Fleming, Damian. Sex, lies and the Íslendingasögur

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  • Author: Fleming, Damien
  • Title: "Sex, Lies, and the Íslendinga Sögur"
  • Published in: Sagas and Societies - Conference at Borgarnes, Iceland, 2002
  • Place, Publisher: Tübingen, Universität Tübingen.
  • Year: 2002
  • Pages: 1-14
  • E-text: uni-tuebingen.de
  • Reference: Fleming, Damien. “Sex, Lies, and the Íslendinga Sögur.” Sagas and Societies - Conference at Borgarnes, Iceland, 2002, pp. 1-14. Tübingen: Universität Tübingen, 2002.

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Njáls saga offers potential insight into a non-Christian (and/or pre-Christian) Germanic morality. Fleming juxtaposes the presentation of lies and lying in Njáls saga with Augustine’s Christian point of view, which declares that no lie is acceptable. Njáll, who is characterized as a pre-Christian Christian, is deceitful in some matters, suggesting that not all forms of lying are immoral. Fleming uses the story of Hrútr to establish what constitutes immoral dishonesty. His deceit in lying to Queen Gunnhildr is problematic in two ways, namely: his lie is pointless, as Gunnhildr already suspects (or even knows) the truth, and he deceives her with regards to sexual matters. He seeks to atone by being truthful in all dealings thereafter and becomes thereby a moral model, as is pointedly demonstrated by the saga author.


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See also


Chapter 51: og er nú kyrrt um hríð: "Rather, it [i.e. chapter 51] fulfills a narrative protocol to which the saga-author needs to bring some closure: he needs to offer a final assessment of the character of Hrútr to Gunnarr, and by this, to the audience. Recall that while negotiating the marriage deal for Hallgerðr, Gunnarr suspects Hrútr to be reluctant on account of a grudge. It is imperative that Hrútr let it be known that this is not the case, because his reluctance actually stems from his need to be truthful in all sexual dealings. He is still atoning for the lie that he told Gunnhildr." (p. 7)


  • Written by: Benjamin Holt
  • Icelandic/English translation:
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