Laxdaela Saga

  • They often visited the hot springs at Laugar where they met Gudrún Ósvífursdóttir
    They often visited the hot springs at Laugar where they met Gudrún Ósvífursdóttir

The Laxdaela Saga addresses the eternal triangle of love between Kjartan Ólafsson, Bolli Thorleiksson and Gudrún Ósvífursdóttir. Kjartan and his foster brother Bolli grew up in Hjardarholt in Laxárdalur district while Gudrún grew up at Laugar in Hvammssveit district.

Gestur Oddleifsson was a great chieftain and a sage who lived at Hagi at Bardastrond. On his way to Althingi, he visited Laugar in Saelingsdalur and met with Gudrún Ósvífursdóttir. Gudrún told him of four dreams she had had and asked him to explain them to her. Gestur considered her dreams and then offered his explanations. Gudrún was to have four husbands. She would not love the first one and leave him. She would love the second husband, but lose him by drowning. The third husband would be an excellent man but he would be slain. The fourth would be the greatest nobleman of the four, but she would lose him in The Firth of Hvammur. When Gestur continued his trip, he met with Ólafur the Peacock, Kjartan's father, and saw Kjartan and Bolli among other young men swimming in Laxá (Salmon River). Gestur later told one of his companions his prophecy that Bolli would at a future date slay Kjartan, and then be slain himself. He added that this was a sad future for such great men.

Gudrún's first husband was Thorvaldur Halldórsson. Ósvífur, Gudrún’s father, instigated the marriage and the couple divorced after a short marriage. Gudrún's second husband was Thordur Ingunnarson. He drowned just as Gestur had predicted.

The fathers of Kjartan Ólafsson and Bolli Thorleiksson were half-brothers. Apart from being first cousins, Kjartan and Bolli were great friends and spent most of their time together. They often visited the hot springs at Laugar where they met Gudrún Ósvífursdóttir and eventually Kjartan and Gudrún fell in love.

Kjartan decided to go to Norway. Gudrún wanted to go with him, but Kjartan asked her to wait for him for three years. Then he sailed for Norway with Bolli and other men. They stayed at the court of Ólafur Tryggvason King of Norway who held Kjartan in high esteem. Kjartan also became a great friend of the King's sister, Ingibjorg. Bolli went back to Iceland when three years had passed, but Kjartan stayed on in Norway, at least partly as a hostage since the King of Norway wanted to turn Icelanders to Christianity and emphasized his claims by not allowing some Icelanders to return to Iceland. Soon after Bolli came back, he proposed to Gudrún. She refused at first, but eventually she consented to his proposal since Bolli argued that because of his great friendship with Ingibjorg, Kjartan might not return from Norway at all. They were married and lived at Saelingsdalstunga, a farm close to Laugar.

When Kjartan returned from Norway, he learned of the marriage of Bolli and Gudrún and felt betrayed by them both. Sometime later, he married Hrefna Ásgeirsdóttir and they lived at Hjardarholt with his father, Ólafur the Peacock.

Kjartan gathered sixty men and rode to Laugar where he had all the doors of the house taken and forbade all the inmates to go outside to relieve themselves, and for three nights, he made them do their errands within the house. This was a great humiliation for Bolli and his folks. Incited by Gudrun, Bolli and her brothers ambushed Kjartan and a few men accompanying him at Hafragil in Svínadalur (Pigs Valley) where Bolli killed Kjartan.

Thorgerdur, Kjartan's mother, later gathered some men, sought Bolli out in the out-dairy at Saelingsdalur, and killed him.

Gudrún and her sons later revenged Bolli. However, after these tragic events Gudrún felt that she might not be safe in this district. She exchanged dwellings with wise man Snorri Godi the Priest and moved to Helgafell in Snaefellsnes peninsula where she lived until she died. She was buried there and her grave is still kept intact.

Shortly after moving to Helgafell, Gudrún married Thorkell Eyjólfsson, a rich and noble man, but he drowned in The Firth of Hvammur. At his death, Gestur Oddleifsson’s prophecies had all come true. In her old age, Gudrún’s son, Bolli, asked her who the man she had loved the most was. Gudrún gave him this enigmatic reply: "To him I was worst whom I loved best".