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Þuríður Óláfsdóttir

born: at Goddastaðir in Laxárdalur in Iceland
died: in Iceland
married: Geirmundur gnýr (thunder)

Þuríður was married to a scoundrel who tried to sneak out of the marriage by sailing away from Iceland without her. She turned the tables on him by taking his prized possession: his sword. The episode illustrates the value of a sword in the Viking age.

The story begins in Norway, where Geirmundur weaseled his way onto Óláfur's ship as Óláfur prepared to return home to Iceland. When they arrived, Óláfur invited Geirmundur to stay with him for the winter. Geirmundur was attracted to Óláfur's daughter, Þuríður and asked for her hand. Óláfur refused the match, but his wife convinced him to agree after Geirmundur paid her a large sum of money.

Geirmundur and Þuríður were married, but there was little affection, and the relationship was cool. After three years, Geirmundur announced his plans to leave Iceland and to return to Norway without his wife and infant daughter, taking with him all his wealth. Óláfur refused to do anything to stop him, despite his wife and daughter's pleas. Instead, he asked his wife if the Norwegian was perhaps not as generous as he had seemed in the past.

Geirmundur waited onboard his ship for favorable weather to depart. One night when Óláfur was away, Þuríður had her servants launch the boat and row her out to the island where Geirmundur's ship lay waiting to depart. She boarded the ship while everyone was asleep, carrying her infant daughter with her.

Thuridur

Thurid made her way to Geirmund's sleeping sack where his sword Leg-biter hung. She placed the child in the sack, took the sword and made her way off the ship and back to her companions.

The child began to cry and woke Geirmund. He sat up and, recognizing his daughter, suspect who was behind all this. Running up on deck, he saw Thurid and her companions rowing their boat away. Geirmund then called to Thurid to come back and return his sword Leg-biter - "and take your daughter with you and whatever wealth you want."

Thurid said, "Do you mind the loss of your sword so much?"

Geirmund replied, "I'd have to lose a great deal of money before I minded as much as the loss of that sword."

She said, "Then you will never have it, as you have treated me dishonorably in more ways than one."

Laxdæla saga, ch. 30
translation: Keneva Kunz, The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Leifur Eiriksson Publishing (1997).

In the Viking age, swords were extraordinarily valuable. They were difficult to make, so they were rare and costly. They were a very visible symbol of prestige and credibility. His sword was so valuable to Geirmundur that he would have given up nearly anything else to keep the sword.

Geirmundur laid a curse on the sword as Þuríður rowed away, saying it would kill the man in her family that least deserved to die. Þuríður said she would take that chance. She gave the sword to her foster-brother Bolli, who later killed Þuríður's brother Kjartan with the sword.


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