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						124                                             Alison Finlay
Jenny Jochens asserts that women in the sagas never go abroad in the way
proposed by Guðrún; if they leave Iceland it is generally for ever ('The medieval
Icelandicheroine', 41). In fact, this ignores the substantial exception ofSteingerðr,
heroine of Kormaks saga, whose husband agrees to her demand to take her to
Norway in the wake of her former suitor Kormakr, with whom the couple shares
a number of adventures abroad before Steingerðr and Kormakr part for ever.
Given the similarity in theme between Laxdœla saga and the poets' sagas, the
author may well have intended an allusion to this other independently-minded
heroine in Guðrún's radical proposal.27 The general truth of Jochens' generaliza-
tion, though, makes clear how unconventional the proposal is. That she is
advancing a radical revision of the traditional female role is shown by the
emphasis, in Kjartan's reply, on womanly duties:
Þat má eigi vera . . . brœðr þínir eru óráðnir, en faðir þinn gamall, ok eru þeir allri
forsjá sviptir, ef þú ferr af landi á brott, ok bíð mín þrjá vetr. (115)
That is impossible . . . your brothers have not yet settled down, and your father is old,
and they would be left without any care if you left the country; wait for me for three
years.
The author manipulated the facts to create this effect, since the historical
Ósvífrssynir were not as young as he implies at this time; nor was there any
objection to Guðrún's leaving her father's household at the time of her first
marriage (115, n.l). Helga Kress points out how, at othet climactic moments of
the saga, Guðrún's exclusion from participation in events is underscored by her
location in a womanly role: after the killing of Kjartan, she remarks that she has
spun yarn for twelve ells of cloth while Bolli was doing this deed; and in the fatal
attack on Bolli himself, she is sent away from the scene of the fight and goes to
the river to wash linen (ÍF 5, 154, 166; Kress 1993, 142-43).
Thus Kjartan's proposal, such as it is, becomes an off-handed afterthought,
which Guðrún coldly rejects. But again it alludes to the more conventional
situation of the poets' sagas, where the less autonomous heroines (none of whom,
unlike Guðrún, has the status of a widow) submit to a three—year betrothal. In
Bjarnar saga the terms of this are elaborately specified, in order both to stress the
formality of the arrangement - making it more shocking when it is thwarted by
the villainous Þórðr Kolbeinsson - and to adumbrate the likelihood that the terms
will not be fulfilled:
27 Jochens does cite another exception, Þorgerðr Þorsteinsdóttir in Laxdœla saga, who departs for
Norway when widowed, but returns to lceland before her death (ÍF 5, 14-16). It is interesting,
in connection with the question of a widow's autonomy in arranging her own marriage, that
Unnr's son Hoskuldr attempts to invalidate his half-brother Hrútr's claim to her share of her
first husband's property in Iceland on the grounds that the widowed Unnr had remarried
without her son's (Hpskuldr's) permission (45); this does show congruerice between saga and
legal text, while at the same time implying that Hoskuldr's insistence on the letter of the law is
unreasonable.
					
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