The Story of Grettir The Strong
Translated by Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris
Part 4 out of 6
Grettir meets Hallmund on the Keel.
Now Grettir fared from Tongue up to Hawkdale, and thence north upon
the Keel, and kept about there long that summer; nor was there trust
of him that he would not take men's goods from them, as they went from
or to the north over the Keel, because he was hard put to it to get
Now on a day, when as Grettir would keep about the north at
Doveness-path, he saw a man riding from the north over the Keel; he
was huge to behold on horseback, and had a good horse, and an embossed
bridle well wrought; another horse he had in tow and bags thereon;
this man had withal a slouched hat on his head, nor could his face be
Now Grettir looked hard at the horse and the goods thereon, and went
to meet the man, and greeting him asked his name, but he said he was
called Air. "I wot well what thou art called," said he, "for thou
shalt be Grettir the Strong, the son of Asmund. Whither art thou
"As to the place I have not named it yet," said Grettir; "but as to
my errand, it is to know if thou wilt lay down some of the goods thou
Said Air, "Why should I give thee mine own, or what wilt thou give me
Grettir answers, "Hast thou not heard that I take, and give no money
again? and yet it seems to most men that I get what I will."
Said Air, "Give such choice as this to those who deem it good, but not
thus will I give up what I have; let each of us go his own way."
And therewithal he rode forth past Grettir and spurred his horse.
"Nay, we part not so hastily," said Grettir, and laid hold of the
reins of Air's horse in front of his hands, and held on with both
Said Air, "Go thy ways, nought thou hast of me if I may hold mine
"That will now be proven," said Grettir.
Now Air stretched his hands down the head-gear and laid hold of the
reins betwixt Grettir's hands and the snaffle-rings and dragged at
them so hard that Grettir's hands were drawn down along the reins,
till Air dragged all the bridle from him.
Grettir looked into the hollow of his hands, and saw that this man
must have strength in claws rather than not, and he looked after him,
and said, "Whither art thou minded to fare?"
Air answered and sang--
"To the Kettle's side
Now will I ride,
Where the waters fall
From the great ice-wall;
If thou hast mind
There mayest thou find
With little stone
Fist's land alone."
[Footnote 17: Hall, a "stone": mund, is hand, and by periphrasis "land
of fist"; so that Hallmund is meant by this couplet, and that was the
real name of "Air," who is not a mere man, but a friendly spirit of
Grettir said, "It is of no avail to seek after thine abode if thou
tellest of it no clearer than this."
Then Air spake and sang--
"I would not hide
Where I abide,
If thou art fain
To see me again;
From that lone weald,
Over Burgfirth field,
That ye men name
Balljokul, I came."
Thereat they parted, and Grettir sees that he has no strength against
this man; and therewithal he sang a stave--
"Too far on this luckless day,
Atli, good at weapon-play,
Brisk Illugi were from me;
Such-like oft I shall not be
As I was, when I must stand
With the reins drawn through my hand
By the unflinching losel Air.
Maids weep when they know I fear."
Thereafter Grettir went to the south from the Keel; and rode to Hjalli
and found Skapti, and prayed for watch and ward from him.
Skapti said, "It is told me that thou farest somewhat lawlessly, and
layest hand on other men's goods; and this beseems thee ill, great of
kin as thou art. Now all would make a better tale, if thou didst not
rob and reive; but whereas I have to bear the name of lawman in the
land, folk would not abide that I should take outlawed men to me, and
break the laws thereby. I will that thou seek some place wherein thou
wilt not have need to take men's goods from them."
Grettir said he would do even so, yet withal that he might scarcely be
alone because he so feared the dark.
Skapti said that of that one thing then, which he deemed the best, he
might not avail himself; "But put not such trust in any as to fare as
thou didst in the Westfirths; it has been many a man's bane that he
has been too trustful."
Grettir thanked him for his wholesome redes, and so turned back to
Burgfirth in the autumn, and found Grim Thorhallson, his friend,
and told him of Skapti's counsels; so Grim bade him fare north to
Fishwater lakes on Ernewaterheath; and thus did he.
Of Grettir on Ernewaterheath, and his dealings with Grim there.
Grettir went up to Ernewaterheath and made there a hut for himself
(whereof are yet signs left) and dwelt there, for now was he fain to
do anything rather than rob and reive; he got him nets and a boat
and caught fish for his food; exceeding dreary he deemed it in the
mountains, because he was so fearsome of the dark.
But when other outlaws heard this, that Grettir was come down there,
many of them had a mind to see him, because they thought there was
much avail of him. There was a man called Grim, a Northlander, who
was an outlaw; with him the Northlanders made a bargain that he should
slay Grettir, and promised him freedom and gifts of money, if he
should bring it to pass; so he went to meet Grettir, and prayed him to
take him in.
Grettir answers, "I see not how thou art the more holpen for being
with me, and troublous to heed are ye wood-folk; but ill I deem it to
be alone, if other choice there were; but I will that such an one only
be with me as shall do whatso work may befall."
Grim said he was of no other mind, and prayed hard that he might dwell
there; then Grettir let himself be talked round, and took him in; and
he was there on into the winter, and watched Grettir, but deemed it
no little matter to set on him. Grettir misdoubted him, and had his
weapons by his side night and day, nor durst Grim attack him while he
But one morning whenas Grim came in from fishing, he went into the hut
and stamped with his foot, and would know whether Grettir slept, but
he started in nowise, but lay still; and the short-sword hung up over
Now Grim thought that no better chance would happen, so he made a
great noise, that Grettir might chide him, therefore, if he were
awake, but that befell not. Now he thought that Grettir must surely
be asleep, so he went stealthily up to the bed and reached out for the
short-sword, and took it down, and unsheathed it. But even therewith
Grettir sprang up on to the floor, and caught the short-sword just as
the other raised it aloft, and laid the other hand on Grim betwixt the
shoulders, and cast him down with such a fall, that he was well-nigh
stunned; "Ah, such hast thou shown thyself," said he, "though thou
wouldest give me good hope of thee." Then he had a true story from
him, and thereafter slew him.
And now Grettir deemed he saw what it was to take in wood-folk, and
so the winter wore; and nothing Grettir thought to be of more trouble
than his dread of the dark.
Of Grettir and Thorir Redbeard.
Now Thorir of Garth heard where Grettir had set himself down, and was
fain to set afoot some plot whereby he might be slain. There was a
man called Thorir Redbeard; he was the biggest of men, and a great
man-slayer, and therefore was he made outlaw throughout the land.
Thorir of Garth sent word to him, and when they met he bade him go on
an errand of his, and slay Grettir the Strong. Redbeard said that was
no easy task, and that Grettir was a wise man and a wary.
Thorir bade him make up his mind to this; "A manly task it is for so
brisk a fellow as thou; but I shall bring thee out of thine outlawry,
and therewithal give thee money enough."
So by that counsel Redbeard abode, and Thorir told him how he should
go about the winning of Grettir. So thereafter he went round the
land by the east, for thus he deemed his faring would be the less
misdoubted; so he came to Ernewaterheath when Grettir had been there a
winter. But when he met Grettir, he prayed for winter dwelling at his
Grettir answered, "I cannot suffer you often to play the like play
with me that he did who came here last autumn, who bepraised me
cunningly, and when he had been here a little while lay in wait for my
life; now, therefore, I have no mind to run the risk any more of the
taking in of wood-folk."
Thorir answered, "My mind goes fully with thine in that thou deemest
ill of outlawed men: and thou wilt have heard tell of me as of a
man-slayer and a misdoer, but not as of a doer of such foul deeds as
to betray my master. Now, ill it is ill to be, for many deem
others to do after their own ways; nor should I have been minded to
come hither, if I might have had a choice of better things; withal I
deem we shall not easily be won while we stand together; thou mightest
risk trying at first how thou likest me, and let me go my ways whenso
thou markest ill faith in me."
Grettir answered, "Once more then will I risk it, even with thee; but
wot thou well, that if I misdoubt me of thee, that will be thy bane."
Thorir bade him do even so, and thereafter Grettir received him, and
found this, that he must have the strength of twain, what work soever
he took in hand: he was ready for anything that Grettir might set him
to, and Grettir need turn to nothing, nor had he found his life so
good since he had been outlawed, yet was he ever so wary of himself
that Thorir never got a chance against him.
Thorir Redbeard was with Grettir on the heath for two winters, and now
he began to loathe his life on the heath, and falls to thinking what
deed he shall do that Grettir will not see through; so one night
in spring a great storm arose while they were asleep; Grettir awoke
therewith, and asked where was their boat. Thorir sprang up, and ran
down to the boat, and brake it all to pieces, and threw the broken
pieces about here and there, so that it seemed as though the storm had
driven them along. Then he went into the hut, and called out aloud,
"Good things have not befallen us, my friend," said he; "for our
boat is all broken to pieces, and the nets lie a long way out in the
"Go and bring them in then," said Grettir, "for methinks it is with
thy goodwill that the boat is broken."
Thorir answered, "Among manly deeds swimming is the least handy to
me, but most other deeds, I think, I may do against men who are not
marvellous; thou mayest wot well enough that I was minded that thou
shouldst not have to work while I abode here, and this I would not bid
if it were in me to do it."
Then Grettir arose and took his weapons, and went to the water-side.
Now the land was so wrought there that a ness ran into the water, and
a great creek was on the other side, and the water was deep right up
to the shore.
Now Grettir spake: "Swim off to the nets, and let me see how skilled a
man thou art."
"I told thee before," said Thorir, "that I might not swim; and now I
know not what is gone with thy manliness and daring."
"Well, the nets I may get in," said Grettir, "but betray thou me not,
since I trust in thee."
Said Thorir, "Deem me not to be so shamed and worthless."
"Thou wilt thyself prove thyself, what thou art," said Grettir, and
therewith he put off his clothes and weapons, and swam off for the
nets. He swept them up together, and brought them to land, and cast
them on to the bank; but when he was minded to come aland, then Thorir
caught up the short-sword and drew it hastily, and ran therewith
swiftly on Grettir, and smote at him as he set foot on the bank; but
Grettir fell on his back down into the water, and sank like a stone;
and Thorir stood gazing out on to the water, to keep him off from
the shore if he came up again; but Grettir dived and groped along the
bottom as near as he might to the bank, so that Thorir might not see
him till he came into the creek at his back, and got aland; and Thorir
heeded him not, and felt nought till Grettir heaved him up over his
head, and cast him down so hard that the short-sword flew out of his
hand; then Grettir got hold of it and had no words with him, but smote
off his head straightway, and this was the end of his life.
But after this would Grettir never take outlaws to him, yet hardly
might he bear to be alone.
How Thorir of Garth set on Grettir on Ernewaterheath.
At the Althing Thorir of Garth heard of the slaying of Thorir
Redbeard, and now he thought he saw that he had no light task to
deal with; but such rede he took that he rode west over the lower
heathlands from the Thing with well-nigh eighty men, and was minded to
go and take Grettir's life: but when Grim Thorhallson knew thereof he
sent Grettir word and bade him beware of himself, so Grettir ever took
heed to the goings of men. But one day he saw many men riding who took
the way to his abode; so he ran into a rift in the rocks, nor would he
flee because he had not seen all the strength of those folk.
Then up came Thorir and all his men, and bade them smite Grettir's
head from his body, and said that the ill-doer's life would be had
Grettir answered, "Though the spoon has taken it up, yet the mouth
has had no sup. From afar have ye come, and marks of the game
shall some have ere we part."
Then Thorir egged on his men busily to set on him; but the pass was
narrow, and he could defend it well from one side; yet hereat he
marvelled, that howsoever they went round to the back of him, yet
no hurt he got thereby; some fell of Thorir's company, and some were
wounded, but nothing might they do.
Then said Thorir, "Oft have I heard that Grettir is a man of marvel
before all others for prowess and good heart, but never knew I that he
was so wise a wizard as now I behold him; for half as many again fall
at his back as fall before him; lo, now we have to do with trolls and
So he bid them turn away and they did so. Grettir marvelled how that
might be, for withal he was utterly foredone.
Thorir and his men turn away and ride toward the north country, and
men deemed their journey to be of the shame fullest; eighteen men had
they left there and many were wounded withal.
Now Grettir went up into the pass, and found there one great of
growth, who sat leaning against the rock and was sore wounded. Grettir
asked him of his name, and he said he was hight Hallmund.
"And this I will tell thee to know me by, that thou didst deem me to
have a good hold of the reins that summer when we met on the Keel;
now, methinks, I have paid thee back therefor."
"Yea, in sooth," said Grettir, "I deem that thou hast shown great
manliness toward me; whenso I may, I will reward thee."
Hallmund said, "But now I will that thou come to my abode, for thou
must e'en think time drags heavily here on the heaths."
Grettir said he was fain thereof; and now they fare both together
south under Balljokul, and there had Hallmund a huge cave, and a
daughter great of growth and of high mind; there they did well to
Grettir, and the woman healed the wounds of both of them, and Grettir
dwelt long there that summer, and a lay he made on Hallmund, wherein
"Wide and high doth Hallmund stride
In the hollow mountain side."
And this stave also is therein--
"At Ernewater, one by one,
Stole the swords forth in the sun,
Eager for the road of death
Swept athwart by sharp spears' breath;
Many a dead Wellwharfer's lands
That day gave to other hands.
Hallmund, dweller in the cave,
Grettir's life that day did save."
Men say that Grettir slew six men in that meeting, but Hallmund
Now as the summer wore Grettir yearned for the peopled country, to see
his friends and kin; Hallmund bade him visit him when he came to the
south country again, and Grettir promised him so to do; then he went
west to Burgfirth, and thence to the Broadfirth Dales, and sought
counsel of Thorstein Kuggson as to where he should now seek for
protection, but Thorstein said that his foes were now so many that few
would harbour him; "But thou mightest fare south to the Marshes and
see what fate abides thee there."
So in the autumn Grettir went south to the Marshes.
Grettir in Fairwoodfell.
In those days dwelt at Holm Biorn the Hitdale-Champion, who was the
son of Arngeir, the son of Berse the Godless, the son of Balk, who
settled Ramfirth as is aforesaid; Biorn was a great chief and a hardy
man, and would ever harbour outlawed men.
Now Grettir came to Holm, and Biorn gave him good cheer, for there had
been friendship between the earlier kin of both of them; so Grettir
asked if he would give him harbourage; but Biorn said that he had
got to himself so many feuds through all the land that men would shun
harbouring him so long as to be made outlaws therefor: "But some gain
will I be to thee, if thou lettest those men dwell in peace who are
under my ward, whatsoever thou dost by other men in the country-side."
Grettir said yea thereto. Then said Biorn, "Well, I have thought over
it, and in that mountain, which stretches forth outside of Hitriver,
is a stead good for defence, and a good hiding-place withal, if it be
cunningly dealt with; for there is a hollow through the mountain, that
is seen from the way below; for the highway lies beneath it, but above
is a slip of sand and stones so exceeding steep, that few men may come
up there if one hardy man stand on his defence above in the lair.
Now this seems to me the best rede for thee, and the one thing worth
talking of for thine abode, because, withal, it is easy to go thence
and get goods from the Marshes, and right away to the sea."
Grettir said that he would trust in his foresight if he would give him
any help. Then he went up to Fairwoodfell and made his abode there;
he hung grey wadmal before the hole in the mountain, and from the way
below it was like to behold as if one saw through. Now he was wont
to ride for things needful through the country-side, and men deemed a
woful guest had come among them whereas he went.
Thord Kolbeinson dwelt at Hitness in those days, and a good skald he
was; at that time was there great enmity betwixt him and Biorn; and
Biorn was but half loth, though Grettir wrought some ill on Thord's
men or his goods.
Grettir was ever with Biorn, and they tried their skill in many
sports, and it is shown in the story of Biorn that they were deemed
equal in prowess, but it is the mind of most that Grettir was the
strongest man ever known in the land, since Orm the son of Storolf,
and Thoralf the son of Skolm, left off their trials of strength.
Grettir and Biorn swam in one spell all down Hitriver, from the lake
right away to the sea: they brought those stepping-stones into the
river that have never since been washed away either by floods, or the
drift of ice, or glacier slips.
So Grettir abode in Fairwoodfell for one winter, in such wise, that
none set on him, though many lost their goods at his hands and could
do nought therefor, for a good place for defence he had, and was ever
good friend to those nighest to him.
Gisli's meeting with Grettir.
There was a man hight Gisli, the son of that Thorstein whom Snorri
Godi had slain. Gisli was a big man and strong, a man showy in
weapons and clothes, who made much of himself, and was somewhat of
a self-praiser; he was a seafaring man, and came one summer out to
Whiteriver, whenas Grettir had been a winter on the fell. Thord, son
of Kolbein, rode to his ship, and Gisli gave him good welcome, and
bade him take of his wares whatso he would; thereto Thord agreed, and
then they fell to talk one with the other, and Gisli said:
"Is that true which is told me, that ye have no counsel that avails to
rid you of a certain outlaw who is doing you great ill?"
Thord said, "We have not tried aught on him yet, but to many he seems
a man hard to deal with, and that has been proven on many a man."
"It is like, methinks, that you should find Biorn a heavy trouble, if
ye may not drive away this man: luckless it is for you withal, that I
shall be too far off this winter to better matters for you."
"Thou wilt be better pleased to deal with him by hearsay."
"Nay, no need to tell me of Grettir," said Gisli; "I have borne harder
brunts when I was in warfare along with King Knut the Mighty, and west
over the Sea, and I was ever thought to hold my own; and if I should
have a chance at him I would trust myself and my weapons well enough."
Thord said he would not work for nought if he prevailed against
Grettir; "For there is more put upon his head than on the head of any
other of wood-folk; six marks of silver it was; but last summer Thorir
of Garth laid thereto yet three marks; and men deem he will have
enough to do therefor whose lot it is to win it."
"All things soever will men do for money," says Gisli, "and we chapmen
not the least; but now shall we keep this talk hushed up, for mayhap
he will be the warier," says he, "if he come to know that I am with
you against him: now I am minded to abide this winter at Snowfellsness
at Wave-ridge. Is his lair on my way at all? for he will not foresee
this, nor shall I draw together many men against him."
Thord liked the plot well, he rode home therewith and held his peace
about this; but now things went according to the saw, a listening
ear in the holt is anear; men had been by at the talk betwixt
Thord and Gisli, who were friends to Biorn of Hitdale, and they told
him all from end to end; so when Biorn and Grettir met, Biorn showed
forth the whole matter to him, and said that now he might prove how he
could meet a foe.
"It would not be bad sport," said he, "if thou wert to handle him
roughly, but to slay him not, if thou mightest do otherwise."
Grettir smiled thereat, but spake little.
Now at the folding time in the autumn Grettir went down to
Flysia-wharf and got sheep for himself; he had laid hold on four
wethers; but the bonders became ware of his ways and went after him;
and these two things befell at the same time, that he got up under the
fell-side, and that they came upon him, and would drive the sheep from
him, yet bare they no weapon against him; they were six altogether,
and stood thick in his path. Now the sheep troubled him and he waxed
wroth, and caught up two of those men, and cast them down over the
hill-side, so that they lay stunned; and when the others saw that,
they came on less eagerly; then Grettir took up the sheep and locked
them together by the horns, and threw them over his shoulders, two on
each side, and went up into his lair.
So the bonders turned back, and deemed they had got but ill from him,
and their lot misliked them now worse than before.
Now Gisli abode at his ship through the autumn till it was rolled
ashore. Many things made him abide there, so he was ready late, and
rode away but a little before winter-nights. Then he went from the
south, and guested under Raun on the south side of Hitriver. In the
morning, before he rode thence, he began a talk with his fellows:
"Now shall we ride in coloured clothes to-day, and let the outlaw see
that we are not like other wayfarers who are drifted about here day by
So this they did, and they were three in all: but when they came west
over the river, he spake again to them:
"Here in these bents, I am told, lurks the outlaw, and no easy way is
there up to him; but may it not perchance seem good to him to come and
meet us and behold our array?"
They said that it was ever his wont so to do. Now that morning Grettir
had risen early in his lair; the weather was cold and frosty, and snow
had fallen, but not much of it. He saw how three men rode from the
south over Hitriver, and their state raiment glittered and their
inlaid shields. Then it came into his mind who these should be, and he
deems it would be good for him to get some rag of their array; and he
was right wishful withal to meet such braggarts: so he catches up his
weapons and runs down the slip-side. And when Gisli heard the clatter
of the stones, he spake thus:
"There goes a man down the hill-side, and somewhat big he is, and he
is coming to meet us: now, therefore, let us go against him briskly,
for here is good getting come to hand."
His fellows said that this one would scarce run into their very
hands, if he knew not his might; "And good it is that he bewail who
brought the woe."
So they leapt off their horses, and therewith Grettir came up to them,
and laid hands on a clothes-bag that Gisli had tied to his saddle
behind him, and said--
"This will I have, for oft I lowt for little things."
Gisli answers, "Nay, it shall not be; dost thou know with whom thou
hast to do?"
Says Grettir, "I am not very clear about that; nor will I have much
respect for persons, since I am lowly now, and ask for little."
"Mayhap thou thinkest it little," says he, "but I had rather pay down
thirty hundreds; but robbery and wrong are ever uppermost in thy mind
methinks; so on him, good fellows, and let see what he may do."
So did they, and Grettir gave back before them to a stone which stands
by the way and is called Grettir's-Heave, and thence defended himself;
and Gisli egged on his fellows eagerly; but Grettir saw now that he
was no such a hardy heart as he had made believe, for he was ever
behind his fellows' backs; and withal he grew aweary of this fulling
business, and swept round the short-sword, and smote one of Gisli's
fellows to the death, and leaped down from the stone, and set on so
fiercely, that Gisli shrank aback before him all along the hill-side:
there Gisli's other fellow was slain, and then Grettir spake:
"Little is it seen in thee that thou hast done well wide in the world,
and in ill wise dost thou part from thy fellows."
Gisli answers, "Hottest is the fire that lies on oneself--with
hell's-man are dealings ill."
Then they gave and took but a little, before Gisli cast away his
weapons, and took to his heels out along the mountain. Grettir gave
him time to cast off whatso he would, and every time Gisli saw a
chance for it he threw off somewhat of his clothes; and Grettir never
followed him so close but that there was still some space
betwixt them. Gisli ran right past that mountain and then across
Coldriver-dale, and then through Aslaug's-lithe and above by
Kolbeinstead, and then out into Burgh-lava; and by then was he in
shirt and breech alone, and was now exceeding weary. Grettir still
followed after him, and there was ever a stone's throw between them;
and now he pulled up a great bush. But Gisli made no stay till he came
out at Haf-firth-river, and it was swollen with ice and ill to ford;
Gisli made straightway for the river, but Grettir ran in on him and
seized him, and then the strength of either was soon known: Grettir
drave him down under him, and said,
"Art thou that Gisli who would fain meet Grettir Asmundson?"
Gisli answers, "I have found him now, in good sooth, nor do I know in
what wise we shall part: keep that which thou hast got, and let me go
Grettir said, "Nay, thou art scarce deft enow to learn what I have to
teach thee, so needs must I give thee somewhat to remember it by."
Therewith he pulls the shirt up over his head and let the twigs go all
down his back, and along both sides of him, and Gisli strove all he
might to wriggle away from him; but Grettir flogged him through and
through, and then let him go; and Gisli thought he would learn no
more of Grettir and have such another flogging withal; nor did he ever
again earn the like skin-rubbing.
But when he got his legs under him again, he ran off unto a great
pool in the river, and swam it, and came by night to a farm called
Horseholt, and utterly foredone he was by then. There he lay a week
with his body all swollen, and then fared to his abode.
Grettir turned back, and took up the things Gisli had cast down, and
brought them to his place, nor from that time forth gat Gisli aught
Many men thought Gisli had his due herein for the noise and swagger
he had made about himself; and Grettir sang this about their dealings
"In fighting ring where steed meets steed,
The sluggish brute of mongrel breed,
Certes will shrink back nothing less
Before the stallion's dauntlessness,
Than Gisli before me to-day;
As, casting shame and clothes away,
And sweating o'er the marsh with fear,
He helped the wind from mouth and rear."
The next spring Gisli got ready to go to his ship, and bade men above
all things beware of carrying aught of his goods south along the
mountain, and said that the very fiend dwelt there.
Gisli rode south along the sea all the way to his ship, and never met
Grettir again; and now he is out of the story.
But things grew worse between Thord Kolbeinson and Grettir, and Thord
set on foot many a plot to get Grettir driven away or slain.
Of the Fight at Hitriver.
When Grettir had been two winters at Fairwoodfell, and the third was
now come, he fared south to the Marshes, to the farm called Brook-bow,
and had thence six wethers against the will of him who owned them.
Then he went to Acres and took away two neat for slaughtering, and
many sheep, and then went up south of Hitriver.
But when the bonders were ware of his ways, they sent word to Thord at
Hitness, and bade him take in hand the slaying of Grettir; but he hung
back, yet for the prayers of men got his son Arnor, who was afterwards
called Earls' Skald, to go with them, and bade them withal to take
heed that Grettir escaped not.
Then were men sent throughout all the country-side. There was a man
called Biarni, who dwelt at Jorvi in Flysia-wharf, and he gathered
men together from without Hitriver; and their purpose was that a band
should be on either bank of the river.
Now Grettir had two men with him; a man called Eyolf, the son of the
bonder at Fairwood, and a stout man; and another he had besides.
First came up Thorarin of Acres and Thorfinn of Brook-bow, and there
were nigh twenty men in their company. Then was Grettir fain to make
westward across the river, but therewith came up on the west side
thereof Arnor and Biarni. A narrow ness ran into the water on the side
whereas Grettir stood; so he drave the beasts into the furthermost
parts of the ness, when he saw the men coming up, for never would he
give up what he had once laid his hands on.
Now the Marsh-men straightway made ready for an onslaught, and made
themselves very big; Grettir bade his fellows take heed that none came
at his back; and not many men could come on at once.
Now a hard fight there was betwixt them, Grettir smote with the
short-sword with both hands, and no easy matter it was to get at him;
some of the Marsh-men fell, and some were wounded; those on the other
side of the river were slow in coming up, because the ford was not
very near, nor did the fight go on long before they fell off; Thorarin
of Acres was a very old man, so that he was not at this onslaught. But
when this fight was over, then came up Thrand, son of Thorarin, and
Thorgils Ingialdson, the brother's son of Thorarin, and Finnbogi,
son of Thorgeir Thorhaddson of Hitdale, and Steinulf Thorleifson from
Lavadale; these egged on their men eagerly to set on, and yet another
fierce onslaught they made. Now Grettir saw that he must either flee
or spare himself nought; and now he went forth so fiercely that none
might withstand him; because they were so many that he saw not how
he might escape, but that he did his best before he fell; he was fain
withal that the life of such an one as he deemed of some worth might
be paid for his life; so he ran at Steinulf of Lavadale, and smote him
on the head and clave him down to the shoulders, and straightway with
another blow smote Thorgils Ingialdson in the midst and well-nigh cut
him asunder; then would Thrand run forth to revenge his kinsman, but
Grettir smote him on the right thigh, so that the blow took off all
the muscle, and straightway was he unmeet for fight; and thereafter
withal a great wound Grettir gave to Finnbogi.
Then Thorarin cried out and bade them fall back, "For the longer ye
fight the worse ye will get of him, and he picks out men even as he
willeth from your company."
So did they, and turned away; and there had ten men fallen, and five
were wounded to death, or crippled, but most of those who had been at
that meeting had some hurt or other; Grettir was marvellously wearied
and yet but a little wounded.
And now the Marsh-men made off with great loss of men, for many stout
fellows had fallen there.
But those on the other side of the river fared slowly, and came not up
till the meeting was all done; and when they saw how ill their men
had fared, then Arnor would not risk himself, and much rebuke he got
therefor from his father and many others; and men are minded to think
that he was no man of prowess.
Now that place where they fought is called Grettir's-point to-day.
How Grettir left Fairwoodfell, and of his abiding in
But Grettir and his men took horse and rode up to the fell, for they
were all wounded, and when they came to Fairwood there was Eyolf left;
the farmer's daughter was out of doors, and asked for tidings; Grettir
told all as clearly as might be, and sang a stave withal--
"O thou warder of horn's wave,
Not on this side of the grave
Will Steinulf s head be whole again;
Many more there gat their bane;
Little hope of Thorgils now
After that bone-breaking blow:
Eight Gold-scatterers more they say,
Dead along the river lay."
Thereafter Grettir went to his lair and sat there through the winter;
but when he and Biorn met, Biorn said to him, that he deemed that much
had been done; "and no peace thou wilt have here in the long run: now
hast thou slain both kin and friends of mine, yet shall I not cast
aside what I have promised thee whiles thou art here."
Grettir said he must needs defend his hands and life, "but ill it is
if thou mislikest it."
Biorn said that things must needs be as they were.
A little after came men to Biorn who had lost kinsmen at Grettir's
hands, and bade him not to suffer that riotous man to abide there
longer in their despite; and Biorn said that it should be as they
would as soon as the winter was over.
Now Thrand, the son of Thorarin of Acres, was healed; a stout man he
was, and had to wife Steinun, daughter of Rut of Combeness; Thorleif
of Lavadale, the father of Steinulf, was a very mighty man, and from
him are come the men of Lavadale.
Now nought more is told of the dealings of Grettir with the Marsh-men
while he was on the mountain; Biorn still kept up his friendship
with him, though his friends grew somewhat the fewer for that he let
Grettir abide there, because men took it ill that their kin should
At the time of the Thing, Grettir departed from the Marsh-country, and
went to Burgfirth and found Grim Thorhallson, and sought counsel of
him, as to what to do now. Grim said he had no strength to keep him,
therefore fared Grettir to find Hallmund his friend, and dwelt there
that summer till it wore to its latter end.
In the autumn Grettir went to Goatland, and waited there till bright
weather came on; then he went up to Goatland Jokul, and made for
the south-east, and had with him a kettle, and tools to strike fire
withal. But men deem that he went there by the counsel of Hallmund,
for far and wide was the land known of him.
So Grettir went on till he found a dale in the jokul, long and
somewhat narrow, locked up by jokuls all about, in such wise that
they overhung the dale. He came down somehow, and then he saw fair
hill-sides grass-grown and set with bushes. Hot springs there were
therein, and it seemed to him that it was by reason of earth-fires
that the ice-cliffs did not close up over the vale.
A little river ran along down the dale, with level shores on either
side thereof. There the sun came but seldom; but he deemed he might
scarcely tell over the sheep that were in that valley, so many they
were; and far better and fatter than any he had ever seen.
Now Grettir abode there, and made himself a hut of such wood as he
could come by. He took of the sheep for his meat, and there was more
on one of them than on two elsewhere: one ewe there was, brown with a
polled head, with her lamb, that he deemed the greatest beauty for
her goodly growth. He was fain to take the lamb, and so he did, and
thereafter slaughtered it: three stone of suet there was in it, but
the whole carcase was even better. But when Brownhead missed her lamb,
she went up on Grettir's hut every night, and bleated in suchwise that
he might not sleep anight, so that it misliked him above all things
that he had slaughtered the lamb, because of her troubling.
But every evening at twilight he heard some one hoot up in the valley,
and then all the sheep ran together to one fold every evening.
So Grettir says, that a half-troll ruled over the valley, a giant
hight Thorir, and in trust of his keeping did Grettir abide there;
by him did Grettir name the valley, calling it Thorir's-dale. He said
withal that Thorir had daughters, with whom he himself had good game,
and that they took it well, for not many were the new-comers thereto;
but when fasting time was, Grettir made this change therein, that fat
and livers should be eaten in Lent.
Now nought happed to be told of through the winter. At last Grettir
found it so dreary there, that he might abide there no longer: then
he gat him gone from the valley, and went south across the jokul, and
came from the north, right against the midst of Shieldbroadfell.
He raised up a flat stone and bored a hole therein, and said that
whoso put his eye to the hole in that stone should straightway behold
the gulf of the pass that leads from Thorir's-vale.
So he fared south through the land, and thence to the Eastfirths; and
in this journey he was that summer long, and the winter, and met all
the great men there, but somewhat ever thrust him aside that nowhere
got he harbouring or abode; then he went back by the north, and dwelt
at sundry places.
Of the Death of Hallmund, Grettir's Friend.
A little after Grettir had gone from Ernewaterheath, there came a man
thither, Grim by name, the son of the widow at Kropp. He had slain the
son of Eid Skeggison of the Ridge, and had been outlawed therefor;
he abode whereas Grettir had dwelt afore, and got much fish from the
water. Hallmund took it ill that he had come in Grettir's stead, and
was minded that he should have little good hap how much fish soever he
So it chanced on a day that Grim had caught a hundred fish, and he
bore them to his hut and hung them up outside, but the next morning
when he came thereto they were all gone; that he deemed marvellous,
and went to the water; and now he caught two hundred fish, went home
and stored them up; and all went the same way, for they were all gone
in the morning; and now he thought it hard to trace all to one spring.
But the third day he caught three hundred fish, brought them home and
watched over them from his shed, looking out through a hole in the
door to see if aught might come anigh. Thus wore the night somewhat,
and when the third part of the night was gone by, he heard one going
along outside with heavy footfalls; and when he was ware thereof, he
took an axe that he had, the sharpest of weapons, for he was fain
to know what this one was about; and he saw that the new-comer had a
great basket on his back. Now he set it down, and peered about, and
saw no man abroad; he gropes about to the fishes, and deems he has got
a good handful, and into the basket he scoops them one and all; then
is the basket full, but the fishes were so big that Grim thought that
no horse might bear more. Now he takes them up and puts himself under
the load, and at that very point of time, when he was about to stand
upright, Grim ran out, and with both hands smote at his neck, so that
the axe sank into the shoulder; thereat he turned off sharp, and set
off running with the basket south over the mountain.
Grim turned off after him, and was fain to know if he had got enough.
They went south all the way to Balljokul, and there this man went
into a cave; a bright fire burnt in the cave, and thereby sat a woman,
great of growth, but shapely withal. Grim heard how she welcomed her
father, and called him Hallmund. He cast down his burden heavily, and
groaned aloud; she asked him why he was all covered with blood, but he
answered and sang--
"Now know I aright,
That in man's might,
And in man's bliss,
No trust there is;
On the day of bale
Shall all things fail;
Courage is o'er,
Luck mocks no more."
She asked him closely of their dealings, but he told her all even as
it had befallen.
"Now shall thou hearken," said he, "for I shall tell of my deeds and
sing a song thereon, and thou shall cut it on a staff as I give it
So she did, and he sung Hallmund's song withal, wherein is this--
"When I drew adown
The bridle brown
Grettir's hard hold,
Men deemed me bold;
Long while looked then
The brave of men
In his hollow hands,
The harm of lands.
"Then came the day
Of Thorir's play
When we from death
Our life must gain;
Alone we twain
With eighty men
Must needs play then.
"Good craft enow
Did Grettir show
On many a shield
In that same field;
Natheless I hear
That my marks were
The deepest still;
The worst to fill.
"Those who were fain
His back to gain
Lost head and hand,
Till of the band,
From the Well-wharf-side,
Must there abide
That none can find.
"With the giant's kin
Have I oft raised din;
To the rock folk
Have I dealt out stroke;
Ill things could tell
That I smote full well;
The half-trolls know
My baneful blow.
"Small gain in me
Did the elf-folk see,
Or the evil wights
Who ride anights."
Many other deeds of his did Hallmund sing in that song, for he had
fared through all the land.
Then spake his daughter, "A man of no slippery hand was that; nor was
it unlike that this should hap, for in evil wise didst thou begin with
him: and now what man will avenge thee?"
Hallmund answered, "It is not so sure to know how that may be;
but, methinks, I know that Grettir would avenge me if he might come
thereto; but no easy matter will it be to go against the luck of this
man, for much greatness lies stored up for him."
Thereafter so much did Hallmund's might wane as the song wore, that
well-nigh at one while it befell that the song was done and Hallmund
dead; then she grew very sad and wept right sore. Then came Grim forth
and bade her be of better cheer, "For all must fare when they are
fetched. This has been brought about by his own deed, for I could
scarce look on while he robbed me."
She said he had much to say for it, "For ill deed gains ill
Now as they talked she grew of better cheer, and Grim abode many
nights in the cave, and got the song by heart, and things went
smoothly betwixt them.
Grim abode at Ernewaterheath all the winter after Hallmund's death,
and thereafter came Thorkel Eyulfson to meet him on the Heath, and
they fought together; but such was the end of their play that Grim
might have his will of Thorkel's life, and slew him not. So Thorkel
took him to him, and got him sent abroad and gave him many goods; and
therein either was deemed to have done well to the other. Grim betook
himself to seafaring, and a great tale is told of him.
How Grettir beguiled Thorir of Garth when he was nigh taking
Now the story is to be taken up where Grettir came from the firths of
the east-country; and now he fared with hidden-head for that he would
not meet Thorir, and lay out that summer on Madderdale-heath and in
sundry places, and at whiles he was at Reek-heath.
Thorir heard that Grettir was at Reek-heath, so he gathered men and
rode to the heath, and was well minded that Grettir should not escape
Now Grettir was scarce aware of them before they were on him; he was
just by a mountain-dairy that stood back a little from the wayside,
and another man there was with him, and when he saw their band, speedy
counsel must he take; so he bade that they should fell the horses and
drag them into the dairy shed, and so it was done.
Then Thorir rode north over the heath by the dairy, and missed
friend from stead, for he found nought, and so turned back withal.
But when his band had ridden away west, then said Grettir, "They will
not deem their journey good if we be not found; so now shall thou
watch our horses while I go meet them, a fair play would be shown them
if they knew me not."
His fellow strove to let him herein, yet he went none-the-less, and
did on him other attire, with a slouched hat over his face and a staff
in his hand, then he went in the way before them. They greeted him and
asked if he had seen any men riding over the heath.
"Those men that ye seek have I seen; but little was wanting e'ennow
but that ye found them, for there they were, on the south of yon bogs
to the left."
Now when they heard that, off they galloped out on to the bogs, but so
great a mire was there that nohow could they get on, and had to drag
their horses out, and were wallowing there the more part of the day;
and they gave to the devil withal the wandering churl who had so
But Grettir turned back speedily to meet his fellow, and when they met
he sang this stave--
"Now make I no battle-field
With the searching stems of shield.
Rife with danger is my day,
And alone I go my way:
Nor shall I go meet, this tide,
Odin's storm, but rather bide
Whatso fate I next may have;
Scarce, then, shall thou deem me brave.
"Thence where Thorir's company
Thronging ride, I needs must flee;
If with them I raised the din,
Little thereby should I win;
Brave men's clashing swords I shun,
Woods must hide the hunted one;
For through all things, good and ill,
Unto life shall I hold still."
Now they ride at their swiftest west over the heath and forth by the
homestead at Garth, before ever Thorir came from the wilderness with
his band; and when they drew nigh to the homestead a man fell in with
them who knew them not.
Then saw they how a woman, young and grand of attire, stood without,
so Grettir asked who that woman would be. The new-comer said that she
was Thorir's daughter. Then Grettir sang this stave--
"O wise sun of golden stall,
When thy sire comes back to hall,
Thou mayst tell him without sin
This, though little lies therein,
That thou saw'st me ride hereby,
With but two in company,
Past the door of Skeggi's son,
Nigh his hearth, O glittering one."
Hereby the new-comer thought he knew who this would be, and he rode to
peopled parts and told how Grettir had ridden by.
So when Thorir came home, many deemed that Grettir had done the bed
well over their heads. But Thorir set spies on Grettir's ways, whereso
he might be. Grettir fell on such rede that he sent his fellow to the
west country with his horses; but he went up to the mountains and was
in disguised attire, and fared about north there in the early winter,
so that he was not known.
But all men deemed that Thorir had got a worse part than before in
their dealings together.
Of the ill haps at Sand-heaps, and how Guest came to the Goodwife
There was a priest called Stein, who dwelt at Isledale-river, in
Bard-dale; he was good at husbandry and rich in beasts; his son was
Kiartan, a brisk man and a well grown. Thorstein the White was the
name of him who dwelt at Sand-heaps, south of Isledale-river; his wife
was called Steinvor, a young woman and merry-hearted, and children
they had, who were young in those days. But that place men deemed much
haunted by the goings of trolls.
Now it befell two winters before Grettir came into the north country
that Steinvor the goodwife of Sand-heaps fared at Yule-tide to the
stead of Isledale-river according to her wont, but the goodman abode
at home. Men lay down to sleep in the evening, but in the night they
heard a huge crashing about the bonder's bed; none durst arise and
see thereto, for very few folk were there. In the morning the goodwife
came home, but the goodman was gone, and none knew what had become of
Now the next year wears through its seasons, but the winter after
the goodwife would fain go to worship, and bade her house-carle abide
behind at home; thereto was he loth, but said nathless that she must
rule; so all went the same way and the house-carle vanished; and
marvellous men deemed it; but folk saw certain stains of blood about
the outer door; therefore they deemed it sure that an evil wight had
taken them both.
Now that was heard of wide through the country-side, and Grettir
withal was told thereof; so he took his way to Bard-dale, and came to
Sand-heaps at Yule-eve, and made stay there, and called himself Guest.
The goodwife saw that he was marvellous great of growth, but the
home-folk were exceeding afeard of him; he prayed for guesting there;
the mistress said that there was meat ready for him, "but as to thy
safety see to that thyself."
He said that so he should do: "Here will I abide, but thou shalt go to
worship if thou wilt."
She answered, "Meseems thou art a brave man if thou durst abide at
"For one thing alone will I not be known," said he.
She said, "I have no will to abide at home, but I may not cross the
"I will go with thee," says Guest.
Then she made her ready for worship, and her little daughter with her.
It thawed fast abroad, and the river was in flood, and therein was the
drift of ice great: then said the goodwife,
"No way across is there either for man or horse."
"Nay, there will be fords there," said Guest, "be not afeard."
"Carry over the little maiden first," said the goodwife; "she is the
"I am loth to make two journeys of it," said Guest, "I will bear thee
in my arms."
She crossed herself, and said, "This will not serve; what wilt thou do
with the maiden?"
"A rede I see for that," said he, and therewith caught them both up,
and laid the little one in her mother's lap, and set both of them
thus on his left arm, but had his right free; and so he took the ford
withal, nor durst they cry out, so afeard were they.
Now the river took him up to his breast forthwith, and a great
ice-floe drave against him, but he put forth the hand that was free
and thrust it from him; then it grew so deep, that the stream broke
on his shoulder; but he waded through it stoutly, till he came to the
further shore, and there cast them aland: then he turned back, and it
was twilight already by then he came home to Sand-heaps, and called
for his meat.
So when he was fulfilled, he bade the home-folk go into the chamber;
then he took boards and loose timber, and dragged it athwart the
chamber, and made a great bar, so that none of the home-folk might
come thereover: none durst say aught against him, nor would any of
them make the least sound. The entrance to the hall was through the
side wall by the gable, and dais was there within; there Guest lay
down, but did not put off his clothes, and light burned in the chamber
over against the door: and thus Guest lay till far on in the night.
The goodwife came to Isledale-river at church-time, and men marvelled
how she had crossed the river; and she said she knew not whether a man
or a troll had brought her over.
The priest said he was surely a man, though a match for few; "But
let us hold our peace hereon," he said; "maybe he is chosen for the
bettering of thy troubles." So the goodwife was there through the
Of Guest and the Troll-wife.
Now it is to be told of Guest, that when it drew towards midnight,
he heard great din without, and thereafter into the hall came a huge
troll-wife, with a trough in one hand and a chopper wondrous great in
the other; she peered about when she came in, and saw where Guest
lay, and ran at him; but he sprang up to meet her, and they fell
a-wrestling terribly, and struggled together for long in the hall. She
was the stronger, but he gave back with craft, and all that was before
them was broken, yea, the cross-panelling withal of the chamber. She
dragged him out through the door, and so into the outer doorway, and
then he betook himself to struggling hard against her. She was fain to
drag him from the house, but might not until they had broken away all
the fittings of the outer door, and borne them out on their shoulders:
then she laboured away with him down towards the river, and right down
to the deep gulfs.
By then was Guest exceeding weary, yet must he either gather his might
together, or be cast by her into the gulf. All night did they contend
in such wise; never, he deemed, had he fought with such a horror for
her strength's sake; she held him to her so hard that he might turn
his arms to no account save to keep fast hold on the middle of the
But now when they came on to the gulf of the river, he gives the hag a
swing round, and therewith got his right hand free, and swiftly seized
the short-sword that he was girt withal, and smote the troll therewith
on the shoulder, and struck off her arm; and therewithal was he free,
but she fell into the gulf and was carried down the force.
Then was Guest both stiff and weary, and lay there long on the rocks,
then he went home, as it began to grow light, and lay down in bed, and
all swollen and blue he was.
But when the goodwife came from church, she thought her house had
been somewhat roughly handled: so she went to Guest and asked what had
happed that all was broken and down-trodden. He told her all as it had
befallen: she deemed these things imported much, and asked him what
man he was in good sooth. So he told her the truth, and prayed that
the priest might be fetched, for that he would fain see him: and so it
But when Stein the priest came to Sand-heaps, he knew forthwith, that
thither was come Grettir Asmundson, under the name of Guest.
So the priest asked what he deemed had become of those men who had
vanished; and Grettir said that he thought they would have gone into
the gulf: the priest said that he might not trow that, if no signs
could be seen thereof: then said Grettir that later on that should be
known more thoroughly. So the priest went home.
Grettir lay many nights a-bed, and the mistress did well to him, and
so Yule-tide wore.
Now Grettir's story is that the troll-wife cast herself into the gulf
when she got her wound; but the men of Bard-dale say that day dawned
on her, while they wrestled, and that she burst, when he cut the arm
from her; and that there she stands yet on the cliff, a rock in the
likeness of a woman.
Now the dale-dwellers kept Grettir in hiding there; but in the winter
after Yule, Grettir fared to Isledale-river, and when he met the
priest, he said, "Well, priest, I see that thou hadst little faith in
my tale; now will I, that thou go with me to the river, and see what
likelihood there is of that tale being true."
So the priest did; and when they came to the force-side, they saw a
cave up under the cliff; a sheer rock that cliff was, so great that in
no place might man come up thereby, and well-nigh fifty fathoms was it
down to the water. Now they had a rope with them, but the priest said:
"A risk beyond all measure, I deem it to go down here."
"Nay," said Grettir, "it is to be done, truly, but men of the greatest
prowess are meetest therefor: now will I know what is in the force,
but thou shall watch the rope."
The priest bade him follow his own rede, and drave a peg down into the
sward on the cliff, and heaped stones up over it, and sat thereby.
Of the Dweller in the Cave under the Force.
Now it is to be told of Grettir that he set a stone in a bight of the
rope and let it sink down into the water.
"In what wise hast thou mind to go?" said the priest.
"I will not go bound into the force," said Grettir; "such things doth
my heart forebode."
With that he got ready for his journey, and was lightly clad, and girt
with the short-sword, and had no weapon more.
Then he leapt off the cliff into the force; the priest saw the soles
of his feet, and knew not afterwards what was become of him. But
Grettir dived under the force, and hard work it was, because the
whirlpool was strong, and he had to dive down to the bottom, before he
might come up under the force. But thereby was a rock jutting out, and
thereon he gat; a great cave was under the force, and the river fell
over it from the sheer rocks. He went up into the cave, and there was
a great fire flaming from amidst of brands; and there he saw a giant
sitting withal, marvellously great and dreadful to look on. But when
Grettir came anigh, the giant leapt up and caught up a glaive and
smote at the new-comer, for with that glaive might a man both cut and
thrust; a wooden shaft it had, and that fashion of weapon men called
then, heft-sax. Grettir hewed back against him with the short-sword,
and smote the shaft so that he struck it asunder; then was the giant
fain to stretch aback for a sword that hung up there in the cave; but
therewithal Grettir smote him afore into the breast, and smote off
well-nigh all the breast bone and the belly, so that the bowels
tumbled out of him and fell into the river, and were driven down along
the stream; and as the priest sat by the rope, he saw certain fibres
all covered with blood swept down the swirls of the stream; then he
grew unsteady in his place, and thought for sure that Grettir was
dead, so he ran from the holding of the rope, and gat him home.
Thither he came in the evening and said, as one who knew it well, that
Grettir was dead, and that great scathe was it of such a man.
Now of Grettir must it be told that he let little space go betwixt
his blows or ever the giant was dead; then he went up the cave, and
kindled a light and espied the cave. The story tells not how much he
got therein, but men deem that it must have been something great. But
there he abode on into the night; and he found there the bones of two
men, and bore them together in a bag; then he made off from the cave
and swam to the rope and shook it, and thought that the priest would
be there yet; but when he knew that the priest had gone home, then
must he draw himself up by strength of hand, and thus he came up out
on to the cliff.
Then he fared home to Isledale-river, and brought into the church
porch the bag with the bones, and therewithal a rune-staff whereon
this song was marvellous well cut--
"There into gloomy gulf I passed,
O'er which from the rock's throat is cast
The swirling rush of waters wan,
To meet the sword-player feared of man.
By giant's hall the strong stream pressed
Cold hands against the singer's breast;
Huge weight upon him there did hurl
The swallower of the changing whirl."
And this other one withal--
"The dreadful dweller of the cave
Great strokes and many 'gainst me drave;
Full hard he had to strive for it,
But toiling long he wan no whit;
For from its mighty shaft of tree
The heft-sax smote I speedily;
And dulled the flashing war-flame fair
In the black breast that met me there."
Herein was it said how that Grettir had brought those bones from the
cave; but when the priest came to the church in the morning he found
the staff and that which went with it, but Grettir was gone home to
Grettir driven from Sand-heaps to the West.
But when the priest met Grettir he asked him closely about what had
happed; so he told him all the tale of his doings, and said withal
that the priest had been unfaithful to him in the matter of the
rope-holding; and the priest must needs say that so it was.
Now men deemed they could see that these evil wights had wrought the
loss of the men there in the dale; nor had folk hurt ever after from
aught haunting the valley, and Grettir was thought to have done great
deeds for the cleansing of the land. So the priest laid those bones in
earth in the churchyard.
But Grettir abode at Sand-heaps the winter long, and was hidden there
from all the world.
But when Thorir of Garth heard certain rumours of Grettir being in
Bard-dale, he sent men for his head; then men gave him counsel to get
him gone therefrom, so he took his way to the west.
Now when he came to Maddervales to Gudmund the Rich, he prayed Gudmund
for watch and ward; but Gudmund said he might not well keep him. "But
that only is good for thee," said he, "to set thee down there, whereas
thou shouldst have no fear of thy life."
Grettir said he wotted not where such a place might be.
Gudmund said, "An isle there lies in Skagafirth called Drangey; so
good a place for defence it is, that no man may come thereon unless
ladders be set thereto. If thou mightest get there, I know for sure
that no man who might come against thee, could have good hope while
thou wert on the top thereof, of overcoming thee, either by weapons or
craft, if so be thou shouldst watch the ladders well."
"That shall be tried," said Grettir, "but so fearsome of the dark am I
grown, that not even for the keeping of my life may I be alone."
Gudmund said, "Well, that may be; but trust no man whatsoever so much
as not to trust thyself better; for many men are hard to see through."
Grettir thanked him for his wholesome redes, and then fared away from
Maddervales, nor made stay before he came to Biarg; there his mother
and Illugi his brother welcomed him joyfully, and he abode there
There he heard of the slaying of Thorstein Kuggson, which had befallen
the autumn before Grettir went to Bard-dale; and he deemed therewithal
that felling went on fast enough.
Then Grettir rode south to Holtbeacon-heath, and was minded to avenge
Hallmund if he might meet Grim; but when he came to Northriverdale,
he heard that Grim had been gone two winters ago, as is aforesaid; but
Grettir had heard so late of these tidings because he had gone about
disguised those two winters, and the third winter he had been in
Thorirs-dale, and had seen no man who might tell him any news. Then
he betook himself to the Broadfirth-dales, and dwelt in Eastriverdale,
and lay in wait for folk who fared over Steep-brent; and once more he
swept away with the strong hand the goods of the small bonders. This
was about the height of summer-tide.
Now when the summer was well worn, Steinvor of Sand-heaps bore a
man-child, who was named Skeggi; he was first fathered on Kiartan, the
son of Stein, the priest of Isle-dale-river. Skeggi was unlike unto
his kin because of his strength and growth, but when he was fifteen
winters old he was the strongest man in the north-country, and was
then known as Grettir's son; men deemed he would be a marvel among
men, but he died when he was seventeen years of age, and no tale there
is of him.
How Thorod, the Son of Snorri Godi, went against Grettir.
After the slaying of Thorstein Kuggson, Snorri Godi would have little
to do with his son Thorod, or with Sam, the son of Bork the Fat; it is
not said what they had done therefor, unless it might be that they had
had no will to do some great deed that Snorri set them to; but withal
Snorri drave his son Thorod away, and said he should not come back
till he had slain some wood-dweller; and so must matters stand.
So Thorod went over to the Dales; and at that time dwelt at
Broadlair-stead in Sokkolfsdale a widow called Geirlaug; a herdsman
she kept, who had been outlawed for some onslaught; and he was a
growing lad. Now Thorod Snorrison heard thereof, and rode in to
Broadlair-stead, and asked where was the herdsman; the goodwife said
that he was with the sheep.
"What wilt thou have to do with him?"
"His life will I have," says Thorod, "because he is an outlaw, and a
She answers, "No glory is it for such a great warrior as thou deemest
thyself, to slay a mannikin like that; I will show thee a greater
deed, if thine heart is so great that thou must needs try thyself."
"Well, and what deed?" says he.
She answers, "Up in the fell here, lies Grettir Asmundson; play thou
with him, for such a game is more meet for thee."
Thorod took her talk well; "So shall it be," says he, and therewith he
smote his horse with his spurs, and rode along the valley; and when he
came to the hill below Eastriver, he saw where was a dun horse, with
his saddle on, and thereby a big man armed, so he turned thence to
Grettir greeted him, and asked who he was. Thorod named himself, and
"Why askest thou not of my errand rather than of my name?"
"Why, because," said Grettir, "it is like to be such as is of little
weight: art thou son to Snorri Godi?"
"Yea, yea," says Thorod; "but now shall we try which of us may do the
"A matter easy to be known," says Grettir; "hast thou not heard that
I have ever been a treasure-hill that most men grope in with little
"Yea, I know it," said Thorod; "yet must somewhat be risked."
And now he drew his sword therewith and set on Grettir eagerly; but
Grettir warded himself with his shield, but bore no weapon against
Thorod; and so things went awhile, nor was Grettir wounded.
At last he said, "Let us leave this play, for thou wilt not have
victory in our strife."
But Thorod went on dealing blows at his maddest. Now Grettir got
aweary of dealing with him, and caught him and set him down by his
side, and said--
"I may do with thee even as I will, nor do I fear that thou wilt ever
be my bane; but the grey old carle, thy father, Snorri, I fear in good
sooth, and his counsels that have brought most men to their knees:
and for thee, thou shouldst turn thy mind to such things alone as thou
mayst get done, nor is it child's play to fight with me."
But when Thorod saw that he might bring nought to pass, he grew
somewhat appeased, and therewithal they parted. Thorod rode home to
Tongue and told his father of his dealings with Grettir. Snorri Godi
smiled thereat, and said,
"Many a man lies hid within himself, and far unlike were your
doings; for thou must needs rush at him to slay him, and he might have
done with thee even as he would. Yet wisely has Grettir done herein,
that he slew thee not; for I should scarce have had a mind to let thee
lie unavenged; but now indeed shall I give him aid, if I have aught to
do with any of his matters."
It was well seen of Snorri, that he deemed Grettir had done well to
Thorod, and he ever after gave his good word for Grettir.
How Grettir took leave of his Mother at Biarg, and fared with
Illugi his Brother to Drangey.
Grettir rode north to Biarg a little after he parted with Thorod, and
lay hid there yet awhile; then so great grew his fear in the dark,
that he durst go nowhere as soon as dusk set in. His mother bade him
abide there, but said withal, that she saw that it would scarce avail
him aught, since he had so many cases against him throughout all the
land. Grettir said that she should never have trouble brought on her
for his sake.
"But I shall no longer do so much for the keeping of my life," says
he, "as to be alone."
Now Illugi his brother was by that time about fifteen winters old,
and the goodliest to look on of all men; and he overheard their talk
together. Grettir was telling his mother what rede Gudmund the Rich
had given him, and now that he should try, if he had a chance, to get
out to Drangey, but he said withal, that he might not abide there,
unless he might get some trusty man to be with him. Then said Illugi,
"I will go with thee, brother, though I know not that I shall be of
any help to thee, unless it be that I shall be ever true to thee, nor
run from thee whiles thou standest up; and moreover I shall know more
surely how thou farest if I am still in thy fellowship."
Grettir answered, "Such a man thou art, that I am gladder in thee than
in any other; and if it cross not my mother's mind, fain were I that
thou shouldst fare with me."
Then said Asdis, "Now can I see that it has come to this, that two
troubles lie before us: for meseems I may ill spare Illugi, yet I know
that so hard is thy lot, Grettir, that thou must in somewise find rede
therefor: and howsoever it grieves me, O my sons, to see you both turn
your backs on me, yet thus much will I do, if Grettir might thereby be
somewhat more holpen than heretofore."
Hereat was Illugi glad, for that he deemed it good to go with Grettir.
So she gave them much of her chattels, and they made them ready for
their journey. Asdis led them from out the garth, and before they
parted she spake thus:
"Ah, my sons twain, there ye depart from me, and one death ye shall
have together; for no man may flee from that which is wrought for him:
on no day now shall I see either of you once again; let one fate
be over you both, then; for I know not what weal ye go to get for
yourselves in Drangey, but there shall ye both lay your bones, and
many will begrudge you that abiding place. Keep ye heedfully from
wiles, yet none the less there shall ye be bitten of the edge of the
sword, for marvellously have my dreams gone: be well ware of sorcery,
for little can cope with the cunning of eld."
And when she had thus spoken she wept right sore.
Then said Grettir, "Weep not, mother, for if we be set on with
weapons, it shall be said of thee, that thou hast had sons, and not
daughters: live on, well and hale."
Therewithal they parted. They fared north through the country side and
saw their kin; and thus they lingered out the autumn into winter; then
they turned toward Skagafirth and went north through Waterpass and
thence to Reekpass, and down Saemunds-lithe and so unto Longholt, and
came to Dinby late in the day.
Grettir had cast his hood back on to his shoulders, for in that wise
he went ever abroad whether the day were better or worse. So they went
thence, and when they had gone but a little way, there met them a man,
big-headed, tall, and gaunt, and ill clad; he greeted them, and either
asked other for their names; they said who they were, but he called
himself Thorbiorn: he was a land-louper, a man too lazy to work, and
a great swaggerer, and much game and fooling was made with him by some
folk: he thrust himself into their company, and told them much from
the upper country about the folk there. Grettir had great game and
merriment of him; so he asked if they had no need of a man who should
work for them, "for I would fain fare with you," says he; and withal
he got so much from their talk that they suffered him to follow them.
Much snow there was that day, and it was cold; but whereas that man
swaggered exceedingly, and was the greatest of tomfools, he had a
by-name, and was called Noise.
"Great wonder had those of Dinby when thou wentest by e'en now
unhooded, in the foul weather," said Noise, "as to whether thou
wouldst have as little fear of men as of the cold: there were two
bonders' sons, both men of great strength, and the shepherd called
them forth to go to the sheep-watching with him, and scarcely could
they clothe themselves for the cold."
Grettir said, "I saw within doors there a young man who pulled on his
mittens, and another going betwixt byre and midden, and of neither of
them should I be afeared."
Thereafter they went down to Sorbness, and were there through the
night; then they fared out along the strand to a farm called Reeks,
where dwelt a man, Thorwald by name, a good bonder. Him Grettir prayed
for watch and ward, and told him how he was minded to get out to
Drangey: the bonder said that those of Skagafirth would think him no
god-send, and excused himself therewithal.
Then Grettir took a purse his mother had given to him, and gave it
to the bonder; his brows lightened over the money, and he got three
house-carles of his to bring them out in the night time by the light
of the moon. It is but a little way from Reeks out to the island, one
sea-mile only. So when they came to the isle, Grettir deemed it good
to behold, because it was grass-grown, and rose up sheer from the sea,
so that no man might come up thereon save there where the ladders were
let down, and if the uppermost ladder were drawn up, it was no man's
deed to get upon the island. There also were the cliffs full of fowl
in the summer-tide, and there were eighty sheep upon the island which
the bonders owned, and they were mostly rams and ewes which they had
mind to slaughter.
There Grettir set himself down in peace; and by then had he been
fifteen or sixteen winters in outlawry, as Sturla Thordson has said.
Of the Bonders who owned Drangey between them.
In the days when Grettir came to Drangey, these were chief men of the
country side of Skagafirth. Hialti dwelt at Hof in Hialtidale, he
was the son of Thord, the son of Hialti, the son of Thord the Scalp:
Hialti was a great chief, a right noble man, and much befriended.
Thorbiorn Angle was the name of his brother, a big man and a strong,
hardy and wild withal. Thord, the father of these twain, had married
again in his old age, and that wife was not the mother of the
brothers; and she did ill to her step-children, but served Thorbiorn
the worst, for that he was hard to deal with and reckless. And on a
day Thorbiorn Angle sat playing at tables, and his stepmother passed
by and saw that he was playing at the knave-game, and the fashion of
the game was the large tail-game. Now she deemed him thriftless, and
cast some word at him, but he gave an evil answer; so she caught up
one of the men, and drave the tail thereof into Thorbiorn's cheek-bone
wherefrom it glanced into his eye, so that it hung out on his cheek.
He sprang up, caught hold of her, and handled her roughly, insomuch
that she took to her bed, and died thereof afterwards, and folk say
that she was then big with child.
Thereafter Thorbiorn became of all men the most riotous; he took his
heritage, and dwelt at first in Woodwick.
Haldor the son of Thorgeir, who was the son of Head-Thord, dwelt at
Hof on Head-strand, he had to wife Thordis, the daughter of Thord
Hialtison, and sister to those brothers Hialti and Thorbiorn Angle.
Haldor was a great bonder, and rich in goods.
Biorn was the name of a man who dwelt at Meadness in the Fleets; he
was a friend to Haldor of Hof. These men held to each other in all
Tongue-Stein dwelt at Stonestead; he was the son of Biorn, the son of
Ufeigh Thinbeard, son of that Crow-Hreidar to whom Eric of God-dales
gave the tongue of land down from Hall-marsh. Stein was a man of great
One named Eric was the son of Holmgang-Starri, the son of Eric of
God-dales, the son of Hroald, the son of Geirmund Thick-beard; Eric
dwelt at Hof in God-dales.
Now all these were men of great account.
Two brothers there were who dwelt at a place called Broad-river
in Flat-lithe, and they were both called Thord; they were wondrous
strong, and yet withal peaceable men both of them.
All these men had share in Drangey, and it is said that no less than
twenty in all had some part in the island, nor would any sell his
share to another; but the sons of Thord, Hialti and Thorbiorn Angle,
had the largest share, because they were the richest men.
How those of Skagafirth found Grettir on Drangey.
Now time wears on towards the winter solstice; then the bonders get
ready to go fetch the fat beasts for slaughter from the island; so
they manned a great barge, and every owner had one to go in his stead,
and some two.
But when these came anigh the island they saw men going about there;
they deemed that strange, but guessed that men had been shipwrecked,
and got aland there: so they row up to where the ladders were, when
lo, the first-comers drew up the ladders.
Then the bonders deemed that things were taking a strange turn, and
hailed those men and asked them who they were: Grettir named himself
and his fellows withal: but the bonders asked who had brought him
Grettir answered, "He who owned the keel and had the hands, and who
was more my friend than yours."
The bonders answered and said, "Let us now get our sheep, but come
thou aland with us, keeping freely whatso of our sheep thou hast
"A good offer," said Grettir, "but this time let each keep what he
has got; and I tell you, once for all, that hence I go not, till I am
dragged away dead; for it is not my way to let that go loose which I
have once laid hand on."
Thereat the bonders held their peace, and deemed that a woeful guest
had come to Drangey; then they gave him choice of many things, both
moneys and fair words, but Grettir said nay to one and all, and they
gat them gone with things in such a stead, and were ill content with
their fate; and told the men of the country-side what a wolf had got
on to the island.
This took them all unawares, but they could think of nought to do
herein; plentifully they talked over it that winter, but could see no
rede whereby to get Grettir from the island.
Of the Sports at Heron-ness Thing.
Now the days wore till such time as men went to the Heron-ness Thing
in spring-tide, and many came thronging there from that part of the
country, wherefrom men had to go to that Thing for their suits. Men
sat there long time both over the suits and over sports, for there
were many blithe men in that country-side. But when Grettir heard that
all men fared to the Thing, he made a plot with his friends; for he
was in goodwill with those who dwelt nighest to him, and for them
he spared nought that he could get. But now he said that he would
go aland, and gather victuals, but that Illugi and Noise should stay
behind. Illugi thought this ill counselled, but let things go as
So Grettir bade them watch the ladders well, for that all things
lay thereon; and thereafter he went to the mainland, and got what he
deemed needful: he hid himself from men whereso he came, nor did
any one know that he was on the land. Withal he heard concerning the
Thing, that there was much sport there, and was fain to go thither;
so he did on old gear and evil, and thus came to the Thing, whenas men
went from the courts home to their booths. Then fell certain young men
to talking how that the day was fair and good, and that it were well,
belike, for the young men to betake them to wrestling and merrymaking.
Folk said it was well counselled; and so men went and sat them down
out from the booths.
Now the sons of Thord, Hialti and Thorbiorn Angle, were the chief
men in this sport; Thorbiorn Angle was boisterous beyond measure, and
drove men hard and fast to the place of the sports, and every man must
needs go whereas his will was; and he would take this man and that by
the hands and drag him forth unto the playing-ground.
Now first those wrestled who were weakest, and then each man in his
turn, and therewith the game and glee waxed great; but when most men
had wrestled but those who were the strongest, the bonders fell to
talking as to who would be like to lay hand to either of the Thords,
who have been aforenamed; but there was no man ready for that. Then
the Thords went up to sundry men, and put themselves forward for
wrestling, but the nigher the call the further the man. Then
Thorbiorn Angle looks about, and sees where a man sits, great of
growth, and his face hidden somewhat. Thorbiorn laid hold of him,
and tugged hard at him, but he sat quiet and moved no whit. Then said
"No one has kept his place before me to-day like thou hast; what man
He answers, "Guest am I hight."
Said Thorbiorn, "Belike thou wilt do somewhat for our merriment; a
wished-for guest wilt thou be."
He answered, "About and about, methinks, will things change speedily;
nor shall I cast myself into play with you here, where all is unknown
Then many men said he were worthy of good at their hands, if he, an
unknown man, gave sport to the people. Then he asked what they would
of him; so they prayed him to wrestle with some one.
He said he had left wrestling, "though time agone it was somewhat of a
sport to me."
So, when he did not deny them utterly, they prayed him thereto yet the
He said, "Well, if ye are so fain that I be dragged about here, ye
must do so much therefor, as to handsel me peace, here at the Thing,
and until such time as I come back to my home."
Then they all sprang up and said that so they would do indeed; but
Hafr was the name of him who urged most that peace should be given to
the man. This Hafr was the son of Thorarin, the son of Hafr, the son
of Thord Knob, who had settled land up from the Weir in the Fleets to
Tongue-river, and who dwelt at Knobstead; and a wordy man was Hafr.
So now he gave forth the handselling grandly with open mouth, and this
is the beginning thereof.
The Handselling of Peace.
Says he, "Herewith I establish peace betwixt all men, but most
of all betwixt all men and this same Guest who sits here, and so is
named; that is to say, all men of rule, and goodly bonders, and all
men young, and fit to bear arms, and all other men of the country-side
of Heron-ness Thing, whencesoever any may have come here, of men
named or unnamed. Let us handsel safety and full peace to that unknown
new-comer, yclept Guest by name, for game, wrestling, and all glee,
for abiding here, and going home, whether he has need to fare over
water, or over land, or over ferry; safety shall he have, in all
steads named and unnamed, even so long as needs be for his coming home
whole, under faith holden. This peace I establish on behoof of us,
and of our kin, friends, and men of affinity, women even as men,
bondswomen, even as bonds-men, swains and men of estate. Let him be
a shamed peace-breaker, who breaks the peace, or spills the troth
settled; turned away and driven forth from God, and good men of the
kingdom of Heaven, and all Holy ones. A man not to be borne of any
man, but cast out from all, as wide as wolves stray, or Christian men
make for Churches, or heathen in God's-houses do sacrifice, or fire
burns, or earth brings forth, or a child, new-come to speech, calls
mother, or mother bears son, or the sons of men kindle fire, or ships
sweep on, or shields glitter, or the sun shines, or the snow falls,
or a Finn sweeps on skates, or a fir-tree waxes, or a falcon flies
the spring-long day with a fair wind under either wing, or the
Heavens dwindle far away, or the world is built, or the wind turns
waters seaward, or carles sow corn. Let him shun churches, and
Christian folk, and heathen men, houses and caves, and every home but
the home of Hell. Now shall we be at peace and of one mind each with
the other, and of goodwill, whether we meet on fell or foreshore, ship
or snow-shoes, earth or ice-mount, sea or swift steed, even as each
found his friend on water, or his brother on broad ways; in just such
peace one with other, as father with son, or son with father in all
dealings together. Now we lay hands together, each and all of us,
to hold well this say of peace, and all words spoken in our settled
troth: As witness God and good men, and all those who hear my words,
and nigh this stead chance to stand."
Of Grettir's Wrestling: and how Thorbiorn Angle now bought the more
part of Drangey.
Then many fell to saying that many and great words had been spoken
hereon; but now Guest said,
"Good is thy say and well hast thou spoken it; if ye spill not things
hereafter, I shall not withhold that which I have to show forth."
So he cast off his hood, and therewith all his outer clothes.
Then they gazed one on the other, and awe spread over their faces, for
they deemed they knew surely that this was Grettir Asmundson, for
that he was unlike other men for his growth and prowess' sake: and all
stood silent, but Hafr deemed he had made himself a fool. Now the
men of the country-side fell into twos and twos together, and one
upbraided the other, but him the most of all, who had given forth the
words of peace.
Then said Grettir; "Make clear to me what ye have in your minds,
because for no long time will I sit thus unclad; it is more your
matter than mine, whether ye will hold the peace, or hold it not."
They answered few words and then sat down: and now the sons of Thord,
and Halldor their brother-in-law, talked the matter over together;
and some would hold the peace, and some not; so as they elbowed one
another, and laid their heads together. Grettir sang a stave--
"I, well known to men, have been
On this morn both hid and seen;
Double face my fortune wears,
Evil now, now good it bears;
Doubtful play-board have I shown
Unto these men, who have grown
Doubtful of their given word;
Hafr's big noise goes overboard."
Then said Tongue-stein, "Thinkest thou that, Grettir? Knowest thou
then what the chiefs will make their minds up to? but true it is thou
art a man above all others for thy great heart's sake: yea, but dost
thou not see how they rub their noses one against the other?"
Then Grettir sang a stave--
"Raisers-up of roof of war,
Nose to nose in counsel are;
Wakeners of the shield-rain sit
Wagging beard to talk of it:
Scatterers of the serpent's bed
Round about lay head to head.
For belike they heard my name;
And must balance peace and shame."
Then spake Hialti the son of Thord; "So shall it not be," says he; "we
shall hold to our peace and troth given, though we have been beguiled,
for I will not that men should have such a deed to follow after, if we
depart from that peace, that we ourselves have settled and handselled:
Grettir shall go whither he will, and have peace until such time as
he comes back from this journey; and then and not till then shall this
word of truce be void, whatsoever may befall betwixt us meanwhile."
All thanked him therefor, and deemed that he had done as a great
chief, such blood-guilt as there was on the other side: but the speech
of Thorbiorn Angle was little and low thereupon.
Now men said that both the Thords should lay hand to Grettir, and he
bade them have it as they would: so one of the brothers stood forth;
and Grettir stood up stiff before him, and he ran at Grettir at his
briskest, but Grettir moved no whit from his place: then Grettir
stretched out his hand down Thord's back, over the head of him, and
caught hold of him by the breeches, and tripped up his feet, and cast
him backward over his head in such wise that he fell on his shoulder,
and a mighty fall was that.
Then men said that both those brothers should go against Grettir at
once; and thus was it done, and great swinging and pulling about there
was, now one side, now the other getting the best of it, though one
or other of the brothers Grettir ever had under him; but each in turn
must fall on his knee, or have some slip one of the other; and so hard
they griped each at each, that they were all blue and bruised.
All men thought this the best of sport, and when they had made an end
of it, thanked them for the wrestling; and it was the deeming of those
who sat thereby, that the two brothers together were no stronger than
Grettir alone, though each of them had the strength of two men of the
strongest: so evenly matched they were withal, that neither might get
the better of the other if they tried it between them.
Grettir abode no long time at the Thing; the bonders bade him give up
the island, but he said nay to this, nor might they do aught herein.
So Grettir fared back to Drangey, and Illugi was as fain of him as
might be; and there they abode peacefully, and Grettir told them the
story of his doings and his journeys; and thus the summer wore away.
All men deemed that those of Skagafirth had shown great manliness
herein, that they held to their peace given; and folk may well mark
how trusty men were in those days, whereas Grettir had done such deeds
Now the less rich men of the bonders spake together, that there
was little gain to them in holding small shares in Drangey; so they
offered to sell their part to the sons of Thord; Hialti said that he
would not deal with them herein, for the bonders made it part of the
bargain, that he who bought of them should either slay Grettir or get
him away. But Thorbiorn Angle said, that he would not spare to take
the lead of an onset against Grettir if they would give him wealth
therefor. So his brother Hialti gave up to him his share in the
island, for that he was the hardest man, and the least befriended of
the twain; and in likewise too did other bonders; so Thorbiorn Angle
got the more part of the island for little worth, but bound himself
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