Grettir The Strong
Part 2 out of 5
laughed at the ragged cloak which he was wearing. Then he laid
the piece of the paw upon the table. Thorkell said: "Where is
my kinsman Bjorn? I never saw iron bite like that in your hands.
Now I would like you to show Grettir some honour to make up for
the shame which you cast upon him."
Bjorn said that could wait, and that it mattered little to him
whether Grettir was pleased or not. Grettir then spoke a verse:
"Oft returned the watcher at night
trembling home, but sound in limb.
None ever saw me sit in the dusk
at the cave; yet now I am home returned."
"It is true," said Bjorn, "that you have fought well; and also
true that our opinions differ. I suppose you think that your
taunts hurt me."
Thorkell said: "I should be glad, Grettir, if you would not
revenge yourself upon Bjorn. I will pay the full weregild of a
man for you to be reconciled."
Bjorn said he might invest his money better than in paying for
that; and that it would be better for him and Grettir to go on
bickering since "each oak has that which it scrapes from the
other." Thorkell said: "But I ask you, Grettir, to do so much
for my sake as not to attack Bjorn while you are both with me."
"That I promise," said Grettir.
Bjorn said that he would walk without fear of Grettir wherever
they met. Grettir grinned, and would accept no money on account
of Bjorn. They stayed there the winter.
GRETTIR KILLS BJORN AND IS SUMMONED BEFORE JARL SVEINN
In the spring Grettir went North to Vagar with Thorkell's men.
They parted with friendship. Bjorn went West to England in
Thorkell's ship, of which he was master, staying there for the
summer and transacting the business which Thorkell had entrusted
to him. In the end of the autumn he returned from the western
parts. Grettir stayed in Vagar till the trading ships left, and
then sailed South with some of the traders, as far as the port of
Gartar at the mouth of the Thrandheim's Fjord, where he set up
the awnings to make a stay. When they were settled down a ship
came up along the coast from the South, which they at once
recognised as one of the ships from England. She made fast
further out off the coast and her crew landed. Grettir went out
with his companions to visit them. On their meeting Grettir
found Bjorn amongst the company and said: "It is well that we
meet here, for now we can continue our former quarrel. I should
like to try which of us is the better man."
Bjorn said that was all past now, as far as he was concerned.
"But," he said, "if there has been anything between us I will pay
you such compensation that you shall be satisfied." Grettir spoke
"Time was when the bear was slain by my hand;
my cloak in tatters was torn.
A rascally knave was the cause of it all
but now he shall make me amends."
Bjorn said that weightier matters than this had been settled by
payment. Grettir said that few men had any reason to act
maliciously towards him; he had accepted no money-atonement, nor
would he do so now; that if he had his way they should not both
go away unhurt, and that if Bjorn refused to fight he would brand
him as a coward. Bjorn saw that excuses would not avail him, so
he took his arms and went out. They rushed at each other and
fought; soon Bjorn was wounded and then he fell dead to the
ground. On seeing that, his men went on board their ship, sailed
away to the North along the coast to Thorkell's place and told
him what had happened. He said it had not come sooner than he
expected. Directly afterwards he sailed to the South to
Thrandheim where he found jarl Sveinn.
Grettir, after slaying Bjorn, went to More to his friend Thorfinn
and told him exactly what had happened. Thorfinn received him in
a most friendly way. "I am glad," he said, "that you will now
have need of a friend. You must stay with me until this affair
Grettir thanked him for his invitation and said be would accept
Jarl Sveinn was staying at Steinker in Thrandheim when he heard
of the Slaying of Bjorn. With him was a brother of Bjorn named
Hjarrandi, as one of his bodyguard. On hearing of Bjorn's death
he became very angry and begged the jarl for his support in the
matter, which the jarl promised that he should have. He sent
messengers to Thorfinn to summon both him and Grettir to appear
before him. Immediately on receiving the jarl's commands they
both made ready and came to Thrandheim. The jarl held a council
on the matter and ordered Hjarrandi to be present. Hjarrandi
said he was not going to weigh his brother against his purse, and
that he must either follow him or avenge him.
When the case was looked into, it became evident that Bjorn had
given Grettir many provocations. Thorfinn offered to pay a fine
such as the jar] thought suitable to the position of his kinsman,
and dwelt at length upon Grettir's achievement in killing the
berserks, and how he had delivered the men in the North from
The jarl answered: "Truth do you speak, Thorfinn! that was
indeed a cleansing! It would befit us well to accept the
compensation for your sake. Grettir, too, is a fine fellow, and
noted for his strength and valour."
Hjarrandi, however, would accept no compensation, and the meeting
came to an end. Thorfinn appointed one of his kinsmen, Arnbjorn,
to accompany Grettir every day, for he knew that Hjarrandi was
plotting against his life.
GRETTIR KILLS HJARRANDI
One day Grettir and Arnbjorn were walking along the road for
their diversion when they passed a gate, whence a man rushed out
holding an axe aloft with both hands and struck at Grettir, who
was not on his guard and was moving slowly. Arnbjorn, however,
saw the man coming, seized Grettir and pushed him aside with such
force that he fell on his knee. The axe struck him in the
shoulder-blade and cut down to below the arm, inflicting a severe
wound. Grettir turned quickly and drew his sword; he saw that it
was Hjarrandi who had attacked him. The axe had stuck fast in
the road, and Hjarrandi was slow in recovering it. Grettir
struck at him and cut off his arm at the shoulder. Then there
came running up five of Hjarrandi's followers and a battle began
with them. They were soon routed; Grettir and Arnbjorn killed
the five who were with Hjarrandi; one man escaped and bore the
tale to the jarl forthwith. The jarl was very angry indeed, and
summoned the assembly for the next day. Thorfinn and his party
appeared thereat. The jarl brought a charge of manslaughter
against Grettir, who admitted it and said that he had been
obliged to defend himself. "I bear the marks of it," he said.
"I should have been killed if Arnbjorn had not defended me."
The jarl said it was a pity he had not been killed, for this
affair would lead to many a man being slain if he lived.
There had come to the jarl's court Bersi the son of Skaldtorfa,
Grettir's comrade and friend. He and Thorfinn stepped before the
jarl and begged for pardon for Grettir. They asked that the jarl
should decide the matter himself as he thought best, only that
Grettir should have his life and the freedom of the country. The
jarl was averse to any terms being granted to him, but gave way
to their entreaties. He granted immunity to Grettir until the
spring, but not absolutely until Gunnar the brother of Bjorn and
Hjarrandi should be present. Gunnar was a landed proprietor in
In the spring the jarl ordered Grettir and Thorfinn to appear at
Tunsberg, where he himself intended to be while the shipping was
assembled. So thither they went, and found the jarl was already
in the town. There Grettir met his brother Thorsteinn Dromund,
who greeted him joyfully and invited him to be his guest. He was
a landowner in the town. Grettir told him all about his case,
and Thorsteinn took his view of it, but told him to beware of
Gunnar. So the spring passed.
GRETTIR KILLS GUNNAR. HIS FRIENDS RALLY ROUND HIM AND SAVE HIM
FROM THE VENGEANCE OF THE JARL
Gunnar was in the town and was plotting against Grettir's life.
Wherever he went Gunnar dogged his steps wherever he found a
chance of getting near him. One day Grettir was sitting in a
booth and drinking, because he wanted to keep out of Gunnar's
way. Suddenly there was a bang at the door, so hard that it
broke in pieces, and in rushed four men armed and attacked
Grettir. They were Gunnar with his followers. Grettir seized
his arms which were hanging above his head and ran into a corner,
where he defended himself, holding his shield before him, and
hewing with his sword. They made little way against him. One
blow he succeeded in delivering upon one of Gunnar's followers,
who needed nothing more. Then Grettir advanced, driving them
before him out of the booth, and killing another of them. Gunnar
would fain have got away with his men, but on reaching the door
he caught his foot on the doorstep, fell over and was not able to
recover himself at once. He held his shield before him and
retreated as Grettir pressed him hard. Then Grettir sprang on to
the crossbenches near the door. Gunnar's hands and the shield
were still inside the door, and Grettir struck down between him
and the shield, cutting off both his hands at the wrist. He fell
backwards out of the door, and Grettir gave him his death-blow.
Then the man who was behind him got on his feet and ran off at
once to tell the jarl what had happened. Sveinn was furious, and
called the assembly to meet there and then in the town. When
Thorfinn and Thorsteinn Dromund heard the news, they called all
their followers and friends together and went to the meeting in
force. The jarl was very wroth, and it was no easy matter to get
speech with him. Thorfinn was the first to come before the jarl,
and he said: "I have come to offer an honourable atonement for
the man who has been slain by Grettir. The judgment shall remain
with you alone if you but spare his life."
The jarl replied in great wrath: "It is too late to beg for
Grettir's life, and you have no case that I can see. He has
killed three brothers, one at the feet of the other; men of noble
minds who would not weigh each other against their purses. Now,
Thorfinn, it will not avail you to beg for Grettir; I will not do
such a wrong in the land as to accept atonement for such a crime
Then Bersi the son of Skaldtorfa came up and begged the jarl to
accept blood-money. "Grettir," he said, "is a man of high
birth and is my good friend. I offer you what I possess. May
you see, my lord, that it is better by sparing one man to earn
the goodwill of many and to fix the penalty yourself than to
refuse honourable terms and risk whether you can arrest the man
The jarl replied: "You do right, Bersi; and herein as ever you
show your worth. But I do not mean to break the laws of the land
by granting life to a man who has forfeited it."
Then Thorsteinn Dromund came forward, and he, too, offered
blood-money on behalf of Grettir, adding many fair words thereto.
The jarl asked what moved him to offer blood-money for the man.
Thorsteinn said Grettir was his brother. The jarl said he had
not known that.
"It shows a manly spirit in you," he said, "that you want to help
him. But as I am determined not to accept blood-money in this
case, I must treat the requests of all of you alike. I must
have Grettir's life whatever it cost, directly I can get him."
Then the jarl rose quickly up and refused to hear any more about
atonement. They all went home with Thorsteinn and made their
preparations, whereupon the jarl ordered all the men of his guard
under arms and went forth with a large force. Before they came
up, Grettir's friends had made ready to defend the house.
Thorfinn, Thorsteinn, Grettir himself, and Bersi were in the
forefront, each with a large force of followers behind him. The
jarl summoned them to give up Grettir, and not to bring trouble
on themselves. They repeated their former offers, but the jarl
would not listen to them. Thorfinn and Thorsteinn said that more
was at stake for the jarl than the taking of Grettir's life.
"One fate shall fall upon us all," they cried, "and men shall say
that you have given much for the life of one man when we are all
laid low with the ground."
The jarl said he would spare none of them, and they were on the
very verge of a battle when many of the well-disposed men came up
to him and begged him not to land himself in such a difficulty.
He should bear in mind that these men would work great havoc
among his own followers before they fell. The jarl thought this
counsel was wise and let himself be somewhat appeased. Then the
terms of atonement were settled. Thorfinn and Thorsteinn were
ready to pay so long as Grettir's life was spared. The jarl
said: "You must know that although I agree to this compromise, I
do not consider it a full amnesty. Only I have no mind to fight
against my own men, although they appear to hold me of little
account in the matter."
Thorfinn said: "Yours is all the greater honour, my lord, that
you will have the fixing of the penalty yourself."
The jarl said that Grettir should have leave from him to depart
from the country in peace for Iceland, directly there was a ship
leaving, if so it seemed good to them. They agreed and paid the
money to the jarl to his satisfaction. They parted with little
friendship. Grettir went with Thorfinn after bidding an
affectionate farewell to his brother Thorsteinn.
Thorfinn earned great honour for the support which he had given
Grettir against such odds as he had to deal with. Not one of the
men who had helped Grettir was ever received into favour again
with the jarl, excepting Bersi.
Grettir then spoke:
"Comrade of Odin, Thorfinn was born
to rescue my life from the fangs of Hel.
No less was Thorsteinn Dromund's aid
when I was doomed to the realm of the dead."
"The prince's retainers withdrew in fear
when Bersi threatened their hearts to pierce."
Grettir returned with Thorfinn to the North and stayed with him
until he found a ship with some traders who were bound for
Iceland. Thorfinn gave him many valuable garments and a coloured
saddle with a bridle. They parted with friendship, and Thorfinn
invited him to come and see him if ever he returned to Norway.
EVENTS IN ICELAND. THORGILS MAKSSON ATTACKED BY THE FOSTER-
BROTHERS AND SLAIN
Asmund Longhair was in Bjarg whilst Grettir was away, and was
much respected as a bondi in Midfjord. Thorkell Krafla had died
during Grettir's absence. Thorvald Asgeirsson dwelt in Ass in
Vatnsdal and was a great chief. He was the father of Dalla who
married Isleif, afterwards bishop in Skalaholt. Asmund had great
support from Thorvald in legal suits and in other matters.
There grew up in Asmund's household a youth named Thorgils
Maksson, a near kinsman of his. Thorgils was a strong man of his
body and made much money under Asmund's guidance; he dwelt at
Laekjamot, on a property which Asmund had bought for him.
Thorgils was a good manager and went to Strandir every year,
where he obtained whales and other things. He was a man of great
courage, and went as far as the eastern Almenningar. At that
time the two foster-brothers Thorgeir Havarsson and Thormod
Coalbrow-Skald were very much to the front; they kept a boat,
gathering what they wanted from the country around, and had not
the reputation of dealing fairly.
One summer Thorgils Maksson found a whale at the Almenningar and
went out at once with his men to cut it up. When the two
foster-brothers heard of it they went there too, and at first it
seemed as if matters would be settled peaceably. Thorgils
proposed that they should share equally that part of the whale
which was yet uncut, but they wanted to have all the uncut part
or else to share the entire whale. Thorgils positively refused
to give up any portion of what had already been cut. They began
to use threats and at last took to their arms and fought.
Thorgeir and Thorgils fought each of them desperately together
without either prevailing. After a long and furious battle
Thorgils fell slain by Thorgeir. In another place Thormod was
fighting with the followers of Thorgils, and he overcame them,
killing three. Those who remained of Thorgils' party went off
after he fell to Midfjord, taking his body with them and feeling
that they had suffered a great loss. The foster-brothers took
possession of the whole whale. The affair is referred to in the
memorial poem which Thormod composed upon Thorgeir.
News of the death of his kinsman was brought to Asmund Longhair,
on whom as nearest of kin the blood-feud devolved. He went to
the spot, called witnesses to testify to the wounds and brought
the case before the All-Thing, which appeared to be the proper
course in this case where the act had been committed in another
quarter. Some time was passed over this.
THE FEUD WITH THE FOSTER-BROTHERS IS TAKEN UP BY ASMUND AND
There was a man named Thorsteinn; he was the son of Thorkell
Kuggi, the son of Thord Yeller, the son of Olaf Feilan, the son
of Thorsteinn the Red, the son of Aud the Deep-Minded.
Thorsteinn Kuggason's mother was Thurid, daughter of Asgeir
Hothead. Asgeir was the brother of Asmund Longhair's father.
Thorsteinn Kuggason was equally responsible in the blood-feud
over Thorgils' death with Asmund Longhair, who now sent for him.
Thorsteinn was a great warrior and very masterful. He came at
once to his kinsman Asmund and they had a talk together about the
suit. Thorsteinn was for extreme measures. He said that no
blood-money should be accepted; that with their connections they
were powerful enough to carry through a sentence of either
banishment or death on the slayer. Asmund said he would support
any measures whatever that he chose to adopt. They rode then
North to Thorvald their kinsman and asked for his support, which
he at once promised them. So the suit was begun against Thorgeir
and Thormod. Thorsteinn then rode home to his dwelling at
Ljarskogar in the Hvamm district. Skeggi in Hvamm also joined
Thorsteinn. He was a son of Thorarin Fylsenni, a son of Thord
the Yeller. His mother was Fridgerd, a daughter of Thord from
Hofdi. They had a large following at the All-Thing and pressed
their suit valiantly. Asmund and Thorvald rode from the North
with sixty men, halting several days at Ljarskogar.
SENTENCES ON THE FOSTER-BROTHERS
There dwelt at Reykjaholar a man named Thorgils, the son of Ari,
the son of Mar, the son of Atli the Red, the son of Ulf Squint-
Eye, the first settler at Reykjanes. Thorgils' mother was
Thorgerd the daughter of Alf of Dalir. Alf had another daughter
named Thorelf, who was the mother of Thorgeir the son of Havar.
Thorgeir, therefore, had a very strong backing through his
connections, for Thorgils was the most powerful chief in the
Vestfirding quarter. He was very open-handed and gave
hospitality to any free-man for as long as he would. There was
consequently always a crowd at Reykjaholar, and he lived in great
grandeur. He was both kindly and wise. Thorgeir stayed with him
in the winter and went to Strandir in the summer.
After slaying Thorgils the son of Mak, Thorgeir went to
Reykjaholar and told Thorgils Arason what had happened. Thorgils
told him his house was open to him. "But," he said, "they will
press the matter vigorously, and I am most unwilling to involve
myself in difficulties. I will send a man now to Thorsteinn and
offer him blood-money for the Thorgils affair; if he will not
accept it I will not adopt any violent measures."
Thorgeir declared that he would submit to his wisdom. In the
autumn Thorgils sent a messenger to Thorsteinn Kuggason to try
and arrange a settlement. Thorsteinn was very disinclined to
accept any money in atonement for the slaying of Thorgils,
although for the others he was willing to follow the advice of
men of counsel. Thorgils on receiving the report of his
messenger called Thorgeir to a consultation with him and asked
him what support he thought was proper. Thorgeir said that if a
sentence of banishment were passed upon him he would go. Thorgils
said that his resolve would be put to the trial.
There came a ship into the Nordra river in Borgarfjord, and
Thorgils secretly took a passage in her for the two foster-
brothers. The winter now passed, and Thorgils heard that
Thorsteinn and his party had assembled in great force for the
All-Thing and were then in Ljarskogar. So he put off his
departure, intending that they should arrive from the North
before he came up from the West. So it came to pass. Thorgils
and Thorgeir then rode towards the South, Thorgeir killing one
Boggul-Torfi on the way at Marskelda and two other men named Skuf
and Bjarni at Hundadal. Thormod sings about this affair in his
"The hem slew the son of Mak;
there was storm of swords and raven's food.
Skuf and Bjami he also felled;
gladly he bathed his hands in blood."
Thorgils settled for the slaying of Skuf and Bjarni there and
then in the dale, and was delayed by the affair longer than he
intended. Thorgeir embarked on the ship and Thorgils went to the
Thing, where he did not arrive before they were proceeding to
judgment in Thorgils Maksson's case. Asmund Longhair then called
for the defence. Thorgils appeared before the court and offered
blood-money in atonement on condition of Thorgeir not being
sentenced to banishment. He endeavoured to meet the charge by
pleading that finds in the Almenningar were free to all. The
question whether this was a valid defence or not was referred to
the Lawman, who at that time was Skapti. He upheld Asmund's view
on account of their kinship together. He declared that this was
indeed the law in the case of men equal in position, but that a
bondi had precedence over a vagrant. Asmund further urged that
Thorgils had offered to share the uncut portion of the whale with
the foster-brothers when they arrived. The defendants were
non-suited on that point. Then Thorsteinn and his party pressed
their suit resolutely and said they would not be satisfied with
any sentence short of banishment upon Thorgeir. Thorgils saw
that no choice was left to him but either to call up his men and
try to carry his case with violence, the issue of which would be
uncertain, or else to submit to the sentence demanded by the
opposite party, and since Thorgeir was already on board his ship
Thorgils had no desire to press the case further. Thorgeir was
banished, but Thormod was discharged upon payment of blood-money.
Asmund and Thorsteinn gained great glory by this case. The men
rode home from the Thing. There were some who said that Thorgils
had not taken much trouble in the case, but he paid little
attention and let them say what they pleased.
When Thorgeir heard that he was banished, he said that if he had
his way, those who had brought it about should be repayed in full
before it was over.
There was a man named Gaut, called the son of Sleita, a kinsman
of Thorgils Maksson. He was intending to travel in the same ship
with Thorgeir, with whom he was on very bad terms, and frowned on
him. The traders thought it would never do to have them both
together in the ship. Thorgeir said he did not care what Gaut
did with his eyebrows. Nevertheless they decided that Gaut
should leave the ship. He went into the northern districts and
for that time nothing happened, but the affair brought about a
feud between them which broke out later.
GRETTIR'S VISIT TO AUDUN IN VIDIDAL; OFFERS HIS SERVICES TO BARDI
In the course of that summer Grettir Asmundsson returned to
Skagafjord. He had such a reputation for strength that none of
the younger men was supposed to be his equal. He soon came to
his home in Bjarg, and Asmund gave him a fitting welcome. Atli
was then managing the property and the brothers agreed well
together, but Grettir became so over-weening that he thought
nothing was beyond his powers.
Many of the youths with whom Grettir had played at Midfjordsvatn
before he left were now grown up. Audun, the son of Asgeir, the
son of Audun, was now living at Audunarstad in Vididal. He was a
good bondi and a kindly man, and was the strongest of all the men
in the northern parts, as well as the most modest.
Grettir had not forgotten how he had seemingly been worsted by
Audun at the ball-play, as related above, and he was anxious to
try which of them had gained most since. With this object he
went at the beginning of the hay-harvest to Audunarstad. Grettir
put on all his finery and rode with the coloured and richly
ornamented saddle which Thorfinn had given him, on a splendid
horse and in his best armour to Audun's place, where he arrived
early in the day and knocked at the door. Few of the men were
in the house, and to Grettir's question whether Audun was at
home, they replied that he had gone to the hill-dairy to bring
home some produce. Grettir took the bridle off his horse. The
hay had not been mown in the meadow and the horse went for the
part where the grass was thickest. Grettir entered the room and
sat down on the bench, where he fell asleep. Soon Audun returned
home and saw a horse in the meadow with a coloured saddle on its
back. He was bringing two horses loaded with curds in skins tied
at the mouth -- so-called "curd-bags." Audun took the skins off
the horses and was carrying them in his arms so that he could not
see in front of him. Grettir's leg was stretched out before him
and Audun stumbled over it, falling on the curd-bags which broke
at the neck. Audun sprang up and asked what rascal that was in
his house. Grettir told him his name.
"That was very awkward of you," said Audun. "But what do you
"I want to fight with you."
"First I must look after my dairy produce," Audun said.
"You can do that," answered Grettir, "if you have no one else to
do it for you."
Audun bent down, gathered up the skin and threw it right into
Grettir's breast, telling him to take what he sent him. Grettir
was all covered with curds, and felt more disgusted than at any
wound which Audun could have given him. Then they went for each
other and wrestled pretty smartly. Grettir rushed at him, but
Audun escaped his grasp. He saw, however, that Grettir had
gained upon him. They drove up and down the room, overthrowing
everything that was near them. Neither of them spared himself,
but Grettir had the advantage, and at last Audun fell, after
tearing off all Grettir's weapons. They struggled hard and the
din was terrific.
Then there was a loud noise below. Grettir heard a man ride up
to the house, get off his horse and come quickly inside. He saw
a handsome man in a red jacket wearing a helmet. Hearing the
commotion going on in the room where they were wrestling, he
came in and asked what was in the room. Grettir told him his
name; "but who is it that wants to know?" he asked.
"My name is Bardi," answered the stranger.
"Are you Bardi the son of Gudmund from Asbjarnarnes?"
"The same," he replied. "But what are you after?"
Grettir said: "I and Audun are playing here."
"I don't know about your play," said Bardi. "But you are not
alike. You are overbearing and insolent, while he is modest and
good-natured. Let him get up at once."
Grettir said: "Many a man seizes the lock for the door. You
would do better to avenge your brother Hall than to come between
me and Audun when we are contending."
"I am always hearing that," said Bardi, "and I don't know whether
I shall ever obtain my vengeance. But I want you to leave Audun
in peace, for he is a quiet man."
Grettir said he was willing to do so because of Bardi's
intercession, though he did not like it much. Bardi asked what
they were contending about. Grettir replied in a verse:
"I know not if for all your pride
he may not try your throat to squeeze.
Thus when within my home I dwelt
did he once belabour me."
Bardi said there was certainly some excuse if he was taking
revenge. "Let me now settle it between you," he said. "Let
matters remain as they are and cease your strife."
So they consented, for they were kinsmen. But Grettir had little
liking for Bardi or his brothers. They all rode away together.
On the way Grettir said: "I hear, Bardi, that you intend to go
South to Borgarfjord this summer; I propose that I shall go with
you, which I think is more than you deserve."
Bardi was very pleased with this offer, and at once accepted it
most thankfully. Then they parted. Bardi then turned back and
said to Grettir: "I would like it to be understood that you only
come with me if it meets with Thorarin's approval, since all the
arrangements for the expedition are with him."
"I thought," said Grettir, "you were competent to make your
arrangements for yourself. I do not leave my affairs to other
people to settle. I shall take it very ill if you refuse me."
Then each went his own way. Bardi promised to send Grettir word
"if Thorarin wished him to go." Otherwise he could remain
quietly at home. Grettir then rode to Bjarg and Bardi to his own
HORSE-FIGHT AT LANGAFIT
That summer there was a great horse-fight at Langafit below
Reykir, whither a great many people came together. Atli of Bjarg
had a good stallion of Keingala's race; grey with a dark stripe
down his back. Both father and son valued the horse highly. The
two brothers Kormak and Thorgils in Mel had a very mettlesome
brown stallion, and they arranged to match it against that of
Atli from Bjarg. Many other excellent stallions were brought.
Odd the Needy-Skald, Kormak's kinsman, had the charge of their
horse on the day. He had grown into a strong man and had a high
opinion of himself; he was surly and reckless. Grettir asked
Atli who should have charge of his stallion.
"That is not so clear to me," said Atli.
"Would you like me to back him?"
"Then you must keep very cool, kinsman," he said. "We have men
to deal with who are rather overbearing."
"Let them pay for their bluster," he said, "if they cannot
The stallions were led out and the mares tethered together in the
front on the bank of the river. There was a large pool just
beyond the bank. The horses fought vigorously and there was
excellent sport. Odd managed his horse pluckily and Grettir gave
way before him, holding the tail of his horse with one hand and
with the other the stick with which he pricked it on. Odd stood
in the front by his horse, and one could not be sure that he was
not pricking off Atli's horse from his own. Grettir pretended
not to notice it. The horses then came near the river. Then Odd
thrust with his pointed stick at Grettir and caught him in the
shoulder-blade which Grettir was turning towards him. He struck
pretty hard, and the flesh swelled up, but Grettir was little
hurt. At the same moment the horses reared. Grettir ducked
beneath the flank of his horse and drove his stick into Odd's
side with such violence that three of his ribs were broken and
Odd fell into the pool with his horse and all the mares that were
tethered there by the bank. Some people swam out and rescued
them. There was great excitement about it. Kormak's men on one
side and those of Bjarg on the other seized their arms, but the
men of Hrutafjord and Vatnsnes came between them and parted them.
They all went home in great wrath, but kept quiet for a time.
Atli said very little, but Grettir rather swaggered and said that
they should meet again if he had his way.
THORBJORN OXMAIN AND THE FRAY AT HRUTAFJARDARHALS
There was living in Thoroddsstad in Hrutafjord a man named
Thorbjorn. He was the son of Arnor Downy-Nose, the son of
Thorodd who had settled in that side of Hrutafjord which lies
opposite to Bakki. Thorbjorn was of all men the strongest, and
was called Oxmain. He had a brother named Thorodd, called
Drapustuf. Their mother was Gerd, daughter of Bodvar from
Bodvarsholar. Thorbjorn was a great swashbuckler and kept a
large troop of followers. He was noted for being worse at
getting servants than other men, and scarcely paid them any
wages. He was not a man easy to deal with. There was a kinsman
of his, also named Thorbjorn, called Slowcoach. He was a
mariner, and the two namesakes were in partnership together. He
was always at Thoroddsstad and people did not think he made
Thorbjorn any better. He liked to talk scandal and spoke
offensively of several men.
There was a man named Thorir, a son of Thorkell, at Bordeyr. He
first lived at Melar in Hrutafjord, and had a daughter named
Helga who married Sleitu-Helgi. After the Fagrabrekka affair
Thorir went South to Haukadal and lived in Skard, selling the
property at Melar to Thorhall the Winelander, the son of Gamli.
Thorhall's son Gamli married Rannveig, the daughter of Asmund
Longhair, Grettir's sister. They lived at that time in Melar and
had a good establishment. Thorir of Skard had two sons, Gunnar
and Thorgeir, both promising men, who took over the property from
their father, but were always with Thorbjorn Oxmain, and became
In the summer of that year Kormak and Thorgils rode with a
kinsman of theirs named Narfi South to Nordrardal on some
business. Odd the Needy-Skald had recovered from the hurts
which he had received at the horse-fight and was of the party.
While they were south of the heath Grettir was journeying from
his home at Bjarg with two of Atli's men. They rode to Burfell
and then across the neck to Hrutafjord, reaching Melar in the
evening, where they spent three nights. Rannveig and Gamli gave
Grettir a friendly reception and invited him to stay, but he
wanted to return home. Then Grettir learned of Kormak's company
having come from the South, and that they were staying at Tunga
at night. He prepared to leave Melar at once, and Gamli offered
to send some of his men with him. Gamli's brother Grim, who was
very smart and active, and another rode with Grettir. The party,
five in number, came to Hrutafjardarhals to the west of Burfell,
where the great stone called Grettishaf lies; he struggled a long
time with that stone, trying to lift it, and delayed his journey
thereby until Kormak's party came up. Grettir went towards them
and both alighted from their horses. Grettir said it would be
more seemly for free men to set to work with all their might
instead of fighting with sticks like tramps. Kormak told them to
take up the challenge like men and to do their best. So they
went for each other. Grettir was in front of his men and told
them to see that nobody got behind him. They fought for a time
and both were hurt.
On the same day Thorbjorn Oxmain had ridden across the neck to
Burfell, and as he returned with Thorbjorn Slowcoach, Gunnar and
Thorgeir, the sons of Thorir, and Thorodd Drapustuf, he saw the
fight going on. On coming up, Thorbjorn called upon his men to
go between them, but they were struggling so furiously that
nobody could get at them. Grettir was making a clean sweep of
everything round him. Before him were the sons of Thorir. He
pushed them back and they both fell over. This made them
furious, and the consequence was that Gunnar gave a blow to one
of Atli's men which killed him. Thorbjorn on seeing that ordered
them to separate, saying that he would give his support to
whichever side obeyed him. By then two of Kormak's men had
fallen. Grettir saw that it would scarcely do if Thorbjorn
joined the opposite side, so he gave up the battle. All those
who had fought were wounded. Grettir was much disgusted at their
being separated, but both parties rode home and were not
reconciled on this occasion.
Thorbjorn Slowcoach made great game of all this, and the
relations between the men of Bjarg and Thorbjorn Oxmain became
strained in consequence, until at last there was a regular feud,
which however broke out later. No compensation was offered to
Atli for his man, and he went on as if he knew nothing of it.
Grettir stayed at Bjarg till the Tvi-month. It is not known that
he and Kormak ever met again; at least it is not mentioned
GRETTIR'S VAIN ENDEAVOUR TO PROVOKE BARDI
Bardi the son of Gudmund and his brothers rode home to
Asbjarnarnes when they left Grettir. They were the sons of
Gudmund the son of Solmund. Solmund's mother was Thorlaug,
daughter of Saemund the Southerner, the foster-brother of
Ingimund the Old. Bardi was a man of great distinction. Soon he
went to see his foster-father Thorarin the Wise, who welcomed him
and asked what help he had been able to obtain, for Bardi's
journey had been arranged beforehand by them both. Bardi
answered that he had engaged a man whose help he thought worth
more than that of two others. Thorarin was silent for a moment
and then said: "That must be Grettir the son of Asmund."
"The guess of the wise is truth," said Bardi. "That is the very
man, my foster-father."
Thorarin answered: "It is true that Grettir is beyond all other
men of whom there is now choice in the country; nor will he be
easily subdued by arms so long as he is sound. But great
arrogance is in him now, and I have misgivings as to his luck.
It is important for you that all your men on your expedition are
not men of an evil star. It is enough if he does not fare with
you. He shall not come if my counsel is followed."
"I did not expect, my foster-father," said he, "that you would
deny me the man who is bravest in all that he undertakes. A man
in such straits as I seem to be in cannot provide against
"It will be better for you," he replied, "to let me provide."
So it came about that as Thorarin desired, word was not sent to
Grettir. Bardi went to the South and the battle of the Heath was
Grettir was at Bjarg when he received the news that Bardi had
started on his expedition. He was very angry that word had not
been sent to him, and said it should not end there. He found out
when they were expected back from the South, and rode off to
Thoreyjargnup, where he meant to lie in wait for Bardi and his
men as they rode back. He left the homestead behind and remained
at the cliffs. On that day rode Bardi back from the battle of
the Heath from Tvidaegra; there were six of them in his party,
all sorely wounded. When they came to the homestead Bardi said:
"There is a man up there on the cliff, very tall and armed. Whom
do you take him for?"
They could not say who he was. Bardi said: "I believe it is
Grettir the son of Asmund. If it is, he will be wanting to meet
us, for I expect he is little pleased at not having been with us.
It seems to me that we are not in a very fit condition if he
wants to annoy us. I will send home to Thoreyjargnup for some
men and not allow myself to be put out by his evil intentions."
They said that was the best thing he could do, and it was done.
Bardi's party rode on; Grettir watched where they were going and
went there too. They met and greeted each other. Grettir asked
what the news was, and Bardi told him without hesitation.
Grettir asked who had been with them. Bardi answered that his
brothers and Eyjvolf his brother-inlaw had been with him.
"You have wiped out your disgrace," said Grettir. "Now the next
thing is for us two here to try which is the stronger."
"I have more urgent business," said Bardi, "than to fight with
you about nothing. I think I may be excused that now."
"It seems to me that you are afraid, Bardi; that is the reason
why you dare not fight me."
"Call it what you please. If you wish to bully, find some one
else; that seems to be what you want, for your insolence passes
Grettir thought luck was against him. He hesitated now whether
he should attack any of them; it seemed rather rash as they were
six and he was only one. Then the men from Thoreyjargnup came up
and joined Bardi's party, so he left them and went back to his
horse. Bardi and his men went on, and there was no greeting
between them when they parted. We are not told that any strife
arose between Bardi and Grettir after this.
Grettir once said that he would trust himself to fight with most
men if there were not more than three against him. Even with
four he would not give way without trying, but more he would not
attempt, except in self-defence. Thus he says in a verse:
"Oh skilled in war! When three are before me
I yet will endeavour to fight with them all.
But more than four I dare not encounter
in the clashing of arms, if the choice is with me."
On leaving Bardi, Grettir returned to Bjarg, and was much
aggrieved at finding nothing to try his strength on. He sought
everywhere for something to fight with.
THE SPOOK AT THORHALLSSTAD. GLAM THE SHEPHERD KILLED BY A FIEND.
HIS GHOST WALKS
There was a man named Thorhall living in Thorhallsstad in
Forsaeludal, up from Vatnsdal. He was the son of Grim, the son
of Thorhall, the son of Fridmund, who was the first settler in
Forsaeludal. Thorhall's wife was named Gudrun; they had a son
named Grim and a daughter named Thurid who were just grown up.
Thorhall was fairly wealthy, especially in live-stock. His
property in cattle exceeded that of any other man. He was not a
chief, but an honest bondi nevertheless. He had great difficulty
in getting a shepherd to suit him because the place was haunted.
He consulted many men of experience as to what he should do, but
nobody gave him any advice which was of any use. Thorhall had
good horses, and went every summer to the Thing. On one occasion
at the All-Thing he went to the booth of the Lawman Skapti the
son of Thorodd, who was a man of great knowledge and gave good
counsel to those who consulted him. There was a great difference
between Thorodd the father and Skapti the son in one respect.
Thorodd possessed second sight, but was thought by some not to be
straight, whereas Skapti gave to every man the advice which he
thought would avail him, if he followed it exactly, and so earned
the name of Father-betterer.
So Thorhall went to Skapti's booth, where Skapti, knowing that he
was a man of wealth, received him graciously, and asked what the
"I want some good counsel from you," said Thorhall.
"I am little fit to give you counsel," he replied; "but what is
it that you need?"
"It is this: I have great difficulty in keeping my shepherds.
Some get injured and others cannot finish their work. No one
will come to me if he knows what he has to expect."
Skapti answered: "There must be some evil spirit abroad if men
are less willing to tend your flocks than those of other men.
Now since you have come to me for counsel, I will get you a
shepherd. His name is Glam, and he came from Sylgsdale in Sweden
last summer. He is a big strong man, but not to everybody's
Thorhall said that did not matter so long as he looked after the
sheep properly. Skapti said there was not much chance of getting
another if this man with all his strength and boldness should
fail. Then Thorhall departed. This happened towards the end of
Two of Thorhall's horses were missing, and he went himself to
look for them, which made people think he was not much of a man.
He went up under Sledaass and south along the hill called
Armannsfell. Then he saw a man coming down from Godaskog
bringing some brushwood with a horse. They met and Thorhall
asked him his name. He said it was Glam. He was a big man with
an extraordinary expression of countenance, large grey eyes and
wolfgrey hair. Thorhall was a little startled when he saw him,
but soon found out that this was the man who had been sent to
"What work can you do best?" he asked.
Glam said it would suit him very well to mind sheep in the
"Will you mind my sheep?" Thorhall asked. "Skapti has given you
over to me."
"My service will only be of use to you if I am free to do as I
please," he said. "I am rather crossgrained when I am not well
"That will not hurt me," said Thorhall. "I shall be glad if you
will come to me."
"I can do so," he said. "Are there any special difficulties?"
"The place seems to be haunted."
"I am not afraid of ghosts. It will be the less dull."
"You will have to risk it," said Thorhall. "It will be best to
meet it with a bold face."
Terms were arranged and Glam was to come in the autumn. Then
they parted. Thorhall found his horses in the very place where
he had just been looking for them. He rode home and thanked
Skapti for his service.
The summer passed. Thorhall heard nothing of his shepherd and no
one knew anything about him, but at the appointed time he
appeared at Thorhallsstad. Thorhall treated him kindly, but all
the rest of the household disliked him, especially the mistress.
He commenced his work as shepherd, which gave him little trouble.
He had a loud hoarse voice. The beasts all flocked together
whenever he shouted at them. There was a church in the place,
but Glam never went to it. He abstained from mass, had no
religion, and was stubborn and surly. Every one hated him.
So the time passed till the eve of Yule-tide. Glam rose early
and called for his meal. The mistress said: "It is not proper
for Christian men to eat on this day, because to-morrow is
the first day of Yule and it is our duty to fast to-day."
"You have many superstitions," he said; "but I do not see that
much comes of them. I do not know that men are any better off
than when there was nothing of that kind. The ways of men seemed
to me better when they were called heathen. I want my food and
"I am certain," she said, "that it will fare ill with you to-day
if you commit this sin."
Glam told her that she should bring his food, or that it would be
the worse for her. She did not dare to do otherwise than as he
bade her. When he had eaten he went out, his breath smelling
abominably. It was very dark; there was driving snow, the wind
was howling and it became worse as the day advanced. The
shepherd's voice was heard in the early part of the day, but less
later on. Blizzards set in and a terrific storm in the evening.
People went to mass and so the time passed. In the evening Glam
did not return. They talked about going out to look for him, but
the storm was so violent and the night so dark that no one went.
The night passed and still he had not returned; they waited till
the time for mass came. When it was full day some of the men set
forth to search. They found the animals scattered everywhere in
the snow and injured by the weather; some had strayed into the
mountains. Then they came upon some well-marked tracks up above
in the valley. The stones and earth were torn up all about as if
there had been a violent tussle. On searching further they came
upon Glam lying on the ground a short distance off. He was dead;
his body was as black as Hel and swollen to the size of an ox.
They were overcome with horror and their hearts shuddered within
them. Nevertheless they tried to carry him to the church, but
could not get him any further than the edge of a gully a short
way off. So they left him there and went home to report to the
bondi what had happened. He asked what could have caused Glam's
death. They said they had tracked him to a big place like a hole
made by the bottom of a cask thrown down and dragged along up
below the mountains which were at the top of the valley, and all
along the track were great drops of blood. They concluded that
the evil spirit which had been about before must have killed
Glam, but that he had inflicted wounds upon it which were enough,
for that spook was never heard of again. On the second day of
the festival they went out again to bring in Glam's body to the
church. They yoked oxen to him, but directly the downward
incline ceased and they came to level ground, they could not move
him; so they went home again and left him. On the third day they
took a priest with them, but after searching the whole day they
failed to find him. The priest refused to go again, and when he
was not with them they found Glam. So they gave up the attempt
to bring him to the church and buried him where he was under a
cairn of stones.
It was not long before men became aware that Glam was not easy in
his grave. Many men suffered severe injuries; some who saw him
were struck senseless and some lost their wits. Soon after the
festival was over, men began to think they saw him about their
houses. The panic was great and many left the neighbourhood.
Next he began to ride on the house-tops by night, and nearly
broke them to pieces. Almost night and day he walked, and people
would scarcely venture up the valley, however pressing their
business. The district was in a grievous condition.
DOINGS OF GLAM'S GHOST. AWFUL CONDITION OF VATNSDAL
In the spring Thorhall procured servants and built a house on his
lands. As the days lengthened out the apparitions became less,
until at midsummer a ship sailed up the Hunavatn in which was a
man named Thorgaut. He was a foreigner, very tall and powerful;
he had the strength of two men. He was travelling on his own
account, unattached, and being without money was looking out for
employment. Thorhall rode to the ship, saw him and asked if he
would take service with him. Thorgaut said he would indeed, and
that there would be no difficulties.
"You must be prepared," said Thorhall, "for work which would not
be fitting for a weak-minded person, because of the apparitions
which have been there lately. I will not deceive you about it."
"I shall not give myself up as lost for the ghostlings," he said.
"Before I am scared some others will not be easy. I shall not
change my quarters on that account."
The terms were easily arranged and Thorgaut was engaged for the
sheep during the winter. When the summer had passed away he took
over charge of them, and was on good terms with everybody. Glam
continued his rides on the roofs. Thorgaut thought it very
amusing and said the thrall must come nearer if he wished to
frighten him. Thorhall advised him not to say too much, and said
it would be better if they did not come into conflict.
Thorgaut said: "Surely all the spirit has gone out of you. I
shall not fall dead in the twilight for stories of that sort."
Yule was approaching. On the eve the shepherd went out with his
sheep. The mistress said: "Now I hope that our former
experiences will not be repeated."
"Have no fear for that, mistress," he said. "There will be
something worth telling of if I come not back."
Then he went out to his sheep. The weather was rather cold and
there was a heavy snowstorm. Thorgaut usually returned when it
was getting dark, but this time he did not come. The people went
to church as usual, but they thought matters looked very much as
they did on the last occasion. The bondi wanted them to go out
and search for the shepherd, but the churchgoers cried off, and
said they were not going to trust themselves into the power of
trolls in the night; the bondi would not venture out and there
was no search. On Yule day after their meal they went out to
look for the shepherd, and first went to Glam's cairn, feeling
sure that the shepherd's disappearance must be due to him. On
approaching the cairn they saw an awful sight; there was the
shepherd, his neck broken, and every bone in his body torn from
its place. They carried him to the church and no one was
molested by Thorgaut.
Glam became more rampageous than ever. He was so riotous that at
last everybody fled from Thorhallsstad, excepting the bondi and
Thorhall's cowherd had been a long time in his service and he had
become attached to him; for this reason and because he was a
careful herdsman he did not want to part with him. The man was
very old and thought it would be very troublesome to have to
leave; he saw, too, that everything the bondi possessed would be
ruined if he did not stay to look-after them. One morning after
midwinter the mistress went to the cow-house to milk the cows as
usual. It was then full day, for no one would venture out of
doors till then, except the cowherd, who went directly it was
light. She heard a great crash in the cowhouse and tremendous
bellowing. She rushed in, shouting that something awful, she
knew not what, was going on in the cowhouse. The bondi went out
and found the cattle all goring each other. It seemed not canny
there, so he went into the shed and there saw the cowherd lying
on his back with his head in one stall and his feet in the other.
He went up and felt him, but saw at once that he was dead with
his back broken. It had been broken over the flat stone which
separated the two stalls. Evidently it was not safe to remain
any longer on his estate, so he fled with everything that he
could carry away. All the live-stock which he left behind was
killed by Glam. After that Glam went right up the valley and
raided every farm as far as Tunga, while Thorhall stayed with his
friends during the rest of the winter. No one could venture up
the valley with a horse or a dog, for it was killed at once. As
the spring went on and the sun rose higher in the sky the spook
diminished somewhat, and Thorhall wanted to return to his land,
but found it not easy to get servants. Nevertheless, he went and
took up his abode at Thorhallsstad. Directly the autumn set in,
everything began again, and the disturbances increased. The
person most attacked was the bondi's daughter, who at last died
of it. Many things were tried but without success. It seemed
likely that the whole of Vatnsdal would be devastated unless help
could be found.
GRETTIR VISITS HIS UNCLE JOKULL
We have now to return to Grettir, who was at home in Bjarg during
the autumn which followed his meeting with Warrior-Bardi at
Thoreyjargnup. When the winter was approaching, he rode North
across the neck to Vididal and stayed at Audunarstad. He and
Audun made friends again; Grettir gave him a valuable battle-axe
and they agreed to hold together in friendship. Audun had long
lived there, and had many connections. He had a son named Egill,
who married Ulfheid the daughter of Eyjolf, the son of Gudmund;
their son Eyjolf, who was killed at the All-Thing, was the father
of Orin the chaplain of Bishop Thorlak.
Grettir rode to the North to Vatnsdal and went on a visit to
Tunga, where dwelt his mother's brother, Jokull the son of Bard,
a big strong man and exceedingly haughty. He was a mariner, very
cantankerous, but a person of much consideration. He welcomed
Grettir, who stayed three nights with him. Nothing was talked
about but Glam's walking, and Grettir inquired minutely about all
the particulars. Jokull told him that no more was said than had
"Why, do you want to go there?" he asked.
Grettir said that it was so. Jokull told him not to do it.
"It would be a most hazardous undertaking," he said. "Your
kinsmen incur a great risk with you as you are. There does not
seem to be one of the younger men who is your equal. It is ill
dealing with such a one as Glam. Much better fight with human
men than with goblins of that sort."
Grettir said he had a mind to go to Thorhallsstad and see how
things were. Jokull said: "I see there is no use in dissuading
you. The saying is true that Luck is one thing, brave deeds
"Woe stands before the door of one but enters that of another,"
answered Grettir. "I am thinking how it may fare with you
yourself before all is done."
"It may be," said Jokull, "that we both see what is before us,
and yet we may not alter it."
Then they parted, neither of them well pleased with the other's
THE FIGHT WITH GLAM'S GHOST
Grettir rode to Thorhallsstad where he was welcomed by the bondi.
He asked Grettir whither he was bound, and Grettir said he wished
to spend the night there if the bondi permitted. Thorhall said
he would indeed be thankful to him for staying there.
"Few," he said, "think it a gain to stay here for any time. You
must have heard tell of the trouble that is here, and I do not
want you to be inconvenienced on my account. Even if you escape
unhurt yourself, I know for certain that you will lose your
horse, for no one can keep his beast in safety who comes here."
Grettir said there were plenty more horses to be had if anything
happened to this one.
Thorhall was delighted at Grettir's wishing to remain, and
received him with both hands. Grettir's horse was placed
securely under lock and key and they both went to bed. The night
passed without Glam showing himself.
"Your being here has already done some good," said Thorhall.
"Glam has always been in the habit of riding on the roof or
breaking open the doors every night, as you can see from the
"Then," Grettir said, "either he will not keep quiet much longer,
or he will remain so more than one night. I will stay another
night and see what happens."
Then they went to Grettir's horse and found it had not been
touched. The bondi thought that all pointed to the same thing.
Grettir stayed a second night and again the thrall did not
appear. The bondi became hopeful and went to see the horse.
There he found the stable broken open, the horse dragged outside
and every bone in his body broken. Thorhall told Grettir what
had occurred and advised him to look to himself, for he was a
dead man if he waited for Glam.
Grettir answered: "I must not have less for my horse than a sight
of the thrall."
The bondi said there was no pleasure to be had from seeing him:
"He is not like any man. I count every hour a gain that you are
The day passed, and when the hour came for going to bed Grettir
said he would not take off his clothes, and lay down on a seat
opposite to Thorkell's sleeping apartment. He had a shaggy cloak
covering him with one end of it fastened under his feet and the
other drawn over his head so that he could see through the
neck-hole. He set his feet against a strong bench which was in
front of him. The frame-work of the outer door had been all
broken away and some bits of wood had been rigged up roughly in
its place. The partition which had once divided the hall from
the entrance passage was all broken, both above the cross-beam
and below, and all the bedding had been upset. The place looked
rather desolate. There was a light burning in the hall by night.
When about a third part of the night had passed Grettir heard a
loud noise. Something was going up on to the building, riding
above the hall and kicking with its heels until the timbers
cracked again. This went on for some time, and then it came down
towards the door. The door opened and Grettir saw the thrall
stretching in an enormously big and ugly head. Glam moved slowly
in, and on passing the door stood upright, reaching to the roof.
He turned to the hall, resting his arms on the cross-beam and
peering along the hall. The bondi uttered no sound, having heard
quite enough of what had gone on outside. Grettir lay quite
still and did not move. Glam saw a heap of something in the
seat, came farther into the hall and seized the cloak tightly
with his hand. Grettir pressed his foot against the plank and
the cloak held firm. Glam tugged at it again still more
violently, but it did not give way. A third time be pulled, this
time with both hands and with such force that he pulled Grettir
up out of the seat, and between them the cloak was torn in two.
Glam looked at the bit which he held in his hand and wondered
much who could pull like that against him. Suddenly Grettir
sprang under his arms, seized him round the waist and squeezed
his back with all his might, intending in that way to bring him
down, but the thrall wrenched his arms till he staggered from the
violence. Then Grettir fell back to another bench. The benches
flew about and everything was shattered around them. Glam wanted
to get out, but Grettir tried to prevent him by stemming his foot
against anything he could find. Nevertheless Glam succeeded in
getting him outside the hall. Then a terrific struggle began,
the thrall trying to drag him out of the house, and Grettir saw
that however hard he was to deal with in the house, he would be
worse outside, so he strove with all his might to keep him from
getting out. Then Glam made a desperate effort and gripped
Grettir tightly towards him, forcing him to the porch. Grettir
saw that he could not put up any resistance, and with a sudden
movement he dashed into the thrall's arms and set both his feet
against a stone which was fastened in the ground at the door.
For that Glam was not prepared, since he had been tugging to drag
Grettir towards him; he reeled backwards and tumbled bind-
foremost out of the door, tearing away the lintel with his
shoulder and shattering the roof, the rafters and the frozen
thatch. Head over heels he fell out of the house and Grettir
fell on top of him. The moon was shining very brightly outside,
with light clouds passing over it and hiding it now and again.
At the moment when Glam fell the moon shone forth, and Glam
turned his eyes up towards it. Grettir himself has related that
that sight was the only one which ever made him tremble. What
with fatigue and all else that he had endured, when he saw the
horrible rolling of Glam's eyes his heart sank so utterly that he
had not strength to draw his sword, but lay there wellnigh
betwixt life and death. Glam possessed more malignant power than
most fiends, for he now spoke in this wise:
"You have expended much energy, Grettir, in your search for me.
Nor is that to be wondered at, if you should have little joy
thereof. And now I tell you that you shall possess only half the
strength and firmness of heart that were decreed to you if you
had not striven with me. The might which was yours till now I am
not able to take away, but it is in my power to ordain that never
shall you grow stronger than you are now. Nevertheless your
might is sufficient, as many shall find to their cost. Hitherto
you have earned fame through your deeds, but henceforward there
shall fall upon you exile and battle; your deeds shall turn to
evil and your guardian-spirit shall forsake you. You will be
outlawed and your lot shall be to dwell ever alone. And this I
lay upon you, that these eyes of mine shall be ever before your
vision. You will find it hard to live alone, and at last it
shall drag you to death."
When the thrall had spoken the faintness which had come over
Grettir left him. He drew his short sword, cut off Glam's head
and laid it between his thighs. Then the bondi came out, having
put on his clothes while Glam was speaking, but he did not
venture to come near until he was dead. Thorhall praised God and
thanked Grettir warmly for having laid this unclean spirit. Then
they set to work and burned Glam to cold cinders, bound the ashes
in a skin and buried them in a place far away from the haunts of
man or beast. Then they went home, the day having nearly broken.
Grettir was very stiff and lay down to rest. Thorhall sent for
some men from the next farms and let them know how things had
fared. They all realised the importance of Grettir's deed when
they heard of it; all agreed that in the whole country side for
strength and courage and enterprise there was not the equal of
Grettir the son of Asmund.
Thorhall bade a kindly farewell to Grettir and dismissed him with
a present of a fine horse and proper clothes, for all that he had
been wearing were torn to pieces. They parted in friendship.
Grettir rode to Ass in Vatnsdal and was welcomed by Thorvald, who
asked him all about his encounter with Glam. Grettir told him
everything and said that never had his strength been put to trial
as it had been in their long struggle. Thorvald told him to
conduct himself discreetly; if he did so he might prosper, but
otherwise he would surely come to disaster. Grettir said that
his temper had not improved, that he had even less discretion
than before, and was more impatient of being crossed. In one
thing a great change had come over him; he had become so
frightened of the dark that he dared not go anywhere alone at
night. Apparitions of every kind came before him. It has since
passed into an expression, and men speak of "Glam's eyes" or
"Glam visions" when things appear otherwise than as they are.
Having accomplished his undertaking Grettir rode back to Bjarg
and spent the winter at home.
THORBJORN SLOWCOACH AT HOME
Thorbjorn Oxmain gave a great feast in the autumn at which many
were assembled, whilst Grettir was in the North in Vatnsdal.
Thorbjorn Slowcoach was there and many things were talked about.
The Hrutafjord people inquired about Grettir's adventure on the
ridge in the summer. Thorbjorn Oxmain praised Grettir's conduct,
and said that Kormak would have had the worst of it if no one had
come to part them. Then Thorbjorn Slowcoach said: "What I saw
of Grettir's fighting was not famous; and he seemed inclined to
shirk when we came up. He was very ready to leave off, nor did I
see him make any attempt to avenge the death of Atli's man. I do
not believe there is much heart in him, except when he has a
sufficient force behind him."
Thorbjorn went on jeering at him in this way. Many of the others
had something to say about it, and they thought that Grettir
would not leave it to rest if he heard what Thorbjorn was saying.
Nothing more happened at the festivities; they all went home, and
there was a good deal of ill-will between them all that winter,
though no one took any action. Nothing more happened that
GRETTIR SAILS FOR NORWAY AND KILLS THORBJORN SLOWCOACH
Early in the spring, before the meeting of the Thing, there
arrived a ship from Norway. There was much news to tell, above
all of the change of government. Olaf the son of Harald was now
king, having driven away jarl Sveinn from the country in the
spring which followed the battle of Nesjar. Many noteworthy
things were told of King Olaf. Men said that he took into favour
all men who were skilled in any way and made them his followers.
This pleased many of the younger men in Iceland and made them all
want to leave home. When Grettir heard of it he longed to go
too, deeming that he merited the king's favour quite as much as
any of the others. A ship came up to Gasar in Eyjafjord; Grettir
engaged a passage in her and prepared to go abroad. He had not
much outfit as yet.
Asmund was now becoming very infirm and scarcely left his bed.
He and Asdis had a young son named Illugi, a youth of much
promise. Atli had taken over all the management of the farm and
the goods, and things went much better, for he was both obliging
Grettir embarked on his ship. Thorbjorn Slowcoach had arranged
to travel in the same vessel without knowing that Grettir would
be in her. Some of his friends tried to dissuade him from
travelling in Grettir's company, but he insisted upon going. He
was rather a long time over his preparations and did not get to
Gasar before the ship was ready to sail. Before he left home
Asmund Longhair was taken ill and was quite confined to his bed.
Thorbjorn Slowcoach arrived on the beach late in the day, when
the men were going on board and were washing their hands outside
near their booths. When he rode up to the rows of booths they
greeted him and asked what news there was.
"I have nothing to tell," he said, "except that the valorous
Asmund at Bjarg is now dead."
Some of them said that a worthy bondi had left the world and
asked how it happened.
"A poor lot befell his Valour," he replied. "He was suffocated
by the smoke from the hearth, like a dog. There is no great loss
in him, for he was in his dotage."
"You talk strangely about such a man as he was," they said.
"Grettir would not be much pleased if he heard you."
"I can endure Grettir's wrath," he said. "He must bear his axe
higher than he did at Hrutafjardarhals if he wishes to frighten
Grettir heard every word that Thorbjorn said, but took no notice
as long as he was speaking. When he had finished Grettir said:
"I prophesy, Slowcoach, that you will not die of the smoke from
the hearth, and yet perhaps you will not die of old age either.
It is strange conduct to say shameful things of innocent men."
Thorbjorn said: "I have nothing to unsay. I never thought you
would fire up like this on the day when we got you out of the
hands of the men of Mel who were belabouring you like an ox's
Then Grettir spoke a verse:
"Too long is the tongue of the spanner of bows.
Full often he suffers the vengeance due.
Slowcoach! I tell thee that many a man
has paid for less shameful speech with his life."
Thorbjorn said his life was neither more nor less in danger than
it was before.
"My prophecies are not generally long-lived," said Grettir, "nor
shall this one be. Defend yourself if you will; you never will
have better occasion for it than now."
Grettir then struck at him. He tried to parry the blow with his
arm, but it struck him above the wrist and glanced off on to his
neck so that his head flew off. The sailors declared it was a
splendid stroke, and that such were the men for the king. No one
would grieve, they said, because a man so quarrelsome and
scurrilous as Thorbjorn had been killed.
Soon after this they got under way and towards the end of the
summer reached the south coast of Norway, about Hordland, where
they learned that King Olaf was in the North at Thrandheim.
Grettir took a passage thither with some traders intending to
seek audience of the king.
GRETTIR FETCHES FIRE -- THE SONS OF THORIR ARE BURNT
There was a man named Thorir dwelling in Gard in Adaldal. He was
a son of Skeggi Bodolfsson, who had settled in Kelduhverfi, on
lands extending right up to Keldunes, and had married Helga the
daughter of Thorgeir at Fiskilaek. Thorir was a great chief, and
a mariner. He had two sons whose names were Thorgeir and Skeggi,
both men of promise, and pretty well grown up at that time.
Thorir had been in Norway in the summer in which Olaf came East
from England, and had won great favour with the king as well as
with Bishop Sigurd. In token of this it is related that Thorir
asked the bishop to consecrate a large sea-going ship he had
built in the forest, and the bishop did so. Later he came out to
Iceland and had his ship broken up because he was tired of
seafaring. He set up the figures from her head and stem over his
doors, where they long remained foretelling the weather, one
howling for a south, the other for a north wind.
When Thorir heard that Olaf had become sole ruler of Norway he
thought he might expect favour from him, so he dispatched his
sons to Norway to wait upon the king, hoping that they would be
received into his service. They reached the south coast late in
the autumn and engaged a rowing vessel to take them up the coast
to the North, intending to go to the king. They reached a port
to the south of Stad, where they put in for a few days. They
were well provided with food and drink, and did not go out much
because of the bad weather.
Grettir also sailed to the North along the coast, and as the
winter was just beginning he often fell in with dirty weather.
When they reached the neighbourhood of Stad the weather became
worse, and at last one evening they were so exhausted with the
snow and frost that they were compelled to put in and lie under a
bank where they found shelter for their goods and belongings.
The men were very much distressed at not being able to procure
any fire; their safety and their lives seemed almost to depend
upon their getting some. They lay there in a pitiful condition
all the evening, and as night came on they saw a large fire on
the other side of the channel which they were in. When Grettir's
companions saw the fire they began talking and saying that he who
could get some of it would be a happy man. They hesitated for
some time whether they should put out, but all agreed that it
would be too dangerous. Then they had a good deal of talk about
whether there was any man living doughty enough to get the fire.
Grettir kept very quiet, but said that there probably had been
men who would not have let themselves be baulked. The men said
that they were none the better for what had been if there were
"But won't you venture, Grettir? The people of Iceland all talk
so much about your prowess, and you know very well what we want."
Grettir said: "It does not seem to me such a great thing to get
the fire, but I do not know whether you will reward it any better
than he requires who does it."
"Why," they said, "should you take us to be men of so little
honour that we shall not reward you well?"
"Well," said Grettir, "if you really think it so necessary I will
try it; but my heart tells me that no good will come to me
They said it would not be so, and told him that he should have
Then Grettir threw off his clothes and got ready to go into the
water. He went in a cloak and breeches of coarse stuff. He
tucked up the cloak, tied a cord of bast round his waist, and
took a barrel with him. Then he jumped overboard, swam across
the channel and reached the land on the other side. There he saw
a house standing and heard sounds of talking and merriment
issuing from it. So he went towards the house.
We have now to tell of the people who were in the house. They
were the sons of Thorir who have been mentioned. They had been
there some days waiting for a change of weather and for a wind to
carry them to the North. There were twelve of them and they were
all sitting and drinking. They had made fast in the inner
harbour where there was a place of shelter set up for men who
were travelling about the country, and they had carried in a
quantity of straw. There was a huge fire on the ground. Grettir
rushed into the house, not knowing who was there. His cloak had
all frozen directly he landed, and he was a portentous sight to
behold; he looked like a troll. The people inside were much
startled, thinking it was a fiend. They struck at him with
anything they could get, and a tremendous uproar there was.
Grettir pushed them back with his arms. Some of them struck at
him with firebrands, and the fire spread all through the house.
He got away with his fire and returned to his companions, who
were loud in praise of his skill and daring, and said there was
no one like him. The night passed and they were happy now that
they had fire.
On the next morning the weather was fine. They all woke early
and made ready to continue their journey. It was proposed that
they should go and find out who the people were who had had the
fire, so they cast off and sailed across the channel. They found
no house there, nothing but a heap of ashes and a good many bones
of men amongst them. Evidently the house with all who were in it
had been burned. They asked whether Grettir had done it, and
declared it was an abominable deed. Grettir said that what he
expected had come to pass, and that he was ill rewarded for
getting the fire for them. He said it was thankless work to help
such miserable beings as they were. He suffered much annoyance
in consequence, for wherever the traders went they told that
Grettir had burned the men in the house. Soon it became known
that it was the sons of Thorir of Gard and their followers who
had been burned. The traders refused to have Grettir on board
their ship any longer and drove him away. He was so abhorred
that scarcely any one would do him a service. His case seemed
hopeless, and his only desire was at any cost to appear before
the king. So he went North to Thrandheim where the king was, and
had heard the whole story before Grettir came, for many had been
busy in slandering him. Grettir waited several days in the town
before he was able to appear before the king.
GRETTIR APPEARS BEFORE THE KING AND FAILS TO UNDERGO THE ORDEAL
One day when the king was sitting in judgment Grettir came before
him and saluted him respectfully. The king looked at him and
"Are you Grettir the Strong?"
"So I have been called," he replied, "and I have some here in the
hope of obtaining deliverance from the slanders which are being
spread about me, and to say that I did not do this deed."
The king said: "You are worthy enough; but I know not what
fortune you will have in defending yourself. It is quite
possible that you did not intend to burn the men in the house."
Grettir said that he was most anxious to prove his innocence if
the king would permit him. Then the king bade him relate
faithfully all that had happened. Grettir told him everything
exactly as it was, and declared that they were all alive when he
escaped with his fire; he was ready to undergo any ordeal which
the king considered that the law required.
King Olaf said: "I decree that you shall bear iron, if your fate
so wills it."
Grettir was quite content with that, and began his fast for the
ordeal. When the day for the ceremony arrived the king and the
bishop went to the church together with a multitude of people who
came out of curiosity to see a man so much talked about as
Grettir. At last Grettir himself was led to the church. When he
entered many looked at him and remarked that he excelled most men
in strength and stature. As he passed down the aisle there
started up a very ill-favoured, overgrown boy and cried to him:
"Wondrous are now the ways in a land where men should call
themselves Christians, when evildoers and robbers and thieves
walk in peace to purge themselves. What should a wicked man find
better to do than to preserve his life so long as he may? Here
is now a malefactor convicted of guilt, one who has burnt
innocent men in their houses, and yet is allowed to undergo
purgation. Such a thing is most unrighteous."
Then he went at Grettir, pointing at him with his finger, making
grimaces and calling him son of a sea-ogress, with many other bad
names. Then Grettir lost his temper and his self-control. He
raised his hand and gave him a box on the ear so that he fell
senseless, and some thought he was dead. No one seemed to know
whence the boy had come nor what became of him afterwards, but it
was generally believed that he was some unclean spirit sent forth
for the destruction of Grettir.
There arose an uproar in the church; people told the king that
the man who had come to purge himself was fighting with those
around him. King Olaf came forward into the church to see what
was going on, and said:
"You are a man of ill luck, Grettir. All was prepared for the
ordeal, but it cannot take place now. It is not possible to
contend against your ill-fortune."
Grettir said: "I expected, oh king, more honour from you for the
sake of my family than I now seem likely to obtain."
Then he told again the story as he had done before of what had
taken place with the men. "Gladly," he said, "would I enter your
service; there is many a man with you who is not my better as a
"I know," said the king, "that few are your equals in strength
and courage, but your luck is too bad for you to remain with me.
You have my leave to depart in peace whithersoever you will for
the winter, and then in the summer you may return to Iceland,
where you are destined to lay your bones."
"First I should like to clear myself of the charge of burning, if
I may," said Grettir; "for I did not do it intentionally."
"Very likely it is so," said the king; "but since the purgation
has come to naught through your impatience you cannot clear
yourself further than you have done. Impetuosity always leads to
evil. If ever a man was doomed to misfortune you are."
After that Grettir remained for a time in the town, but he got
nothing more out of Olaf. Then he went to the South, intending
after that to go East to Tunsberg to find his brother Thorsteinn
Dromund. Nothing is told of his journey till he came to Jadar.
ADVENTURE WITH THE BERSERK SNAEKOLL
At Yule Grettir came to a bondi named Einar, a man of wealth who
had a wife and a marriageable daughter named Gyrid. She was a
beautiful maiden and was considered an excellent match. Einar
invited Grettir to stay over Yule, and he accepted.
It was no uncommon thing throughout Norway that robbers and other
ruffians came down from the forest and challenged men to fight
for their women, or carried off their property with violence if
there was not sufficient force in the house to protect them. One
day at Yule-tide there came a whole party of these miscreants to
Einar's house. Their leader was a great berserk named Snaekoll.
He challenged Einar to hand over his daughter to him or else to
defend her, if he felt himself man enough to do so. Now the
bondi was no longer young, and no fighter. He felt that he was
in a great difficulty, and asked Grettir privately what help he
would give him, seeing that he was held to be so famous a man.
Grettir advised him to consent only to what was not
dishonourable. The berserk was sitting on his horse wearing his
helmet, the chin-piece of which was not fastened. He held before
him a shield bound with iron and looked terribly threatening. He
said to the bondi:
"You had better choose quickly: either one thing or the other.
What does that big fellow standing beside you say? Would he not
like to play with me himself?"
"One of us is as good as the other," said Grettir, "neither of us
is very active."
"All the more afraid will you be to fight with me if I get
"That will be seen when it is tried," said Grettir.
The berserk thought they were trying to get off by talking. He
began to howl and to bite the rim of his shield. He held the
shield up to his mouth and scowled over its upper edge like a
madman. Grettir stepped quickly across the ground, and when he
got even with the berserk's horse he kicked the shield with his
foot from below with such force that it struck his mouth,
breaking the upper jaw, and the lower jaw fell down on to his
chest. With the same movement he seized the viking's helmet with
his left hand and dragged him from his horse, while with
his right hand he raised his axe and cut off the berserk's head.
Snaekoll's followers when they saw what had happened fled, every
man of them. Grettir did not care to pursue them for he saw that
there was no heart in them. The bondi thanked him for what he
had done, as did many other men, for the quickness and boldness
of his deed had impressed them much. Grettir stayed there for
Yule and was well taken care of till he left, when the bondi
dismissed him handsomely. Then Grettir went East to Tunsberg to
visit his brother Thorsteinn, who received him joyfully and asked
him about his adventures. Grettir told him how he had killed the
berserk, and composed a verse :
"The warrior's shield by my foot propelled
in conflict came with Snaekoll's mouth.
His nether jaw hung down on his chest,
wide gaped his mouth from the iron ring."
"You would be very handy at many things," said Thorsteinn, "if
misfortune did not follow you."
"Men will tell of deeds that are done," said Grettir.
THORSTEINN DROMUND'S ARMS
Grettir stayed with Thorsteinn for the rest of the winter and on
into the spring. One morning when Thorsteinn and Grettir were
above in their sleepingroom Grettir put out his arm from the
bed-clothes and Thorsteinn noticed it when he awoke. Soon after
Grettir woke too, and Thorsteinn said: "I have been looking at
your arms, kinsman, and think it is not wonderful that your blows
fall heavily upon some. Never have I seen any man's arms that
were like yours."
"You may know," said Grettir, "that I should not have done the
deeds I have if I had not been very mighty."
"Yet methinks it would be of advantage," said Thorsteinn, "if
your arm were more slender and your fortune better."
"True," said Grettir, "is the saying that no man shapes his own
fortune. Let me see your arm."
Thorsteinn showed it to him. He was a tall lanky man. Grettir
smiled and said:
"There is no need to look long at that; all your ribs are run
together. I never saw such a pair of tongs as you carry about!
Why, you are scarcely as strong as a woman!"
"It may be so," said Thorsteinn, "and yet you may know that these
thin arms of mine and no others will avenge you some day; -- if
you are avenged."
"Who shall know how it will be when the end comes?" said Grettir;
"but that seems unlikely."
No more is related of their conversation. The spring came and
Grettir took a ship for Iceland in the summer. The brothers
parted with friendship and never saw one another again.
DEATH OF ASMUND LONGHAIR
We have now to return to where we broke off before. Thorbjorn
Oxmain when he heard of the death of Thorbjorn Slowcoach flew
into a violent passion and said he wished that more men might
deal blows in other people's houses. Asmund Longhair lay sick
for some time in the summer. When he thought his end was nigh he
called his kinsmen round him and said his will was that Atli
should take over all the property after his day. "I fear," he
said, "that the wicked will scarce leave you in peace. And I
wish all my kinsmen to support him to the best of their power.
Of Grettir I can say nothing, for his condition seems to me like
a rolling wheel. Strong though he is, I fear he will have more
dealing with trouble than with kinsmen's support. And Illugi,
though young now, shall become a man of valiant deeds if he
When Asmund had settled everything with his sons according to his
wish his sickness grew upon him. He died soon after and was
buried at Bjarg, where he had had a church built. All felt his
Atli became a great bondi and kept a large establishment. He was
a great dealer in household provisions. Towards the end of the
summer he went to Snaefellsnes to get dried fish. He drove
several horses with him and rode from home to Melar in Hrutafjord
to his brother-in-law, Gamli. Then Grim, the son of Thorhall,
Gamli's brother, made ready to accompany him along with another
man. They rode West by way of Haukadalsskard and the road which
leads out to the Ness, where they bought much fish and carried it
away-on seven horses; when all was ready they turned homewards.
THE SONS OF THORIR OF SKARD ARE SLAIN BY ATLI AND GRIM
Thorbjorn Oxmain heard of Atli and Grim having left home just
when Gunnar and Thorgeir, the sons of Thorir of Skard, were with
him. Thorbjorn was jealous of Atli's popularity and egged on the
two brothers, the sons of Thorir, to lie in wait for him as he
returned from Snaefellsnes. They rode home to Skard and waited
there for Atli returning with his loads. They could see the
party from their house as they passed Skard, and made ready
quickly to pursue them with their servants. Atli on seeing them
ordered his horses to be unloaded.
"Perhaps," he said, "they want to offer me compensation for my
man whom Gunnar slew last summer. We will not be the first to
attack, but if they begin fighting us we will defend ourselves."
Then they came up and at once sprang off their horses. Atli
greeted them and asked what news there was, and whether Gunnar
desired to offer him some compensation for his servant. Gunnar
"You men of Bjarg, you deserve something else than that I should
pay compensation for him with my goods. Thorbjorn whom Grettir
slew is worth a higher atonement than he."
"I have not to answer for that," said Atli, "nor are you the
representative of Thorbjorn."
Gunnar said it would have to be so nevertheless. "And now," he
cried, "let us go for them and profit by Grettir being away."
There were eight of them, and they set upon Atli's six. Atli led
on his men and drew the sword Jokulsnaut which Grettir had given
him. Thorgeir cried: "Good men are alike in many things. High
did Grettir bear his sword last summer on Hrutafjardarhals."
Atli answered: "He is more accustomed to deeds of strength than I
Then they fought. Gunnar made a resolute attack on Atli, and
fought fiercely. After they had battled for a time Atli said:
"There is nothing to be gained by each of us killing the other's
followers. The simplest course would be for us to play together,
for I have never fought with weapons before."
Gunnar, however, would not have it. Atli bade his servants look
to the packs, and he would see what the others would do. He made
such a vigorous onslaught that Gunnar's men fell back, and he
killed two of them. Then he turned upon Gunnar himself and
struck a blow that severed his shield right across below the
handle, and the sword struck his leg below the knee. Then with
another rapid blow he killed him.
In the meantime Grim, the son of Thorhall, was engaging Thorgeir,
and a long tussle there was, both of them being men of great
valour. When Thorgeir saw his brother Gunnar fall he wanted to
get away, but Grim pressed upon him and pursued him until at last
his foot tripped and he fell forward. Then Grim struck him with
an axe between the shoulders, inflicting a deep wound. To the
three followers who were left they gave quarter. Then they bound
up their wounds, reloaded the packs on to the horses and went
home, giving information of the battle. Atli stayed at home with
a strong guard of men that autumn. Thorbjorn Oxmain was not at
all pleased, but could do nothing, because Atli was very wary.
Grim was with him for the winter, and his brother-in-law Gamli.
Another brother-in-law, Glum the son of Ospak from Eyr in Bitra,
was with them too. They had a goodly array of men settled at
Bjarg, and there was much merriment there during the winter.
SETTLEMENT OF THE FEUD AT THE HUNAVATN THING
Thorbfron Oxmain took up the suit arising from the death of
Thorir's sons. He prepared his case against Grim and Atli, and
they prepared their defence on the grounds that the brothers had
attacked them wrongfully and were, therefore, "ohelgir." The
case was brought before the Hunavatn Thing and both sides
appeared in force. Atli had many connections , and was,
therefore, strongly supported. Then those who were friends of
both came forward and tried to effect a reconciliation; they
urged that Atli was a man of good position and peacefully
disposed, though fearless enough when driven into a strait.
Thorbjorn felt that no other honourable course was open to him
but to agree to a reconciliation. Atli made it a condition that
there should be no sentence of banishment either from the
district or the country. Then men were appointed to arbitrate:
Thorvald Asgeirsson on behalf of Atli, and Solvi the Proud on
behalf of Tborbjorn. This Solvi was a son of Asbrand, the son of
Thorbrand, the son of Harald Ring who had settled in Vatnsnes,
taking land as far as Ambattara to the West, and to the East up
to the Thvera and across to Bjargaoss and the whole side of
Bjorg as far as the sea. Solvi was a person of much display, but
a man of sense, and therefore Thorbjorn chose him as his
The decree of the arbitrators was that half penalties should be
paid for Thorir's sons and half should be remitted on account of
the wrongful attack which they made and their designs on Atli's
life. The slaying of Atli's man at Hrutafjardarhals should be
set off against the two of theirs who had been killed. Grim the
son of Thorhall was banished from his district and the penalties
were to be paid by Atli. Atli was satisfied with this award, but
Thorbjorn was not; they parted nominally reconciled, but
Thorbjorn let drop some words to the effect that it was not over
yet if all happened as he desired.
Atli rode home from the Thing after thanking Thorvald for his
assistance. Grim the son of Thorhall betook himself to the South
to Borgarfjord and dwelt at Gilsbakki, where he was known as a
ATLI MURDERED BY THORBJORN OXMAIN
There was dwelling with Thorbjorn Oxmain a man whose name was
Ali, a servant, rather stubborn and lazy. Thorbjorn told him he
must work better or he would be beaten. Ali said he had no mind
for work and became abusive. Thorbjorn was not going to endure
that, and got him down and handled him roughly. After that Ali
ran away and went to the North across the neck to Midfjord; he
did not stop till he reached Bjarg. Atli was at home and asked
whither he was going. He said he was seeking an engagement.
"Are you not a servant of Thorbjorn?" Atli asked.
"We did not get on with our bargain. I was not there long, but
it seemed to me a bad place while I was there. Our parting was
in such a way that his song on my throat did not please me. I
will never go back there, whatever becomes of me. And it is true
that there is a great difference between you two in the way you
treat your servants. I would be glad to take service with you if
there is a place, for me."
Atli said: "I have servants enough without stretching forth my
hands for those whom Thorbjorn has hired. You seem an impatient
man and had better go back to him."
"I am not going there of my own free will," said Ali.
He stayed there for the night, and in the morning went out to
work with Atli's men, and toiled as if he had hands everywhere.
So he continued all the summer; Atli took no notice of him, but
allowed him his food, for he was pleased with the man's work.
Soon Thorbjorn learned that Ali was at Bjarg. He rode thither
with two others and called to Atli to come out and speak with
him. Atli went out and greeted him.
"You want to begin again provoking me to attack you, Atli," he
said. "Why have you taken away my workman? It is a most
improper thing to do."
Atli replied: "It is not very clear to me that he is your
workman. I do not want to keep him if you can prove that he
belongs to your household; but I cannot drive him out of my
"You must have your way now," said Thorbjorn; "but I claim the
man and protest against his working for you. I shall come again,
and it is not certain that we shall then part any better friends
than we are now."
Atli rejoined: "I shall stay at home and abide whatever comes to
Thorbjorn then went off home. When the workmen came back in the
evening Atli told them of his conversation with Thorbjorn and
said to Ali that he must go his own ways, for he was not going to
be drawn into a quarrel for employing him.
Ali said: "True is the ancient saying: The over-praised are the
worst deceivers. I did not think that you would have turned me
off now after I had worked here till I broke in the summer. I
thought that you would have given me protection. Such is your
way, however you play the beneficent. Now I shall be beaten
before your very eyes if you refuse to stand by me."
Atli's mind was changed after the man had spoken; he no longer
wanted to drive him away.
So the time passed until the hay-harvest began. One day a little
before midsummer Thorbjorn Oxmain rode to Bjarg. He wore a
helmet on his head, a sword was girt at his side, and in his hand
was a spear which had a very broad blade. The weather was rainy;
Atli had sent his men to mow the hay, and some were in the North
at Horn on some work. Atli was at home with a few men only.
Thorbjorn arrived alone towards midday and rode up to the door.
The door was shut and no one outside. Thorbjorn knocked at the
door and then went to the back of the house so that he could not
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