Cook, Robert. Gunnarr and Hallgerðr: A failed romance

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  • Author: Cook, Robert
  • Title: Gunnarr and Hallgerðr: A Failed Romance
  • Published in: Romance and love in late medieval and early modern Iceland
  • Place, Publisher: Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Library
  • Year: 2008
  • Pages: 5–32
  • E-text:
  • Reference: Cook, Robert. "Gunnarr and Hallgerðr: A Failed Romance". Romance and love in late medieval and early modern Iceland, pp 5–32. Eds. Johanna Denzin and Kirsten Wolf. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Library, 2008.

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Cook’s article identifies the relationship between Gunnarr and Hallgerðr as an important component of Njáls saga. He puts forward an argument that love and emotions are significant – and generally underestimated – saga themes, often ignored in favor of honor and feud. The compatibility and relationship dynamic of Hallgerðr and Gunnarr is analysed from their first meeting (which Cook characterizes as superficial) into their too-hasty marriage. Cook traces the subsequent deterioration of respect and affection to its culmination at Gunnarr’s death scene, arguing a sense of honor, at least, is present until the end. While rejecting attempts to salvage a likeable Hallgerðr through imaginative interpretation beyond the text, Cook’s analysis leans towards a more sympathetic reading of her character.


Texta vantar

See also


Chapter 9: örlynd: "Translators have been said to be too harsh on Hallgerðr, and I suspect now that “generous and proud” might be closer to the true sense – certainly “lavish” is unfairly severe as a translation of ǫrlynd" (p. 17)

Chapter 33: Þau töluðu lengi hátt: "It is as though he [the author] wishes to freeze for a moment a tableau of the two handsome young people getting acquainted at their leisure. He achieves this by placing a six-line description of their attire between “They sat down and talked” (settusk þau þá niðr ok tǫluðu) and “They talked aloud for a long time” […], giving us a static portrait of their external appearance, the author raises a suspicion that their attraction is superficial." (p. 12)

Chapter 72: lofaði mjög verkið: "she does not love or value him for himself, but for the unflinchingly heroic, vengeance-seeking side of his nature. Unfortunately for their marriage, there is more to Gunnarr than that." (p. 24)


  • Written by: Harriet Allen
  • Icelandic/English translation:
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