The Story of Grettir The Strong
Translated by Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris
Part 2 out of 6
"What is that?" says Grettir.
"They blame thee for singing ill things of them; now, therefore, I
would that thou sing some scurvy rhyme to me, for then it might be
that they would bear with thee the easier."
"To thee I never sing but good," says Grettir: "I am not going to make
thee like these starvelings."
"One may sing so," says Haflidi, "that the lampoon be not so foul when
it is searched into, though at first sight it be not over fair."
"I have ever plenty of that skill in me," says Grettir.
Then Haflidi went to the men where they were baling, and said, "Great
is your toil, and no wonder that ye have taken ill liking to Grettir."
"But his lampoons we deem worse than all the rest together," they
Haflidi said in a loud voice, "He will surely fare ill for it in the
But when Grettir heard Haflidi speak blamefully of him, he sang--
"Otherwise would matters be,
When this shouting Haflidi
Ate in house at Reydarfell
Curdled milk, and deemed it well;
He who decks the reindeer's side
That 'twixt ness and ness doth glide,
Twice in one day had his fill
Of the feast of dart shower shrill."
[Footnote 8: This is about as obscure as the original, which seems to
allude to some event not mentioned in the Saga.]
The shipmen thought this foul enough, and said he should not put shame
on Skipper Haflidi for nought.
Then said Haflidi, "Grettir is plentifully worthy that ye should
do him some shame, but I will not have my honour staked against his
ill-will and recklessness; nor is it good for us to wreak vengeance
for this forthwith while we have this danger hanging over us; but be
ye mindful of it when ye land, if so it seem good to you."
"Well," they said, "why should we not fare even as thou farest? for
why should his vile word bite us more than thee?"
And in that mind Haflidi bade them abide; and thence-forward the
chapmen made far less noise about Grettir's rhymes than before.
Now a long and a hard voyage they had, and the leak gained on the
ship, and men began to be exceeding worn with toil. The young wife of
the mate was wont to sew from Grettir's hands, and much would the crew
mock him therefor; but Haflidi went up to where Grettir lay and sang--
"Grettir, stand up from thy grave,
In the trough of the grey wave
The keel labours, tell my say
Now unto thy merry may;
From thy hands the linen-clad
Fill of sewing now has had,
Till we make the land will she
Deem that labour fitteth thee."
Then Grettir stood up and sang--
"Stand we up, for neath us now
Rides the black ship high enow;
This fair wife will like it ill
If my limbs are laid here still;
Certes, the white trothful one
Will not deem the deed well done,
If the work that I should share
Other folk must ever bear."
Then he ran aft to where they were baling, and asked what they would
he should do; they said he would do mighty little good.
"Well," said he, "ye may yet be apaid of a man's aid."
Haflidi bade them not set aside his help, "For it may be he shall deem
his hands freed if he offers his aid."
At that time pumping was not used in ships that fared over the main;
the manner of baling they used men called tub or cask baling, and a
wet work it was and a wearisome; two balers were used, and one went
down while the other came up. Now the chapmen bade Grettir have the
job of sinking the balers, and said that now it should be tried what
he could do; he said that the less it was tried the better it would
be. But he goes down and sinks the balers, and now two were got to
bale against him; they held out but a little while before they were
overcome with weariness, and then four came forward and soon fared in
likewise, and, so say some, that eight baled against him before the
baling was done and the ship was made dry. Thenceforth the manner of
the chapmen's words to Grettir was much changed, for they saw what
strength he had to fall back upon; and from that time he was the
stoutest and readiest to help, wheresoever need was.
Now they bore off east into the main, and much thick weather they had,
and one night unawares they ran suddenly on a rock, so that the nether
part of the ship went from under her; then the boat was run down, and
women and all the loose goods were brought off: nearby was a little
holm whither they brought their matters as they best could in the
night; but when it began to dawn they had a talk as to where they were
come; then they who had fared between lands before knew the land for
Southmere in Norway; there was an island hardby called Haramsey; many
folk dwelt there, and therein too was the manor of a lord.
Of Grettir at Haramsey and his dealings with Karr the Old.
Now the lord who dwelt in the island was called Thorfinn; he was the
son of Karr the Old, who had dwelt there long; and Thorfinn was a
But when day was fully come men saw from the island that the chapmen
were brought to great straits. This was made known to Thorfinn, and he
quickly bestirred himself, and had a large bark of his launched, rowed
by sixteen men, on this bark were nigh thirty men in all; they came up
speedily and saved the chapmen's wares; but the ship settled down,
and much goods were lost there. Thorfinn brought all men from the ship
home to himself, and they abode there a week and dried their wares.
Then the chapmen went south into the land, and are now out of the
Grettir was left behind with Thorfinn, and little he stirred, and was
at most times mighty short of speech. Thorfinn bade give him meals,
but otherwise paid small heed to him; Grettir was loth to follow him,
and would not go out with him in the day; this Thorfinn took ill, but
had not the heart to have food withheld from him.
Now Thorfinn was fond of stately house-keeping, and was a man of great
joyance, and would fain have other men merry too: but Grettir would
walk about from house to house, and often went into other farms about
There was a man called Audun who dwelt at Windham; thither Grettir
went every day, and he made friends with Audun, and there he was wont
to sit till far on in the day. Now one night very late, as Grettir
made ready to go home, he saw a great fire burst out on a ness to the
north of Audun's farm. Grettir asked what new thing this might be.
Audun said that he need be in no haste to know that.
"It would be said," quoth Grettir, "if that were seen in our land,
that the flame burned above hid treasure."
The farmer said, "That fire I deem to be ruled over by one into whose
matters it avails little to pry."
"Yet fain would I know thereof," said Grettir.
"On that ness," said Audun, "stands a barrow, great and strong,
wherein was laid Karr the Old, Thorfinn's father; at first father
and son had but one farm in the island; but since Karr died he has so
haunted this place that he has swept away all farmers who owned lands
here, so that now Thorfinn holds the whole island; but whatsoever man
Thorfinn holds his hand over, gets no scathe."
Grettir said that he had told his tale well: "And," says he, "I shall
come here to-morrow, and then thou shalt have digging-tools ready."
"Now, I pray thee," says Audun, "to do nought herein, for I know that
Thorfinn will cast his hatred on thee therefor."
Grettir said he would risk that.
So the night went by, and Grettir came early on the morrow and the
digging-tools were ready; the farmer goes with him to the barrow, and
Grettir brake it open, and was rough-handed enough thereat, and did
not leave off till he came to the rafters, and by then the day was
spent; then he tore away the rafters, and now Audun prayed him hard
not to go into the barrow; Grettir bade him guard the rope, "but I
shall espy what dwells within here."
Then Grettir entered into the barrow, and right dark it was, and a
smell there was therein none of the sweetest. Now he groped about to
see how things were below; first he found horse-bones, and then he
stumbled against the arm of a high-chair, and in that chair found a
man sitting; great treasures of gold and silver were heaped together
there, and a small chest was set under the feet of him full of silver;
all these riches Grettir carried together to the rope; but as he went
out through the barrow he was griped at right strongly; thereon he let
go the treasure and rushed against the barrow-dweller, and now they
set on one another unsparingly enough.
Everything in their way was kicked out of place, the barrow-wight
setting on with hideous eagerness; Grettir gave back before him for a
long time, till at last it came to this, that he saw it would not do
to hoard his strength any more; now neither spared the other, and
they were brought to where the horse-bones were, and thereabout they
wrestled long. And now one, now the other, fell on his knee; but the
end of the strife was, that the barrow-dweller fell over on his back
with huge din. Then ran Audun from the holding of the rope, and deemed
Grettir dead. But Grettir drew the sword, 'Jokul's gift,' and drave
it at the neck of the barrow-bider so that it took off his head, and
Grettir laid it at the thigh of him. Then he went to the rope with
the treasure, and lo, Audun was clean gone, so he had to get up the
rope by his hands; he had tied a line to the treasure, and therewith
he now haled it up.
[Footnote 9: The old belief was that by this means only could a ghost
Grettir had got very stiff with his dealings with Karr, and now he
went back to Thorfinn's house with the treasures, whenas all folk had
set them down to table. Thorfinn gave Grettir a sharp look when he
came into the drinking-hall, and asked him what work he had on hand
so needful to do that he might not keep times of meals with other
men. Grettir answers, "Many little matters will hap on late eves," and
therewith he cast down on the table all the treasure he had taken in
the barrow; but one matter there was thereof, on which he must needs
keep his eyes; this was a short-sword, so good a weapon, that a
better, he said, he had never seen; and this he gave up the last of
all. Thorfinn was blithe to see that sword, for it was an heirloom of
his house, and had never yet gone out of his kin.
"Whence came these treasures to thine hand?" said Thorfinn.
"Lessener of the flame of sea,
My strong hope was true to me,
When I deemed that treasure lay
In the barrow; from to-day
Folk shall know that I was right;
The begetters of the fight
Small joy now shall have therein,
Seeking dragon's-lair to win."
Thorfinn answered, "Blood will seldom seem blood to thine eyes; no man
before thee has had will to break open the barrow; but, because I
know that what wealth soever is hid in earth or borne into barrow is
wrongly placed, I shall not hold thee blameworthy for thy deed as
thou hast brought it all to me; yea, or whence didst thou get the good
Grettir answered and sang--
"Lessener of waves flashing flame,
To my lucky hand this came
In the barrow where that thing
Through the dark fell clattering;
If that helm-fire I should gain,
Made so fair to be the bane
Of the breakers of the bow,
Ne'er from my hand should it go."
Thorfinn said, "Well hast thou prayed for it, but thou must show some
deed of fame before I give thee that sword, for never could I get it
of my father while he lived."
Said Grettir, "Who knows to whom most gain will come of it in the
So Thorfinn took the treasures and kept the sword at his bed-head,
and the winter wore on toward Yule, so that little else fell out to be
Of Yule at Haramsey, and how Grettir dealt with the Bearserks.
Now the summer before these things Earl Eric Hakonson made ready to
go from his land west to England, to see King Knut the Mighty, his
brother-in-law, but left behind him in the rule of Norway Hakon, his
son, and gave him into the hands of Earl Svein, his brother, for the
watching and warding of his realm, for Hakon was a child in years.
But before Earl Eric went away from the land, he called together lords
and rich bonders, and many things they spoke on laws and the rule of
the land, for Earl Eric was a man good at rule. Now men thought it an
exceeding ill fashion in the land that runagates or bearserks called
to holm high-born men for their fee or womankind, in such wise, that
whosoever should fall before the other should lie unatoned; hereof
many got both shame and loss of goods, and some lost their lives
withal; and therefore Earl Eric did away with all holm-gangs and
outlawed all bearserks who fared with raids and riots.
In the making of this law, the chief of all, with Earl Eric, was
Thorfinn Karrson, from Haramsey, for he was a wise man, and a dear
friend of the Earls.
Two brothers are named as being of the worst in these matters,
one hight Thorir Paunch, the other Ogmund the Evil; they were of
Halogaland kin, bigger and stronger than other men. They wrought the
bearserks'-gang and spared nothing in their fury; they would take away
the wives of men and hold them for a week or a half-month, and then
bring them back to their husbands; they robbed wheresoever they came,
or did some other ill deeds. Now Earl Eric made them outlaws through
the length and breadth of Norway, and Thorfinn was the eagerest of men
in bringing about their outlawry, therefore they deemed that they owed
him ill-will enow.
So the Earl went away from the land, as is said in his Saga; but Earl
Svein bore sway over Norway. Thorfinn went home to his house, and sat
at home till just up to Yule, as is aforesaid; but at Yule he made
ready to go to his farm called Slysfirth, which is on the mainland,
and thither he had bidden many of his friends. Thorfinn's wife could
not go with her husband, for her daughter of ripe years lay ill
a-bed, so they both abode at home. Grettir was at home too, and
eight house-carles. Now Thorfinn went with thirty freedmen to the
Yule-feast, whereat there was the greatest mirth and joyance among
Now Yule-eve comes on, and the weather was bright and calm; Grettir
was mostly abroad this day, and saw how ships fared north and south
along the land, for each one sought the other's home where the Yule
drinking was settled to come off. By this time the goodman's daughter
was so much better that she could walk about with her mother, and thus
the day wore on.
Now Grettir sees how a ship rows up toward the island; it was not
right big, but shield-hung it was from stem to stern, and stained all
above the sea: these folk rowed smartly, and made for the boat-stands
of goodman Thorfinn, and when the keel took land, those who were
therein sprang overboard. Grettir cast up the number of the men, and
they were twelve altogether; he deemed their guise to be far from
peaceful. They took up their ship and bore it up from the sea;
thereafter they ran up to the boat-stand, and therein was that big
boat of Thorfinn, which was never launched to sea by less than thirty
men, but these twelve shot it in one haul down to the shingle of the
foreshore; and thereon they took up their own bark and bore it into
Now Grettir thought that he could see clear enough that they would
make themselves at home. But he goes down to meet them, and welcomes
them merrily, and asks who they were and what their leader was hight;
he to whom these words were spoken answered quickly, and said that his
name was Thorir, and that he was called Paunch, and that his brother
was Ogmund, and that the others were fellows of theirs.
"I deem," said Thorir, "that thy master Thorfinn has heard tell of us;
is he perchance at home?"
Grettir answered, "Lucky men are ye, and hither have come in a good
hour, if ye are the men I take you to be; the goodman is gone away
with all his home-folk who are freemen, and will not be home again
till after Yule; but the mistress is at home, and so is the goodman's
daughter; and if I thought that I had some ill-will to pay back, I
should have chosen above all things to have come just thus; for here
are all matters in plenty whereof ye stand in need both beer, and all
other good things."
Thorir held his peace, while Grettir let this tale run on, then he
said to Ogmund--
"How far have things come to pass other than as I guessed? and now am
I well enough minded to take revenge on Thorfinn for having made us
outlaws; and this man is ready enough of tidings, and no need have we
to drag the words out of him."
"Words all may use freely," said Grettir, "and I shall give you such
cheer as I may; and now come home with me."
They bade him have thanks therefor, and said they would take his
But when they came home to the farm, Grettir took Thorir by the hand
and led him into the hall; and now was Grettir mightily full of words.
The mistress was in the hall, and had had it decked with hangings, and
made all fair and seemly; but when she heard Grettir's talk, she stood
still on the floor, and asked whom he welcomed in that earnest wise.
He answered, "Now, mistress, is it right meet to welcome these guests
merrily, for here is come goodman Thorir Paunch and the whole twelve
of them, and are minded to sit here Yule over, and a right good hap it
is, for we were few enough before."
She answered, "Am I to number these among bonders and goodmen, who are
the worst of robbers and ill-doers? a large share of my goods had I
given that they had not come here as at this time; and ill dost thou
reward Thorfinn, for that he took thee a needy man from shipwreck and
has held thee through the winter as a free man."
Grettir said, "It would be better to take the wet clothes off these
guests than to scold at me; since for that thou mayst have time long
Then said Thorir, "Be not cross-grained, mistress; nought shall thou
miss thy husband's being away, for a man shall be got in his place
for thee, yea, and for thy daughter a man, and for each of the
"That is spoken like a man," said Grettir, "nor will they thus have
any cause to bewail their lot."
Now all the women rushed forth from the hall smitten with huge dread
and weeping; then said Grettir to the bearserks, "Give into my hands
what it pleases you to lay aside of weapons and wet clothes, for the
folk will not be yielding to us while they are scared."
Thorir said he heeded not how women might squeal; "But," said he,
"thee indeed we may set apart from the other home-folk, and methinks
we may well make thee our man of trust."
"See to that yourselves," said Grettir, "but certes I do not take to
all men alike."
Thereupon they laid aside the more part of their weapons, and
thereafter Grettir said--
"Methinks it is a good rede now that ye sit down to table and drink
somewhat, for it is right likely that ye are thirsty after the
They said they were ready enough for that, but knew not where to find
out the cellar; Grettir asked if they would that he should see for
things and go about for them. The bearserks said they would be right
fain of that; so Grettir fetched beer and gave them to drink; they
were mightily weary, and drank in huge draughts, and still he let them
have the strongest beer that there was, and this went on for a long
time, and meanwhile he told them many merry tales. From all this there
was din enough to be heard among them, and the home-folk were nowise
fain to come to them.
Now Thorir said, "Never yet did I meet a man unknown to me, who would
do us such good deeds as this man; now, what reward wilt thou take of
us for thy work?"
Grettir answered, "As yet I look to no reward for this; but if we be
even such friends when ye go away, as it looks like we shall be, I am
minded to join fellowship with you; and though I be of less might than
some of you, yet shall I not let any man of big redes."
Hereat they were well pleased, and would settle the fellowship with
Grettir said that this they should not do, "For true is the old saw,
Ale is another man, nor shall ye settle this in haste any
further than as I have said, for on both sides are we men little meet
to rule our tempers."
They said that they would not undo what they had said.
Withal the evening wore on till it grew quite dark; then sees Grettir
that they were getting very heavy with drink, so he said--
"Do ye not find it time to go to sleep?"
Thorir said, "Time enough forsooth, and sure shall I be to keep to
what I have promised the mistress."
Then Grettir went forth from the hall, and cried out loudly--
"Go ye to your beds, women all, for so is goodman Thorir pleased to
They cursed him for this, and to hear them was like hearkening to the
noise of many wolves. Now the bearserks came forth from the hall, and
"Let us go out, and I will show you Thorfinn's cloth bower."
They were willing to be led there; so they came to an out-bower
exceeding great; a door there was to it, and a strong lock thereon,
and the storehouse was very strong withal; there too was a closet good
and great, and a shield panelling between the chambers; both chambers
stood high, and men went up by steps to them. Now the bearserks got
riotous and pushed Grettir about, and he kept tumbling away from them,
and when they least thought thereof, he slipped quickly out of the
bower, seized the latch, slammed the door to, and put the bolt on.
Thorir and his fellows thought at first that the door must have got
locked of itself, and paid no heed thereto; they had light with them,
for Grettir had showed them many choice things which Thorfinn owned,
and these they now noted awhile. Meantime Grettir made all speed home
to the farm, and when he came in at the door he called out loudly, and
asked where the goodwife was; she held her peace, for she did not dare
He said, "Here is somewhat of a chance of a good catch; but are there
any weapons of avail here?"
She answers, "Weapons there are, but how they may avail thee I know
"Let us talk thereof anon," says he, "but now let every man do his
best, for later on no better chance shall there be."
The good wife said, "Now God were in garth if our lot might better:
over Thorfinn's bed hangs the barbed spear, the big one that was
owned by Karr the Old; there, too, is a helmet and a byrni, and the
short-sword, the good one; and the arms will not fail if thine heart
Grettir seizes the helmet and spear, girds himself with the
short-sword, and rushed out swiftly; and the mistress called upon the
house-carles, bidding them follow such a dauntless man, four of them
rushed forth and seized their weapons, but the other four durst come
nowhere nigh. Now it is to be said of the bearserks that they thought
Grettir delayed his coming back strangely; and now they began to doubt
if there were not some guile in the matter. They rushed against the
door and found it was locked, and now they try the timber walls so
that every beam creaked again; at last they brought things so far that
they broke down the shield-panelling, got into the passage, and thence
out to the steps. Now bearserks'-gang seized them, and they howled
like dogs. In that very nick of time Grettir came up and with both
hands thrust his spear at the midst of Thorir, as he was about to
get down the steps, so that it went through him at once. Now the
spear-head was both long and broad, and Ogmund the Evil ran on to
Thorir and pushed him on to Grettir's thrust, so that all went up to
the barb-ends; then the spear stood out through Thorir's back and into
Ogmund's breast, and they both tumbled dead off the spear; then of
the others each rushed down the steps as he came forth; Grettir set on
each one of them, and in turn hewed with the sword, or thrust with the
spear; but they defended themselves with logs that lay on the green,
and whatso thing they could lay hands on, therefore the greatest
danger it was to deal with them, because of their strength, even
though they were weaponless.
Two of the Halogalanders Grettir slew on the green, and then came up
the house-carles; they could not come to one mind as to what weapons
each should have; now they set on whenever the bearserks gave back,
but when they turned about on them, then the house-carles slunk away
up to the houses. Six vikings fell there, and of all of them was
Grettir the bane. Then the six others got off and came down to the
boat-stand, and so into it, and thence they defended themselves with
oars. Grettir now got great blows from them, so that at all times he
ran the risk of much hurt; but the house-carles went home, and had
much to say of their stout onset; the mistress bade them espy what
became of Grettir, but that was not to be got out of them. Two more of
the bearserks Grettir slew in the boat-stand, but four slipped out
by him; and by this, dark night had come on; two of them ran into
a corn-barn, at the farm of Windham, which is aforenamed: here they
fought for a long time, but at last Grettir killed them both; then
was he beyond measure weary and stiff, the night was far gone, and the
weather got very cold with the drift of the snow. He was fain to leave
the search of the two vikings who were left now, so he walked home to
the farm. The mistress had lights lighted in the highest lofts at the
windows that they might guide him on his way; and so it was that he
found his road home whereas he saw the light.
But when he was come into the door, the mistress went up to him, and
bade him welcome.
"Now," she said, "thou hast reaped great glory, and freed me and my
house from a shame of which we should never have been healed, but if
thou hadst saved us."
Grettir answered, "Methinks I am much the same as I was this evening,
when thou didst cast ill words on me."
The mistress answered, "We wotted not that thou wert a man of such
prowess as we have now proved thee; now shall all things in the house
be at thy will which I may bestow on thee, and which it may be seeming
for thee to take; but methinks that Thorfinn will reward thee better
still when he comes home."
Grettir answered, "Little of reward will be needed now, but I keep
thine offer till the coming of the master; and I have some hope now
that ye will sleep in peace as for the bearserks."
Grettir drank little that evening, and lay with his weapons about him
through the night. In the morning, when it began to dawn, people were
summoned together throughout the island, and a search was set on foot
for the bearserks who had escaped the night before; they were found
far on in the day under a rock, and were by then dead from cold and
wounds; then they were brought unto a tidewashed heap of stones and
After that folk went home, and the men of that island deemed
themselves brought unto fair peace.
Now when Grettir came back to the mistress, he sang this stave--
"By the sea's wash have we made
Graves, where twelve spear-groves are laid;
I alone such speedy end,
Unto all these folk did send.
O fair giver forth of gold,
Whereof can great words be told,
'Midst the deeds one man has wrought,
If this deed should come to nought?"
The good wife said, "Surely thou art like unto very few men who are
now living on the earth."
So she set him in the high seat, and all things she did well to him,
and now time wore on till Thorfinn's coming home was looked for.
How Thorfinn met Grettir at Haramsey again.
After Yule Thorfinn made ready for coming home, and he let those folk
go with good gifts whom he had bidden to his feast. Now he fares with
his following till he comes hard by his boat-stands; they saw a ship
lying on the strand, and soon knew it for Thorfinn's bark, the big
one. Now Thorfinn had as yet had no news of the vikings, he bade his
men hasten landward, "For I fear," said he, "that friends have not
been at work here."
Thorfinn was the first to step ashore before his men, and forthwith he
went up to the boat-stand; he saw a keel standing there, and knew it
for the bearserks' ship. Then he said to his men, "My mind misgives
me much that here things have come to pass, even such as I would have
given the whole island, yea, every whit of what I have herein, that
they might never have happed."
They asked why he spake thus. Then he said, "Here have come the
vikings, whom I know to be the worst of all Norway, Thorir Paunch
and Ogmund the Evil; in good sooth they will hardly have kept house
happily for us, and in an Icelander I have but little trust."
Withal he spoke many things hereabout to his fellows.
Now Grettir was at home, and so brought it about, that folk were slow
to go down to the shore; and said he did not care much if the goodman
Thorfinn had somewhat of a shake at what he saw before him; but when
the mistress asked him leave to go, he said she should have her will
as to where she went, but that he himself should stir nowhither. She
ran swiftly to meet Thorfinn, and welcomed him cheerily. He was glad
thereof, and said, "Praise be to God that I see thee whole and merry,
and my daughter in likewise. But how have ye fared since I went from
She answered, "Things have turned out well, but we were near being
overtaken by such a shame as we should never have had healing of, if
thy winter-guest had not holpen us."
Then Thorfinn spake, "Now shall we sit down, but do thou tell us these
Then she told all things plainly even as they had come to pass,
and praised greatly Grettir's stoutness and great daring; meanwhile
Thorfinn held his peace, but when she had made an end of her tale,
he said, "How true is the saw, Long it takes to try a man. But
where is Grettir now?"
The goodwife said, "He is at home in the hall."
Thereupon they went home to the farm.
Thorfinn went up to Grettir and kissed him, and thanked him with many
fair words for the great heart which he had shown to him; "And I will
say to thee what few say to their friends, that I would thou shouldst
be in need of men, that then thou mightest know if I were to thee in
a man's stead or not; but for thy good deed I can never reward thee
unless thou comest to be in some troublous need; but as to thy abiding
with me, that shall ever stand open to thee when thou willest it; and
thou shalt be held the first of all my men."
Grettir bade him have much thank therefor. "And," quoth he, "this
should I have taken even if thou hadst made me proffer thereof
Now Grettir sat there the winter over, and was in the closest
friendship with Thorfinn; and for this deed he was now well renowned
all over Norway, and there the most, where the bearserks had erst
wrought the greatest ill deeds.
This spring Thorfinn asked Grettir what he was about to busy himself
with: he said he would go north to Vogar while the fair was. Thorfinn
said there was ready for him money as much as he would. Grettir said
that he needed no more money at that time than faring-silver: this,
Thorfinn said, was full-well due to him, and thereupon went with him
Now he gave him the short-sword, the good one, which Grettir bore as
long as he lived, and the choicest of choice things it was. Withal
Thorfinn bade Grettir come to him whenever he might need aid.
But Grettir went north to Vogar, and a many folk were there; many men
welcomed him there right heartily who had not seen him before, for the
sake of that great deed of prowess which he had done when he saw the
vikings; many high-born men prayed him to come and abide with them,
but he would fain go back to his friend Thorfinn. Now he took ship in
a bark that was owned of a man hight Thorkel, who dwelt in Salft in
Halogaland, and was a high-born man. But when Grettir came to Thorkel
he welcomed him right heartily, and bade Grettir abide with him that
winter, and laid many words thereto.
This offer Grettir took, and was with Thorkel that winter in great
joyance and fame.
Of Grettir and Biorn and the Bear.
There was a man, hight Biorn, who was dwelling with Thorkel; he was
a man of rash temper, of good birth, and somewhat akin to Thorkel; he
was not well loved of men, for he would slander much those who were
with Thorkel, and in this wise he sent many away. Grettir and he
had little to do together; Biorn thought him of little worth weighed
against himself, but Grettir was unyielding, so that things fell
athwart between them. Biorn was a mightily boisterous man, and made
himself very big; many young men gat into fellowship with him in these
things, and would stray abroad by night. Now it befell, that early in
winter a savage bear ran abroad from his winter lair, and got so grim
that he spared neither man nor beast. Men thought he had been roused
by the noise that Biorn and his fellows had made. The brute got so
hard to deal with that he tore down the herds of men, and Thorkel
had the greatest hurt thereof, for he was the richest man in the
Now one day Thorkel bade his men to follow him, and search for the
lair of the bear. They found it in sheer sea-rocks; there was a high
rock and a cave before it down below, but only one track to go up to
it: under the cave were scarped rocks, and a heap of stones down by
the sea, and sure death it was to all who might fall down there. The
bear lay in his lair by day, but went abroad as soon as night fell; no
fold could keep sheep safe from him, nor could any dogs be set on
him: and all this men thought the heaviest trouble. Biorn, Thorkel's
kinsman, said that the greatest part had been done, as the lair had
been found. "And now I shall try," said he, "what sort of play we
namesakes shall have together." Grettir made as if he knew not what
Biorn said on this matter.
[Footnote 10: Biorn is Icelandic for bear.]
Now it happened always when men went to sleep anights that Biorn
disappeared: and one night when Biorn went to the lair, he was aware
that the beast was there before him, and roaring savagely. Biorn lay
down in the track, and had over him his shield, and was going to wait
till the beast should stir abroad as his manner was. Now the bear had
an inkling of the man, and got somewhat slow to move off. Biorn waxed
very sleepy where he lay, and cannot wake up, and just at this time
the beast betakes himself from his lair; now he sees where the man
lies, and, hooking at him with his claw, he tears from him the shield
and throws it down over the rocks. Biorn started up suddenly awake,
takes to his legs and runs home, and it was a near thing that the
beast gat him not. This his fellows knew, for they had spies about
Biorn's ways; in the morning they found the shield, and made the
greatest jeering at all this.
At Yule Thorkel went himself, and eight of them altogether, and there
was Grettir and Biorn and other followers of Thorkel. Grettir had on
a fur-cloak, which he laid aside while they set on the beast. It was
awkward for an onslaught there, for thereat could folk come but by
spear-thrusts, and all the spear-points the bear turned off him with
his teeth. Now Biorn urged them on much to the onset, yet he himself
went not so nigh as to run the risk of any hurt. Amid this, when men
looked least for it, Biorn suddenly seized Grettir's coat, and cast it
into the beast's lair. Now nought they could wreak on him, and had
to go back when the day was far spent. But when Grettir was going, he
misses his coat, and he could see that the bear has it cast under him.
Then he said, "What man of you has wrought the jest of throwing my
cloak into the lair?"
Biorn says, "He who is like to dare to own to it."
Grettir answers, "I set no great store on such matters."
Now they went on their way home, and when they had walked awhile, the
thong of Grettir's leggings brake. Thorkel bid them wait for him; but
Grettir said there was no need of that. Then said Biorn, "Ye need
not think that Grettir will run away from his coat; he will have the
honour all to himself, and will slay that beast all alone, wherefrom
we have gone back all eight of us; thus would he be such as he is said
to be: but sluggishly enow has he fared forth to-day."
"I know not," said Thorkel, "how thou wilt fare in the end, but men of
equal prowess I deem you not: lay as few burdens on him as thou mayst,
Biorn said, that neither of them should pick and choose words from out
Now, when a hill's brow was between them, Grettir went back to the
pass, for now there was no striving with others for the onset. He
drew the sword, Jokul's gift, but had a loop over the handle of the
short-sword, and slipped it up over his hand, and this he did in that
he thought he could easier have it at his will if his hand were loose.
He went up into the pass forthwith, and when the beast saw a man, it
rushed against Grettir exceeding fiercely, and smote at him with that
paw which was furthest off from the rock; Grettir hewed against the
blow with the sword, and therewith smote the paw above the claws, and
took it off; then the beast was fain to smite at Grettir with the paw
that was whole, and dropped down therewith on to the docked one, but
it was shorter than he wotted of, and withal he tumbled into Grettir's
arms. Now he griped at the beast between the ears and held him off,
so that he got not at him to bite. And, so Grettir himself says, that
herein he deemed he had had the hardest trial of his strength, thus
to hold the brute. But now as it struggled fiercely, and the space
was narrow, they both tumbled down over the rock; the beast was the
heaviest of the two, and came down first upon the stone heap below,
Grettir being the uppermost, and the beast was much mangled on its
nether side. Now Grettir seized the short-sword and thrust it into
the heart of the bear, and that was his bane. Thereafter he went home,
taking with him his cloak all tattered, and withal what he had cut
from the paw of the bear. Thorkel sat a-drinking when he came into the
hall, and much men laughed at the rags of the cloak Grettir had cast
over him. Now he threw on to the table what he had chopped off the
Then said Thorkel, "Where is now Biorn my kinsman? never did I see thy
irons bite the like of this, Biorn, and my will it is, that thou make
Grettir a seemly offer for this shame thou hast wrought on him."
Biorn said that was like to be long about, "and never shall I care
whether he likes it well or ill."
Then Grettir sang--
"Oft that war-god came to hall
Frighted, when no blood did fall,
In the dusk; who ever cried
On the bear last autumn-tide;
No man saw me sitting there
Late at eve before the lair;
Yet the shaggy one to-day
From his den I drew away."
"Sure enough," said Biorn, "thou hast fared forth well to-day, and
two tales thou tellest of us twain therefor; and well I know that thou
hast had a good hit at me."
Thorkel said, "I would, Grettir, that thou wouldst not avenge thee on
Biorn, but for him I will give a full man-gild if thereby ye may be
Biorn said he might well turn his money to better account, than to
boot for this; "And, methinks it is wisest that in my dealings with
Grettir one oak should have what from the other it shaves."
Grettir said that he should like that very well. But Thorkel said,
"Yet I hope, Grettir, that thou wilt do this for my sake, not to do
aught against Biorn while ye are with me."
"That shall be," said Grettir.
Biorn said he would walk fearless of Grettir wheresoever they might
Grettir smiled mockingly, but would not take boot for Biorn. So they
were here that winter through.
Of the Slaying of Biorn.
In the spring Grettir went north to Vogar with chapmen. He and Thorkel
parted in friendship; but Biorn went west to England, and was the
master of Thorkel's ship that went thither. Biorn dwelt thereabout
that summer and bought such things for Thorkel as he had given him
word to get; but as the autumn wore on he sailed from the west.
Grettir was at Vogar till the fleet broke up; then he sailed from
the north with some chapmen until they came to a harbour at an island
before the mouth of Drontheimfirth, called Gartar, where they pitched
their tents. Now when they were housed, a ship came sailing havenward
from the south along the land; they soon saw that it was an England
farer; she took the strand further out, and her crew went ashore;
Grettir and his fellows went to meet them. But when they met, Grettir
saw that Biorn was among those men, and spake--
"It is well that we have met here; now we may well take up our ancient
quarrel, and now I will try which of us twain may do the most."
Biorn said that was an old tale to him, "but if there has been aught
of such things between us, I will boot for it, so that thou mayst
think thyself well holden thereof."
Then Grettir sang--
"In hard strife I slew the bear,
Thereof many a man doth hear;
Then the cloak I oft had worn,
By the beast to rags was torn;
Thou, O braggart ring-bearer,
Wrought that jest upon me there,
Now thou payest for thy jest,
Not in words am I the best?"
Biorn said, that oft had greater matters than these been atoned for.
Grettir said, "That few had chosen hitherto to strive to trip him up
with spite and envy, nor ever had he taken fee for such, and still
must matters fare in likewise. Know thou that we shall not both of us
go hence whole men if I may have my will, and a coward's name will I
lay on thy back, if thou darest not to fight."
Now Biorn saw that it would avail nought to try to talk himself free;
so he took his weapons and went aland.
Then they ran one at the other and fought, but not long before Biorn
got sore wounded, and presently fell dead to earth. But when Biorn's
fellows saw that, they went to their ship, and made off north along
the land to meet Thorkel and told him of this hap: he said it had not
come to pass ere it might have been looked for.
Soon after this Thorkel went south to Drontheim, and met there Earl
Svein. Grettir went south to Mere after the slaying of Biorn, and
found his friend Thorfinn, and told him what had befallen. Thorfinn
gave him good welcome, and said--
"It is well now that thou art in need of a friend; with me shalt thou
abide until these matters have come to an end."
Grettir thanked him for his offer, and said he would take it now.
Earl Svein was dwelling in Drontheim, at Steinker, when he heard of
Biorn's slaying; at that time there was with him Hiarandi, the brother
of Biorn, and he was the Earl's man; he was exceeding wroth when
he heard of the slaying of Biorn, and begged the Earl's aid in the
matter, and the Earl gave his word thereto.
Then he sent men to Thorfinn and summoned to him both him and Grettir.
Thorfinn and Grettir made ready at once at the Earl's bidding to go
north to Drontheim to meet him. Now the Earl held a council on the
matter, and bade Hiarandi to be thereat; Hiarandi said he would not
bring his brother to purse; "and I shall either fare in a like wise
with him, or else wreak vengeance for him." Now when the matter was
looked into, the Earl found that Biorn had been guilty towards Grettir
in many ways; and Thorfinn offered weregild, such as the Earl deemed
might be befitting for Biorn's kin to take; and thereon he had much
to say on the freedom which Grettir had wrought for men north there in
the land, when he slew the bearserks, as has been aforesaid.
The Earl answered, "With much truth thou sayest this, Thorfinn,
that was the greatest land-ridding, and good it seems to us to take
weregild because of thy words; and withal Grettir is a man well
renowned because of his strength and prowess."
Hiarandi would not take the settlement, and they broke up the meeting.
Thorfinn got his kinsman Arnbiorn to go about with Grettir day by day,
for he knew that Hiarandi lay in wait for his life.
The Slaying of Hiarandi.
It happened one day that Grettir and Arnbiorn were walking through
some streets for their sport, that as they came past a certain court
gate, a man bounded forth therefrom with axe borne aloft, and drave it
at Grettir with both hands; he was all unawares of this, and walked on
slowly; Arnbiorn caught timely sight of the man, and seized Grettir,
and thrust him on so hard that he fell on his knee; the axe smote the
shoulder-blade, and cut sideways out under the arm-pit, and a great
wound it was. Grettir turned about nimbly, and drew the short-sword,
and saw that there was Hiarandi. Now the axe stuck fast in the road,
and it was slow work for Hiarandi to draw it to him again, and in this
very nick of time Grettir hewed at him, and the blow fell on the upper
arm, near the shoulder, and cut it off; then the fellows of Hiarandi
rushed forth, five of them, and a fight forthwith befell, and speedy
change happed there, for Grettir and Arnbiorn slew those who were with
Hiarandi, all but one, who got off, and forthwith went to the Earl to
tell him these tidings.
The Earl was exceeding wroth when he heard of this, and the second day
thereafter he had a Thing summoned. Then they, Thorfinn and Grettir,
came both to the Thing. The Earl put forth against Grettir the guilt
for these manslaughters; he owned them all, and said he had had to
defend his hands.
"Whereof methinks I bear some marks on me," says Grettir, "and surely
I had found death if Arnbiorn had not saved me."
The Earl answered that it was ill hap that Grettir was not slain.
"For many a man's bane wilt thou be if thou livest, Grettir."
Then came to the Earl, Bessi, son of Skald-Torfa, a fellow and a
friend to Grettir; he and Thorfinn went before the Earl had prayed him
respite for Grettir, and offered, that the Earl alone should doom in
this matter, but that Grettir might have peace and leave to dwell in
The Earl was slow to come to any settlement, but suffered himself to
be led thereto because of their prayers. There respite was granted
to Grettir till the next spring; still the Earl would not settle the
peace till Gunnar, the brother of Biorn and Hiarandi, was thereat; now
Gunnar was a court-owner in Tunsberg.
In the spring, the Earl summoned Grettir and Thorfinn east to
Tunsberg, for he would dwell there east while the most sail was
thereat. Now they went east thither, and the Earl was before them in
the town when they came. Here Grettir found his brother, Thorstein
Dromond, who was fain of him and bade him abide with him: Thorstein
was a court-owner in the town. Grettir told him all about his matters,
and Thorstein gave a good hearing thereto, but bade him beware of
Gunnar. And so the spring wore on.
Of the Slaying of Gunnar, and Grettir's strife with Earl Svein.
Now Gunnar was in the town, and lay in wait for Grettir always
and everywhere. It happened on a day that Grettir sat in a booth
a-drinking, for he would not throw himself in Gunnar's way. But, when
he wotted of it the least, the door was driven at so that it brake
asunder, four men all-armed burst in, and there was Gunnar and his
They set on Grettir; but he caught up his weapons which hung over
him, and then drew aback into the corner, whence he defended himself,
having before him the shield, but dealing blows with the short-sword,
nor did they have speedy luck with him. Now he smote at one of
Gunnar's fellows, and more he needed not; then he advanced forth on
the floor, and therewith they were driven doorward through the booth,
and there fell another man of Gunnar's; then were Gunnar and his
fellows fain of flight; one of them got to the door, struck his foot
against the threshold and lay there grovelling and was slow in getting
to his feet. Gunnar had his shield before him, and gave back before
Grettir, but he set on him fiercely and leaped up on the cross-beam by
the door. Now the hands of Gunnar and the shield were within the door,
but Grettir dealt a blow down amidst Gunnar and the shield and cut off
both his hands by the wrist, and he fell aback out of the door; then
Grettir dealt him his death-blow.
But in this nick of time got to his feet Gunnar's man, who had lain
fallen awhile, and he ran straightway to see the Earl, and to tell him
Earl Svein was wondrous wroth at this tale, and forthwith summoned a
Thing in the town. But when Thorfinn and Thorstein Dromond knew this,
they brought together their kin and friends and came thronging to the
Thing. Very cross-grained was the Earl, and it was no easy matter to
come to speech with him. Thorfinn went up first before the Earl and
said, "For this cause am I come hither, to offer thee peace and honour
for these man-slayings that Grettir has wrought; thou alone shall
shape and settle all, if the man hath respite of his life."
The Earl answered sore wroth: "Late wilt thou be loth to ask respite
for Grettir; but in my mind it is that thou hast no good cause in
court; he has now slain three brothers, one at the heels of the other,
who were men so brave that they would none bear the other to purse.
Now it will not avail thee, Thorfinn, to pray for Grettir, for I
will not thus bring wrongs into the land so as to take boot for such
Then came forward Bessi, Skald-Torfa's son, and prayed the Earl to
take the offered settlement. "Thereto," he said, "I will give up my
goods, for Grettir is a man of great kin and a good friend of mine;
thou mayst well see, Lord, that it is better to respite one man's life
and to have therefor the thanks of many, thyself alone dooming the
fines, than to break down thine own honour, and risk whether thou
canst seize the man or not."
The Earl answered, "Thou farest well herein, Bessi, and showest at all
times that thou art a high-minded man; still I am loth thus to break
the laws of the land, giving respite to men of foredoomed lives."
Then stepped forth Thorstein Dromond and greeted the Earl, and made
offers on Grettir's behalf, and laid thereto many fair words. The Earl
asked for what cause he made offers for this man. Thorstein said that
they were brothers. The Earl said that he had not known it before:
"Now it is but the part of a man for thee to help him, but because
we have made up our mind not to take money for these man-slayings,
we shall make all men of equal worth here, and Grettir's life will we
have, whatsoever it shall cost and whensoever chance shall serve."
Thereat the Earl sprang up, and would listen in nowise to the offered
Now Thorfinn and his folk went home to Thorstein's court and made
ready. But when the Earl saw this he bade all his men take weapons,
and then he went thither with his folk in array. But before he came up
Thorfinn and his men ordered themselves for defence before the gate of
the court. Foremost stood Thorfinn and Thorstein and Grettir, and then
Bessi, and each of them had a large following of men with him.
The Earl bade them to give up Grettir, nor to bring themselves into an
evil strait; they made the very same offer as before. The Earl would
not hearken thereto. Then Thorfinn and Thorstein said that the Earl
should have more ado yet for the getting of Grettir's life, "For one
fate shall befall us all, and it will be said thou workest hard for
one man's life, if all we have to be laid on earth therefor."
The Earl said he should spare none of them, and now they were at the
very point to fight.
Then went to the Earl many men of goodwill, and prayed him not to
push matters on to such great evils, and said they would have to pay
heavily before all these were slain. The Earl found this rede to be
wholesome, and became somewhat softened thereat.
Thereafter they drew up an agreement to which Thorstein and Thorfinn
were willing enough, now that Grettir should have respite of his life.
The Earl spake: "Know ye," quoth he, "that though I deal by way of
mean words with these man-slayings at this time, yet I call this no
settlement, but I am loth to fight against my own folk; though I see
that ye make little of me in this matter."
Then said Thorfinn, "This is a greater honour for thee, Lord, for that
thou alone wilt doom the weregild."
Then the Earl said that Grettir should go in peace, as for him, out to
Iceland, when ships fared out, if so they would; they said that they
would take this. They paid the Earl fines to his mind, and parted from
him with little friendship. Grettir went with Thorfinn; he and his
brother Thorstein parted fondly.
Thorfinn got great fame for the aid he had given Grettir against such
overwhelming power as he had to deal with: none of the men who had
helped Grettir were ever after well loved of the Earl, save Bessi.
So quoth Grettir--
"To our helping came
The great of name;
Thorfinn was there
Born rule to bear;
When all bolts fell
Into locks, and hell
Cried out for my life
In the Tunsberg strife.
The Dromund fair
Of red seas was there,
The stone of the bane
Of steel-gods vain:
From Bylest's kin
My life to win,
Above all men
He laboured then.
Then the king's folk
Would strike no stroke
To win my head;
So great grew dread;
For the leopard came
With byrni's flame,
And on thoughts-burg wall
Should that bright fire fall."
Grettir went back north with Thorfinn, and was with him till he gat
him to ship with chapmen who were bound out to Iceland: he gave him
many fair gifts of raiment, and a fair-stained saddle and a bridle
withal. They parted in friendship, and Thorfinn bade him come to him
whensoever he should come back to Norway.
[Footnote 11: The stone of steel-god's bane in Thorstein; Bylest's kin
is Hel, death. The leopard is Bessi Skald-Torfason; byrni's flame, his
sword. Thoughts-burg, a warrior's head.]
The Slaying of Thorgils Makson.
Asmund the Greyhaired lived on at Biarg, while Grettir was abroad, and
by that time he was thought to be the greatest of bonders in Midfirth.
Thorkel Krafla died during those seasons that Grettir was out of
Iceland. Thorvald Asgeirson farmed then at the Ridge in Waterdale,
and waxed a great chief. He was the father of Dalla whom Isleif had to
wife, he who afterwards was bishop at Skalholt.
Asmund had in Thorvald the greatest help in suits and in many other
matters. At Asmund's grew up a man, hight Thorgils, called Thorgils
Makson, near akin to Asmund. Thorgils was a man of great strength and
gained much money by Asmund's foresight.
Asmund bought for Thorgils the land at Brookmeet, and there he farmed.
Thorgils was a great store-gatherer, and went a-searching to the
Strands every year, and there he gat for himself whales and other
gettings; and a stout-hearted man he was.
In those days was at its height the waxing of the foster-brothers,
Thorgeir Havarson and Thormod Coalbrowskald; they had a boat and went
therein far and wide, and were not thought men of much even-dealing.
It chanced one summer that Thorgils Makson found a whale on the common
drift-lands, and forthwith he and his folk set about cutting it up.
But when the foster-brothers heard thereof they went thither, and at
first their talk had a likely look out. Thorgils offered that they
should have the half of the uncut whale; but they would have for
themselves all the uncut, or else divide all into halves, both the cut
and the uncut. Thorgils flatly refused to give up what was cut of the
whale; and thereat things grew hot between them, and forthwithal both
sides caught up their weapons and fought. Thorgeir and Thorgils fought
long together without either losing or gaining, and both were of the
eagerest. Their strife was both fierce and long, but the end of it
was, that Thorgils fell dead to earth before Thorgeir; but Thormod and
the men of Thorgils fought in another place; Thormod had the best of
that strife, and three of Thorgils' men fell before him. After the
slaying of Thorgils, his folk went back east to Midfirth, and brought
his dead body with them. Men thought that they had the greatest loss
in him. But the foster-brothers took all the whale to themselves.
This meeting Thormod tells of in that drapa that he made on Thorgeir
dead. Asmund the Greyhaired heard of the slaying of Thorgils his
kinsman; he was suitor in the case for Thorgils' slaying, he went
and took witnesses to the wounds, and summoned the case before the
Althing, for then this seemed to be law, as the case had happened in
another quarter. And so time wears on.
Of Thorstein Kuggson, and the gathering for the Bloodsuit for the
Slaying of Thorgils Makson.
There was a man called Thorstein, he was the son of Thorkel Kugg, the
son of Thord the Yeller, the son of Olaf Feilan, the son of Thorstein
the Red, the son of Aud the Deeply-wealthy. The mother of Thorstein
Kuggson was Thurid the daughter of Asgeir Madpate, Asgeir was father's
brother of Asmund the Greyhaired.
Thorstein Kuggson was suitor in the case about Thorgils Makson's
slaying along with Asmund the Greyhaired, who now sent word to
Thorstein that he should come to meet him. Thorstein was a great
champion, and the wildest-tempered of men; he went at once to meet
his kinsman Asmund, and they talked the blood-suit over together.
Thorstein was mightily wroth and said that no atonement should be for
this, and said they had strength of kin enough to bring about for the
slaying either outlawry or vengeance on men. Asmund said that he
would follow him in whatsoever he would have done. They rode north to
Thorvald their kinsman to pray his aid, and he quickly gave his word
and said yea thereto. So they settled the suit against Thorgeir and
Thormod; then Thorstein rode home to his farmstead, he then farmed at
Liarskogar in Hvamsveit. Skeggi farmed at Hvam, he also joined in the
suit with Thorstein. Skeggi was the son of Thorarinn Fylsenni, the son
of Thord the Yeller; the mother of Skeggi was Fridgerd, daughter of
Thord of Head.
These had a many men with them at the Thing, and pushed their suit
with great eagerness.
Asmund and Thorvald rode from the north with six tens of men, and sat
at Liarskogar many nights.
The Suit for the Slaying of Thorgils Makson.
A man hight Thorgils abode at Reek-knolls in those days, he was the
son of Ari, the son of Mar, the son of Atli the Red, the son of Ulf
the Squinter, who settled at Reekness; the mother of Thorgils Arisen
was Thorgerd, the daughter of Alf a-Dales; another daughter of Alf was
Thorelf, mother of Thorgeir Havarson. There had Thorgeir good kinship
to trust in, for Thorgils was the greatest chief in the Westfirthers'
quarter. He was a man of such bountifulness, that he gave food to any
free-born man as long as he would have it, and therefore there was at
all times a throng of people at Reek-knolls; thus had Thorgils much
renown of his house-keeping. He was a man withal of good will and
foreknowledge. Thorgeir was with Thorgils in winter, but went to the
Strands in summer.
After the slaying of Thorgils Makson, Thorgeir went to Reek-knolls and
told Thorgils Arisen these tidings; Thorgils said that he was ready to
give him harbour with him, "But, methinks," he says, "that they will
be heavy in the suit, and I am loth to eke out the troubles. Now I
shall send a man to Thorstein and bid weregild for the slaying of
Thorgils; but if he will not take atonement I shall not defend the
Thorgeir said he would trust to his foresight. In autumn Thorgils
sent a man to Thorstein Kuggson to try settling the case, but he was
cross-grained to deal with as to the taking money for the blood-suit
of Thorgils Makson; but about the other man-slayings, he said he
would do as wise men should urge him. Now when Thorgils heard this, he
called Thorgeir to him for a talk, and asked him what kind of aid he
now deemed meetest for him; Thorgeir said that it was most to his mind
to go abroad if he should be outlawed. Thorgils said that should be
tried. A ship lay up Northriver in Burgfirth; in that keel Thorgils
secretly paid faring for the foster-brothers, and thus the winter
passed. Thorgils heard that Asmund and Thorstein drew together many
men to the Althing, and sat in Liarskogar. He drew out the time of
riding from home, for he would that Asmund and Thorstein should have
ridden by before him to the south, when he came from the west; and
so it fell out. Thorgils rode south, and with him rode the
foster-brothers. In this ride Thorgeir killed Bundle-Torfi of
Marswell, and Skuf withal, and Biarni in Dog-dale; thus says Thormod
"Mighty strife the warrior made,
When to earth was Makson laid,
Well the sword-shower wrought he there,
Flesh the ravens got to tear;
Then when Skuf and Biarni fell,
He was there the tale to tell;
Sea-steed's rider took his way
Through the thickest of the fray."
Thorgils settled the peace for the slaying of Skuf and Biarni then
and there in the Dale, and delayed no longer than his will was before;
Thorgeir went to ship, but Thorgils to the Althing, and came not
thither until men were going to the courts.
Then Asmund the Greyhaired challenged the defence for the blood-suit
on the slaying of Thorgils Makson. Thorgils went to the court and
offered weregild for the slaying, if thereby Thorgeir might become
free of guilt; he put forth for defence in the suit whether they had
not free catch on all common foreshores. The lawman was asked if this
was a lawful defence. Skapti was the lawman, and backed Asmund for the
sake of their kinship. He said this was law if they were equal men,
but said that bonders had a right to take before batchelors. Asmund
said that Thorgils had offered an even sharing to the foster-brothers
in so much of the whale as was uncut when they came thereto; and
therewith that way of defence was closed against them. Now Thorstein
and his kin followed up the suit with much eagerness, and nought was
good to them but that Thorgeir should be made guilty.
Thorgils saw that one of two things was to be done, either to set on
with many men, not knowing what might be gained thereby, or to suffer
them to go on as they would; and, whereas Thorgeir had been got on
board ship, Thorgils let the suit go on unheeded.
Thorgeir was outlawed, but for Thormod was taken weregild, and he to
be quit. By this blood-suit Thorstein and Asmund were deemed to have
waxed much. And now men ride home from the Thing.
Some men would hold talk that Thorgils had lightly backed the case,
but he heeded their talk little, and let any one say thereon what he
But when Thorgeir heard of this outlawry, he said--
"Fain am I that those who have made me an outlaw should have full pay
for this, ere all be over."
There was a man called Gaut Sleitason, who was akin to Thorgils
Makson. Gaut had made ready to go in this same ship wherein Thorgeir
was to sail. He bristled up against Thorgeir, and showed mighty
ill-will against him and went about scowling; when the chapmen found
this out, they thought it far from safe that both should sail in one
ship. Thorgeir said he heeded not how much soever Gaut would bend his
brows on him; still it was agreed that Gaut should take himself off
from the ship, whereupon he went north into the upper settlements,
and that time nought happed between him and Thorgeir, but out of this
sprang up between them ill blood, as matters showed after.
Grettir comes out to Iceland again.
This summer Grettir Asmundson came out to Skagafirth: he was in those
days so famed a man for strength and prowess, that none was deemed
his like among young men. He rode home to Biarg forthwith, and Asmund
welcomed him meetly. At that time Atli managed the farming matters,
and well things befell betwixt the brothers.
But now Grettir waxed so overbearing, that he deemed that nought was
too much for him to do. At that time had many men grown into full
manhood who were young in the days when Grettir was wont to play with
them on Midfirth-water before he went abroad; one of these was Audun,
who then dwelt at Audunstead, in Willowdale; he was the son of Asgeir,
the son of Audun, the son of Asgeir Madpate; of all men he was the
strongest north there; but he was thought to be the gentlest of
neighbours. Now it came into Grettir's mind that he had had the worst
of Audun in that ball-play whereof is told before; and now he would
fain try which of the twain had ripened the most since then. For this
cause Grettir took his way from home, and fared unto Audunstead.
This was in early mowing tide; Grettir was well dight, and rode in a
fair-stained saddle of very excellent workmanship, which Thorfinn had
given him; a good horse he had withal, and all weapons of the best.
Grettir came early in the day to Audunstead, and knocked at the door.
Few folk were within; Grettir asked if Audun was at home. Men said
that he had gone to fetch victuals from the hill-dairy. Then Grettir
took the bridle off his horse; the field was unmowed, and the horse
went whereas the grass was the highest. Grettir went into the hall,
sat down on the seat-beam, and thereon fell asleep. Soon after Audun
came home, and sees a horse grazing in the field with a fair-stained
saddle on; Audun was bringing victuals on two horses, and carried
curds on one of them, in drawn-up hides, tied round about: this
fashion men called curd-bags. Audun took the loads off the horses and
carried the curd-bags in his arms into the house.
Now it was dark before his eyes, and Grettir stretched his foot from
out the beam so that Audun fell flat down head-foremost on to the
curd-bag, whereby the bonds of the bag brake; Audun leaped up and
asked who was that rascal in the way. Grettir named himself.
Then said Audun, "Rashly hast thou done herein; what is thine errand
Grettir said, "I will fight with thee."
"First I will see about my victuals," said Audun.
"That thou mayst well do," said Grettir, "if thou canst not charge
other folk therewith."
Then Audun stooped down and caught up the curd-bag and dashed it
against Grettir's bosom, and bade him first take what was sent him;
and therewith was Grettir all smothered in the curds; and a greater
shame he deemed that than if Audun had given him a great wound.
Now thereon they rushed at one another and wrestled fiercely; Grettir
set on with great eagerness, but Audun gave back before him. Yet he
feels that Grettir has outgrown him in strength. Now all things in
their way were kicked out of place, and they were borne on wrestling
to and fro throughout all the hall; neither spared his might, but
still Grettir was the toughest of the twain, and at last Audun fell,
having torn all weapons from Grettir.
Now they grapple hard with one another, and huge cracking was all
around them. Withal a great din was heard coming through the earth
underneath the farmstead, and Grettir heard some one ride up to the
houses, get off his horse, and stride in with great strides; he sees
a man come up, of goodly growth, in a red kirtle and with a helmet on
his head. He took his way into the hall, for he had heard clamorous
doings there as they were struggling together; he asked what was in
Grettir named himself, "But who asks thereof?" quoth he.
"Bardi am I hight," said the new comer.
"Art thou Bardi, the son of Gudmund, from Asbiornsness?"
"That very man am I," said Bardi; "but what art thou doing?"
Grettir said, "We, Audun and I, are playing here in sport."
"I know not as to the sport thereof," said Bardi, "nor are ye even men
either; thou art full of unfairness and overbearing, and he is easy
and good to deal with; so let him stand up forthwith."
Grettir said, "Many a man stretches round the door to the lock;
and meseems it lies more in thy way to avenge thy brother Hall
than to meddle in the dealings betwixt me and Audun."
[Footnote 12: Who was killed in Norway by the sons of Harek, and whose
revenge is told of in the Saga of the Heath slayings (existing in
"At all times I hear this," said Bardi, "nor know I if that will be
avenged, but none the less I will that thou let Audun be at peace, for
he is a quiet man."
Grettir did so at Bardi's bidding, nathless, little did it please him.
Bardi asked for what cause they strove.
"Prithee, Audun, who can tell,
But that now thy throat shall swell;
That from rough hands thou shalt gain
By our strife a certain pain.
E'en such wrong as I have done,
I of yore from Audun won,
When the young, fell-creeping lad
At his hands a choking had."
Bardi said that certes it was a matter to be borne with, if he had had
to avenge himself.
"Now I will settle matters between you," quoth Bardi; "I will that ye
part, leaving things as they are, that thereby there may be an end of
all between you."
This they let hold good, but Grettir took ill liking to Bardi and his
Now they all rode off, and when they were somewhat on their way,
"I have heard that thou hast will to go to Burgfirth this summer, and
I now offer to go south with thee; and methinks that herein I do for
thee more than thou art worthy of."
Hereat was Bardi glad, and speedily said yea thereto, and bade him
have thanks for this; and thereupon they parted. But a little after
Bardi came back and said--
"I will have it known that thou goest not unless my foster-father
Thorarin will have it so, for he shall have all the rule of the
"Well mightest thou, methinks, have full freedom as to thine own
redes," said Grettir, "and my faring I will not have laid under the
choice of other folk; and I shall mislike it if thou easiest me aside
from thy fellowship."
Now either went their way, and Bardi said he should let Grettir know
for sure if Thorarin would that he should fare with him, but that
otherwise he might sit quiet at home. Grettir rode home to Biarg, but
Bardi to his own house.
Of the Horse-fight at Longfit.
That summer was settled to be a great horse-fight at Longfit, below
Reeks. Thither came many men. Atli of Biarg had a good horse, a
black-maned roan of Keingala's kin, and father and son had great love
for that horse. The brothers, Kormak and Thorgils of Meal, had a brown
horse, trusty in fight. These were to fight their horse against Atli
of Biarg. And many other good horses were there.
Odd, the Foundling-skald, of Kormak's kin, was to follow the horse
of his kinsman through the day. Odd was then growing a big man, and
bragged much of himself, and was untameable and reckless. Grettir
asked of Atli his brother, who should follow his horse.
"I am not so clear about that," said he.
"Wilt thou that I stand by it?" said Grettir.
"Be thou then very peaceable, kinsman," said Atli, "for here have we
to deal with overbearing men."
"Well, let them pay for their own insolence," said Grettir, "if they
know not how to hold it back."
Now are the horses led out, but all stood forth on the river-bank tied
together. There was a deep hollow in the river down below the bank.
The horses bit well at each other, and the greatest sport it was.
Odd drave on his horse with all his might, but Grettir held back, and
seized the tail with one hand, and the staff wherewith he goaded the
horse he held in the other. Odd stood far before his horse, nor was it
so sure that he did not goad Atli's horse from his hold. Grettir made
as if he saw it not. Now the horses bore forth towards the river. Then
Odd drave his staff at Grettir, and smote the shoulder-blade, for that
Grettir turned the shoulder towards him: that was so mighty a stroke,
that the flesh shrank from under it, but Grettir was little scratched.
Now in that nick of time the horses reared up high, and Grettir ran
under his horse's hocks, and thrust his staff so hard at the side
of Odd that three ribs brake in him, but he was hurled out into deep
water, together with his horse and all the horses that were tied
together. Then men swam out to him and dragged him out of the river;
then was a great hooting made thereat; Kormak's folk ran to their
weapons, as did the men of Biarg in another place. But when the
Ramfirthers and the men of Waterness saw that, they went betwixt them,
and they were parted and went home, but both sides had ill-will one
with the other, though they sat peacefully at home for a while.
Atli was sparing of speech over this, but Grettir was right unsparing,
and said that they would meet another time if his will came to pass.
Of Thorbiorn Oxmain and Thorbiorn Tardy, and of Grettir's meeting
with Kormak on Ramfirth-neck.
Thorbiorn was the name of a man who dwelt at Thorodstead in Ramfirth;
he was the son of Arnor Hay-nose, the son of Thorod, who had
settled Ramfirth on that side out as far as Bank was on the other.
[Footnote 13: In the Landnama he is called 'Hy-nef;' the meaning is
doubtful, but it seems that the author of this history means to call
Thorbiorn was the strongest of all men; he was called Oxmain. Thorod
was the name of his brother, he was called Drapa-Stump; their mother
was Gerd, daughter of Bodvar, from Bodvars-knolls. Thorbiorn was a
great and hardy warrior, and had many men with him; he was noted as
being worse at getting servants than other men, and barely gave he
wages to any man, nor was he thought a good man to deal with. There
was a kinsman of his hight Thorbiorn, and bynamed Tardy; he was a
sailor, and the namesakes were partners. He was ever at Thorodstead,
and was thought to better Thorbiorn but little. He was a fault-finding
fellow, and went about jeering at most men.
There was a man hight Thorir, the son of Thorkel of Boardere. He
farmed first at Meals in Ramfirth; his daughter was Helga, whom
Sleita-Helgi had to wife, but after the man-slaying in Fairslope
Thorir set up for himself his abode south in Hawkdale, and farmed at
the Pass, and sold the land at Meals to Thorhall, son of Gamli the
Vendlander. His son was Gamli, who had to wife Ranveig, daughter
of Asmund the Greyhaired, and Grettir's sister. They dwelt at that
time at Meals, and had good hap. Thorir of the Pass had two sons, one
hight Gunnar, the other Thorgeir; they were both hopeful men, and
had then taken the farm after their father, yet were for ever with
Thorbiorn Oxmain, and were growing exceeding unruly.
[Footnote 14: Ed. 1853 has the "Wide-landed, Viethlendings," which here
is altered agreeably to the correction in ch. 14, p. 29.]
The summer after that just told, Kormak and Thorgils and Narfi their
kinsman rode south to Northriverdale, on some errand of theirs. Odd
the Foundling-skald fared also with them, and by then was gotten
healed of the stiffness he gained at the horse-fight. But while they
were south of the heath, Grettir fared from Biarg, and with him two
house-carles of Atli's. They rode over to Bowerfell, and thence over
the mountain neck to Ramfirth, and came to Meals in the evening.
They were there three nights; Ranveig and Gamli welcomed Grettir well,
and bade him abide with them, but he had will to ride home.
Then Grettir heard that Kormak and his fellows were come from the
south, and had guested at Tongue through the night. Grettir got ready
early to leave Meals; Gamli offered him men to go with him. Now Grim
was the name of Gamli's brother; he was of all men the swiftest; he
rode with Grettir with another man; they were five in all. Thus they
rode on till they came to Ramfirth-neck, west of Bowerfell. There
stands a huge stone that is called Grettir's heave; for he tried long
that day to lift that stone, and thus they delayed till Kormak and his
fellows were come. Grettir rode to meet them, and both sides jumped
off their horses. Grettir said it was more like free men now to
deal blows of the biggest, than to fight with staves like wandering
churles. Then Kormak bade them take the challenge in manly wise, and
do their best. Thereafter they ran at one another and fought. Grettir
went before his men, and bade them take heed, that none came at his
back. Thus they fought a while, and men were wounded on both sides.
Now Thorbiorn Oxmain had ridden that day over the neck to Bowerfell,
and when he rode back he saw their meeting. There were with him then
Thorbiorn the Tardy, and Gunnar and Thorgeir, Thorir's sons, and
Thorod Drapa-Stump. Now when they came thereto, Thorbiorn called on
his men to go between them. But the others were by then so eager that
they could do nought. Grettir broke forth fiercely, and before him
were the sons of Thorir, and they both fell as he thrust them from
him; they waxed exceeding furious thereat, insomuch that Gunnar dealt
a death-blow at a house-carle of Atli; and when Thorbiorn saw that,
he bade them part, saying withal that he would aid which side soever
should pay heed to his words. By then were fallen two house-carles of
Kormak, but Grettir saw, that it would hardly do if Thorbiorn should
bring aid to them against him, wherefore now he gave up the battle,
and all were wounded who had been at that meeting. But much it
misliked Grettir that they had been parted.
Thereafter either side rode home, nor did they settle peace after
these slayings. Thorbiorn the Tardy made much mocking at all this,
therefore things began to worsen betwixt the men of Biarg and
Thorbiorn Oxmain, so that therefrom fell much ill-will as came to be
known after. No boot was bidden to Atli for his house-carle, but
he made as if he knew it not. Grettir sat at home at Biarg until
Twainmonth. Nor is it said in story that he and Kormak met ever
again after these things betid.
[Footnote 15: The second month in the year, corresponding to our
How Grettir met Bardi, the Son of Gudmund, as he came back from the
Bardi, the son of Gudmund, and his brothers, rode home to Asbiornsness
after their parting with Grettir.
They were the sons of Gudmund, the son of Solmund. The mother of
Solmund was Thorlaug, the daughter of Saemund, the South-Island man,
the foster-brother of Ingimund the Old, and Bardi was a very noble
Now soon he rode to find Thorarin the Wise, his foster-father. He
welcomed Bardi well, and asked what gain he had got of followers and
aid, for they had before taken counsel over Bardi's journey. Bardi
answered that he had got the aid of that man to his fellow, whose aid
he deemed better than that of any other twain. Thorarin got silent
thereat, and then said,
"That man will be Grettir Asmundson."
"Sooth is the sage's guess," said Bardi; "that is the very man,
Thorarin answered, "True it is, that Grettir is much before any other
man of those who are to choose in our land, and late will he be won
with weapons, if he be hale, yet it misdoubts me how far he will bring
thee luck; but of thy following all must not be luckless, and enough
ye will do, though he fare not with thee: nowise shall he go if I may
have my will."
"This I could not have deemed, foster-father," said he, "that thou
wouldst grudge me the aid of the bravest of men, if my need should be
hard. A man cannot foresee all things when he is driven on as methinks
"Thou wilt do well," said Thorarin; "though thou abidest by my
Now thus must things be, even as Thorarin would, that no word more was
sent to Grettir, but Bardi fared south to Burgfirth, and then befell
Grettir was at Biarg when he heard that Bardi had ridden south; he
started up in anger for that no word had been sent to him, and said
that not thus should they part. He had news of them when they
were looked for coming from the south, and thereat he rode down to
Thorey's-peak, for the waylaying of Bardi's folk as they came back
from the south: he fared from the homestead up on to the hill-side,
and abode there. That same day rode Bardi and his men north over
Twodaysway, from the Heath-slayings; they were six in all, and every
man sore wounded; and when they came forth by the homestead, then said
"A man there is up on the hill-side; a big man, armed. What man do ye
take him to be?"
They said that they wotted not who he was.
Bardi said, "Methinks there," quoth he, "is Grettir Asmundson; and if
so it is, there will he meet us. I deem that it has misliked him that
he fared not with us, but methinks we are not in good case, if he be
bent on doing us harm. I now shall send after men to Thorey's-peak,
and stake nought on the chance of his ill-will."
They said this was a good rede, and so was it done.
Thereafter Bardi and his folk rode on their way. Grettir saw where
they fared, and went in the way before them, and when they met, either
Grettir asked for tidings, but Bardi told them fearlessly, even as
they were. Grettir asked what men were in that journey with him. Bardi
said that there were his brothers, and Eyulf his brother-in-law.
"Thou hast now cleared thyself from all blame," said Grettir; "but now
is it best that we try between us who is of most might here."
Said Bardi, "Too nigh to my garth have deeds of hard need been, than
that I should fight with thee without a cause, and well methinks have
I thrust these from me."
"Thou growest soft, methinks, Bardi," said Grettir, "since thou durst
not fight with me."
"Call that what thou wilt," said Bardi; "but in some other stead would
I that thou wreak thine high-handedness than here on me; and that is
like enough, for now does thy rashness pass all bounds."
Grettir thought ill of his spaedom, and now doubted within himself
whether he should set on one or other of them; but it seemed rash to
him, as they were six and he one: and in that nick of time came up the
men from Thorey's-peak to the aid of Bardi and his folk; then Grettir
drew off from them, and turned aside to his horse. But Bardi and his
fellows went on their way, nor were there farewells between them at
No further dealings between Bardi and Grettir are told of after these
Now so has Grettir said that he deemed himself well matched to fight
with most men, though they were three together, but he would have no
mind to flee before four, without trying it; but against more would
he fight only if he must needs defend his hand, as is said in this
"My life trust I 'gainst three
Skilled in Mist's mystery;
Whatso in Hilda's weather
Shall bring the swords together;
If over four they are
My wayfaring that bar
No gale of swords will I
Wake with them willingly."
After his parting with Bardi, Grettir fared to Biarg, and very ill he
it thought that he might nowhere try his strength, and searched all
about if anywhere might be somewhat wherewith he might contend.
Of the Haunting at Thorhall-stead; and how Thorhall took a Shepherd
by the rede of Skapti the Lawman, and of what befell thereafter.
There was a man hight Thorhall, who dwelt at Thorhall-stead, in
Shady-vale, which runs up from Waterdale. Thorhall was the son of
Grim, son of Thorhall, the son of Fridmund, who settled Shady-vale.
Thorhall had a wife hight Gudrun. Grim was their son, and Thurid their
daughter; they were well-nigh grown up.
Thorhall was a rich man, but mostly in cattle, so that no man had so
much of live-stock as he. He was no chief, but an honest bonder he
was. Much was that place haunted, and hardly could he get a shepherd
that he deemed should serve his turn. He sought counsel of many men
as to what he might do therewith, but none gave him a rede that might
serve him. Thorhall rode each summer to the Thing, and good horses
he had. But one summer at the Althing, Thorhall went to the booth
of Skapti Thorodson the Lawman. Skapti was the wisest of men, and
wholesome were his redes when folk prayed him for them. But he and his
father differed thus much, that Thorod was foretelling, and yet was
called under-handed of some folk; but Skapti showed forth to every
man what he deemed would avail most, if it were not departed from,
therefore was he called "Father-betterer."
Now Thorhall went into Skapti's booth, and Skapti greeted him well,
for he knew that he was a man rich in cattle, and he asked him what
were the tidings.
Thorhall answered, "A wholesome counsel would I have from thee."
"Little am I meet for that," said Skapti; "but what dost thou stand in
Thorhall said, "So is the matter grown to be, that but a little while
do my shepherds avail me; for ever will they get badly hurt; but
others will not serve to the end, and now no one will take the job
when he knows what bides in the way."
Skapti answered, "Some evil things shall be there then, since men
are more unwilling to watch thy sheep than those of other men. Now,
therefore, as thou hast sought rede of me, I shall get thee a shepherd
who is hight Glam, a Swede, from Sylgsdale, who came out last summer,
a big man and a strong, though he is not much to the mind of most
Thorhall said he heeded that little if he watched the sheep well.
Skapti said that little would be the look out for others, if he could
not watch them, despite his strength and daring.
Then Thorhall went out from him, and this was towards the breaking
up of the Thing. Thorhall missed two dun horses, and fared himself to
seek for them; wherefore folk deem that he was no great man. He went
up to Sledgehill, and south along the fell which is called Armansfell;
then he saw how a man fared down from Godi's-wood, and bore faggots on
a horse. Soon they met together, and Thorhall asked him of his name.
He said that he was called Glam. This man was great of growth,
uncouth to look on; his eyes were grey and glaring, and his hair was
Thorhall stared at him somewhat when he saw this man, till he saw that
this was he to whom he had been sent.
"What work hast thou best will to do?" said Thorhall.
Glam said, "That he was of good mind to watch sheep in winter."
"Wilt thou watch my sheep?" said Thorhall. "Skapti has given thee to
"So only shall my service avail thee, if I go of my own will, for I am
evil of mood if matters mislike me," quoth Glam.
"I fear no hurt thereof," said Thorhall, "and I will that thou fare to
"That may I do," said Glam, "perchance there are some troubles there?"
"Folk deem the place haunted," said Thorhall.
"Such bugs will not scare me," quoth Glam; "life seems to me less
"It must needs seem so," said Thorhall, "and truly it is better that a
mannikin be not there."
Thereafter they struck bargain together, and Glam is to come at winter
nights: then they parted, and Thorhall found his horses even where he
had just been searching. Thorhall rode home, and thanked Skapti for
his good deed.
Summer slipped away, and Thorhall heard nought of his shepherd, nor
did any man know aught about him; but at the appointed time he came
to Thorhall-stead. The bonder greeted him well, but none of the other
folk could abide him, and the good wife least of all.
Now he took to the sheep-watching, and little trouble it seemed to
give him; he was big-voiced and husky, and all the beasts would run
together when he whooped. There was a church at Thorhall-stead, but
nowise would Glam come therein; he was a loather of church-song, and
godless, foul-tempered, and surly, and no man might abide him.
Now passed the time till it came to Yule-eve; then Glam got up and
straightway called for his meat. The good wife said--
"No Christian man is wont to eat meat this day, be-. cause that on the
morrow is the first day of Yule," says she, "wherefore must men first
He answers, "Many follies have ye, whereof I see no good come, nor
know I that men fare better now than when they paid no heed to such
things; and methinks the ways of men were better when they were called
heathens; and now will I have my meat, and none of this fooling."
Then said the housewife, "I know for sure that thou shall fare ill
to-day, if thou takest up this evil turn."
Glam bade her bring food straightway, and said that she should fare
the worse else. She durst do but as he would, and so when he was full,
he went out, growling and grumbling.
Now the weather was such, that mirk was over all, and the snow-flakes
drave down, and great din there was, and still all grew much the
worse, as the day slipped away.
Men heard the shepherd through the early morning, but less of him
as the day wore; then it took to snowing, and by evening there was
a great storm; then men went to church, and thus time drew on to
nightfall; and Glam came not home; then folk held talk, as to whether
search should not be made for him, but, because of the snow-storm and
pitch darkness, that came to nought.
Now he came not home on the night of Yule-eve; and thus men abide till
after the time of worship; but further on in the day men fared out to
the search, and found the sheep scattered wide about in fens, beaten
down by the storm, or strayed up into the mountains. Thereafter they
came on a great beaten place high up in the valley, and they thought
it was as if strong wrestling had gone on there; for that all about
the stones had been uptorn and the earth withal; now they looked
closely and saw where Glam lay a little way therefrom; he was dead,
and as blue as hell, and as great as a neat.
Huge loathing took them, at the sight of him, and they shuddered in
their souls at him, yet they strove to bring him to church, but could
get him only as far as a certain gil-edge a little way below.
Then they fared home to the farm, and told the bonder what had happed.
He asked what was like to have been Glam's bane. They said they had
tracked steps as great as if a cask-bottom had been stamped down, from
there where the beaten place was, up to beneath sheer rocks which were
high up the valley, and there along went great stains of blood. Now
men drew from this, that the evil wight which had been there before
had killed Glam, but had got such wounds as had been full enough for
him, for of him none has since been ware.
The second day of Yule men went afresh to try to bring Glam to church;
drag horses were put to him, but could move him nowhere where they
had to go on even ground and not down hill; then folk had to go away
therefrom leaving things done so far.
The third day the priest fared with them, and they sought all day, but
found not Glam. The priest would go no more on such search, but the
herdsman was found whenso the priest was not in their company. Then
they let alone striving to bring him to church, and buried him there
whereto he had been brought.
A little time after men were ware that Glam lay not quiet. Folk got
great hurt therefrom, so that many fell into swoons when they saw him,
but others lost their wits thereby. But just after Yule men thought
they saw him home at the farm. Folk became exceeding afeard thereat,
and many fled there and then. Next Glam took to riding the house-roofs
at night, so that he went nigh to breaking them in. Now he walked
well-nigh night and day. Hardly durst men fare up into the dale,
though they had errands enough there. And much scathe the men of the
country-side deemed all this.
Of the doings of Glam at Thorhall-stead.
In the spring Thorhall got serving-men, and set up house at his farm;
then the hauntings began to go off while the sun was at its height;
and so things went on to midsummer. That summer a ship came out to
Hunawater, wherein was a man named Thorgaut. He was an outlander of
kin, big and stout, and two men's strength he had. He was unhired
and single, and would fain do some work, for he was moneyless. Now
Thorhall rode to the ship, and asked Thorgaut if he would work for
him. Thorgaut said that might be, and moreover that he was not nice
"Be sure in thy mind," said Thorhall, "that mannikins are of small
avail there because of the hauntings that have been going on there for
one while now; for I will not draw thee on by wiles."
Thorgaut answers, "I deem not myself given up, though I should see
some wraithlings; matters will not be light when I am scared, nor will
I give up my service for that."
Now they come speedily to a bargain, and Thorgaut is to watch the
sheep when winter comes. So the summer wore on, and Thorgaut betook
himself to the shepherding at winter nights, and all liked him well.
But ever came Glam home and rode the house-roofs; this Thorgaut deemed
sport enough, and quoth he--
"The thrall must come nigher to scare me."
Thorhall bade him keep silence over that. "Better will it be that ye
have no trial together."
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