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The appearance and personal abilities of gođar, jarlar, and konungar: Iceland, Orkney and Norway

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Chapter Summary

This chapter analyzes the appearance and personal abilities of earls of Orkney (jarlar), kings of Norway (konungar), and Icelandic chieftains (goðar) in sagas dealing with the period to c. 1200. It also analyzes how qualities attributed to these three groups of secular leaders expose significant differences between these three societies. The descriptive differences in physical traits of Icelandic chieftains, Orknian earls and Norwegian kings emphasize overall that Icelandic society was comparatively more peaceful. This concept is supported by the mere two references to chiefly weapon skills in the sagas, and the general absence of chiefly killings before 1210. Shrewdness is the characteristic that the sagas emphasise most in descriptions of the chieftains highlighting the acumen of the chieftains to explain how some chieftains survived the power struggles while others went to the wall.

Keywords: goðar; Iceland; jarlar; konungar; Norway; Orkney; personal abilities; sagas



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