It is usually thought that the framework of the story with marriages, murders and people is reliable but that the rest is a made up story.
The focus of the story is Guðrun, who was famed for
her beauty and her intelligence. Two foster brothers lust after her - Kjartan
Ólavsson and Bolli Tórleiksson. Guðrun loves Kjartan but through a series of
lies Bolli manages to get hold of her. The foster brothers become enemies and
in the end Bolli kills Kjartan. Later in the story Bolli meets the same destiny
as his misdeed is avenged.
The story is about models of reverence; about the
destructive and untamed force of love and the mercilessness of destiny. It has
been described as “one of the greatest tragedies of love in Nordic literature,
portrayed with a deep psychological insight and literary skill.”