’s Saga Essay, Research Paper

Justifiable Homicide

In the Scandinavian family saga, the main character Hrafnkel is justified in his killing of Einar. Although there are several reasons that Hrafnkel was unjustified in his act, the reasons supporting Hrafnkel s deed outweigh the reasons that would oppose it. The Icelandic idea of civilization, law, and the importance of one s word all provided a strong backing for Hrafnkel to act in the way that he did.

Hrafnkel s murder of Einar was justified in a myriad of ways. When Hrafnkel hired Einar to be his sheepherder, Hrafnkel told him that he may ride any horse that he pleased, but he must not ride Hrafnkel s prize horse Freyfaxi. If Einar disobeyed Hrafnkel s orders, Hrafnkel informed him that he would be killed. (38-39) In this period of history a man s word was extremely important. One who keeps his word was held in high regard in these times. Hrafnkel states to Einar that warning wards off all blame . (40) Stating that I will kill you if you ride Freyfaxi, and you will be at fault. Another reason that Hrafnkel is justified in his killing of Einar is that it sets an example to neighboring townspeople and to the rest of his servants. It shows what will happen if Hrafnkel s commands are not followed properly. The reason that Hrafnkel is so protective of Freyfaxi is that he has offered this horse up to the god Frey, and Frey and Hrafnkel were the only two allowed to ride Freyfaxi. (38) The god Frey was an extremely important part of Hrafnkel s religious; therefore Einar s choosing to ride Freyfaxi was sacrilegious in Hrafnkel s eyes. Religiously, Hrafnkel believed that nothing good could ever happen to people who break their solemn vows. (43) If Einar could not obey this extremely important rule of Hrafnkel s, then how could Hrafnkel trust Einar to follow any other commands? Finally, because of the law that existed, Hrafnkel knew that he could get away with this murder. Although not morally, he was theoretically correct. (37)

Though there are numerous reasons why Hrafnkel was justified, there are a few reasons why he was not. First of all, this was murder. In any way one looks at it. In the courts of present day there is no way that Hrafnkel would have gotten away with this act. Secondly, in comparing the two losses each Hrafnkel and Einar suffered Einar s loss of his life, by far outweighed Hrafnkel s mental pain of knowing that someone other than he or Frey had ridden Freyfaxi. (42) Was killing Einar necessary or could Hrafnkel have just fired Einar? One would seem to think that firing Einar would be just enough. Finally, Einar was using Freyfaxi to retrieve Hrafnkel s sheep and horses. It wasn t like Einar was using Freyfaxi leisurely; he was using the horse to perform his job to the best of his ability. (41)

The previously stated facts are overwhelmingly in support of Hrafnkel. Hrafnkel offered any other horse in the stable but Einar still chose to ride Freyfaxi. (39-40) One must live up to their word in these times. One who reads this story in the present era may see it as a savage tale of murder and dictatorship, but one forgets how much we as a civilization have drastically changed from then to now.


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