A Concise History of Medieval Iceland - Lesson 1: A Unique Settlement.

“Medieval Iceland is an almost unique instance of a community whose culture and creative power flourished independently of any favoring material conditions, and indeed under conditions in the highest degree unfavorable. Not ought it to be less interesting to the student of politics and law as having produced a Constitution unlike any other whereof records remain, and a body of law so elaborate and complex that it is hard to believe that it existed among men whose chief occupation was to kill one another.” (James Bryce)


The society of Iceland has long perplexed scholars. It was a land settled by Vikings, yet the authority in Iceland was not fixated on warlords, warrior chieftains, or regional lords. Instead, it was a man skilled in law that was regarded as a great leader. Here are the opening lines from a saga (a history mixed with fiction) called Njal’s saga, for an example:

There was a man named Mord whose nickname was Fiddle. He was the son of Sighvat the Red, and he lived at Voll in the Rangarvellir district. He was a powerful chieftain and strong in pressing lawsuits. He was so learned in the law that no verdicts were considered to be valid unless he had been involved. (Njal, 3)

It is this aspect of Icelandic society that has made it such a unique settlement. Not only were the respect leaders men of knowledge, but there also lack a kingship. During the medieval period, this was an uncommon structure for a society. Even Scandinavia was moving towards this direction with kings such as Harald Bluetooth in Denmark.

Another aspect that makes Iceland’s settlement unique, is that these Norsemen did not come according to a planned migration, political movement, or upon any organized request. They were not claiming territory for kings like many European explorers would later do. Instead, they were independent undertakings, with the story of Iceland being just a large chapter of a three hundred year period of expansion called the Viking Age (800-1100).

Next Time: Lesson 2: Landnámsmenn.

Skál og ferð vel,
— Steven T. Dunn.


Sources:

  1. Jesse L. Byock, Viking Age Iceland. (London: Penguin, 2001), 5-8.
  2. Robert Cook trans., Njal’s Saga. (London: Penguin Classics, 2002), 3.
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Outfit of the day: Saturday 23rd July
It was reeeeeaaally hot out! It had to be big hat, floaty sleeves and shorts!
I went for a picnic and a walk around the lake with my friends during the day and in the evening I went over to my friend’s for drinks and card games!

Hat: Matalan
Top: Risky, Walthamstow 
Shorts: Primark
Boots: New Look

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Set of fuþark runes with carring bag

Do you read or want to learn how to read what the gods may bring in your future? Or perhaps you want a prop for reenacting, larp or a costume; or perhaps you just love all things vikingr. In any case, this is for you.

The runes are made of real wood from a branch struck down by a storm, cut and etched by hand.  The bag and string are made of genuine argentinian leather, that has an etched guard of the fuþark “alphabet” all around it.

This istem is for sale, ships anywhere.

Set de runas fuþark con bolsa de transporte

¿Lees lo que los dioses puedan poner en tu futuro, o querés aprender a hacerlo? O tal vez querés utilería para recreación, larp o un dusfraz; o tal vez sólo te gusta todo lo relacionado con los vikingos.  En cualquier caso, este producto es para vos.

Las runas están hechas en madera real de una rama tumbada por una tormenta, cortadas y grabadas a mano.  La bolsa y cordel son de cuero autentico, con una guarda con el “alfabeto”  fuþark en ella.

Este producto está a la venta y se hacen envíos a todas partes.

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Viking Photoshoot featuring belt set and rune bones by @lykosleather 🌿 so in love with the custom color of the belt! The belt was also custom sized!
( just because I know I’ll get more asks about the subject, I’ve been doing archery for 6-7 years now and the bow I’m using in the photos is about 55lbs)
Instagram: Lotheriel