Much violence in the struggles in medieval Iceland was carried out by underprivileged or even outcast members of the society seeking to improve their status in reward for assassination. Many of them being slaves desiring manumission, evaluation of their personalities and motives becomes contradictive: Literary stereotypes collide with reality and circumstances, law texts preserved are frequently of no practical relevance in the sagas, and the saga’s intention is not primarily concerned with the weal and woe of the inferior.
This paper aims to give faces to the stock characters and to show that neither dumbness nor wit are unique attributes to either underdogs or heroes solely.
In the Icelandic Law Codex, Grágás, there is a chapter concerning the payment of blood-money to the closest of kin, called Baugatal. This bilateral and egocentric kinship system is compared to the kinship ideology expressed in the contemporary sagas Gudmund dyres saga and Tord kakeles saga. The time span is from about 1180-1250.
Thus, I will use kinship ideology and the different strategies used in the conflict-solving process, as indications of how relevant Baugatal was in early Medieval Icelandic society. The privileges and obligations connected to different groups in society and individuals are central – the roles of both women and men are imperative.
All preserved versions of Landnámabók include a number of historical narratives. Scholars have been inclined to reject them as ‘quite worthless’ later additions. In fact this opinion is without good enough reasons. They have made an image of Landnáma as short and limited list even though the preserved texts do not fit to this image. Is it then possible to seperate the ancient text of Landnáma from later additions? The criteria used have been rather slippery as style a typical ‘landnámustíll’ and even content as ‘hefðbundið landnámsefni’ I will discuss in greater detail one narrative about Þorsteinn tjaldstæðingur which is possible to detect in every versions of Landnámabók.