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Hordur

Viking-Age Heroes from the Sagas of Icelanders
along with a few cowards, bullies, sorcerers, ghosts, and a berserkur or two

Gunnar
saga books

We believe that perhaps our best source about how Viking-age people used their weapons are the sagas. The stories tell us about their fights, their weapons, and their fighting moves. More importantly, the stories tell us about the people who fought: the Vikings. They tell us about the mindset of these Viking-age people, about the behaviors that were considered honorable and were admired, and about the behaviors that were considered dishonorable and were reviled. They tell us about the lengths to which these fighters would go to succeed in their struggles.

Accordingly, we think it important that the people using the Hurstwic® Viking Combat Training system know about these Viking-age people and their stories: the sagas. When potential students approach us to ask about joining our group, or about using the system in their group, we test them on their knowledge of the sagas and the people of the sagas. We encourage them to read the sagas for themselves.

jump over an attack
In Eyrbyggja saga, Steinþór jumped over
an incoming attack while delivering a
counter-attack. We practice this and
other fighting moves from the sagas.

Sadly, for some people, the sagas are not readily available. For example, while good translations exist in many of the northern European languages, many other lanugages have few or no saga translations.

To help people learn more about the people of the sagas and to spark interest in reading the sagas, we have created this page, with short descriptions of some of the heroes (and a few villains) from the sagas. For each person, we provide biographical information, and a short excerpt from the saga which serves to illustrate their behavior, or one of the moves they used in fighting. In addition, the chapter of the saga from which the excerpt was taken is provide, so that you can go to the saga and read the complete story.

We hope these pages will whet your appetite to learn more about the people of the sagas, and will encourage you to read the sagas for yourself.

Steinthor

Steinþór Þorláksson

Steinþór was called one of the three best fighters in saga-age Iceland. His disputes are recorded in Eyrbyggja saga, a saga filled with disputes between multiple families and groups that continued for generations.

Gunnar

Gunnar Hámundarson

Gunnar was an imposing fighter, and the saga author says that no man has ever been his equal. He was handsome, fearless, generous and even-tempered. He fought equally well with either hand.

Thordis

Þórdís Súrsdóttir

Þórdís was the sister of Gísli, the outlaw-hero of Gísla saga. Even before the family left Norway to settle in Iceland, Þórdís was the source of problems and conflict for Gísli.

Audur

Auður Vésteinsdóttir

Auður, like many women in the Viking age, was a tower of strength. In many ways, women of the Viking age were even harder than men.

Skarphedinn

Skarphéðinn Njálsson

Skarphéðinn was the eldest son of Njáll, bold and fearless and always ready with sharp retort or a cutting insult.

Gisli

Gísli Súrsson

Gísli was an ordinary man placed in the extraordinary situation of having to decide between two bad choices.

Thrandur

Þrándur Ingjaldsson

Þrándur was one of those ordinary Viking-age people who, when circumstances required, showed himself capable of some extraordinary moves with weapons.

Leifur discovers Vinland

Leifur heppni Eiríksson

Leifur is perhaps best known for exploring Vínland, in North America. He built houses there, paving the way for other explorers and settlers who followed later.

Tyrkir

Tyrkir

Tyrkir was a family servant who was part of Leifur's voyage of exploration to Vínland. One of the reasons the sagas are valuable is that they tell stories not just about the elite and the heroic, but about ordinary people as well.

Thorbjorn plays hnefatafl

Þorbjörn öngull

Þorbjörn öngull (hook) was a bully and a trouble-maker. He was a big, strong man, tough to deal with, and ruthless.
 

Hordur

Hörður Grímkelsson

Hörður was an outlaw, but unlike the other outlaws in the sagas, he did not lead a solitary, lonely life.

Bolli

Bolli Þorleiksson

Bolli and Kjartan were raised together as foster-brothers and were inseparable, but circumstances eventually led to Bolli ambushing and killing his beloved foster-brother.

Gudrun

Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir

Like many women in the Viking age, Guðrún was even harder than the men in her family, unwilling to allow a dishonor to stand unavenged.

Hallgerdur

Hallgerður Höskuldsdóttir

Even as an child, Hallgerður was marked as evil. Her uncle remarked that she was beautiful, but that she had the eyes of a thief.

Helgi the lean

Helgi hinn magri

Helgi the lean was one of the first settlers in Iceland. Like many Viking-age people who converted to Christianity, he held strong beliefs in the old religion, too.

Thorbjorg

Þorbjörg litilvölva

Viking-age people had a mixed view of magic. When people used their magic for good, they were admired. Þorbjörg was such a woman.

Gudridur and Snorri

Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir

Guðríður sailed to North America with her husband on a voyage of settlement. While there, Guðríður gave birth to a son, Snorri, thought to be the first European born in the new world.

Thorgerdur brak

Þorgerður brák

Þorgerður brák was a bondswoman and a servant to the family of Egill Skallagrímsson. She gave her life to protect Egill when he was a young man.

Thordur

Þórður

Viking-age people enjoyed competitions of all kinds. Grappling was a competitive sport practiced for fun wherever people congregated. At a regional assembly, Þórður grappled with Grettir the Strong.

Ingolfur

Ingólfur Þorsteinsson

Fighting men used whatever was available to help them succeed in their fight. Ingólfur cleverly improvised some armor to protect him as he entered a house to attack some thieves.

Thuridur

Þuríður Óláfsdóttir

Þuríður was married to a scoundrel who tried to sneak out of the marriage by sailing away from Iceland without her. She turned the tables on him by taking his prized possession: his sword.

Bui

Búi Andríðsson

Fighting men in the Viking age improvised, using whatever tools were available. Búi threw stones to kill his ambushers before they got close enough to use conventional weapons.

Thormodur

Þormóður Kolbrúnarskáld

Society demanded that lost honor be recovered, but wise men knew that there was a proper time to do it. Þormóður was one such man who knew the proper moment to deliver the blow.

Egill Skallagrimsson

Egill Skallagrímsson

Egill was a powerful farmer, chieftain, Viking, brawler, and poet. He was never at a loss for words, and he was skilled with weapons as well. Like his father, he was black-haired and ugly.


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