The Barding Saga
In which the children of Njáll the Wise begin to make plans to take their revenge upon Njáll Snorrisson, whom they suspect as the architect of their loss and misfortune.
In which the Bardings attend the vorÞing organized by Þorsteinn Ingólfsson and join Valberg Blood-Jewel in starting a war with Skjöldur Brimisson, known as “Old Dog-Beard.”
In which the war between Valberg Blood-Jewel and Skjöldur Brimisson begins.
In which the war continues and the cult of the Red Christ is revealed to Iceland in the temple of Valbergsholt.
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: “This land is one of opportunity for those with the will to seize it. It is a land that has allowed a fatherless child from a struggling farm to become a respected goði. Powerful men will arise, as they always have. I have seen firsthand how even a goði’s authority can be misused if the position is held by the wrong man. But Iceland refuses to be ruled, and so will I. My family will have the freedom that I had to choose their own fates. My children will bend a knee to no man.”
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: “When we came to Iceland, there was only one law. The mighty survive. The weak perish. If we are to survive here, the law must serve all of us equally. Violence and dueling must be better controlled. Corruption among the goðorð must be countered. The law exists for the good of the people. My job as goði is only to stay out of their way and to make sure their voices are heard.”
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: “Would I stand in the way of the likes of Helga? Or Freydis? Or Mother? Women will do as they always have—whatever they choose. I defy even the gods themselves to say otherwise.”
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.