Thursday, 21 July 2011

From Eastern Parts I: Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða


The most famous saga set in the east of Iceland is Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða. The saga is relatively short and its plot is simple; with regard to interpretation, however, it is a highly ambiguous saga in many ways and more has been written about it—and what its ‚message‘ may be—than about many other sagas put together. It is a narrative about power, certainly, and what it takes to hold on to power, but it is by no means a black-and-white picture...

Aðalból today, looking south down Hrafnkelsdalur
The eponymous Hrafnkell establishes a farm at a place called Aðalból, in Hrafnkelsdalur (to the west of the long narrow lake Lagarfljót, at whose head is the modernday capital of the east, Egilsstaðir). He is a devotee of the god Freyr, becomes a powerful and overbearing chieftain (and acquires the by-name ‚Freysgoði‘, or Freyr‘s priest‘), and owns a horse which he names Freyfaxi. Hrafnkell vows he will kill anyone who rides this horse. Einarr, the son of a poor neighbour, is employed as Hrafnkell‘s shepherd: Hrafnkell tells him he may ride any one of his horses except Freyfaxi—doing so will result in death. ‘Forewarned is forearmed‘, comments Hrafnkell („Eigi veldr sá, er varar annan“, Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða ch. 3, ed. Jón Jóhannesson, Íslenzk fornrit 11, Reykjavík 1950, p. 102).

Faxagil, south of Aðalból
One day, however, Einarr cannot find the sheep. He decides to make use of a horse to search for them, but all of the horses run off with the exception of Freyfaxi. Einarr mounts Freyfaxi and goes off to look for the sheep, which he eventually finds back at the place where he started his search. Freyfaxi runs home to Aðalból, sweating and foaming at the mouth; Hrafnkell sees the horse has been ridden, and kills Einarr to avenge this. Einarr‘s cousin Sámr takes on the legal case against Hrafnkell—Hrafnkell laughs at this—but after gaining the support of powerful brothers from the West Fjords, Sámr wins the case at the Alþingi (the national assembly) despite being very much the underdog. After returning to the east, Sámr subjects Hrafnkell and his men to gruesome torture at Aðalból (tying them together and hanging them up by means of threading a rope through their hamstrings, until the blood runs out of their eyes), and Sámr then gives Hrafnkell the choice of death or keeping his life but moving out of the district. Hrafnkell chooses to move away, and Sámr takes up residence himself at Aðalból. Hrafnkell moves east and establishes a new farm which is called Hrafnkelsstaðir. Freyfaxi is driven over a cliff and drowned in a pool; Hrafnkell‘s temple to Freyr is destroyed.
Looking north up Hrafnkelsdalur
Hrafnkell prospers on his new farm and builds up his power again; he abandons his devotion to the god Freyr. Some years later, Sámr‘s brother Eyvindr returns to Iceland after a stint abroad. Hrafnkell learns that Eyvindr is travelling to visit Sámr at Aðalból; pursues him, and kills him in order to exact vengeance on Sámr. Sámr finds his dead brother, raises a burial mound over him. Hrafnkell goes home to Hrafnkelsstaðir, calmly has a meal, and then sets off to Aðalból where he gives Sámr the same choice of options that Sámr offered to him before: to die, or to live (with shame) and move out of Aðalból. Sámr chooses the latter and moves back to his farm at Leiksskálar. Hrafnkell dies of sickness and is buried in a mound at Aðalból; his sons take over his chieftancy and become powerful men themselves. ‚And there concludes what there is to say about Hrafnkell‘ (Ok lýkr þar frá Hrafnkeli at segja, Hrafnkels saga ch. 10, p. 133).    

The saga has long been a test-case in the debate over whether the sagas are essentially 13th-century fiction, or have their origins in oral traditions about historical events that were passed down from one generation to the next and finally inscribed on parchment several hundred years after the times these events are said to have taken place. Much scholarly ink has also been spilt over the extent to which the presentation of local topography in Hrafnkels saga ‚fits‘ or can be reconciled with what is to be found in the local area in modern times.

Hrossageilar, above Aðalból, where Sámr and
his men left their horses before going down
to Aðalból to torture Hrafnkell??
There are a number of occasions in the saga where place-names are explained as having come into existence after certain events: the saga notes, for example, how places around where Sámr‘s brother Eyvindr was killed by Hrafnkell are known variously as Eyvindartorfa (‚Eyvindr‘s turf‘),Eyvindarfjöll (‚Eyvindr‘s mountain‘) and Eyvindardalr‘ (‚Eyvindr‘s valley‘) (Er þar ok kölluð Eyvindartorfa ok Eyvindarfjöll ok Eyvindardalr, Hrafnkels saga ch. 8, p. 130; ‘That place is now called Eyvindartorfa and Eyvindarfjöll and Eyvindardalr‘). The spot where Sámr and his men concealed their horses above the farm Aðalból before driving Hrafnkell away ‚has since been called Hrossageilar (‚Narrow glen/lane of horses‘)‘ (heita þar síðan Hrossageilar, Hrafnkels saga ch. 5, p. 119). And the spot from where the horse Freyfaxi was driven to his death ‚has since been called Freyfaxahamarr (‚Freyfaxi‘s cliff‘)‘ (Heitir þar síðan Freyfaxahamarr, Hrafnkels saga ch. 6, p. 124).  

Many of the places named in Hrafnkels saga—individual farmsteads, shepherd‘s cots, natural features such as rivers and gullies—can be found on a map, though as always, it is possible to debate whether the identification of these places today corresponds with where they were (or were thought to be) at the time when the saga was written, and again, at the time when the events that the saga describes took place. The farm at Aðalból itself is one example of this—was the Aðalból of the saga located where the modern Aðalból is today, or was it originally somewhere further south in the valley? Some of those who have written about topography and Hrafnkels saga have questioned the ‘fit‘ between the saga‘s description of the natural features around Aðalból, and the lie of the land in which the present Aðalból is set. Others are certain that the saga Aðalból was located where the modern Aðalból is, though the valley has not been continuously inhabited from the saga-age to present times, due to volcanic ash falling at different times (after the volcano Hekla erupted in 1185, for example, the valley seems to have been deserted until the late middle ages when it was resettled).

Basalt formations with moss
The present Aðalból was dug by Sigurður Vigfússon in the late 19th century and identified a mound there which may or may not be Hrafnkell‘s mound...it is said to be his, at any rate (and Sigurður wrote that the human bones found in it must be Hrafnkell's). Other sites in the valley have been excavated too: archaeologists have identified a total of 20 dwelling places from early times, 16 of which were apparently abandoned after the 1185 Hekla eruption. Some places named in the saga cannot be (or have not been) identified at all—though local people and scholars of the saga have walked hill and dale to find them. One site that was long sought out was the location of the shepherd‘s cot Reykjasel, mentioned in Hrafnkels saga in conjunction with the shepherd Einarr‘s fated searching for Hrafnkell‘s missing sheep. A local man who had been pondering the location Reykjasel for many years finally stumbled upon it, literally, while rounding up sheep in an autumn fog, shortly before construction (or destruction, depending on one´s perspective) work begain on the infamous Kárahnjúkur dam and reservoir in 2005. The site was excavated hurriedly in 2005 before the land was flooded and turned into the Hálslón lagoon that feeds the Kárahnjúkur hydro-electric power-plant. Other examples are Eyvindartorfa (where Eyvindr was buried, see above) and Freyfaxahamarr (where the horse Freyfaxi met his death, see above).

The saga continues to draw people to the remote Hrafnkelsdalur valley, however—on the present farm there is accommodation, a petrol pump, and a bar which goes by the name of ‘Sámsbar‘...and in which I am writing up this post. When I asked the owners why the bar is named after Sámr and not Hrafnkell, they replied that they found him to be a more sympathetic character...and so he is in many, though not in all, ways (here I think of his hamstringing of Hrafnkell). But the victory of the underdog turns out to be short-lived—perhaps it would have been more enduring had Sámr killed Hrafnkell as he was urged to do by others...but this is an uncomfortable equation/conclusion. „Svona er lífið“ (‚Such is life‘), an Icelander might say...  
From the southern foot of Hrafnkelsdalur

For those who want to read more about Hrafnkels saga and place-names, one place to start is with an article by O. D. Macrae-Gibson, ‘The Topography of Hrafnkels saga‘, published in the Saga-Book of the Viking Society 19 (1974-77), 239-63, and accessible online at http://www.vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Saga-Book%20XIX.pdf. Further references to previous scholarship can be found therein.

14 comments:


  1. PLEASE READ!!!! PLEASE READ!!!! PLEASE READ!!!! PLEASE READ!!!!

    Hey Guys!!!Am so happy I got mine from Mike Fisher. My blank ATM card can withdraw $2,000 daily. I got it from Her last week and now I have $14,000 for free. The blank ATM withdraws money from any ATM machines and there is no name on it, it is not traceable and now i have money for business and enough money for me and my family to live on .I am really happy i met Mike Fisher because i met two people before her and they took my money not knowing that they were scams. But am happy now. Mike Fisher sent the card through DHL and i got it in two days. Get your own card from her now she is not like other scammer pretending to have the ATM card,She is giving it out for free to help people even if it is illegal but it helps a lot and no one ever gets caught. i'm grateful to Mike Fisher because she changed my story all of a sudden . The card works in all countries except, Mali and Nigeria. Mike Fisher email address is blankatm002@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Guys!! I am Belinda. I live in Chicago USA. I am very excited today and do not know where to start my testimony from. I was a poor woman with 3 kids and found it difficult to pay my bills and feed my kids. My husband left me and the kids for another woman and ever since then we were living in pain and hunger but just few days ago i came across a testimony of a man who got a blank ATM card from Mr.Alexander so i immediately contacted him for the same type of ATM card and i am very happy to announce to the world that i am living a fulfilled life.This blank ATM card can withdraw up to 10,000 dollars and more daily without you having any account with any bank. I have been able to buy a house and start my own business with this blank ATM card. The card works in all countries and  that  is  the good  news.  Make  your  order  today  via  Alexander's  email  address :alexanderhackers01@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello Guys!! I am Belinda. I live in Chicago USA. I am very excited today and do not know where to start my testimony from. I was a poor woman with 3 kids and found it difficult to pay my bills and feed my kids. My husband left me and the kids for another woman and ever since then we were living in pain and hunger but just few days ago i came across a testimony of a man who got a blank ATM card from Mr.Alexander so i immediately contacted him for the same type of ATM card and i am very happy to announce to the world that i am living a fulfilled life.This blank ATM card can withdraw up to 10,000 dollars and more daily without you having any account with any bank. I have been able to buy a house and start my own business with this blank ATM card. The card works in all countries and  that  is  the good  news.  Make  your  order  today  via  Alexander's  email  address :alexanderhackers01@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good day everyone reading this, My name is Sarah Keith and I am from the USA. I want to give a short testimony on how I was able to get a legit blank ATM card! As at last week I urgently needed money to pay my kids bills and get some stuffs for the home, I was having no where to get any help so I was online and I saw a post that Mr Alexander is giving out blank ATM card, So I have to give them a try because I needed money urgently I copied his email address and sent her a personal message applying for the blank card, I got a reply from him and I sent them all what they asked me to my greatest surprise they really delivered the card to me in my door steps, I got the card and went straight to the nearest ATM machine to give a try and it really works,I made a lot of money from the card!! Now am doing great and living good life with my family please if you are out there in need of help urgently please contact Mr Alexander  via email:alexenderhackers01@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good day everyone reading this, My name is Sarah Keith and I am from the USA. I want to give a short testimony on how I was able to get a legit blank ATM card! As at last week I urgently needed money to pay my kids bills and get some stuffs for the home, I was having no where to get any help so I was online and I saw a post that Mr Alexander is giving out blank ATM card, So I have to give them a try because I needed money urgently I copied his email address and sent her a personal message applying for the blank card, I got a reply from him and I sent them all what they asked me to my greatest surprise they really delivered the card to me in my door steps, I got the card and went straight to the nearest ATM machine to give a try and it really works,I made a lot of money from the card!! Now am doing great and living good life with my family please if you are out there in need of help urgently please contact Mr Alexander  via email:alexenderhackers01@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete

  6. Hello
    We are professional traders, earning on forex and binary for investors weekly, will love to tell you all more about our investment platform where you can invest funds as little as $200 and start earning $2000 weekly, alot of people has benefited from this investment offer before and during this convid-19 virus, if you passing through financial difficulties due to this coronavirus and you need help paying bills simply choose a suitable investment plan for yourself and start making profit weekly

    $500 to earn $5,000 in 7 days
    $1000 to earn $10000 in 7 days
    $5000 to earn $50000 in 7 days

    To Start your investment now contact Via whatsapp: (+12166263236)
    email: carlose78910@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hello Guys!! I am Belinda. I live in Chicago,USA. I am very excited today and do not know where to start my testimony from. I was a poor woman with 3 kids and found it difficult to pay my bills and feed my kids. My husband left me and the kids for another woman and ever since then we were living in pain and hunger but just few days ago i came across a testimony of a man who got a blank ATM card from Mr.Alexander so i immediately contacted him for the same type of ATM card and i am very happy to announce to the world that i am living a fulfilled life.This blank ATM card can withdraw up to 10,000 dollars and more daily without you having any account with any bank. I have been able to buy a house and start my own business with this blank ATM card. The card works in all countries and  that  is  the good  news.  Make  your  order  today and start living a good life, his email address is alexanderhackers01@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello Guys!! I am Belinda. I live in Chicago,USA. I am very excited today and do not know where to start my testimony from. I was a poor woman with 3 kids and found it difficult to pay my bills and feed my kids. My husband left me and the kids for another woman and ever since then we were living in pain and hunger but just few days ago i came across a testimony of a man who got a blank ATM card from Mr.Alexander so i immediately contacted him for the same type of ATM card and i am very happy to announce to the world that i am living a fulfilled life.This blank ATM card can withdraw up to 10,000 dollars and more daily without you having any account with any bank. I have been able to buy a house and start my own business with this blank ATM card. The card works in all countries and  that  is  the good  news.  Make  your  order  today and start living a good life, his email address is alexanderhackers01@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. GET YOUR BLANK ATM CARD Get $5,500 USD every day, for six months! See how it works Do you know you can hack into any ATM machine with a hacked ATM card?? make up your mind before applying, straight deal... Order for a blank ATM card now and get millions within a week!: contact us via email address::alexanderhackers01@gmail.com We have specially programmed ATM cards that can be used to hack ATM machines, the ATM cards can be used to withdraw at the ATM or swipe, at any store or POS. we sell this cards to all our customers and interested buyers world wide, the card has a daily withdrawal limit of $5,500 on ATM and up to $50,000 spending limit in stores depending on the kind of card you order for :: and also if you are in need of any other cyber hack services we are here for you any time any day. Here is our price list for the ATM CARDS: Cards that withdraw $5,500 per day costs $380 USD Cards that withdraw $10,000 per day costs $665 USD Cards that withdraw $35,000 per day costs $3,550 USD Cards that withdraw $50,000 per day costs $5,500 USD Cards that withdraw $100,000 per day costs $8,000 USD Make up your mind before applying, straight deal!!! The price include shipping fees and charges, order now: contact us via email address::alexanderhackers01@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. GET YOUR BLANK ATM CARD Get $5,500 USD every day, for six months! See how it works Do you know you can hack into any ATM machine with a hacked ATM card?? make up your mind before applying, straight deal... Order for a blank ATM card now and get millions within a week!: contact us via email address::alexanderhackers01@gmail.com We have specially programmed ATM cards that can be used to hack ATM machines, the ATM cards can be used to withdraw at the ATM or swipe, at any store or POS. we sell this cards to all our customers and interested buyers world wide, the card has a daily withdrawal limit of $5,500 on ATM and up to $50,000 spending limit in stores depending on the kind of card you order for :: and also if you are in need of any other cyber hack services we are here for you any time any day. Here is our price list for the ATM CARDS: Cards that withdraw $5,500 per day costs $380 USD Cards that withdraw $10,000 per day costs $665 USD Cards that withdraw $35,000 per day costs $3,550 USD Cards that withdraw $50,000 per day costs $5,500 USD Cards that withdraw $100,000 per day costs $8,000 USD Make up your mind before applying, straight deal!!! The price include shipping fees and charges, order now: contact us via email address::alexanderhackers01@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. Am short of words for the amazing profit you helped me earn in just a week with bitcoin trading am so sorry I doubted at the beginning, I invested $200 and earn $2,500 in just one week, and kept on investing more, today I am financially successful, you can contact him via email: carlose78910@gmail.com Via whatsapp: (+12166263236) I advice you shouldn't hesitate.
    He's great

    ReplyDelete
  12. PLEASE READ!!!
    Hello Everyone, I'm Lucy, 32 Years Old. I live in Virginia,USA. I have 2 kids and I had to look after them after my husband died in a road accident. I was working as an accountant until I lost my job last year due to Covid-19, I had not paid my bills and my kids were scared of getting evicted from the house. So one morning I was online trying to find a new job that I can work and get paid hourly. Then I came across Mr. Sebastian comments on how he helped many people get their blank ATM card that changed their life for good. I decided to contact Mr Sebastian for same blank ATM card since it was difficult for me to feed my kids and pay their bills i emailed him at (sebastianhackers01@gmail.com) and they responded immediately i agreed to their terms and conditions and believe me to my greatest surprise i received my card in 2 days delivered by DHL and i went straight to the nearest atm machine i was able to withdraw $10,000 instantly with no trace of getting caught i was happy and now i have used the card to withdraw $100,000 and i keep renewing my card every time it expires.Thank you Sebastian if you need his help out there contact him now: sebastianhackers01@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. PLEASE READ!!!
    Hello Everyone, I'm Lucy, 32 Years Old. I live in Virginia,USA. I have 2 kids and I had to look after them after my husband died in a road accident. I was working as an accountant until I lost my job last year due to Covid-19, I had not paid my bills and my kids were scared of getting evicted from the house. So one morning I was online trying to find a new job that I can work and get paid hourly. Then I came across Mr. Sebastian comments on how he helped many people get their blank ATM card that changed their life for good. I decided to contact Mr Sebastian for same blank ATM card since it was difficult for me to feed my kids and pay their bills i emailed him at (sebastianhackers01@gmail.com) and they responded immediately i agreed to their terms and conditions and believe me to my greatest surprise i received my card in 2 days delivered by DHL and i went straight to the nearest atm machine i was able to withdraw $10,000 instantly with no trace of getting caught i was happy and now i have used the card to withdraw $100,000 and i keep renewing my card every time it expires.Thank you Sebastian if you need his help out there contact him now: sebastianhackers01@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hello everyone..Welcome to my free masterclass strategy where i teach experience and inexperience traders the secret behind a successful trade.And how to be profitable in trading I will also teach you how to make a profit of $7,000 USD weekly and how to get back all your lost funds feel free to Email: tdameritrade077@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete