The Barding Saga
Will a ruling class emerge? How and why?
Ingrid the Deep-minded: “We left Norway to escape a tyrannical king. This new land is an opportunity to create a new way of life, in which we are all equals. We should fight to seize that opportunity, and not let it go to waste just because creating something new is difficult.”
Sarcastic Nereid: “In any land, some folks will gain the advantage over others. Bigger farm, more loyal men, more favors owed. And what then? Show me a man or woman that does not not wish to pass their advantages to their children. You cannot. The rules are made by the powerful, and they will change those rules to benefit their children. And why shouldn’t they? To be fair to some stranger’s children?”
Björn Bardsson: “I don’t know anything about what life was like in Norway. I just listen to Father.”
Halbjörn Half-troll: “Of course one will. It is natural. Man desires a leader, and in times of crisis those who are in need turn to those who lead to see them out of the dark times. There may be many leaders, there may be a king, a leading clan, or even a þing where many gather and decide … but even in this, leaders will emerge. It is the way.”
What laws will be established? How will a legal system take form?
Ingrid the Deep-minded: “I wish to establish a Thing, as in Norway, where all free people will gather to vote directly on what shall and shall not be law, so that we may all agree on a social contract that can unite the island without need of jarl or king.”
Sarcastic Nereid: “Laws are enforced by fear. Fear of the axe or fear of the gods. Mother thinks fear of the gods is better, but I wonder. At least a man with the axe can be reasoned with and questioned by others. If the gods say something, who is allowed to question that?”
Björn Bardsson: “Someone has to do something about these outlaws. They’ve attacked us three times already, and we can only rely on ourselves for protection.”
Halbjörn Half-troll: “I don’t fully understand this question. We have laws. They are established. Will it change? Of course. It may be slow, it may change to fit the needs of the land suddenly &hllip; an abuse may be found and removed, as we’ve seen. But they are our laws, brought from Norway as surely as our high seat posts. All that harms it is the land, the physical distance of the goði. If a wise goði like Valberg Blood-Jewel makes a ruling, it may be a long time before others learn it, and longer still before he learns others are unsure of its need. We need be faster, and that will come with more land settled and goði in power.”
How will the relationship between the sexes change or adapt?
Ingrid the Deep-minded: “I hope that women will have more rights in Iceland than they did in Norway; that we may have a direct say in how the country will be run. I hope that women’s voices and opinions will be heard and taken seriously.”
Sarcastic Nereid: “Men and women must both risk their lives. They risk themselves in fighting, and we risk ourselves bearing children. I wish men would respect our risks as they respect their own, but who sings songs of glory about mothering children? Men and women will always be different, but we shouldn’t be lesser.”
Björn Bardsson: “Girls are stupid.”
Halbjörn Half-troll: “This question … it is dangerous. Women have a place, and that place is being our wives, mothers, sisters. They run our homes, tend us when we are sick, bear our children. None of these are easy jobs. All are hard, strong with peril. Yet without them, we would all die, and so they face it bravely. Some cannot do this, there is too much man in them, and they become Shield-Maidens. I … don’t know how I feel about them, it’s an odd choice of job, but by Þor they can fight. Likewise, some men lack the blood to face up to their jobs. We are the protectors, the fathers and brothers. It is our blood that feeds fields both of wheat and arrows, and harvest the crop of life and death both provide. We are the guardians against the wild, the argr. We train the young men in the ways, and as older men we share our long wisdom and our leaders untangle the hard questions that come of law and honor. When we all do as we should, the gods bless us and it all works. To unbalance it, to lord over women and treat them as chattle, or to unman men and treat them forever as children needing a woman’s guidance, that … that is very dangerous.”
Background photo shows the Great Þjórsá Lava near Eyrarbakki, taken by Jamie Slomski.