Professor Patrick Wen
22 January 2014
Hrafnkel’s Saga – Not Guilty
Hrafnkel, in the eponymous Hrafnkel’s Saga, by modern standards would certainly be considered a ruthless murderer. However, it is necessary to take into consideration the time period and culture of this historic Scandinavian saga. The entirety of the Icelandic population was illiterate and as such the justice system established in 10th century Iceland was based mostly on a system of honor and violence. The laws of Iceland were not actually written down, but rather kept alive verbally. An oral oath was considered to be a legally binding contract. This system was a weak attempt at avoiding bloody feuds and altercations among the common people,…show more content…
Once again, Hrafnkel, reiterated the importance of an oral agreement and stated that “warning wards off blame.” Since Einar did indeed ride Freyfaxi, he was inevitably responsible for his own death. Even more so, Einar decided to ride Freyfaxi despite having several other horses to choose from; even though the other horses ran away he did not put any effort into mounting onto another horse. Einar’s murder was simply the ultimate punishment for his wrongdoing and breaking the law between Hrafnkel and him.
One may begin to wonder why Hrafnkel had even subject Einar to such a preposterous and bizarre agreement. However, this agreement was not made in vain. Hrafnkel, had sworn an oath to dedicate half of Freyfaxi to the diety, Freyr, whom he loves above all others. Fundamentally, this meant only Freyr and Hrafnkel himself, were allowed to ride Freyfaxi. At the very start of the saga, Hrafnkel’s love for the god, Freyr was shown:
“When Harnkel had settled at Adalbol, he had a large temple built and held great sacrifices to the gods. He loves Frey above all the other gods and gave him a half-share in all his best treasures.” (36)
In fact, it is because of his intense affection for this god that Hrafnkell gained the title Freysgodi. As exemplified earlier, Freyr, played an extremely important part in the chieftain’s religion. Thus, Einar’s choosing to ride Freyfaxi