“Honor Thyself”



Honor is something that is earned, but it must also be defended in order to be
upheld in the eyes of all. In “Thorstein The Staff-Struck” one’s respect is based on their
honor alone. Honor is the essence of a life worth living. In this story, a life without honor
means that the life is worthless. Death is better than having no honor. Men will easily
give their lives without second thought to earn, and protect it. Honor’s role in “Thorstein
the Staff-Struck” takes on several roles, but all of them are to achieve one common goal.
The various roles take on the common goal of achieving honor itself.
Thorstein’s nick-name “the Staff-Struck” is a strain on his honor because his
masculinity is being questioned after his first bout with Thord. Thorstein’s first reaction
to the blow to his head by Thord’s staff is not thought of as being honorable. He didn’t
respond in a way that would defend his honor. He needed to stand up for himself to
accomplish that trying task.. His response to Thord’s blow was thought of as a cowards
response. That meant his honor had been shamed by his own action, or lack of the correct
actions. After that, Thorstein’s integrity was belittled in the eyes of others. One’s honor

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lies not only in the eyes of one’s self, but also in the words, and eyes of all present, and
around. Thorstein had to avenge his honor in the eyes of the spectators for himself.
Thorstein’s father prompted his vengeance though. Thorstein could not simply sit back,
and be humiliated by his own father. That was just too much for him to deal with, nor did
he want to try. He knew he must honor his father by bringing, and restoring honor to
himself. His response, although late, was honorable. Timing is a crucial part of
vengeance in this story though. Bijarni, the ruler of Hof, had a different role in society,
but his honor was still of great importance. Bijarni’s honor was questioned by his
servants, his wife, and others because they felt his reverence had been stained by
Thorstein. His lack of action against Thorstein made him weak in the eyes of others. He
had been challenged, but he had not yet accepted the challenge. When honor is seen as
challenged there must be action taken or soundness will be questioned. Thorhall and
Thorvald questioned Bijarni’s honor in gossip, and in rumor. Bijarni then instructed the
two to leave, and return with Thorstein’s head, as he can not stand by while his servants
continue to question his credibility and valance to stand up for his departed entourage.
That would be dishonorable to himself. When honor is questioned it shows doubt, and
damages its credibility, therefore it is not respected by others. When honor is not
respected, one’s image can be severely damaged, or tarnished. When “Bijarni the
killer’s” own wife insults his honor he must continue the ongoing struggle in protecting
his trustworthiness, and defend himself once again by proving himself to her to. This
honor system is an ongoing saga of life itself in the time of “Thorstein The
Staff-Struck”. He must first put her in her place for such reasons as her behavior and
actions resembling “in his eyes”, that of a typical women. His role as master must be

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made clear to her, as well as his honor made clear to Thorstein before he can even begin
to rest assured that his position as “Bijarni he killer” stands true and strong .
Bijarni thinks and acts in a manner that reflects upon the relationship between a
man’s masculinity and his honor. In the era in which the tale originates, masculinity and
honor are somewhat integrated. This relationship between the two also proves itself true
in Thorstein’s dealings with Bijarni’s men, and eventually Bijarni himself. A great deal
of a man’s ability to uphold, and gain honor relies on the amount of masculinity that he is
capable of displaying, and using in his own favor. The timing of this display is also
crucial because when it’s not being displayed it can easily be questioned as to whether or
not it even exists. The display is crucial because it must be made clear to the eyes in a
society were action takes all precedence over everything else.
This is a time of actions. Actions tend to speak louder than words in this type of
an honor system. Actions must