Laxdœla saga’s Gurn in “Warrior woman to nun- looking back at Viking women”

When rr is drowned, Gurn is still a young woman and everyone expects she will marry the handsome Kjartan, son of lfr the Peacock. But this never happens. Kjartan, like many young men in Icelandic sagas, wants to go abroad for a while before settling down, and announces his decision to Gurn rather suddenly. When he sees that she is upset, Kjartan offers to do whatever will make her happy. At this point, Gurn makes the rather startling request that he take her with him. It was almost unheard of in the world of the sagas for women to accompany men on such voyages: they were usually undertaken by young men eager to make money by trading and raiding, to win renown at the Norwegian court, and generally to make a name for themselves before returning to Iceland and settling down. All the major male characters of Laxdœla saga make such a voyage and return to even more esteem than they left. But for a woman to go on such a voyage was unprecedented, especially an unmarried one. Gurn's request to Kjartan must be interpreted as a coded proposal of marriage, for that was the only circumstance in which she could possibly accompany him, and it is a proposal he has unaccountably failed to make. Kjartan immediately backs off and rather patronisingly tells her to stay at home to look after her old father and her brothers, and to wait for him for three years.

Source: Judith Jesch, "[Laxdœla saga’s Gurn in] Warrior woman to nun- looking back at Viking women" in Women in the Viking Age, (Suffolk: St Edmundsbury Press Ltd., 1996), 197.

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