Motto for this entire section, spoken by Gunnar's mother Rannveig: "Housewives around here have managed well enough without resorting to manslaughter."

Words to live by! But not for Hallgerd. Gunnar and Njal share a piece of woodland. Hallgerd decides to get back at Bergthora for the low seating thing by sending her scoundrel servant Kol to kill Njal and Bergthora's servant when Hallgerd decides he's chopping too much wood. Njal and Gunnar hear about this at the Althing. Both of them are very nice about it, and Gunnar pays compensation. But Bergthora hires a man to kill Kol. Once again, Gunnar and Njal are nice about it and compensation is paid.

Meanwhile, Bergthora and Njal's son, Skarp-Hedin, keeps grinning. It's super-creepy.

Hallgerd gets a kinsman of hers, Brynjolf the unruly, to kill the man of Bergthora's who killed Kol. The killings for proxy keep escalating, moving from servants to kinsmen, and portents and fetches are seen. Finally, Bergthora gets her sons involved. Skarp-Hedin is bad-ass in addition to being creepy, and beheads Hallgerd's kinsman. But Njal and Gunnar continue to refuse to get sucked into the feud, and just keep forking over compensation.

Suddenly, Unn, the woman who married Hrut and whom Gunnar and Njal helped retrieve her dowry, returns to the story. Sort of. She's dead now, but her son Mord, by her second marriage, appears. He hates Gunnar. (I don't quite get this - Gunnar did his mother a favor.) Anyway, he's important later on.

Hallgerd, apparently bored with feuding with Bergthora, expands her targets and orders a slave to steal cheese and other dairy products from some guy named Otkel. Gunnar finds out and slaps her. (Take note, this is important.) But when Hallgerd gives some beggars slices of cheese, Mord helps Otkel put them together and compares the full cheese to one of Mord's cheese-molds. The cheese thief has been identified!

This sets off another series of feuds. Njal gives Gunnar legal advice. Gunnar pays more compensation. I keeep expecting him to go bankrupt. But things continue to escalate, and Gunnar ends up killing Otkel. (Mord lurks in bed in a cowardly, conniving manner.)

"But I wish I knew," said Gunnar, "whether I am less manly than other men, for being so much more reluctant to kill than other men are."

Njal, who is apparently prescient in addition to being smart, warns Gunnar that the violence will continue to escalate, and never to kill more than one man from the same family.

Gunnar is sued for Otkel's death, but he manages to settle the case with Njal's help. Sagas: the original courtroom dramas.

Then there's an apparently unrelated event: some guy challenges Gunnar to a horse fight, and is vengeful afterward. I think that Gunnar's previous involvement in feuds and lawsuits may have given him some sort of reputation that made people think he needed to be taken down, or maybe violence attracts violence, even if it's not a direct connection. Anyway, Gunnar and some kinsmen are ambushed by the horse guys, there's a huge battle, and Gunnar rides home carrying his brother on his shield.

Gunnar foresees another lawsuit. On Njal's advice, he declares that the men he killed were outlaws. But Mord, who seems to have taken Hallgerd's place as Saga Troublemaker, convinces the remaining horse fight guys to sue Gunnar. Again. This eventually leads to another huge battle. Hallgerd, incidentally, seems quite happy now. Maybe she wanted to have a bad-ass warrior husband, or thought that was who Gunnar was when she married him, and maybe that was what all her earlier scheming was really about.

Gunnar has now killed twice in one family. MORE lawsuits ensue. This time Gunnar is banninated from Iceland for three years, or the kinsmen of the men he killed will have the right to kill him. Gunnar plans to leave. But then he looks back...

"How lovely the slopes are," he said, "More lovely than they have ever seemed to me before, golden cornfields and new-mown hay. I am going back home, and I will not go away."

As [ profile] lnhammer noted, Gunnar/slope OTP!

Gunnar returns home. All his enemies, including the ubiquitous Mord, plot to attack him at home. There is a massive battle, but Gunnar is a great warrior and easily defends his home 9and beloved slopes). Mord suggests setting fire to his house, but this idea is rejected with horror.

But then they break Gunnar's bowstring! He asks Hallgerd for two locks of her hair to plait into a new bowstring. But Hallgerd says, "I shall now remind you of the slap you gave me. I do not care in the least whether you hold out a long time or not."

"To each his own way of earning fame," said Gunnar. "You shall not be asked again."

I am sure that, indeed, that is a very famous scene!

The battle continues, but in the saga's usual understated manner, But in the end they killed him.

Poor Gunnar. Hopefully he's buried on the slope.

The men who killed Gunnar ask his mother, Rannveig, if they can bury their own dead on the property.

"Willingly," she replied, "but I would have been even more willing to give enough room for all of you."

Moral: Do not slap, kill the servants or kinsmen of, insult, low-seat, or steal cheese from an Icelandic saga heroine. You will soon be reconsidering under the sod.

From: [identity profile]

Well, yes.

The bowstring thing is something that a good editor would have demanded to be rewritten (the enemy gets close enough to sever his bowstring, yet he expects to have time to make a new one before they close in). I suppose it's just a way to smear some more blame on Hallgerd, but it backfires.

It's quite obvious at this point that Gunnar isn't going to make it, so giving him her hair would be no more than a gesture of affection and obedience. While he is a very sympathetic character otherwise, the answer to the question of whether he deserves affection and obedience from Hallgerd is, simply, 'no'.

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