Jones, Gwyn. Some Characteristics of the Icelandic ‘Hólmganga’

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  • Author: Jones, Gwyn
  • Title: Some Characteristics of the Icelandic ‘Hólmganga’
  • Published in: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 32/3
  • Place, Publisher:
  • Year: 1933
  • Pages: 203-24
  • E-text:
  • Reference: Jones, Gwyn. "Some Characteristics of the Icelandic ‘Hólmganga’." Journal of English and Germanic Philology 32/3 (1933): 203-24.

  • Key words: history, social reality, law (sagnfræði, samfélagsmynd, lög)


Contents

Annotation

In his article Gwyn Jones discusses the main characteristics and the purpose of duels in the íslendingasögur, Landnámabók and Heimskringla. Jones states that some descriptions of duels draw on history and therefore reasonably reflect the social reality of the time, furthermore he states that from these sources conclusions can be drawn about the execution of duels at the time the sagas were written. Jones makes a distinction between duels (hólmganga), which was a legal measure with clear rules of conduct, and single combat (einvígi), which had a looser setting and one could use more creative methods. There were no repercussions from killing or injuring a man in a duel, his death could not be compensated or avenged for duels were legally binding. Jones asserts that duelling allowed men to settle feud’s on the battlefield without starting a chain reaction of vengeance and it was an intermediary stage in the evolution of a society trying to control its progressive feuding without banning it completely, for feuding was a rich part of the society. Jones finds examples of duelling (hólmganga) in Kormáks saga, Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu, Gísla saga Súrssonar, Reykdælasaga and Svarfdælasaga and points to examples of single combat (einvígi) in Egils saga, Vallaljóts saga and Fljótsdæla saga.

Lýsing

Í greininni fjallar Jones um helstu einkenni og tilgang hólmgangna í Íslendingasögum, Landnámabók og Heimskringlu. Jones telur þessar lýsingar sumar hverjar endurspegla samfélagslegan veruleika og eiga sér sögulega fyrirmynd. Hann telur jafnframt að af þeim megi draga ályktanir um hvernig hólmgöngur voru á söguöld. Jones gerir greinarmun á hólmgöngu, sem var lagalegur gjörningur sem laut skýrum reglum, og einvígi, sem hafði frjálsara form þar sem beita mátti þeim aðferðum sem tilefni gaf til. Engin eftirmál voru eftir mann sem féll eða skaðaðist í hólmgöngu, hann átti ekki að bæta með fé og hans mátti ekki hefna þar sem um löglega málshöfðun var að ræða. Jones segir hólmgöngu því hafa gert mönnum kleift að útkljá deilur á vígvellinum án þess að koma af stað vítahring hefnda. Telur hann um að ræða millistig í þróun samfélagsins þar sem reynt var að ná tökum á stigvaxandi fæðardeilum án þess að banna að fullu blóðhefndir í samfélagi þar sem hefndir voru mjög ríkur hluti af menningunni. Jones tekur dæmi úr ýmsum sögum og telur að í Kormáks sögu, Gunnlaugs sögu ormstungu, Gísla sögu Súrssonar, Reykdæla sögu og Svarfdæla sögu sé að finna dæmi um það sem kalla megi hólmgöngur en í Egils sögu, Vallaljóts sögu og Fljótsdæla sögu sé frekar um að ræða einvígi.

See also

References

Chapter 56: Eg vil bjóða þér hólmgöngu: "These combats of Egil and Grim resemble a second form of combat in Iceland, theoretically distinct from hólmganga, and yet similar to it in many respects. The einvígi, or single combat, was, like holmgang, a contest between two men, but, unlike holmgang, it was not governed by a set of rules. Yet the two terms were sometimes confused" (p. 216).

Links

  • Written by: Védís Ragnheiðardóttir
  • English translation: Andri M. Kristjánsson
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