Hallgeršur Höskuldsdóttir

born: 940 at Höskuldsstašir in Laxįrdalur in Iceland
died: at Laugarnes in Reykjavķk in Iceland
married: 975 Gunnar Hįmundarson

Even as an child, Hallgeršur was marked as evil. When her father asked his half-brother his thoughts about the child, the man replied that she was beautiful, but she had the eyes of a thief, one of the worst kinds of evil-doers in Viking society.

She grew up to be a woman of great beauty, tall with long hair, but impetuous, willfull, extravagant, and demanding. When Gunnar saw Hallgeršur for the first time at Alžing, he was so taken by her that he asked for her hand in marriage the same day. Gunnar's close friend Njįll told him that Hallgeršur's arrival in the district would cause nothing but trouble. He was right. Njįll's wife Bergžóra and Hallgeršur became involved in an escalating series of tit-for-tat killings, which Njįll and Gunnar patched up through their close friendship.

During a time of famine, Hallgeršur sent a slave to steal food from a neighboring farm. When Gunnar learned the truth about the abundant food on the table, he slapped Hallgeršur in anger, since theft was considered a heinous crime in Viking society that brought dishonor onto the entire family.

Meanwhile, Gunnar's escalating feuds eventually caused him to be punished with lesser-outlawry. But he chose to ignore the punishment and stay at home, one possible response for a man who thought he was strong enough to withstand the pressure.

One night, Gunnar's enemies surrounded his house and attempted to force him out and kill him. Single-handedly, Gunnar was able to keep them at bay with his bow. The saga continues the story.


At that moment Thorbrand Thorleiksson leaped up on the roof and cut through Gunnar's bow-string. By this time Gunnar had wounded eight men and killed two. He spoke to Hallgerd: "Give me two locks of your hair, and you and my mother twist them into a bowstring for me."

"Does anything depend on it?" she said.

"My life depends on it," he said, "for they'll never be able to get me as long as I can use my bow."

"Then I'll recall," she said, "the slap you gave me, and I don't care whether you hold out for a long or a short time."

"Everyone has some mark of distinction," said Gunnar, "and I won't ask you again."

Brennu-Njįls saga, ch. 77
translation: Robert Cook, The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Leifur Eiriksson Publishing (1997).

Gunnar was overcome by his enemies and was killed. Gunnar's mother treated Hallgeršur so roughly for her evil deed that she nearly killed her daughter-in-law, and Hallgeršur fled the house. But Hallgeršur's evil ways and malicious tongue were not stopped. She continued to insult Njįll and his sons, fueling the feud between them and their enemies.


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