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The Proverbial Heart of Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða: Mér þykkir þar heimskum manni at duga, sem þú ert

The Proverbial Heart of Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða: Mér þykkir þar heimskum manni at duga, sem þú ert

By Richard L. Harris

Scandinavian-Canadian Studies, Vol.16 (2005-2006)

Abstract: This essay considers the thematic force of a proverbial allusion in Hrafnkels saga when the political dilettante Sámr Bjarnason reluctantly agrees to help his uncle Þorbjǫrn seek redress for the killing of his son by Hrafnkell Freysgoði. “Mér þykkir þar heimskum manni at duga, sem þú ert” [I want you to know that in my opinion I am helping a fool in helping you], he comments, alluding to the traditional proverb Illt er heimskum lið at veita [It’s bad to give help to the foolish] setting one theme of this short but complex and much studied narrative.  Examination of the story suggests that nearly all of its characters behave with varying degrees of foolishness. Further, it can be seen that Sámr’s foolishness dictates his fall after defeating Hrafnkell in legal proceedings and that, conversely, Hrafnkell’s rehabilitation is the result of correcting that unwise social behaviour which led to his initial defeat.

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