O'Donoghue, Heather. Women in Njáls saga

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  • Author: Heather O' Donoghue
  • Title: Women in Njáls Saga
  • Published in: Introductory Essays on Egils Saga and Njáls Saga
  • Editors: John Hines, Desmond Slay
  • Place, Publisher: Oxford: Oxford University, The Viking Society for Northern Research in London
  • Year: 1992
  • Pages: 83-92
  • E-text: The Viking Society Web Publication
  • Reference: Heather O' Donoghue, "Women in Njáls Saga." Introductory Essays on Egils Saga and Njáls Saga, pp. 83-92. Eds. John Hines, Desmond Slay. London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 1992.

  • Key words: social reality, gender studies, religion (samfélagsmynd, kynjafræði, trúarbrögð)


Contents

Annotation

The author argues that the female characters in Njáls saga challenge our preconceived notions of gender distinctions. O'Donoghue analyzes the social relations between feminine and masculine, by looking closely at the exercise of the power in society. Five powerful women of the saga are discussed: Unn, Queen Gunnhild, Hallgerd, Bergthora and Hildigunn, and it is also explored how men are frequently mocked as effeminate, serving to redraw gender distinctions. Women indeed embody violent and old heroic ways of regulating society while men side with new ideas about a society in which the law and agreements prevail. This division mirrors a transitional time in Icelandic society when people vascillate between frenzied Paganism – embodied for example by Steinunn who proclaims Thor to be stronger than Jesus – and Christianity which appears as synonymous with peace and civilization – embodied by the missionary Thangbrand.

Lýsing

Höfundur telur að kvenpersónur Njáls sögu hvetji okkur til að endurmeta hugmyndir okkar um kynhlutverk. O'Donoghue greinir samfélagslegt hlutverk hins kvenlega og hins karllega með því að rýna í hvernig valdi er beitt í þjóðfélaginu. Fimm valdamiklar konur í sögunni eru teknar til umfjöllunar: Unnur, Gunnhildur drottning, Hallgerður, Bergþóra og Hildigunnur, en einnig er skoðað hvernig karlmenn eru oft hæddir fyrir kvenlega eiginleika og hvernig það leiðir til endurmats á kynhlutverkum. Konur standa þannig fyrir leið ofbeldis og fornra hetjuhugsjóna við mótun þjóðfélagsins en karlmenn kjósa nýjar hugmyndir um þjóðfélag sem lýtur lögum og reglu. Þessi skipting speglar íslenskt þjóðfélag á breytingaskeiði þegar fólk stendur milli ofbeldiskenndrar heiðni – fulltrúi hennar er til dæmis Steinunn sem lýsir Þór kröftugri en Jesús Krist – og kristni sem lögð er að jöfnu við frið og siðmenningu og á sér fulltrúa í trúboðanum Þangbrandi.

See also

References

Chapter 38: Ekki lætur Hallgerður: “Savage determination that wrongs must be avenged, that insults should never be forgotten and that lethal violence is the only proper response to threats to one’s pride and honour are shown in Njàls Saga to be women’s work” (p. 89).

Links

  • Written by: Sophia Rifad
  • Icelandic translation: Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir
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