By Loren Auerbach
Saga Book, Vol.25 (1998)
Introduction: Much has been made of Laxdœla saga being the story of two men. These, of course, are Kjartan and Bolli: such promising young men who are ultimately led by circumstances beyond their control to tragedy and death. One of these circumstances, taking up a major part of the narrative, is the age-old motif of the love triangle, with the third element provided by Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir. I believe, however, that to see the saga this way is to miss the essential point, to miss what the author is really trying to communicate.
Laxdœla saga is not the story of two men, but of one woman. It could easily be called Guðrún’s saga. The tragedy of Laxdœla saga is what happens to Guðrún: the strong, intelligent and potent woman who is forced into a submissive, ‘female’ role—an action which unleashes bitterness, anguish, evil and destruction.