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Thorstein The Staff -Struck
Thorstein The Staff- Struck took place in medieval Iceland. It was a story about a poor hard working young man named Thorstein. This story expressed a lot of Christian values, and also non Christian beliefs and practices that were normal for that time. The story took place when most of the people where turning to Christianity as their form of religion. Thorstein the Staff-Struck was written in the Icelandic Saga tradition. It is a short story that portrays the life of every day people in the 9th through 11th centuries. This story accurately describes a lot of things that were common for people that lived in Medieval times.
One of the main things that I saw while reading this story was the Christian and non-Christian attitudes of the characters. Thorstein for example was a hard working and loyal person. He did kill three people, but all of them where acts of self defense and he really did not want to do it the whole time. What really portrayed the Christian side of Thorstein was when he was dueling Bjarni. Thorstein never took advantage of him nor did he really try to kill him. Bjarni didn't try to take advantage or hurt Thorstein either. They were both very kind and respectful to one another, and you could tell that both of the men really did not have their heart in the fight. While fighting Thorstein asked Bjarni if he wanted a drink of water, and allowed a break in the duel to rest and catch their breath. He also gave Bjarni a better weapon to fight with! A weapon that could possibly kill Thorstein! These two things reflect what the author wanted you to see as a beginning of the Christian religion. If these two men would have been fighting years earlier before the Christian era then they would have been going for each others throats, because if they didn't then the people of that community would hear about it, and the could possibly both be killed or ridiculed for it.
The non Christian views were illustrated in the characters of Thorarin (Thorstein's father), Thord, Thorvall, and Thorhall. (Bjarni's servants). Thorarin was very upset with Thorstein when he heard that he had been struck by Thord and did nothing about it. He basically told him that he was not who he thought he was. Thorstein was a disgrace to his family name, and his father was not proud of him at all. Thorstein who was deeply upset with what his father told him went and killed Thord because of his previous action. Bjarni heard the news and sent Thorvall and Thorhall to kill Thorstein. They were both killed by Thorstein. With that said, the author who was obviously a Christian convert was in a way ridiculing the three servants of Bjarni by making a mockery of them and having them killed for all of the trouble that they had caused. These non Christian like behaviors were typical of medieval men that were angry or outraged. They had no rules to abide by so if they thought somebody did them wrong then they would try to kill them. They were a barbaric people, but in times like that there was no other way to live. Thorarin was also punished for his pre Christian actions. After the duel Thorarin tried to take a cheap shot at Bjarni while they were having a conversation. Bjarni then took his son away from him and left him with no one to do the work that was required for him to make money and survive. So as you can see in all four cases the author has had something bad done to the people who did not act like a Christian, and for most something good came out of the ones that did.
Bjarni's wife was a typical pre Christian woman living in medieval Iceland. Instead of taking the Christian approach to losing three of her husbands servants she sought revenge and wanted her husband to feel the same way. She bothered him until he would finally go and take on Thorstein in a one on one battle, and she gave the audience a clear view of what she believed, and how she thought the situation should have been handled. Bjarni did as he was told but as you already know he and Thorstein reached a mutual agreement and his wife's plans were spoiled.
Loyalty and honesty were a big part of medieval life. Seeing as Bjarni was the ruler over the area of which Thorstein lived it seems to me that even if Thorstein was not supposed to be a Christian, I don't know that he would have killed Bjarni any way. Being loyal to royalty, and people that are in a high prestigious position was a part of medieval culture, and I am not sure if Thorstein would have killed Bjarni, and even if he did what kind of consequences would he have to pay for killing some one with such a high position?
At the end of the story the author told us that the pre Christianity era was over. The entire kingdom was turned into the Christian religion after Thorstein and Bjarni's duel was over. This marked the point in medieval history when Christianity became the dominant religion in the Germanic cultures. In the end Thorstein and Bjarni became life long friends.
Society in medieval times was a lot different than it is today. Christianity was a new religion and in this story for example it was just being introduced to the people of Thorstein's kingdom. The author made a point of rewarding the people that had a Christian attitude, and he punished the people that acted more like the pre Christian era would have done. Loyalty was also a big part of the every day life of some one in this time period. Thorstein showed loyalty to Bjarni by not killing him in battle. He also acted very kind toward him, and helped him out in a lot of different ways. Thorstein also agreed to become Bjarni's servant after they ended their duel in a draw. The author told us that Thorstein worked as hard as three men! Maybe it is only a coincidence that he killed three of Bjarni's servants, and in the end replaced them by himself!