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Christianity in Viking Age

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Blaine Barsch

Dr. Jenner

SCAND100 – Paper #1

In the time of the Viking age, the intricacies surrounding the Christian conversion were socially complex. In the “Saga of the people of Laxardal,” these complexities can be seen when closely examining the actions of two particular characters, a woman named Unn and a man by the name of Kjartan. Unn is a strong character in the saga. It is said that she was able to flee Scotland after both her sons and fathers death with a large amount of followers and wealth. This act of escaping a hostile situation with such grace and prominence showed what an “… exceptional woman Unn was”(278) Unn represents the conversion to Christianity through her exemplary actions. She is not only attracted a large following due to her noble actions, but she also treated everyone with respect. This can be said to be a very Christ-like in nature, and her actions represented the good nature of Christianity. In her dying days, Unn composes herself in a way that was said to be very noble and dignified. She did not show weakness in her dying days, in fact, on her last day in the world she was able to marry off one of her grandsons and was able to greet and entertain the guests at the wedding. She also was able to transfer most of her wealth to the grandson before her death, showing there was purpose for her lasting through the wedding day. This dignified death could be interpreted to show that she was ready to pass into the afterlife, and was meant to do so by the will of God.

        The next character went by the name of Kjartan. Like Unn, Kjartan was well liked with a large following of kinsman; however, he also had his enemies that were unhappy with the way he carried himself. It was said by his enemies that he could act “… as boldly as he likes, as experience has shown that no matter what offence he chooses to commit, no one dares take him to task for it.”  The social complexities of the Christian conversion can be seen when describing the way in which it was told that Kjartan died. Kjartan had arguably the noblest death of any character in the saga. This can be compared to the death of Jesus. Jesus also had his fair share of enemies, even in his own followers, which led to his demise. Kjartans death can be said to be similar. Another character by the name of Bolli was said to be one of Kjartans kinsman. However, after persuasion by others with ill intentions, Bolli ends up in a battle with Kjartan. Kjartan does not wish to kill Bolli due to his relation, and shows his true nobility by accepting his death in place of killing one of his own. Bolli struck the deathblow while Kjartan refused to defend himself, on principle. This can be described as relating to the conversion to Christianity due to its similarities to the death of Christ, and in Kjartan decision to martyr himself based on what he believed in. These two characters are only a small representation of the relation to Christianity that is shown throughout the saga, and it is clear there are deep complexities to the Christian conversion during the Viking age.



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