I think I solved the issue with Emma’s and Torkel’s impending marriage. I’ll blame it all on social conventions.
I already know that Emma doesn’t want to get married to Torkel because she thinks he’ll be a bad father for her children and a bad family man. The tricky question has been why there’s pressure on her to marry him anyway. Basically, it’s the expected thing to do.
At this point in time, Emma is the oldest unmarried woman and in the village, and Torkel is the oldest unmarried man. There’s no other unmarried woman, and the only other unmarried man is Torkel’s younger brother Burje.
The obvious outcome is that Torkel marries Emma.
Torkel is the older son and he’s the one who gets to take over the spare burrow his family owns. This means that when Emma marries him, she’ll be able to stay in the village and raise a family with a local lad in an established burrow. It’s all very respectable and conventional and really, it’s just the done thing – how could anyone think to do anything else.
If Emma wanted to marry anyone else, even Burje, she’d have to move to another village and find a burrow there. Digging out a new burrow takes a lot of time and effort and the will to do so among the villagers would be very low as there already is a perfectly fine burrow available. Much better if she just marries Torkel.
In fact, not marrying Torkel would be really bad. Not only would it be an insult to Torkel and his family. It’d be an insult to the entire village. By refusing to marry Torkel, she’s basically saying that the village and its sons are not good enough for her. She’d be forced to leave and it would reflect badly on her parent’s ability to raise children and it would make it more difficult for her younger brothers and sisters to find partners when it becomes time for them to marry.
I think this will work pretty well as a reason.
It’s not that she’s forced to marry Torkel – at least not in theory – but unless she wants to be the cause of scandal and drama and friction within her family and village, well, then she’d better marry Torkel.
Optionally, she could become a monk.