A common theme in the sagas we read is revenge. Revenge in the sagas can be seen in many ways and connects with various different Scandinavian ideals such as honor and family. A blood vengeance is similar to the idea of an eye for an eye; its vengeance for bloodshed, by bloodshed, and typically it’s a never-ending cycle. The theme of revenge is most prominent in “The Saga of the People of Laxardal” and “The Saga of the people of Vatsndal”.
The theme of revenge in “The Saga of the People of Laxardal” stems from Bolli and Kjartan and their shared love interest, Gundrun. Gundrun, the girl they both fall for, is considered to be the most beautiful woman in Iceland who is also quite clever. Gundrun was married twice before she met Kjartan who she seemingly fell in love with but then Kjartan has to leave and asks Gundrun to wait 3 years for him, which she declines. While Kjartan is away, Bolli steps in and asks Gundrun to marry him, which she reluctantly agrees to. This causes tension between the two close friends but when Kjartan returns and finds Gundrun already married he does the respectful Christian thing and simply marries another woman. Still Bolli and Kjartan fight and argue and ultimately Gundrun forces Bolli and her brothers to kill Kjartan. At first Bolli doesn’t participate in attacking Kjartan because they are kinsmen but Gundrun’s brothers are outnumbered and convince Bolli to join in. As Bolli went after Kjartan, Kjartan dropped his weapons and said, “An evil deed this is, that youre about to do, kinsman, so much is certain. But I’d rather receive my death at your hands than cause yours.” (372). When Bolli dealt the fatal blow to Kjartan, he immediately regretted it...
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...e the beginning of summer, as is her custom in accordance with their faith, and there will be no revenge achieved if the sacrifice has already been made.” (227). Luckily for the sons, they make it to where Hrolleif is hiding before his mother works her magic. They ambush him and Jokul chopped off his head outside of his house. After this his mother, Ljot, dies in a fit of sorcery and rage. While there are other feuds in this saga, this is the end of the avenging of Ingimund.
Revenge is seemingly an integral part of Viking culture. Revenge can span many generations like in “The Saga of the People of Laxardal” or it can be dealt quickly like in “The Saga of the people of Vatsndal”. Taking revenge, especially avenging a relative, is extremely important Vikings because it’s honorable and without revenge they may be seen as weak or as “being better off as daughters”.
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