pay

an honorable monetary award. Many of the lesser men complained about this, bur the others felt they had much to gain
from it.'?uu Ljot was concerned that everyone be reconciled ind
262"The

cases were summed up" (uaril mhtin retfd): reifa md,l (to sum
up.a-case) was an important part of formal court procedure. prior to
arriving at a-judgment, one judge summed up theplaintiff's case, another the defendant's, each rehearsing the formal pioofs presented by
the party and indicating ro whose diiadvantage tiey weie (Grd,gris la
7

| -72).

- 'utThe less powerful tended to bear the brunt of the penalties handed
down in arbitration proceedings. In one sense this was a concession to
grim reality, a tacit admission of the difficulty in getting rhe more
powerful.to comply withjudg_ments rhat displeased them. In this regarcl
consider how certain types of sanction were e*cluded beforehand flom
t]re.
.competence of the arbitrator by powerful dispuranrs. Thorkel
Geitisson offered Gudmund self-judgment but excluded exile from the
award (Lj1saetninga saga ch. r r); see also Einar Konalsson's remarks to
Thorkel Hake's brothers: "Gudmund wishes to offer you compensation
and a substantial wergeld, though it is not to be expected that he will
rrr()ve from his land" (ch. rg). The reality was that iompensation payrnerrt tended to be the penalty of the powerful, the vaiious formi of
o_utlawry and exile the Iot of the weaker. There were exceptions. Thorir
Helgason and Thorvard Hoskuldsson both endured thrie-year exiles.
And rrcasionally exceptional men, like Grettir and Gisli,'were outlawed. But when this happened, the significance of outlawry was transformed fiom the humiliating into the heroic. In the sagas of'Grettir and
Gisli, it is as if society itself must pay for geming thingJwrong. Contrary
to the usual wisdom, the sagas of the ouilaws migtrt uest be"seen rrot ui
praise of the underdog but as reminders to the established to take care

Valla-Ljdts saga

283

that Gudmund should gain honor from it. It came about that
Ljot wanted Skapti to arbitrate on his behalf, but Gudmund
wanted to arbitrate for his side himself. That's how it turned out
and the arbitrators came to a full agreement.
Skapti was to announce the judgment, and there were many
people present to hear it. "In these cases," said Skapti, "we balance the ambush of Bodvar with the killing of Sigmund; the
deaths of Bersi and Thorstein cancel each other out; for the
merchant, two hundred ounces of silver, but that shall be offset
with the amount which was assessed for the killing of Thorvard.
Nine men shall not be allowed to return; Bjorn shall pay one
hundred ounces and be absolved and also make payment at the
fall assembly firr two years"264-ar1d they were reconciled on
these terms.

Bjorn was well cared for on the island with Thrand. One day
while the thing was still meeting, Bjorn was eager to row out with
Thrand. Thrand said there was no need for this. "I'd prefer
there be no attempt on the person that Ljot sends me. There is
less chance o{'defense in small boats than on the island."
"No harm will come of it," said Bjorn.
That day thirty boats, most of them small, set out from the island. The weather was good and the men were cheerful because
the craft lay near each other. "There's a ship moving down the
-fhrand. "I recognize Gudmund's ferry. I wonder
{ord," said
who it could be. Do you know whether Hrolf Jaw was at the
thing?"
The fishermen answered that he was at home.
"It'll be him," said Thrand, "and he's bent on meeting you,
Bjorn. You will be recognized in our company. We'll have a hard
time defending ourselves in small boats and the men aren't careof their own. Then,

as now, the dispute-processing mechanisms usually

redounded to the benefit of those who controlled them.


2un
It seems that the Svarfdalers are to fund the two hundreds assessed
for the merchant by refunding the two hundreds they had received earlier for the death of Thorvard. This is the two hundreds, apparently,
that Thorvard's brother Bjorn is to discharge in two one-hundredounce installments.

Y
The Sagas

Valla-Ljdts saga

ful about what they say. They have a large ship and substantial

"Would you take payment?" asked Thrand.


"With self-judgment," Hrolf replied.
"Giving self-judgment would be a mistake," said Bjorn. "Let's
take a chance instead on how things will turn out."
"We're not short on wealth," said Thrand, "but men like you
are hard to come by."
Bjorn said a lot would have to be done before they got to him.
Thrand said he wanted to bring the case to a close: "This case
is now up to me."
"Puy two hundred ounces of silver for Bjorn right now," said
Hrolf.
Thrand replied, "It will be a burden for us to pay so steeply."
But the sailors and he discharged the payment and returned to
shore impoverished.'uu Thus Thrand and Hrolf parted.
Ljot returned home from the thing and he and Bjorn met.
Each related to the other the events that had transpired. Ljot
said Thrand was to be faulted in no way-((but Hrolf showed his
true colors; he's greedy for the payments. Now this is an easy
matter. We are obliged to pay Gudmund two hundred ounces of
silver at the autumn meeting. We will discharge that, but not another two hundred unless Hrolf and his men forfeit it along with
their honor."tnt
Ljot sent Gudmund word and said that he saw a clear act of
aggression in this and asked him to get Hrolf under control. He
agreed with this and said Hrolf had often been the cause of their
dishonor; Hrolf paid back the money to the islanders. On his
own motion, Ljot arranged matters between Gudmund and
Thrand so that both of them were satisfied.
Ljot was thought to be the greatest of chieftains. And that concludes the story of his dealings with Gudmund the Powerful.
Gudmund, however, maintained his honor until his death, and

284

forces. Yet let us prepare for whatever defense we can manage."


They began to row toward the island.
Then the men on the ferry said, "Those oarsmen are rushing
away from the fishing bank. Maybe rhey're afraid of us."
Hrolf said, "Let's go after them." They did so, and it wasn't
long before they met.
Hrolf asked whether Bjorn was aboard.
Thrand responded, "You figure it out."
"Give him up," said Hrolf. "You shouldn't put yourself or your
property at risk since you don't have the necessary forces. Stay
out of' trouble, and don't make yourself subject to a just claim
against you."
"You do not have an honorable part in legal affairs if you set
yourself above the chieftains," said Thrand. "There's nothing
but trouble when someone refuses to obey their judgments.2uu
You are breaking a settlement if you do this and will kindle fullscale feud among the chieftains. You might be able to shape the
same fate for Bjorn as you did for his brother, for all these killings are your work. What, by the way, have you heard from the
thing-aren'f people reconciled? But your habit is to make peace
first and kill people later. You're not going ro ger him in the first
attempt."
"We'll get him," said Hrolf, "and kill you too."
2uuThrand utters a
basic tenet of the pro-chieftain ideology that permeates this saga, and in it we might see some of the early processes of

state formation. Both Gudmund and Ljot presume the power to bind
third parties by their settlements. And in sodoing they c[aim for them-

selves the power and

right to govern the districi. rnis is the tenor of

[.jot's remarks later in this chapter and in ch. 5 that it is up to "the leaders of'the district to restrain men from carrying out . . . misdeeds." The
'1nis<leeds" in question are the feuds of lesser people that threaten
the stability of affairs between Gudmund and Ljot and are contrary to the
claims those two have to rule the behavior ofthese lesser people. one
person's misdeeds are often another's justified actions. Bul th-e saga is
not unsubtle about these matters. It disapproves of Halli as much when
his "misdeeds" are in the service of chiefiainly power as when they challenge it. There is no doubt, however, that the iaga writer feels that the
best chance for peace lies with responsible chieftainship and obedient

thingmen.

z8b

here the saga ends.


'uuIt would be interesting to know how and in what form such a sum
rgr and z4o above.
2uTApparently Ljot will discharge the two hundreds owing for the

was paid over; see nn.

merchant, but he is threatening to retain the sum due from Bjorn at the
fall assemblies for the next two years.

A: List of Characters
*

Characters not known from other sources are marked with an


asterisk.

'Lj6svetninga saga'
*Alfdis (daughter of Kodran, wife of Bruni)

Arnor Thorgrimsson at Reykjahlid (also known from Grettis sagu,


Landndmab6k, and Reyhdula saga)

xArnstein at Aerloek

*Atli at Draflastead
*Bard (friend of'Thorvard Hoskuldsson in Norway)
Bjarni Brodd-Helgason (also known from Bandamanna saga, Fljdtsdala saga, Gunnars pdur Didrandabana, Landnd,mab6k, Njdk saga,
Vd,pnfirdinga saga, and Porsteins pdttr stangarhqggs)
* Brand Gunnsteinsson
* Brand Thorkelsson (Vodu-Brand) at Myr
* Bruni at Gnupufell

Cnut the Great (king of Denmark, d. lo35)

*Drg (married to Thorgeir the Chieftain's daughter Sigrid, who

is men-

tioned in Landnd,mab6k)
Eid Skeggjason or Thorhallsson (both known from Landnd,mab6k, the
former also from Heidarltga saga and Laxdula saga, and the latter

from P6rdar saga hredu)


Eilif at Gnupufell
x Einar Arnorsson at Hrafnagil
x
x

Einar at Krossavik
Einar Eyjolfsson (brother

of Gudmund the Powerful;

from Bandamanna saga, Droph,ugarsona

also knowrr

saga, Njd,k saga, Valla-Li1ls

290

Appendix A

List of Characters
* Halldor (brother of Thorvard Hoskuldsson)

saga, Vatnsdula saga, Vtga-Glfims saga, Pbrdar saga hredu, Porsteins saga

Stdu-Halksonar, and Qlkofra pdur)


* Einar
Jarn-Skeggjason
Einar Konalsson (also known from Landnd,mnbdk, Njdls saga, Reykdel.a,

Halldora (daughter of Einar at Thvera and mother of Skegg-Broddi's


wife Gudrun; also known from Landnd,mab6h)
* Hallvard Arnorsson at Reykjahlid
Harald Hardrule (Norwegian king, d. ro66)
* Harek (a Norwegian)
* Harek at As
x Helgi Arnsteinsson (called Ingjald in redaction
A)
* Hjalti Eiriksson
Hlenni Ormsson (called "The Wise" in Lj|suetninga saga but "The Old"
in Viga-Gl(tms saga; also known from Landndmabdk and Njdls saga)
Hoskuld Thorgeirsson (son of Thorgeir the Chieftain; also known

saga, ar,.d Vtga-Gl(tms saga)

Eldjarn Arnorsson (also known from Landnd,mabdk)


Eyjolf Gudmundarson (also known from Grettis saga, Heidartttga saga,
Landnd,mab6k, Laxdala saga, Reykdula saga, and borsteins saga StduHalksonar)
* Eyf

olf Vidarsson at Gnupar

* Finni

in Fnjoskadale

Finni Thorgeirsson (Dream-Finni; also known from Finnboga saga and

from

Landnd,mab6k)
*

Hoskuld Thorvardsson (son of Thorvard Hoskuldsson at Fornastead)


Hrafn Thorkelsson at Lundarbrekka (probably identical with a Hrafn
at Lundarbrekka in Reykdala saga)
* Hrolf Thorkelsson (great-grandson of Thorgeir the Chieftain)

of Isolf )

*Geirlaug (wife of Thorir Helgason)


Gellir Thorkelsson (also known from Bandamanna

saga, Flj1tsdala saga,

Isleif Gizurarson (bishop at Sk6laholt; also menrioned in Laxdula saga,


Njdk saga, and elsewhere)
* Isolf (father of Fridgerd)

Landnd,mab6k, and LaxdrBla saga)

Gizurr Isleifsson (bishop at Sk6laholt)


Grettir Asmundarson (also known from Bjarnar saga Httdalakappa,

Jarn-Skeggi (son of Einar at Thvera; also known from Bandamanna

Eyrbyggja saga, F1stbrudra saga, Gtsla saga, Grettis saga, and Landnd-

saga and l>6rdar saga hredu)

mab6k)

*Gudmund Oddason at Hofdi


Gudmund the Powerful (widely known in the sagas-see Introduction, pp.86-9o)
Gudrid (daughter of Thorkel and wife of Thorgeir the Chieftain;
Njdk saga supplies her father's name)

Jorun (daughter of Einar at Thvera; also known from Droplaugarsona


saga and Vdpnfirdinga saga)
* Kalf the Christian (a shipowner)
* Ketil (priest at Laufass)
x

Ketil from Fnjoskadale


Ketil Thorsteinsson (bishop at H6lar)
* Kodran Gudmundarson (son of Gudmund the Powerful)

*Gudrun (housekeeper at Baegisa)


xGudrun (daughter of Thorarin and wife of Skegg-Broddi)
xGudrun (daughter of Thorkel Hake)
*

()unnstein Thordarson at Ljosavatn


(iyrd Sigvaldason (jarl of the Jomsvikings; also known from Eyrbyggja
.sagu

Landnd,mab6h)

Forni at Hagi

* Fridgerd (daughter

29r

Magnus Haraldsson (Norwegian prince)


*

and Landndmab6k)

Mar (a shipmate of Thorvard Hoskuldsson)

*Odd (a shepherd mentioned only in redaction A)


*Oddi Grimsson at Hofdi
*Oddi Thorgeirsson at Myvatn (married to Thorvard Hoskuldsson's

llztl"l'horkelsson (?-a conjecture for the abbreviation ft in redaction


.4,' see n. z r )

Hakon lvarsson (Norwegian jarl; the hero of his own fragmentary


saga and known from other sources)
Hakon jarl (Norwegian ruler, d.ggf ; known from many sources)
Hall Otryggsson (also known from Morkinskinna and Heimshringl"a,)
Halldor (son of Gudmund the Powerful; also known from Laxdula
saga and Njdk saga)

sister Vigdis)

Ofeig Jarngerdarson (also known from Bandamanna saga, Reykdukt


saga, and Vd,pnfirdinga saga)

*Olvir at Reykir (and an unnamed daughter)


*Ospak (nephew of Ulf the Marshall)
*Osvifr (nephew of Ulf the Marshall)

_i

Appendix A

292

List of Characters

*Otrygg at Ozla
Sigrid (daughter of Thorgeir the Chieftain; also known from Landnd,mab6k)

*Thorhild ("widow of Vodlar," a sorceress)


xThorir Akraskegg (called Thorgils Akrakarl in redaction A)
Thorir Finnbogason (also known from Finnboga saga)

Thorir Helgason ar Laugaland (also known from Land,ntlmabilk and

Sigurd (a Norwegian shipowner killed by Soxolf Vidarsson)


*Sigurd (a Norwegian shipowner housed by Vodu-Brand)
Skegg-Broddi Bjarnason (also known from Bandarnanna saga, Landnd,mab6k, Dorsteins saga S{du-Hallssonar, and Porsteiru pd,ttr stangarhgggs)
x

Njdk

Thorkel Geitisson at Krossavik (also known from Droplaugarsona

(a follower

vd'pnfirdinga saga, Dorsteins saga stdu-Hallssonar, and ethofra pdurl


Thorkel Hake Thorgeirsson (also known from Land,ndmaui*,, Niats
saga, and Reykdala saga)

*Thorkel Hallgilsson at veisa (grandson of Thorgeir the Chieftain and


foster brother of Hoskuld Thorvardsson)
Thorlaug (daughter of Atli and wife of Gudmund the powerful; also
known from Landnd,mab1h and Njdk saga)

of Hoskuld Thorvardsson)

Thormod Asgeirsson (killer of Hall otryggsson; also known from

*Thorarin Hoskuldsson at Brettingsstead (brother of Thorvard Hos-

M orhhxhinna and H eimshringla)

Thorodd Arnorsson (Thorodd Hjalm; also known from

kuldsson)

'fhorarin Toki Ne{olfsson (also known from Oldfs saga helga;


n'33)
*Thorbjorn at Reykir

xThord (a Norwegian shipowner)


Thord Thorkelsson (brother of Thorgeir the Chieftain; also known
from

Landnd,mab6k)

Thordis (daughter of Gudmund the Powerful and married to Sorli


Brodd-Helgason; also known from Njdk saga and Suarfdala
xThordis the Poetess (wife of Eilif )

saga)

Thorfinn Arnorsson at Reykjahlid (also known from

Grettis saga and


Refidula saga)
x'l'horgeir at Thvera in Fnjoskadale
'l'hrrrgeir the Chieftain Thorkelsson (also known from Droplaugarsona
.stl14r,

Iilititsdala saga, islendingabdk, Landnd,mabdh, Njdk saga, and Reyh-

&rlu

.saga)

x'I'horgcr<l (<laughter of Thorvard Hoskuldsson and wife of Harek at


As)

*Thorgercl (wit'e of' Thorkel Hake)


*Thorgerd at Miklaby (widow of Thorvard Hoskuldsson's brother
Halldor)
*Thorgerd at Thvera in Fnjoskadale (companion of Hall Otryggson)
*Thorhall (a farmer in Eyjafiord)

Land,ndmab6h,

Njdk saga, and Vtga-Glilms saga)


Thorolf Loptsson at Eyrar (also known from Eyrbyggja saga,

see

xThorbjorn Rindil (called Thorstein Rindil in redaction A)

saga,

Flj6xdela saga, Gunnars pd,ttr Didrandabana, Laxdula saga, Njd,k saga,

*S<>lrnunrl Vidarsson at ()nupar

*Thoralf

saga)

*Thorkel at Hlid (a friend of Eyjolf Gudmundarson)


*Thorkel at Myr (father of Vodu-Brand)

Skeggi the Strong (brother of Alf of the Dales; see n. r87)


Snorri Eyvinclarson (a chieftain from Kraeklingahlid in Eyjafiord also
kn<rwn {r<rm kmdndmab1k)

Sorli Brodd-Helgason (also known from Njdk saga)


* Sox<llf' Vidarsson at Gnupar
* Starri (son of Thorgerd, granddaughter of Thorgeir the Chieftain,
and married to Herdis, granddaughter of Gudmund the Powerful)

293

Land,nd,-

mnb6k, and Njd,ls saga)

xThorstein (foreman of Gudmund the powerful)


* Thorstein (Gunnstein's debt-slave)
*Thorstein drafli at Draflastead
Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson (also known from Draumr l>orsteins

Stdu-

Halksonar, Heidarutga saga, Landnd,mab6k, Njdk saga, I>orsteins sag,


Stdu-Halksonar, Porsteins pd,ttr stangarhgggs, and elkofra pd,ur)
*Thorstein the Strong at Arnarstead

*Thorvald (a leper)
*Thorvard at Svalbard
*

(a physician)

Thorvard Hoskuldsson at Fornastead


Tjorvi Thorgeirsson (son of Thorgeir the chieftain; also known from
Landnd,mab6k)

Ulf ospaksson (Ulf the Marshall; also known from

Landnd,mab6k and

the kings'sagas)

vigfus viga-Glumsson (also known from Landndmab1h and vtga-Gltr,ms


saga)

Appendix A

294

List of Characters

fellsd,ss, Egils saga, Fl6amanna saga, Grettis saga, Gunnlaugs saga, islendingab1k, Landndmab1h, Njdk saga, Steins pdttr S haptas onar, It 6rarins

'Valla-Lj6ts saga'

pdttr Nefi1lfssonar, and elkofra pdttr)

xAsmund at Kviabekk in Olafsfiord

*Thorgerd (daughter of Ljotolf and sister of Valla-Ljot)


*Thorgrim ar upsir (son of
Qotolf and brother of vatta-t-.1ot;

* Bersi Hallason (son of Halli Sigurdarson)


* Bjorn Thorgrimsson at Hofsa
*

Bodvar Sigurdarson (brother of Hrolf and Halli)


Einar Eyjolfsson (brother of Gudmund the Powerful; see entry under

Lj1suetninga saga)
* Eyjolf Thorsteinsson at

Gudmund the Powerful (see entry under Lj6suetninga saga)


saga)

* Havard (a Norwegian)

Hermund Illugason (also known from Bandamanna

saga, Bd,rdar saga


Snafelkd,ss, Gunnlaugs saga, Heidarutga saga, Hellismanna saga, Kristni
saga, Landndmab6k, Laxdela saga, Skd,ld-Helga saga)

Hrolf (farmer above Klaufabrekka; with two sons Thord and Thor-

Hrolf Sigurdarson (Hrolf Jaw; brother of Halli and Bodvar)

vald)

Ingjald Hrolfsson at Gnupufell (father of an unnamed daughter who


is married to Sigurd Karlsson and mother to Hrolf, Halli, and Bodvar; also known from Landnd,mabdh, Ljdsuetninga saga, and VtgaGhims saga)

Karl Thorsteinsson the Red (father o1'Sigurd; also known from Landnd,muhih, Surnldcela saga,, It.j6st6lli saga hamramma. and l>orleifs pdttr
jurl.s.skdkls)

l.jor l,lotoll.sson at Vellir (father of Ljot, Thorgerd, and Thorgrim;


:rlso krrown

fiom Bolla

p,fuur, Landnd,mab6h,

and Djbst1lfs saga ham-

xuntrut)

Narli

tThorir Vemundarson at Grund


Thorkel Eyjolfsson (father of Gellir; also known from Bjarnar

Asbr':rn<lsson at Hella (also known from Bolla pdttr and Landnd,-

mab6h)

*Sigmund (fbster brother of Bjorn at Hofsa and Thorvard)


*Signy (daughter of Bersi and wife of Halli)
*Sigurd Karlsson (father of Hrolf, Halli, and Bodvar)
Skapti Thoroddsson (lawspeaker; also known from Bd,rdar saga Sna-

saga

lttdylakappa, Fljfitsdela saga, Grettis saga, Gunnars saga Didrand.abaia,


Laxdula saga, steins pdttr shaptasonar, p1rarins paur Nefialfssonar, and

b6rdar saga hredu)

Tjorn

Eyjolf Valgerdarson at Modruvellir (father of Gudmund the Powerful


and Einar; also known from Finnboga saga, Kristni saga, Landnd,mab6k,
Njdk saga, Reykdula saga,Vtga-Glil,ms saga, and borualds pd,ttr affirla)

Halli Sigurdarson (also known from Suarfdala

295

*Thorstein at Tjorn

*Thorvard Thorgrimsson (brother of Bjorn at Hofsa)


*Thrand from Grim's Isle
*Torfi at Torfufell
Viga-Glum Eyjolfsson ar Thvera

Genealogies

III.
Karl the

Halli's Kin

Red

tt
Sigurd :

B: Genealogies
Hrolf Jaw

297

Halli

Ingjald from Gnupufell


(see

Da

Signy

Bersadottir

Bersi

The following genealogies have been reconstructed from Lj6saetninga saga and Valla-Ljdts saga and supplemented from other
sources.

I. Thorkel Geitisson's
Brodd-Helgi: Halla

Herdis

Sorli: Thurid
(see

Thorkel

VI)

Jorun
(see

VI)

Skegg-Broddi

II.

Valla-Ljot's Kin

Ljotolf
I

V:rllir-l,iot

'fhorgrim at Upsir

Thorgerd

Bjorn

tlt

Kodran

Bjorn

Alfdis
VII)

Arnor

(see

Eld.jarn

Bjarni

r=_-r

: Atli

Thorlaug
(see VI)

Geitir

IV. Thorlaug's Kin

Kin

: Thorgrim
Thorvard

VII)

Bodvar

V. Ljosvetnings
I

Thorgeir the Chieftain


(Lawspeaker 985- roor)

Thorgerd

ljorvi

Hoskuld

Finni

Halldor Thorarin Thorvard Vigdis

Oddi
from

Thorkel

Sigrid

Dag Thorkel Hake

Gunnstein Solveig

lltl

Thorgerd Hrafn Gudrun

ll

Otrygg

Brand

Thorkel

the
Myvatn Lawspeaker

from
Miklaby

Hrolf

Hoskuld

Hall

Starri
(see

VI)

Thorgeir Hallason
I

Thorvard (d. r zo7)

VI.

Modrvellings
Einar

Valgerd

Oddny:

Eyjolf

Konal

Gudmund
the

Valgerd

Powerful = Thorlaug
(see

Einar

IV)

Jorun

Helga Jorun: Thorkel

Thormod Valgerd

Halldora

ceitisson
(see

I)

: Gellir Skegg-Broddi:
(see I)
Thorkelsson

Thorarin

Gudrun

Eyjolf Thurid: Sorli Kodran

Halldor

Herdis

I
:

Starri
(see V)

Thorstein

Bishop Ketil

fsee I)

cc

ii
bo
ca
o-.=-'=
ld
:E

*i

6> q,
Ety
tr

.l

,H
F.-

tv

ar

5b':
r-u >
v

-ct'[-\J-

Select Bibliography

v
dl

q.)

bo!
)!r
LUA

d
(.)

(JJ
)L/

(,

ilE!
.t
v
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rA

tl

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U)

tJE

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:s

:
:J_
CXqr
V^\JbD

QqJ
+r -C
t)

bocd

'it
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!_

!t

ii

r:o
-=

o)
\+r-

(.)

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ilJ

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(s

U)

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qi

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FA

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bo
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(HE

r"s
'J

'a

E-;
Fl.

'trEs
Fq

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!_*

!s
n40

bb
H

Select Bibliography

The letters p and g are alphabetized following z. Abbreviations: IF,


Islenzk Fornrit; UHV, Untersuchungen zu Handel undVerhehr der uor- und
friihgeschichtlichen Zeit in Mittel- und Nordeuropa.

I. Primary Sources
A. Ari Thorgilsson's islendingab1h, Landnd,mab6k, the family sagas,
and most of the kings' sagas are cited from the series islenzk Fornrit
published in Reykjavik by Hid islenzka Fornritaf6lag as follows. References to IF in the commentary are to chapter and page numbers-for
example, Egik saga (36: go).
Bandamanna saga. r936. Ed. Gudni J6nsson.
H erman n Pdlsson. T he

C onfe

if 7: 299-262.(Trans.

der ate s and H en-T horir.

Edinbu rgh : Sou th -

side, r975.)

Bjarnar saga Httdelakappa. 1938. Ed. Sigurdur Nordal and Gudni


J6nsson. IF 3: ro9-zr r. (Trans. W. Bryant Bachmann, Jr. Four Old
Icelandic Sagas and Other Tales. Lanham, Md.: University Press of
America, 1985. r5r -z rg.)
Bolla pd,ur. See Laxdula saga. (No English translation.)
B6sa saga. t 893. Die B6sa-saga in zwei Fassungen nebst Proben atu den B6sartmur. Ed. Otto L. Jiriczek. Strasbourg: Trtibner.
Brands pd,ttr gr-ua. rg35. Ed. Einar 61. Sveinsson and Matthias D6rdarson.

IF 4: r8g-gr. (Trans. Henry Goddard Leach. "Brand the Openhanded." In his A Pageant of Old Scandinaaia. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1946. zo r - z.)
ryb4 Ed. Einar 61. Sveinsso.r. iF r z. (Trans. Magnus
Magnusson and Hermann Pdlsson. Njal)s Saga. Harmondsworth:
Penguin, r96o.)
Droplaugarsonasaga. Lgbo. Ed.J6nJ6hannesso.r. iF , r: r35-8o. (Trans.
Margaret Schlauch. ln Three lcelandic Sagas. Trans. M. H. Scargill
Brennu-Njd,ls saga.

1r

Zo4

Select Bibliography

Select Bibliography

and Margaret Schlauch. Princeton: Princeton University Press, lg5o.

roz-35.)
Egik saga Skalla-Grtmssonar. rg33. Ed. Sigurdur Nordal. IF z. (Trans.
Hermann Pilsson and Paul Edwards. Egil's Saga. Harmondsworth:
Penguin, r926.)
Eirlhs saga rauda. rg3b. Ed. Einar Ol. Sveinsson and Matthias F6rdarson.
iF 4: rgr-23J. (Trans. Magnus Magnusson and Hermann P6lsson.
The Vinh,nd Sagas. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965. 75- lo5.)
Eyr.byggla saga. rg,\b. Ed. Einar 61. Sveinsson and Matthias F6rdarson.
iF 4: .r- rti4. (Trans. Hermann Pilsson and Paul Edwards. Eyrbyggia
.snga. 'l'<rronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973.)
Fi44vshirmu,. rg85. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. IF zg: g7-364. (No English
t.r:rnslaIi<ln.)
hirnrboga, .saga. tgbg. Ed. J6hannes Halld6rsson.

IF r4: 253-34o. (No


English translation.)
FljArdata saga. rgbo. Ed. J6n J6hannesso.t. iF I 1 : 2 r5-96. (No English
translation.)
F6stbredra saga. rg41. Ed. Bjorn K. D6r6lfsson and GudniJ6nsson. IF 6:
r19-276. (Trans. Lee M. Hollander. The Sagas of Kormah and the
Sworn Brothers. Princeton: Princeton University Press, tg4g. 83- r89.)
Gisl,a saga Silrssonar. rg43. Ed. Bjorn K. F6r6lfsson and Gudni J6nsson.
ip 6: r-r18. (Trans. George Johnston. The Saga of Gisli. Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, tg6g.)
Gisk pd,ur lllugasonar. rg38. Ed. Sigurdur Nordal and GudniJ6nsson. IF
Z: 29-42. (Trans. W. Bryant Bachmann, Jr. Four Old lcelandic Sagas
and Other Tales. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1985.
r39-48.)
GudniJ6nsson. IF 7. (Trans. Denton Fox and Hermann P6lsson. Grettir's Saga. Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, r974.)
Gunnars pd,ttr Didrandabana. rg5o. Ed.J6nJ6hannesson. IF r r: r93-2 r r.
('l\'ans. Gudbrandur Vigfiisson and F. York Powell. Origines Islandiru,c. Oxford: Clarendon Press, rgob. II 568-75.)
(]tttt,nhttrt!.s saga orunstungu. 1938. Ed. Sigurdur Nordal and Gudni
.f<irrssorr. IIi.4: 4q-r07. (Trans. M. H. Scargill. Three lceh'ndic Sagas.
'l'r':rrrs. M. Il. S<:argill and Margaret Schlauch. Princeton: Princeton
Urrivt'r'sit y l'r't:ss, r ()6(). a-+9.)
Halklirs lxi,ltr. try,14. l'.<1. !.inar Ol. Sveinsson. IF 5: z49-6o. (No English
translation.)
Hallfredarsa,!{u,. tr;,tt;. I,.<1. Ilinar 61. Sveinsson. iF 8: r35-zoo. (Trans.
Alan Boucher'. 'l'\rc Sagu, ol' Ilallfted the Troublesome Scald. Reykjavik:
Iceland Review, rq8r.)

Grettis saga Asmundarsonar. 1936. Ed.

305

K. F6r6lfsson and (iudni


z9r-358. (Trans. Gudbrandur Vigfrisson and F. Y<rrk
Powell. Origines Islandicae. Oxford: Clarendon Press, rgo5. II

Hduardar saga isfirdings. Lg4Z.Ed. Bjorn


J6nsson. IF 6:

245-74.)
Hei\araiga saga. rg38. Ed. Sigurdur Nordal and Gudni J6nsson. if 3'
zr3-328. (Trans. in part William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson. The
Story of the Ere-Duellers with the Story of the Heath-Slayings as Appendix.

London: Quaritch, r8gz. rgr-25g.)


H eimskringla. See Snorri Sturluson.
Hrafnkek saga l-reysgoda. rg5o. Ed. J6n J6hannesso.,. iF r r: 95-r33.
(Trans. Hermann P6lsson. Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Stories. Harmondsworth: Penguin, r97 r. ZZ-7 r.)

Hansa-Ddris saga. rg38.Ed. Sigurdur Nordal and GudniJ6nsson. iF 3:


r-47.(Trans. Gwyn Jones. Eirik the Red and Other lcelandic Sagas.
London: Oxfirrd University Press, 196r. 3-38.)
islendingabdk. ry68. Ed. Jakob Benedikisro.r-. iF r, pr. r: r-28. (Trans.

Halld6r Hermannsson. Tie

Booh of the lcelanders (islendingabdh) by

Ari

Dorgikson. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, lg3o.)


Korrul,ks saga. tq1g. Ed. Einar 61. Sveinsson. ip g: 2o1-Zoz. (Trans.
Lee M. Hollander. The sagas of Kormak and the sworn Brothers. Princeton: Princeton University Press, lg4g. LZ-72.)
Landnimabdk. ry68. Ed. Jakob Benediktsso.,. iF r, prs. r and z: 2g-2g7.
(Trans. Hermann Piilsson and Paul Edwards. The Book of Settlements:

University of Manitoba Icelandic Studies r. Winnipeg:


University of Manitoba Press, tg7z.)
Laxdala saga. rg34. Ed. Einar 61. Sveinsso.r. iF 5. (Trans. Magnus
Magnusson and Hermann P6lsson. Laxdala Saga. Harmondsworth:
Penguin, rg6g.)
Ljdsuetninga saga. Lg4o. Ed. Bjorn Sigfirsson. if ro: r-r3g. (Trans. in
part Gudbrandur Vigfiisson and F. York Powell. Origines Islandicae.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, lgo5. lI 355-427.)
Land,nd,mabdk.

Njdk

saga. See Brennu-Njd,k saga.

if ro: r48-24g. (No English


translation.)
Snorri Sturluson. Heimskringl.a. ry4r-5r. Ed. Bjarni Adalbjarnarson.
itr z6-28. (Trans. Lee M. Hollander.-Heimshriigln: History oTtnt Kings
of Norutay. Austin: University of Texas Press, rg6+.)

Reykduln saga. rg4o. Ed. Bjorn Sigfrissorr.

Saarfdala saga. 1956. Ed. J6nas Krisqj6nsson.

iF g: r2g-2r r. (No En-

glish translation.)
Valla-Lj6ts saga. tg56. Ed. J6nas Krisqj6nsso.r. iF g: 23r-6o. (Trans.
W. Bryant Bachmann, Jr. Four Old lcelandic Sagas and Other Tales.
Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, rg85. $-67.)

#
Select Bibliography

306

Select Bibliography

Vapnfirdinga saga. tgbo. Ed. J6n J6hannesso.,. iF rr: 2r-6b. (Trans.


Gwyn Jones. Eirik the Red and Other lcelandic Sagas. London: Oxford

University Press, r96r. Zg-77.)

Vatrudela saga. rg1g. Ed. Einar 61. Sveinssorr. iF 8, 3-r3r. (Trans.


Gwyn Jones. The Vatrxdalers' Saga. Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1944.)
Viga-Gh1ms saga. tg56. Ed. J6nas Kristjinssor,. iF 9: r -98. (Trans. John

McKinnell.

Vtga-Gltrms Saga

uith

the Tales of Ogmund Bash and Thoraald

Chatlerbox. Edinburgh: Canongate, r987.)

bdrariru pdttr. ry4o. Ed. Bjorn Sigfrissor. if ro: L4Z-47. (No English
translation.)
I>6rdar saga hredu. 1g5g. Ed. J6hannes Halld6rsson. iF ,4: 163-25o.
(Trans. John Coles. "The Story of Thorda Hreda (the Terror)." In

London: Murray, 1882. ry3-2o4.)


lg5o. Ed. J6n J6hannesso.r. iF rr: 3-rg. (Trans.
Gwyn Jones. Four Icelandic Sagas. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
Summer Trauelling in lceland,.

Porsteiru saga hatta.

r935. 6Z-lZ.)

Porsteins saga Sidu-Hallssonar. rg5o.J6n J6hannesson. iF , r: z99-326.


(Trans. George Webbe Dasent. Icelandic Sagas and Other Historical
Documents Relating to the Settlements and Descents of the Northmen on

the British /s/es. Rolls Series 88. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode,

r887-94.

III

366-68.)

borsteiru pd,ttr stangarhgggs. rg5o. Ed. J6n J6hannesso.r.

iF rr: 67-79.

(Trans. Hermann Piilsson. Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Stories. Harmondsworth: Penguin, r97 r. 7z-8r.)
Qlkofra pd,ttr. ry5o. Ed. J6n J6hannesso.r. iF rr: 83-94. (Trans. Hermann Pdlsson. Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Stories. Harmondsworth:
Penguin, Lg7r.8z-gg.)

B. Sturlunga saga is cited from the edition of J6n J6hannesson,

Magnris Finnbogason, and Kristj6n Eldj6rn: Sturlunga saga, z vols.


(Reykjavik: Sturlunguritg6fan, r946). The text has been translated by
.f rrli:r H. McGrew and R. George Thomas: Sturlunga saga, z vols. (New
Vrrk: 'l wayne, ry7o-74).We refer to the following individual sagas:
Oril\rrtrrruhr,r so,gu,

djra. Sturlunga saga. I 16o-zrz. (Trans. Thomas.

II

t 47 -z<>li.\
isleruli,ngt.sttgrr. Slnr/riltga,.\a,ga. I zzg-534. (Trans. McGrew. IL7-447.)
Preslssugtt, Ou|lnnmdrtr uidu. Sturlunga saga.l r r6-59. (Trans. Thomas II

93- t43.)

Sturlu saga. Slurho4{o, .\ugo,. I 6g- r r4. (Trans. McGrew. I 59- r r3.)
Porgik saga oh Huflidu. Sturlunga saga. I r2-5o. (Trans. McGrew.

27-7a.)

II

borgik

saga sharda. Sturlunga saga.

II ro4-226. (Trans.

3(J-7

McGrew.

II

z+7-+8s-)

C. Other

sagas

and translations referred to are:

Hardar saga Gri.mkeksonar. 196o. Hardar saga. Ed. Sture Hast. Bibliotheca Arnamagnaeana 23. Copenhagen: Munksgaard. (Trans. in
part Gudbrandur Vigfiisson and F. York Powell. Origines Isktndicae.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, lgob. II a6-87.)
Kristni saga. rgo5. Kristnisaga; pd,ttr Dorualds ens utdfgrla; pdur istel|s
Biskups Gizurarsonar; Hungruaka. Ed. Bernhard Kahle. Altnordische
Saga-Bibliothek rr. Halle: Niemeyer. Fb7. (Trans. Gudbrandur
Vigfiisson and F. York Powell. Origines Islandicae. Oxford: Clarendon
Press, rgo5. I 376-4o6.)
Morkinshinna. fi67. Morkinskinna: Pergamentsbog fra f|rste haludel af det
trettende aarhundrede. Ed. C. R. Unger. Oslo: B. M. Bentzen. (No English translation.)
Pd,k saga byskups. 1953. In vol. r of Byshupa sdgur. Ed. Gudni J6nsson.
Reykjavik: Islendingasagnaritg6fan. 3 vols. z5 r -83. (Trans. Gudbrandur Vigfirsson and F. York Powell. Origines Islandicae. Oxford: Clarendon Press, lgo5. I 5oz-34.)
Saga of the Jorn^ntikings. rgg5. Trans. Lee M. Hollander. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Vgkunga saga. 196g. The Saga of the Vokungs. Ed. and trans. R. G. Finch.

London: Nelson.

D. Law texts:
Ia, Ib. r852. Grdgas. Islandernes loabog ifristatens tid, udgiuet efter
det Kongelige Bibliothehs haandskrift. Ed. Vilhjilmur Finsen. Copen-

Grd,gd,s

hagen: Berlings Bogtrykkeri. Rpt. Odense: Odense University Press,

rg74. (Trans. of Grdgas Ia r-z\ by Andrew Dennis, Peter Foote,


and Richard Perkins. Laws of Early Iceland: Grdgas. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, rg8o.)

II.

r87g. Grdgd,s efter det arnamagnaanske haandshrift nr. j j4 fol.,

Stadarhdkbdk. Ed.

Vilhj6lmur Finsen. Copenhagen: Gyldendal. Rpt.

Odense: Odense University Press, r974.

III. 1883. Grd,gds. Stykher, som f,ndes i det arnamagneanske


haandshrift nr. ) 5 t fol., Skd,lholtsb6k, og en rakke andre haandshrifter. Ed.
Vilhj:ilmur Finsen. Copenhagen: Gyldendal. Rpt. Odense: Odense

University Press, tg7 4.


Gulapingslog. 1846. In vol. r of Norges gamle loue.Ed. R. Keyser and P. A.
Munch. Oslo. 5 vols. r846-95. (Trans. Laurence M. Larson. The EarYork: Columbia University Press, lg3b.)

liest Nonuegian Laws. New

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308

II.

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Secondary Works Cited and Selected Relevant Works

Acker, Paul. rg88. "Valla-Lj6ts Saga." Comparatiue Criticism to 2o7-27.


Adam of Bremen. lgl7. Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum. Ed.
Bernhard Schmeidler. Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum. Hannover
and Leipzig: Hahn. Rpt. r977.
Andersson, Theodore M. r964. The Problem of Icelnndic Saga Origins: A
Historical Suraey. Yale Germanic Studies r. New Haven and London:
Yale University Press.
rq66. "The Textual Evidence for an Oral Family Saga." Arkiu
.lbr rnrdishf,lologi

8r: r-23.

rg8o. The Legend of Brynhild. Islandica 43.lthaca: Cornell University Press.


r984. "The Thief in Beowulf." Speculum 59: 4g3-5o8.

Iifiith, A. U.

1888. Studier i)fuer kom,positionen

nd,gra islandska iittsagor.


Lund: Fr. Berlings Boktryckeri. (Pp. r-rg on Lj1saetninga saga.)
Bachmann, W. Bryant,Jr. rg85 . Four Old lcelandic Sagas and Other Tales.
Lanham, Md.: University Press of America.4Z-67.
Baetke, Walter. ry73. Kleine Schriften: Geschichte, Recht und Religion in
germanischem Schrifttum. Ed. Kurt Rudolph and Ernsr Walter. Weimar:

Hermann Bohlaus Nachfolger.


Baumgartner, M. P. 1984. "Social Control liom Below." ln Toward a
General Theory of Social Control. Ed. Donald Black. z vols. New York:
Academic Press. r: ZoZ-4b.
Beck, Heinrich. 1g87. "Kaufungen, Kaupansr und Koping(e)." (JHV.
Pt. 4: Der Handel der Karolinger- und Wihingerzeit. Ed. Klaus Dtiwel
et al. Abhand. d. Akad. d. Wiss. in Gr;t.tingen. Philol.-hist. Klasse. Series 3, no. r56. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.3bS-23.
Berger,
Alan J. ry77."A Recognition Scene in Valta-Ljdts saga." Gerff
manic
Notes 8: z-4.
tl
Ilerrrrirrr, Melissa A. r985. "The Political Sasas." Scandinaainn Studies g7:
I l lt-2-q.
llyt, ()l:rv. lry(i<y. "HilrnSytn,ga 'antl einutgi: Scandinavian Forms of the

l)rrr.l." Mulirunrul, Scrtrtiinrmtiu z: t32-48.


lkrrggrcv<', (lttiliu. r()Z(). "[)er Flandlungsaufbau in den zwei Versiorrt'rr rk.r' Ljrisvr.trrirrg:r silgil." Arhiu fdr nordisk filologi 85: 238-46.
B<rswcll,.folrlr l,:rsllrru'n. r{)tt4. "h)xpositio and Oblatio: The Abandonmerrt ol'(llriklrt'rr :rrr<l the Ancient and Medieval Family." American
Historicu,l lletieu 8r;: r o-.1,.4,.
Bourdieu, Pierre. rty(i6. "'l'he Sentiment of Honor in Kabyle Society."

ln Honour and Shune. E.l.J. G. Peristiany. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. rgl-241.

Bibliography

3og

Brown, Peter. ry7b. "Society and the Supernatural: A Medieval


Change." Dadalus r04: r33-5r.
Brown, Ursula. lg5z. "Introduction." In Porgik saga oh Hafl.ida. Ed.
Ursula Brown. London: Oxford University Press.
Byock, Jesse L. rg8z. Feud in the Icelandic Saga. Berkeley: University of
California

Press.

Ciklamini, Marlene. 1963. "The Old Icelandic Duel." Scandinauian Stud-

g5: 17b-94.
r966. "The Concept of Honor in Valln-Lj6ts
glish and Germanic Philology 65: 3o3- 17.
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saga." Journal of En-

Cleasby, Richard, and Gudbrand Vigfusson. r957. An Icelandic-English


Dictionary. zd ed. Oxford: Clarendon.
Clover, Carol J. rg8z. The Medieaal Saga. Ithaca: Cornell University

Press.

r984. "Icelandic Family Sagas." ln Dictionary of the Middle Ages.


Ed. Joseph Strayer. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 4: 612- rg.
rg86a. "Hildigunnr's Lament." In Structure and Meaning in
Old Norse Literatuie: New Approaches to Textual Analysis and Literary
Criticism. Ed. John Lindow, Lars Lonnroth, and Gerd Wolfgang
Weber. Odense: Odense University Press. r4r-83.

rg86b. "The Long Prose Form." Arkiu fdr nordisk filologi ror:

ro-39.

rg86c. "Maiden Warriors and Other Sons." Journal of English


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r988. "The Politics of Scarcity: Notes on the Sex Ratio in Early


Scandinavia." Scandinaaian Studies 6o: z r -6o.
Clover, Carol-|., andJohn Lindow, eds. r985. OldNorse-Icelandic Literature: A Critical Guide.Islandica 45. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
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Law." Journal of Interdisctplinary History 4: b7 r -gr.
Danielsson,
Tommy. 1986. Om den islandska sliiktsagans uppbyggnad.
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Skrifter
utgivna
av Litteraturvetenskapliga Institutionen vid Uppsala
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\ Universitet zz. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell. (Pp. 24-27 on Lj6saetninga saga.)

Dennis, Andrew, Peter Foote, and Richard Perkins. rg8o. Laus of Early
Iceland: Grdgd,s. University of Manitoba Icelandic Studies 3. Winni-

peg: University of Manitoba Press.


Dresch, Paul. rg8g. Tribes, Goaernment, and History in Yemen. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Duby, Georges. ry7b. "The'Youth'in Twelfth-Century Aristocratic Society." Lordshtp and Community in Medieaal Europe. Ed. and trans.
Frederic L. Cheyette. Huntinpiton, N.Y.: Robert E. Krieger. r98-zot;.

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Sagazeit (dargestellt nach altnordischen Quellen)." UHV. Pt. t: Methodische Grundlagen und Darstellungen zum Handel in uorgeschichtlicher
Zeit und in der Antike. Ed. Klaus Di.iwel et al. Abhand. d. Akad. d.
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Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. rog-26.
rg8Z. "Der Fernhandel von der Wikingerzeit bis in das r z. Jahr-

hundert in Nordeuropa nach altnordischen Quellen." UHV. Pt. 4:


Der Handel der Karolinger- und, Wikingerzeit. Ed. Klaus Dtiwel et al.
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no. r66. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.266-3r2.
Iilrlj:irn, Kristj6n. r96r. "Two Medieval Farm Sites in Iceland and Some
Renrarks on Tephrochronology." The FourthViking Conference. r95r.
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Ilrichsen, Adolfine. lglg. "LJntersuchungen zur Li6svetninga Saga."
Diss. Berlin.

Falk, Hjalmar. tgr4. Altnordische Wffinkunde. Videnskapsselskapets


skrifter, II. Hist.-filos. klasse. Nr. 6. Oslo:.facob Dybwad.
Foote, Peter. ry77a."Some Lines in Lggrittupd,ttr." ln Sjdttu ritgerdir
helgadar Jakobi Benediktssyni. Ed. Einar G. P6tursson and J6nas Kristjinsson. z vols. Reykjavik: Stofnun Arna Magnrissonar. r: r98-2o7.
rg77b. "Frrelahald 6 islandi: Heimildakonnun ok athugasemdir." Saga rbi 4r-74.
Foote, Peter, and David M. Wilson. rg7o. The Viking Achieaement. London: Sidgwick and Jackson.
Frank, Roberta. ry7;."Marriage in Twelfth and Thirteenth Century
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Gade, Kari Ellen. 1986. "Homosexuality and Rape of Males in Old
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Gehl, Walther. rg3g. Der germanische Schichsakglaube. Berlin: Junker &
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()r:lsirruer, Bruce E. r98r. Icelandic Enterprise: Commerce and Economry in


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( lroprlrt'r', Stef anie. 1987. "Die pattir der Flateyjarb6k: Untersuchungen
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Fornrit:rl(:l:rg.
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rg85. Culture and History in Medieaal lceland. Oxford: Clarendon


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Heinemann, Fredrik J. ,g7q. Hrafnhek saga Freysgoda and Type-Scene


Analysis." Scandinauian Studies 46: roz- rg.
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Heusler, Andreas. rgr t. Das Strafrecht der Iskindersagas. Leipzig:


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rgr3. Die Anftinge der islandischen Saga. Abhand. d. Konigl.
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rg8zb. "Nytt lys over Gisla saga Sfirssonar." cripla 5: 265-79.
\Jansson, Sven B. F. ,g44. Sagorna om Vinland. Stockholm Studies in
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J6n. ry74. A History of the old lcelandic

commonuealth.

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Jones, Gwyn. r 93 2. "Some Characteristics of the lcelan dic' H 6lmganga-"'
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Kersbergen, Anna Cornelia. rgz7. Litteraire Motieuen in de Njd,la. Rotterdam: Nrjgh & van Ditmar.
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Kolbeinsson, Gudni, and J6nas Kristj6nsson. rg7g. "Gerdir Gislasogu."

Gripla3: rz8-62.
Kreutzer, Gert. rg87. Kindheit und Jugend in der altnordischen Literatur. Teil I: Schwangerschaft, Geburt und friiheste Kindheit. Mtinster:
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iF g. Reykjavik: Hi6 islenzka


Fornritafdlag.
Liest6l, Knut. rg3o. The Origin of the Icelandic Family Sagas. Trans. A. G.
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Lonnr<rth, Lars. lg7o. "Rhetorical Persuasion in the Sagas." Scandinauian Studies 42: Lb7-Bg.
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l,ouis-Jensen, Jonna.

ry77.

Kongesagastudier: Kompilationen Hulda-

H rokkinshinna. Copenhagen : Reitzel.


Magerfiy, Hallvard. 1956. Sertekstproblemet

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rgb7. Studiar i Bandamanna saga. Bibliotheca Arnamagnrcana


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'l'lu, (Jnmanly Man: Concepts of Sexual Defamation in Northern
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'l'r':rrrs..foirn
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af hinu islenzka b6kmenntaf6lagi, I. Ghima- og Lj6svetningasaga.
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rg37-3g. "LJm Islendingasogur: Kaflar rir h6sk6lafyrirlestrum." Ed. Sigftis Blondal and Einar Ol. Sveinsson. Safn til sdgu Islands ogtslenzhrab1kmennta. Vol. VI, part 3. Reykjavik: Rikisprentsmidjan Gutenberg. S66-gS.
P6lsson, Hermann. 1966. Sidfredi HraJnhek sdgu. Reykjavik: Heimskringla.

rg7l.

Arts and Ethics in Hrafnkel's Saga. Copenhagen: Munks-

gaard.

Ranisch, Wilhelm, and W.

H. Vogt. 1964. Filnf

Geschichten

atu

dern

\\

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Diederichs.
Schach, Paul. 1978. "Character Creation and Transformation in the
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Stephen

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Niemeyer.
Sigf'fisson, Bjorn. ry27. Um Lj1suetninga sdgu. Studia Islandica 3.
Reykjavik: Isafoldarprentsmidja H.F.
rg4o. Ljdsaetninga saga.IF ro. Reykjavik: Hi6 Islenzka Fornritaf6lag.
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+8-zr.

Storm, Gustav. r888. Islandshe annalerindtil r578. Oslo: Grlndal & SOns
Bogtrykkeri.
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rgZ8. "The Runes in B6sa saga ok Herrauds." Scandinauian Studies 5o:5o-b6.
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Ethic.s uruJ

Morak in Icelandic

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S:rllr lil s(igrr Isl:rnrls og islenzkra lxlkmenta ad fornu og n!'ju z.
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Index
*

Names

of minor characters are indexed only where they appear in Lj1suetninga


or Valla-Ljdts saga (V.L.).For additional information on characters in

saga (Ljbs.)

these sagas, see Appendixes, pp. z89-3oo. For names of characters or events in
other sagas, the reader should consult the title of individual sagas.

Abridgment thesis, 66, 7o

Baegisa, r63, r64

Adjudication, 2Z- 27 passim

Bandamanna saga, 65, 66,


Bard, 238

Aerloek, r3r
Affines,

seu

Marriage

Akrakarl, see Thorgils


Akrar, 246
Akreyr, r 54
Alf (brother of Skeggi the Strong),
qqa

Alfdis (daughter of Kodran), r94,


r97

Allthing, 42, rb6, r8z (n. ro6), r87,


24o, 27o.

See

ako Things

Alpta{ord, r53
Arbitration, g, 23-go passim, 45

Ari Thorgilsson,
Arnarstead,

see

Thorgilsson, Ari

zrz

Arnor Cronenose, 234


Arnor Thorgrimsson, r 2t-Zb possim
Arnstein at Aerloek, r 3l -35 passirn
Arrogance (o/si), ro6
As, zz3
Asmund at Kviabekk, 272, 272
Assassins, in the sagas, r88 (n. r r7)
Assemblies (lei6ir), autumn, r27
(n. r6). See ako Things
Astronomical learning, r7z (n.89)
Atli the Strong, t62,2r2,2r2,2r4
Avoidance, 22,24

Biflth, A. U., 78,79,94,

gb

9r, g2

Bardardale, r89, 2to, 2b4


Berman, Melissa, 96
Bersi Hallason, 26r ,266-72 passim,
276, 277, 283
Bilzarpass, z r 6
Bishops'sagas, g2
Bjarnar saga Httdekrhoppo, 164 @.73),
165 (n. 76), r7z

(n.go), z3r (n. rgr),

268 (n. z4z), 273 (n. zb r), 272-74


(n. z5z)
Bjarni Brodd-Helgason, r53,. r66, rO r
Bjorn Magnrisson Olsen, see Olsen, B. M.
Bjorn Sigfiisson, see Sigfiisson, Bjdrn
Bjorn Thorgrimsson, 262, 274-8b
passim

Bleiksmyrardale, r54
Blood-brotherhood (f6stbrddir), zr. See
a/so Friendship
Blood feud, see Feuds
Blood vengeance, sae Vengeance
Bodvar Sigurdarson, 256, 257, z6o,

272-78 passim,283
Bolla pdttr,85
Borgarfiord, zz3
Borggreve, Cecilia, 66, 7o
B6sa saga, t 5o (n. 5 t )
Brand Gunnsteinsson, 2o3- tx,
2tg, 228, zgt, 2Zg, 242, 242

prt.ssitrt,

Index

320
Brands pdttr graa, 244 (n.

zrz)

Brand Thorkelsson (Vodu-Brand),

r44-b4

passim,

t6z

Brettingsstead, z39

Broddi (son of Sorli), r 38


Bruni at Gnupufell, r63, r94, l95,
r97

dangers of , z6; and mock courts,

r5o (n.5r); and court ofconfiscation, r76 (..gg); and case summation, z8z (n. z6z). See ako Grdgds;
specific terms

Dales, zz7

Casting of lots, 233 (n. r94)


Characters in I j6s. and V.L., BS-g7
Chieftains (godar): duties of, 6, 8-9,
rqr, (n. r.lr); and chieftain/thing-

tl-g;

and transfer
ol'r:hie Itaincy, ro- r r; as arbitranrarr bon<I,

t<rrs, 28; vs. leaders (hgfdingi),

t2r-22 (n.g); and chieftaincy

co(n. z3); and

ownership, r3r-82
relations with other householders, r63 6.72); and maintaining
power, 284 (n. 265)
Children, in the sagas, r3-r4, r85
(n. r ro)
Christianity, in lceland , b, I r, 84,
r r 5, z6o-6 r (n. zz7)
Chronology of the sagas, 4-b, 74-78.
See ako Dating of the sagas
Church, the, see Christianity
Ciklamini, Marlene, r r5
Classes, social: and upward mobility,
ro-rl; and gift-exchange, b4-bb
Clontarf, Battle of ,2oz
Clothing, as motif for identificarion,
t4r-42 (n.S8)
Clover, Carol, 94
Cnut the Great, King,244
Ooercion, sue Violence
( )<rnrpensation, see under Dispute
prrrt:cssing
( irrrrrlxrsition

<>f' I

iorr, I l4

j6s. and V.L., 97-gB


- r rr, r 6o (n. 6q,). See

a/.ro l'<'lrr crrt:rk<.t s


wr':rk vs. sltl)ng, (X)- l()l;
trt<xlcurlc vs. itrrrrrorlt't'itl(', t()l -5
Conroy, l'!irtri<'i:r, (i.;

(ilrrlrrcl:

"Contenrlx)r'lry"

sil,.iirs, .l

Contempt ol <rlu'l , r.14 (rr. zfl),

r116

(n.s8)

Contracts, 8
Co-residence, 8, 2o4 (n. r43).

See

Fosterage

Courts: general description o[', 7;

ako

Dating of the sagas, 4, b, 6,28-8S.


See also Chronology of the sagas
Death, rites of, zor (n. r39)
Debt-slavery,

see

16z,

t7r-74

passim,l7A-A7 passim,

Slavery

Deception, rr3-r4, r79 (n. roz)


Defamation, 165-66 (n.76), r8z
(n. ro6). See akonid; Slander
Dispute processing: and sociohistorical information, xii, 3, 6; at
things, 7; and compensation payments, g, r47 @.47), r68 (n.82),
zo8 (n. r47); feud as, 22-3r;
strategies of,30-3r, r68 (n.82);
violence as preferred mode of ,32;
transformations in, Zz, 24, 27, 4r,
4z; and containment of violence,
and justification of killing,
rzg (n. rg); and sanctions, z8z-83

40-4t;

(n. 263)

District thing, ser Things


Draflastead,2o4, zt2
Dream-Finni, see Finni Thorgeirsson
Dropl.augarsona saga,89, go, r3z
(n. z3), r38 (n. zJ), t84 (n. r ro),
257 (n. zr8)
Duel (h6lmganga), r9z-83 (n. ro7),
z69 (n.245)
saga,66, r ro, zor (n. r3g), zz r
(n. r7z)
Eid at As, zz3
Eilif at Gnupufell, r6c,, r94-97
Egils

passim

Einar (son of Sorli), r38


Einar Arnorsson, 2oZ, 2r r, 2r7, z1g,
24r
Einar at Krossavik, r49
Einar Eyjolfsson: general references

in Lj6s., r36, r3J, z2o-26

passim;

and Ofeigs visit to Gudmund,


rZg-44 passim; and marriage of his
daughter to Thorkel Geitisson,
r57-6o passim; and conflict between
Gudmund and Thorir Helgason,

32r

Feasts, and honor, 6o

death, 2oo, 20l; general references

Fell, r98
Fell-Oddi,

in V.L., z6z

Fetches

248-gz passim; and Gudmund's


Einar Jarn-Skeggjason, 2tg, 2Zg, z4r
Einar Konalsson, t68, t 78, r93,246
Eirih's saga raudct,65, 66, tgg (n. tq5)

Dag, zzg

Brynjuridge, r92

( lorr< ili:rt

Index

Eldjarn Arnorsson, 234


Episodic stories (pettir), 66, 7z-79
Erichsen, Adolfine, 66, 7z

Erlendsson, -16n,64
Ethnic identity, Icelandic, 236 (n. t97)
Exchange, modes of, 5t -52. See ako
Gift-exchange

Eyja{ord, r2(i, t36, r39, t4t, r46,


r69, r87, r88, 2oo, 2r4,22o,22r,
222,239,246,27o,274
Eyja{ord River, r 7z
Eyjolf Gudmundarson: personality
of, ro4-5; and Fridgerd's case,
2o2- ro passim; and Battle of Kakalahill, 2||-2t pa.ssim; and case
against Thorvard Hoskuldsson,

222-32 passim; and killing of


Thorarin Hoskuldsson, 2Zg- 44
passim

Eyjolf Thorsteins son, zZ b- 78 passim


Eyjolf Valgerdarson, 256, z59, z6o
Eyjolf Vidarsson, r22, L2Z
Eyrbyggla saga, 4,86, 88, 89, r z4 (n. g),
r88 (n. r r7), rqg (n. r35), zor
(n. rgg), zr r (n. r56), 236 (n. tg7)

Eyrir, 243

r8

(fylgjur), zor (n. r38)

Feuds: and socio-historical infrrrnration, xi, 3; fear of, 8; centrality to

sagas of, 2z-zg; and class differences, z5; legal phases of, z6; and
Fridgerd's case, 32; as ideology, 4o;
as system of social control, 46-47;

and gift-exchange, bZ. See a/so Dispute processing


Finnbogasaga, rz7 @. t7),zt z (n. r58)
Finnbogi the Strong, z r z

Finni in Fnjoskadale, 2Zg,240


Finni Thorgeirsson (Dream-Finni),
r27-Zt passim, r98, 2oo, 2or
Fjosatongue, rZ4
Flatisledale, 2r2, 22o, 2Zg
Flj1tsdala saga, gr

Fnjoskadale,

2tt,2t7

l4l, r46, r b4,2o2,2o7,

Fornastead, 2og, zo4, z16, zzz, 233


Forni at Hagi, rz r, r2Z, r24
Fornication suits, 33, 35, zo8 (n. r+g).
See ako Paternity suits

saga,2r, 86, rgg (n. tgb),


272-74 (nn. z5r-52)
Fosterage, 8, t4, r8, r8o (n. ro3)

F1stbrcedra

Fraternal relations, see Kinship


Fridgerd (daughter of Isolf), Z2-27,

2o4-ro

passim

Friendship,8, 2r *22, L7Z (n.gg)

Eyr Woods, rq6


Fereyinga saga, 96
Fagrshinna, 235 (n. r 96)
Family honor, r ro- r?,. See ako
Honor; Value system
Family sagas: and Islenzk Fornrit, vii;

of Icelandic school of, x; gendispute proeral.description of,


-3;
cessing in, 2gi and honor, 55;
dating of ,7g; and political sagas,
96; ethics in, 98; and lesser outlawry, 186 (n. r rz)
Famine, and food exchange, 5r
Fangaridge, rq,7
Farmers, see Households
Farmsteads, structures of, r t -tz. See
view

o/so Households
Father/son relations,

see

Kinship

Games, in the sagas,


Gasir, z ro

r5r

(n.

q,z)

Geirlaug (wife of Thorir Helgason),

r6z-66

passim

Gellir Thorkelsson, 222, 227


sim, z4t, z4z
Genealogies, rb, 296-goo.
Landndmab6k

-Zr

pas-

See ako

Geography of Iceland, 4-b, rr,2r4


(n. r6o), zr5-r6 (n. r6z)
Germanization of the sagas, viii
Gift-exchange, xi, 4, b2-bb, r77
(n. ror)
Gisla saga,2r, 65, 66, q7 (n. ror),
rqr (n. rz3), r93 (n. rz7), z6q
(n.z++)
G{sk pdur Illugasonar, 79, 226 (n. r r;7)
Gizur, Bishop, 244

322

Index

Gnupar, rzz
Gnupufell, r63, r94, rg7,2bg
Gnupufell River, z6o
godar, see Chieftains

Goddales, r30, zlo, 23o


Grdgds (early Icelandic laws): and
social classes, g; and verlgeance,
4Z-+6; and legal expertise, rz6
(n. rS); and co-owncrship of chieftaincy, l..l l -.,t2 (n. z.r); and t.ransport regulirlions, r46 (n.43); and
.jurisrlictiorr ol'things, t 66 (n. 66);
an<l rnarria!{c, r1ig (n.64); and
rlt'l:rrrr:rlion, r66 (n. 76); and outlawry, r7r, (n. 98); and lesser outlawry, rtt6 (n. r rz); and duties of
<:hicfiains, r95 (n. r3r); and pa-

ternity suits, zo8 (nn. r48-49);


and covering ofcorpses, 258-59
(n. z:z); and killing cases, 2bg
(n. zz3); and permission to settle,
263 (n. 233); and partition of land,
264 (n. 236), 265 @. zg7); and attempted murder, z8o (n. z5g)

Grenjad (father of Thorgeir Axstaff),

zr8
Grettir Asmundarson, t2 I
sa9a,44,46,90, rzr, 146
(n.42), r64 (n. 73), r88 (n. r r7),
r99 (n. r35)

Grettis

Grim's Isle, zo4, z8r


Grgnbech, Vilhelm, 98

Grund, 267

Grytubakki, zr7
Guardianship, zoz (n. r4z)
G'uardian spirits, zor (n. r38)
( )udbrandur Vigfiisson, see
Vigflsson, Gudbrandur
( lrr<lrrrrrrrrl Oddason, 244, 24b
( irr<lrrrrur<l the Powerf'ul: personality
,r1,77, ttrz-4, ro6-J, z6r (n. zz8);
;rs plorrrilrt'nt Iigure in sagas, 86tyr; :rrrrl rrrr:rlysis ol'Ofeig's visit,
l(x), lx,t'lr':ry:rl irr s;rgas of, r r7- r8;
and Solrrrrrrr<l Vi<llrrsson's case,
r25-33 fxt"ssirtt:. rrrr<l .Sorli BroddHelgi, r3l1-38 ltu.tsinr; and Ofeig's

visit, r39-44 Nxr"tsim; urr<l reconciliation with Thorkel ()citisson, r5z6r passiru; and prophetic talent, r58
(tt.68), 266 (n. z4r); and charges
of homosexuality, r6z-68 passim;

Index
and vengeance against Thorir
Helgason, r 69-86 passim, 2 46- gz

passim; and vengeance against


Thorkel Hake, r87-g8 passim, z5g,

2b4; dream and death

of, rg8-zoz

with Halli
Sigurdarson, 266, z6o, 26r, 262,
266, 267; and dealings with Ljot
Ljotolfsson, z69-7 z passim, 272 -8b

passim; and relations

passim

Gudmundar saga

djra,83, ,97 (.r. ,33),

zog (n. r5o)

Gudrid (wife of Thorgeir the Chieftain), r94


Gudrun (housekeeper at Baegisa),

r6q,

164

Gudrun (wife of Skegg-Broddt), zz3,


224

Gudrun (daughter of Thorkel Hake),

rgt,2t7

Gulapingsldg, t7g (n. gz)


Gunnars pdur bidrandabana, go, 9r,

t5z (n.53)

Gunnlnugs saga ormstungu,

77,84, 85,

r8z (n. ro7)


Gunnstein Thordarson, 2oZ,
219, 222
Gyrd Sigvaldason, 2rr

17,

Harek (a Norwegian), t 47, r48


Harek at As, 221,224, 24c,, 244, 24b
Hastrup, Kirsten, xi
Havard (a Norwegian), 277
Hdnardar saga Islrrdings, {9, 22r
(n. rJz), z69 (n.244)
Hegranes thing, 222-22 @. 176), z4z
Heidantiga saga,

Hagi, r 2t, t29


Halfdanartongue, r89, rgo, 253
Hall Otryggsson, 2ry-24 passim,

zz8-43 passim
Halldor (brother of Thorvard
Hoskuldsson), ez6

Halldor Gudmundarson, lgZ, 2o2,


zr8
Halldora (daughter of Einar Eyjolfsson), zz3
Halld,6rs pdttr

I,236 (n. r97)

Halli Sigurdarson (Roughneck-Halli),


r r 5- r 6, 256-7o passim
Hallvard Arnorsson, r 23
Hals, zo7, 22o,224
Halsby, 276
Harald Sigurdarson, King, 236, 237,
238, z4z,243
Haralds saga, zyb (n. 196)
Hardar saga, r88 (n. r r7)

Hardy, Thomas, rgg (n. r34)

passim,

t88

r94
Hella, 276

householderS,

9- ro;

ancl hotrsc-

holder relations with chieliains, r r,


r63 (n.72); composition of', tz-t4;
functions of , 17; and provisions,
br-b2; and householder liability,
r5z (n. 53). See akoLegal residencc
Hrafnagil, 2oZ, 2tr
Hrafnhek saga,4b, t47 @.47), z69

(n.244), z7S 6.253), z8o (n. 258)


Hrafn Thorkelsson, 2lo, 2 15, 2 16,
22o-2b possim, z3z
hreppr (ancient communal unit), r4o
(n. 36), 263 (n. 233)

Hrolf (son of Helgi the Lean), r39,

Hjalli, z78
Hjalti Eiriksson, r94
Hlenni the Wise, rg4-97 passim, zoz,

2r4

Hlid, r3n, z3z


Hansa-Pdris saga, 67

Households: and rights anrl <ltrtics of

Hris Isle, L7o,2ZZ,2Z4

Hellugnupspass, r89, rgz, 254


Herdis (daughter of Halldor Gudmundarson), z r8
Herdis (mother of Thorlaug), r6z
Hermund lllugason, 278
Hestaford, z r 4
Heusler, Andreas, viii, 23, 2b, 94
Historical context, of saga literature,
xi, xii

2O3,

Hdhonar saga I uarssonar, 8c, 82, z 4z


(n. z ro)

86-92

(n. r r8), rgq (n. r35), zr7 (n. r66),


zz3 (n. ry7), 2zb (n. r8 t), zz6
(n. r84)
HeiushringLa, Jrr, tlo, z4z (n. zto)
Hel$i Arnsteirrsson, r69. r 70,r7Z
Helgi the Lean, r6, r39, r6z, 163,

323

-68,

7t

, rz4

(.,.9), r3z (n. 24), r4b 6.+z),

r97 (n. r*,a,), zz7 (n. r87), 272-74

(n. z5z)

Hofdi, 2r4, 2r7


hpfding (leader), r z r -zz (n. 3)
Hofmann, Dietrich, Bz
Hofsa, 274
Honor: maintenance of, 3; women as
guardians of, zo; accounts kept of,
4o; and peacemakers,42; and vengeance, 48; general treatment of,
U5-62; Gudmund's preoccupation
with, ro6-7; competing concepts
of, r r5- r7
Hordaridge, 268
Horgardale, t6z, 164, r73,246
Horsefights, r64 (n.ZS)
Hoskuld Thorgeirsson, tz7-35 passim, rg3, rg4
Hoskuld Thorvardsson, zog-zz pas-

sim,228,2Zr,2Zq,24Z

r94

Hrolf (farmer above Klaufabrekka),


264

Hrolf Sigurdarson (Hrolf Jaw), 2566r passim, 27r,27b, z8z-85 passim


Hrolf Thorkelsson, 24c, 24r
Husavik, r2Z, r7b,247
Icelandic school, of scholarship, viii,
ix, x, xii
Illugastead, r34

Ingjald (a merchant),246, z4B


Ingiald Hrolfsson at Gnupufell, r94,
256, zgg, z6z
Inheritance, zoz (n. r4z)
Insults, see Defamation

lnterpolation Lheory, 7 z
lsleif Gizurarson, 2og
istendingabi& (Ari Thorgilsson), 5,
. 227 (n. t87), z7 r (n. z4g)
Islendinga saga,68,

y7 6.ror),

U6,

r97

(n. t3B), zo8 (n. t47),29r (n. rgr),


, 233 (n. tg4)
Islendinga pettir,236 (n. r97)
Islenzk Fornrit, vii, viii, ix, 63, 6b, 97
Isolf (father of Fridgerd), zo4-7
passim

Jakobsen, Alfred, 66
Jansson, Sven B. F., 66

Jarl Hakon lvarsson, 242


Jarl Hakon Sigurdarson, r25
Jarn-Skeggi, 236, 227, ry8
Jokul River, r54
J6msutkinga saga, gG
J6nsb6k, 64

J6nsson, Finnur, viii

Jorun (daughter of Einar Eyjolfsson),

r57-6r

passim

Judicial institutions, 6-q. See also


Chieftains; Courts; Things
Jury panel (bilahuidr), r.4r (n. zz)
Kakalahill, zr7; Ilattlc o{', zrz (n. r58)

Kaldakinn, rq8
Kalf the (llrristirrrr, 232-37 passim
Karl thc Rc<|, zrr(), z(iti
Karrlrarrg, 2<t7, 2rr4, z7<t (rt.247)
Kcl<l;r, zzrl
Kt'til (pri<'st o['Lau[ass), zog
Kt'til ut Frrjoskadale, z39

Kctil'l'horsteinsson (bishop), 244,


24lt

Kirrgs' sagas, 7g-8o, gz,96, z4z


(n. z ro)
Kinship: and importance of genealogies, 3-4; social significance of, 8;
bonds of, t4-rg; and fraternal relations, 16, g5, l l r, l rz; and fa-

ther/son relations, r6, rro-rr;


tensions of, r ro- r 3; and care of
dependents, 233 (n. rg3)

Kjol, 243
Klaufabrekka, 263, 264
Kodran Gudmundarson, bo-b r, 2o2,

2o3, 214-22 passim, 2Zr,2gg


Kolbeinsson, Gudni,66
Kormdhs saga, tgg (n. r3S)
Kristjiinsson, Jtinas, 64, 66,85, 97
Krtstni saga, 84, zog (n. r q, r )

Kroksdale, r54
Krossavik, r49, r5o, r6r
Kvi:rbckk, z7z
l ,;urtl:urtol
I

2rr5

ttttrlttitrtttltih, l\4, tt(i, ryz, r <;4 (n. r zq),


t ryr, (rr. r,;o), ': r r (rr. r rr(i), zz3
(tr. ,r )]), .:'jr, (rr. r r1(i), 'r(iz (rr. zrlo),
z(i,1

Index

Index

324

(rr.:l.jr)

Laulirss, zor;

r(i::, r(i7, r ll7. ..r,1 tl, zr,o


Law codcs, utr<l srx io-lrislorirlrl trlt<liLaugal;rrr<1,

tions, 6. Stc tt,lxt Onlgrls


Law enforcenrcnl, ti
Law Rock, t8l, ltl..1, rtl,1
Laws, early Icelandi<., sre Origris
Lawspeaker, duties o{', 7
Lawsuits: as mode of dispute process-

ing, z5; dangers of, z6-27; and


relation to arbitration, 2g; initiating procedure of, r z4 @.8), r5z
(..S9); and transfer ofcase, r5z53 (n. b4), r7o (n. 86)
Laxdala saga: and householders, r l;
and Gudmund, 86, 88; characters
in common with Ljbs., go, gz; and
pdttr theory, g5; and intimidation
tactics, r3z (n. z4); and identification by clothing, r4z (n.38); and
oaths, r79 (n. roz); and battlegrounds, z r4 (n. r6o); and Ulf the
Marshall, 235 (n. r96); and description of Ljot Ljotolfsson, 263
(n.zZ4; and fighting strategy, z69
(n.z++)
Legal guardian (lggrddandi), r58 (n. 6z)
Legal residence (lggheimili),

(n.5o), r55-56 (".S6).

See

49-50
ako

Households

Legendary sagas, 98

Leid, r zg

Liest6l, Knut, To
Ljosavatn, l2l, lz6, r4r, r98
Ljosavatnspass, 163, r89, 254
Ljfsuetninga saga: main concerns of,
zg; and importance of community
opinion, b5i and social leveling, 6r;
and honor, 6z; and portrayal of
Gudmund, 62,72,86, 88, 89; textual problems of, 63-74; chronology of , 75-78; dating of, 7884, zrq (.,. rSg); characters in,
8S-g3; Gudmund-Einar relationship, 8q-go; and pd,ttr theory, gg;
composition of, 97-98

Liosvetnings, factions within, 35


l.josvetnings vs. Modrvellings, Z7 -49,

-6, rog- ro
I,jot I,jotolfsson (Valla-Ljot): portrayal of, r r6-r7; introduction
roE

z6z,263; and dealings with


Halli Sigurdarson, 264-69 passim;
and dealings with HrolfJaw, z7o,
<tf ,

z7t;

and, vengeance against

Louis-Jensen, .|onna, 7q
"Lumping it," as mode of dispute
processrng, 23,24

Lundarbrekka, z ro,22Z
Mager@y, Hallvard, 65, 66, 70, 72,

ll2

Magnus Haraldsson, 243


Mar, zg3, zg4
Marketplaces, 27o (n.z+7).

See

ako

Trade
Marriage, 4, 8, r8-zo, r59-6o (".6+)
Maurer, Konrad, viii
Mediation, as mode of dispute processing, z3

Merchants, Norwegian , see Trade


Meulengracht Sgrensen, Preben, xi
Miklaby, zzO

Modruvellir, r36-42 passim, t6g,


r70, r78, r89, zoo-zo6 passim,
299,244, z5t,256, z6o, z6r, 266,
277

Leifsson, Gunnlaugr, 79
Lesser outlawry, sae Outlawry

l)b-97,

Ljotolf the Chieftain, z6z


Lonnroth, Lars, 94, 98

Bodvar

Sigurdarson, 27 2 - 78 passirn; and,


meeting with Gudmund, z79, z8o,
z8r; and arbitration of cases at the
Allthing, z8e, 283, 285

Modrvellin gs, see Ljosvetnings vs.


Modrvellings
Morkinskinna, 8o, 235 (n. r 96), z4z
(n. z ro)

Myr, r45, 146


Myvatn, r54, zr8
Names: patterns of, 4; proper, Zo7r, 93; place, 7r
Narfi Asbrandsson, 272-7g passim

Naust, rgg
Negotiation, as mode of dispute processlng, 23,24
Nes, z rg
nid, tig-66 (.,.26), r73 (n. gz). See
also Defamation
Njd,k saga: and role of women, zo;
and arbitration, 2g; and comparative dating, 77, Z8; and Gudmund,
87,88, 89, r63 (n.Zo); and characters in common with Lj6s.,90, 9r,
93, r3o (n. zr); and pdttr theory,
94, gb; and leader vs. chieftain, r zz
(n.g); and lawspeaker's power, rz6
(n. ,5); and jury panels, r3r (n. zz);
and intimidation tactics, rg2 (n.24);
and legal process, r33 (n.27); and
household size, r35 (n. 3r); and de-

325

corum of'visitors, r43 (n.4o); and


compensation payment, r47 @.47),
z3r (n. rgr); and lrorsefights, r64
(n.79); and seating arrangements,
r64 (n. 74); and eyesight, r7z
(n. go); and transfer of prope rty,
47 @. ror); and oratory, rtlz
(n. ro6); and children, r85 (n. r ro);
and the Svinfellings, r87 (n. r r6);
and assassins, r88 (n. r r7); and deception, r88 (n. r r8); and shaming
rituals, rgo (n. rzr); and advance
ofattackers, r92 (n. rz4); and duties of chieftains, r 95 (n. r 3 r );
and house-burning, r97 (n. r33);
and death rites, zor (n. r39); and
source of gossip about Gudmund,
zro (n. rq,3); and battlegrounds,
zr4 (n. 16o)
Nordal, Sigurdur, 66

Nordrardale, zz5
Oaths, r79 (n. roz)

Odd (a shepherd), 248


Oddeyr, r64
Oddi Grimsson. 2r4- rg passim. zgt,
244, 245

Oddi Thorgeirsson at Myvatn, z r8


Ofeig Jarngerdarson: analysis of visit
to Gudmund, roo; and Solmund
Vidarsson's case, l2t, r22, t2Z,

r29-24

passim; and visit to Gud-

mund. rZg-44 passim: as peacemaker in Vodu-Brand's case, r r, r 6r passim; and the seat of honor,

r98-99
o/si (arrogance), ro6

Oikotypes, 93
Olaf Haraldsson, King, zq,z

Olafsfjord, z7z
Oldfs saga helga,66, Bg, r37 (n. 33)
Qlhofra hdur, 87 -93 passim

Olsen, B. M., viii, 78-79, 85, 9z


Olvir at Reykir, l2l, r 22, r2Z
Onund (father of Ofeig Jarngerdar-

son), r39

Oratory, r8z (n. ro6).

Saa a/so

Verbal

competitions
Ordeals: and socio-historical in[irrrn:r'
tion, 4; description of, 3q,-q(i; vs.
the duel, r83 (n. ro7); and l)atcr'nity suits, zo8 (n. r4B), zory (n. r r,r)

Index

326

Index

tzr, r24

Orkney, r87

Reykjahlid,

Orkneyinga saga, 96
Ospak, 235

Reykjapass,254

Osvifr, 255-38 passim


Other, the, r7, 5o
Otrygg at OzIa, 2r |, zr7, 2rB, z1r
Outlawry, 26,27, z8,4lt, r86 (n. r re),

zz8-zg (n.

rtt<;)

Oxara, t63, rqo, rqtl

Oxarfiorul, r..q,r
Oxar River, r tiz
Oxar Rivcr' (iulch, zri4
()x<lukrlrt:uth, zz5

()zla,

zrl

lermann, q8
I':rrtitions, sre Property
I':rternity suits, 93, 35, 86, zo8 (nn.
t48-49), zog (n. t5z). See ako Fornication suits
Peacemakers, 30, 42, bb, r57 (n.5g).
See ako Arbitration; Conciliation;
Mediation
Permission to settle (blggdarleyfi), z6Z
l'lilssorr,

(n.zgg)
Pidal, Ram6n Men6ndez, ix
Political sagas, gG
Prestssaga Gudmundar g6da, 83

Primesigning, z6o-6r (n. zz7)


Property: transfer to, r77 (n. ror);
partitions/sales of

(nn. 236-37)

, 264-65

Regional differences,

in lceland,

rSq-go (n. rzo)


Reptrtation,
Rt'si<lcnr:e,

.ree

.saa

Honor

Legal residence

Itcvt'rrgt', .rrr Vr:ngt:;tnr:c:


Rcyrlrrr I jor'<1, r,1tl
liqltrltltt raga: :rrr<l

lirstt'r'lrgt:, r4; anrl


()nrl):lr';rlivt' rl:rtirrg, flz, tl4, z r 3,
(rr. t r,r;); :urrl r lr:rr':rr lcrs itr ( ()ntnl()n
witlr /.iri.r., ()(), (f.l;:rrr<l tr':r<k: prra<:tit:cs, r r,1 (rr. J): :rrrrl rcstor ilrg legal
rights, r :lZ (n. r (i); ;rrr<l lrolselight.s,
r64 (n. J3); :rrrrl l',irrrrr Korr:rlsson,
t68 (n. tlo); irrr<l ;rss;rssirrs, r tlti

(n. t t7); attd cstlrp<'s h'olrr pursuit,


z7g $- 257)
Reykir, r2l, lqq, l6?
Reykjadale, r2l, rz6, t4t, r44, r4g,
r68

Rindil (Thorbjorn/Thorstein), r8896 passim, zb2-bb passim


Saga Age (ggo- roq,o), viii, 75
Saga of the Jomsuikings, zoo (n. r36)

Sanctions, sre Dispute processing


Sandardale, 276
Seating arrangements, 5e-6o, r64

(n.z+)
Seduction, l lo, lzz (n.5)
Self-judgment, r6r (n. 6Z)
Seljadale, r95

Servants, r3, rzz (n.6)


Sexual relationships, cases involving,
see Fornicat.ion suits; Paternity suits

Shaming rituals, rgo (n. rzr)


Sigfiisson, Bjorn: and standard edition of Lj6s.,ix,65,66, r3o (n. zr),
\4@.94), z r8 (n. r67), zz5
(n. r83); and primacy of A version
of Lj6s.,7o; and interpolation theory, 72; and pettir of Lj6s., 23; and
dating of Lj6s., ?9,8o; and composition of Lj6s., rzr; and genealogies, r69 (n. 83), zz3 $. r77)
Sigmund (foster brother of Bjorn and
Thorvard), 27o, 274-77 passim,
283

Signy (wife of Halli Sigurdarson), z6o


Sigrid (daughter of Thorgeir the
Chieftain), zzg

Sigurd (Norwegian shipowner killed


by S<rxolf Vidarsson), r2Z-24
Sigurul (Norwegian shipowner housed
by V<rdu-Brand), r45- 48 passim
Sigurtl Karlsson, 256
Sigurdarhuida in meiri (Eddic poem),

zzr (n. ryz)

Silfrastead, zzG
Skagafiord, r87
Skalaholt, zog
Skapti Thoroddssorr, 7, 27 r, z8o,

Slander (dpdttisord), z69-6o (n. zz4).


See also

Defamatiorr

Slavery, in Icelanrl, (), r 2z (n. 6), z rg


(n. r69)
Snorri Eyvindarson, 1.44-gb
Socio-historical in{ilrmation, in sagas,

xi, xii, 3-62


Solmund Vidarssorr, r 22-30 passim,
r35
Solveig (mother of' Thorkel Hallgilsson), zo3

zrB

Status, sse Honor


Stedi, 247
Sturlunga saga, x, Z, 4b, r 86 (n. r r z),

r88 (n. r r7)

Sturlu sag&, I r, 83, r52 (n. 53), r58


(n.62), rOq (n. 7z), zog (n. r5z),
zz5 (n. rBz)
Svalbard, z2o, 22r

Svarfadardale, z0r, z7 g
Svarfadardale River, z3z
Suarfdela saga,64, z6z (n. z3o), 263
(n. z3z), zGB (n. 243)
Svinfellings, the, r 87
Swinesnes, 2zri

Thingman, duties of, 8-g


Thingmannaroute, 216
Things: general description of, 6-7 ;
and auturnn assemblies, rz7 (n. r6);
and structure of'sites, r3z (n. z6);
and district things, r55 (n. 55); and
ad hoc meetings, zo7 (n. r46)

Thingvellir,6

Thompson, (llaiborne W., 98


Thoralf (fbllower of Hoskuld Thorvardsson),

zrg

Skegg-Broddi Bjarnason, 222- Zr


passim, 24r, 242, 24b

Thorarin Hoskuldsson, 23g, 24o, 242


Thorarin the Rich, zz3
Thorarin Toki Nefiolfsson, r37, r38
Thorbjorn at Reykir, r39, r40, r5r,

Skeggi, see Jarn-Skeggi


Skeggi the Strong, 227,228

Thorbjorn Rindil,

Skord,

Thord (Norwegian shipowner), r4b-

z8r,

283

lzl, l39, t4t, t44

Skirlason, Bishop Thorl6k, 64

Skutar, 248

Thord I{rolf.sson,

264

Thord Thorkelssotr, t27, r zti, zoq


Thordis (daughter of' ( )rr<lrrrtrn<l),
r36, ra7, r38
Thordis the Poetess, r94
Thorfinn Arnorsson, t2r, t27
Thorgeir at Thvera, 2Zg,24o
Thorgeir Axstaff, zr8
Thorgeir the Chieftain, 7, tzr, r2435 passim, r63, r94, rgb,2oZ,22g,
240

Sorcery, rgg (n. rq6,)


Sorli Brodd-Heleason, r35-38 possim
Soxolf Vidarss<lr-r, tz2, rzZ, t24
Standards of'value, r85-86 (n. r r r),
266 (n. z4o). See akoTrade

Starri,

327

r52
sru

Rindil

48 passim

Thord from Hofdi,

16z

Thorgerd (wife of Thorkel Hake),


rgr, r92, r93
Thorgerd (daughter of Thorvard
Hoskuldsson), zz3

Thorgerd (daughter of 'Ijorvi), z r 8


Thorgerd at Miklaby, zz6
Thorgerd at Thvera, z r 7
Thorgerd Ljotolfsdottir, z7 4
Thorgils (Akrakarl), 246,247, z5o
Thorgilsson , Ari,
Isbndingabfih

4-5,76,

86.

See also

Thorgrim Ljotolfsson, z6z, z,7o* 7e


passim

Thorhall (farmer at Eyjafiord), 2oo,


2()r

Thorhild ("widow of Vodlar"), rgg,


2()0

Thorir Akraskegg, r69-78 passim, t9z

Thorir Finnbogasorr, 2 | 2, 2 | 6
Thorir Helgason, 16z-87 passim,
246-bZ

passim

Thorir Vemundarson, z6z-6 J pas.sirn


'I'horkel (son of''Ilorvi), z4o
Thorkel at Hlid, 2Z2,2ZZ
Thorkel at Myr, r4b, 146, r\t
Thorkel Eyjolfsson, 278
Thorkel Geitisson, r4q-62

possim,

24r,252
Thorkel Hake Thorgeirsson: and killing of Solmund Vidarsson, 127-Zr
passim; as source of gossip about
Gudmund, 163, 166, 168; death of,
r89-g+ passim, r98, rgg, 246, z5g,
2b4, zbb, children of , 2to, 2r7
Thorkel Hallgilsson, 2oZ- ro passim,
z2t, z28,2gr, zgg
Thorl6ksb6k,64
Thorlaug (wife of Gudmund), r(iz
67 passim, rg4, rg7, zot
Thorlaug (daughter of Viga-( )ltrrn),
234

Thormod Asgeirsson, 243


Thorodd Arnorsson (Thorodd
Hjalm), 214-2o passin, zzl,,241

Thorolf Loptsson, ztt

fiz-67

passim

Thorstein at Tjorn, 27b, 276, 277,

prt"ssint

'flrorstcirr thc rlebt-slave, 2 rg, 24b


'['lr<rrslcirr lhe Strong, rg1, 2rz- r8
irrt

lxt.s.t
'l'horv:rkl
[Irolfsson, 264

'l'lrorval<l the Leper, 283


'l'horvard at Svalbard (the Healer),
22O, 221

'fhorvard Hoskuldsson: and Frid-

tt passim; and
Battle of Kakalahill, z16-zt passim; and conflict with Eyjolf Gudmundarson, 222-go passim; outlawry of, 2Zr-42 passim
Thorvard Thorgeirsson, 2 l?
Thorvard Thorgrimsson, 262, 27o,
z7t,275, z8g
Thrand from Grim's Isle, z8t-85
gerd's case, 2o3-

passim

Thridlungford, z r5

Thvera, Lg6-44 passim, t6r, t6z,


r7o, 173, r78, r84, 217,219, 248,
259

Tiorn, 27b,277
Ti<rrnes, r46, r8q, r98, 2o4,2bZ

'l'jrrrvi 'l-lrorgcirss()n, l zZ-33


ll:i,,

pttssim,

, 24<t, 2r',4
Mlurt'lctt (1. vrrtt <lt'rr,

| 1)4

'lirolrr,
<;tl
'lirr lr :rt lirr lrrlcll, :trr(i' rrr;
ltossint
'lirr lrrlcll, .rr,(i, ::r,lt
'lirrlrrrr', irr llrc s:rgrts,,1 r,
'l)'lrrlr': gt'rrcr;rl lr('irtnr('lrl ol, rrt; ltlttl

ol Not wcgi:tlt tttt't't ltltltls,


r2q,*24 (rr. 7); tnr<l tuil\trtil, t46

pru<'tict's

(n. +g); att<l ttutt'kt'tplrt< t's, z7o


(n. 247); ptrrlrl<'ltts ol, z7z (tt. zrro).
See ako Stan<lat<ls <ll vltlttt'
Tradition, local, r;1, 1)l-r, 117
Trickery, see Deceptiotr
Trondheim (Norway), r4l-t, r47

Lt

lation of Lj6s., viii, 6rr, ri6 (n.32),


44 @.94), 2zZ $t. t77); and interpolation theory, 7z; ancl chronology of the s:rgas. 74-77 passim:
and dating o['thc sagas, 84, 8b
Vigfus Viga-Glurnsson, I 8r -88

passim

Upsir, 272,277
Trade

Vagli, rz7
Vallaby, z79
Vallalaug, zz6

Valla-Ljot,

282

Thorstein drafli at Draflastead, zo4


Thorstein Rindil, .ree Rindil
Thorslein Si<lrr-llallsson, t 53-6o

rl

Ulf the Marshall, 23b-38


uadmd,l, see

Thorstein (fbreman o[' (]udmund),

Index

Index

328

see

passim

Vik (Norway),

Ljot Ljotolfsson

Valla-Ljdx saga: significance of ,43;

and honor, b7,62; and portrayal of


Gudmund, 62, 86,88; transmission
of , 64; chronology of , 7 g- 78; dat'
ing of, 84-85; characters in, 93,
97; composition of, 97-98
Valthjof (father of Thorir Helgason),
r6z
Value system: of individuals, 98- r r3;

Vd,pnfirdinga saga,

4t, 76, 87 -93

pas-

Viga-()ltrm, 224, 2bg


VigrGlunts saga: and comparative dating, tl5; and Gudmund, 86, 88, 89;
ancl Einar Eyjolfsson, 89, r84
(n. ro8); and characters in common
with Lj6s., go, gg; and horsefights,
r64 (n.73); and oaths, r79 (n. roz);
and deception, r88 (n. rr8); and
the Hegranes thing, zz3 (n. r76);
and killing cases, zz6 (n. r85); and
restricting access to court, 229
(n. rgo); and wordplay,237 (n. zoo)
Vigdis (wife of Oddi Thorgeirsson),

zr8
Vigftsson, Gudbrandur: and trans-

pattir (episodic stories), 66, 7:apdttr theory, Tg, g4-gb


bdrariru pdttr,86, go

7,r

Vengeance
Vodlaheath , r4r, 2rz, 24o, 2bZ

It orstein s saga

Wergeld, g (n.z)

sim, rz4 (n.g), r49 (n.49), r96


(n. r3z), z4r (n. zo6)
Vatrudula saga,86,88, 89, r88 (n. r r7),
rgg (n. tZb),2r2 (n. r58)
Veisa, 2o\, 2o4, 2ro, 2rz
Vellir, 267,275
Vengeanr:e: as mode of dispute processing, z5r; and blood vengeance,
27, 28, 44; as.iustification for violencc, 3{)i as ideology, 4o; limits
o(', 43; targets of ,4g-5r
Verlral (:ornpetitions, r47 (n.46). See
also ( )ratory
Verse, cxchanges of, see Verbal
<rlllrpetitions

Women, rights and rolcs irr srrglrs ol',


rg-zl, z16 (n. r(i4)

D6rdar saga hredu, Sg


I>6rdar saga kakala, z7g @.257)
Dorgik saga oh Haflida,8o-82, r47
(n. 46), z3 r (n. tgt), 245 (n. z r4)
borgik saga sharda, r33 (n. 27), r7g

z:18

Vodu-Brand, sre Brand Thorkelsson


Vgkunga sagl,, z2r (n. r7z)

of society, r r3-r8

Wiuter Nights, rtiT (rr. r rr,)

Violence: in the sagas, zz; and coercion, as mode ol'dispute processing, 23, 24,26,32; regulation of ,
rz8-zg (n. r8). See ako Feuds;

Vodlar, rbl, r74, r87, rgg

Vanity, ro7-9. See ako Honor


Vapnafiord, r49

329

(n. roz), rgr (n. rz3), rg5 (n. r3r)


S

idu- H alks onar, 86

passim

Itorsteins pdttr, t

(n.zg)

r,

r48 (n.48), 164

gS