Njála – The Saga of Burnt Njal
• Njala was composed around 1300, dealing with
events from 930 – 1020 AD.
• It is the longest, the most sophisticated, and
perhaps the finest example of saga art –
considered by many the national epic of Iceland.
• Over 600 characters, from the sublime and tragic,
to the sinister or simply comic.
• Author is unknown, but most evidence points to
a single composer who united several oral and
written sources to compose his own work of art.
Njála – Basic Information
• Njála can be divided into roughly three sections:
• Gunnar’s exploits and death
• Njal’s family and his death
• Kari’s vengeance and reconciliation
• The saga juxtaposes a heroic, Viking age
mentality with a modern, Christian ethos. Some
of the themes in the saga include:
Honor Law
Luck
Vengeance
Fate or Destiny
Nobility of Character
Christian Charity Reconciliation Pride
Njála – History
• Critics are divided whether to treat Njála as a
work of history or a work of literature.
Obviously it contains elements of both, but
generally one can say that the author uses
historical events to explore aspects of human
nature.
• Some critics see Njála as a form of Historical
Novel, as a work dealing indirectly with the
concerns of the age in which it was created, the
turbulent period when the Icelandic Republic
collapsed (1262).
Njála – History
• How did the saga come to be composed?
• 250-300 year gap between the events of the saga
and its composition. Oral history.
• Many events are taken from later written sources,
such as the conversion of Iceland, the legal
debates, the battle of Clontarf in Ireland.
• The “Free Prose Theory” – oral stories simply
written down according to rules of oral narration.
• The “Book Prose Theory” – a writer/editor
collects oral tales and rearranges/adapts them for
a written text that mirrors rules of oral narration.
Timeline of Icelandic History
Njála – Style and Form
• Njála has been called “the finest example of art
without art,” and “the despair of translators,” a
masterpiece of story telling, smooth and plain.
• A narrator exists, but conceals himself behind
the apparently objective portrayal of characters.
• The narrator presents no interior descriptions,
explains no motivation, and provides no
commentary (except that of “everyone” or “most
people”).
• Characters are what they say and what they do–
most scenes contain important bits of dialogue!
Njála – Genre
• Of the four great Icelandic family sagas (Egils
saga, Eyrbyggja Saga, Laxdæla saga), Njála is
the longest and most complicated.
• Njála contains many different genres:
• Saga of constitutional history and saga of law
• Saga of the conversion of Iceland
• Saga of family feud and violent lawlessness
• Saga of heroic adventure
• Saga of Christian reconciliation
• Saga of pagan wisdom, fate and fatality
Njála – Verisimilitude
• Njála, like all Icelandic Family Sagas, purports
to represent real local history.
• People are given real names and real family
ancestries, which link them to real places.
• Njal’s farm at Bergthorsknoll still exists,
evidence of a burning there from the proper time.
• “Factual” evidence provides the saga with a
certain legitimacy – proof for the reader – though
it is impossible to determine how much is really
true.
• Sagas a form of “serious entertainment.”
Njála – Foreshadowing
• In Njála, as in most sagas, the authors are dealing
with tales well-known to their audiences.
• Suspense – what will happen next? – does not
exist in a modern sense.
• Elements of foreshadowing – dreams, omens,
portents, etc. – remind the audience of what is to
come, and they provide the saga with coherence,
uniting earlier and later episodes.
• The attention of the audience is focused on how
and why things happen, not on twists of the plot.
• Readers have to pay close attention!
Njála – Plot Elements
• According to scholar T.M. Anderson, there are 6
key elements to the narrative structure of family
sagas:
1. Introduction
2. Conflict
3. Climax
4. Revenge (repeat as necessary)
5. Reconciliation
6. Aftermath
Njála – 1.
• The saga begins with Mord Gigja (Fiddle), a
powerful chieftain (goði), who lived at Rangriver
Plains (Rangarvellir), in southern Iceland.
• Mord has a beautiful daughter called Unn (3).
• At Breidafjord, near Laxardal in West Iceland,
lives Hoskuld Dala-Kollsson, who has a halfbrother Hrut (3).
• Hrut has a niece Hallgerd, who is a beautiful
young girl at the time (3) – the long hair will
show up again at an important juncture in the
saga.
The World of the Icelandic Sagas
Map of Iceland
Njála – 1-2.
• Hrut makes an ominous comment about
Hallgerd (4):
“The child is quite beautiful, and many will
pay for that; but what I don’t know is how the
eyes of a thief have come into our family.”
• Hoskuld and Hrut ride to the Althing, the
national Assembly in Iceland, held at Thingvellir
for two weeks in late June.
• Hoskuld suggests that Hrut marry Unn, though
he is unsure “whether we are meant to be happy
together” (4).
Njála – 2.
• Hoskuld and Mord settle on terms of marriage to
ensure that Unn will live well and that she will
keep her wealth (5).
• The call witnesses to seal the bargain, the
wedding will take place that summer.
• Hrut soon learns, however, that his brother
Eyvind has died, and that he must go to Norway
to claim his inheritance.
• Hrut meets with Mord, and they agree to
postpone the wedding for 3 years.
Njála – 3.
• Harald Grey-Cloak is King of Norway (961-970
AD), and rules with his mother, Queen Gunnhild
– cf. Egil’s saga (6).
• Gunnhild promises Hrut her aid in recovering his
money, and Ozur tells him it would be wise to
accept her “generosity” (7).
• Hrut meets the king, asks to become a retainer;
Gunnhild supports his request.
• That evening, Queen Gunnhild makes Hrut a
proposition he cannot refuse…(cite 9)
• Hrut takes a place of honor; spends the winter.
Njála – 4-5.
• A man named Soti has stolen Hrut’s inheritance;
Gunnhild and the king give Hrut ships and Ulf
the Unwashed to aid his search.
• Hrut sails into the pirate Atli Arnvidarson, and
they fight a Viking sea battle (cite 11).
• Hrut kills Atli, but Ulf the Unwashed dies.
• Like all Icelanders in the story, Hrut finds great
success in mercenary activities in Norway.
• Soti is found, arrested and hanged.
• Hrut collects his inheritance, gives Queen
Gunnhild half.
Njála – 6-7.
• Hrut wants to leave Norway; he lies to Gunnhild
about the reason (12).
• She is upset and curses him for lying (cite 13).
• Hrut returns to Iceland and marries Unn.
• Their marriage remains unconsummated, and
eventually Unn determines to divorce Hrut.
• Unn visits her father at the Althing, tells him the
reason for her marital unhappiness (cite 15f.).
• Mord tells Unn the proper legal procedure for
executing a divorce (cite 16). Women have more
equality in Iceland than elsewhere at this time.
Njála – 8.
• At the Althing, Mord puts forward a claim for the
return of his daughter Unn’s dowry (and Hrut’s
contribution to the marriage agreement!).
• Hrut refuses to pay and challenges Mord to a
duel – Holmganga, or island-going – which in
the early years of the Icelandic Republic was an
accepted means of deciding legal disputes.
• Old Mord is afraid to fight the tough Hrut, so he
lets his claim fall, earning nothing but ridicule.
• Hrut keeps the money of Unn’s dowry.
• Who was right and who was wrong?
The Legal Courts
of the Althing
in Republican
Iceland
Njála – 9-10.
• Hallgerd grows up to be a beautiful, but willful
and impetuous woman (cite 18).
• Hallgerd has been raised by her foster-father,
Thjostolf, an insanely jealous and violent man.
• Fostering another’s child was a way to cement
bonds between families; the subordinate man
usually did the fostering; the father kept final
authority over the child.
• Hoskuld, Hallgerd’s father, decides to marry her
to Thorvald, without informing her.
• Hallgerd thinks the man beneath her, but agrees.
Njála – 10-11.
• Thjostolf comforts Hallgerd, saying that he will
take care of her first marriage (20).
• The wedding is large and happy, though Hrut
senses that it will have no luck.
• At the wedding, we are introduced to Svan, an
evil magician related to Hallgerd.
• Hallgerd is wasteful, but blames her new
husband; in fury, he strikes her in the face (21).
• Thjostolf finds Thorvald, insults him and then
plants his axe in husband #1’s skull (cite 22).
• The insult provided an excuse to begin the fight.
Njála – 12.
• When Hallgerd sees his bloody axe, Thjostolf tells
her that he has arranged it so that she can get a
better marriage.
• Hallgerd sends him to hide with evil Svan in the
hills; Svan is impressed by the murder (23).
• Osvif gathers his friends and family to seek
vengeance against Thjostolf.
• Svan uses magic to send fetches (fylgja) and fog
against the party, and they turn back (cite 24)
• Osvif goes to Hoskuld and asks for compensation;
Hrut advises him to pay up and sets price (25).
Duty of Revenge and Right of Inheritance
Njála – 13-15.
• Glum Olafsson now wants to marry Hallgerd;
his brother warns him, but he persists (27).
• Hoskuld tells Glum about all her assets and
defects, and they discuss the matter with
Hallgerd, who is not averse to the marriage.
• The marriage starts out well and happy, and a
daughter Thorgerd is born (29).
• Thjostolf wears out his welcome at Hoskuld’s
house and goes to visit Hallgerd.
• Hallgerd talks Glum into letting Thjostolf stay at
their farm.
Njála – 16-17.
• Nasty Thjostolf refuses to work, and when
Hallgerd defends him, Glum quarrels with her
and slaps her (31).
• She is upset, but loves Glum deeply and forbids
Thjostolf from doing anything.
• Thjostolf waits for a moment alone, then axes
beloved Glum, husband #2 (cite 32).
• When Hallgerd sees the bloody axe, she guesses
the truth and laughs!
• Hallgerd sends Thjostolf to Hrut… what are her
intentions here?
Njála – 17-18.
• Hrut does not care for Thjostolf’s madness, and
kills him straight away (33).
• Brother Thorarin asks for compensation for
Glum – his claim is weak because Hrut has
already killed Thjostolf – but he is given
compensation by Hoskuld and Hrut anyway (34).
• These gifts – and a cloak – are a sign of great
nobility and generosity of spirit.
• Petite Unn, meanwhile, has squandered her
wealth. Her father is dead and so she turns to
assistance to another relative – Gunnar.
Njála – 19-21.
• Gunnar Hamundarson of Hlidarendi; a farmer
and an ideal hero (cite 34f.).
• Njal Thorgeirsson of Bergthorshvol, wealthy
and wise, and extremely skilled at law, but could
not grow a beard (cite 35f.).
• Njal has a wife, Bergthora, who is courageous,
but more than a little harsh-natured.
• Impoverished Unn comes to Gunnar for aid – she
wants his assistance to recover her dowry from
Hrut (36).
• Gunnar goes to his friend Njal for advice.
Hlidarendi
Bergthorshvoll
Bergthorshvoll
Njála – 22-24.
• Njal gives Gunnar precise directions for a legal
assault against Hrut – basically a trick to get Hrut
to recite the summons to revive the case legally
(37f.).
• Gunnar carries out Njal’s instructions.
• Hoskuld has a dream of a huge bear – Gunnar’s
fetch (40) – and he suspects something is afoot.
• Hoskuld and Hrut realize that it must have been
Gunnar – acting on the advice of his friend Njal.
• Gunnar presents the case at the Althing, but then
opts to challenge Hrut to a duel (42).
Njála – 24-25.
• Hrut has no chance against Gunnar, so he gives in
and pays up, seething with anger.
• Hrut and Hoskuld foresee only bad luck and
trouble for Gunnar and his ill-gotten money (42).
• Gunnar gives Unn her dowry back.
• Unn marries Valgard the Grey and has a son,
Mord, who is jealous, malicious and cunning (43).
• Njal’s three sons are:
• Skarp-Hedin – extremely strong, scathing, and ugly
• Grim – strong and handsome
• Helgi – strong, handsome and even-tempered
Njála – 26-30.
• Njal marries Helgi to Thorhalla and takes her
brother Thorhall as a foster son, teaches him law.
(Thorhall takes over the lawsuit later).
• Gunnar and his brother Kolskegg travel abroad,
leaving their farms Njal’s hands.
• Gunnar travels to Norway at the time of Earl
Hakon Sigurdarson (970-995), raids in Baltic.
• They meet pirates and engage in a Viking sea
battle (48).
• Gunnar attacks Vikings in a second battle (49f.),
and is again victorious.
Njála – 31-32.
• Travel abroad was necessary to prove the worth
of a hero. The author of Njála probably was not
well acquainted with the rest of Scandinavia.
• Foreign countries have an exotic, legendary feel
in this saga – magical lands of larger-than-life
adventures. Gunnar’s adventures in the Baltic
establish his reputation as a great warrior.
• Gunnar travels to Denmark and meets King
Harald Gormsson. Exchange of gifts (50).
• Gunnar travels to Norway and meets Earl Hakon,
who also gives him gifts.
Njála – 32-33.
• Gunnar returns home to Iceland a famous man –
but Njal warns him that many people will be
jealous of his good fortune (52).
• Gunnar will be tested again. He “wants to get
along well with everyone,” but he will have to
defend himself.
• Gunnar goes to the Althing against the advice of
Njal. He makes a very strong impression.
• Gunnar meets Hallgerd, who speaks to him
boldly, and they fall instantly in love (53). He
thinks about marriage at once.
Njála – 33-34.
• Gunnar goes to his old adversaries Hrut and
Hoskuld and inquires about Hallgerd’s hand.
• Hrut is not averse to the match, but wants to be
“entirely honest” about Hallgerd – so that he
does not get Gunnar as his enemy later… (54).
• Njal is displeased when he hears about the plan –
prophesy that she will cause trouble (54).
• A large wedding takes place; a guest, Thrain
Sigfusson, is smitten by 14-year-old Thorgerd
(Hallgerd’s daughter), divorces his wife and asks
for Thorgerd’s hand immediately (56).
Njála – 35-36.
• Feud: Gunnar is a guest at Njal’s farm, and their
two wives start a quarrel over seating
arrangements (57), but Gunnar breaks it up.
• First violence: while Gunnar and Njal attend the
Althing, Hallgerd sends her servant Kol to kill
Bergthora’s servant Svart (58f.).
• The message is sent to Gunnar at the Althing; he
asks Njal to name his own compensation (59).
• When Skarp-Hedin sees the money, he says “it
may turn out to be useful,” and grins (61). He
has all the best “one-liners” in the saga.
Njála – 37-38.
• Retaliation I: Bergthora sends Atli to kill Kol
(62).
• Skarp-Hedin has his usual comment (63) – Njal
pays Gunnar the same compensation set earlier.
• Atli stays despite the risk, asks only that no
slave-payment be made as compensation (63).
• Retaliation II. Hallgerd engages Brynjolf the
Unruly to kill Atli (64).
• Njal sets compensation here at 100 ounces of
silver (up from 12 ounces for the slaves).
• Bergthora’s men fight more fairly than Hallgerd’s men.
Njála – 39-42.
• Retaliation III. Bergthora sends Thord
Freedmansson to kill Brynjolf the Unruly (67).
Thord a peaceful man and foster-father to all of
Njal’s sons – escalation!
• Njal gives Gunnar his money back as settlement.
• Peaceful Thord has a vision of a bloody dead
goat – Njal says that was his fetch, a vision that
his death is now fated (69).
• Retaliation IV: Hallgerd sends her son-in-law
Thrain and Sigmund and Skold to kill Thord;
Thrain stays back while the other two slay Thord
(71) – a “grave crime.”
Njála – 43-44.
• Njal assesses Thord’s death at 200 ounces of
silver – double compensation; Gunnar pays.
• Njalssons agree to keep the settlement, but their
tolerance has reached its limit.
• Insult to Injury: Hallgerd thinks up an insult to
Njal and his sons, and Sigmund sets it to verse
(74). Repeating publicly such an insult would
absolutely demand vengeance to restore honor!
• Gunnar is furious when he hears the slander, but
the Njalssons are outraged – goaded by
Bergthora, they pursue Sigmund (75f.).
Njála – 45.
• Retaliation V: Skarp-Hedin kills Sigmund
himself, while Grim and Helgi dispatch Skuld.
Step-brother Hoskuld stays back (77).
• Skarp-Hedin sends Sigmund’s head to Hallgerd!
• Gunnar declares that the actions of the Njalssons
were justified and does nothing about the deaths.
• Three years later, Njal brings the matter up,
insists on paying for Sigmund (200 ounces, but
nothing at all for Skuld).
• Njal and Gunnar have maintained their friendship
despite their wives’ feud – uncommon restraint!
Njála – 46-49.
• Petite Unn’s son Mord Valgardsson introduced:
cunning, vicious and jealous of Gunnar (79).
• Otkel and scoundrel Skamkel refuse to sell to
Gunnar in a time of famine.
• Gunnar picks up worthless slave Melkolf, whom
Hallgerd sends on an errand of theft and arson at
the home of Otkel and Skamkel (81).
• Gunnar is outraged to find stolen cheese at home
and slaps Hallgerd – she vows vengeance! (82).
• Otkel and Skamkel go to evil Mord – who takes
their money to find evidence of Hallgerd’s theft.
Njála – 49-51.
• Gunnar offers Otkel generous compensation for
his wife’s cheese theft, but Otkel is goaded by
Skamkel into rejecting it.
• Skamkel asks Gizur the White to set the fine for
Gunnar—but lies about Gizur’s advice when he
returns: issue a summons at the Althing!
• Showdown at the Althing: legal and semi-legal
maneuverings by Gunnar and Njal (87ff.).
• Gunnar is awarded self-judgment, and declares
all sins have cancelled each other out (89).
• Everything is quiet “for a while.”
Njála – 52-54.
• Otkel rides an unruly horse into Gunnar and
draws blood – an inflicted wound which
provides cause for retribution. Gunnar tells his
neighbors so that he will have witnesses.
• Gunnar hears that Otkel is passing back nearby
and has heard of insults (crying) spread by
Skamkel; he takes his magic halberd and makes
short work of the entire group (cite 92f.).
• Brother Kolskegg arrives to kill one of the eight.
• Gunnar unsure if he is less manly than others
because he is so reluctant to kill (93)!
Njála – 55-58.
• Njal gives Gunnar good advice at “the start of his
career of killing” (94).
• Geir the Priest prepares a court case against
Gunnar for the slaying of his relative Otkel.
• Gunnar declares the actions null and void (Otkel
was outlaw); accuses Geir of misuse of the law!
• Njal persuades them to reach a settlement (97).
• New Conflict:
• Starkad wants to pit his Red Stallion against
Gunnar’s Black Stallion, but Hildigunn warns
him about Gunnar’s “good luck” (99).
Njála – 58-61.
• Gunnar agrees to the horse-fight, but Njal warns
him that it will have consequences.
• Horse-fight leads to a real fight; Thorgeir knocks
out Black’s eye, and Gunnar puts Black down.
• Gunnar challenges Ulf Uggason at the Althing
and thus wins a case for his friend Asgrim –
Gunnar is earning more and more enemies!
• Njal warns Gunnar to be cautious and to take the
Njalssons with him to prevent any attack (102f.).
• Gunnar visits Asgrim without the Njalssons;
Starkad gets a posse of 30 men for ambush.
Njála – 62-67.
• Gunnar has a dream of fighting a pack of wolves;
sees his youngest brother Hjort fall (105). Fate.
• Knafahills Ambush: 30 vs. 3, but the odds are
not good enough: 14 attackers perish, Hjort falls
at the hands of the Easterner Thorir (106f.).
• Njal plans a legal defense for Gunnar – assign
counter-claims for those he has killed (108).
• Showdown at the Althing: Njal outmaneuvers
his opponents, eventually Hjalti Skeggjason
arranges a settlement to avoid bloodshed (112).
• Evil Mord Valgardsson plots to defeat Gunnar.
Njála – 67-70.
• Mord’s jealousy (and knowledge of Njal’s
omens) lead him to manipulate others against
Gunnar – especially sons of the slain: Thorgeir
Otkelsson and Thorgeir Starkadsson.
• Both Thorgeirs plot an ambush of Gunnar, but
Njal has a vision of sleeping fetches (115). He
scares them away and threatens a court case!
• Njal arbitrates that case at the next Althing–
famous quote about law in Iceland (cite 117).
• Njal wins the dispute and takes the money – in
case Gunnar needs to pay it back later… (117).
Njála – 70-73.
• Olaf the Peacock gives his friend Gunnar three
gifts, including the dog, Sam (117).
• Evil Mord Valgardsson and both Thorgeirs plot
again – seduce Gunnar’s relative Ormhild to get
his threats (and thus justify retaliation)!
• Ambush at Rang River: Gunnar & Kolskegg kill
several, including Thorgeir Otkelsson (119f.).
• Njal warns Gunnar that he has violated his
warning not to kill twice in the same family!(120).
• Gizur the White charges Gunnar with Full
Outlawry! (cite 121)
Njála – 74-75.
• Njal manages to arrange a settlement through
arbitration (see p. 122):
• Compensation determined and paid (same amount
previously paid to Gunnar!)
• Gunnar and Kolskegg sentenced to Lesser Outlawry –
leave for three years, or else!
• Njal reminds Gunnar that he must leave Iceland or
bad things will happen (cite 122).
• Gunnar makes plans to leave, but finds himself too
homesick to leave (cite 123).
• Gizur the White proclaims Gunnar a Full Outlaw.
Hlidarendi
Njála – 75-77.
• Gunnar’s enemies now make open plans to attack
him – no fear of retribution since he is outlawed.
• They threaten a neighbor of Gunnar’s to lure out
his dog Sam, which they kill (126). Gunnar hears
the howl and prepares for a fight.
• Black Humor: “Is Gunnar at home?” (126).
• Gunnar thinks of humiliating them while besieged
in his own home! (127).
• An attacker severs his bow string – he asks
Hallgerd for some hair, but she refuses, citing his
previous slap (128).
Njála – 77-79.
• “…until at last they killed him.” (128)
• “The slaying was spoken badly of in all parts of the
land, and his death brought great sorrow to many.”
• People hear singing in Gunnar’s burial mound;
Skarp-Hedin and Hogni Gunnarsson investigate
and watch him singing triumphantly inside (130).
• Skarp-Hedin takes the song as a portent – Gunnar
wants vengeance! He and Hogni set out at once.
• More pagan imagery: magic halberd sings, talk of
Valhalla, two ravens accompany the heroes. (131).
• They kill many, Mord the Coward begs for mercy.
Njála – 80-86.
• Kolskegg travels abroad, has a dream that leads to
his conversion to Christianity. He travels to
Constantinople, becomes leader of the Varangian
Guard, and “is now out of this saga” (133).
• Thrain Sigfusson (who married 14-year-old
Thorgerd) goes to Norway and wins glory at court.
• Grim and Helgi Njalssons go to the Orkneys, fight
in unequal battle against Vikings, but are rescued
by Kari Solmundarson (137f.).
• They serve Earl Sigurd of Orkney: Helgi has
second sight like Njal. Battles in Scotland.
Njála – 87-88.
• Hrapp the Scoundrel travels from Iceland to
Norway, stays with Earl Gudbrand, seduces and
impregnates his daughter, kills an overseer, and
flees into the woods.
• Hrapp the Killer visits the daughter, raids and
desecrates the pagan temple. He flees to the
Njalssons; they refuse help, but Thrain Sigfusson
decides to hide him (146f.).
• Thrain takes Killer-Hrapp back to Iceland, where
he lives near Hallgerd (“some say that he seduced
her…”) – two evil characters together.
Njála – 89-91.
• Earl Hakon chases the Njalssons believing they
were party to Hrapp’s escape; he captures them
alive after a difficult fight (150).
• Helgi and Grim escape and find Kari who protects
them from the Earl; his son Eirik offers a
settlement and the Icelanders feast for a winter and
then go raiding in Scotland.
• Back in Iceland, Kari marries Helga Njalsdottir
and settles near the Njalssons.
• Njalssons still upset with Thrain and Hrapp for
getting them in trouble with the Earl. Vengeance.
Njála – 91-92.
• Njalssons want compensation for their injuries, but
Thrain–with his friends Killer-Hrapp and Grani
Gunnarsson (who takes after his mother Hallgerd)
–escalates his abuse of the Njalssons (155).
• Kari and 4 Njalssons visit Thrain and trade insults
instead of a settlement (155f.).
• Skarp-Hedin does not bother to name witnesses to
the insults – he intends to answer with weapons!
• Bergthora hears that Thrain will be traveling and
tells her sons, who attack despite the odds (159).
• Skarp-Hedin’s famous ice attack (cite 159f.).
Rauthaskridur
Rauthaskridur
Skarphedinn kills Thrain
Njála – 92-94.
• Kari and the Njalssons kill Hrapp and a few
others, but spare the lives of the “puppies” – a
biting insult to the young men.
• Ketil of Mork is in an impossible situation: Njal’s
son-in-law but also Thrain’s brother. He arbitrates
a settlement between the families: Njal pays the
entire amount.
• Ketil takes Hoskuld Thrainsson (son of 14-yearold-bride Thorgerd) as foster-son.
• Hoskuld is later adopted by Njal – an attempt to
create bonds of family to undo enmity of feud
(162).
Njála – 94.
• Hoskuld Thrainsson grows up to be a fine man,
gentle and generous, kind and skillful (162).
• Hoskuld enjoys the friendship of the Njalssons,
even though Skarp-Hedin killed his father.
Somewhat artificial brotherly love.
• Njal’s wisdom and foresight – and especially his
willingness to seek a settlement and pay
generously for the deeds of his sons – leads to a
period of peace in the saga.
• Turn from code of vengeance to code of
forgiveness coincides with Conversion of Iceland.
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Myths and Legends Lecture