Short summary - Laxdaela saga - Epic

Scandinavian literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Laxdaela saga

The saga tells the story of eight generations of one Icelandic family. The central place is given to the seventh generation: the events associated with it took place at the end of the 10th - beginning of the 11th century.

Ketil Flat-nosed held a high position in Norway. When King Harald the Fair-Haired reached his highest power, Ketil gathered his relatives for advice. Everyone agreed that it was necessary to leave the country Ketil's sons Bjarn and Helgi decided to settle in Iceland, about which they had heard a lot of tempting things. Ketil said that in his advanced years it was better to go west, across the sea. He knew these places well. With Ketil went his daughter Unn the Wise. In Scotland, he was well received by noble people: he and his relatives were offered to settle where they wanted. The son of Unn Wise Thorstein was a successful warrior and took possession of half of Scotland. He became king, but the Scots violated the agreement and treacherously attacked him. After the death of his father and the death of his son, Unn the Wise secretly ordered a ship to be built in the forest, equipped it and set off. All the surviving relatives went with her. There was no other case of a woman escaping from a formidable danger with so many companions and with such wealth! She was accompanied by many worthy people, but they were all outnumbered by a noble named Koll of the Dales.

Thorstein the Red had six daughters and one son, whose name was Olav feilan. Unn married all her granddaughters, and each of them gave rise to an illustrious family. In Iceland, Unn first of all visited the brothers, and then occupied the vast lands around the Breidfjord. In the spring, Koll married Thorgerd, daughter of Thorstein the Red, Unn gave her the whole Laxdal valley as a dowry for her. She declared Olaf Feilan her heir. On the day of her grandson's wedding, Unn suddenly left the party. The next morning, Olaf went into her room and saw that she was sitting on the bed dead. People admired the fact that Unn managed to maintain dignity and greatness until the day of death.

When Koll of the Dales fell ill and died, his son Haskuld was in his youth. But Thorgerd, daughter of Thorstein, mother of Haskuld, was still a young and very beautiful woman. After Koll's death, she told her son that she did not feel happy in Iceland. Haskuld bought her half a ship, and she sailed with great wealth to Norway, where she soon married and gave birth to a son. The boy was given the name Khrut. He was very good-looking, like his grandfather Thorstein and great-great-grandfather Ketil Flat-Nosed before. After the death of her second husband, Thorgerd was drawn back to Iceland. She loved Haskuld more than other children. When Thorgerd died, Haskuld got all her goods, although Hrut was supposed to get half.

A man named Bjarne had a daughter, Jorunn, a beautiful, haughty girl. Haskuld wooed her and received consent. The wedding was magnificent - all the guests left with rich gifts. Haskuld was in no way inferior to his father Koll. She and Jorunn had several children: sons named Thorlaik and Bard, daughters Hallgerd and Turid. They all promised to become outstanding people. Haskuld considered it humiliating for himself that his house was built worse than he would have liked. He bought a ship and went to Norway for timber. The relatives living there met him with open arms. King Hakon was very merciful to him: he allocated a forest, presented a golden wrist and a sword. Haskuld bought a beautiful slave girl in Norway, although the merchant warned him that she was mute. Haskuld shared a bed with her, but upon returning to Iceland, he stopped paying attention to her. And Jorunn said that she would not start a quarrel with a concubine, but it was better for everyone that she was deaf and dumb. At the end of winter, a woman gave birth to an unusually beautiful boy. Haskuld ordered to call him Olaf, since his uncle Olaf Feilan had died shortly before. Olaf stood out among other children, and Haskuld loved him very much. One day Haskuld heard Olaf's mother talking to her son. Approaching them, he asked the woman not to hide her name anymore. She said that her name was Melkorka and that she was the daughter of Myrkjartan, king of Ireland. Haskuld replied that it was in vain that she concealed her high origin for so long. Jorunn did not change her attitude towards Melkork. Once Melkorka took off her shoes Jorunn, and she hit her in the face with her stockings. Melkorka got angry and broke Jorunn's nose until it bled. Haskuld separated the women and settled Melkorka separately. It soon became clear that her son Olaf would be more handsome and courteous than other people. Haskuld helped a man named Thord Goddi, and in gratitude he took Olaf to his upbringing. Melkorka considered such an adoption humiliating, but Haskuld explained that she was short-sighted: Tord had no children, and after his death Olaf would inherit the property. Olaf grew up, became tall and strong. Haskuld called Olaoa Peacock, and this nickname remained with him.

Hrut, Haskuld's brother, was a warrior of King Harald. King Gunnhild's mother valued him so highly that she did not want to compare anyone with him. Hrut was going to receive a large inheritance in Iceland, and the king gave him a ship. Gunnhild was very upset by his departure. When Khrut came to Haskuld, he said that his mother was not a beggar when she got married in Norway. For three years, Hrut demanded his property at the Things, and many believed that he was right in this dispute. Then Hrut stole twenty heads of cattle from Haskuld and killed two servants. Haskuld was furious, but Jorunn advised him to make peace with his brother. Haskuld then gave Hrut part of the inheritance, and Hrut compensated for the damage he had caused. Since then, they began to get along, as befits relatives.

Melkorka wanted Olaf to go to Ireland and find his noble relatives. Wanting to help her son, she married Thorbjarn the Frail, and he gave Olaf a lot of goods. Haskuld didn't like it all that much, but he didn't object. Olaf went to sea and soon reached Norway. King Harald received him very cordially. Gunnhild also paid him great attention because of his uncle, but people said that she would be glad to talk to him even if he was not Hruth's nephew. Olaf then went to Ireland. His mother taught him her language and gave him the gold ring that his father had given her. King Myrkjartan recognized Olaf as his grandson and offered to make him his heir, but Olaf refused, not wanting to wage war with the royal sons in the future. In parting, Myrkjartan presented Olaf with a spear with a golden tip and a sword of skillful work. When Olaf returned to Norway, the king presented him with a ship with timber and a robe of purple cloth. Olaf's journey brought him great fame, because everyone learned about his noble origin and about the honor with which he was received in Norway and Ireland.

A year later, Haskuld started a conversation that it was time for Olaf to marry, and said that he wanted to marry him Thorgerd, Egil's daughter. Olaf replied that he trusted his father's choice, but it would be very unpleasant for him to receive a refusal. Haskuld went to Egil and asked for the hand of Thorgerd for Olaf. Egil accepted the marriage favorably, but Thorgerd declared that she would never marry the son of a maid. Having learned about this, Haskuld and Olaf again came to Egil's tent. Olaf was wearing a purple robe given by King Harald, and in his hands he held the sword of King Myrkjartan. Seeing a beautiful, well-dressed girl, Olav realized that this was Thorgerd. He sat next to her on the bench, and they talked all day. After that, Thorgerd said that she would not oppose her father's decision. The wedding feast took place in Haskuld's house. There were many guests, and all left with rich gifts. Olaf then presented his father-in-law with the precious sword Myrkjartan, and Egil's eyes sparkled with joy. Olaf and Thorgerd fell deeply in love with each other. Olaf's household was the richest in Laksdal. He built himself a new yard and gave it the name Hjardarholt ("Hill where the flock gathers"). Everyone loved Olaf very much, because he always settled disputes fairly. Olaf was considered the most noble of the sons of Haskuld. When Haskuld fell ill in his old age, he sent for his sons. Thorleik and Bard, born in wedlock, were supposed to share the inheritance, but Haskuld asked to give the third part to Olaf. Thorleik objected that Olaf already had a lot of good things. Then Haskuld presented Olaf with a golden wrist and a sword received from King Hakon. Then Haskuld died, and the brothers decided to arrange a magnificent feast for him. Bard and Olaf got along well with each other, while Olaf and Thorleik were at enmity. Summer came, people began to prepare for the Thing, and it was clear that Olaf would be given more honor than his brothers. When Olaf climbed the Rock of the Law and invited everyone to a feast in honor of Haskuld, Thorlaik and Bard expressed dissatisfaction - it seemed to them that Olaf had gone too far. Trizna was magnificent and brought great fame to the brothers, but Olaf was still the first among them. Wanting to make peace with Thorleik, Olaf offered to take his three-year-old son Bolli to be raised. Thorleik agreed, so Bolli grew up in Hjardarholt. Olaf and Thorgerd loved him no less than their children. Olaf named his eldest son Kjartan in honor of King Myrkjartan. Kjartan was the most handsome man ever born in Iceland. He was as tall and strong as Egil, his maternal grandfather. Kjartan achieved perfection in everything, and people admired him. He was an excellent warrior and swimmer, distinguished by a cheerful and kind disposition. Olaf loved him more than other children. And Bolli was the first after Kjartan in dexterity and strength. He was tall and handsome, always dressed richly. The named brothers loved each other very much.

The famous Norwegian Viking Geirmund wooed Turid, Olaf's daughter. Olaf did not like this marriage, but Thorgerd considered it profitable. The joint life of Geirmund and Turid was not happy due to the fault of both parties. Three winters later, Thurid left Geirmund and stole his sword by deception - this blade was called Fotbit ("Knife Cutter") and never rusted. Geirmund told Turid that Footbit would take the life of that husband whose death would be the greatest loss to the family and the cause of the greatest misfortune. Returning home, Turid presented the sword to Bolli, who has not parted with it since.

In Laugar there lived a man named Osvivr. He had five sons and a daughter named Gudrun. She was the first among the women of Iceland in beauty and intelligence. Once Gudrun met her cousin Gest, who had the gift of providence. She told him four of her dreams, and Gest interpreted them as follows: Gudrun will have four husbands - the first she will not love at all and will leave him, the second she will love strongly, but he will drown, the third will be no more dear to her than the second, and the fourth will hold her in fear and submission. After that, Gest stopped by to visit Olaf. Olaf asked which of the youth would become the most outstanding person, and Gest said that Kjartan would be glorified more than others. Then Gest went to his son. He asked why he had tears in his eyes. Gest replied that the hour would come when Kjartan, defeated by him, would lie at the feet of Bolli, and then death would befall Bolli himself.

Osvivr betrothed his daughter to Torvald, a rich man, but not a brave one. Nobody asked Gudrun's opinion, and she did not hide her displeasure. They lived together for two winters. Then Gudrun left her husband. A man named Thord often visited their house: people said that there was a love affair between him and Gudrun. Gudrun demanded that Tord divorce his wife Aud. He did so, and then married Gudrun in Laugar. Their life together was happy, but soon Tord's ship crashed on pitfalls. Gudrun was greatly saddened by the death of Tord.

Olaf and Osvivr were very friendly at that time. Kjartan liked talking to Gudrun because she was smart and eloquent. People said that Kjartan and Gudrun fit together. Once Olaf said that he appreciated Gudrun very much, but his heart sank every time when Kjartan went to Laugar. Kjartan replied that bad premonitions don't always come true. He continued to visit Gudrun as before, and Bolli always accompanied him. A year later, Kjartan wanted to travel. Gudrun was very annoyed by this decision. Kjartan asked her to wait for him for three years. In Norway, Kjartan with Bolli and their companions, at the insistence of King Olaf, adopted a new faith.

King Ingibjarg's sister was considered the most beautiful woman in the country. She really enjoyed talking with Kjartan, and people noticed it. In the summer, the king sent people to Iceland to preach the new faith. He kept Kjartan to himself, and Bolli decided to return home. So named brothers parted for the first time. Bolli met with Gudrun and answered all her questions about Kjartan, mentioning the great friendship between him and the king's sister. Gudrun said it was good news, but she blushed, and people realized that she was not as happy for Kjartan as she would like to show. After some time, Bolli wooed Gudrun. She said that she would not marry anyone as long as Kjartan lived. However, Osvivr desired this marriage, and Gudrun did not dare to argue with her father. They played a wedding with great splendor. Bolli spent the winter in Aaugar. His life with his wife was not particularly happy due to Gudrun's fault.

In the summer, Kjartan asked King Olaf to let him go to Iceland, since all the people there had already converted to Christianity. The king said that he would not break his word, although Kjartan could have taken the highest position in Norway. In parting, Ingibjarg gave Kjartan a white headscarf embroidered with gold and said that it was a wedding present for Gudrun, Osvivr's daughter. When Kjartan boarded the ship, King Olaf looked after him for a long time, and then said that it was not easy to avert evil fate - great misfortunes threatened Kjartan and his family.

Olaf and Osvivr still had the habit of inviting each other to visit. Kjartan went to Laugar with great reluctance and kept a low profile. Bolli wanted to give him horses, but Kjartan said that he did not like horses. The named brothers parted coldly, and Olaf was very upset by this. Then Kjartan wooed Hrevna, Kalf's daughter. It was a very beautiful girl. For the wedding, Kjartan gave his wife a headscarf embroidered with gold - no one in Iceland has ever seen such an expensive thing. Kjartan and Hrevna became very attached to each other.

Soon Osvivr came to Olaf's feast. Gudrun asked Khrevna to show her handkerchief and looked at it for a long time. When the guests were about to leave, Kjartan discovered that his sword, a gift from the king, was missing. It turned out that Thorolf, one of the sons of Osvivr, stole it. Kjartan was very hurt by this, but Olaf forbade him to start a feud with his relatives. After some time, people from Laksdal went to Laugar. Kjartan wanted to stay at home, but gave in to his father's requests. They were received very well. In the morning the women began to dress, and Khrevna saw that her headscarf had disappeared. Kjartan told Bolli what he thought about it. In response, Gudrun noted that Kjartan should not stir up the dead coals, and the handkerchief did not belong to Khrevna, but to other people. Mutual invitations have since ceased. Between people from Laksdal and Laugar there was an open enmity.

Soon Kjartan gathered sixty people and came to Laugar. He ordered to guard the doors and did not let anyone out for three days, so everyone had to relieve themselves right in the house. The sons of Osvivr went berserk: they believed that Kjartan would have done them less harm if he had killed one or two servants. Gudrun said little, but it was evident that she was more offended than the others. On Easter it so happened that Kjartan was driving past Laugar with only one escort. Gudrun set her brothers and her husband to attack him. Kjartan bravely defended himself and inflicted great damage on the sons of Osvivr. Bolli at first did not take part in the battle, but then rushed at Kjartan with a sword. Gudrun was glad, because Khrevna would not go to bed laughing tonight. Olaf was very upset by the death of Kjartan, but forbade his sons to touch Bolli. Not daring to disobey their father, they killed only those who were with Bolli and the sons of Osvivr. Khrevna did not remarry and died very soon, because her heart was broken from suffering.

Olaf turned to his relatives for help, and at the Thing all the sons of Osvivr were outlawed. From Bolli Olav demanded only viru, and he willingly paid. After the death of Olaf, Thorgerd began to incite her sons to take revenge on Bolli. The sons of Olaf gathered the people, attacked Bolli and killed him. Gudrun was then pregnant. Soon she gave birth to a son and named him Bolli. Her eldest son Thorleik was four years old when his father was killed. A few years later, a man named Thorgils began to woo Gudrun. Gudrun said that Bolli must be avenged first. Thorgils, together with his sons Gudrun, killed one of the perpetrators of Bolli's death. Despite this, Gudrun refused to marry, and Thorgils was very displeased. Soon he was killed right on the Thing, and Gudrun married a mighty hawding named Thorkel. He obtained from the sons of Olaf vira for the death of Bolli and began to expel them from Laxdal. Gudrun regained her high position. But one day Thorkel's ship got into a storm and sank. Gudrun courageously endured this death. After all that she had experienced, she became very devout and was the first woman in Iceland to memorize the Psalter. One day Bolli, Bolli's son, asked which of her husbands she loved the most. Gudrun said that Thorkel was the most powerful, Bolli the most courageous, Thord the most intelligent, and she did not want to say anything about Thorvald. Bolli was not satisfied with this answer, and Gudrun said that she loved most of all the one to whom she had brought the greatest grief. She died at a ripe old age and became blind before her death. Many remarkable things are told about her descendants in other sagas.