Women in the Laxdaela Saga
Men and women interact and make the world go around every single day. The idea of one gender being more important is very difficult to judge because men and women contribute equally and in different ways. The Laxdaela Saga is no exception to the interaction of men and women; much of the story depends upon these relationships. Although in medieval times women did not play a large role in society, they are very important in the Laxdaela Saga. Without the various gender related interactions the culture of medieval Iceland would not be as clearly understood one thousand years after the events have taken place.
The first woman of importance and really the first character of importance is Unn the Deep-Minded and the fortunes of her descendents. Unn is a very influential pioneer of the saga; she establishes dynasties in Scotland, the Faroe Islands and Orkney by marrying off her granddaughters to the men of her choice. Unn also laid claim to Breidafjord, an enormous area of land on the west coast of Iceland. Unn later gave away parts of Breidafjord to her followers according to their social standing and lineage. When Unn died she left her estate to her grandson Olaf Feilan. Following Unn’s death her name slowly fades out of the saga. Her tight control over her land and granddaughters is the entire story line of the first part of the Laxdaela Saga.
Other important women of the Laxdaela Saga are Jorunn and Melkorka. Jorunn is the wife of one of Unn’s great-grandsons. Jorunn was a very wise woman but she also had a bad temper. Although Jorunn and Hoeskuldur had several children together their marriage was not a pleasant one. Their marriage is particularly in jeopardy when Hoeskuldur brings the female slave Melkorka home from the concubine. Jorunn is too proud for this and fights Melkorka until she moves to another farm. Melkorka turns out to be a special character. She first comes across as a dumb slave who attracts men and this seems to work...