Hrafnkel Trial Paper
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,
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Ultimately, even though Einar seemed like good hard-working man and Hrafnkel’s actions were harsh, Hrafnkel broke no laws while Einar broke the oral agreement, a legally binding contract, and harmed Freyfaxi. Primarily, just the breach of contract with Einar was enough justification to kill Einar, but even more so the culture of Iceland survived on a certain type of trust and honour system. It was this code of trust that gave Hrafnkel the authority and proper justification to kill Einar. If Einar was to be untrusted, this was the only way to ensure peace and order in the community. Furthermore, Hrafnkel even fulfilled the Icelandic duty to offer some kind of compensation for the grieving family. Hrafnkel’s compensation offer for food and items to Einar’s father, Thorbjorn, was extremely generous. In this respect, Hrafnkel was once again following the laws and traditions of Icelandic society. On another note, Hrafnkel was consindered to be the “hero” of Hrafnkel’s Saga. A saga according to multiple sources from the Internet is “a long story of achievement” and tells the “tales of worthy men.” In this sense, Hrafnkel can not be deemed guilty by his Icelandic people or readers.
After close examination of the text of Hrankel’s Saga it is very clear that Hrafnkel was completely innocent in the killing of Einar. Based on 10th century Icelandic ideals on justice, Hrafnkel was able to punish Einar for breaking