“Njals Saga” provides the exact specimens of the lawful behaviour of medieval Icelanders. In the view of the law, the plot of Saga represents the complicated juridical case, which resulted from continuous sanguinary feud of two noble Icelandic families. The beginning of this feud was the lawsuit about the dowry between Hrutur and the father of his ex-wife Unnr – Mörður. When Unnr divorced from Hrutur, her father demanded the return of the property agreed by the marriage contract, but Hrutur refused to give anything and the case went to court. Hrutur managed to win the lawsuit. The relatives of Unnr, who were dissatisfied with the outcome of the trial, subsequently obtained its revision.
Some time later, the initial cause of the litigation – the dowry of Unnr – was forgotten, but the hostile relations between the families were preserved. The beginning of a new stage of hostility was a quarrel between Hrutur’s niece Hallgerthur and Njal’s wife Bergthóra. Because of this quarrel, the sons of Njal and Sigfússon, who at that time was the main representative of the hostile family, were involved in a series of litigations, and after the murder of Höskuldr, the conduct of the lawsuit on the part of Sigfus’ families was transferred to Flosi, the brother-in-law of Höskuldr. Enmity faded, then flared up, involving more and more people from both clans.
Gunnar was outlawed and killed, Njal and his family members burned in their own house. As a result, the feud resulted in 1012 in the largest battle on the Althing. Because of the futility of continuing the quarrel, its final outcome was a reconciliation of the surviving representatives of both clans. One of the main features of this feud was that the ?lans of Njal and Flosi were interconnected by cross-marriages. As a result, many participants in the struggle, belonging by birth to a single genus, were inherent in another, so the conflict described is inherently intra-natal. Family relations initially served as one of the factors holding back enmity, so intra-natal conflicts contradicted the way of the Old Icelandic society, and if they arose, they proved to be the most difficult to resolve. Supporting one of the relatives, a man had to speak out against other relatives.
This greatly hampered the trial, since it was believed that relatives should support each other, including in trials, and their testimonial evidences could be rejected as biased. In addition, it was difficult to find such judges and witnesses that would be recognized eligible, in other words, who’d not support the interests of one of the parties and, accordingly, would not belong to the parties. The texts of the sagas, and especially of the “Njals Saga”, testify that already at the turn of the 10th-11th centuries. between the representatives of the most notable Icelandic clans begins a struggle for political power and the strengthening of their authority in society, which inevitably leads to a clash of people related by kinship. The desire for public order led to attempts at peaceful resolution of conflicts, which were carried out at several levels: between clans, on Things and on Althing – the general court. Minor violations (theft) were easily resolved at the primary or secondary levels, whereas the settlement of significant misdeeds or cases of noble kins required the involvement of more people as witnesses and guarantors.
A significant conflict demanded the reinforcement of the peace treaty with additional kinship ties, which should ensure a long duration of peace between the clans. In that way, in the “Njals Saga” Gunnar, a relative of Unnr, married the niece of Hrutur. However, in practice, their establishment did not guarantee the exhaustion of the conflict.
The hidden cause of intra-natal conflicts in the sagas is the struggle for power. And this motive is fully realized by the saga compiler, which is reflected in the words of the characters. Thus, in the process of litigation Flosi says: “This will I promise to you, ye sons of Sigfus, not to part from this quarrel before one of us bites the dust before the other” – Njal’s Saga. Chapter 123. The behaviour of the heroes of the saga suggests that already in the era of Njal, at the turn of the X-XI centuries, the disintegration of clan relations begins. While preserving the external attributes of a society built on kinship ties, these connections actually begin to lose their primary importance, going to the background before the desire to achieve influence in society.
Within the country, the struggle for political influence is inflaming, although it is carried out in the forms of revenge.