Njáll the Wise

Bard's Father


Njáll Bardsson was lawspeaker in Borg when Jorund Björnsson reigned as jarl. He married Ingrid, the daughter of Stuf the Sly, who was lawspeaker in Borg before him. Ingrid learned much about the law from her father, and Njáll was wise enough to value her advice. Njáll quickly gained a reputation as a wise man who knew the law better than any man in Hålogaland, and so men called him “the Wise.” Njáll accepted this praise, though he often replied that though he may know the law better than any man, his wife Ingrid knew still more than he.

Njáll and Ingrid had three children: their elder daughter Thora, their son Bard, and their younger daughter, Nereid.

In those days, Harald Fairhair fought to conquer all of Norway, and when Jorund was defeated, the new king had him killed. Njáll and Ingrid agreed that Harald would bring only tyranny to their land, so they resolved to leave their home behind and establish a new life in the new country of Iceland. There, they said, they might apply their knowledge to create a new kind of commonwealth, one without kings or jarls, where the law might make everyone free.

And so they sailed with their daughters Nereid and Thora, and Thora’s husband Halbjörn Half-troll to Iceland. They settled near Þjórsá’s mouth, on the eastern side, and there established a homestead and a hof dedicated to Odin and all the other gods, called Hrafnahof. There they lived for many years, and Njáll garnered a reputation as a wise and fair goði.

His son Bard came to join him some years later, after his farm in Borg was seized by the king, and he established a homestead across Þjórsá’s mouth from Hrafnahof, at Bardstaðir.

One day, Nereid found a níðstöng erected against her father. It terrified the landvættir away. They suffered a terrible harvest, and lost all their livestock in the winter that followed. Desperate and near starvation, Njáll agreed when Njáll Snorrisson offered to pay him handsomely for his title as goði. Though Nereid believed that this Njáll had erected the níðstöng himself specifically to push her father to such desperate ends, and though Njáll and Ingrid did not disbelieve those suspicions, Njáll had little choice but to accept the offer. Njáll the Wise sold Hrafnahof and his title as goði to Njáll Snorrisson and went to live with his son, Bard, at Bardstaðir.

The silver from the sale of the title helped Bardstaðir to flourish, and Njáll’s family recovered from that harsh winter in which they nearly died. Njáll, however, only grew weaker. He died in the next winter from illness.

Portrait by Eliessa.

Njáll the Wise

The Barding Saga Jason