If you ask the average native English speaker which of Shakespeare’s plays is their favorite, most will probably say ‘Romeo & Juliet’ just because it’s the only one they pretended to read when they were fifteen years old. I find that Laxdæla is the lucky Saga that the average Icelander pretended to read. For all the fraudulent claims, however, some Icelanders even remember details of the Saga because they actually liked it. Everyone likes love.
Guðrún for what ails you
So let’s get to the love. I’m sorry to tell that getting to the love means skipping the first 30 chapters of the Saga, but that’s okay. You only miss out on the King of Ireland and his daughter Melkorka, the Princess-of-Ireland-turned-sex-slave-turned-farm-patroness. Her son Olaf is the father of Kjartan, our main squeeze. Now we’re caught up.
Kjartan is basically Mr. Iceland, and his foster-brother Bolli is like the Mr. Iceland runner-up. Then there is Miss Iceland. Her name, like those of several other Saga characters and about half the women in Iceland in the last hundred years, is of course Guðrún. Why not name your child after the legendary Guðrún Gjúkadóttir, who feeds her own children to her evil second husband, and the Guðrún of this story, who spitefully has the love of her life murdered? It is a pretty name. Honestly, though, don’t they all just sound perfect for each other? Or at least perfect to fuck each over in a long and tragic love triangle? Well, that can’t happen until Guðrún has ditched her first two shitty husbands.
- Don’t piss off wizards.
- Never love anyone.
- If you are somehow unable to avoid loving someone, speak the fuck up.
She’s a man-eeeeeater
Spoiler alert: some guy prophesies that she’ll have four husbands and they’ll all die. No shit, Nostrafuckingdamus. We all do. Knowing this, Guðrún warms up her marriage game with a dude named Þórvaldur, but they get into a fight after she makes eyes at a guy named Þórdur and he hits her. She deservedly whips out that prenup, dumping his abusive ass, moving back in with her dad, and taking half of Þórvaldur’s shit with her. You go, girl!
Then she goes all homewrecker on Þórður, convincing him to ditch his wife and marry her instead, which gets him stabbed in the arm by his ex. Every neighbourhood has “that family,” right, and theirs happens to be a bunch of bitchy wizards. Þórður confronts them and they magically drown him at sea.
Just like in so many modern Icelandic love stories, Guðrún next falls in love with Kjartan in a hot tub. But he decides to go Norway with his main bro to win glory or whatever and tells her, “BRB (in three years) and we’ll get married.” But he ends up being held captive by the king of Norway because Christianity. Meanwhile, Bolli comes back and weasels Guðrún’s dad into basically selling her to him in marriage even though father and daughter are both pretty anti-Bolli. Like the sexy, manly man he is, Kjartan takes this news with a stoic silence upon his return. It’s not like men even have feelings.
Shit always happens
He ends up marrying some rando named Hrefna. At a feast, Hrefna’s wedding headdress goes missing and Kjartan accuses Bolli’s people of being thieves. So, naturally, he rides to their house and barricades them inside, forcing them to literally shit all over their own home. In revenge, Guðrún convinces her brothers to go and help kill Kjartan, but it’s Bolli who decapitates his best bro in the end.
When he tells Guðrún, she says something like, “Well, today I’ve spun a fuckload of yarn, and you’ve killed the shit out of the greatest warrior in all of Iceland. Go us! At least Hrefna won’t be LOLing herself to sleep tonight, amirite?!” He’s like, “Ur so rite.” But of course he’s eventually slaughtered in revenge by a bunch of dudes, one of whom has the balls to then wipe his bloody spear on Guðrún’s shawl.
Eventually, she lives through another loveless marriage that ends in a brief visit from the ghost of her now-drowned fourth husband. Then she becomes a nun. If you ask me, she doesn’t need God—she needs a good therapist. In her old age, her son asks which husband she loved best and she cryptically says, “I was worst to he whom I loved best.” (This quote is so iconic, you can see it on an awesome mural by D*FACE at Laugavegur 66.)