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Fosterage and dependency in medieval Iceland and its significance in Gísla Saga

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Chapter Summary

Saga characters often exercised the option of fostering their children. This meant that a portion of the responsibilities of parenthood were delegated to people who were not the child's biological parents. This chapter uses Grágás as a guide, to separate, delineate and re-label two parenting practices which are regulated closely by the law: legal fosterage and guardianship. It compares them, in order to show that an understanding of the nuances of the Icelandic model of parenthood guided by the law underlies the descriptions of child-rearing in the sagas. Legal fosterage was a serious transaction. In contrast to legal fostering is the practice of guardianship. Icelandic society was so concerned to curb itinerancy that laws were created to ensure that the less able members of society were provided for.

Keywords: Grágás saga; guardianship; legal fosterage; medieval Icelanders



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