In this first part of our epic summer saga, we introduce Njal’s Saga and the initial section where marriage, gender roles, and female independence are the central themes. We begin with the story of Hrut Herjolfsson, who leaves his bride-to-be in Iceland to fetch an inheritance in Norway. Along the way, the handsome young Hrut finds himself more involved in the royal family than is proper. Scandal! After getting ensnared in the web of the Norwegian queen mother, Gunnhild, Hrut will bring home a curse that will set the whole action of Njal’s Saga into motion. We also meet Hrut’s lovely and dynamic niece, Hallgerd Hoskuldsdottir, a fiercely independent woman who will play a significant role in the development of this saga. When we first meet her, we learn that she has the eyes of a thief, which never bodes well. This episode covers Hallgerd’s first two marriages, both of which involve domestic violence followed by a visit from Hallgerd’s vengeful foster-father Thjostolf. Hallgerd may be beautiful, cunning, and seductive, but she’s hardly the passive female of most medieval literature. We look forward to spending some time with her this summer and hearing how you all feel about her character.
The picture above comes from the amazing Njal’s Saga Tapestry, an ambitious project underway at the Icelandic Saga Centre in Hvolsvöllur. Read more about it at the tapestry website.