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The Gray Goose Laws (Icelandic: Grágás) were a collection of laws from the Icelandic Commonwealth period consisting of Icelandic civil laws and the laws governing the Christian church in Iceland. Prior to the establishment of the Gray Goose Laws all the Icelandic laws were recited by the Law Speaker at the Icelandic national parliament, the Alþingi, over a three year period. In 1117 the Althingi decided that all the laws should be written down and this was accomplished at Haflidi Másson’s farm over that winter and published the following year.

These laws remained in force until 1271-1273 at which time the Ironside Laws - based on Norwegian laws - were adopted.

The term Gray Goose Laws was in use by the 16th Century and may refer to the following:

  • the fact that the laws were written with a goose quill,
  • the fact that the laws were bound in goose skin, or
  • because of the age of the laws - it was then believed that geese lived longer than other birds.

References

  • Byock, Jesse L., Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas, and Power, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA 1990
  • Finsen, Vilhjálmur, ed. Grágás: Islændernes lovbog i fristatens tid. Copenhagen: Berling, 1852. Odense: Odense universitetsforlag, 1974.
  • Gjerset, Knut, History of Iceland, The MacMillan Company, NY 1924
  • Laws of early Iceland: Grágás, the Codex Regius of Grágás, with material from other manuscripts, trans. by Andrew Dennis, Peter Foote, Richard Perkins, 2 vols (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1980-2000).
  • Laxness, Einar, Íslandssaga, vol. 1, Bókaútgáfa Menningarsjóds og Þjódvinafélagsins, Reykjavik 1974

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