Grettir The Strong

Part 3 out of 5

be seen from the door. The people in the house heard some one
knocking and one of the women went out. Thorbjorn got a glimpse
of the woman, but did not let himself be seen, for he was seeking
another person. She went back into the room and Atli asked her
who had come. She said she could see nobody outside. As they
were speaking Thorbjorn struck a violent blow on the door. Atli

"He wants to see me; perhaps he has some business with me, for
he seems very pressing."

Then he went to the outer door and saw nobody there. It was
raining hard, so he did not go outside, but stood holding both
the door-posts with his hands and peering round. At that moment
Thorbjorn sidled round to the front of the door and thrust his
spear with both hands into Atli's middle, so that it pierced him
through. Atli said when he received the thrust: "They use broad
spear-blades nowadays."

Then he fell forward on the threshold. The women who were inside
came out and saw that he was dead. Thorbjorn had then mounted
his horse; he proclaimed the slaying and rode home. Asdis, the
mistress of the house, sent for men; Atli's body was laid out and
he was buried beside his father. There was much lamentation over
his death, for he was both wise and beloved. No blood-money was
paid for his death, nor was any demanded, for his representative
was Grettir, if he should ever return to Iceland. The matter
rested there during the summer. Thorbjorn gained little credit
by this deed, but remained quietly at home.



In that same summer before the assembly of the Thing there came a
ship out to Gasar bringing news of Grettir and of his house-
burning adventure. Thorir of Gard was very angry when he
heard of it and bethought himself of vengeance for his sons upon
Grettir. Thorir rode with a large retinue to the Thing and laid
a complaint in respect of the burning, but men thought nothing
could be done as long as there was no one to answer the charge.
Thorir insisted that he would be content with nothing short of
banishment for Grettir from the whole country after such a crime.

Then Skapti the Lawman said: "It certainly was an evil deed if
all really happened as has been told. But One man's tale is but
half a tale. Most people try and manage not to improve a story
if there is more than one version of it. I hold that no judgment
should be passed for Grettir's banishment without further

Thorir was a notable person and possessed great influence in the
district; many powerful men were his friends. He pressed his
suit so strongly that nothing could be done to save Grettir.
Thorir had him proclaimed an outlaw throughout the country, and
was ever afterwards the most bitter of his opponents, as he often
found. Having put a price upon his head, as it was usual to do
with other outlaws, he rode home. Many said that the decree was
carried more by violence than by law, but it remained in force.
Nothing more happened until after midsummer.



Later in the summer Grettir the son of Asmund came back to
Iceland, landing in the Hvita in Borgarfjord. People about the
district went down to the ship and all the news came at once upon
Grettir, first that his father was dead, then that his brother
was slain, and third that he was declared outlaw throughout the
land. Then he spoke this verse:

"All fell at once upon the bard,
exile, father dead and brother.
Oh man of battle! Many an one
who breaks the swords shall smart for this."

It is told that Grettir changed his manner no whit for these
tidings, but was just as merry as before. He remained on board
his ship for a time because he could not get a horse to suit him.

There was a man named Sveinn who dwelt at Bakki up from Thingnes.

He was a good bondi and a merry companion; he often composed
verses which it was a delight to listen to. He had a brown mare,
the swiftest of horses, which he called Saddle-head. Once
Grettir left Vellir in the night because he did not wish the
traders to know of it. He got a black cape and put it over his
clothes to conceal himself. He went up past Thingnes to Bakki,
by which time it was light. Seeing a brown horse in the meadow
he went up and put a bridle on it, mounted on its back and rode
up along the Hvita river below Baer on to the river Flokadalsa
and up to the road above Kalfanes. The men working at Bakki were
up by then, and told the bondi that a man was riding his horse.
He got up and laughed and spoke a verse:

"There rode a man upon Saddle-head's back;
close to the garth the thief has come.
Frey of the Odin's cloud, dreadful of aspect,
appears from his strength to be busy with mischief."

Then he took a horse and rode after him. Grettir rode on till he
came to the settlement at Kropp, where he met a man named Halli
who said he was going down to the ship at Vellir. Grettir then
spoke a verse:

"Tell, oh tell in the dwellings abroad
tell thou hast met with Saddle-head.
The handler of dice in sable cowl
sat on his back; hasten, oh Halli!"

Then they parted. Halli went along the road as far as Kalfanes
before he met Sveinn. They greeted each other hurriedly and
Sveinn said:

"Saw you that loafer ride from the dwellings?
Sorely he means my patience to try.
The people about shall deal with him roughly;
blue shall his body be if I meet him."

"You can know from what I tell you," said Halli, "that I met the
man who said he was riding Saddle-head, and he told me to spread
it abroad in the dwellings and the district. He was a huge man
in a black cloak."

"Well, he seems to think something of himself," said the bondi.
"I mean to know who he is."

Then he went on after him. Grettir came to Deildartunga and
found a woman outside. He began to talk to her and spoke a

"Mistress august! Go tell of the jest
that the serpent of earth has past on his way.
The garrulous brewer of Odin's mead
will come to Gilsbakki before he will rest."

The woman learned the verse and Grettir rode on. Soon after
Sveinn rode up; she was still outside, and when he came he spoke
the verse:

"Who was the man who a moment ago
rode past on a dusky horse in the storm?
The hound-eyed rascal, practised in mischief.
This day I will follow his steps to the end."

She told him as she had been taught. He considered the lines and
said: "It is not unlikely that this man is no play-fellow for me.

But I mean to catch him."

He then rode along the cultivated country. Each could see the
other's path. The weather was stormy and wet. Grettir reached
Gilsbakki that day, where Grim the son of Thorhall welcomed him
warmly and begged him to stay, which he did. He let Saddle-head
run loose and told Grim how he had come by her. Then Sveinn came
up, dismounted and saw his horse. Then he said:

"Who has ridden on my mare?
Who will pay me for her hire?
Who ever saw such an arrant thief?
What next will be the cowl-man's game?"

Grettir had then put off his wet clothes, and heard the ditty.
He said:

"Home I rode the mare to Grim's,
a better man than the hovel-dweller!
Nothing will I pay for hire!
Now we may be friends again."

"Just so shall it be," said the bondi. "Your ride on the horse
is fully paid for."

Then they each began repeating verses, and Grettir said he could
not blame him for looking after his property. The bondi stayed
there the night and they had great jokes about the matter. The
verses they made were called "Saddle-head verses." In the
morning the bondi rode home, parting good friends with Grettir.
Grim told Grettir of many things that had been done in Midfjord
in the North during his absence, and that no blood-money had been
paid for Atli. Thorbjorn Oxmain's interest, he said, was so
great that there was no certainty of Grettir's mother, Asdis,
being allowed to remain at Bjarg if the feud continued.

Grettir stayed but a few nights with Grim, for he did not want it
to become known that he was about to travel North across the
Heath. Grim told him to come back to visit him if he needed
protection. "Yet," he said, "I would gladly avoid the penalty of
being outlawed for harbouring you."

Grettir bade him farewell and said: "It is more likely that I
shall need your good services still more later on."

Then Grettir rode North over the Tvidaegra Heath to Bjarg, where
he arrived at midnight. All were asleep except his mother. He
went to the back of the house and entered by a door which was
there, for he knew all the ways about. He entered the hall and
went to his mother's bed, groping his way. She asked who was
there. Grettir told her. She sat up and turned to him, heaving
a weary sigh as she spoke:

"Welcome, my kinsman! My hoard of sons has quickly passed away.
He is killed who was most needful to me; you have been declared
an outlaw and a criminal; my third is so young that he can do

"It is an ancient saying," said Grettir, "that one evil is mended
by a worse one. There is more in the heart of man than money can
buy; Atli may yet be avenged. As for me, there will be some who
think they have had enough in their dealings with me."

She said that was not unlikely. Grettir stayed there for a time,
but few knew of it, and he obtained news of the movements of the
men of the district. It was not known then that he had come to
Midfjord. He learned that Thorbjorn Oxmain was at home with few
men. This was after the hay-harvest.



One fine day Grettir rode to the West across the ridge to
Thoroddsstad, where he arrived about noon and knocked at the
door. Some women came out and greeted him, not knowing who he
was. He asked for Thorbjorn, and they told him that he was gone
out into the fields to bind hay with his sixteen-year-old son
Arnor. Thorbjorn was a hard worker and was scarcely ever idle.
Grettir on hearing that bade them farewell and rode off North on
the road to Reykir. There is some marsh-land stretching away
from the ridge with much grass-land, where Thorbjorn had made a
quantity of hay which was just dry. He was just about to bind it
up for bringing in with the help of his son, while a woman
gathered up what was left. Grettir rode to the field from below,
Thorbjorn and his son being above him; they had finished one load
and were beginning a second. Thorbjorn had laid down his shield
and sword against the load, and his son had his hand-axe near

Thorbjorn saw a man coming and said to his son: "There is a
man riding towards us; we had better stop binding the hay and see
what he wants."

They did so; Grettir got off his horse. He had a helmet on his
head, a short sword by his side, and a great spear in his hand
without barbs and inlaid with silver at the socket. He sat down
and knocked out the rivet which fastened the head in order to
prevent Thorbjorn from returning the spear upon him.

Thorbjorn said: "This is a big man. I am no good at judging men
if that is not Grettir the son of Asmund. No doubt be thinks
that he has sufficient business with us. We will meet him boldly
and show him no signs of fear. We must act with a plan. I will
go on ahead towards him and see how we get on together, for I
will trust myself against any man if I can meet him alone. Do
you go round and get behind him; take your axe with both hands
and strike him between the shoulders. You need not fear that he
will hurt you, for his back will be turned towards you."

Neither of them had a helmet. Grettir went along the marsh and
when he was within range launched his spear at Thorbjorn. The
head was not so firm as he had intended it to be, so it got loose
in its flight and fell off on to the ground. Thorbjorn took his
shield, held it before him, drew his sword and turned against
Grettir directly he recognised him. Grettir drew his sword, and,
turning round a little, saw the boy behind him; so he kept
continually on the move. When he saw that the boy was within
reach he raised his sword aloft and struck Arnor's head with the
back of it such a blow that the skull broke and he died. Then
Thorbjorn rushed upon Grettir and struck at him, but he parried
it with the buckler in his left hand and struck with his sword a
blow which severed Thorbjorn's shield in two and went into his
head, reaching the brain. Thorbjorn fell dead. Grettir gave him
no more wounds; he searched for the spear-head but could not find
it. He got on to his horse, rode to Reykir and proclaimed the

The woman who was out in the field with them witnessed the
battle. She ran home terrified and told the news that Thorbjorn
and his son were killed. The people at home were much taken
aback, for no one was aware of Grettir's arrival. They sent to
the next homestead for men, who came in plenty and carried the
body to the church. The bloodfeud then fell to Thorodd
Drapustuf, who at once called out his men.

Grettir rode home to Bjarg and told his mother what had happened.

She was very glad and said he had now shown his kinship to the
Vatnsdal race. "And yet," she said, "this is the root and the
beginning of your outlawry; for certain I know that your dwelling
here will not be for long by reason of Thorbjorn's kinsmen, and
now they may know that they have the means of annoying you."

Grettir then spoke a verse:

"Atli's death was unatoned;
fully now the debt is paid."

Asdis said it was true: "but I know not what counsel you now mean
to take."

Grettir said he meant now to visit his friends and kinsmen in the
western regions, and that she should have no unpleasantness on
his account. Then he made ready to go, and parted with much
affection from his mother. First he went to Melar in Hrutafjord
and recounted to his brother-in-law Gamli all his adventure with
Thorbjorn. Gamli begged him to betake himself away from
Hrutafjord while the kinsmen of Thorbjorn were abroad with their
men, and said they would support him in the suit about Atli's
slaying to the best of their power. Then Grettir rode to the
West across the Laxardal Heath and did not stop before he reached
Ljarskogar, where he stayed some time in the autumn with
Thorsteinn Kuggason.



Thorodd Drapustuf now made inquiries who it was who had killed
Thorbjorn and his son. They went to Reykir, where they were told
that Grettir had proclaimed the slaying. Thorodd then saw how
matters stood and went to Bjarg, where he found many people and
asked whether Grettir was there. Asdis said that he was gone,
and that he would not hide if he were at home.

"You can be well content to leave things as they are. The
vengeance for Atli was not excessive, if it be reckoned up. No
one asked what I had to suffer then, and now it were well for it
to rest."

Then they rode home, and it seemed as if there were nothing to be
done. The spear which Grettir had lost was never found until
within the memory of men now living. It was found in the later
days of Sturla the Lawman, the son of Thord, in the very marsh
where Thorbjorn fell, now called Spearmarsh. This is the proof
that he was killed there and not in Midfitjar, as has been
elsewhere asserted.

Thorbjorn's kinsmen learned of Grettir's being in Ljarskogar and
called together their men with the purpose of going there. Gamli
heard of this at Melar and sent word to Thorsteinn and Grettir of
their approach. Thorsteinn sent Grettir on to Tunga to Snorri
the Godi, with whom he was then at peace, and advised Grettir to
ask for his protection, and if it were refused to go West to
Thorgils the son of Ari in Reykjaholar, "who will surely take you
in for the winter. Stay there in the Western fjords until the
affair is settled."

Grettir said he would follow his counsel. He rode to Tunga where
he found Snorri and asked to be taken in. Snorri answered: "I am
now an old man, and have no mind to harbour outlaws, unless in a
case of necessity. But what has happened that the old man should
have turned you out?"

Grettir said that Thorsteinn had often shown him kindness; "but
we shall need more than him alone to do any good."

Snorri said: "I will put in my word on your behalf, if it will be
of any use to you. But you must seek your quarters elsewhere
than with me."

So they parted. Grettir then went West to Reykjanes. The men of
Hrutafjord came with their followers to Samsstad, where they
heard that Grettir had left Ljarskogar, and went back home.



Grettir came to Reykjaholar towards the beginning of the winter
and asked Thorgils to let him stay the winter with him. Thorgils
said he was welcome to his entertainment, like other free men;
"but," he said, "we do not pay much attention to the preparation
of the food."

Grettir said that would not trouble him.

"There is another little difficulty," Thorgils continued. "Some
men are expected here who are a little hot-headed, namely, the
foster-brothers Thorgeir and Thormod. I do not know how it will
suit you to be together with them. They shall always have
entertainment here whenever they wish for it. You may stay here
if you will, but I will not have any of you behaving ill to the

Grettir said that he would not be the first to raise a quarrel
with any man, more especially since the bondi had expressed his
wish to him.

Soon after the foster-brothers came up. Thorgeir and Grettir did
not take very kindly to one another, but Thormod behaved with
propriety. Thorgils said to them what he had said to Grettir,
and so great was the deference paid to him that none of them
spoke an improper word to the other, although they did not always
think alike. In this way the first part of the winter was

Men say that the islands called Olafseyjar, lying in the fjord
about a mile and a half from Reykjanes, belonged to Thorgils. He
had there a valuable ox, which he had not brought away in the
autumn. He was always saying that he wanted him to be brought in
before Yule. One day the foster-brothers prepared to go and
fetch the ox, but wanted a third man to help them. Grettir
offered to go with them and they were very glad to have him. So
the three set out in a ten-oared boat. The weather was cold and
the wind from the North; the boat was lying at Hvalshausholm.
When they left the wind had freshened a little; they reached the
island and caught the ox. Grettir asked whether they preferred
to ship the ox or to hold the boat, for there was a high surf
running on the shore. They told him to hold the boat. He stood
by her middle on the side away from the land, the sea reaching
right up to beneath his shoulders, but he held the boat firmly so
that she could not drift. Thorgeir took the ox by the stern and
Thormod by the head, and so they hove him into the boat. Then
they started heading for the bay, Thormod taking the bow-oars
with Thorgeir amidships and Grettir in the stern. By the time
they reached Hafraklett the wind was very high. Thorgeir said:
"The stern is slackening."

Grettir said: "The stem will not be left behind if the rowing
amidships is all right."

Thorgeir then bent his back to the oars and pulled so violently
that both the rowlocks carried away. He said:

"Pull on, Grettir, whilst I mend the rowlocks."

Grettir pulled vigorously whilst Thorgeir mended the rowlocks.
But when Thorgeir was about to take over the oars again they were
so damaged that on Grettir giving them a shake on the gunwale
they broke. Thormod said it would be better to row less and not
to break the ship. Then Grettir took two spars which were on
board, bored two holes in the gunwale, and rowed so energetically
that every timber creaked. As the boat was well found and the
men in good condition they reached Hvalshausholm. Grettir asked
whether they would go on home with the ox or whether they would
beach the boat. They preferred to beach the boat, and they did
so with all the water that was in her all frozen. Grettir got
off the ox, which was very stiff in its limbs and very fat and
tired; when they got to Titlingsstad it could go no more. The
foster-brothers went home, for none of them would help the other
at his job. Thorgils asked after Grettir; they told him how they
had parted, and he sent men out to him. When they came below
Hellisholar they saw a man coming towards them with an ox on his
back; it was Grettir carrying the ox. They all admired his great
feat, but Thorgeir became rather jealous of Grettir's strength.

One day soon after Yule Grettir went out alone to bathe.
Thorgeir knew of it and said to Thormod: "Let us go out now and
see what Grettir does if I attack him as he comes out of the

"I don't care to do that," Thormod said; "and I do not think you
will get any good from him."

"I mean to go," Thorgeir said.

He went down to the bank, carrying his axe aloft. Grettir was
just coming out of the water, and when they met Thorgeir said:
"Is it true, Grettir, that you once said you would not run away
from any single person."

"I don't know whether I did," Grettir said; "but I have scarcely
run away from you."

Thorgeir raised his axe. In a moment Grettir ran at him and
brought him over with a heavy fall. Thorgeir said to Thormod:
"Are you going to stand there while this devil knocks me down?"

Thormod then got Grettir by the leg and tried to drag him off
Thorgeir but could not. He was wearing a short sword, and was
just about to draw it when Thorgils came up and told them to
behave themselves and not to fight with Grettir. They did as he
bade and made out that it was all play. They had no more strife,
so far as has been told, and men thought Thorgils blessed by
fortune in having been able to pacify men of such violent

When the spring set in they all departed. Grettir went on to
Thorskafjord. When some one asked him how he liked his
entertainment at Reykjaholar he answered: "Our fare was such that
I enjoyed my food very much -- when I could get it." Then he
went West over the heath.



Thorgils, the son of Ari, rode to the Thing with a large
following. All the magnates were there from all parts of the
country, and he soon met with Skapti the Lawman and had some talk
with him. Skapti said:

"Is it true, Thorgils, that you have been giving winter
entertainment to three of the most unruly men in the country, all
three of them outlaws, and that you kept order so well that none
of them did any harm to the other?"

Thorgils said it was true.

Skapti said: "Well, I think it shows what authority you possess.
But how did their characters appear to you? Who is the most
valorous among them?"

"They are all entirely valiant," he answered, "but of two of them
I will not say that they never fear; only there is a difference.
Thormod fears God, and is a man of great piety; and Grettir fears
the dark. He will not, if he may follow his own inclination,
venture anywhere after nightfall. But Thorgeir, my kinsman, he I
think cannot fear."

"They must be each of them as you say," said Skapti, and there
their conversation ended.

At the Thing Thorodd Drapustuf laid his complaint in the matter
of the slaying of Thorbjorn Oxmain, for he had failed in the
Hunavatn Thing through the influence of Atli's kinsmen. Here he
thought that there was less likelihood of his case being
overborne. Atli's party sought counsel of Skapti the Lawman; he
said that their defence appeared to him a good one, and that full
blood-money would have to be paid for Atli. Then the case was
brought before the judges, and the opinion of the majority was
that the slaying of Atli was set off by that of Thorbjorn.
Skapti when he heard of it went to the judges and asked them on
what grounds their decision rested; they said that the two slain
bondis were of equal rank.

Skapti asked: "Which happened first, the outlawing of Grettir or
the death of Atli?"

"They reckoned up and found that a week had elapsed between the
two events. Grettir was outlawed at the All-Tliing and Atli was
killed just after it.

"That was what I expected," Skapti said. "You have overlooked
the facts; you have treated as a party to the suit a man who was
an outlaw, a man who was stopped from appearing either as
plaintiff or defendant. I maintain that Grettir has no standing
in the case, and that it must be brought by the kinsmen of the
deceased who are nearest at law."

Thorodd Drapustuf said: "Who then is to answer for the slaying of
my brother Thorbjorn?"

"See to that yourself," said Skapti. "Grettir's kinsmen are not
liable to pay for his deeds unless his sentence be removed."

When Thorvald the son of Asgeir learned of Grettir's status in
court having been disallowed, inquiry was made for Atli's nearest
of kin, and these were found to be Skeggi the son of Gamli at
Melar and Ospak the son of Glum of Eyr in Bitra. Both were
valiant and strenuous men. Thorodd was then mulcted in blood-
money for the slaying of Atli and had to pay two hundreds of

Then Snorri the Godi spoke:

"Men of Hrutafjord! Are you willing now to agree to the
remission of the fine in consideration of Grettir's sentence
being commuted? I expect that as an outlaw he will bite you

Grettir's kinsmen welcomed this proposal, and said they did not
care about the money if Grettir could have peace and freedom.
Thorodd said he saw that his case was beset with difficulties,
and that for his part he was willing to accept the proposal.
Snorri said that inquiry must first be made whether Thorir of
Gard would agree to Grettir being freed. When Thorir heard of it
he was furious, and said that never should Grettir either go or
come out of his outlawry. So far from consenting to his being
amnestied, he would put a higher price upon his head than was put
upon any other outlaw.

When they knew that he would take it so ill, nothing more was
said about the amnesty. Ospak and Skeggi took the money that was
paid and kept it, while Thorodd Drapustuf got no compensation for
his brother Thorbjorn. He and Thorir each offered a reward of
three marks of silver for Grettir's head; this seemed to men to
be an innovation, for never before had more than three marks in
all been offered. Snorri said it was very unwise to make such
efforts to keep a man outlawed who could do so much mischief, and
that many would suffer for it. Then they parted and men rode
home from the Thing.



Grettir went over the Thorskafjord Heath to Langadal, where he
let his hands sweep over the property of the smaller cultivators,
taking what he wanted from every one. From some he got weapons,
from others clothes. They gave up their property very variously,
but when he was gone all said that they had been compelled to do

There dwelt on the Vatnsfjord one Vermund the Slender, a brother
of Viga-Styr, who had married Thorbjorg the daughter of Olaf
Peacock, the son of Hoskuld, called Thorbjorg the Fat. At the
time when Grettir was in Langadal Vermund was away at the Thing.
He went across the ridge to Laugabol where a man named Helgi was
living, one of the principal bondis. Thence Grettir took a good
horse belonging to the bondi and rode on to Gervidal, where dwelt
a man named Thorkell. He was well provided but in a small way of
business. Grettir took from him what he wanted, Thorkell daring
neither to withhold anything nor to protest. Thence Grettir went
to Eyr and on to the coast of the fjord, obtaining food and
clothes from every homestead and making himself generally
disagreeable, so that men found it hard to live while he was

Grettir went boldly on, taking little care of himself. He went
on until he came to Vatnsfjardardal and entered a dairy shelter,
where he stayed several nights. There he lay sleeping in the
forest, fearing for nothing. When the shepherds learned of it
they reported in the homesteads that a fiend had come into the
place who they thought would be hard to deal with. All the
farmers came together and a band of thirty of them concealed
themselves in the forest where Grettir could not know of them.
They set one of the shepherds to watch for an opportunity of
seizing him, without however knowing very clearly who the man

One day when Grettir was lying asleep the farmers came up to him.

They considered how they should take him with least danger to
themselves, and arranged that ten should fall upon him while
others laid bonds round his feet. They threw themselves on to
him, but Grettir struggled so violently that he threw them all
off and came down on his hands and knees. Then they threw ropes
round his feet. Grettir kicked two of them in the ears and they
fell senseless. One came on after the other; long and hard he
struggled, but at last they succeeded in getting him down and
binding him. Then they began to ask themselves what they were
going to do with him. They asked Helgi of Laugabol to take him
over and look after him until Vermund returned from the Thing.

He said: "I have something better to do than to keep my men
guarding him. I have labour enough with my lands, and he shall
not come in my way."

Then they asked Thorkell of Gervidal to take him and said he had
sufficient means. He objected strongly and said he had no
accommodation for him, "I lie at home with my wife, far from
other men. You shall not bring your basket to me."

"Then you, Thoralf of Eyr," they said; "you take Grettir and
look after him well while the Thing lasts, or else hand him on to
the next farm; only be answerable for his not escaping. Give him
over bound, just as you receive him."

He said: "I am not going to take Grettir. I have neither means
nor money to keep him, nor was he captured on my property. So
far as I can see much more trouble than credit is to be got by
taking him or having anything to do with him. He shall not enter
my house."

Each of the bondis was asked, but all refused. Some witty person
wrote a poem about these confabulations and called it "Grettir's
Faring," adding many jests of his own for the dilectification of
men. After parleying for a long time they all came to an
agreement that they would not throw away their luck, and set to
work to raise a gallows there and then in the forest upon which
Grettir should hang. Their delight over this proposal was

Then they saw three people riding along the valley from below,
one of them in a dyed dress. They guessed that it must be
Thorbjorg the mistress of Vatnsfjord on her way to the dairy, and
so it was. Thorbjorg was a person of great magnificence, and
tremendously wise. She was the leading personage of the district
and managed everything when Vermund was away. She came up to
where the crowd was gathered and was lifted from her horse; the
bondis saluted her respectfully. She said:

"What is your meeting about? Who is this thick-necked man
sitting there in bonds?"

Grettir told his name and saluted her.

"What has moved you, Grettir," she said, "to commit violence upon
my Thing-men?"

"I cannot overlook everything," he said. "I must be somewhere."

"You are indeed unfortunate," she said, "that a pack of churls
like these should have captured you and that none of them should
have paid for it. What are you men going to do with him?"

The bondis said that they were going to hoist him on to a gallows
for his misdeeds.

She said: "It may be that Grettir has deserved it, but it will
bring trouble upon you men of Isafjord if you take the life of a
man so renowned and so highly connected as Grettir, ill-starred
though he be. Now what will you do for your life, Grettir, if I
give it to you?"

"What do you wish me to do?"

"You shall swear never to commit any violence here in Isafjord;
nor shall you take revenge upon those who have had a hand in
capturing you."

Grettir said it should be as she desired, and he was released.
He said it was the greatest effort of self-restraint that he ever
made that he did not thrash the men who were there triumphing
over him. Thorbjorg told him to come home with her and gave him
a horse to ride on. So he went to Vatnsfjord and stayed there
well cared for by the mistress until Vermund returned. She
gained great renown from this deed through the district. Vermund
was very much put out when he got home and asked why Grettir was
there. Thorbjorg told him everything which had happened with the
Isafjord men.

"To what does he owe it that you gave him his life?" he asked.

"Many reasons there were," she said. "The first is that you
might be the more respected as a chief for having a wife who
would dare to do such a thing. Next, his kinswoman Hrefna will
surely say that I could not let him be slain; and thirdly,
because he is in many respects a man of the highest worth."

"You are a wise woman," he said, "in most things. I thank you
for what you have done."

Then he said to Grettir: "You have sold yourself very cheap, such
a man of prowess as you are, to let yourself be taken by churls.
This is what always happens to those who cannot control

Grettir then spoke a verse:

"Full was my cup in Isafjord
when the old swine held me at ransom."

"What were they going to do with you when they took you?" Vermund

"To Sigar's lot my neck was destined
when noble Thorbjorg came upon them."

"Would they have hanged you then if they had been left to

"My neck would soon have been in the noose,
had she not wisely saved the bard."

"Did she invite you to her home?"

"She bade me home with her to fare.
A steed she gave me, life and peace."

"Great will your life be and troublous," said Vermund; "but now
you have learnt to beware of your foes. I cannot keep you here,
for it would rouse the enmity of many powerful men against me.
Your best way is to seek your kinsmen; there are not many who
will be willing to take you in if they can do anything else; nor
are you one who will easily follow the will of another man."

Grettir remained for a time in Vatnsfjord and went thence to the
Western fjords and tried several of the leading men there, but
something always happened to prevent their taking him in.



During the autumn Grettir returned to the South and did not stop
till he came to his kinsman Thorsteinn Kuggason in Ljarskogar,
who welcomed him. He accepted Thorsteinn's invitation to stay
the winter with him. Thorsteinn was a man who worked very hard;
he was a smith, and kept a number of men working for him.
Grettir was not one for hard work, so that their dispositions did
not agree very well. Thorsteinn had had a church built on his
lands, with a bridge from his house, made with much ingenuity.
Outside the bridge, on the beam which supported it, rings were
fastened and bells, which could be heard from Skarfsstadir half a
sea-mile distant when any one walked over the bridge. The
building of the bridge had cost Thorsteinn, who was a great
worker in iron, much labour. Grettir was a first-rate hand at
forging the iron, but was not often inclined to work at it. He
was very quiet during the winter so that there is not much to

The men of Hrutafjord heard that Grettir was with Thorsteinn, and
gathered their forces in the spring. Thorsteinn then told
Grettir that he must find some other hiding-place for himself,
since he would not work. Men who did nothing did not suit him.

"Where do you mean me to go to? "asked Grettir.

Thorsteinn told him to go South to his kinsmen, but to return to
him if he found them of no use.

Grettir did so. He went to Borgarfjord in the South to visit
Grim the son of Thorhall, and stayed with him till the Thing was
over. Grim sent him on to Skapti the Lawman at Hjalli. He went
South over the lower heaths and did not stop before he reached
Tunga, where he went to Thorhall, the son of Asgrim the son of
Ellidagrim, and paid few visits to the farms around. Thorhall
knew of Grettir through the relations which had been between
their ancestors; indeed Grettir's name was well known throughout
the country because of his exploits. Thorhall was a wise man and
treated Grettir well, but did not want to keep him there for very



Grettir went from Tunga up the Haukadal valley northwards to Kjol
and was there for some time in the summer. For men travelling
either to the North or to the South there was no certainty of
their not being stripped of what they had on them, for he was
hard pressed for the means of living.

One day when Grettir was keeping to the North near Dufunesskeid
he saw a man riding South along the Kjol valley. He was a tall
man on horseback, riding a good horse with a studded bridle, and
was leading another horse loaded with sacks. He had a slouched
hat on his head, so that his face was not clearly seen. Grettir
was very pleased to see his horse and his property, and went to
meet him and asked him his name. He said it was Lopt, and added:
"I know what your name is; you are Grettir the Strong, son of
Asmund. Whither are you going?"

"I have not made up my mind yet about that," said Grettir. "My
present business is to know whether you will lay off some of the
property which you are travelling with."

"Why should I give you what belongs to me? What will you give me
for the things?"

"Have you not heard that I never pay anything? And yet it seems
to most people that I get what I want."

Lopt said: "Make this offer to those who seem good to you; I am
not going to give my property away for nothing. Let us each go
our own way." Then he whipped on his horse and was about to ride
away from Grettir.

"We shall not part so quickly as that," said Grettir, and seized
the bridle of Lopt's horse in front of his hands, pulled it from
him and held it with both hands.

"Go your own way," said Lopt; "you will get nothing from me as
long as I am able to hold it."

"That shall now be tried," said Grettir.

Lopt reached down along the cheek-strap and got hold of the reins
between the end ring and Grettir's hands, pulling with such force
that Grettir let go, and at last Lopt wrenched the whole bridle
away from him. Grettir looked at his palms and thought that this
man must have strength in his claws rather than not. Then he
looked at him and said: "Where are you going to now?

He answered:

"To the storm-driven den, over ice-clad heights,
I ride to the rock and the rest of the hand."

Grettir said: "There is no certainty to be had from asking where
your dwelling is if you do not speak more clearly." Then Lopt
spake and said:

"I seek not to hide thy ways from thy ken.
'Tis the place which the Borgfirdings Balljokull call."

Then they parted. Grettir saw that he had no strength against
this man. Then he spoke a verse:

"Illugi brave and Atli were far.
Never again may such hap be mine!
The bridle was torn away from my hand.
Her tears will flow when I am afeared."

After this Grettir left Kjol and went South to Hjalli where he
asked Skapti for shelter. Skapti said: "I am told that you are
acting with violence and are robbing men of their property; that
ill becomes a man so highly connected as you are. It would be
easier to negotiate if you gave up robbing. Now as I am called
Lawman of this country, it would not be seemly for me to break
the law by harbouring outlaws. I would like you to betake
yourself somewhere where you do not need to commit robbery."

Grettir said he would be very glad to, but that he could scarcely
live alone owing to his fear of the dark. Skapti said he would
have to content himself with something short of the best: "And
trust no one so fully that what happened to you in the Western
fjords may be repeated. Many have been brought to death by

Grettir thanked him for his good advice and turned back to
Borgarfjord in the autumn, when he went to his friend Grim, the
son of Thorhall, and told him what Skapti had said. Grim advised
him to go to the North to Fiskivotn in the Arnarvatn Heath, and
he did so.



Grettir went up to the Arnarvatn Heath and built himself a hut
there of which the remains are still to be seen. He went there
because he wanted to do anything rather than rob, so he got
himself a net and a boat and went out fishing to support himself.

It was a weary time for him in the mountains because of his fear
of the dark. Other outlaws heard of his having come there and
wanted to go and see him, thinking that he would be a great
protection to them.

There was an outlaw from the North named Grim. This man was
bribed by those of Hrutafjord to kill Grettir. They promised him
pardon and money if he succeeded. He went to visit Grettir and
asked for his hospitality.

Grettir said: "I do not see how you will be holpen by coming to
me, and you men of the forest are untrustworthy. But it is ill
to live alone; I have no choice. Only he shall be with me who is
willing to work at whatever comes to hand."

Grim said that was just what he wished and pressed Grettir much,
until Grettir let himself be persuaded and took him in. He
stayed there right into the winter, and watched Grettir closely,
but it seemed no easy matter to attack him, for Grettir was
suspicious and kept his weapons at hand night and day; when he
was awake the man would not venture to approach him.

One morning Grim came home from fishing and went into the hut
stamping with his feet and wanting to know whether Grettir was
asleep. Grettir lay still and did not move. There was a short
sword hanging above his head. Grim thought he would never have a
better opportunity. He made a loud noise to see whether Grettir
took any notice, but he did not, so Grim felt sure that he was
asleep. He crept stealthily to the bed, reached up to the sword,
took it down and raised it to strike. just at the moment when he
raised it Grettir sprang up on to the floor, and, seizing the
sword with one hand, Grim with the other, hurled him over so that
he fell nearly senseless. "This is how you have proved yourself
with all your friendly seeming," he said. Then he got the whole
truth out of him and killed him. He learned from this what it
was to take in a forest-man. So the winter passed. The hardest
thing of all to bear was his fear of the dark.



Thorir of Gard now heard where Grettir had taken up his abode and
meant to leave no stone unturned to get him slain. There was a
man named Thorir Redbeard, a stout man and a great fighter, on
which account he had been declared outlaw throughout the country.

Thorir of Gard sent word to him, and when they met asked Redbeard
to undertake the business of slaying Grettir. Redbeard said that
was no easy task, as Grettir was very wide awake and very
cautious. Thorir told him to try it, saying: "It would be a
splendid deed for a valiant man like you; I will get your
outlawing removed and give you sufficient money as well."

So Redbeard agreed and Thorir told him how he should go to work
to deal with Grettir. Redbeard then went away into the East in
order that Grettir might not suspect where he came from. Thence
he came to the Arnarvatn Heath, where Grettir had then been for
one winter, found Grettir and asked him for entertainment. He
said: "I cannot allow people to play with me again as the man
did who came here last autumn, pretending to be very friendly;
before he had been here very long be began plotting against my
life. I cannot risk taking in anymore forest-men."

"I think you have reason," Thorir said, "to mistrust forest-men.
It may be you have heard tell of me as a man of blood and a
disturber of peace, but never did you hear of such a monstrous
deed of me as that I betrayed my host. Ill is the lot of him who
has an ill name; for men think of him but as such; nor would I
have come here if I had had any better choice. All is not lost
for us if we stand together. You might venture so much to begin
with as to try how you like me, and then if you find any
unfitness in me turn me away."

"Well," said Grettir, "I will risk it with you; but know of a
surety that if I suspect you of any treachery it will be your

Thorir agreed. Grettir took him in and found that in whatever he
did he had the strength of two men. He was ready for anything
that Grettir gave him to do. Nothing did Grettir need to do for
himself, and he had never lived so comfortably since he had
become an outlaw. Nevertheless he was so wary that Thorir got no
chance. Two years was Thorir Redbeard with Grettir on the Heath,
and at last he began to weary of it. He thought over what he
could do to take Grettir off his guard.

One night in the spring a heavy gale sprang up while they were
asleep. Grettir awoke and asked where their boat was. Thorir
sprang up, ran to the boat, broke her all in pieces, and threw
the fragments about so that it looked as if the storm had wrecked
her. Then he returned to the hut and said aloud: "You have had
bad luck, my friend. Our boat is all broken in pieces and the
nets are lying far out in the lake."

"Get them back then," said Grettir. "It seems to me to be your
doing that the boat is smashed."

"Of all things which I can do," said Thorir, "swimming is that
which suits me least. In almost anything else I think I can hold
my own with any ordinary man. You know very well that I have
been no burden to you since I came here; nor would I ask you to
do this if I were able to do it myself."

Grettir then arose, took his arms and went to the lake. There
was a point of land running out into the lake with a large bay on
the further side of it. The water was deep up to the shore.
Grettir said: "Swim out to the nets and let me see what you are
able to do."

"I told you before," Thorir said, "that I cannot swim. I do not
know now where all your boldness and daring are gone to."

"I could get the nets," he said; "but betray me not if I trust

"Do not think such shameful and monstrous things of me," said

"You will prove yourself what you are," Grettir said.

Then he threw off his clothes and his weapons and swain out to
the nets. He gathered them together, returned to the shore and
cast them up on to the bank. just as he was about to land Thorir
quickly seized his short sword and drew it. He ran towards
Grettir as he stepped on to the bank and aimed a blow at him.
Grettir threw himself down backwards into the water and sank like
a stone. Thorir stood by the shore intending to guard it until
he came up. Grettir swam beneath the water, keeping close to the
bank so that Thorir could not see him, and so reached the bay
behind him, where he landed without letting himself be seen. The
first Thorir knew of it was when Grettir lifted him up over his
head and dashed him down with such violence that the sword fell
out of his hand. Grettir got possession of it and without
speaking a word cut off his head. So his life ended. After that
Grettir refused to take in any forest-men, and yet he could not
live alone.



At the All-Thing Thorir of Gard learned of Thorir Redbeard having
been killed. It was evident that the matter was not so easy to
deal with. He now determined to ride from the Thing in a
westerly direction through the lower heath, and with the aid of
about eighty men whom he had with him to take Grettir's life.
Grim the son of Thorhall heard of his plans and sent word to
Grettir, bidding him beware of himself. Grettir therefore
continued closely to watch the movements of men who came and

One day he saw a number of men coming in the direction of his
place of dwelling. He went into a gorge between two rocks, but
did not go right away because he did not see the whole of the
troop. Thorir then came up with his whole party and bade them go
between his head and his body, saying that the scoundrel had but
a poor chance now.

"A filled cup is not yet drunk," answered Grettir. "You have
come far to seek me, and some of you shall bear the marks of our
game before we part."

Thorir urged his men on to attack him. The gorge was very narrow
so that he could easily defend it from one end, and he wondered
much that they did not get round to his rear to hurt him. Some
of Thorir's men fell and some were wounded, but they effected
nothing. Then Thorir said: "I always heard that Grettir was
distinguished for his courage and daring, but I never knew that
he was so skilled in magic as I now see he is; for there fall
half as many again behind his back as before his face, and I see
that we have to do with a troll instead of a man."

So he bade his men retire, and they did so. Grettir wondered
what the explanation could be, but was terribly exhausted.
Thorir and his men withdrew and rode into the northern parts.
Their expedition was considered very disgraceful. Thorir had
left eighteen men on the ground and had many wounded.

Grettir then went up the gorge and found there a man of huge
stature sitting up against the rock and sorely wounded. Grettir
asked his name, and he said it was Hallmund, adding: "That you
may recognise me I may remind you that you thought I gripped the
reins rather tightly when I met you in Kjol last summer. I think
I have now made that good."

"Indeed," said Grettir, "I think you have done me a manly
service; whenever I can I will repay it."

"Now I wish," said Hallmund, "that you may come to my home, for
it must seem wearisome to you here on the Heath."

Grettir said he would come willingly, and they both went together
to the foot of the Balljokull, where Hallmund had a large cave.
There they found his daughter, a fine and well-grown maiden.
They treated Grettir well, and the daughter nursed both the
wounded men to health again. Grettir stayed there some time that
summer. He composed an ode on Hallmund in which the line occurs:

"Hallmund steps from his mountain hall";


"The war-fain sword in Arnarvatn
went forth to hew its bloody path.
Heroes inherit Kelduhverfi.
Hallmund the brave came forth from his den."

It is said that at that encounter Grettir slew six men and
Hallmund twelve.

As the summer passed Grettir began to long for the habitations of
men, and to see his friends and kinsmen. Hallmund told him to
visit him when he returned to the South and Grettir promised to
do so. He went westwards to Borgarfjord and thence to
Breidafjardardalir and sought counsel of Thorsteinn Kuggason as
to where he should go next. Thorsteinn said that his enemies
were now becoming so numerous that few would care to take him in;
but told him to_go to Myrar and see what he found there. So in
the autumn he went to Myrar.



There lived in Holm Bjorn the Hitdale Warrior, who was the son of
Arngeir, the son of Bersi the Godless, the son of Balki, who was
the first settler in Hrutafjord, as has already been told. Bjorn
was a great chief and a valiant man, always ready to take in
outlaws. He received Grettir well when he came to Holm on
account of the friendship which had existed between their former
kinsmen. Grettir asked if he would give him shelter, and Bjorn
said that he had so many quarrels throughout the land that men
would be reluctant to take him in for fear of being outlawed
themselves. "But," he said, "I will give you some help if you
will leave the men who are under my protection in peace, whatever
you do to others in this part."

Grettir promised that he would, and Bjorn continued: "I have
thought of something. In the mountain which stretches away from
the Hitara river there is a good position for defence, and
likewise a good hiding-place if it is skilfully managed. There
is a hole through the mountain from which you can see down upon
the high road that lies immediately beneath it, and a sandy slope
down to the road so steep that few could get up it if it were
defended above by one doughty man up in the hollow. It may, I
think, be worth your while to consider whether you can stay
there; it is easy to go down from there to the Myrar to get your
supplies, and to reach the sea."

Grettir said he would trust to his foresight if he would help him
a little. Then he went to Fagraskogafjall and made himself a
home there. He hung some grey wadmal in front of the hole, and
it looked from the road below as if one could see through. Then
he began to get in his supplies, but the Myramen thought they had
an unhappy visitor in Grettir.

Thord the son of Kolbeinn was an excellent poet who dwelt in
Hitarnes. There was a great feud between him and Bjorn at that
time, and Bjorn thought it would be more than half useful to him
if Grettir were to busy himself with Thord's men or his cattle.
Grettir was a great deal with Bjorn and they had many games of
strength. It is related in Bjorn's saga that they were
considered equal in strength, but the opinion of most people is
that Grettir was the strongest man that had been in the land
since the days when Orin Storolfsson and Thoralf Skolmsson ceased
their trials of strength. Grettir and Bjorn swam in one course
the whole length of the Hitara from the lake at its head down to
the sea. They brought the stepping-stones into the river which
neither floods nor freezing nor icedrifts have since moved from
their places. Grettir stayed a year in Fagraskogafjall without
any attack being made upon him, and yet many lost their property
through his means and got nothing for it, because his position
was strong for defence and he was always in good friendship with
those who were nearest to him.



There was a man named Gisli; he was the son of that Thorsteinn
whom Snorri the Godi had caused to be slain. He was a big strong
man, very ostentatious in his dress and in his armour, a man with
a high opinion of himself and very boastful. He was a mariner,
and landed at the Hvita river in the summer after Grettir had
spent a winter in the mountains. Thord the son of Kolbeinn rode
to his ship and was welcomed by Gisli, who offered him of his
wares whatever he cared to have. Thord accepted his offer and
they began to have some talk together. Gisli asked: "Is it true
what I hear that you are in difficulty how to rid yourself of a
forest-man who is doing you much hurt?" "We have made no attempt
yet," said Thord, "because a great many think he is difficult to
reach, and have found it so."

"It seems likely that you will have trouble with Bjorn, unless
you drive him away. All the worse it is that I must be too far
away next winter to give you any help."

"It is better for you to know of him only by hearsay."

"Don't talk to me about Grettir," said Gisli. "I have been in
much greater straits in my campaigns with King Knut the Mighty
and in the western seas, where I was always considered to have
held my own. Only let me come within reach of him and I will
trust myself and my armour."

Thord answered that he should not do it for nothing if he killed
Grettir: "There is more money on his head than on that of any
other outlaw. First there were six marks of silver, this summer
Thorir of Gard added three more, and men think that he who wins
it will have had enough trouble."

"Everything will be attempted for money," said Gisli: "especially
with us traders. But we must keep quiet about what we have been
saying, for Grettir will be more on his guard if he hears that
you have taken me into your counsels. I intend next winter to be
at Olduhrygg; is there any hiding-place of his on my way there?
He will not be prepared for this, and I shall not take many men
with me to attack him."

Thord approved of his proposal. He rode home soon after and kept
very quiet about it. And now was proved what has often been
said, that: Off in the woods is a listener nigh. Men who were
friends of Bjorn in Hitardal overheard their conversation and
reported it accurately to him. Bjorn told Grettir of it when
they met, and said now he should see how to encounter him. "It
would be no bad joke," he said, "if you were to injure him in
some way without killing him if you can."

Grettir grinned but said little. Towards the time of gathering
in the cattle Grettir went down to Flysjuhverfi to get some sheep
and got four wethers. The bondis heard of his having come and
went after him. They came up just at about the moment when he
reached the foot of his mountain and wanted to drive the sheep
away from him. But they would not attack him with weapons.
There were six of them and they stood across his path to bar his
way. He was concerned about his sheep, got angry, seized three
of them and threw them down the hill so that they lay senseless.
The others when they saw it went at him, but rather
halfheartedly. Grettir took the sheep, fastened them together by
the horns, threw two over each shoulder and carried them off.
Then he went up into his den. The bondis turned back feeling
they had had the worst of it, and were more discontented with
their lot than ever.

Gisli stayed with his ship that autumn until she was ready to be
hauled up. Several things happened to delay him, so that he was
late in getting away and rode off very little before the winter
nights. Then he rode North and stayed at Hraun on the south bank
of the Hitara. Next morning before he rode out he said to his
servants: "Now we will ride in red clothes and let the forest-man
see that we are not like the other travellers who beat about here
every day."

There were three of them and they did as he bade. When they had
crossed the river he said: "Here I am told dwells the forest-man,
up in that peak; but the way is not an easy one. Would it not
please him to come to us and see our array?" They said this was
always his habit.

That morning Grettir had got up early. The weather was cold, it
was freezing and some snow had fallen, but very little. He saw
three men riding from the South across the Hitara, and the light
shone from their apparel and from their enamelled shields. It
occurred to Grettir who it might be, and he thought he would
relieve them of some of their accoutrements. He was very curious
to meet a man who went about so ostentatiously. So he took his
weapons and hurried down the hillside. Gisli when he heard the
clattering of the stones said: "A man, rather tall, is coming
down the hill and wants to meet us. Let us act boldly and we
shall have good sport." His men said that this fellow had great
confidence in himself to run into their hands; but that he who
asked should have. Then they got off their horses. Grettir came
up to them and laid hold of a bag of clothes which Gisli had
behind him on his saddle, saying:

"I must have this; I often stoop to little things."

Gisli said: "You shall not; do not you know with whom you have to

Grettir said: "No; that is not so clear to me. Nor do I make
much difference between one man and another since I claim so

"May be it seems little to you," said Gisli; "but I would sooner
part with thirty hundred ells of wadmal. It seems that extortion
is your way. Go for him, boys! Let us see what he can do."

They obeyed. Grettir fell back a little and reached a stone
which is still standing by the side of the way and is called
Grettishaf, where he stood at bay. Gisli urged on his men, and
Grettir saw that he was not quite so valiant as he pretended to
be, for he kept well behind them. Grettir got tired of being
hemmed in, so he made a lunge with his sword and killed one of
Gisli's men, sprang from his stone and assailed them so
vigorously that Gisli fell back all along the foot of the hill.
Then his other man was killed.

Grettir said: "One would scarcely see that you have achieved
much in the world abroad, and you have shamefully forsaken your

Gisli answered: "The fire is hottest to him who is in it; it is
ill dealing with men from Hel."

They had exchanged few more blows when Gisli threw away his arms
and bolted right away along the foot of the mountain. Grettir
gave him time to throw away whatever he liked, and at every
opportunity he threw off something more of his clothes. Grettir
never followed him so closely that there was not some distance
between them. He ran right away from the mountains, across
Kaldardal, round Aslaug's Cliff, above Kolbeinsstad and out to

By that time he had nothing left on him but his shirt, and was
terribly exhausted. Grettir still followed, keeping now within
reach of him. He pulled off a great branch. Gisli did not stop
till he reached Haffjardara river, which was all swollen and
difficult to ford. Gisli was going right out into the river when
Grettir pressed forward and seized him and showed him the
difference in their strength.

Grettir got him down, sat on the top of him and asked: "Are you
the Gisli who wanted to meet Grettir?"

"I have found him now," he answered; "but I know not how I shall
part with him. Keep what you have taken and let me go free."

Grettir said: "You will not understand what I am going to tell
you, so I must give you something to remember it by." Then he
pulled up Gisli's shirt over his head and let the rod play on
both sides of his back. Gisli struggled to get away, but Grettir
gave him a sound whipping and then let him go. Gisli thought
that he would sooner not learn anything from Grettir than have
another such flogging, nor did he do anything more to earn it.
Directly he got his feet under him again he ran off to a large
pool and swam across the river. In the evening he reached the
settlement called Hrossholt, very exhausted. There he lay for a
week, his body covered with blisters, and afterwards went on to
his own place.

Grettir turned back, gathered up all the things which Gisli had
thrown away and took them home. Gisli never got them back again;
many thought be had only got what he deserved for his noisy
boasting. Grettir made a verse about their encounter:

"The horse whose fighting teeth are blunted
runs from the field before his foe.
With many an afterthought ran Gisli.
Gone is his fame, his glory lost!"

In the spring after this Gisli prepared to go on board his ship
and forbade in the strongest terms anything which belonged to him
being carried South by the way of the mountains; for he said that
the Fiend himself was there. Gisli when he went South to join
his ship kept all the way along the coast and he never met
Grettir again. Nobody considered him worth thinking about, nor
do we hear any more of him in this saga. Grettir's relations
with Thord the son of Kolbeinn became worse than ever, and Thord
tried every means to get Grettir driven away or killed.



When Grettir had been two winters in Fagraskogafjall and the
third winter had set in, he went South into Myrar to the farm
called Laekjarbug, where he took six wethers without their
owner's permission. Then he went down to Akrar and drove off two
oxen for slaughter with several sheep, and went up South to the
Hitara. When the bondis heard of his exploits they sent word to
Thord at Hitarnes and asked him to take the lead in the slaying
of Grettir. He was rather reluctant, but as they had asked him
he sent his son Arnor, afterwards called Jarlsbard, to go with
them, and told them not to let Grettir escape. Messengers were
then sent round to all the farms.

There was a man named Bjarni who dwelt in Jorvi in Flysjuhverfi.
He collected men on the other side of the Hitara; the intention
was that each band should keep on its own side. Grettir had two
men with him, one named Eyjolf, a stout man, the son of a bondi
in Fagraskogar, and another. The party came on, about twenty in
number, under Thorarin from Akrar and Thorfinn of Laekjarbug.
Grettir tried to get out across the river, but was met by Arnor
and Bjarni coming from the coast. There was a narrow point
jutting out into the river on Grettir's side, and when he saw the
men approaching he drove his animals on to it, for he never would
let go anything of which he had once got possession. The Myramen
prepared to attack in good order and Grettir told his companions
to guard his rear. They could not all come on at once. There
was a hard struggle between them; Grettir used his short sword
with both hands and they found it not easy to get at him. Some
of the Myramen fell and some were wounded. The men on the other
side of the river were rather slow in coming up because there was
no ford near. Before they had been fighting very long they fell
back. Thorarin of Akrar was a very old man and not able to join
in the fighting. When the battle was over there came up his son
Thrand, his brother Ingjald's son Thorgils, Finnbogi the son of
Thorgeir, the son of Thorhadd of Hitardal, and Steinolf the son
of Thorleif of Hraundal. They set on their men and there was a
hard struggle.

Grettir saw that there was no choice left but either to flee or
else to do his utmost and not spare himself. He pressed on hard
and nothing could hold against him, for his foes were so numerous
that there was no chance of escaping except by fighting to the
last before he fell. He tried always to engage those who seemed
most courageous; first he went for Steinolf of Hraundal and cleft
his skull down to his shoulders; then he struck at Thorgils the
son of Ingjald and almost cut him in two. Then Thrand tried to
spring forward and avenge his kinsmen, and Grettir hewed at his
right thigh, cutting out all the muscles so that he could fight
no more. Next he gave Finnbogi a severe wound. Then Thorarin
ordered them off. "The longer you fight," he said, "the worse
you will get from him and the more will he choose out the men
from your company."

They obeyed and fell back. Ten had fallen; five were wounded to
death or crippled, and nearly all who had been in the battle were
hurt. Grettir was terribly fatigued but little wounded. The
Myramen drew off, having suffered heavy losses, for many a good
man had fallen. Those who were beyond the river came over slowly
and did not arrive till the fight was over, and when they saw the
plight of their men Arnor would not risk himself any further, for
which he was much blamed by his father and by others. Men
thought he was not much of a warrior. The place where they
fought is now called Grettisoddi.

Grettir and his companions were all wounded; they took their
horses and rode back along the foot of the mountain. When they
reached Fagraskogar Eyjolf was behind. There was a bondi's
daughter there and she asked for their tidings, which Grettir
told her fully and spoke a verse:

"Goddess of horn-floods! Steinolf's wounds
are such that scarcely may be healed.
Of Thorgils' life is little hope;
his bones are smashed; eight more are dead."

Then Grettir went to his retreat and spent the winter there.



The next time that Bjorn met Grettir he told him that this was a
very serious affair, and that he would not be able to stay there
in peace much longer. "You have killed kinsmen and friends of
mine, but I will not depart from my promise to you so long as you
are here."

Grettir said he was sorry to have given him offence, but that he
had to defend his hands and his life. Bjorn said it would have
to remain so. Soon there came to him some of the men who had
lost their kinsmen through Grettir and petitioned him not to
allow such a ruffian as he was to stay there any longer and
molest them. Bjorn said he would do as they desired directly the
winter was over.

Thrand the son of Thorarin of Akrar had now recovered from his
wound. He was a man of much worth, and had married Steinunn the
daughter of Hrut of Kambsnes. Steinolf's father Thorleif of
Hraundal was a great man; from him are sprung the Hraundal men.

No more meetings are told of between Grettir and the Myramen
while he was in the mountains. Bjorn continued in friendship
with him, but some of Bjorn's other friends fell away from him
because of his allowing Grettir to remain there, for they were
annoyed at getting no compensation for the slaying of their
kinsmen. When the Thing assembled Grettir left the Myrar
district and went to Borgarfjord, where he visited Grim the son
of Thorhall and sought counsel of him where he should move to
next. Grim said he was not powerful enough to keep him there, so
Grettir went off to his friend Hallmund and stayed there till the
end of the summer.

In the autumn Grettir went to Geitland, where he stayed till
bright weather set in. Then he ascended the Geitlandsjokull and
turned his steps South-east along the glacier, taking with him a
kettle and fuel. It is supposed that he went there by the
counsel of Hallmund, who knew the country far and wide. He went
on till he came to a long and rather narrow valley in the
glacier, shut in on every side by the ice which overhung the
valley. He went about everywhere, and found fair grass-grown
banks and brushwood. There were hot springs, and it seemed as if
volcanic fires had kept the ice from closing in above the valley.

A little stream flowed down the dale with smooth banks on either
side. Little did the light of the sun enter there, and the
number of sheep in the valley seemed to him countless. They were
much better and fatter than any which he had ever seen.

Grettir stayed there and built himself a hut out of logs which he
found about. He caught a sheep to eat, and it was better for
slaughter than two in other places. There was a ewe there with
her lamb; she had a brown head and excelled all the others in
size. He was anxious to have the lamb, so he caught it and
slaughtered it and got half a measure of suet out of it, and it
was better in every way. When Brownhead missed her lamb she came
up every night to Grettir's hut and bleated so that he never
could get any sleep. He regretted much having killed the lamb on
account of the disturbance which she caused him. Every evening
when the twilight set in he heard a voice calling in the valley,
and then the sheep used to run together into a place of shelter.
Grettir has told us that a blending ruled over the valley, a
giant named Thorir, under whose protection he remained. Grettir
called the valley after him Thorisdal. He said that Thorir had
daughters with whom he had some play, and that they were very
pleased, because not many people came there. And when the days
of fasting came Grettir remembered to tell them that fat and
liver should be eaten in Lent. Nothing particular occurred that
winter, and Grettir found it so dull that he could not stay there
any longer. He left the valley and went to the South through the
glacier, reaching the middle of Skjaldbreid from the North.
There he took up a stone, cut a hole in it and said that if a man
put his eye to the hole he could see into the gully which flows
out of Thorisdal. Then he went across the country South and
reached the eastern fjords. He spent the summer and the winter
on this journey and visited all the great men, but found them all
against him so that nowhere could he get lodging or shelter. So
he returned to the North and stayed in various places.



Soon after Grettir had left the Arnarvatn Heath there came a man
there named Grim, the son of a widow at Kropp. He had killed the
son of Eid of Ass, the son of Skeggi, and been outlawed for it.
So there he stayed where Grettir had been before him and got
plenty of fish out of the lake. Hallmund was not at all pleased
at Grim being there instead of Grettir, and said that he should
have little advantage from his great catches of fish. One
morning Grim had caught a hundred fish, which he brought to the
hut and arranged outside. The next morning when he went there
every fish was gone. He thought it very strange, but returned to
the lake and caught this time two hundred. He carried them home
and arranged them; again everything happened as before; in the
morning all were gone, evidently through the same agency as
before. The third day he caught three hundred, carried them home
and kept a watch on his hut. He looked out through a hole in the
door to see if any one came, and so he remained for a time. When
about one third of the night had passed he heard some one walking
near and stepping rather heavily; so he immediately took his axe,
which was very sharp, and wanted to know what was the matter.
There came a man with a big basket on his back; he put it down
and looked round, but saw no one outside. He rummaged about
among the fish and seemed to think that they would do for him to
lay hands upon. He threw them all into his basket and they quite
filled it. The fishes were so large that Grim thought no horse
would be able to carry more. This man then took the load and got
beneath it. Just as he was about to rise Grim rushed out and
taking his axe in both hands struck a blow at his neck which went
through the skin. He started in surprise and then ran off
towards the south of the hill with his basket. Grim went after
him to see whether he had got him. They went south along the
foot of the Balljokull where the man entered a cave. There was a
bright fire in the cave and a woman standing in it, very tall but
shapely. Grim heard her greet her father, calling him Hallmund.
He flung down his load and heaved a great sigh. She asked why he
was covered with blood. He answered in a verse:

"No man, I see, may trust his might.
His luck and heart will fail at death."

Then she pressed him to say what had happened, and he told her

"Hear now," he said, "what I tell you of my adventure. I will
tell it to you in verse, and you shall cut it in runes on a

She did so, and he spoke the Hallmundarkvida, in which the
following occurs:

"I was strong when Grettir's bridle I seized
I saw him gazing long at his palms.

Then Thorir came on the Heath with his men.
'Gainst eighty we two had play with our spears.

Grettir's hands knew how to strike;
much deeper the marks that were left by mine.

Arms and heads then flew as they tried
to gain my rear; eighteen of them fell.

The giant-kind and the grim rock-dwellers,
demons and blendings fell before me,
elves and devils have felt my hand."

Many exploits of his did Hallmund recount in the lay, for he had
been in every land.

The daughter said: "That man was not going to let his catch slip
away from him. It was only to be expected, for you treated him
very badly. But who is going to avenge you?"

"It is not certain that anybody will, but I think that Grettir
would avenge me if he were able. It will not be easy to go
against this man's luck; he is destined to great things." Then
as the lay continued his strength began to fail. Hallmund died
almost at the moment when he finished the song. She grieved much
for him and wept sorely. Then Grim came forward and bade her be
comforted. "All," he said, "must depart when their fate calls.
It was partly his own fault, for I could not look on and see
myself robbed."

She said he might speak much about that: "The unjust man
prospers ill."

She was somewhat cheered by the talk with him. Grim stayed
several nights in the cave and learned the lay; all went well
with them. Grim was in the Arnarvatn Heath all the winter after
Hallmund's death. Afterwards Thorkell the son of Eyjolf came to
the heath and fought with him. The meeting ended by Grim having
Thorkell's life in his power, but he would not kill him.
Thorkell then took him in, sent him abroad and supplied him with
means; each was considered to have acted generously towards the
other. Grim became a great traveller and there is a long saga
about him.



We now return to Grettir, who came from the eastern fjords,
travelling in disguise and hiding his head because he did not
wish to meet Thorir. That summer he spent in Modrudal Heath and
other places. For a time too he was on Reykja Heath. Thorir
heard of his being on Reykja Heath, gathered his men and rode
thither, determined not to let him escape. Grettir scarcely knew
of their plans before they came upon him. He was in a hill-dairy
a little off the road with another man, and when they saw the
troop they had to lay their plans quickly. Grettir said they
should make their horses lie down inside the house, and they did
so. Thorir rode forward across the heath in a northerly
direction, missed the place, did not find Grettir and turned back
home. When the troop had ridden round to the West, Grettir said:
"They will not be pleased with their expedition if they do not
meet me. You stay and mind the horses while I go after them. It
would be a good jest if they did not recognise me."

His companion tried to dissuade him, but he would go. He changed
his dress, put on a wide hat which came down over his face and
took a stick in his hand. Then he went along the road towards
them. They addressed him and asked whether he had seen any men
riding over the heath.

"I have seen the men whom you are seeking," he said, "you very
nearly came upon them; they were on your left hand just south of
the marshes."

On hearing this they galloped off towards the marshes, which were
so swampy that they could not get through and had to spend a
great part of the day dragging their horses out. They swore much
at the supposed traveller for playing a practical joke upon them.

Grettir returned speedily home to his companion, and when they
met spoke a verse:

"I will not ride to the warriors' arms;
too great the danger is.
I dare not meet the storm of Vidri;
but homeward turn my steps."

They rode off as fast as they could westwards towards the
homestead in Gard before Thorir could come there with his
company. When they were near the place they met a man on the
road who did not know them. There was a young woman standing
outside, very much dressed up, and Grettir asked who she was.
The man who had come up said she was Thorir's daughter. Then
Grettir spoke a verse:

"Maiden, when thy father comes
tell him, little though it please him,
how I rode his dwelling past;
only two who with me rode."

From this the man learnt who it was, and rode to the house to
tell them that Grettir had come round. When Thorir returned many
men thought that he had been bamboozled by Grettir. He then set
spies to watch Grettir's movements. Grettir took the precaution
of sending his companion to the western districts with his horse,
while he himself went North into the mountains at the beginning
of the winter, muffling up his face so that no one should
recognise him. Every one thought that Thorir had fared no better
but even worse than at their former encounter.



There was dwelling at Eyjardalsa in Bardardal a priest named
Steinn, a good farmer and wealthy. His son Kjartan was grown up
and was now a fine young man. Thorsteinn the White was a man who
dwelt at Sandhaugar to the south of Eyjardalsa; his wife Steinvor
was young and of a merry disposition. They had children who at
this time were yet young. Their place was generally thought to
be much haunted by trolls. Two winters before Grettir came North
into those parts, Steinvor the mistress of Sandhaugar went as
usual to spend Yule at Eyjardalsa, while her husband stayed at
home. Men lay down to sleep in the evening, and in the night
they heard a great noise in the room near the bondi's bed. No
one dared to get up to see what was the matter because there were
so few of them. The mistress of the house returned home the next
morning, but her husband had disappeared and no one knew what had
become of him. So the next season passed. The following winter
the mistress wanted to go to mass, and told her servant to stay
at home; he was very unwilling but said she should be obeyed. It
happened just as before; this time the servant disappeared.
People thought it very strange and found some drops of blood upon
the outer door, so they supposed that some evil spirit must have
carried off both the men. The story spread all through the
district and came to the ears of Grettir, who being well
accustomed to deal with ghosts and spectres turned his steps to
Bardardal and arrived at Yule-eve at Sandhaugar. He retained his
disguise and called himself Gest. The lady of the house saw that
he was enormously tall, and the servants were terribly afraid of
him. He asked for hospitality; the mistress told him that food
was ready for him but that he must see after himself. He said he
would, and added: "I will stay in the house while you go to mass
if you would like it."

She said: "You must be a brave man to venture to stay in the

"I do not care for a monotonous life," he said.

Then she said: "I do not want to remain at home, but I cannot get
across the river."

"I will come with you," said Gest. Then she made ready to go to
mass with her little daughter. It was thawing outside; the river
was flooded and was covered with ice. She said: "It is
impossible for either man or horse to cross the river."

"There must be fords," said Gest; "do not be afraid."

"First carry the maiden over," she said; "she is lighter."

"I don't want to make two journeys of it," said he; "I will carry
you in my arms."

She crossed herself and said: "That is impossible; what will you
do with the girl?"

"I will find a way," he said, taking them both up and setting
the girl on her mother's knee as he bore them both on his left
arm, keeping his right arm free. So he carried them across.
They were too frightened to cry out. The river came up to his
breast, and a great piece of ice drove against him, which he
pushed off with the hand that was free. Then the stream became
so deep that it broke over his shoulder, but he waded on
vigorously till he reached the other bank and put them on shore.
It was nearly dark by the time he got home to Sandhaugar and
called for some food. When he had eaten something he told the
servants to go to the other end of the hall. Then he got some
boards and loose logs and laid them across the hall to make a
great barricade so that none of the servants could get across.
No one dared to oppose him or to object to anything. The
entrance was in the side wall of the hall under the back gable,
and near it was a cross bench upon which Grettir laid himself,
keeping on his clothes, with a light burning in the room. So he
lay till into the night.

The mistress reached Eyjardalsa for mass and every one wondered
how she had crossed the river. She said she did not know whether
it was a man or a troll who had carried her over. The priest
said it was certainly a man though unlike other men. "Let us
keep silence over it; may be that he means to help you in your

She stayed there the night.



We return now to tell of Gest. Towards midnight he heard a loud
noise outside, and very soon there walked a huge troll-wife into
the room. She carried a trough in one hand and a rather large
cutlass in the other. She looked round the room as she entered,
and on seeing Gest lying there she rushed at him; he started up
and attacked her furiously. They fought long together; she was
the stronger but he evaded her skilfully. Everything near them
and the panelling of the back wall were broken to pieces. She
dragged him through the hall door out to the porch, where he
resisted vigorously. She wanted to drag him out of the house,
but before that was done they had broken up all the fittings of
the outer door and borne them away on their shoulders. Then she
strove to get to the river and among the rocks. Gest was
terribly fatigued, but there was no choice but either to brace
himself or be dragged down to the rocks. All night long they
struggled together, and he thought he had never met with such a
monster for strength. She gripped him so tightly to herself that
he could do nothing with either hand but cling to her waist.
When at last they reached a rock by the river he swung the
monster round and got his right hand loose. Then he quickly
seized the short sword which he was wearing, drew it and struck
at the troll's right shoulder, cutting off her right arm and
releasing himself. She sprang among the rocks and disappeared in
the waterfall. Gest, very stiff and tired, lay long by the rock.

At daylight he went home and lay down on his bed, blue and
swollen all over.

When the lady of the house came home she found the place rather
in disorder. She went to Gest and asked him what had happened,
and why everything was broken to pieces. He told her everything
just as it had happened. She thought it a matter of great moment
and asked him who he was. He told her the truth, said that he
wished to see a priest and asked her to send for one. She did
so; Steinn came to Sandhaugar and soon learnt that it was Grettir
the son of Asmund who had come there under the name of Gest. The
priest asked him what he thought had become of the men who had
disappeared; Grettir said he thought that they must have gone
among the rocks. The priest said he could not believe his word
unless he gave some evidence of it. Grettir said that later it
would be known, and the priest went home. Grettir lay many days
in his bed and the lady did all she could for him; thus Yule-tide
passed. Grettir himself declared that the trollwoman sprang
among the rocks when she was wounded, but the men of Bardardal
say that the day dawned upon her while they were wrestling; that
when he cut off her arm she broke, and that she is still standing
there on the mountain in the likeness of a woman. The dwellers
in the valley kept Grettir there in hiding.

One day that winter after Yule Grettir went to Eyjardalsa and met
the priest, to whom he said: "I see, priest, that you have little
belief in what I say. Now I wish you to come with me to the
river and to see what probability there is in it."

The priest did so. When they reached the falls they saw a cave
up under the rock. The cliff was there so abrupt that no one
could climb it, and nearly ten fathoms down to the water. They
had a rope with them. The priest said: "It is quite impossible
for any one to get down to that."

Grettir answered: "It is certainly possible; and men of high
mettle are those who would feel themselves happiest there. I
want to see what there is in the fall. Do you mind the rope."

The priest said he could do so if he chose. He drove a stake
into the ground and laid stones against it.



Grettir now fastened a stone in a loop at the end of the rope,
and lowered it from above into the water.

"Which way do you mean to go?" asked the priest.

"I don't mean to be bound when I come into the fall," Grettir
said. "So my mind tells me."

Then he prepared to go; he had few clothes on and only a short
sword; no other arms. He jumped from a rock and got down to the
fall. The priest saw the soles of his feet but after that did
not know what had become of him. Grettir dived beneath the fall.

It was very difficult swimming because of the currents, and he
had to dive to the bottom to get behind the fall. There was a
rock where he came up, and a great cave under the fall in front
of which the water poured. He went into the cave, where there
was a large fire burning and a horrible great giant most fearful
to behold sitting before it. On Grettir entering the giant
sprang up, seized a pike and struck at him, for he could both
strike and thrust with it. It had a wooden shaft and was of the
kind called "heptisax." Grettir struck back with his sword and
cut through the shaft. Then the giant tried to reach up
backwards to a sword which was hanging in the cave, and at that
moment Grettir struck at him and cut open his lower breast and
stomach so that all his entrails fell out into the river and
floated down the stream. The priest who was sitting by the rope
saw some debris being carried down all covered with blood and
lost his head, making sure that Grettir was killed. He left the
rope and ran off home, where he arrived in the evening and told
them for certain that Grettir was dead, and said it was a great
misfortune to them to have lost such a man.

Grettir struck few more blows at the giant before he was dead.
He then entered the cave, kindled a light and explored. It is
not told how much treasure he found there, but there is supposed
to have been some. He stayed there till late into the night and
found the bones of two men, which he carried away in a skin.
Then he came out of the cave, swam to the rope and shook it,
thinking the priest was there; finding him gone he had to swarm
up the rope and so reached the top. He went home to Eyjardalsa
and carried the skin with the bones in it into the vestibule of
the church together with a rune-staff, upon which were most
beautifully carved the following lines:

"Into the fall of the torrent I went;
dank its maw towards me gaped.
The floods before the ogress' den
Mighty against my shoulder played";

and then:

"Hideous the friend of troll-wife came.
Hard were the blows I dealt upon him.
The shaft of Heptisax was severed.
My sword has pierced the monster's breast."

There too it was told how Grettir had brought the bones from the
cave. The priest when he came to the church on the next morning
found the staff and all that was with it and read the runes.
Grettir had then returned home to Sandhaugar.



When the priest met Grettir again he asked him to say exactly
what bad happened, and Grettir told him all about where he had
been. He said that the priest had held the rope very
faithlessly, and the priest admitted that it was true. Men felt
no doubt that these monsters were responsible for the
disappearance of the men in the valley, nor was there any
haunting or ghost-walking there afterwards; Grettir had evidently
cleared the land of them. The bones were buried by the priest in
the churchyard. Grettir stayed the winter in Bardardal, but
unknown to the general public.

Thorir of Gard heard rumours of Grettir being in Bardardal and
set some men on to take his life. Men thereupon advised him to
depart, and he went into the West to Modruvellir, where he met
Gudmund the Mighty and asked him for protection. Gudmund said it
would not be convenient for him to take him in.

"You must," he said, "find a place to settle in where you need be
in no fear for your life."

Grettir said he did not know where such a place was.

"There is an island," Gudmund said, "in Skagafjord, called
Drangey. It is excellent for defence; no one can get up to it
without a ladder. If once you can reach it there is no chance of
any one attacking you there with arms or with craft, so long as
you guard the ladder well."

"That shall be tried," said Grettir. "But I am in such dread
of the dark that even for the sake of my life I cannot live

"It may be that it is so," said Gudmund; "but trust no man so
well that you trust not yourself better. Many are unfit to be

Grettir thanked him for his excellent advice and departed from
Modruvellir. He went on straight to Bjarg, where his mother and
Illugi greeted him joyfully. He stayed there several days and
heard of Thorsteinn Kuggason having been slain in the autumn
before he went to Bardardal. Fate, he thought, was striking hard
against him. Then he rode South to Holtavarda Heath, intending
to revenge the death of Hallmund if he could meet with Grim. On
reaching Nordrardal he learnt that Grim had left two or three
years before, as has already been related. Grettir had not
received news of it because he had been in hiding there for two
years and a third in Thorisdal and had met no one to tell him of
what had happened. Then he turned his steps towards the
Breidafjord valleys and waylaid those who passed over
Brattabrekka. He continued to let his hands sweep over the
property of the small farmers during the height of the summer


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