«essay On Njal's Saga» Essay Sample
Njal's Saga is the most famous and longest of the so-called family sagas. One of the two sagas of the group associated with the southern coast of Iceland. Events described in it have occurred in the 980's - 1010's. In this saga and articles written by William Miller are reviewed many examples of Iceland's justice. It is should be stated that most of them are associated with women. It is obvious that women were an integral part of the disputes and legal processes. Thus, let's analyze how they have influenced and been involved in these processes.
The situation in Iceland has significantly differed from what it was in the other Nordic countries. There was no king, and there were no lords. Legislative and judicial powers were in the hands of the chieftains and all the free people of Iceland has obeyed their chieftains, either directly or through the heads of families to which they belonged. Chieftain and follower were obliged to render each other mutual support. Because of its power and prestige, the leaders of the factions often were chosen to become then the arbiters to settle disputes over compensation. Icelandic laws of that time have provided to a man the privilege to kill for a sexual assault on any of the six women: his wife, daughter, mother, sister, daughter, adopted daughter or foster mother.
The duty to assume responsibility of bloodfeud or suffer its consequences largely depended on the relationship. In accordance with the laws of Iceland with some reservations, the kinship system is a system bilateral and ego-centric relationship. That is, a person (the ego) could trace kinship through both men and women, and links on the sides of both parents. One of the features of this system is that two people associated with the ego cannot be related to each other.
According to Gragas single women older than twenty years old and a widow, had the right to settle disputes on their own injuries, but they could not accept less compensation than the law provided for such an injury. If a woman wants to sue, she had to ask about this man, because women could not take part in the proceedings. The woman recognized only as the object of legal proceedings, being the daughter of the killer or the victim, as a participant wergeld payment or receipt. Also, according to Gragas was contradictory position that gives the right to compensation in the case of assassination of the heir, whether male or female. The goading women were common at the time and there are constantly mentioned in the saga. Usually women have incited men to murder by reminders of honor ancestral group. They often incite violence, and they tend to be quite able to find the right mix of instruction and an insult to call their men to action. However, goading was not a formal part of any ceremony. In the best case, incitement sarcastically bothered, but it could develop in the usual annoying whining.
However, the example of the history of Nyala and Gunnar that is described in Njal Saga shows to us that it could be ignored. A distinctive feature of the goading charge was that never need repetition; he has never been ignored for a long time. The person to whom it was directed incitement knew the difference between just goading and nagging and addictive formal ceremony. Women were not appropriate avengers and did not participate in a direct feud. There were, of course, exceptions - women who actually have taken a blood feud with their hands.
In Iceland, there was a special ceremony to assess damage. The ceremony is, it takes a real presence of the corpse, which can be easily identified as belonging to the corpse. That is why the head worked so well, but distinctive clothing of the victim with his bloody wounds, bloody or deadly weapons, signature in some way as a murderer, too, were good proof. There were also penalties for failure to carry out the charge.
That is, she was serving notice to the person to be charged that he also had a duty to be the means through which women and old men, all those whom the society disabled from actual vengeance-taking, could act on behalf of the corpse. In the ceremony itself, grievant and corpse were inextricably bound together.
Also interesting is a passage in the description of the journey Hrut to Norway for inheritance which begins Njáls saga. Gunnhild was the mother of the reigning King Harald of Norway and had a considerable influence on events in public life and political situation in the state. She affects primarily on her son - King Harald. This becomes clear from the beginning by how Hrut was supposed to meet with her, and then the king. Gunnhild influences the king giving him advice that Hrut and Ozur should become bodyguards of her son. Based on the Saga it becomes clear that she also have had enough influence to expel Hrut and Ozura from Norway, and to give them the ships and soldiers. From the fifth chapter of the saga becomes clear that in fact she was the second ruler In Norway giving her orders, such as the order to kill the Soti, and then she has taken his inheritance.
In terms of studying the causes of conflict in Iceland and the role of women in them Njáls saga begins with the sixth chapter which describes how after returning from Norway Hrut has begun the process of divorce with the daughter of Mord and the struggle for dowry between Mord and Hrut. As a result Hrut has called Mord for duel, but Mord has chosen the disgrace and not to fight and pay the money. Also, it should be noted that special place in the saga takes a description of weddings in Iceland. For example decisions connected with the wedding were usually taken by men. In the eleventh chapter there is an example of ill-treatment of Hallgerd's husband to Hallgerd, namely beatings that prompted Thjostolf to kill her husband. It should be noted that women have had an impact not only on sons and their husbands. Hallgerd had influenced her second husband that he has returned Thjostolf from the exile, which eventually killed her second husband. However, according to the text of the saga Thjostolf has died because he has too trusted Hallgerd. In the twenty-first chapter is described how Unn wanted to take the inheritance from Hrut and asked her relative Gunnar for help. Gunnar went for advice to Nyala who advised to go to Hrut about dowry of Mords daughter Unn and challenge him to a duel.
As a result Hrut has frightened his challenge and has paid the money. Thus, as we can see through the whole saga goes the idea that enmity and disputes have begun on a whim and women because of their incitement. An interesting point is described in the thirty-third chapter, where Hallgerd's brother and father after their consent to the new marriage, ask her opinion about the new groom. In the subsequent several chapters are described feud between the wives of Njala and Gunnar that has caused a death of many people. However, despite the hostility of their wives, Njal and Gunnar were able to be friends and to keep the peace. This was achieved mainly because of the fair payments and the fair punishment for the murders. According to Miller, it was all due to customs of feud in Iceland, because the feud has differed from culture to culture. However, there were courts, and where judges - chieftains. According to Miller feud existed only in weak societies where the problem could not be solved by the state legally. Also, in his article, the author notes that the feud existed in parallel with the laws, and the blood feud have prevented the bigger conflicts between families. This can be seen in the history of Njala and Gunnar that with help of their wisdom did not let hatred grow into more bloodshed. Miller, in his article also notes that revenge is not only blood but for foster children avenged even more so as they were loved more than relatives. The author also describes quite common way to settle the feud as a marriage of daughters to settle the dispute. However, they were rather they hostages that have moved in with their husband's houses. Their families often took care to provide them with a retinue sufficient to protect it from rough or ill-treatment of their husbands and relatives of husband.
Summarizing all the mentioned above it should be stated that Njal's Saga is one of the significant sagas. It’s included a description of various aspects of life in Iceland, and what is more important the description of the blood feud and the traditions of settlement of disputes. This work enlightens to the researchers that the women of Iceland were the reason, subject and object of these disputes.
Miller, William Ian. "Choosing the Avenger: Some Aspects of the Bloodfeud in Medieval Iceland and England." Law and History Review 1.2 (1983): 159-204.
—. "JUSTIFYING SKARPHEĐINN: OF PRETEXT AND POLITICS IN THE ICELANDIC BLOODFEUD." Scandinavian Studies (1983): 316-334.
Njal's Saga. London: Penguin Classics, 2002.