Characters

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 319

As the title indicates, the main character is Grettir. Following the Icelandic custom, in which people are generally known by their father’s name as well, he is Grettir Asmundsen; his mother was called Adis. Grettir in many ways resembles a modern anti-hero. Even from childhood, he was badly behaved and in adulthood exhibits a ferocity that is sometimes untampered by clear planning. Nevertheless, his tremendous strength, fearless confrontation of dangerous foes and situations, and undisputed bravery earn him more allies than enemies in his lifetime. A rash killing and related lies lead to his early exile, and he spends many years rebuilding people’s trust before being liberated from outlaw status. One of Grettir’s greatest feats is killing the demonic ghost, Glam.

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Most of the other characters play limited roles at specific points. Exceptions are his parents, who shape his character and his fate. Asmund, lacking confidence in Grettir’s abilities, favors his elder son, Atli. Asmund’s decision to send Grettir to a family event sparks the contest with Skeggi, which turns into Grettir’s first killing. When Grettir goes into exile as a result, his father gives him only modest food and clothes but no weapon. Adis, worried about her son’s survival, gives him a valued family sword, making him a sought-after ally in a fight.

Thorfinn is the leader on an island where Grettir is set ashore. Initially wary of the hot-headed young man, he becomes a staunch ally and mentor after Grettir raids a barrow and return heirlooms from his ancestor Karr, which had been buried there.

Atli is Grettir’s noble and well-behaved brother, their father’s favorite. When he is killed, Grettir vows revenge.

Thorbjorn Slowcoach and Thorbjorn Oxmain are two kinsman whose actions lead to Atli’s death. After Grettir kills Slowcoach, Oxmain gets revenge by killing Atli. In return, Grettir kills not just Oxmain but also his son.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 713

Grettir the Strong

Grettir the Strong, a folk hero of Iceland. Outlawed at fourteen after killing a man, he goes to Norway, where he routs a party of berserk raiders. Acclaimed as a hero, he becomes increasingly involved in murderous feuds, particularly after his return to Iceland. At last, able to trust no one because of the price on his head yet tormented by a growing fear of the dark that makes it impossible for him to live alone, he settles with a brother and a servant on an island accessible only by rope ladders. Several years later, he is overcome by witchcraft and killed.

Onund

Onund, his ancestor, a Viking who fled Norway to escape injustice and settled in Iceland.

Aesa

Aesa, the wife of Onund.

Ofeig

Ofeig, the father of Aesa.

Thrand

Thrand, a great hero who accompanied Onund to Iceland.

Asmund Longhair

Asmund Longhair, the father of Grettir. During Grettir’s youth, father and son quarreled constantly.

Skeggi

Skeggi, whom Grettir kills in the course of a quarrel. Thus begins Grettir’s long outlawry.

Thorfinn

Thorfinn, a Norwegian landman with whom Grettir makes a home after being shipwrecked.

Thorir

Thorir and

Ogmund

Ogmund, the leaders of a band of raiders who come to lay waste to Thorfinn’s district during his absence. Grettir kills both.

Karr-the-Old

Karr-the-Old, the long-dead father of Thorfinn. After Grettir kills the raiders, Thorfinn gives him an ancient sword from the treasure hoard of Karr-the-Old.

Bjorn

Bjorn, who is jealous of Grettir’s strength and bravery. Grettir kills him.

Jarl Sveinn

Jarl Sveinn, before whom Grettir is summoned after killing Bjorn.

Thorgils Maksson

Thorgils Maksson, Asmund’s kinsman, slain in a quarrel. Asmund takes up the feud against the murderers.

Glam

Glam, a shepherd possessed by a fiend. Grettir...

(The entire section contains 1279 words.)

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